Updated: 02-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches


2 Dec. 2003

Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
and Mr. Yevhen Marchuk, the Minister of Defence of Ukraine

Lord Robertson: Thank you very much. Welcome to this point de presse following our NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting with defence ministers of the Alliance and Mr. Yevhen Marchuk, the Minister of Defence of Ukraine.

NATO continues to consider Ukraine as a strategic partner in maintaining peace and very much appreciates Ukraine's contribution to stability; including as it is in the Balkans and in Iraq and other operations where Ukrainian Peacekeepers have been involved.

We had a very good meeting today, taking stock of the progress in reforming Ukraine's defence and security sector in 2003, and set our priorities for the work program for 2004.

Minister Marchuk outlined Ukraine's ongoing efforts to carry forward its defence reform aimed at restructuring and reorganizing its defence and security. Recent progress in reforming Ukraine's defence is regarded by the NATO countries as a very positive step in the right direction. At the same time, ministers agree that much still remained to be done, so that recent achievements should not be lost but should be built on.

I'm happy that the NATO countries are determined to continue to provide in 2004 assistance and expertise in supporting the implementation of defence and security sector reform in Ukraine.

This is always a cordial point in our ministerial meetings. Strong support is given by Ukraine and is given to Ukraine because we sincerely believe that Ukraine is a genuine strategic partner of NATO in its region and a pivotal country in terms of international security and law and order.

And I give the floor to Mr. Marchuk.

Yevhen Marchuk: Thank you very much and welcome everyone. We've just finished the meeting of Ukraine-NATO Committee which was held in a very friendly, but also in a very demanding and critical atmosphere.

We've discussed issues which are critical for the understanding of what Ukraine is doing in the realm of defence reform. And we're primarily focused on the implementation of the target plan for the year 2003 and the Action Plan Ukraine-NATO.

I have informed my colleagues about the plans which have been developed and which are going to be implemented in 2004.

The year 2004 and 2005 are going to mark a new phase in the defence reform in Ukraine. The plan being is that by the beginning of 2006, we will have formed a new and modern defence infrastructure, and the size of the armed forces of Ukraine will be 200,000 troops.

I have expressed my gratitude to my colleagues who expressed their support for Ukraine for what is being currently done in terms of defence reform and also for their critique and demanding remarks concerning our progress.

But what really makes us very hopeful for the future is that all those who spoke during the meeting said that they support and were going to continue to support Ukraine in its defence reform endeavours. Thank you.

Questions and answers

Q: Several days ago, Minister Marchuk -- and this is a question to Minister Marchuk -- you said that the next elections in Ukraine might slow down Ukraine's integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures. Is this supported by your colleagues and how is this being viewed by your counterparts and by your colleagues here in NATO?

Yevhen Marchuk: Definitely, the problem does exist, and as an election approaches and during the election campaign, the efforts of both the proponents, and especially the opponents of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration, will be on the rise. And I primarily meant the anti-integration sentiments within the parliament. This is where this problem stands.

And we will definitely feel this, as parliament starts the process of ratification of MOU and host nation support.

This issue is on the agenda of the parliament and in the next several weeks, it's going to be considered. Thank you.

Q: Radio (inaudible) on the question to Minister Marchuk: Are the relationship between... in the military sphere between Russia and Ukraine going to remain harmonious and where will the harmony lie and are there going to be any contradictions alongside with this harmony?

Yevhen Marchuk: I am somewhat concerns that in terms of co-operation with NATO Russia can come ahead of Ukraine in certain areas.

In terms of disharmony, this is only... there is only one point to be mentioned here. Russia has put it on the record that it's not going to accede to NATO ever in the future, whereas Ukraine said that our ultimate goal is NATO membership.

And I believe that the combination of this harmony and disharmony will give us a positive impetus for further movement ahead.

Q: A question to Mr. Robertson. Speaking about defence reforms, how close do you think Bosnia-Herzegovina is after yesterday's ratification in the state parliament of defence reforms?

Lord Robertson: I think it was a very good and welcome decision that was taken in the Bosnian-Herzegovinan parliament. I would have preferred the decision to have been made last Thursday when I was in Sarajevo, but a big step forward has been taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is one of their most radical changes to the political environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the Dayton accords were signed.

So I very much welcome it, and I've now sent an invitation to foreign minister Ivanic to attend the lunch of Partnership for Peace foreign ministers, which will take place here next... this Friday.

Q: I have a question for Minister Marchuk and for Lord Robertson, since Mr. Robertson always have been a voice against organized crime in the Balkans. What can NATO do more in the future to combat organized crime? And for Mr. Marchuk, what is going on with investigations against Ukrainian soldiers that were arrested smuggling cigarettes in Kosovo and earlier in Bosnia in some cases?

Lord Robertson: On organized crime NATO is involved in helping countries with security sector reform, not just with defence reform, but the whole of the security sector, and that is of enormous assistance to countries in combating the scourge of organized crime.

We're also heavily engaged with other organizations in looking at border controls because open, but secure borders are the watch word for the future, and we've got to make sure that honest and decent people can travel easily, but that there is no passage for organized criminals.

So in both of these ways NATO helps to deal with what is one of the biggest security problems that we face in the Euro-Atlantic area, and that is the way in which organized crime is replacing organized government in many parts of the world.

Yevhen Marchuk: The servicemen you referred to have been brought to Ukraine and an investigation is under way by the military prosecutor's office and in the near future the investigation is going to be completed.

Q: The question to Minister Marchuk, are you still optimistic about the figures concerning the future involvement of civilians in the military sphere? Last year you said that by the end of this year 20 percent should be civilian and by next year another 40 percent, which means that 60 percent of civilians are going to work for the ministry of defence by next year. Are you still optimistic about the implementation of those plans?

Yevhen Marchuk: Yes, I am still an optimist and there are good grounds for my optimism.

By the end of next year we're going to bring up the percentage of civilians to 40 percent and by the end of the year 2005 to 80 percent.

Now we have about 80,000 civilians in our military, but mind you, these are not in commanding positions and therefore we appreciate the fact that this is not the kind of change which people normally imply when they speak about civilians in democratic countries.

And I'd like to add to that we... as we do this this is not an end in itself. It's not the be all and end all just to introduce civilians into the military and we predicate all this on bidding process. And if in the process of bidding the military person shows better performance the military one will stay in place.

We have launched a course for the training of civilian personnel for the military within the national defence academy in a bid to implement this plan.

Lord Robertson: And it's very good that Ukraine now has the civilian defence minister and two deputy civilian defence ministers. I think that is a very good step in the right direction according to NATO's very high standards of civilian control of the military.

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