on 4 December 2002
at the NATO Press Centre in Skopje
Statement by Craig Ratcliff:
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s press conference. You
may find this funny or not funny, but I spent so much time talking before
I came on stage and going around begging people to not ask me questions,
so I forgot what I was going to say. That it is embarrassing. However,
the gist is that a lot of the teams out in the former crisis area and
other members of NATO Headquarters Skopje had been getting questions from
a lot of people about the implementation of the new operational agreement.
And although it is not exactly 100%, we are almost there and finalising
everything we need to do. I understand that there are already a couple
of interviews that have been set up to fully explain what we are going
to do and how are we going to do it. And I think there is more support
coming from Brussels to help us do background briefing and interviews
to fully explain things. But the message today is to people who have been
asking questions in the outlying areas: everything is OK. Yes, there will
be a redistribution of liaison teams in the field and some people have
been very comfortable with members of the Fox elements in their communities.
Not every team will be where they are now, in the future; some will go
away and some will be redistributed to other areas. But it is based on
our perception and the government’s perception on stability in the
region, on how we can all best fully support those persons in the way
we have been in the past. So, in the next couple of days, there will be
some senior people doing interviews and fully explaining, and we will
do a lot of one-on-one with you guys to get the information out.
In the absence of remembering what else I wanted to put out, this is a
bad day and I will turn it over to Wolfgang.
Statement by Wolfgang Greven:
Well, I think I will not make it a better day concerning the news. I
have actually nothing special to report, just a reminder I would like
to give you, because when we announced it the first time and I look into
this assembly now, there were quite some journalists not here. Just to
remind you again of the web site that OSCE has now especially for journalists.
We have prepared a paper how to get in there and you can sign in there,
that means that you do not have to look into the web site every day if
anything is coming out concerning OSCE and the Balkans, or the state of
Macedonia or whatever you are interested in. It will be sent to you automatically
to your e-mail address. So, I think that is a very useful thing. If you
want to sign in, it is free of charge of course, we have these information
for you after the press conference.
Second point I have is just an information for you. I will go to Belgrade
tomorrow until Sunday, so if any questions are coming up to OSCE, please
try to reach me on my mobile phone. If you do not have the number, it
is a pleasure for me to give it to you after the press conference. The
reason for our visit over to Belgrade is actually to get in a closer contact
to the international media, because observing the international media
within the last months, I think that they do not focus on this country
in the way this country deserves it. So, cross fingers that we are successful.
I know that Irena makes it a good day now.
Statement by Irena Gjuzelova:
OK, I just have a couple of issues that you can ask me questions about
indeed, but I just wanted to mention…that is, first of all, a meeting
between Trajkovski and Solana yesterday in Brussels, where a number of
issues were discussed, basically further implementation of the Framework
agreement as well as Macedonia’s relations with the EU. As was already
mentioned in the press this morning, there is an initiative to hold meetings
between all four signatories of the Framework agreement. And the idea
of this is to continue to take the process forward of the further implementation
of the Framework agreement. The EU Special Representative here in the
country, in Macedonia, Alexis Brouhns, has had meetings with all the parties
who signed the Framework agreement. He has put forward this suggestion
and all the signatories are open to the idea. So, discussions have been
constructive. As I said, the idea of this is to push forward the further
implementation of the agreement and continued engagement by all the signatories
is vital for the process to continue.
On another point is Chris Patten’s visit to Macedonia on Friday.
There will be a press conference but as yet the timing has not been decided.
I just want to introduce my colleague here, Natasha Ducevska, from the
European Commission. She has a press release on Patten’s visit and
is happy to answer your questions. So, open to questions.
Ratcliff: Suffice it to say, we are open, ready.
I feel compelled to introduce our web site manager and promote our web
site as well. Alex, wave to the crowd.
Question 1: A question for Irena and Wolfgang. The idea
behind the meetings is the further implementation of the Framework agreement.
What have EU and OSCE done so far in the last month and a half to build
confidence because we are facing again problems, such as the school in
Semsevo, the situation in Aracinovo where it is impossible for IDPs to
return…What has OSCE done in the past month for confidence building
in these regions and where is the new EU Special Representative to state
his position on these issues?
Greven: To start to hopefully give you an answer to that
question, which is a very hard one, but a very good one. As you know,
OSCE brings up these community advisory groups in different areas of the
former crisis area. In these groups members of the armed forces, police,
the municipalities, the villages, all that are involved, come together
on regular basis to discuss the problems they have with each other. In
those places where they are so far installed, we must say they work very
well, surprisingly well in some areas even. If you allow me, I would come
back after the press conference to tell you exactly how many of these
groups are installed meanwhile. There are actually some areas where the
villages or the head of the villages do not want these groups to be formed.
At least they tell us they do not see the sense in these groups. However,
we still talk with these people and try to convince them by showing them
how good these groups work elsewhere.
Second point is definitely bringing back mixed police patrols into the
former crisis area. That goes along with educating police officers to
come closer to normal European standards. And also in this case we may
say that, of course, we did not reach our goal so far, but we are on a
very good way and we see a hell of a lot of progress. If I understood
it right, you also mentioned Semsevo. OSCE strongly supports the implementation
of the agreement that was reached; that means that the monument has to
be de-placed, brought to another place, that the school gets the name
that was agreed on and last, but not least, the secretary can go back
On the other hand, but this is now more or less a personal commentary
to this, if I put myself into the situation of being a parent I do not
know if I would like the idea that my kid doesn’t go to school for
almost three months now. We actually have to ask in this case are there
security reasons for not sending the kids to school. However, let me state
very clearly again – we support the full implementation of the agreement
that was reached.
Gjuzelova: Tino, it is a very, very large question.
First of all, in the past month and over the last…since 15 September
we have seen a new government coming into position and new ministers and
ministries taking their places. So, time has to be given and it obviously
takes time for the various ministers to find their feet. What the EU Special
Representative has been doing over the past month is basically meeting
the various new ministers, but also keeping very close contact with the
new opposition, that is VMRO, DPA and their allies. The Framework agreement
was an inclusive document and so the cooperation and the full commitment
from all sides is number one priority. The implementation so far, the
various laws that were adopted under the previous government were the
result of the efforts of all the signatories. So, the idea of having these
meetings between the signatories of the various parties is to continue
this inclusive process.
As far as Semsevo is concerned, I can only give support to the OSCE. It
is basically the same stance. As you know, Alexis Brouhns was there on
Saturday. He met with the various representatives in Semsevo as well as
the parents of the Macedonian children and the family of Jumni Jonuzi,
the man of the bust. And the aim of the visit was to give support to the
government’s initiative to find a compromise and to recognise that
the government has worked hard to find a compromise that initially was
acceptable to all.
Again, we give full support to the government’s approach, which
is a step-by-step approach, which should finish with the removal of the
bust. But again, just to go back to this overall picture of implementation
of the Framework agreement and etc. it is also up to the government. We
are here only to assist and provide support, but ultimately it is the
Greven: And Tino, if you allow me to add something. First of all, also
OSCE is speaking now to the new government and as you can imagine, that
cannot be done in two weeks. Also there are quite some new faces, you
have to build up some confidence among those who are following the talks,
but as far as I understood and heard from OSCE at least, that is on a
damned good way. Another issue I would like to raise in conjunction with
this one is…What I see as the re-opening of the ski area, for example,
in the Tetovo area. I think to re-open that would be another measure for
confidence building in the area. However, as I understood, it is clear
and secure concerning the mines, they got this 99.8% and that is the world
standard, not only in this country. However, as I understand it, there
still is some mistrust around, if the area is safe concerned to other
things, like security. So, I think it would be a smart step if those who
are responsible for the area from the political side and also from the
police, that the security situation there is under control. But, that
again, like Irena said, cannot be the job of OSCE or anyone else because
we are just here to advise and give help when we can. It should be the
job of the local and the state authorities.
Question 2: My question is for Wolfgang regarding the
community advisory groups. Can you say now, instead of after the press
conference, how long have they been functioning, how many there are and
what are the villages that don’t want them installed?
Greven: As I already said to Tino, I do not have the
correct numbers here, but there is no problem, I can come back to you
after the press conference and give you the exact numbers and also the
names of some areas where at least the heads of the villages think they
do not need them.
Acceptable for you? No? What else do you want to know? You want to have
the numbers, how many groups are working now and since when. Well, they
started about approximately a year ago, but as I said, I do not have the
exact number and I would give it to you after the press conference, when
I checked on it.
Question 3: A question for Craig. Do you have any information
about 60 Albanian high school students from Kumanovo who had food poisoning.
This is mysterious because the cause of the poisoning is still unknown.
Ratcliff: Actually, I do not know. Do you guys know anything about this?
Gjuzelova: It is really not something that we are involved in.
Ratcliff: Certainly though, we will take the information
that you have and try to refer it to an agency that may address that issue.
That is good to know.
Anything else maybe?
Reminder: 14 December, 11 o’clock on Saturday, at least General
de Jonge for a media opportunity with coffee and tea and hors d’oeuvres.
Question 4: Craig, this is a question for you: do you
have any idea will there be a reduction of the nations participating in
the new mission, “Allied Harmony”?
Ratcliff: The way the process works: they have to define
the mission and the needs of the mission, and then it is given to the
nations to decide how they will support it if they are going to support
it as participating countries. I think we all know that Germany announced
the other day, I think last week…what is his name, Schroeder? He
was on TV yesterday or the day before, yes, but it was announced last
Greven: I think the decision in parliament was made last
Ratcliff: But it is obvious that nations are looking
at their obligations and how they will support it, if they decide to that.
Well, I know you hate the answer and I hate to say it, but you know, that
is up to the individual nations as member countries. They all decide what
the mission is, how they are going to support it, if they choose to support
it and that is all being ironed out. They are asked to participate, they
do it individually and then a group comes together as a package.
So, we are even: I hate them question, you hate the answer.