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Updated: 27-Mar-2003 Transcripts

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Press Briefing

held 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 OSCE.

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.

Question 1:
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 agreement.
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 the Balkans.
Guzelova: There is broad international agreement upon the policy in the Balkans and upon what policy to pursue vis-à-vis the Balkans.
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 violence.
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 are isolated.
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.