Updated: 25-Oct-2004 NATO Speeches


25 Oct. 2004

Press point

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr. Javier Solana

22/10/2004 - NATO
North Atlantic Council Meeting with Political and Security Committee of the European Union
25/10/2004 - NATO
Audio file of the press point (.MP3/4825Kb)

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the High Representative will each make two brief opening statements and then we'll have time for some questions. Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Thank you very much. We had a good meeting of the North Atlantic Council and the Political and Security Committee devoted to the transfer of the SFOR operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the European Union on the 2nd of December to Operation Althea. We had a briefing by the new Deputy SACEUR, Sir John Reith, as you know, having the double hat, very interesting and good briefing.

In conclusion, I can say that the seamless transition we need is well on its way. There are no final stumbling blocks to discuss so we expect indeed on the 2nd of December the European Union taking over this mission. You know that there will be a residual NATO presence in Sarajevo but things are going very well at the moment and of course we'll keep the full consultation process between the European Union and NATO and all transparency as things are going very well at the moment.

That is what I have to say by way of introduction. Javier.

JAVIER SOLANA (EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy): I have to say basically the same; I'm not going to repeat it. But I'd like to underline the interest in the meeting we just had; because for the first time the new Deputy SACEUR who will be the commander of the operation has briefed us on the latest details.

General Reith is well known by all of us, he was already in missions in the Balkans a time ago and I had the opportunity of meeting him in 1998 already. He's a very, very good military man and he will be a splendid commander I have no doubt about that.

All the elements that were to be done are done. Everything is in place so we are ready to start the operation as soon as the ceremony takes place, a formal ceremony takes place, and the UN Security Council resolution is approved. We hope very much that will take place in November, in fact... November I think that the presidency of the Security Council is a NATO member, the British and I hope it will be approved without any difficulty so that the 2nd of December we will have the transfer of responsibilities and we will start... we will start ourselves and having had a great success on the NATO side and we are sure of doing the same type of success for the benefit of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina will be when the Operation EUFOR starts.

Questions and answers

Q: I have a question for both Mr. Solana and the Secretary General of NATO. How do you think that the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade can continue and do you think that it's still realistic to have negotiations on status by the mid of next year having in mind the complete boycott of Serbs in Kosovo of the last elections on Saturday?

JAVIER SOLANA: On the elections of Kosovo on Saturday. Let me start by saying the positive elements that they had, you presented a picture so negative that I would like to present a complementary vision more positive.

The elections have developed in a very good atmosphere.

The elections have developed technically very well, the OSCE's report is a very good one and those things have to be underlined. The turnout has been lower than expected ... on both sides but we have a disappointment that the participation of the Kosovo Serbs has been lower than we expected. But I don't think that should change the aims that we have had in the past prior to the election.

The obligation of the new provisional authority will be to continue on the same line than the one before to try to guarantee the standards, and the standards as you know signify also the defence and the security of the Serbian minority.

All the plans of decentralisation should continue, all the elements that were in the standard process should continue. I don't think that in principle that should deter or perturb the contacts between Pristina and Belgrade and hope very much that the ideas that were thought before the election will continue.

That will be on the benefit of everybody.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me echo Javier Solana's opinion in saying that there is no alternative course for the international community as far as Kosovo's concerned. Speaking for the KFOR perspective, KFOR is there and is going to stay there to secure security and stability in Kosovo.

Of course like the European Union NATO as you saw in my statement is disappointed about the non-participation of the Kosovo Serbs in the elections in Kosovo. I would have sincerely hoped that that wouldn't be the case, now it's up to the PISG to see that they represent the whole of Kosovo. I mean the political process should go on, I certainly think, with Javier Solana, that the Pristina-Belgrade talks are important. They are an important element, but of course the international community has taken... and the international community of course and more specifically Mr. Soren Jessen-Petersen needs the support of all Kosovars to see that this course can be followed.

And I agree with you, what you implied in your question, that of course 2005 is an important year because of the fact there will be standards evaluation but let me say that, let's say, disappointment of course also on the side of NATO with the non-participation but we should stay on track.

And there were elections, there were free and fair elections as Javier Solana was saying, so I mean, a positive note as well.

Q: Mr. Solana, Serb non-participation in Saturday's election was probably the result of negative if not destructive role of Belgrade. Will there be any consequences in the relation between EU and Serbia... not Serbia-Montenegro but EU and Serbia as a consequence of this? And to Mr. Scheffer, in your statement you remark that you expect that the new government will reflect the wide spectra of all political parties. Since NATO also has a political role there, do you think that there shouldn't be a position like three years before in Kosovo?

JAVIER SOLANA: Well it's not for me to interpret what is the result or what is the cause of the lack of participation. I have... probably many, many causes are implied on the non-participation of the Serbs. Some of that may be positions of Belgrade but others may be also the lack of trust of the people in the Kosovo and Serbs. And therefore, supplementary effort has to be done to guarantee the security of the Serbs so that they don't have to maybe, some of them, not to vote or to vote because they were not... they don't feel they are safe and they're secure.

Therefore a big effort, a most important effort has to be done by the new authority that has come out from this election to guarantee that everybody--everybody--will feel comfortable in the Kosovo and that the guarantees of the minorities will be respected and the security guaranteed.

But remember that we are not very far still from a very sad moment that took place in the month of March.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: And that's exactly the point. Also you asked in my direction, that this responsibility everybody in Kosovo has, be it the majority or the minority, to see that the standards process can move forward.

In other words, my statement is worded the way it is exactly for the reason as was said by Javier Solana a moment ago to all on the provisional institutions of self-government to realize that the solution for Kosovo is of course a solution supported by a majority and minority at the same time and that is indeed, after March, still a very important conclusion one has to draw.

Q: Nick Fiorenza, Defence News. This morning there was a report that the U.S. is going to stay in Tuzla, has the United States informed the EU or NATO at what level this will be and what will be the relationship between the U.S. Force in Tuzla and the EU Force?

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: The U.S. Ambassador has informed NATO and the EU in the meeting about the reports we saw over the weekend so that information has been given without at the moment any details. But the information has been given that the United States will keep a residual presence in BIH.

But that was... that was the, let's say, the nature of the message by Ambassador Burns.

Q: (inaudible) Foreign News Agency Ukraine. Unrest from a security point of view has a lot of faces. Have you changed views and maybe what was your reaction on the current tensions on the pre-election period in Ukraine? Thank you.

JAVIER SOLANA: We have not discussed formally here the evolution of... before the elections that are going to take place prevent elections in Ukraine.

I have to tell you that I follow very closely, and I do follow very closely and will follow very closely, the elections up to the last day and after the elections even. I get the opportunity of talking to both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the last few days and to tell them the importance that we attach to this election to be free and fair and that's what I can tell you at this point in time. We are going to follow it in great detail, in great interest.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: And that of course goes for NATO as well given the fact that Ukraine is an important partner nation of NATO. We're also closely watching and monitoring. I can say that of course some news reaching us from the press is disturbing but let me conclude, like Javier Solana, that free and fair elections are of the utmost importance and I would like to call on all Ukrainians to make that possible, without exception.

Q: Betina Joteva, Bulgarian Daily. Gentlemen, I have a question to both of you on Bosnia. Mr. Secretary General, how many of the current 7,000 SFOR soldiers there will remain in Bosnia and therefore how many of them will be replaced by EU soldiers? And Mr. Solana, what Althea will do differently than SFOR did before? Thank you.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: What I can tell is that without knowing the exact details that the Operation Althea will start at the same force level as where SFOR ends which is around 7,000. I know that the force generation - that's what was told by Sir John Reith in the briefing this morning - is going well.

I do not exactly know... have the details on what nations, EU member states or NATO Allies are going to do what but the most important thing for NATO - but certainly for the European Union taking over on the 2nd of December - is that the force level will be the same.

JAVIER SOLANA: Well thanks to the very good role and the very good job that NATO has done in the last few years, we will be able to take over the responsibility with a broader mandate. The European Union as you know is already engaged in Bosnia-Herzegovina not only from the point of view of the military presence, it has been there for a year already with the police mission that was taken over by the United Nations. We have a very intense relationship with Bosnia-Herzegovina in other fields, security, fight against organized crime, cooperation in economy, et cetera, et cetera.
So, the military component is part of a broader picture of the relationship between the European Union and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As you know, from the Summit in Thessaloniki not long ago, we offered all the countries of the Balkans including Bosnia-Herzegovina, the possibility through a mechanism that we call the Stabilization and Association Agreement, the possibility to be even members of the European Union in due course. So this is the concept which we have.

I think that it will be a great success and a great success also for Bosnia-Herzegovina which is really the people we want to serve.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you very much.

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