Updated: 15-Mar-2004 NATO Speeches

To the

Warsaw, Poland

7 June 2004

Opening Remarks

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

03/06/2004 - NATO
Secretary General to Chair High-Level NATO-Ukraine Consultations
NATO-Ukraine partnership
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for your welcome address.

I am delighted to be here, in this symbolic place where the first written constitution in Europe, the Constitution of the 3rd of May, 1791, was adopted. I would like to begin by extending a warm welcome to all the participants who have come to Warsaw, especially the Ukrainian delegation headed by Minister Marchuk.

NATO-Ukraine defence consultations offer a unique way to bring together senior-level representatives from NATO countries and Ukraine and provide us with an opportunity to discuss new threats to our common security, the transformation of the defence and security sector, and the management of the consequences of such changes. They also offer tangible proof of importance attached by Allies to partnership with Ukraine.

A great deal has happened since NATO and Ukraine we held the last round of these consultations, in Washington, in May of last year. As you know, Allies are now heavily engaged in preparing NATO’s Summit meeting in Istanbul at the end of this month.

Like all NATO summits, Istanbul not only will mark an important moment in the evolution in our Alliance. It will also demonstrate how NATO interacts with its partners and other international organizations to defend against new threats.

In Istanbul, the new NATO will show that:

  • It is committed to operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan to help bring stability and security;
  • It is strengthening its relationships with an ever-growing list of partners, from Russia and Ukraine to the Caucasus and Central Asia, and with the Mediterranean Dialogue and the wider region; and
  • It is modernising the way we organise and deploy our forces for new operations, wherever they may arise.

As one of NATO's most important strategic partners, our relations with Ukraine will also be a focus of the Summit. In Istanbul, Heads of State and Government of the NATO-Ukraine Commission will assess the progress we have made in implementing the ambitious goals set forth in the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan.

Ukraine is, and will remain, a partner with which NATO wants to promote political consultation as well as practical cooperation. We have achieved much together, but there is considerable potential to do more. Our discussions today will address what we can do to push the relationship forward.

Ukraine has shown on a number of occasions that it is a producer and exporter, rather than a mere consumer, of security – that it plays a significant role in maintaining peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.

NATO members are also very grateful for the continued Ukrainian commitment to our joint peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans, and for the solidarity and support Ukraine has shown in the fight against terrorism. Ukrainian support remains critical to the success of the NATO-led operation in Kosovo. And the opening of Ukrainian airspace to ISAF forces and the deployment of Antonov transport aircraft have been of enormous value to the success of our operations in Afghanistan.

Moreover, the sizeable contribution by Ukraine to the Polish-led, and NATO-supported, multinational division in Iraq is essential to the success of that very difficult undertaking.

But Ukraine's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration goes beyond its operational efforts. The NATO-Ukraine Action Plan adopted in Prague sets out clear objectives in political, economic, legal, defence, security and military spheres

Defence reform has always been a crucial part of the Action Plan, and I am proud to say that NATO has more extensive cooperation with Ukraine in this area than with any other Partner state.

With the help of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, considerable progress has been made in making Ukraine’s defence planning and budgeting processes more transparent, and in enhancing democratic control of the military. There has also been encouraging progress in enhancing interoperability between Ukraine and NATO forces – an effort which benefits from the cooperation of our forces on the ground in the Balkans.

I am confident that the entry into force earlier this year of the NATO-Ukraine Memorandum of Understanding on Host Nation Support will further enhance the possibilities for close military cooperation. I also very much welcome the Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Air Lift that we will sign later today.

It is crucially important now for Ukraine to finalise reform plans, coordinated in inter-agency processes, to bring them in line with available financial resources, and to get down to concrete implementation.

Implementation will, of course, be the most difficult step, and will require political courage and determination to stay the course which has been charted.

Beyond defence and security structures reform, it must be emphasized that the strengthening of democratic institutions, the development of civil society, and the guaranteeing of the rule of law are all crucial preconditions for bringing Ukraine closer to the fulfilment of its legitimate Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations. As you know, the entire international community is following the preparations for the presidential election this October, as well as the constitutional reform recently voted down by the Verkhovna Rada. The success of defence reform should now be complemented by more steady progress in other areas as well, and Allies will certainly discuss the critical importance they attach to democratic reform in Ukraine with President Kuchma when they meet him in Istanbul later this month.

Before we move on to the first module of our conference, Minister Yevhen Marchuk will deliver his opening remarks.

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