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Updated: 09-Dec-2002 Transcripts

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Press Briefing

held 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 to work.
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 government’s job.
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 week…
Greven: I think the decision in parliament was made last week.
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.
Thank you.