on 26 March 2003
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje
Statement by Craig Ratcliff:
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference.
Did we catch you by surprise? OK, we have got a much larger crowd today
than normal. I think it is a support group for the OSCE. It is true, isn’t
Greven: Hopefully, you wouldn’t get jealous. It
would be like this all the time.
Ratcliff: Probably will. Well, welcome. Couple of issues
to address today. Obviously, we are looking at many changes in NATO’s
mission with the assumption or welcoming of the EU for their assumption
of the portion of the mission. Obviously, there would be a lot of activity
within next week. Certainly, we have been going through a training and
orientation process for the European Union during this week. It runs across
the whole spectrum, from press information through operational procedures
and through the liaison monitoring teams. I guess the key point is that
the European Union and NATO are very interlinked and that there is a very
strong sense of cooperation and coordination as we go through this process.
You should know that it is not just this week, but it will continue through
the whole time that the EU and NATO remain in the country. We are talking
on a daily basis and we are working together already as we transition.
In reference to that, it should be noted that we have said before that
there is no room for any person out there that thinks that there is an
opportunity that violence will win them any favours at this point. There
is no seam in the cooperation or the continuity of the mission. NATO is
still out there and the EU would be out there just the same. And there
is no opportunity to exploit any political or criminal intent. I guess
one of the things to say is that the political impact of Berlin Plus through
close cooperation and continuity is finally being practically applied
on the ground. Reference the assumption of the tactical portion of NATO’s
overall mission in Macedonia, we are still working out some of the details
for the actual transfer on Monday. And it is still unclear exactly who
will be on stage and at what time, but we expect to have a press opportunity
with some very serious people representing the European Union and NATO
on Monday afternoon. But, based on time constraints, it will probably
be more of a press opportunity than a press conference. And since most
of you are here, remember to bring your blue cards with you. Because based
on security requirements, you have seen the advisory, if you do not have
your press registration card, I cannot help you.
OK, it should be noted that NATO remains in the country as a continuing
NATO Headquarters and we will remain interlinked with the government and
the community and with the EU throughout their mission. And NATO will
remain in their advisory role and assist in any way possible.
And, I think at this point I have said enough, Wolfgang, probably your
Statement by Wolfgang Greven:
Thanks, Craig. Dobar den from OSCE and very special welcome to the supporters,
as you named them. They are actually students from the Journalists Faculty
at the Skopje University and we will try to give them an impression about
the OSCE after this press conference for the whole afternoon. So, welcome
again and hopefully you will feel comfortable here and maybe one or other
of the colleagues when we have a short break after the press conference
will also be able to talk a little bit with you in a personal talk, so
you may ask these acting journalists how their job is. But please don’t
go too much in detail with these acting colleagues, because maybe then
you may change your choice and maybe you will study law, medicine or something
So, beside what Craig already briefed, the normal work is going on and
I would like to draw your attention to a seminar. The OSCE and the Nansen
dialogue centre will host their third joint youth leadership conference
at Mavrovo, beginning in the afternoon of March 28th and ending the evening
of 30 March. The event will bring together a range of secondary school
students from ten Skopje area schools to discuss and learn about leadership
development, conflict resolution and solutions they can implement to the
challenges facing their communities.
The first two seminars that were done were highly successful. As you probably
remember, participants of the first two were students from Kumanovo and
Tetovo. And there will be a fourth one for students from Ohrid and Struga.
The seminars are funded through the Canadian International Development
Agency. Whoever of you is interested to go there over the weekend, probably
to do some interviews with the students and with those who are the teachers,
in quotation marks if you want to put it this way, please let us know.
Most charming Ida is here, behind the cameras this time. So we may arrange
probably transportation or whatever you need for you.
And that is all I have.
Statement by Irena Gjuzelova:
I just have a few comments about the EU-NATO handover which would complement,
really, what Craig has already said. As Craig said, it is going to happen
next Monday, but the exact details of the ceremony are not yet clear.
But we will keep you informed about the various developments when they
are eventually finalised.
So, as you already know, the force commander, who is Major General Pierre
Marral, arrived in the country last Friday. He met with representatives
of the government and essentially he will be here for the duration of
the mission. And the mandate which was given by President Trajkovski is
So, there will be 27 participating countries in the mission. This includes
EU member states, soon to be members; as you know, there will be ten new
members who will be entering the EU in 2004, as well as non-EU members
who are members of NATO. So, it is not an EU force, it is an EU-led force.
Essentially, again just to emphasise what Craig talked about, and that
is continuity. Both the EU and NATO share similar assessments of the security
needs of this country, and the EU will adopt a similar military presence
as NATO has done in the former crisis areas. Obviously, there will be
frequent contacts between the mission and the government, and the transition
will be, as Craig said, seamless.
On another note, I just wanted to welcome the adoption by Parliament on
the Law for Passports. The agreement which was reached between the governing
coalition is fully in line with the Framework Agreement.
Ratcliff: So, as usual at this point, we are subject
to questions. Good, I was hoping there would not be any. We want the EU
guys to wave when I introduce them. We have got two press officers from
the EU. Where are you at?
Question 1: Is there any change of the troops at this
moment, through the period of transition of the NATO forces, now on the
Ratcliff: Any change?
Journalist: Any change, yes. Are there still the remaining
troops that we had before, 350 NATO soldiers on the field at this moment?
Ratcliff: OK, currently, no. You know, we will work through
the transition process. Obviously, when we talk about transition, some
of the people from the current NATO Headquarters will go to the EU. Obviously,
the liaison monitoring teams will go, but there are some people in the
Headquarters that will move over to maintain continuity. And then, as
NATO realigns its mission, there will be a natural change in the number
of personnel, but that is yet to be determined.
Gjuzelova: I think the other thing is that, as we have
continually said, is that the vast majority of soldiers currently serving
under NATO are from EU member states. And this is another reason to say
that transition will be smooth.
Question 2: Irena, the second question. What was the
criteria to have the 27 members within this mission? Does it mean that
every nation could give ten soldiers? What was the criteria?
Gjuzelova: Well, first of all, as I said, these countries
are members of the EU, and as the EU will be enlarging with ten new members
in 2004, obviously it is also open for the soon-to-be members, it is just
by logical deduction. And because this is not just a EU mission, this
is a EU mission which is happening in close cooperation with NATO, and
therefore, it is also open to the states that are members of NATO, but
are not members of the EU. So, that is the logic behind it. And as far
as the actual composition, this does not mean that there is going to be
ten representatives from every country. Some countries will only contribute
one person in the planning department, say. And, as you already know,
this mission will be led by France.
Question 3: Please, can this changing of the mission
be understood as a symbolic move that the crisis is over and that we are
entering a period of building the peace in the country?
Ratcliff: Well, Tino, I think you can say that the beginning
of peace in the country began with “Essential Harvest” and
with the Ohrid Agreement. But, certainly, we have said time after time
that it has gotten a hack of a lot better over the last year and will
continue to get better, and we hope that we don’t have to remain
here, the international community as military force any longer than probably
this last mission.
Gjuzelova: And the aim of an international military presence
is, obviously, to contribute towards the stabilisation of the country
and a considerable amount has already been achieved. This allows the government
to implement the Ohrid Agreement, other reforms, economic reforms, that
are indeed also part of the stabilisation and association process, which
is obviously the process which will eventually lead Macedonia to closer
integration with the EU. But essentially it is a part of a process, I
do not think you can see it as the end of one phase and the beginning
Question 4: How will Turkey participate in these forces,
will there be only one representative or more?
Gjuzelova: I will have to go back to you on that. I do
not have the details in front of me. Again, as I said, the exact composition…the
framework is there, but the exact names and who is going to come, etc.
has not bee determined.
Journalist: Is it known that Turkey will participate?
Gjuzelova: Again, I will have to get back to you. I think
it will, but I have to get back to you. I am not sure it will, don’t…I
will have to call you back on that.
Question 5: A question for Irena. You said that EU and
NATO have similar assessments about the security needs of Macedonia, so
what are those assessments?
Gjuzelova: I think it is essentially just to continue…as
far as the EU is concerned, is to continue the very constructive work
that NATO has done so far. It is going to be consisted of similar liaison
mobile teams, as NATO has at the moment, the bulk of it being mobile light
teams and the other one is heavy liaison teams.
Journalist: What is your comment about the latest events
in Kumanovo with the barricades on the railway, because there are blockades
put on the railway every day?
Greven: If I may, Zana. I was expecting a question like
that and I was speaking to our field office about this. The answer that
we got from the MoI is that they are seeing this for years now taking
place. So, I was a little bit surprised by that answer, to be honest,
and we are checking on that now. These information came actually from
the chief of the uniformed police in that area. He also said that they
are sending out patrols on regular basis, but they could not catch the
perpetrators yet nor see them in action. So, what I tell you know is not
our information, but the information that we got from the police and they
say that they are suspected to be locals. Probably, as they say, shepherds
who spend most of their time near the railway tracks. That is the information
we got when we heard about it, but we are going deeper into it now and
as far as I know, our monitor teams will go out there to check what is
really going on.
Journalists: Why weren’t those shepherds there
four months ago, for example?
Greven: I have no clue, I am just giving you an honest
answer. I read about it, I checked about it and I spoke to our teams in
the area and they are going out there to check. But, the first information
we got, we got from the local police and of course we were asking what
are you doing. And this was the answer we got.
Ratcliff: No, I do not know anything about shepherds.
Ratcliff: I think that is the end of the questions,
right? Unless Tino has got another one, but…
Greven: To make it understandable, we are not investigating
this. The local police is investigating this case. The only thing we can
do as a first step is to ask them what did they find out. This was the
answer we got from them. Now, we have to go deeper into it.
Ratcliff: Our two European Union guys are hiding behind
the cameras. Step forward so they can see you. Philippe Soulie is going
to remain with the European Union in their press office. They have been
apprehensive about coming on stage before they actually took the mission.
We have been working closely with them, helping them set up and I think,
as you find starting next week, we are actually going to change the location
for the press conferences. Philippe will be hosting over at the European
Reconstruction Agency the press conference starting next week. And he
is setting up a press office downtown, which would be much more convenient
for most of you to drop in and get more information on European Union
activity. But, we are actually happy he is here. Could you guys welcome
Philippe in the EU. You will not see much change in the press conferences.
I think two of our translators will still be doing the press conferences
and we will be there, just not being host for it, right?
Gjuzelova: First of all, I do not know whether you have
been…I think you have been to the European Reconstruction Agency,
Alain Le Roy once had a very lengthy, very, very long press conference
there. It is just next to Hotel Bristol and it is downstairs. Now, the
door people may be a little bit difficult, so if you could please bring
your press cards for the first week. And can I have your number as well,
because I want to check that up.
Ratcliff: OK, thank you for attending.