Updated: 09-Feb-2004 NATO Speeches


6 Feb. 2004

Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and German Minister of Defence, Peter Struck,
following the Informal Defence Ministerial

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I think that today's meeting of Defence Ministers underscores and has underscored once again that NATO, through its Transatlantic Partnership, remains the key forum for security consultation and the essential framework for effective multinational military action.
It was, of course, as you know, an informal meeting. Not designed to take decisions, but to prepare the ground for decisions to be taken in the run-up for the Istanbul Summit at the end of June.

And we addressed all the key pressing issues on the Euro-Atlantic security agenda fully, frankly and openly. And as you've seen it was a long lunch.

NATO's first priority, I've said it many times before, and it was confirmed today, is to get Afghanistan right. I've said that, and we have no choice in Afghanistan, but to meet our commitments to the people of that country and to the international community.
General Jones, SACEUR, updated Ministers on his operational planning for Afghanistan and gave them an initial idea of what he will require for NATO to continue to fulfil its mission.

Now I'm very pleased with the outcome. It showed again our common resolve, which was also demonstrated by further contributions to ISAF. Because ministers discussed setting up new so-called provincial reconstruction teams under ISAF command and a number of countries, including some smaller member states stepped forward to help ensure that Kabul International Airport runs smoothly. And it is a proof, I think, that all countries can make a major contribution regardless of their size.

And furthermore, apart from Kabul International Airport, which is, of course, essential for the mission in Afghanistan, we received very positive indications with regard to establishing more PRTs, small Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

What we also did is discuss our operations in the Balkans. In particular of course also here we looked forward to Istanbul, where there could be a decision by NATO to terminate our SFOR operation by the end of this year.

Now as you know, the European Union has announced its willingness to deploy an important mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, after SFOR comes to an end; a mission that should draw on NATO's continuing support under the well-known Berlin Plus arrangements.

Our ministers have noted today the importance they attach to full and open co-operation between NATO and the European Union in the Balkans as a litmus test of how effective that co-operation can be. And as I said, it will be done under the Berlin Plus arrangements, which will mean, among other things, that NATO will have to take a decision in the NATO Council on what role NATO will play after the moment the European Union has begun its mission.

NATO ministers also had some very frank discussions on capabilities. And even perhaps some more important words on usability of forces. Now I believe that we have already made some real progress over the past few months and the recent commitments by four NATO nations to acquire sea-lift capability are a recent good example.

Today, of course, also on this subject we looked at Istanbul ahead, and we discussed concrete ways to further improve the usability and the deployability of our forces.

The central thesis, of course, is here that our missions, NATO missions, should dictate our capabilities, and not vice versa. Let me add that I underlined in the context of the discussion on capabilities also the need for a swift resolution on the issue of air policing for our incoming and new members. We need to find a solution on that, on that issue, soon.

Finally, of course, we had a discussion on Iraq. As you know, NATO is now supporting Poland in its leadership of a multinational division I Iraq. Let's not forget that many Alliance members have forces on the ground.

Now as the political process moves forward in Iraq and in the international community more broadly, NATO governments will certainly continue to keep this issue on the agenda.

To my mind this has been a fruitful meeting. We have had a hard look at what it will take to carry out our current operations more effectively. We look forward to the successful completion of one of NATO's major missions in the Balkans and to the future of our role there.

And we charted a course through Istanbul and beyond to continue the ongoing modernization of our forces.

Now NATO has always spread the circle of multilateralism and effectiveness. And I think our discussions today, again, very fruitful indeed, without decisions, but very fruitful, will help to ensure that our Atlantic Alliance continues to do so in the 21st century what it has always done to defend the security and the values of the Euro-Atlantic community.

Thank you very much, and I'm inviting and calling upon our host today, our Gastgeber, wie wir in deutschen sagen, mein freund Peter Struck...

Peter Struck: Thank you.

de Hoop Scheffer: ...who hosted the meeting, to join me here on the podium, and we are, of course, willing, able and ready to take your questions.

Q: Secretary General, Robert Van der Hoff, NRC Handelsblad from the Netherlands. Can you be slightly more specific on how the mission in Afghanistan will be expanded in the next few weeks or months?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well more specific, we have had in the meeting countries who have said that they are willing to participate and to contribute on the central issue, which of course is that ISAF will take responsibility for more provincial reconstruction teams. And that... but that was a deficiency which was there that the very essential element in the whole mission, that is the running of Kabul International Airport, now having been done long and very efficiently by the Germans, should be able to run smoothly also after Germany will leave that airport.

So it goes for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Of course, we'll have further discussions, because as I said, General Jones has briefed us on what is necessary when NATO is going to take over this responsibility. There also is an important element about the relationship between ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom.
More specific I cannot be at this very moment, because I say again, no decisions have been taken. But I'm optimistic that NATO can fulfil its ambitions. ISAF can fulfil its ambitions in this respect.

Q: (inaudible)...are you confident you will get enough troops for these extra... for this expanded mission, and has the SACEUR made clear to members that it cannot be expanded if you don't have enough troops to do it?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, that last remark you made is not something which is exclusively for SACEUR to say. I have also said in my introductory statement that of course our mission should decide our capabilities, and not vice versa.

I'm an optimistic man by nature, but I realize very well that this is... it's very important that the political commitment NATO has entered into and the political commitments ministers have made, that they can be fulfilled.

After today's meeting I am optimistic. We'll of course have further discussions in Council and further, I hope, formal decisions at the summit in Istanbul.

Q: Laurent Zecchini from La Monde. Je me rappelle, l'année dernière, Monsieur le Secrétaire Général, votre prédécesseur, Lord Robertson, faisait presque du porte à porte au sein de l'OTAN pour trouver un ou deux hélicoptères supplémentaires. Et aujourd'hui, par quel miracle, cinq pays ont annoncé leur volonté de créer des PRTs. Est-ce que vous avez des assurances que ces pays ont les moyens et la volonté de mettre ces moyens au regarde de leurs ambitions politiques.

de Hoop Scheffer: C'est bien sûr aux pays concernés. S'ils ont exprimé leurs ambitions, ici, aujourd'hui, à Munich, je peux avoir confiance, eh, dans ce pays, pour pas seulement dire ce qu'ils veulent, mais tout faire... mais aussi faire la contribution actuelle.

Quant aux hélicoptères, peut-être c'est le crédit, un accomplissement à mon prédécesseur Lord Robertson. Mais les hélicoptères seront là. Mais ce sont bien sûr... ce seront bien sûr les éléments de l'opération qui... l'opération présente en Afghanistan. L'ambition de l'OTAN, bien sûr, est plus loin, et plus forte. Et c'est exactement ça qu'on a discuté cet après-midi, pendant le déjeuner.

Q: Klaus Prember(?), Second German Television. Secretary General, could you be a little bit more precise how many PRTs did the Belgiums, Netherlands and Luxembourg take up your proposal to have a Benelux PRT. Is it to be a Nordic PRT, and which others do you see in reality and in which time frame? In the next four months or after the end of the year?

de Hoop Scheffer: I will not be more specific on countries. This was an informal meeting. But as I have said, because you ask for the time frame and the time line as well, I hope that... I hope... I'm sure that by the time our heads of state and government meet at the Istanbul Summit we can have formal decision making. When then, afterwards, exactly those developments will take place it's a bit hard to say. But again, as I said in the answer to your French... on the question of your French colleague, I think that if countries express their willingness to do so here in Munich, I can take them to their promises. But when exactly that will take place I do not know.

Q: Secretary General, Judy Dempsey, Financial Times. I was wondering why don't you know, because this has been discussed for some time now? Could you give us an idea, at least, of where the five PRTs might be located in Afghanistan and given that the elections are still scheduled for June, what point is waiting... what is the value... added value of waiting until Istanbul to get these in place? Thank you.

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, you don't do this from one day to the other, do you? Because I, of course I mentioned the relationship between ISAF and OEF not for nothing. I mean, if governments are going to convince their parliaments to participate in PRTs those parliamentarians -- I've been one for almost 17 years -- will ask those governments what are they going to do, how are they going to be protected, who can come to their protection in extremis. So you don't do that from one day to the other.

The PRT concept, up till now, I think has proven to work. And I think that's the basis on which nations now have said we're going to have more PRTs. Where they're going to be, I can't answer. The only thing I can say is that of course General Jones, SACEUR, has briefed us. That will come back to that in the Council in Brussels as soon as SACEUR, which he has not done entirely now, has finished his so-called operational plan.

Now that he'll do very soon. As you know, the procedures, the operational plan will then go to the Military Committee for advice, and finally the Council has to take a political decision.

Q: (inaudible)...Agence France-Presse. A question for Minister Struck. Could you tell us if indeed the countries of the Euro Core were offered to take over the command of ISAF this summer? And what the implications of that would be. Specifically, could we envision a participation of a Franco-German brigade in future PRTs or in Afghanistan, or what have you?

Struck: [Answer in German]

de Hoop Scheffer: Which is also a sign of progress, of course, that because a headquarters of course is rather decisive for the success of an operation.

Q: (inaudible)... Radio Free Europe. General Secretary, you took the organization, NATO organization, not in a very good shape. There was a discussion... there was some problems. Do you have a specific concept to improve the situation in NATO?

de Hoop Scheffer: I think, Sir, that that's... it's not true. It would do great unjustice(sic) to my predecessor Lord Robertson if I were to agree to your comments, statement, that I found NATO in a bad or bruised state.

I know that one of the newspapers used that in a headline. This is not what I used in a speech. I said we have a difficult year behind us, but the state in which Lord Robertson has left NATO for me, for me this is the first place, but for me as Secretary General, is a good state. And I think what I have found and I have experienced in the four or five weeks since I've taken this job, is that all member states, the present and the soon to be 26 -- because the French senate, to my great joy, ratified, as you know, the accession of the new countries yesterday, so it's an important day today -- that the Alliance is in a good state.

Why? Because all defence ministers again today, and that's what I've also found in my bilateral visits -- I have spoken to the German Chancellor this morning, to Minister Struck, Minister Schroeder yesterday, I've been in France, United States -- take a very construction attitude. Also on the more difficult subjects.

I know that there were differences of opinion on Iraq. But everybody is inclined and wants to look ahead now, and doesn't want to look back. So I think the Alliance is, as I've said before, in a good state. It's alive and kicking. It has an ambitious program. It goes without saying, it has a very ambitious program in a very important period of transformation. Who would have dared to predict in this hall or whatever, three years ago, four years ago, that NATO would be in Afghanistan. I would not have dared to and probably you wouldn't have dared to either.

So I think we're in a very important period and we have to fulfil the ambition, because today again, I said as well, if this Alliance enters into a political commitment, again that political commitment, the mission should dictate the capabilities, and that's a very important element.

So the Alliance is well. It's alive and it's kicking.

Q: Bret Baier with Fox News Channel. Mr. Minister, could you characterize U.S.-German relations today, and do you have any thoughts on the pre-war intelligence review that's going on in the U.S.?

Struck: [Answer in German]

Q: Robert (inaudible) Gazeta Wyborcza Poland. A question to the Secretary General. When do you expect to have more details about Iraq and why you're so vague today. And to Minister Struck, what has to be done that Germany will say yes to NATO going to the Polish sector in Iraq?

de Hoop Scheffer: I do not have the impression, Sir, that I've been vague. But if I've been too vague, let me answer your question so you'll go home with a slightly better impression about me than you have apparently up till now. Let me say this: Of course, as I said, Iraq is on the agenda of NATO because NATO is supporting our Polish friends in the Multinational Division Central South in Iraq. And I said in my introduction, Iraq is on the agenda and will stay on the agenda.

But let's take things step by step. My first priority is Afghanistan. We see political developments in Iraq. I've discussed this with my German friends, French, American friends over the past weeks during my visit. Let's see political developments in Iraq. Eighteen out of 26 present and soon to be NATO nations are in Iraq and let's see how political developments will develop in the coming period. Let's see the developments in the run-up to a very important date in Iraq about the transfer of sovereignty. And let them discuss, on the basis of which NATO could take on further responsibilities in the country.

But that will, of course, also depend on what an Iraqi government... I mean, I underline the word ownership here, what an Iraqi government would like or not like NATO to do.

So it's not a matter of vagueness. It's a matter of taking the things on the moments and at the time when they are right for decision making, and there is no decision making at this moment on Iraq. So that's the reason that we have an exchange of opinion on Iraq, and that was it and that for the moment is enough.

Struck: agree with the Secretary General.


de Hoop Scheffer: It's a relief.

Moderator: Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

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