Updated: 25-Nov-2004 NATO Speeches


24 nov. 2004

Press point

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Mr. Ivan Gasparovic, the President of the Slovak Republic

High resolution photos
Audio file of the press point (MP3/6747kb)

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the President of Slovakia will make brief opening statements and then we'll be ready for questions.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): It was a great pleasure for me to greet here for the first time, at NATO Headquarters, the President of the Republic of Slovakia.

As you all know an important ally in the NATO alliance participating in a great many NATO-led operations; also U.N.-led operations; but as NATO's Secretary General I have commended the President on Slovakia's participation in NATO-led operations.
We have of course discussed the process of defence restructuring in Slovakia and we have discussed the very challenging and broad agenda NATO is facing at the moment from its operations in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, where in both operations Slovakia is participating; of course, in Bosnia-Herzegovina until the second of December.

We have of course discussed the present situation in Ukraine after the elections. We have discussed NATO partnerships with Russia; with Ukraine for that matter; with the countries of northern Africa; the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative so it was, as I can say, a tour d'horizon focused of course on Slovakia and focused on the broad NATO agenda.

I have been invited to, I may say, go back to Slovakia, Bratislava, by the President and I'll certainly find a moment in the first half of next year to do that.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

IVAN GASPAROVIC (President of the Slovak Republic): I take this opportunity and express my cordial gratitudes to Mr. Secretary General for receiving me and my delegation. I highly appreciate his kind words concerning Slovakia and its positive role as a member of NATO and the positive involvement and active involvement of our country in missions and operations led by NATO.

I have also brought information to Mr. Secretary General on the defence reform which is underway in Slovakia and I have reassured Mr. Secretary General that the Slovak troops that have been deployed in NATO-led missions so far will be sustained and continue to be deployed there.

I have also informed Mr. Secretary General that Slovakia certainly is not going to withdraw its forces from Iraq. Obviously, when a new government emerges in this country, that will provide perhaps even further possibilities for our involvement as Slovakia is known generally for having the expertise in the mine clearing operations. So certainly our experts will continue to provide these services in the country.

And as Mr. Secretary General has indicated we have discussed highly topical issues, among them the issue concerning Ukraine. We have shared our view on many aspects of the issues concerning the Ukraine and if you permit me I should like to add a few points of my personal position.

Obviously, the Ukraine finds itself in a situation of crisis these days. As we know the outcome of the elections is not clear yet and that's why it would be perhaps inappropriate to make any firm statements assessing that situation any further.

We have to underscore the fact, of course, that the Ukraine is a close neighbour to our country and it would not be desirable to allow the Ukraine to drift away from the course, from the direction, that has been pursued by the country before the elections; that being a direction leading towards better cooperation with NATO.

I'd like to believe indeed that the democratic principles will prevail in Ukraine and that it will be possible to continue in a very fruitful form of cooperation with this country.

MODERATOR: We have time for some questions.

Q: (Slovak Press Agency) Secretary General, given the fact that nearly half of the member states are withdrawing their troops from Iraq, is it realistic to expect from NATO to ask Slovakia to increase its troops? And, a general question, how do you evaluate the first seven years of Slovak membership in NATO and are you planning some big investments in Slovakia like NATO did for example in the Czech Republic? (CONTINUES IN SLOVAK)

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: NATO is not asking Slovakia to increase its troops in Iraq because as you know there are a number of allies in the multinational force, but that as such is not a NATO operation. So, I mean that part of your question is the wrong question because that's not up to NATO; it's up to Slovakia to decide when and if they want to stay in a multinational force.

What NATO is doing, as you know, and what the NATO Council has decided this morning - that is that after the decision to have the training mission in Iraq - this morning the Council agreed on the financing of that training mission. So now all the lights are green to start the mission. My plea is, of course, to as many NATO Allies as possible to participate in that NATO training mission.

That is what NATO is focusing on at the moment and that training mission as you know will be a training mission separate from the multinational force but with a so-called doubled-headed commander, General Petraeus, which is also very much involved in the training which is done by the multinational force.

NATO is cooperating very closely with Slovakia. NATO investments, as you refer to them, are not known to be. NATO is whatever Slovakia would like that and want that of course assisting Slovakia in defence reform and defence restructuring. Slovakia is a member of the normal NATO defence planning process.

And to answer the last part of your question, I have a very positive attitude and feeling about Slovakia as a NATO member. Of course, we'd like to see further defence restructuring to make the forces in the Slovak army more useable, more sustainable, as it's called.
I would hope that at a certain stage Slovakia would be able to go up to the two percent GDP defence spending. It's now 1.91, that's over the NATO average as the President and I discussed; but the Secretary General of NATO is an even happier man when it's two percent of GDP. But on the whole I am very positive about Slovakia, as I said in the beginning, a staunch NATO ally.

GASPAROVIC: And there was a question in Slovak addressed to Mr. President. Mr. President, in the light of the fact that some other nations attempt to withdraw or make statements about the withdrawal of their troops from Iraq, how do see the position of Slovakia? Do you think that Slovakia could increase the number of troops deployed in Iraq?

The answer: Slovakia has not yet been asked to do so, to increase the number of troops deployed in Iraq. After all, it is in the hands of the Slovak Parliament to make this decision. But we have joined the alliance, not to be a passive member, but an active member of NATO and this is the answer to your question.

Q: (Ukrainian Service) Mr. Secretary General, did you ask the Ukrainian authorities to reassess elections and if not, will you do it later?

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Yes I think it is clear that after the massive fraud, the analysis made by the OSCE, by Senator Lugar, that a review of the election result which as far as I know has not been formally announced yet is absolutely necessary. And you know that I called in the Ukrainian Ambassador yesterday and told him three things.

First of all the very great worried concern of the NATO allies about this election fraud, ballot stuffing. We hear very disturbing reports coming in about that also today.
Secondly, that any solution for the present situation and the present crisis should be a non-violent solution; absolute non-violent solution.

And the third major element of my discussion with the Ukrainian Ambassador was the courts which can play a role in assessing the election results should be able to play their full role.

But I think if I look at the present situation, a review of the election result is absolutely necessary.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more there and one more over here.

Q: (Spanish News Agency) Mr. Secretary General, very quick question. The doors of NATO are still open to see Ukraine like NATO member, even if Mr. Yanukovitch leads the Ukrainian government?

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well I'm in no position to speculate about that. Ukraine is a NATO partner and I think NATO has every right to criticize what has happened for the simple reason that there is a NATO-Ukraine action plan and there's an annual target plan.

Ukraine is an important partner for NATO and in that action plan and in that annual target plan is explicitly written down the values: free and fair elections; democracy; the rule of law; which are essential in a partnership. So I think NATO has every right to discuss this with the Ukraine and to be very critical about the election fraud and the way the elections have gone.

And it is up to Ukraine to tell the world in general and NATO more in specifics what Ukraine might want. So I'm not going to speculate about this.

Q: My question to President of Slovakia. Mr. President, so you said that Ukraine is a direct neighbour of Slovakia. Now it's a situation in Ukraine where it's de-stabilized. You said that you trying to help Ukraine to come out from this crisis. Which means do you see to come out from this crisis?

GASPAROVIC: Well indeed Slovakia is a neighbouring country of Ukraine, but at the same time Slovakia is also member state of NATO and of the European Union and this certainly is very important for our country and that's the reason why we shall also very much bear in mind the position and the decisions taken by the E.U. and NATO on the issue of the Ukraine.

And obviously Slovakia has had good relations with Ukraine, specifically in the area of trade, economy, and we intend to continue in our good relations also with Ukraine as a PFP country and all these issue that I refer to will influence the future decisions of our country with regard to cooperation with the Ukraine.

There is one absolutely clear demand of course. The demand for the maintenance and adherence to democratic principles in Ukraine.

MODERATOR: We have time for two quick questions. There and there.

Q: (Radio Netherlands) Secretary General, if in Ukraine Mr. Yanukovitch will come out as the winner, will NATO recognize him as the new president; and secondly, what do you think of the reaction of Mr. Putin on the outcome of the elections in Ukraine?

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: NATO doesn't recognize countries or doesn't recognize governments. I side with the President of Slovakia that all NATO asks, but that's important, is review of these elections and the adherence to democratic principles. That's the key; that's the key.

And that's also the key in a NATO-Ukraine partnership and that's why I said that NATO has taken the position, NATO allies have taken the position as they have taken and that will be a continuous line taken by NATO.

As far as the position of President Putin is concerned, I've taken note of that position, but that position does not have a direct bearing on the position NATO has taken, because NATO takes a position on its own and is not consulting with third countries when taking a position, certainly when it goes on freeness and fairness of elections, democracy and the rule of law. We can decide for ourselves as NATO allies.

Q: (Slovak Radio) I have a question for both gentlemen. It's possible there is some kind of follow-up to the previous one. Secretary General and the President, you know that there is a common body between NATO and Ukraine; it's a NATO-Ukraine Commission; don't you think it's time to call on extraordinary session of this commission and to talk about all these issues?

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I have, as I told you, yesterday called in the Ukrainian Ambassador. I certainly don't exclude that that will happen. It's not on the agenda at this very moment. What we want to see now, which is the first priority, that is a review of the election result and the possible decision will be made. I don't known yet which decisions those will be.

Go to Homepage Go to Index