Updated: 30-Oct-2006 NATO Speeches


9 Jan. 2006

Welcoming speech

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the New Year's Press Reception

High resolution photos
Audio file .MP3/5792kb

MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming. Let me first, on my own behalf, wish you all Happy New Year, which I will do later. The Secretary General, of course, will make a few opening remarks to set out the agenda for the year and his priorities. And then he will not take questions from the floor but circulate amongst you for quite a while and chat with you. I might ask you to stage your approaches to him. Last year, nobody could survive. So if we could do it just sort of three or four at a time, that will be super. That's all, Secretary General...

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you, James. Let me say, last year, I barely survived. But let me nevertheless try again. I wish you all, first of all, a very Happy New Year. And I hope to cooperate as effectively and as efficiently - you're the one to judge of course - with you in the coming year as we have done the past year.

Let's talk a bit of business then. Let me outline for you briefly what I consider to be NATO's priorities for the year 2006. And after that, as James was already saying, I'll leave the podium and I'll move around.

As you know, much of the activity will be focussed on the Riga summit which we'll have, towards the end of the year, likely now towards the end of November. Preparing that meeting in the different ministerial meetings, starting in Taormina in the beginning of February and then the sequence of Foreign and Defence Ministers meetings will be focussed, of course, on that summit.

If you asked me about the summit, if you would, which you will do, the summit will largely be focussed around the word "transformation". Now I know that when we go out here in Brussels or in Amsterdam or whatever, the word "transformation" is a complicated one. Not many people would understand. It's NATO's change. It is NATO's evolution. It's NATO having the means, the forces and the political stature and status to do what it is supposed to do in the 21st century. In other words, capabilities, financing, how do we finance our operations. And in terms, last but no least, on the relations NATO has with the wider world, the partnerships, about which a few more words in a moment.

When it comes to 21st century capabilities, it is clear that the NRF, the NATO's Response Force, is our flagship. It has been used.... elements of the NRF have been used, as you know, in Pakistan , in the relief operation after the earthquake. And I invite you all to the Cape Verde Islands in the coming summer where we will test the NATO's Response Force full operational capability: FOC in our jargon. That will be a big exercise about the NRF there. And my priority will be, mentioning the NRF as a transformational tool "par excellence", that the NRF has the resources, has the financial arrangements necessary to do the job, to do its job. And you know, its job is a fairly wide-ranging job if you look at the mandate the NATO Response Force got as a result of the summit in Prague .

That's my first issue. NRF, by the way, will also be an important subject on the agenda of defence ministers, NATO defence ministers during the informal meeting in Taormina in the beginning of February.

My second issue, and NATO's most important, largest anyway, operations is Afghanistan . You've heard me saying this many times before, assisting the Karzai government, creating in Afghanistan an environment of security and stability is a very important NATO priority. Let me add here that this is not just a NATO issue. You know that in a few weeks time, there will be the very important London conference where hopefully we'll agree on a document which will guide the relationship between Afghanistan , President Karzai and his government and his parliament and the international community for the years to come. And when I say the international community, I stress again that this is not only a NATO affair. It is of utmost importance that NATO commits itself, yes, definitely and that NATO, enlarges ISAF, that NATO expands. That's of the utmost importance.

But it is also important that NATO creating this environment of security and stability is complemented by the European Union, by the G8, by the individual donors. So that Afghanistan as a country, as a nation, will have a longer term commitment of the international community.

Now mentioning the enlargement of ISAF, it is crystal clear that when we are in the process of generating the forces for this expansion of ISAF, we also realize that this is an Alliance based on solidarity. And that solidarity means that as many nations as possible participate in the ISAF operation. Let me stress once again, this a UN operation. It is an operation under the specific mandate of the United Nations Security Council. And NATO was asked to lead this ISAF operation, creating as I say a climate of security and stability. ISAF is not just a nation-building operation. ISAF is creating security and stability.

And it is, I think, of the utmost importance that the revised operational plan for ISAF, which was accepted by NATO's Foreign Ministers in December can be put into practice and, I can tell you, will be put into practice, as ISAF is enlarging in the South.

NATO has to deliver. The NATO Allies have to show their solidary. This is not just an operation where one Ally decides in its own right. Oh yes, of course, every Ally decides by itself if it's going to send forces. But let me underline the solidarity which is the bedrock of this Alliance as well. And it's my job. And I'll do whatever I can as NATO's Secretary General to ensure that the NATO nations deliver. I would not like... I would not like to see... And that is of course the basic reason NATO is in Afghanistan . I would not like to see that country which has made tremendous progress over the past period, also on the basis of a NATO presence, supported, as you know, supported very strongly by the government, by the Afghan people themselves.

I would not like to see the spoilers of this process, Taliban, al-Qaeda, win again in that country so that country becomes again an exporter of terrorism. So there's a very basic reason for NATO to be there. And it's a very basic and important reason for NATO to expand its operations. I say again, it's a matter of solidarity.

My third issue, if I look at 2006 of course is the relationship between NATO and its different partners and matters related to NATO's future enlargement. In other words, of course, this year, we'll focus and we'll follow very carefully the progress the countries in the Balkans having the membership action plan, the three, will be making in meeting the standards for NATO membership.

You know the criteria. And NATO's door is open. NATO's enlargement is not an event-driven process. It's performance based. So you can never say, it will happen then and then because NATO has a summit. That's not the way it works. But we'll monitor, of course, the progress very closely that goes for other aspiring nations as well, that also goes for a country like Ukraine for instance.

And I sincerely hope, coming back to the Balkans that 2006 will also be the year that also Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina can meet the criteria for joining NATO's partnership for peace. You know, I consider this very important indeed that Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina can join the partnership for peace. I think it's long overdue. They know what conditions will have to be met for doing so.

Let me also mention, in the context of our partnership, Russia . We'll have in Taormina another meeting, I can say, with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov. We'll have an important moment in Taormina . Because there will be a Russian warship in Messina, in Sicily where we will have our meeting. Because the Russian navy is starting its support for the operation called Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean . So you will see NATO warships steaming alongside Russian warships. And I think it's a signal and very important sign of the development of the partnership between NATO and Russia . And I'll certainly pay a visit to that ship when we meet in Taormina .

It goes without saying that if I mentioned partners, that our dialogue in the framework of the Mediterranean Dialogue with our highly valued and respected Mediterranean Dialogue partners and the Istanbul Cooperation Iniative will be worked upon this year as I've done last year as you know, travelling to the region, strengthening our cooperation. And that will certainly also go for... for the ICI.

The final point, what Don Rumsfeld calls the "unknowable unknowables". This time, last year, I would certainly not have dared to predict, and I'm quite sure neither would have you that we would be helping Pakistan after an horrible earthquake. And two years ago, when I started here at NATO, I would not have predicted that NATO was assisting the African Union in flying forces in and out of Darfur and doing some staff training for African Union military leadership.

So I'm not being that bold, today, here at this New Year's meeting to predict all kind of other things. What I can tell you is that NATO's Iraq mission will continue and develop; that KFOR, because it is very necessary, will maintain its presence in Kosovo, as status talks continue. We'll discuss, of course, in Taormina with defence ministers also our operations.

To conclude, we're entering a very busy year. Let me finish where I started: Riga in November. All those ministerial meetings as building blocks for the summit in Riga and then, as you know, in our planning is another summit in the spring of 2008 at a place to be decided. So I can say in wishing you once again Happy New Year, a lot on our plate, let's discuss in not too big groups I hope so that you're not landing on me as the full pack. A very Happy New Year! And I hope to be able to closely cooperate with you as we did last year. Thank you very much indeed. And Happy New Year. Let me raise my glass to you.

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