Updated: 06-Jan-2004 NATO Speeches


5 Jan. 2004

Press statement

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

05/01/2004 - NATO
New Secretary General takes up office
Goede morgen, good morning, bonjour, a happy new year to all of you.

It's good to be back in Brussels. More than twenty years ago I left this building after having worked here as a Dutch diplomat. Today I am back and starting my job as SG of this Alliance, which has brought us peace, stability and security throughout its existence, and continue to do so.

Of course it's a different NATO from 20 years ago, but still firmly embedded as the cornerstone of our transatlantic relations and guarantor of our values and norms.

NATO has taken on new responsibilities and is going through a continuous process of transformation to be able to meet new challenges, I would like to pay tribute to George Robertson for having handed over to me the Alliance in such a good shape. He has accomplished a lot and has set many things in motion.

There is work in progress, which I will pursue with great vigour. Transformation is all about new command structures, capabilities (NRF) and the very important point of usability of our means. Let me add commitment as a notion to underscore the importance of the direct link between our common political decisions and the need to meet the requirements on the ground.

The T of transformation also stands for transparency. Transparency about NATO's role as a political decision making body, its new responsibilities, its role in the international arena. Public diplomacy will be key to our reputation both inside and outside the Alliance.

The T also stands for teamwork. As shown throughout its existence the Alliance functions properly if all its members perform as a team and they all feel the same high degree of commitment, I consider it to be my duty and that of my dedicated staff to ensure this.

Il ne manquera pas de défis et du travail en 2004. Afghanistan est à l'ordre du jour en permanence. C'est là que l'OTAN a assumé une grande responsabilité dans une situation qui est loin d’être facile et à laquelle on doit consacrer énormément d'efforts pour mener à bien notre mission. On est présent dans la Mediterranée (Active Endeavour), dans les Balkans (SFOR, KFOR) et l'OTAN soutient la division polonaise en Irak. L'OTAN joue un rôle important dans la lutte contre le terrorisme et contre la prolifération des ADM.

L'OTAN va accueillir cette année sept nouveaux membres et développer davantage ses liens avec la Russie, l'Ukraine et les autres partenaires. Assurer une bonne coopération UE-OTAN sera une de mes priorités. La reprise par l'UE derrière notre mission SFOR figure dans ce cadre-là. J'entends également entretenir des relations étroites avec d'autres organisations internationales comme les NU et L’OSCE souvent nos partenaires dans nos missions à travers le monde.

Tous ces thèmes, y compris le thème de la transformation et de nos capacités seront a l'ordre du jour de notre sommet à Istanbul en juin prochain, évidemment de loin l'événement le plus important pour l'Alliance.

En conclusion je voudrais dire que je suis fier et honoré d'être nommé pour une tâche aussi importante. Je me rends pleinement compte du fait que je prends la barre de l'OTAN à un moment crucial dans son existence où pas uniquement l'organisation mais aussi son environnement, le cadre international, est en pleine transformation. Je suis persuadé de pouvoir assumer mes responsabilités et de mener à bien mon travail avec le plein des états membres et de mon staff dont je connais la grande qualité et le grand dévouement.

Je vous remercie et avant d’aller au travail je voudrais bien répondre à quelques questions.

Questions and answers

Q: Carmen Romero (Spanish News Agency EFE): Secretary General, do you think that NATO could have a major role in Iraq this year or do you think it’s still too early?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well I think, as I’ve said in my brief introduction the focus... primary focus at the moment should be on Afghanistan. We’ve heard the news last night, as the result of the Loya Jirga and I think the Alliance should pursue what was set in motion and that is to focus on Afghanistan and about Iraq we’ll see and we’ll wait and of course influence if possible political developments there but first let’s focus on Afghanistan, thank you.

Q: Klaus Pampas (Second German Public Television): Gute Morgen. Secretary General, back to Iraq, there is still on the table what Wolfowitz said in December 2002 already, and Rumsfeld reiterated this and, you know, and probably by your time here in NATO as an ambassador at this time 20 years ago, don’t you expect that the Americans, two days before Iraqi government takes over in Iraq in summer at the NATO Summit in Istanbul, really will claim more engagement by NATO not only in support for a Polish Division?

de Hoop Scheffer: It is certainly not to be excluded of course that could be a development. But what I said in my response to the first question is that of course that will depend on the political developments as they take place and as they take shape in Iraq in the coming months.

Q: (Jan Balliauw - Belgian Television): Secretary General last year NATO was in a deep crisis over support for Turkey, to avoid such a crisis in the future are you planning some confidence building measures for countries like Belgium, France, who caused this crisis?

de Hoop Scheffer: I’ll try to build the bridges, I mean, I have been a diplomat, I have been a politician, for a long time and as I said in my brief introductory statement certainly the relationship between Europe, the European Union and the countries on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the United States, will be one of my prime targets so to say so I’ll pay a lot of attention to that and in my introductory tour around the member states and the new member states of NATO, I’ll certainly of course pay a lot of attention to this problems.

Q: (BBC World Service): Secretary General, you mentioned Bosnia, do you have any concerns that the result of the recent elections in Serbia could have any consequences for the EU taking over in Bosnia and also could complicate NATO’s task in Kosovo?

de Hoop Scheffer: No, I would not think it would complicate NATO’s task in Kosovo, of course, I’ll pay a lot of attention to the Balkans as well because we know the path which has been set out as far as SFOR is concerned but that’s another element of course, that’s another important element in the relationship between the European Union, European NATO countries and the United States of America which I’ll work on hard. Thank you.

Q: Paul Snyder (Dutch TV): What do you consider as your biggest challenge here, restoring unity at NATO or picking up new roles for NATO like enhancing the role in Iraq?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well you’ve mentioned a few priorities here. It’s of course... let’s say pursuing transformation... pursuing transformation first of all, see this smooth further integration of the new member states, building bridges across the Atlantic ocean, focus on NATO’s very important role in Afghanistan. Let me stress once again that the world community and NATO cannot afford to lose there and then as I said in response to one of the questions that one of your colleagues put to me, as political development go focus on Afghanistan and Iraq of course will also be on the agenda at a certain stage but let’s take the events step by step.

Thank you very much.

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