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Marc Grossman Roundtable With Balkan Journalists

Roundtable With Balkan Journalists

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Washington, DC
October 5, 2004

QUESTION: I would like to ask first on Albania, since Albania is a country with widespread corruption, organized crime, and trafficking in persons, some of the most acute problems in the country. How do you deal with the Albanian officials, since they are America's friends?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, first of all, the issues that you raise are really serious ones, especially, I would say, trafficking in persons, where all of us, the United States, countries in the Balkans, Albania, countries all over the world have suffered from this problem. And what we are trying to do is, we are trying with the Government of Albania and with governments in the region to attack these problems.

So, we are, for example, spending some money in Albania on issues of trafficking in persons. We're spending some money on public education on rule of law, which gets at the questions of corruption. And, so, this is always a topic of conversation with the Government of Albania. I think they take it seriously. We certainly take it seriously. And, as Albania moves toward Euro-Atlantic integration and Euro-Atlantic institutions, these will be the kinds of subjects on which the government and people of Albania will be judged.

QUESTION: You have recently returned from Belgrade and one of the purposes of your visit was to try to influence the Serbian leaders to back the Serb turnout to the elections in Kosovo.


QUESTION: Well, according to latest news, however, Prime Minister and Patriarch and a lot of other officials have a different side. Serbs should not go out in the elections. Serbian (inaudible) so far. What would be your comment in that? And what would be the consequence if the Serbs do not vote in the Kosovo election?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: One of the jobs that I did have in Belgrade was to try to make the point that we were in favor of, and I hope that the Serbia-Montenegro Government would be in favor of, Kosovar Serbs participating in the elections on the 23rd of October.

I tried to make that argument in two ways. First, I said that the issues that are most important to the Serbs and to Belgrade decentralization, freedom of movement, rights of people, of minorities many of these issue hadn't even been on the agenda six or seven or eight months ago, and I think the government in Belgrade has done a very good job in getting those issues on the agenda.

And, if you look at the Contact Group statement, which was issued on the 22nd of September, what do you see? You see all kinds of issues that talk to Belgrade's and Serb concerns. It talks about the Belgrade Agreement, talks about its terms, talks about minority rights, talks about decentralization. And, so, I said, "Look, these things are now on the agenda and the way now to lock them in is to have the Kosovar Serbs vote."

I also argued that voting was the way that people participated and that they had to consider for themselves, and Kosovar Serbs had to consider for themselves, what their influence would be like the day after the election, and the day after that, and the day after that, if they did not participate.

You are right. There is a lot of different there are many different opinions in Belgrade. But just before I came, I heard that President Tadic this evening was on television and called on the Serbs from Kosovo to take part in the parliamentary election in the province, and then he went on to say that he has some requirements. He goes on to say that if his demand that internationally recognized local Serb authorities are established in Kosovo within three months is not met, he would then call on the Serb deputies to return their mandates and walk out of the Kosovo Parliament.

But he says that people need to vote, and I think that's a good thing. So, we welcome the statement.

QUESTION: Obviously, one of the eternal question is The Hague cooperation and the two of the most notorious war criminals still at large. People in Bosnia partially part of the government, too, but people in general are really afraid that this is going to be forgotten issue once the U.S. troops pull out of Bosnia. What is your take on that? I mean, how really possible, and how likely it is for the local police in doing which is expected from them? It doesn't seem very likely that --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, first, I don't think that Mladic, Karadzic, and I would add, Gotovina although I recognize that's a Croatian problem is something we're going to forget, and I don't think it's something that Europeans are going to forget. And I think the EU force, which will take over come December or January, they will have that responsibility as well.

But you'll notice that one of the things in this arrangement of the transfer from NATO to the European Union was that there be a NATO office left in Sarajevo, and that NATO office will be headed by an American. And, so, we hope that that will: a) show to people our continuing interest; and b) be kind of be a spur to continued attention to the questions of war crimes and to the question of responsibilities to The Hague.

So, I think people who are guessing or are thinking that Mladic and Karadzic are going to go away, I don't think that's true.

Sir, hi.

QUESTION: One other question, it's not about it's not, you know, every day (inaudible), but somehow it affects psychologically the situation in Kosovo is those missing persons and also those who are probably found found dead, mass graves. Is the U.S. somehow advise them in a certain way (inaudible)? Could you tell me more about this? And also, to the government of Belgrade, in particular, relating to (inaudible) because the process of sending back those bodies to Kosovo is getting longer and longer time, and every month somehow there are 30 or 40 bodies sent to the border there.

And this is reflected in the media, and somehow those people there, the war is going on, we don't seem (inaudible) the war there. But for the people who (inaudible), there are 30 or 40 more dead people coming there every other month. This was like (inaudible) a little state of war. (Inaudible.)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I'm sure it does. I'm sure it does. Obviously, the question of these kinds of returns and accountability is something that everybody is interested in. We're going to have to keep working on it. Prime Minister Rexhepi asked me when I was in Pristina on Thursday, in the afternoon, to pay attention to this. We certainly think we have paid attention to it. We'll continue to pay attention to it.

It has an impact all around the region. And it doesn't just have impact in Kosovo, it has impact everywhere because the killings were so widespread. And surely, as we move toward reconciliation and we move toward democracy and we move toward really integrating this part of Europe into the rest of Europe, this is a challenge that's going to have to be met.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: During her recent visit to Belgrade, Carla Del Ponte said that Serbia has two months to arrest and extradite suspects in The Hague. During your visit to Belgrade, you said that Serbia's failure to hand over more prime suspects will further deepen countries' isolations. Is this deadline for two months generally accepted in international community? And what will what could happen after that deadline?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First, on this, I'm going to let Carla Del Ponte speak for herself. You know what I said in public in Belgrade? I said the deadline, as far as we were concerned, was yesterday and the day before yesterday. And, so, we'd like this to happen now. And if Carla Del Ponte, who we have great admiration for, can get this done in the next couple of months, well, that's great. But I really call upon the authorities who have responsibility here for Mladic and Karadzic and Gotovina to do this now, not to wait to wait a month or two months or any more time. Do this now.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) progress (inaudible) Kosovo?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Do we know its progress?

QUESTION: Yes. UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Oh, I think so, I mean, in the sense that if you consider the level of consultation, I believe it's much higher. If you consider our speaking out for the promise that is in Serbia-Montenegro I mean, every time I go there, I'm struck by the promise there: promise in the people, promise in the economy, promise in the politics. And, so, I think compared to where we were some years ago with Belgrade, there has been there is a lot of conversation going on.

My problem or my worry is that we're going to get stuck here at a certain level and we're not going to be able to take the next step and the reason is that we're blocked by, in this case, in particular, the problem of Mladic, but really Mladic and Karadzic. And, so, as I tried to convey to people there last week, there are many things that we could do between Belgrade and the United States of America and we could do them quickly and it would be interesting and, I think, good for the Serbia-Montenegro desire to be part of Euro-Atlantic institutions.

But there is sort of a cap on this, I guess, is the way I would put it at the moment. That cap is Mladic.


QUESTION: There have been some interesting nuances in the European Union policy regarding the future of Serbia and Montenegro's state union, namely, even though the European Union supports the existence and the continuation of the state union, there has been a so-called double track approach, especially regarding economic matters. Does the U.S. have any comment or any reaction to that, or is it adopting a similar position? Would you care to comment on that?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I'll let the European Union make its own comment. We're in the position of not having to comment on issues like that because, of course, Serbia-Montenegro has an aspiration to join the European Union. We continue to support the Belgrade Agreement. We think people should work hard to improve themselves, improve their democracy, improve their economy. But, you know, the Belgrade Agreement has in it the possibilities of changing it. And, so, our view has always been that any changes ought to be transparent and ought to be peaceful and ought to be democratic.

But I say we support the Belgrade Agreement but we support it as a whole, which is that if it has to be changed, it should be changed under those very peaceful transparent circumstances, democratic circumstances.

QUESTION: My question is related to the upcoming referendum in Macedonia and you just came back from there. And, so, you said there that the question of referendum is a question of time; in other words, whether Macedonia is going to move forward faster or slower.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right. QUESTION: And related to that also, I would like you to comment a little bit of whether you expect certain outcome. Do you hope for one? And how do you relate to that additional help from U.S. that you announced also in Macedonia, $9.5 million for decentralization? So what does it mean? Are there strings attached to that, or are there conditions, or it's just something that was previously discussed?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I'm going to cheat because I've got a fact sheet on the $9.5 million.


UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It's $9.5 million over three years, and it has to do with focusing on making decentralization work. And, so, for example, it is: improving managerial and administrative capacity so people who have new responsibilities for decentralization can meet those responsibilities; developing citizen information centers and public information centers so people can understand the implications of decentralization; establishing financial management, tax administration structures, revenue management structures; and assisting the implementation of planning and permitting that will improve customer service.

So, it's very much focused on once decentralization starts to happen to make it effective and to make it useful. And that's what we're going to do.

If you ask me whether there is a condition on it, the only condition on it is that decentralization actually occur. We wouldn't want to spend $9.5 million dollars on decentralization if there was no decentralization, and so we'd like this process to go forward. And that's why we support the Framework Agreement and we support decentralization.

What I said Friday morning in Skopje really is what I meant, which is to say that in Macedonian law there is the prospect of a referendum. So, people will have a referendum. People will decide how they want to vote or not vote. And what we're saying is that the decisions that get made, whatever decision gets made, has an implication for time and people should consider their position based on how quickly or slowly they want to go.

QUESTION: So do you see it as a setback a little bit, if it's successful, as your position (inaudible)?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, it's not really for me to say. I mean, I'm not in the business of advising Macedonians on how they should behave. People have a right to this referendum. The referendum exists. There is going to be a referendum on the 9th of November and we'll see. All we're saying is it's our observation that the outcome of that referendum will tell you about how quickly Macedonia wants to go forward.

QUESTION: Another question about Kosova. In the spring of 2005, spring, summer of 2005, the standard before status conditions are going to be reassessed by the international community. Since you just came from there, how would you assess the situation on the ground? How close are the Kosovars to the standards?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: My observation is that there are two very positive things happening. Positive thing number one is that the new Secretary-General's Special Representative in Kosovo, Jessen-Petersen, I think is very focused on action, getting this job done. And that's a positive thing.

Second, I believe that the Kosovars recognize that there isn't much time between the 23rd of October and the middle of 2005. They have to get organized and get going. And I think those are two those are positive things.

I wouldn't judge this percentage, that percentage, how they're doing. All I know is that there is their standards plan, there is an implementation plan, and that there is a huge amount of work to do between now and 2005 to get this plan implemented.

And, so, it isn't so much of a standards before status thing that we announced last November. The way I've talked about it is it's a review date strategy. People last year in Kosovo said, "We're frustrated, we don't know what the standards are." Well, now there's a standards package. Then, they said, "Well, we're frustrated because we don't know how to implement those standards." Well, there's an implementation plan. And then people said, "But we're frustrated because when will anyone review our work?" And the answer to that question is in the middle of 2005.

So, there's a lot of work to do. It's a big, important project. And I think Jessen-Petersen, and I think the PISG are very well focused on this now. That was my sense from having from being there on Thursday.

QUESTION: There are some scholars, though, questioning the fairness of the standards. They are too high, and probably they're not (inaudible) too demanding.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: If the aspiration of people in Kosovo, and I believe it is, if the aspiration of people in Kosovo is to be part of a Europe whole, free and at peace, then the standards have to be of a European standard. And I believe that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, the UNMIK, worked very hard to have standards that are European-style standards. And I don't think that's too hard.

I think one of the best things that the European Union has done over these years is never to have lowered their standards. They've said, if you'd like to participate, here's our standards, here's our deal. And if you'd like to meet them, great. If you don't want to meet them, that's your business.

And, so, I think it's important that the standards be high standards and be serious standards and be European standards. Please.

QUESTION: Well, I have to return once again to the question of Kosovo elections. We can expect that the Kosovo Serbs will be confused, getting all those mixed messages from their leaders (inaudible) understanding concerns for their safety. What would you what do you expect? What kind of outcome?

And, secondly, I realize you don't want to speak in terms of conditions and stipulations, but what will happen is there any danger that, for example, you are would block financial assistance, the international financial institutions to Serbia, in case it doesn't comply with the demands?


QUESTION: Either in Kosovo or The Hague.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, you know, I wouldn't want to speculate. As I said the other day in Belgrade, there already have been, I think, considerable consequences for not having Mladic go to The Hague. Secretary Powell wasn't able to certify some assistance earlier this year.

As I said to this gentlemen, I think that there's a kind of a cap on what we can do with Belgrade.

So, the consequences already exist and I don't think we ought to be in the nobody should be in the business of going out and looking for more consequences. This issue already is engaged and the deadline has passed, consequences already exist.

In terms of the Kosovo election, I don't know how to answer your question about what I expect. The only way I can answer your question is by what I advised. And, on Thursday afternoon, I had a chance to visit with the PISG and had a chance before that to meet some of the minority representatives, including the Kosovar Serbs, and I said, "Look, you know, you may consider this naïve, but I think that the best way forward here is to participate and to vote and because just like the arguments I made on Thursday morning in Belgrade, I make them to you here on Thursday afternoon. Are you going to be in a better or worse position on the day after the election, having participated or not participated?"

And, you know, that's my observation. As I said there, they have a decision to make. They have a decision to make in Belgrade, they have a decision to make in Kosovo, in Pristina and other places in Kosovo. And I can't make that decision. I don't live in Kosovo. They have to make that decision. My observation to them was that participation is the way to is the way to influence.

QUESTION: And what about the argument presented by Prime Minister Kostunica that there is no institutional guarantee for Serb participation, and the question of (inaudible) Serbs?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: UNMIK is going to run this election on the 23rd of October. I don't have the slightest doubt that SRSG Jessen-Petersen will make it possible for everyone to vote. And, don't forget, now we still have KFOR there, and between UNMIK and KFOR, I believe that they can put on a fair and free election and one in which people can participate safely.


QUESTION: Sir, you're probably familiar with the fact that the Bosnian Government is trying to, you know, to send a demining unit to Iraq. Do you have any comment on that? And in general, how would you assess, in that sense, contribution or a future contribution from the region countries?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I had a chance to meet the Bosnian President at the United Nations, the representative of the Tri-Presidency, and we talked about this wonderful contribution of the demining unit, which I certainly welcome. It turns out that there are a number of logistical challenges with it in terms of transportation and the right equipment, and we at that meeting agreed that the Bosnian Government would be in touch with our Central Command in Florida and work out these arrangements, and that's what they're doing.

And, so, we'd very much like it if this unit would go because it would show a number of things one, it would show solidarity with the people of Iraq, it also, I think, very much shows the successful continuation of defense reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And that's good, so we're for this.

In terms of a regional contribution, that's up to the region. But I can only deal with one thing at a time and we're glad to deal with we were very glad to have this offer and we'd like to see it go through.


QUESTION: (Off mike) (Inaudible) some scholars (inaudible) still say that you refuse to (inaudible).

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Absolutely. That's one of the reasons that, certainly when I was there, we were so focused on economic growth in Kosovo. One of the reasons that we have encouraged the European Union to meet its obligations under Pillar Four. It's one of the reasons that Phil Goldberg, our new Chief of Mission in Pristina, the other day brought 30 American companies to Kosovo.

Because, we can talk about all of this theory and elections and all the other things we've talked about. Sixty percent of the people in Kosovo are unemployed. I mean, it can't be that they'll have a successful society no matter what the outcome is, no matter what the final status is, with 60 percent of the people being unemployed. That can't be.

You know, that said, the Europeans run the European Union. And, again, I would argue to you that their success these past few years in bringing in new members is very much connected to the fact that they didn't lower their standards. I admire them for it. I know that's hard. I know that's a hard message to people who want to become members of the European Union, but I think it's right and they set an honest goal.

QUESTION: Is there

QUESTION: Can I follow up?


QUESTION: (Off mike) if they are, for example, if (inaudible) where we go on that point?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: You mean after the elections?

QUESTION: Yes. After in spring 2005.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It goes back to your colleague's question here. I mean, what I said in my press conference in Pristina I would stick with and I also said it to the PISG. Where we don't want to be in 2005 is sitting around a table exchanging stories and anecdotes and personal feelings about the standards. We need facts. And that means that the standards need to be implemented and the PISG needs to get more powers and they need to implement these things.

And, so, there's a huge amount of work to do, as I said to your colleague, between now and 2005. And I'm a practical sort of person, so I say let's use our energy between now and the 23rd of October having a successful election, and between the 23rd of October and the middle of 2005, implementing the standards, and in the middle of 2005 we'll judge about the future.


QUESTION: Sir, economic relationships. After 2000, U.S. was the biggest investor in Serbia and then that stopped. Do you see any political reasons for that or it should be just economic?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I think it's partially the economy. On the other hand, to be fair, I think business people, whether they're American business people or Serbian business people or anybody, they want to invest their money in a place where they kind of can see what the long-term future is. So, I would guess that an American company making an investment in a country like Serbia would like to see Serbia on a path to the European Union, would like to see Serbia on a path to NATO, PFP, and then NATO.

And what's blocking that is Mladic, so in another way, this PIFWC issue is a block not just to the political things that we were talking about before with your colleague, but also investment. When I was in Macedonia on Friday, you know, people said to me, well, you know, this question of timing, will it affect investment in Macedonia? Well, sure it will because because I think the investors, European investors, American investors, would like to feel that Macedonia is on a quick and rapid path to the European Union and NATO.


QUESTION: What is (inaudible) priority in the United States (inaudible)?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: In my view, Europe will never be whole, free, and at peace unless the Balkans are successful. In other words, if the Balkans remain isolated and outside of the mainstream, then you'll have a Europe whole, free, and at peace minus the Balkans and that's not really a Europe whole, free and at peace. So, the strategic goal of the United States of America is a Europe whole, free, and at peace, defined by a Europe including the Balkans.

QUESTION: I'm so sorry, sir, but you know it (inaudible) public secret that many of them do not consider Balkans to be Europe, as it is. They don't really --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: He didn't ask me about them. He asked me about me. (Laughter.)

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Well, even though it has been enough said already about standards, let me just try to clarify once again. There have been suggestions, indeed, in some analyses, that instead of the standards before status, it should be standards parallel with status. But can you affirm that U.S. policy is standards before status and it will remain so until a certain point, as you suggested? Could you just elaborate?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, as I said to your colleague, our policy is a review date strategy, and we say that there are standards, there's a standards implementation plan, that people ought to work on that implementation plan until mid-2005, and then we promised last November that in mid 2005 the international community, the Contact Group, the Security Council, would consider where we were and then you would begin the process to consider Kosovo's final status. I think that's a perfectly sensible position to be in.


QUESTION: I'd like to go back to Macedonia. Macedonia goes through difficult times and people are very skeptical towards the government. You have probably noticed that when you were there. There was survey (inaudible) just a few days ago and there is just like 8 percent of population supporting President Crvenkovski and all of his politicians, I mean, between 5 percent and 7 (inaudible). So, my question is, do you have a feeling that his government is on the right track? That's number one. And then in terms of the U.S.-Macedonian policy, is there going to be any changes in (inaudible)?


QUESTION: Yes, but there is a fear, and it is growing.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: What we think is that Macedonia is on the right track. It seems to me it's pretty clear the people of Macedonia want to be part of Europe. They want to be in the European Union. In fact, when I was there on that Friday, Mr. Prodi was there delivering the questionnaire. People want to be part of Europe. People want to be part of NATO. I think those are all things to be admired and supported.

So, if you say to me, are there going to be any great changes in U.S. policy toward Macedonia we'd like to see Macedonia be a successful state, a multiethnic state, a democratic state, an economically successful state, a state part of Europe whole, free, and at peace. And I can't imagine that there would be any change in that policy.

All right?

QUESTION: All right. Thank-you very much.

# # #


Released on October 8, 2004

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