Updated: 02-Dec-2004 NATO Speeches


2 Dec. 2004


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the SFOR transfer of authority ceremony

Members of the Presidency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am proud and honoured to be here today. Today, NATO terminates its Stabilisation Force mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union assumes responsibility for stabilisation operations. This is a truly historic occasion. It is a watershed in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development. It is also a proof of the developing cooperation between NATO and the European Union.

The progress Bosnia and Herzegovina has made was unimaginable in the early 1990’s. The people of this country need nobody to remind them of how desperate things were back then. Under the lead of the United Nations, NATO joined a common international effort to bring peace and stability to the Balkans.

That decision in 1992 to go “out of area” in the Balkans was a historical decision for NATO. It developed into NATO’s first-ever peacekeeping operation and marked the start of the Alliance’s transformation process.

For the past 9 years, the Implementation Force, and then the Stabilisation Force, have played a key role in stabilising this country. NATO provided the unique and effective framework that allowed North America and Europe to engage together operationally. And it has also opened up opportunities for other countries to participate. Over 40 countries, from all five continents, have taken part within that framework. As NATO’s Secretary General, I am very proud indeed of all that has been achieved.

Every person who has served in this country, or in support of operations here, deserves a sincere word of thanks for their contribution. And I should especially like to thank SACEUR, General Jones; Commander, Joint Force Command Naples, Admiral Mullen; and Commander SFOR, Brigadier General Schook. You and your predecessors have all done a remarkable job in leading and commanding our troops.
On this special occasion, let us not forget that some of those troops lost their lives in the line of duty as peace-keepers. To them, we owe a debt of gratitude and respect.

When I look to the future, I believe that we have every reason to be optimistic. In the safe and secure environment that NATO’s presence has created, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made considerable progress. The citizens of this country no longer live in fear. State institutions have been established and human rights are now respected. An enormous amount has been achieved. You are building state-level security structures. I was impressed by the honour guard I just inspected.

But more remains to be done. And NATO is determined to help. That is why we have established, here in Sarajevo, a new headquarters which will have the principal task of providing advice on defence reform. We will also continue to carry out some operational supporting tasks in close coordination with the European Union. One of those tasks is support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s full cooperation in this regard is essential.

Of course, it remains our goal to welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina into our Partnership for Peace programme, once the well-known conditions are met. All Balkan countries will then be united with the rest of Europe in a cooperative security framework. And this will be a further indication that we have overcome a difficult past and are working together to build a promising future.

Members of the Presidency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is truly a day for celebration – for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also for the wider international community. We can see here, in this very city, the real benefits that close international cooperation can bring. NATO has been one of the key players in that cooperation for the past 12 years, and will continue to play an active part here. Although NATO’s role is changing today, its commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future development remains as solid and resolute as ever. Thank you.

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