Czech policemen refuse to go to Kosovo because of money

PRAGUE, Jul 27, 2000 -- (CTK) The Czech policemen who on Wednesday were presented with English language certificates by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook refuse to start serving within the KFOR mission in Kosovo as of September because of money conditions, Mlada fronta Dnes writes today.

They argue by high living costs in the war-disrupted province which exceed what the Czech government can under the law give them in excess of what they will receive from the United Nations, the paper writes.

"The (living) conditions as well the financial coverage in Kosovo are so bad that we will by no means go anywhere - even if this were to be an international scandal. We are to be in one of the most risky regions of the world, and they want to take the risk premium from us," the paper quotes one of the policemen concerned as saying.

Other European governments pay their UN police volunteers in Kosovo several times more, Mlada fronta Dnes writes.

"They are right. The service in Kosovo is very hard. They cover accommodation, food, transport as well as informers from among the local population from the U.N. money, therefore the 75 dollars per day is not really enough," police spokeswoman Ivana Zelenakova is quoted as saying.

The British attitude to the preparation of the Kosovo mission sharply contrasts with the Czech Interior Ministry's. The British government has covered the special and very expensive language course at the British Council which 20 Czech volunteers completed recently, the paper writes.

The British Embassy in Prague knows nothing about the problems. GIles Portman, the embassy's second secretary, told the paper that the embassy supposed that the Czech policemen would go to Kosovo in September according to schedule.

Zelenakova said that the Interior Minisiry's internal regulations, unlike the army's do not allow it to pay personal bonuses and risk benefits to policemen serving abroad. Besides, the army covers accommodation and food for its people in the Balkans.

The policemen also complain about gross mistakes in specialist preparation for the mission, and inoculation is just "a farce," Mlada fronta Dnes quotes a policeman as saying.

According to him, the men are inoculated against hepatitis while, he said, rabies and typhoid were the biggest dangers in Kosovo.

Another problem is that while service in a mission abroad is a precondition for a successful career of a soldier, a policeman, who returns form abroad, finds his post occupied and is glad if he gets some other job at the police at all, a policeman told the paper writes.

Zelenakova said she hoped that a way would be found to pay the risk benefit to policemen as well. Under a variant the interior minister would amend his decree in order to make it possible for policemen serving abroad to get the risk benefit.

Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy told the paper that it was not up to him to comment on the policemen's objections.

But he conceded that the army had gone through similar problems eight years ago, when it had no experience with the preparation and sending of people to risky missions.

"State interest was however priority number one for us and we did our best to create the best conditions possible...The soldiers are largely returning the care taken of them," Sedivy is quoted as saying.

Original article