Updated: 10-Sep-2004 NATO Speeches


10 Sept. 2004

“NATO After The Istanbul Summit”

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
At the Swedish Institute of International Affairs

08/09/2004 - NATO
Secretary General to visit Finland and Sweden
28-29/06/2004 - Istanbul
NATO Istanbul Summit
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The last visit of a NATO Secretary General was one year ago, by my predecessor Lord Robertson, to take part in the funerals for Anna Lindh. I was there too, in my former capacity as Dutch Foreign Minister. We were both deeply moved, and the ceremony brought to our minds not only the personal loss of a friend and colleague, but also that we indeed are one transatlantic family of nations with common values, facing the same dangers and threats.

It was not intentional that my visit to Sweden takes place exactly one year after Anna Lindh was stabbed. But for me, it is once again a moving experience to be in Stockholm on this sombre day. And I am grateful that you have come here to listen to me today, as I am always glad to be with my Swedish friends.

Sweden is an important NATO Partner. Over the years, your country has made many substantial contributions to NATO operations. But not only that, Sweden has also brought a wealth of interesting ideas and suggestions to the development of NATO’s relations with its Partners. Let me say right at the outset of my remarks that all these contributions are very much appreciated by the Alliance. And that they will continue to be appreciated as NATO continues its transformation to meet the major security threats of this new century: a lethal breed of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and failed states causing widespread instability.

NATO’s Istanbul Summit, in June of this year, gave new direction and fresh impetus to that process of transformation in a number of different areas. I want to take this opportunity to highlight a few of those areas that I believe to be of relevance to Sweden, and of interest to you.

First of all, the Istanbul Summit underlined the Alliance’s strong determination to address security challenges well away from our traditional area of operations. Afghanistan is a case in point. The long-term future of that country as a peaceful, stable community is vital to our security, and to the well being of our citizens. And NATO is committed to play its part in ensuring that stability.

In Istanbul, it was agreed to expand the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. We decided to increase our presence in the country – including through Provincial Reconstruction Teams -- to facilitate development and reconstruction. We also agreed to lend assistance to the Afghan Government in providing security for the upcoming elections, which will be vital to Afghanistan’s future. And all those decisions are being implemented at the moment -- in close consultation with the Afghan authorities, the United Nations and other international organisation, and all our Partners who are engaged with us in Afghanistan.

Ever since the end of 2001, Sweden has shown strong engagement towards Afghanistan. I am very pleased that your country was able to even increase its contribution this Summer, by reinforcing its presence in the north of Afghanistan, and making available a C-130 transport plane, while keeping its deployment in Kabul up to strength. That is the kind of commitment we need – and will continue to need for some time -- to help bring stability to Afghanistan, and to make sure that it will never ever again be a safe haven for terrorists.

Other challenges, beyond Afghanistan, demand our attention as well. When I paid my last visit to Kosovo, Swedish troops gave an extremely good and competent impression, and I am consistently told that they performed in an exemplary fashion during the March riots.

But there is still more on NATO’s plate. In Istanbul, the NATO Allies responded positively to a request for assistance by Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister Allawi, and offered to help train Iraqi security forces. That Istanbul decision is also being implemented at the moment. NATO military personnel have been in Iraq to offer initial advice and to discuss various options for cooperation, which the NATO Council will discuss in the next few days. Helping Iraq looks set to become another important, but complex, challenge for the Alliance to contribute to – one in which we will be keen to work with our Partners.

The Balkans region is where NATO and its Partners learned to work together effectively, and we are not forgetting our ongoing commitment to that region. It was agreed at our Istanbul Summit to conclude NATO’s SFOR operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, given the much improved security situation there. We welcomed the intention of the European Union to establish a new mission in the country, and we are cooperating with the EU at the moment to make that operation a success.

I wish to make clear that the transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina does not imply NATO’s departure from the Balkans. The Alliance will retain a Headquarters in Sarajevo, to help with defence reform and in other areas. And we wish to maintain an active dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as with Serbia and Montenegro. Because we wish to welcome both countries into our Partnership for Peace programme as soon as they meet the necessary criteria, including full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The termination of SFOR will bring to an end NATO’s first ever peacekeeping operation. Its success is testimony to the wisdom of taking a broad, long-term perspective on peacekeeping and reconstruction. A vindication, also, of the patience and persistence that we – NATO Allies and Partners -- have shown in the entire Balkans region over the past ten years. And that we must continue to show with regard to Kosovo, where Sweden is making a vital contribution to our common effort.

The NATO-EU handover in Bosnia is good news for the Balkans region, and the aspiration of all the countries in that region to move closer to Europe. It is good news, also, for the European Union, and its longstanding desire to become a real security actor. And I am optimistic that a smooth transition in Bosnia will encourage closer, more pragmatic cooperation between the EU and NATO not just in crisis management, but in other areas where our interests coincide, and where our two institutions can complement each other – a goal which, I know, is shared in this country.

There are many areas for closer cooperation between the Alliance and the European Union. They range from confronting terrorism to coping with weapons of mass destruction. And they include the development of modern military capabilities that reinforce rather than duplicate each other, and that widen our options to deal with the serious challenges before us.

To achieve that complementarity of our military capabilities, it is critical that NATO and the EU continue to exchange information about their respective efforts in this area. In particular, we must ensure that the European Union’s Headline Goal plans are compatible with NATO’s force planning. It is in the interest of all of us, too, that we have a constructive dialogue on the EU’s emerging Battle Group concept. And we should consider closer cooperation in the armaments planning area, particularly as the EU’s armaments agency takes shape.

While the European Union is NATO’s most important institutional partner, we are determined to reinforce cooperation with individual Partner countries as well. After the Istanbul Summit, many commentators focused on our decision to deepen cooperation with our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia, to invite Russia and Ukraine to participate in our counter-terrorist naval operation in the Mediterranean, and to reach out across that sea and towards the broader Middle East region. But the Summit did not fail to recognise the major contribution that our Western European Partners, such as Sweden, are making to Partnership, and to its principal mechanisms, the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, or EAPC.

As an Alliance, we are keen to ensure that our Partnership develops in such a way that Sweden and other Partners are encouraged to continue their valuable contributions to NATO operations. And so we are looking into ways to improve the participation by Partners in NATO Headquarters and other Alliance bodies. And we are examining other possibilities to involve interested Partners more closely in NATO’s activities and operations, including by our new NATO Response Force – something that we know, and appreciate, Sweden is interested in.

Of course, over the years, Sweden has not just looked at Partnership as an opportunity to take part in crisis management operations with NATO. This country has also very well understood the political importance of Partnership -- the way in which, for over a decade, Partnership has assisted democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe, and helped to foster a genuine, common security culture across this entire continent.

Sweden has consistently made valuable contributions to this political dimension of the Partnership, as well. Through its very open-minded, constructive approach to dialogue and consultation. And the advice, training, and other forms of assistance it has made available to fellow Partner countries. And so I hope that your country will also contribute to the Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building that we launched in Istanbul, and which is specifically aimed at helping less developed Partner countries to better manage their defence structures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The terrible events in Beslan last week are a stark reminder of the very serious challenges that we face as a Euro-Atlantic community at the beginning of this new century. They are challenges that are, in many ways, much more complex and unpredictable than anything we faced in the past – and potentially much more deadly. And they are challenges that demand the closest possible international cooperation.

Sweden, I know, is very much aware of this new security environment. It is aware of the different requirements the new environment poses in terms of military forces, concepts and capabilities. Conscious, also, of the need for a more holistic approach, involving political, diplomatic and other means, in addition to military responses. And very much aware of the merits of a multinational approach – of joining forces with other nations, working through the United Nations and with international organisations.

As we go through our own transformation in NATO, we are very much aware of the value of our Partnership relations. We realize the value of our relations with a key strategic partner like Russia, of course. And of our relations with countries in Central Asia, including to facilitate our role in Afghanistan. But let there be no mistake, we do also realize just how much we rely, and will continue to depend, on Sweden and our other Western European Partners – to work with us in the field -- to talk and to think with us at the political level -- to contribute to and to share in our success.

That is the main message that I have wanted to convey here today – in meeting with key representatives of the Swedish Government, and talking to you here at the Institute of International Affairs. Profound appreciation for your many valuable contributions to date, and a strong encouragement to continue working together in the future. The challenges before us demand nothing less.

Thank you.

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