by Franz Cede, Head of the Mission of the Republic of Austria to NATO at the meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council at the level of Defence Ministers
Mr. Secretary General,
Operations and transformation:
Since 1996 partner nations have been contributing to NATO-led operations. The Alliance has repeatedly expressed its appreciation for these valuable contributions. Building on this well-functioning cooperation, AUSTRIA wishes to stress the need for consultation with partners concerning future operations at a very early stage. Such early involvement in the decision-shaping process, taking place even before the willingness of contributing to a specific operation is officially declared, would lead to a better situational awareness. Information gained at this stage would then provide a solid basis for the necessary decision making at the national level. Full implementation of the Political-Military Framework (PMF) is necessary. Maximum partner integration in NATO-led PfP operations through Liaison Officers and/or TCN officers in all staff functions in the relevant NATO HQs is crucial. Furthermore, risk assessment relevant for the safety of our troops should be shared in the same way with Partners as among Allies.
With regard to transformation, AUSTRIA welcomes the early involvement in the further development of partnerships and expresses the expectation that such an involvement will continue. The higher the degree of Partners’ integration, the more efficient partnership will become. In that context, AUSTRIA welcomes all fora of cooperation between the Alliance and its Partners such as "NAC+ N" on issues of mutual interest and an increased use of “NAC+TCN". The NAC-meeting in ISAF-TCN configuration this morning was an excellent example in this regard.
Partners could be integrated in the transformation process through the establishment of a structured lessons learned process. This would establish a link to the respective Enhanced and more Operational Partnership (EMOP) initiatives and ongoing operations as well. As a result of this lessons learned process, Troop Contributing Nations should be provided with experiences gained in operations and in the transformation process itself. This would better meet Partners’ capability requirements for future operations. Additionally, the possibility of Partner integration through Partnership Staff Elements (PSEs) at the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) could improve the proper implementation of the lessons learned process.
AUSTRIA places particular emphasis in her security policy on the WESTERN BALKANS. Therefore, Austria contributes considerably to Crisis Management Operations in that region. NATO offers us a good framework for our contribution to a safe and secure environment in KOSOVO. In that context, we welcome the intention of the Alliance to maintain its current level of engagement throughout the status talks and even beyond. AUSTRIA continues to contribute troops and will assume responsibility at Task Force level. We reiterate that any reduction of manoeuvre forces in KOSOVO should be carried out only very carefully, bearing closely in mind the security situation and potential political developments.
The outcome of the status talks will have repercussions on NATO's future military commitment in this region. The mission and its tasks may have to be adjusted accordingly. The international community must remain committed to the stabilization and eventual integration of the Western Balkans into the Euro-Atlantic security structures.