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Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Netherlands took up his duties as Secretary General in January 2004. His tenure oversaw a significant expansion in NATO scope. From anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean to humanitarian assistance missions in Pakistan and providing airlift capabilities to African Union troops in Sudan, NATO expanded its presence across the globe.

De Hoop Scheffer was viewed as a skilled listener whose ability to consult members equally ushered in a period of calm after tensions over American foreign policy in Iraq had divided the Allies. Meetings of the North Atlantic Council were chaired methodically, with careful consideration given to each issue. He also supplemented the traditional Ambassador’s weekly luncheon with a Tuesday coffee to further prepare for meetings after the Alliance welcomed seven new members.

During his mandate, NATO also expanded its mission in Afghanistan, which eventually covered the entire country. In Europe the NATO-led Stabilisation mission (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina was ended while the NATO-led Kosovo force (KFOR) was maintained in Kosovo. Developments in Ukraine, where an Orange revolution took place, were also high on NATO’s agenda at that time.

De Hoop Scheffer had an accessible personality, both within the NATO family and to external audiences via online texts. He and his wife Jeannine particularly valued the involvement of family members of NATO staff at social events organised at the headquarters in Brussels.  He supported as many public diplomacy activities as his agenda would allow him. And some of these activities were more unusual than other. For instance, he and his wife took part in the selection of a “NATO horse” for the Brussels Horse Parade in 2005.

Following the success of the “Art on Cows 2003”, which saw brightly painted cows appear throughout Brussels, the organisers decided to revive the event with horses on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the Belgian State. The winning horse was designed by Pierre Rousteau – one of the students participating in the competition. Alliantis was unveiled at NATO Headquarters on 7 June 2005, after which it joined the rest of the Horse Parade to tour Belgium.

At the beginning of his tenure, his sporting activities proved quite a challenge for his close protection team, which had to get up to speed!  A keen runner, De Hoop Scheffer was the patron of the first NATO Partnership Running Festival between the Serbian town of Kanjiza-Horgos and Szeged in Hungary in June 2006. He was also an avid mountain biker. This came in handy when he conducted ‘on the go’ diplomacy with President George Bush who had organised a challenging biking tour around his ranch in Texas. He also played tennis and squash, and enjoyed singing. He is a French film buff and a lover of English and French literature. When he made his first public appearance as Secretary General, he spoke in both English and French to the staff and international media and continued this practice throughout the entirety of his term in office.

During his time in office, nine countries joined NATO: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004, and Albania and Croatia in 2009. NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue programme was reinforced with countries such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan.  Moreover, NATO also engaged in relations with the countries of the Middle East (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) and Malta decided to re-start cooperative activities with NATO within the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace programme.

On his last day at NATO, De Hoop Scheffer unveiled a monument erected in memory of those fallen in the service of the Alliance.