Updated: 08-May-2003 NATO Speeches


8 May 2003


by NATO Secretary General to mark the signature of the memorandum of cooperation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL)

Director-General, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me as your neighbour here in Evere to come to EUROCONTROL today to sign the memorandum of cooperation between our two organizations. This is my first visit to your beautiful, modern building. I understand better now why NATO experts like to come to visit you here. In several years, it will be even easier for them to come here, as NATO will be moving to this side of the boulevard.

Today's ceremony builds on a foundation of previous cooperation. It was a working group of NATO's Committee for European Airspace Coordination (CEAC), comprising six nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), which in a way initiated the creation of EUROCONTROL, to promote harmonious use of airspace by civil and military users.

It is that civil-military cooperation in air traffic management, Director-General, that is at the heart of relations between our two good organizations.

This operational and technical cooperation has been stepped up over the years owing to the very sharp growth in civil air traffic and the need to take account of military requirements – and particularly those of NATO's Strategic Commands – in any new civil project. The participation of each organization's experts in the others’ meetings, the presence of civil and military representatives in our specialist bodies and the proximity of our facilities have fostered that cooperation.

The most prominent example of our very beneficial collaboration was certainly the Kosovo crisis in 1999. NATO flew 30,000 sorties in six weeks or so, undertook major deployments of combat and transport aircraft and helped to accomplish numerous humanitarian missions. Committed cooperation between our services right from the start of the conflict and the placement of personnel from NATO nations within your Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) made it possible both to prevent flight safety incidents and to minimize the hindrance to commercial air traffic.

I am obliged to you, Director-General, for suggesting to me that we formalize this already excellent cooperation with a memorandum of cooperation between our two organizations which our decision-making bodies, the North Atlantic Council and EUROCONTROL's Permanent Commission, have just approved.

We must now look to the future to ensure that the signing of this memorandum strengthens the existing links in practice. For my part, I see two directions in which our efforts might be taken forward: combating terrorism, and the establishment of the Single European Sky.

Terrorism is a scourge we must strive to eradicate and against which we must protect ourselves at all costs. NATO is working intensely towards that end in many fields, and particularly those of air defence and air traffic management. Procedures designed to enhance coordination between NATO military units and civil control centres have already been approved by NATO, and your experts participated in this work. I know that you too have taken a number of initiatives. I can only welcome the creation of a joint NATO-EUROCONTROL group to continue our efforts in the longer term. That initiative faithfully reflects the spirit and letter of the memorandum of cooperation we are about to sign.

Another challenge awaits civil and military air operators: the establishment of the Single European Sky on the initiative of the European Commission. NATO contributed in significant ways to the work of the Commission's High Level Group that made the key initial recommendations on this important initiative, and we stand ready to continue to support this effort. That includes working with the European Union and with EUROCONTROL, of which the European Community has recently become a member and which will bear central responsibility for implementing this initiative. It is of course important that the operational requirements of NATO's Strategic Commands be properly taken into account, and also all the requirements of military users in the European nations and the NATO nations that are not members of the European Union.

Director-General, I should like to say once again what a pleasure it is to come here today to sign this memorandum of cooperation. Our signatures will be both confirmation of the excellence of our relations in the past and a commitment to pursue enhanced cooperation in the future.

Thank you.

Go to Homepage Go to Index