on 26 February 2003
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje
Statement of Per Ivar Stromsmoen:
I would like to welcome you to today’s press conference. I had
a good and short vacation to Norway last week, but since I got back, from
what I can see the overall security situation is calm and stable. I went
to Erebino yesterday, and up there I watched several of our liaison monitoring
teams, they had an exercise, and this is looking very good. I have no
statements to give today, but I would like to use this opportunity to
inform the media present here for a transfer of authority that will take
place on 11 March. That will be in Gazela in the NATO HQ Skopje, and the
transfer of authority will be from Lieutenant General Cigna to Major General
Alvaro del Manzano from Spain. All the media will be invited to this,
but the details will be revealed to you later. Now, I leave the word to
Statement of Harald Schenker:
Thank you. Good morning. I don’t have a statement to make either,
just a few pieces of information. One is that tomorrow there will be a
press release from our side on a second Youth Leadership Conference, that
is organised by the OSCE Mission here together with the Nansen Dialogue
Centre on this coming weekend. The idea is to bring together a group of
secondary school students from the Kumanovo-Lipkovo area to learn about
leadership development, conflict resolution, teambuilding, and so on.
So, there will be lectures, role plays, debates at this conference. Following
this one, the intention is to organise a few others for the students from
Skopje, and for the Ohrid-Struga region. But, as I said, there will be
a press release tomorrow about this. The second item of information is
a seminar that took place recently in Janina, in Greece. It was a preparation
seminar for the OSCE Economic Forum, and a Macedonian Government delegation,
composed of seven members, participated in it, and we included also OSCE
Mission participation. The issue discussed there was trafficking and anti-trafficking
measures. So, if anyone of you would like to know more about this, the
information is available in our Mission, and we can provide you with it
any time. And the third issue is a tour around the country that was concluded
in Skopje on the weekend. It is a theatre play called “In Front
of the Doors of Hell”, organised by the Roma NGO called “Daja”
from Kumanovo, and it is an educative play about domestic violence and
issues related to it. The final stop of this tour will be in Skopje, in
MNT on 2 March. It was a rather successful tour around the country, so
it may be of interest for some of you. That is all from me. Thanks.
Statement of Irena Guzelova:
I just have a few points to make on different issues. One is about the
preparations for the handover of the NATO military mission to the EU,
and another one is about some funds that are being provided from the European
Union for infrastructure projects. Regarding the planned handover, preparations
are still on track for the handover in March, the planned handover is
still March, and consultations with NATO regarding some of the technical
modalities of this handover are ongoing. Yesterday, Javier Solana met
with Admiral Feist, who is the deputy SACEUR and will be the commander
of the EU-led operation, as well as Major General Pierre Maral, who will
be the force commander on the ground in Macedonia. Consultations with
the authorities in Skopje are also ongoing and today the Director General
of the EU Military Staff is arriving in Skopje, he will be here for a
couple of days. He will be meeting with the Prime Minister, Ahmeti, Buckovski,
Mitreva, Trajkovski. On another issue, the EU is now providing 11 million
euros worth of assistance to funds and small-scale infrastructure projects
throughout the country, which is designed to encourage the process of
decentralisation. They will cover 48 municipalities, and is spread across
the country from Gevgelija, Bitola, Debar, Tetovo, Kumanovo. The aim of
the project is also to reduce poverty and to encourage cooperation between
municipalities. So, 21 projects are designed to improve public health
and environmental protection, that is by constructing and upgrading water
and sewage systems. And seven projects will improve the local roads. One
of these projects is designed for modernising an existing health care
centre. So, these are small infrastructure projects, they will be centred
around small villages around the larger municipalities. A further 25 projects
are designed to develop local self-government by helping the municipal
administrators improve budgeting and the maintenance of ongoing services,
as well as supporting them in project planning and implementation. That
is it, basically.
Stromsmoen: We are open for questions, then.
My question is for Irena. The US is considering using Macedonian military
bases as (inaudible) on Iraq. What is the EU policy on that, will that
affect Macedonian application for EU membership?
Guzelova: No implications whatsoever.
Question 2: There was a drastically opposite reaction
of the DPA leader Xhaferi, which was reaction on the reactions of EU and
OSCE about the possible existing of ANA. Did these organisations influence
in any way his attitude?
Guzelova: I think that is a question you have to put
to Xhaferi. I don’t know what is behind this, that are his own personal
statements and points of view. We did not make pressure.
Schenker: What Arben Xhaferi is stating as leader of DPA is something
that you cannot ask us. If we are in contact with him, of course, we are
in contact with all parties. Pressure – no.
Question 3: Irena, a question for you about the legal
status of the EU forces here, in Macedonia. Have you talked with the Government
about that. Has this Government finalised the legal procedure or the legal
status of the forces here in Skopje? What about this procedure
Guzelova: Well, that is one of the reasons why there
is a delegation arriving today from Brussels, and amongst their discussions
will be a discussion regarding the legal status, and the status of forces
Journalist: And the second question for you Per. Have
you finalised the debt that the NATO forces have to this country, regarding
what has been done with the roads, things like that, what do you owe to
this country before you leave?
Stromsmoen: First of all, NATO will not leave the country.
We will still be here, and, as I said, we will have a new commander of
the HQ, and he will still be senior military representative for NATO.
Regarding the question about what you asked about debt, I know that NATO
has paid for reconstruction of the roads here, details about this, how
far it has gone, at this point of time – I don’t know, but
this is a still ongoing process, and, of course, if we do some damage
we will pay for it.
Question 4: There are a lot of speculation about the
possible attack of the US and the allies on Iraq may have some implication
on the postponing the coming of the EU forces here. Do you have any concrete
details about this?
Guzelova: The Balkans is one thing, and the Middle East
is another. And as far as the planned takeover is concerned, that is going
ahead as planned. These agreements which are over the Middle East are
not reflected as far as the Balkans is concerned.
Stromsmoen: I can support what Irena says. The thing
that is going on in the Middle East is quite another thing, and there
are other forces and other forces for that issue than what is meant for
Guzelova: There is broad international agreement upon
the policy in the Balkans and upon what policy to pursue vis-à-vis
Journalist: One question for Harald: Do you have any
information about the activities which are called by some criminal activities,
whereas others call preparations for something larger?
Schenker: No, we don’t have any new information,
but let me be very clear on this: I don’t think, and I think we
should all be very clear there won’t be any spring offensive. What
we have is small groups of people, who sometimes use the label, sometimes
don’t use it for their activities. What is important is that, and
this is certainly the kind of information we get from the ground, that
they do not enjoy any support among the population, as little as they
enjoy support from the political structures.
Guzelova: And if I could just add – these are isolated
violent incidents. The acts remain isolated, they do not enjoy the support
of the local population. The international community, and I think I could
probably speak on behalf of anybody here, we take any threats of security
very seriously, we are vigilant, and we will react swiftly against any
Stromsmoen: I think it is very clear that it has to be
repeated over and over again that violence is not a means of achieving
anything, certainly not political.
Stromsmoen: We have the field liaison monitoring teams out there all the
time, and they are reporting back to us. The overall assessment for the
overall security situation is: calm and stable.
Question 5: A question for all three of you: from what
you said, since Irena said that you are taking all threats seriously,
are there any plans within your organisations for any possible activities?
Guzelova: No specific, at least I can talk about my organisation,
no specific contingency plans regarding that, but there is preparation
for a military takeover, and a continued international military presence,
certainly over the summer.
Schenker: When we are talking about the OSCE, there is
no need for plans. Just look at what we are actually doing on the ground:
the police redeployment, the police training, all these activities are
focused on improving the performance of the state institutions in the
former crisis areas. And what you have seen recently was a rather swift
reaction of the police, so I think this is good news.
Stromsmoen: The same thing goes for NATO. As I said before,
we have field liaison teams out there, and the operation “Allied
Harmony” is going within its mandate.
Guzelova: And I just want to emphasise that the incidents
Schenker: Another issue, which is tied to it is that
it will, of course, take some effort to eradicate the existing crime and
its roots, and this is something that the OSCE and all of us together
on national and international level are working towards.
Stromsmoen: Any more question? OK, that was today’s
press conference. Thank you.