Updated: 25-Nov-2004 NATO Speeches


24 nov. 2004

Press briefing

by Mr.Robert Serry, Deputy Assistant Secretary General, on the end of SFOR and the future of NATO’s role in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Audio file of the press point (MP3/12317kb)

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. As you know we have to our great benefit Ambassador Robert Serry, who is very much NATO's point man on the Balkans, on all things Balkan and that includes both Kosovo and of course Bosnia-Herzegovina. And he has very much been responsible for the shaping of NATO's policy towards the country and the evolution in our relationship with the European Union as we move forward towards December 2nd and beyond.

I think, Robert, you probably see more of... I mean, you probably see more of Pieter Feith than you do of most of our... most of us. And he has agreed to come and speak to you, on the record, as you know about what NATO has done until now, and of course, what NATO will be doing post December 2nd.

So Robert, let me turn it right over to you.

ROBERT SERRY (Deputy Assistant Secretary General): Than you, thank you James. Yes, as you probably all know, we will have the transfer of authority on the 2nd of December. That will be a military ceremony which will be carried out at Camp Butmir, the present headquarters of SFOR, and both Javier Solana and our Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer are expected to attend.

Let me bring you a little bit back maybe first, a little bit of history, of what's going to happen on the 2nd, next week.

This was actually NATO's first major stabilization mission which we ever undertook. In fact, the business of which has become very much a core competency of NATO now, if you look at...even now out of area in Afghanistan.

It all started back in the Balkans an it all started in Bosnia-Herzegovina. If I may take you briefly back to the early nineties, even then it wasn't really a foregone conclusion that NATO should do the job. It was very much, as you know, the United Nations which was involved.

But the United Nations, think about UNPROFOR, had a lot of problems in getting the conflict under control, and gradually NATO got involved. In fact, we were, for instance, already asked in 1993 to make sure that there would be a kind of a no-fly zone. In fact, the first shots ever by this organization was actually in 1993 when four planes were actually shot down.

That wasn't enough. You know what happened in Srebrenica. I personally think that was the final wake-up call for the international community at that time. There was even more unity of purpose achieved, transatlantic between the Europeans and the United States. You got the Dayton agreement. And as a result of the Dayton agreement NATO was asked for the first time in its history to carry out a major stabilization mission.

We first had to make sure that the military annex of that important peace agreement was implemented. So we initially sent some 60,000 forces over there. That was 1995.
Now I go a big leap forward to the present. So it's nine years, it's taken us nine years now to conclude that we can successfully end SFOR, and even in this situation, as you know, it will still be necessary under Chapter 7, for a follow-on mission of the European Union to continue, to play the... to carry out the stabilization task.

But in the meantime, what was initially a very robust force of 50,000, has been reduced to a deterrent force of some 7000 at the moment. That will be the takeoff point for the European Union as well. They will start their operation at the same level.
And I just wanted to, again, mention these nine years. It's, I think, a good lesson we can learn, that once, the international community decides to intervene in failed state situations you're in there for the long haul. You see it very well with this operation.

But the good news is that sufficient progress in the view of all the NATO countries has been made now and you know, that decision was taken at the Istanbul Summit. That we conclude this mission and that a follow-on mission will be carried on now by the European Union. But the European Union will do this in close cooperation with NATO, because that's the second aspect of the transfer which is going to happen. That this till be the first major test for Berlin Plus.

You know under the Berlin Plus arrangements basically both NATO and the EU... NATO has agreed to support EU operations there, where of course the U.S. itself will no longer be involved. But in order to avoid duplication, a number of arrangements have been agreed, to avoid that duplication, and very important, for instance, also now in this case will be that Deputy SACEUR was always a European, you probably know, in NATO, will become the strategic commander for the new EU operation.

And that there will be also a chain of commands by creating EU cells, both at SHAPE, but also, for instance, in Naples at the headquarters for NATO, which is now responsible, Balk... for our Balkan-wide operations there will be an EU cell and that will go down to the Commander, General Leakey, who will be commanding the EU force in Sarajevo.

But let me make clear at the same time, of course, that this transfer means that the political control will shift from NATO to the EU... to the... it will be basically the...PSC, the counterpart of the NAC, which will be monitoring from a political point of view this operation.

So this is... and another thing on the Berlin Plus I should mention, I think, is that the whole operation has been planned by SHAPE. Planning is done by SHAPE. So this is all in conformity with what had been agreed between the nations beforehand. In order to make it work, it's always not that easy, and that's why I have been indeed very much involved, together with my colleague Pieter Feith on the other side, to make sure that we have this smooth transition, but what I can assure you is that it is indeed going to happen in that way.

(BREAK IN TRANSMISSION)...thing which in a way complicated maybe this transfer was that NATO itself will... NATO's commitment in Bosnia will not stop. We will continue to have small headquarters there. Headquarters comprised of some 150 men. That headquarters will have as its main responsibility to continue to assist the Bosnians in defence reform. Defence reform which has been, by the way, recently a very big success story. We'll return to that in a while.

But let me first explain a little bit what the headquarters is going to do. I told you, defence reform will be its main responsibility. Of course, the major stabilization role will shift to the new EU operation which is called Althea. And apart from that then the NATO headquarters will still have some what we call residual operational tasks.
The most important of these is the PIFWC issue. It will continue to be involved in the hunt for indicted persons. In particular, of course, Karadzic. I don't want to hide before you that everybody here, including our Secretary General, if of course disappointed that we haven't been able to catch important particular Karadzic before the end of SFOR.

So this continues to be a task for the NATO headquarters. Also to monitor anti-terror; terror in the Bosnian context, and to be involved in intelligence operations. Now all these three tasks are tasks which of course coordination is necessary also with the new EU mission. And for that we have both, first at the political level, agreed between the two organizations a delineation of tasks, and then on the military level, this has been further implemented and made sure that the coordination mechanisms on the ground, accessed before we start the operation.

And what I can tell you, all that work has been done. And we have been able to agree.
So in a way I can... this proves that at least in terms of preparing ourselves for this mission, the new situation, everything was done. In particular also, I should stress that this all, of course, was agreed with the Bosnian authorities. Pieter Feith and I have been, I think some four or five times together to Sarajevo, to of course consult also with the Bosnian authorities on this. The president, Tihic, has sent a letter also to the Security Council confirming their agreement. And the last piece of this puzzle was actually happening in New York, I think just last week or just a day ago...

MODERATOR: Just yesterday.

SERRY: Yeah, it was just yesterday, the Security Council passed a resolution in which these... what I have been telling you now has also been codified in UN language.
One important aspect here for you to know, I think, is that both organizations have agreed to share the Dayton powers. In fact, both the NATO headquarters and the new EU Althea operations are in a legal way the successors of SFOR.

Again, that means that where it comes to all the powers under Dayton to carry out the stability mission that of course, will go to the European Union. But there where NATO still needs Dayton powers, it will also be able to use them, and I've already mentioned that, for instance, in the context of the PIFWCs that's relevant. In the context of force protection that is relevant.

But of course, it is also very clear that the NATO headquarters will make a much more limited use of Dayton than the new EU force.

Well the last piece, I don't want to talk too long, but... which I want to mention, because I think it is more relevant also for NATO in the future, is I already told you that the main mission, the main role for NATO will continue to be involved in defence reform.

Now that has recently really been a success story in the country. Also one of the reasons why I think the Council felt it was possible to conclude that we can end our own major involvement there.

You probably know that under Dayton Bosnia had two Ministers of Defence, had a completely divided situation between the two entities on defence matters. It was allowed under Dayton. But we have been consistently telling our Bosnia colleagues over the past years that if they want to become member of PfP, that you know that the country is aspiring to become a member of PfP, that it would be rather silly for us to have to invite two defence ministers representing one country.


UNIDENTIFIED: And three armies.

SERRY: And even three armies. Exactly. Because you have also the Croat within the Federation. So we have made that point, I think, very consistently and convincingly in the end, because not so long ago, about a year ago, the Bosnia authorities have agreed to unify their defence structures. There is now one defence Minister, a very able man, Mr. Radovanovic, and they have also agreed to set up a new defence ministry on the central level, to have unified command and control structures, all these things as we speak are actually being implemented, because this is all very new, and it goes without saying that the country needs further assistance from us. In particular also when they would make it... would make the final step into PfP it means that NATO would be even more able, and NATO countries would be able to help them even more on this issue.

So that will be really the focus for NATO in the coming time. It means also that NATO will take the chair of the so-called Defence Reform Committee, which is now... which has been very ably led in the past two years by Jim Locher. Not an unknown man, I think, for those of you who are familiar with Bosnia.

I think James, let me... I might leave it at this, and of course, I'm very happy to take any questions you have.

MODERATOR: Let me just ask you to identify yourselves before asking the question. Nick, please go ahead.

Q: Nick Fiorenza, Defence News. I had a couple of questions. At NATO and also at the EU obviously, this mission the EU will undertake is described as the most complex mission of ESDP, but I wonder in fact is what makes it more complex than the mission in Macedonia, other than the size of the mission. It seems like all the other arrangements are similar, if not identical.

SERRY: Well, don't underestimate that the mission which... it is true that this is not the first time that we are actually implementing Berlin-Plus arrangements because in the Macedonian situation we had a much more, I should emphasize, this was a mission of some 350 soldiers at the time, in Macedonia, and we had it also for a very limited period. And it was already clear from the beginning that it would also be for a very limited period.

So no, really, and we didn't have, for instance, the problem of having to agree on the delineation of tasks, or these kind of issues, which I have been describing to you. This really made it a bit more complicated. Particularly the fact that, as I told you, in this particular situation, and I think it is also very important for the peace process there, NATO hasn't stopped its own commitment in Bosnia. We are keeping a headquarters, which will also continue to be involved in some operational tasks, where clearly also the EU will also be playing a role now, and of course we need to sort that out between two proud (inaudible) organizations, and the good news is that they have been able to do so.

Q: And that's starting my second question. Is... I mean, I've written about it, but I'm still not sure I've understood it completely. The U.S. presence in Tuzla... how would... from what I understand that is actually going to support the NATO headquarters. So how is...

SERRY: No no, that's bilateral. I want to really emphasize that. We have a NATO headquarters with the tasks which I have been describing to you. And you're right, that the U.S. has finally decided to keep a small residual presence there, but it's really on a bilateral basis.

It is true, as far as I know, that General Schook will be double-hatteted, in the sense that he will also... but then in another capacity the commanding the small bilateral U.S. presence there. But it has formally nothing to do with the NATO headquarters.

Q: But the U.S. presence appears also to be... to have some of the same roles as the NATO presence, defence... helping defence reform and things like that.

SERRY: Yes, but again in a bilateral capacity. It is very much true that the United States is one of the biggest bilateral donors to Bosnia if it comes to defence reform. A lot of American activities. These will, of course, be also now coordinated within the NATO framework. Particularly now that NATO will take the lead also in the defence reform committee which was formally, as I told you, an American.

Q: Peter Muller from European Security and Defence. What is the area of responsibility for CINCSOUTH in Naples?

SERRY: For CINCSOUTH of Naples? Well, it has been agreed that CINCSOUTH, that Naples will be in the chain of command which leads from SHAPE, where it is Deputy SACEUR, who will be on the European... with his European hat on, be responsible for this operation. And then there will be also an EU cell set up with CINCSOUTH, but it will be again a European within... I think it's the chief of command there who will actually be within that European chain of command to the commander on the ground.
Now why, that is your question. Again, this is very much a question of coordination. Because NATO is continuing to have a role, as I've described in Bosnia, which will also be coordinated by CINCSOUTH because he does that SACEUR. But there's also the wider Balkans theatre, and for instance, whatever come, of course we don't hope so, to the use of reserves, it will be for instance the decision of CINCSOUTH to involve the operational reserves, which will be, by the way, always European troops, I think, within the operational reserves which we have.

But that's why it was indeed necessary to include CINCSOUTH in the chain of command.

Q: May I make a follow-up? Klaus Prömpers, German Television. What are the reserves earmarked for not to be hoped, but maybe...

SERRY: Sorry?

Q: What are the... which are the reserves earmarked for occasion you don't want to see, but which might happen?

SERRY: Yeah. Well, we have always within the operational reserves we have two European battalions which will be earmarked also for possible use in a Bosnian situation. Let me tell you a bit more about the reserves, what has been agreed on that.
There are three levels actually. You have the tactical level, you have the operational level and you have the strategic level. The tactical level is actually something which we actually have used in the recent situation in Kosovo, where you may know we have been... the first reserves which we had to call on.... had to bring over in March after the incidents, the violence, were actually so-called tactical reserves, which were brought from our operation in Bosnia to Kosovo.

Now what we have agreed with the European Union is that on a reciprocal basis this can be done. So if there is trouble in Kosovo maybe the EU force will send in its tactical reserves to help us, or the other way around. So that's the tactical level.
Then... and this can be decided, by the way, by CINCSOUTH, in cooperation with the two commanders. So it's not a decision by either the NAC or the PSC is not necessary for this. The same applies by the way also for the operational reserves, but these are out-of-area reserves which can be brought in.

And then the third level is the so-called strategic reserves, which is a bit more difficult because that needs a decision, in our case, of the NAC, and it has been agreed for the use of strategic reserves in Bosnia a parallel process will take place, both in the NAC and in the PSC, to make such forces available, if need be. But again, are very much considered that a hypothetical question, but all these things have been sorted out and agreed.

Q: On Karadzic...

MODERATOR: Identification.

Q: Augustin Palokaj from Koha Ditore Kosovo. It's the first time that we hear that NATO is disappointed it didn't arrest Karadzic. Usually Secretary General said they are disappointed that he is not in The Hague, but always adding that its prime responsibility (inaudible)...where they are.

SERRY: That is true.

Q: Did you make any assessment why you failed in nine years to arrest Karadzic and Mladic?

SERRY: Well, that's a good question. And assessments are always made by the military about their operations. But it is indeed disappointing to see that after nine years we haven't been able to do it. If you want to have my own assessment, I think the situation we have been confronted with is such that if you have an environment like in the Republika Srpska, where the security structures are so much still part also of criminal structures, and structures which defend people like Karadzic, that is it damn difficult to find him. And the answer, if (inaudible)...answer, looking forward, what I find hopeful at the moment is that we have been able now to begin some kind of cooperation with the Republika Srpska which is on record that they are going to take their own responsibilities more serious, and that may be some cooperation also between, in the future, between the international forces and the security forces may be successful in pinning him down.

I don't have to tell you how serious this issue is for the country involved, because I don't see the NATO council quickly changing its position on Karadzic or Mladic in Serbia-Montenegro. So we are consistently telling these countries that if they want to make this very important further step forward, closer to Euro-Atlantic structures, and PfP is always ... has always been the first ticket for any country in the western Balkans, to come closer to the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, that they have to take this obligation very seriously.

And on this, by the way, when I was with Pieter Feith during my previous missions this year in Bosnia, it was... they heard it as much from him, from the EU, as they've heard it from NATO. So here again NATO and the EU I think have very much similar attitude.

Q: Mme. Alliot-Marie a couple of days ago said that she hopes that the EU could take over on KFOR eventually, in the next few years. Do you have any comments about that?

SERRY: Well, I think only to say that it may be a bit premature to start talking about that, because we are... I think we have just, for instance, also concluded here, another round of our periodic mission reviews, given the many challenges which we in particular are going to face next year, I think what will be crucial for the time being is that a very robust NATO presence is kept in that province in view of possible political positions also by the Security Council and the start of future status negotiations.
And that means, in my view, that a NATO presence is called for for some time to come. But what... of course, I cannot rule out what will happen in the future. You have seen what happens now with SFOR, but it happened after nine years, I told you. We're now four or five years I think in the Kosovo situation.


Q: Did I understand you right that still not all treaties are signed concerning the use of NATO assets by European Union and if yes, which ones?

SERRY: Well, I think as we speak this matter is being resolved between the two organizations. There were still some financial arrangements, the release of specific NATO assets had to be agreed. These are really some last, last ends. It is a difficult operation, I can assure you, to make that all... to make it all happen. But I'm very confident that this will not spoil the party on the 2nd.

Q: (inaudible)...


Q: For a better understand could you give us an example what's still negotiated?

SERRY: Well, for instance, the financial arrangements of sharing Camp Butmir. The headquarters... both headquarters will share what is now the SFOR headquarters in Butmir. Of course, you have to agree on the financial details on that, particularly if it comes to financial details you always have some last minute discussions. But I'm sure they will be resolved.

Q: When we talk about lending NATO assets to the EU, I mean, other than planning, what concretely are we talking about?

SERRY: Well, I have talked already about Deputy SACEUR and I explained the command and control arrangements. We are going to share a lot of assets in theatre with them. They take over a lot of the present SFOR infrastructure which we have over there. So there is a lot, actually, yet to be discussed in terms of NATO assets, in this case, which are turned over to the EU. Although, in many cases these assets area actually also owned by the nations. But it is all done now between these two organizations.

Yes. Yes, you're here, sorry. And then...

Q: (inaudible)...Kosovo Television. I have to go back to Kosovo because you mentioned that it's too early to talk about it and there's a need for a robust presence over there. Will you be more cautious in terms of different approach after this newly formed coalition and the possibility of a new destabilization in the country?

SERRY: Well, we are...

Q: Bearing the fact in mind that the new Prime Minister is a person who is under (inaudible)... investigation.

SERRY: I wasn't informed yet that you have a new Prime Minister? Do you have one at the moment?

Q: Proposed!

SERRY: Proposed, I thought, yes, exactly. It's... so it's not yet clear, whether we will have... who will be the new Prime Minister, I believe. Let me say that first. We're always prepared for any eventualities, in particular after some political developments which can cause... which can stir maybe some unrest. That goes without saying.

But at the same time let me also express confidence that also the Albanian authorities will take their responsibility. We have now a very good cooperation with UNMIK, with the new SRSG and Mr. Jessen-Petersen. And although we certainly do not rule out that we may be confronted again with some unrest, and maybe even some violence, and we believe we will be much better prepared than last time.

I would not like to speculate on these things. We hope things will, of course, remain to be stable and to be constructive. And every party in Kosovo should know how much is at stake actually, in terms of standards which have to be achieved, in terms of a decision which is upcoming in mid-year... mid-term next year. Which is very important for the province. And you have to prove that the next step to future status negotiations can be made.

Q: Mr. Ambassador.

SERRY: Sorry, I think... I have first a question over there. Yes.

Q: It's back on Bosnia. I guess most of the troops will stay there and just change some flags.

SERRY: Yeah.

Q: But could you give us an idea how many troops, how many soldiers, actually are to be removed or replaced?

SERRY: Well, we have the... of course the U.S. contingent is effectively of course being... these are in fact almost the only troops which are really being withdrawn out of the operation. Most of the other troops will just stay on. So you talk about an American contingent of some, I think about a 1000. I thought there was a bit less than a 1000 already, at this late stage, because we have been continuously with... drawing down troop levels. So I think the American level was just under 1000 at the moment.
They will go in the Tuzla sector and will be replaced in particular by Finnish troops. The Finns will take... the command will take over the command in that sector for the new European force. But I don't have really the details about the new EU force, and I think you should ask my colleague.

Q: (inaudible)...through your presence in contact group NATO is also engaged in political process in Kosovo.


Q: Is there a real commitment by international community to start the status negotiations next year by the mid of next year? And what are your doubts about Prime Minister, because there is a deal... it's publicly announced by coalition partners, LDK of Mr. Rugova and AAK of Mr. Haradinaj, that Ramush Haradinaj is going to be the Prime Minister of Kosovo.

SERRY: Well, on the last question I don't want to speculate. Let it first happen. So, on this I don't want to further comment. On your first question, which was, sorry, about the...

Q: Is there a (inaudible)...


SERRY: Oh yes, the role... the commitments. I think we, the international community, really hopes that it will be in a position next year, come next July, that we can take a decision that based on the progress made in the several areas which have been particularly outlined by the SRSG that we can then indeed take a position and go into that very important phase of future status negotiations. There's no doubt about that.
But it takes not only the international community to do that. What we, of course, are also very much looking forward to is further proof that the parties in Kosovo are sufficiently ready to go into that next phase. But that there is, in principle, a very committed international attitude to go in that direction. I think that is clear, yes.

Q: Yes, Gerard Godin(?), (inaudible) News Agency. I have a question concerning the Canadians in Bosnia. Are they also going to leave?

SERRY: The Canadians?

Q: Yes.

SERRY: No, I don't think so. But...

UNIDENTIFIED: (inaudible)...

SERRY: Yes, because they can... for instance the Turks are also continuing to participate in this EU force. They were actually very eager to do so. And I believe the Canadians as well. But I have to check that with you. For you.

Q: If I can follow up on that..? What are the arrangements? Are the Turks going to participate as NATO, non-EU member, or as candidate country for European Union membership?

SERRY: No, they are just... if they cooperate in an EU mission they cooperate with the EU as Turkey, not as a NATO member, but as Turkey. For that specific arrangements have been agreed between countries like Turkey and Canada and the European Union and it is on that basis that they participate and can participate in such missions.

MODERATOR: Two more.

Q: Paul Ames from the Associated Press. I just... I'm sorry if I came in late and this has already been answered, but have all questions regarding the sharing of intelligence between NATO and the European Union been resolved?

SERRY: Yes. We have indeed also resolved that issue. There will in particular be a special coordination cell in Butmir, which is the place where both headquarters will be co-located to facilitate the smooth exchange of information. So on that level I can tell you that we have, indeed, agreed how to do that.

MODERATOR: But there was one question... one last question?

Q: (inaudible)...

SERRY: No. I think... basically not. I don't think there's any major change in the rules of engagement in the way the new EU force is going to operate in Bosnia. It will all be on the same mandate, as I already told you, that the Security Council has approved another resolution on the Chapter 7, so it remains a Chapter 7 operation, also for the EU. And the EU has now got all the mandate and the powers on the Dayton to do so, in the way I've described to you.
All right?

MODERATOR: Good. Robert, thank you very, very much.


SERRY: (inaudible)...

MODERATOR: For those of you who are travelling to Bosnia for the handover, Robert should also be there if you have any later questions.

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