on 3 July 2002
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje
Statement by Craig Ratcliff:
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to todays press conference. Obviously,
several of you had trouble getting here this morning, as well as I think,
a couple of us. Thank you for being patient. As things go, the major issue
on the agenda for this week, considering that things have actually been
relatively calm, really goes back to yesterday and today. The whole reason
why we started the press-conference late was because of road blocks. So,
I guess the theme and the message today is really a reference to the past
and some past statements is that road blocks are worthless, useless and
a terrible way to get a message across. You know weve said before,
NATO ambassador, myself, the US ambassador and any other person who said
that road blocks are useless, worthless, poor political tool and should
be abandoned. It is obvious that its easy to do that, but its
also obvious to you and me and everybody else that really all it does
is screw up your day. It really screwed up my day yesterday and its
screwing up today yours. That would probably be a quote.
In reference to yesterday, we know that there was a protest up at the
border crossing, we know why and certainly there are some questions about
the obvious start of that protest and the reasons why. Certainly, there
are no clear answers right now, I guess except that some people were arrested
or detained, and I think theyve been released. So, obviously, the
message there is that citizens in a free and democratic society have a
right for a civil protest. We dont necessarily like to see them
any more than anybody else, but thats their right to do that. We
would encourage them to not do that, but we know that they have a right
to protest and demonstrate for a good cause. In contrast to that, we want
to note that the police performed reasonably well, with restraint in reacting
to the protest. I know that special police were sent up, but they acted
with restraint and handled it in a professional manner.
That should be about it. I was chastised this morning. I hope that everybody
could hear me clearly. My translator told me I had to speak louder and
clearer, I hope thats better today.
The theme that we want you to walk away with today is that road blocks
are useless and we insist they stop.
I will pass it over to Florin.
Statement of Florin Pasnicu:
Thank you, Craig. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Except for saying
se nadevam ke imate dobar den, I have no other introductory
statement. Just a short reminder for the press conference that we are
planning for tomorrow, at 1:30 at the Holiday Inn Hotel, featuring Ambassador
Studman, the head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights. ODIHR is, as you know, the specialised department of the OSCE
for elections, and Ambassador Studman will visit Skopje together with
a few colleagues in preparation of the upcoming observing mission of ODIHR.
Courtesy of the spokesman of ODIHR, Mr Jens Hagen Eschenbacher, we have
a short fact sheet describing the ODIHR activities at large. If you are
interested, you may get a copy by the end of the press conference.
Thank you, and now I pass the floor to Irena.
Statement of Irena Guzelova:
Good morning everyone. I dont have a statement this morning and
suffice to lend support to Craigs comment about road blocks. I think
Craig said it very well and very clearly - road blocks just screw up your
day. There are legal channels through which to pursue demands. That is
all from me. I am just going to introduce my colleague to you Guy
Mustard and he is the coordinator for the European Reconstruction Agency
here in this country.
Statement of Guy Mustard:
Thanks very much, hello everyone. The reason Ive come to this press
conference this morning is to inform you that Commissioner Chris Patten
this morning in Skopje announced an allocation of an additional 3.6 million
euro for housing reconstruction. This should be enough money to reconstruct
around 200, 200 plus houses. Those houses will all be in the more seriously
damaged categories, categories 3 and 4. Mr Patten added that the EU is
not the only donor who was planning further housing reconstruction. Germany,
Italy and the Netherlands will all allocate additional funds for reconstruction
of houses. It wouldnt be proper for me to go into details about
their individual allocations. But, suffice to say, between us we think
there is sufficient money to complete reconstruction of all eligible houses.
Weve started discussions with the government here, in particular
the Ministry of Transport, to determine the exact location of the houses
and who does what. We hope that process would be rapid and we would have
an agreed plan very soon. I should emphasise that what Ive just
announced is in addition to the 900 houses that the EU has already reconstructed.
That current programme will wind up at the end of July, by which time
we expect the figure to have reached at least 960 houses. So, the 200
plus is on top of all of that. That is all I want to say. Thank you.
Guzelova: We are open to questions.
Ratcliff: A couple of administrative notes before we start. Some
people know, but I am going to slip out of the country for a about a week
and a half. The gentlemen sitting in the left corner here, Lieutenant
Colonel Peter Fuss, is going to be taking the temporary role for the Press
Centre while Im gone. Peter, if you will
Peter Fuss: Ladies and Gentlemen, since I am going to replace
Craig Ratcliff for the next two weeks, I only brought one set of clothes.
So, if you forget my name or my name, please remember my jacket. Thank
Ratcliff: Trust me, I saw it this morning, we wont forget
Anyway, Ill be gone for about two weeks to see my daughter in the
For those that are covering the British press conference, I think part
of you here are staying, is scheduled for 12 oclock in this same
room, same stage.
Subject to questions.
Question 1: Other than the road blocks screw your day, do you
see a threat that the road blocks are going to screw up the security in
Ratcliff: Are the road blocks a direct threat to security? No.
Road blocks are in bad taste, in bad form and in bad use for political
purposes, but they wont screw up the security situation. Generally
speaking, the truth is that road blocks will eventually work against the
interest of those that are trying to use them as a tool to send a message.
I think we all know that. How many people here are in favour of road blocks?
No hands. Bad form, stop.
Journalist: The second question is about yesterdays blockade
and the protest at the Blace border crossing. Do you have any reasons
why those three people, three Albanians have been detained. What is the
story about the so-called Commander Rusi, do you have something about
that? As I heard, they have been released today, as you mentioned. Do
you know whether this commander Rusi is covered by the amnesty?
Pasnicu: While Craig is waiting instructions from Brussels directly,
let me try to address this question. We are not aware of all the details
regarding this situation. We understand that the people who were travelling
with that car were asked by police to participate in an interview. We
didnt have the sense that there was an arrest involved, but there
was an information by the police for, as they call it, an informative
talk. We believe that police is entitled to carry out normal policing
activities. So, those talks lasted few hours, by late afternoon, early
evening we understand the people were set free, they could continue their
travel. There are a few good things about this situation. One, police
carried out a normal policing activity. Then, that policing activity involved
a multi-ethnic police team. And there was an OSCE team on the scene, which
upon the invitation of police, tried to do confidence building among people
who raised concerns about that situation. The only unfortunate thing about
this situation is that some people resorted to this manifestation
is much better than me in labelling it of blocking the road, this
is not helpful.
Ratcliff: Of course, the connecting issue is, yes, the international
community watches to ensure that amnesty is complied with. Every one agrees
amnesty was a good thing, we are making sure that it applies equally and
is followed. And the assumption is that its good police procedures
and processing at the border check point and those things as this point
as routine checks. There was nothing to indicate at this point that it
was other than that. But obviously, there is an increased awareness because
of the association of people those persons had in the past.
Question 2: First a question for Florin. You come from a former
communist country, Romania. Do you know what exactly is an informative
talk by the police? And my second question because you are talking
about it as something normal, Craig, do you mean that you really support
this kind of police operations now at Blace, before the elections, during
the election campaign. One of the people arrested yesterday was quite
a well-known person who could have caused trouble later. And there were
not 100 people as you say, but around 400.
Ratcliff: Nobody said we supported bad police procedures, we said
we support good police procedures. Yesterday was what we consider a good
response, adequate and fair. We didnt say anything different. Nobody
said it was a pattern of harassment. At this point, the assumption is
that it was a good police procedure and checking at border. Everyone suspects
and there is suspicion that it wasnt, but at this point, thats
what we are assuming.
Generally speaking, we support good police procedure. Yesterday, as it
appears, was good police procedure. At this point it doesnt show
that they acted irresponsibly. They acted professionally and its
a good police procedure.
Pasnicu: Blagodaram za prasanjeto, Linda, but perhaps you can
tell me what the real question is.
Journalist: Are you really aware of what an informative talk actually
Pasnicu: Well, I think it is normal, as Craig just said, that
police investigates a situation that the police considers appropriate
to investigate. This applies equally to all countries. Police treatment
of citizens has to be fair and even, and at the same time, there are no
citizens above the law. So, as a matter of principle, police has the right
to investigate and an obligation to carry out normal policing activity.
If police is carrying out these activities in accordance to laws and procedures,
there is nothing wrong about that situation.
Ratcliff: OK, well I went to the crowd prior, and I was warned
that nobody had any questions today.