Updated: 09-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches


9 June 2005

News Conference

By the Secretary General after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the level of Defence Ministers

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General will make a brief opening statement, then we'll have, of course, time for questions.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Excuse me for being a bit late. There was much to discuss.

Let me... let me briefly mention the main topics on our agenda today. You know the general topics were operations and transformation of NATO. When I start with operations, and ministers start with operations this morning, then the first item, of course, discussed was Afghanistan where ministers focused on completing ISAF expansion to the west, which as you know, is on the way, and there was a clear commitment for further expansion into the south of Afghanistan. And we have heard and seen encouraging plans and pledges for a further expansion of ISAF.

It goes without saying that ministers confirmed--reconfirmed, I should say--NATO support to the very important legislative elections in Afghanistan and I can tell you that NATO will support these elections like we did with the presidential elections a year ago, with three battalions, a quick reaction force, and what we call an over-the-horizon reserve. You can say that it is more or less the same pattern as we saw with the presidential elections.

Of course, they discussed NATO's longer term engagement after the elections. You know that the so-called Bonn process comes to an end with the parliamentary elections and of course, this included supporting the Afghan government, although that is not NATO's first responsibility, as you all know. But the support for the Afghan government in the fight against narcotics.

On Kosovo ministers confirmed that KFOR will maintain its combat capability. We're entering a very sensitive period. No need to explain to you. Standards evaluation, possible status talks at a later stage.

On Iraq ministers looked forward to the establishment of the Training, Education and Doctrine Centre at Ar Rustimiyah near Baghdad, outskirts of Baghdad in fact. The work is moving forward, and I hope the centre will be up and running early fall; let's say by the end of September, early October.

Darfur, of course, was also discussed. NATO has agreed... and the North Atlantic Council had already agreed, ministers reconfirmed on what it's going to provide to the African Union, which will be support for a strategic and tactical airlift and training as well. We'll help lift the AU troops into Darfur, as does, by the way, the European Union. You know we have a combined cell under African Union leadership in Addis Ababa. The AU has the lead, African Union has the lead; nor NATO, nor the European Union, and we have done that, and are doing that in full cooperation and transparency with the European Union.

The cell in Addis, as I mentioned, will be an air movement coordination cell. In brief, we have to pick up the troops when they are ready, and where they are ready, transport them to the right airfield, and ensure the necessary support equipment. And as I said, NATO and EU will provide staff to support this African Union coordination cell in Addis Ababa. But the AU is in control.

Let me stress, side-by-side with the European Union, it is important. These people need help, these people need help. The people in Darfur need help and the African Union is providing the help, so NATO and the EU are doing everything we can to answer the request by the African Union.

So that is a full operational agenda. I could mention, of course, Bosnia-Herzegovina as well, and the Operation Active Endeavour. This was more or less what ministers discussed.

We have discussed transformation. That was the second important subject. We addressed today some new ideas to make our military forces, and the way we use them more appropriate for the missions in the 21st Century. We discussed, of course, the NATO Response Force, the primary transformation tool, which will have full operational capability, as we call it, next year.

We agreed that we need new approaches to funding, how we fund our operations. This is, you have to realize, not a short-term discussion, of course. That will take more time.

We need a much more collective approach to logistics. At the moment we have many nations having their own logistic support. We need better intelligence sharing. We do need to improve the, what I call, predictability in the provisions of the forces for our operations. And we need a more comprehensive focus on post-conflict stabilization.

And it goes without saying that there is a requirement for closer cooperation, as I've said many times before, with the European Union, but also with the United Nations, in developing these kind of issues.

In other words, we had a good look at the nuts and bolts of how this organization works. I was able to inform ministers about the internal reform of NATO.

And I think I can end here. We had, of course, this morning we started with the Nuclear Planning Group and the Defence Planning Committee. I'm open to your comments and your questions.

Q: Yes, Secretary General, Latvia newspaper...

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Where are you? Yes, please, yes.

Q: Over here. I'd like to ask, whether you lost the confidence to the new member countries, which are now not fulfilling the promise to keep expenditure to defence up to two percent from GDP until 2008? So now it appears in today's report you're publishing, that for example, my country, Latvia, gives only 1.3 percent from GDP, so it's a very, very big difference.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Unfortunately I was right in the many comments I have made also the past weeks about defence spending, but I would not, because you're from Latvia, from the Baltic nations, I would not single out the Baltics. I mean, across the board, with good exceptions, you've seen them in the document, defence spending is not up to standards in this Alliance. I mean I will not go and beat around the bush. We need more defence spending.

I mean, because also as I've said many times, restructuring your defence forces might at the end of the process earn you some money, but you'll start in spending money. And you know we have this two percent GDP, as you mentioned.

I have been critical and I will be critical, as I am today, in answering your question, that it is simply not enough. And the figures confirm it.

I mean, with a few good exceptions, as you know. I mean, you can hardly blame some allies who are spending a lot and spending over.

Q: Mark John from Reuters. Secretary General, I'd like to just follow on from that point and ask about the point in the final communiqué you make that NATO's still suffering from persistent critical deficiencies when it comes to some of its capabilities. Could you be more specific what those deficiencies actually are and how they are holding back the Alliance's work?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, let me start by saying before you would leave this room and say here is a very gloomy Secretary General, I'm not gloomy, but... Because if I look at Afghanistan, if I look at Kosovo, if I look at Bosnia, if I look at the Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, if I look at Iraq, if I look at Darfur, we are doing well. There's a but here. There's a but.

If you want to go on to do well, and if you want further transformation, you need to realize that certain key capabilities need to improve. I have mentioned, I think, in my introduction already, combat support, combat service support. I could add, the critical enablers for missions, and then we're back at airlift, strategic lift and tactical lift. So over longer distances and over shorter distances in theatre. Our air-to-air refuelling capability. Our logistics. I mean, we are not efficient in logistics because every nation has its own logistic footprint.

We are working on that. I mean, we're making progress, but if you ask me, and that's, in fact, what you're doing, are you, if you look at the state where we're in could we do better, I would say yes, we could do better indeed. Definitely.

Q: Thank you very much. Secretary General, Mac Yussef(?) from Nile News, Egyptian Television. Secretary General, you said that the European Union and NATO will work under the umbrella of the African Union in Addis Ababa. Is it going to be a real administration from the African Union, or it's just a cover and everyone will coordinate in Addis Ababa with his own? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No no. The Addis Ababa cell coordination cell as I mentioned is a coordination cell which is led by the African Union, and the European Union and NATO will feed into that cell because there's one red line, of course we'll never cross. This is an African Union mission. And when I went to Addis Ababa two weeks ago, together with General Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander, it was A) very clear to me that the African Union is very well capable, very well capable for this coordination. I saw their concept of operations, which is a very good concept of operations. And you know as well that it is for all kinds of reasons, including political reasons, important that the African Union is in the lead.

Having said that, the situation is appalling, so I'm not ready and willing, as I said before, to enter into any theological debate with anybody, be it the EU or anybody else. These people need help. And the African Union needs the aircraft for lift and they need the trainers for the training of their headquarters.

That's what it's all about. I mean, the political factors important, of course, are, that if NATO's going to assist the African Union, if the European Union is going to assist the African Union, it will have to make possible. I mean, you can't land an aircraft in El Fasher in Darfur in Sudan without the people who have to bring in that aircraft get a visa for Sudan. In other words, everybody will have to cooperate. But the African Union is in the lead.

Q: Secretary General, Dan Dombey, Financial Times. Just following your comments about defence expenditure and saying that it wasn't up to standards, do you see any prospect at all of the debate changing Europe's over defence expenditure increases at a time of very tight budgets and at a time where Europe seems to be looking inward rather than outward, judging from the recent referendum in France and the Netherlands. Do you see any chance at all of this changing in the next five to ten years?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, I mean, I do not know. I know, also from my personal experience, that any Defence Minister in is national government, has, let's say, a complicated fight with a minister responsible for education or infrastructure or social affairs or health or whatever. I do know that. I do know that.

But if I look at the demands on this Alliance, and if I look at the changes this Alliance has undergone over the past years, indeed now supporting the African Union in Darfur, defending values at the Hindu Kush, my message will be, and I think Defence Ministers very much agree with me, that if we want to keep it up and if we want to go on and continue with our transformational process, we do need to make our forces more useable. We do need a different force structure and a different force posture. And that will involve money.

So if you're asking me, are you optimist or pessimist, let me be realistic and let me say again that there is a lot of room for improvement here.

Q: Augustin Palokaj from Koha Ditore. On Kosovo, did the ministers agree that there is a need for a fast solution of the final status of Kosovo, meaning this year or maybe next year? And are you aware of any attempt of Serbian government to arrest Ratko Mladic, which is... which was until now a pre-condition to invite them in PfP?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Your last question, my answer must be, I don't know. I'm not aware of any attempt, in other words. On your first question, we discussed, the Defence Ministers, we discussed the KFOR and the needs to have a robust... continuing robust force posture of KFOR. It is of course, also clear to Defence Ministers, that the present situation... I mentioned that I think in my introductory remarks, the start of the standards evaluation process under the able leadership of the Norwegian permanent representative, Kai Eide, and what might happen afterwards, is relevant for KFOR. But Ministers did not have a political discussion on the future of Kosovo.

Q: In the first part of the communiqué you say that it was decided to send the sympathy to the families of loved ones of those who have died in different missions of NATO. Some people in Spain, 62 military people, died a couple of years ago and the Spanish government is blaming in part to the NAMSA agency to this thing that happened. Have you spoke with our Minister of Defence and what did you say? I understand that NAMSA has already recognized part of the responsibility in what happened this couple of weeks ago?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I have spoken to Minister Bono, not only today, but also on the phone ten days ago, I think. I told him that I will be the first, as Secretary General, to realize the magnitude of this drama and the enormous impact it had. Of course, first of all, on the loved ones, but on Spanish society more in general.

Having said that, you know and I know that we are still waiting on the report to come on this tragic incident. Before that report is there you'll not hear anything else from me than what I've just said. That this was an extremely tragic accident, and that's where I leave it.

I know there was a visit by the NAMSA director to Madrid, but this is it. I mean, I'm the Secretary General of NATO. I have no responsibility in legal courts. So that's it. And there I have to say period. And I'm as interested in the report as anybody els, but I'm Secretary General of NATO. I'm not a judge. I'm not engaged in any kind of legal procedure, and I'll stay out of it because it's not my job.

MODERATOR: Last question, I'm afraid.

Q: Robert (inaudible)... On Afghanistan: Secretary General, the communiqué talks about enhancing synergy between the two missions there. Now the United States has advocated many times here at NATO a merger between the two missions. How far away are we exactly from such a merger?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: That's difficult to say. What we have discussed, and I have used, not coincidently, of course, the word synergy, because if you're going to expand ISAF into the south, in Kandahar and surrounding area, you have the, let's say the fourth stage of ISAF expansion, which is the southeast, where as you know, the Americans are in the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom. Those are two, let's say, different activities, ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom.

If you expand into the third phase, which is not yet the case, which is... or which might go and happen next year, then you have to discuss the relationship between the two. But there should be, and there will be distinction between the ISAF activities on the one hand, which is post-conflict stabilization, nation-building, and the Operation Enduring Freedom activities on the other hand, which is... which involves, as you know, combat operations.

So when, I do not know. It will, to a certain extent, be linked to the situation on the ground. And then most importantly on the ground in the south-eastern part of the country. So I can't give you a time frame. What I can say is that as ISAF expands this discussion, and in that respect your question is relevant, becomes more relevant. What is the exact relationship between the two? But I would make a distinction and go on to make a distinction between the two parts of the mission.

MODERATOR: I'm afraid that's all we have time for. We'll be back... the Secretary General will be back after the NRC.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you very much.
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