Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen
Austria's participation in the PfP programme goes back to 1995. Since then we have been closely co-operating with NATO Member states in the military as well as the political field.
In its eleven years of existence, PfP has proved to be an important cornerstone of stability for AUSTRIA and the Euro-Atlantic region, continuously adapting to the changing security environment.
However, the new threats and dangers we face today require even more rapid and proactive action by the International Community. Current threats cannot only be faced on a national level anymore. Today, these threats have to be met through solidary and global engagement in the framework of international operations.
In this respect, organisations relevant in terms of security policy like NATO, EU and UN are of vital importance. It has to be said though, that these global actors depend on the commitment of their members and partners. In this respect, AUSTRIA has always made relevant contributions, first in the framework of the UN and, after becoming a member of PfP, also in NATO-led operations: from 1996 to 2004 in Bosnia, since 1999 in Kosovo and since 2003 in Afghanistan. In line with this, the Austrian government has recently agreed on the deployment of norther troops to provide security during the election period in Afghanistan from July till October. These forces will be deployed in the framework of a German Provincial Reconstruction Team.
The military capabilities made available by Allies and Partners have been and still are of vital importance to the successful conduct of operations. In order to be able to fulfil this task in the best possible way also in the future, all nations concerned must continue to foster co-operation efforts. In relation to this, I would like to address two specific areas in greater detail: Interoperability and Transformation.
Interoperability constitutes the basis of a more rapid and efficient participation in NATO-led Crisis Management Operations. The core areas in this field are the adoption of common standards for training and equipment of forces as well as the review of capabilities through common criteria. The OCC can be seen as a decisive element in achieving these goals. AUSTRIA particularly welcomes the planned further development of the OCC and it will closely examine the fulfilment of the conditions, for example further commitment of personnel. However, the success of OCC Level 2 also strongly depends on better access to information.
These necessary conditions should also be implemented in the process of transformation of forces preparing Allies and Partners for future challenges within a co-ordinated and harmonised approach. AUSTRIA considers it a necessity to make use of the results of the transformation process in PfP programmes and initiatives as for example the PARP and the OCC. It is only by these means that the results can be rapidly taken into account in national force planning processes, like the one going on in Austria at the moment. It would also be useful in this context to integrate Partners more strongly in the Lessons Learned Process for Peace Support Operations. This would constitute another important step towards enhanced interoperability. All these measures and related concerns also have to be seen in the light of a planned Austrian participation in the EU BG concept.
The Ministerial Guidance 2005, submitted to the Defence Ministers of NATO nations and PARP-participating nations for approval today, initiates a new cycle of force planning. AUSTRIA particularly welcomes the offer of a new PG providing standards for Rapid Response Units which can be committed to the NRF and EU BGs as well. These common standards and criteria are also of decisive importance in the light of the "single set of forces". Carrying on its national efforts to develop Rapid Response Units, Austria welcomes the current NATO offer, holding out the prospect of common exercise with the NRF from 2007 onwards.
The Spring 2005 Review on the implementation of the PMF has also been submitted today for notation. Having participated in the CMX05, AUSTRIA was pleased to see that the national experience thus gained has been taken into account in the "Post Exercise Report". We think that this has provided the basis for successful further co-operation in the fieM of Civil-Military Crisis Management.
Future successful co-operation between Allies and Partners in operations will also deeply depend on the progress made regarding transparency in the decision making process on the one hand and harmonisation of processes on the other. This especially concerns early political integration prior to a planned operation of the Alliance in order to be able to react faster and in greater conformity with the situation at the national level. In this respect and in military terms, I would like to place special emphasis on the unobstructed and efficient participation of Partnership Staff Element Officers in NATO procedures.
Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen,
To conclude, I would like to stress once again that Austria's participation in International Operations has had and still has more than one positive impact. The participation in Peace Support Operations underlines Austria's significance in terms of security policy and fosters harmonisation of national force development with the international transformation process according to the required interoperability. Austria's contributions also have other positive effects concerning the Alliance which include the strengthening of partnership and a relief of NATO forces in the ongoing Crisis Management Operations.
AUSTRIA remains a reliable member of PfP.