by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of NATO in Italy
I would like to thank Ambassador Francesco Talo for bringing all of us here, in this wonderful country.
To thank all of you, and through you, Commander, all the men and women in uniform who helped organise this incredibly important event. We owe you a great deal of gratitude.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we mark an important anniversary in the history of our Alliance.
The founding of this Command.
Which began as Allied Forces Southern Europe.
And is now Joint Force Command Naples.
[Deputy Secretary General speaks in Italian. English translation below]
[It is my honour to join you on this occasion.
And a great pleasure to be back in Italy.
This is not only a beautiful country, but above all a highly valued NATO ally. President Mattarella, minister Guerini, thank you for your participation in this event, and for your leadership - Italy play a key role in NATO, in Europe and in preserving international security]
Italy is amongst the biggest contributors to our Alliance’s missions and operations.
In Iraq, Italian forces are part of our training mission.
Which you, as Admiral Burke said, will soon command.
In Kosovo, you lead NATO’s peacekeeping efforts, building greater stability in the Western Balkans.
Your troops deter confrontation and preserve peace as part of the NATO deployments in Latvia and in Romania.
And your jets help secure the skies over Iceland and over Montenegro as we speak.
For twenty years, Italian troops served with bravery and professionalism in Afghanistan.
They fought international terrorism to prevent the country from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
I take this opportunity to honour their sacrifices and the sacrifices of everyone around our great Alliance.
Italy was one of the last countries to leave Afghanistan in August.
You played a key part in evacuating many people – including close to 5000 Afghans – and bringing them back to safety.
In this respect, the coordinating role of Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, was pivotal.
Italy is home to several NATO bodies.
Such as the NATO Defence College in Rome. And we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of that great institution of ours in November.
The Headquarters of the Rapid Deployable Corps Italy in Milan, and the maritime research centre in La Spezia.
And of course our flagship - the Joint Force Command here in Naples, which we celebrate today.
Over the decades, this Command has always been key to prepare for, plan and conduct military operations.
Including in the Balkans.
But also, in more recent years, in Iraq.
It is also here at JFC Naples that we established the Hub for the South in 2017 and I look forward to visiting the Hub this afternoon.
To bring Allies and our partners in the Middle East and North Africa region closer together as we face together rising challenges.
Such as terrorism, radicalisation, and illegal migration.
As you already said, Admiral Burke, this past year, Joint Force Command Naples also commanded the NATO Response Force.
Steadfast Defender 2021 was an impressive exercise.
Just weeks ago, we used the NRF to help get NATO-affiliated Afghans and their families to transit centres in Europe.
And I want to acknowledge the continued role you play to help house and care for them.
As we celebrate this anniversary, we look back to seven decades of hard work and well-deserved achievements.
At the same time, we must look ahead and prepare for what might come our way in this unpredictable world.
This is why, when they met at the NATO Summit in Brussels in June, our leaders agreed NATO 2030 – an ambitious agenda for our future security.
To ensure we are ready for the challenges of today and those of tomorrow.
To ensure we are ready for the challenges of today and the ones that will definitely come upon us tomorrow. Including with a new Strategic Concept.
To be ready for the next NATO Summit in Madrid in 2022. I like to thank Spain for hosting this very important moment in the life of our Alliance.
I have no doubt that this Command in Naples, under the outstanding leadership of Admiral Burke, will continue to play its part to make our strong Alliance even stronger, and ensure NATO remains ready to keep our people safe and free.
Happy 70th anniversary.
Congratulations for everything you have done.
And thank you so very much.
It is a privilege for me and my colleagues to be at this auspicious moment, President Mattarella.