Updated: 30-Oct-2006 NATO Speeches


27 April 2006

News conference by the NATO Secretary General

Informal meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Foreign Ministers

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and gentlemen, sorry for the delay. The meeting went a little bit late. The Secretary General will make some opening remarks to tell you how the meeting has gone until now and we'll have time for a few questions. Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start with a subject which was, of course, discussed during the meeting, the reports you have all received, that Alexander Milinkevich, the opposition leader in Belarus , has been detained by the Lukashenko regime for participating in a march. And let me start by saying, on behalf of the allies, this is of course not acceptable. And it's another demonstration, I'm afraid, of the kind of anti-democratic behaviour on the part of the regime.

I call on the regime in Minsk to release Mr. Milinkevich immediately and to refrain from these kind of actions in the future.

I think the Euro-Atlantic community cannot accept these kind of things, and this kind in the heart of Europe . And that is the start.

Let me say, on the NATO meeting, knowing that the people of Sofia might suffer from traffic jams from the informal Foreign Ministers meeting, NATO cannot be held responsible for the earthquake which happened earlier this afternoon. I had not made my introductory statement as yet, but I should thank-- that's why I'm saying this--the Bulgarian government and the people of Bulgaria and more specifically of Sofia for hosting us, because these meetings are a disruption. And on the other hand the government, of course, not only in Bulgaria , but also Bulgaria , is very busy in controlling the floods, which of course disrupts people's lives very much, and I can tell you that the European Atlantic Disaster Coordination Centre of NATO is coordinating the help of allies.

All right, to the meeting. A building block, a discussion, informal discussion between Foreign Ministers on the way to Riga . And Sofia will help and has to help to shape the Riga Summit.

I say again, during informal meetings, we will take no decisions, but the political character of the discussion is of course important. And we opened the political discussion on NATO's ongoing transformation and more in particular NATO's partnerships.

My sense from the meeting is, and my conclusion is, that there's a clear sense with the allies to move forward on partnerships, to keep the existing partnerships, to strengthen them, not to do away with them, because they're important. But also to realize that there are other nations, given the global threats and challenges NATO is facing, other nations relevant for NATO, either because they participate in NATO's operations and missions--let me mention Australia, let me mention New Zealand as far as Afghanistan is concerned--and since NATO is having its operations over a strategic distance, long distance, it means that there is also the need for a dialogue with other interested nations.

So NATO, seeking new partners on the basis of their participation in operations, or on the basis of the global threats and challenges. I could mention Japan , I could mention South Korea as well. The Japanese Foreign Minister is coming to Brussels to speak to the NATO ambassadors soon. The South Korean Foreign Minister was there.

If I discuss strengthening existing partnerships and the road to building a flexible partnership. In what kind of structure that will be it's too early to say, but the notion flexible partnerships crossed my mind when I listened to the Ministers.

This is going to be built in the coming period because Riga , of course, is the moment where the Alliance want to give political signals.

If I mention partnerships let's not have the misunderstanding that the centre of gravity is not any more the Euro-Atlantic. The centre of gravity will stay the Euro-Atlantic area. NATO's core function, I said it this afternoon for the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, NATO's core function is integrated defence, is the Washington Treaty, is Article 5. So that is not the consequence of what I tell you about partnership. You should not forget that.

The second discussion we had was a discussion on possible NATO enlargement. And I have no doubt that in Riga and at the summit in Riga countries aspiring to NATO membership will want a signal.

Now, you will ask me what kind of signal there will be. Too early to say this at this very moment, but it's clear that the kind of signal the allies are going to give in Riga, and I think we're going to give a signal, depends first and foremost on their performance. That is the mantra. It is a performance-based process.

And it is also, I think clear, that there will be a signal in Riga , but that actual invitations to join, I think, cannot be expected already at the Riga Summit.

The line I would like to give you in this respect is that when they are ready NATO is ready. And that is, of course, relevant for the three nations in the Balkans who are in the Membership Action Plan. That is very relevant for Ukraine , having the Intensified Dialogue with NATO. And tomorrow we'll speak with Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk and hear from him how he analyzes the situation.

And that goes, of course, also for Georgia , having now the Individual Partnership Action Plan, having had lots of success with its reform and seeking intensified dialogue.

So also here, the when and the where I can't answer because it is, are they ready? Then the North Atlantic Alliance, then NATO is ready.

Let me be clear, again, to avoid misunderstanding, here in Sofia there are no decisions on specific timelines or on specific countries. These were the two main themes which were discussed: the future of NATO's partnerships and the NATO enlargement discussion. I should add that there was strong support for a NATO training initiative. A NATO training initiative, first of all in full consultation with our partners in the framework of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. In other words, in the region of the Middle East . Strong support and I know, that the nations concerned also have shown a keen interest, but we'll do that in consultation with them. NATO doesn't impose anything, but NATO is good at training and there's added value for the nations concerned, but there is definitely also added value for NATO in establishing something which I have dubbed a training initiative.

It is good for military and civilians from the region to learn about NATO. It is good for NATO officers and NATO people to learn about the region. Added value from both sides.

Those were the three main subjects. Now, to night you know we'll have the transatlantic dinner, which also is informal. No agenda. And that transatlantic dinner could address a range of topics. I would not be surprised... it's Ministers only, as you know, and Javier Solana and myself, EU and NATO Foreign Ministers. I would not be surprised if at that dinner tonight the Middle East in the broad sense will come up again. There have been Ministers who have recently been travelling to the Middle East . The Spanish Minister, Moratinos, has just come back this afternoon from a trip. Other Ministers have been travelling.

I do definitely not exclude, although that can be a subject for the breakfast tomorrow as well when we discuss NATO's operations and missions, that Darfur will be discussed around the EU-NATO table. After all, the EU is doing a lot, assisting the African Union in Darfur . NATO is also involved, as you know, in troop transport through the air and in training for the African Union.

And I can tell you any other subject of relevance which might come up at the transatlantic dinner.

I think I can stop here. I'm open to your comments and questions.

Q: (inaudible)...Television...

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: You have no mike? Oh, you have a mike. Okay.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Alexandrina Vamavinova(?), Television Bulgaria . Mr. Secretary General, I want to ask you, will the Alliance have common position about such an issue like Iran nuclear program? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well if I mention the dinner tonight and the subject of the broader Middle East and EU and NATO ministers sitting together I certainly do not exclude that the theme Iran will be discussed. I mean, the EU 3 and the United States , of course, and the Security Council, are very busy there, in the diplomatic process. NATO is not. That does not mean that this is not a subject which is relevant for the allies. Of course it's relevant. But the EU 3 and the U.S. , Security Council, IAEA, are the ones who are leading the process and not NATO.

So as I saw in one of the reports on my remarks this afternoon, let's not have a misunderstanding that now NATO is suddenly involved in the discussion of Iran . NATO is not. But you will agree with me, I hope, and your viewers will agree with me, that this is a subject which is, of course, by definition, a relevant political subject when you have EU Foreign Ministers and NATO Foreign Ministers sitting together.

Q: Laurent Zecchini, Le Monde. Monsieur le Secrétaire général, la question de l'élargissement de l'OTAN à d'autres pays, la question des partenariats de l'OTAN, tout ça en fait recouvre un peu le même sujet, c'est-à-dire le rôle de l'OTAN et le rôle que les Américains voudraient nettement plus global et nettement plus politique. Et vous savez qu'un certain nombre de pays dont la France sont assez réticents. Est-ce que vous avez abordé cette question de fond et sous quelle forme?

SCHEFFER: On a certainement abordé la question parce que vous avez raison, et la relation, certainement, entre le sujet... Il faut faire, néanmoins, une distinction à mon avis entre une alliance globale, l'OTAN n'a pas, et vous le savez, ce que je peux dire maintenant, l'OTAN n'a pas la mission d'être le gendarme du monde, certainement pas. Mais si l'on voit les défis et les menaces avec lesquels l'OTAN est confrontée aujourd'hui ce sont les menaces et les défis globales(sic). Alors, je ne dis pas une alliance globale, je dis une alliance, l'OTAN. Et je vous ai dit, vous n'avez pas oublié mes remarques sur l'article 5 et les "centres of gravity" -excusez moi de ne pas trouver le mot en français - Euro-Atlantique de l'Alliance.

À l'autre côté, on peut dire une alliance avec des partenaires globaux... Il y a une différence entre une alliance globale et une alliance avec les partenaires globaux ou globales... globaux? Globaux, d'accord, le partenaire.

Alors, c'est... je crois l'essentiel du dialogue et de la discussion. Et j'ajoute, ça n'a rien à faire avec le fonctionnement de nos partenariats actuels. Mais si l'on voit, par exemple, les nations participants aux opérations et missions de l'OTAN, c'est pas seulement l'Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande comme j'ai évoqué, mais aussi la Finlande, la Suède, l'Autriche et la Suisse. Alors, on a aussi, bien sûr, les partenaires européens qui sont redevants. Et je crois que si l'on voit les discussions à Bruxelles autour de la table de l'OTAN comme on le fait déjà en Afghanistan, de plus en plus on verra, bien sûr, abordé en discussions opérationnelles et aussi politiques avec les partenaires qui participents aux opérations de l'OTAN.

Q: Yes, it's Dieter Ebeling, from DPA, the German Press Agency. Secretary General, if I may follow up. My impression is that the need and necessity of existing partnerships and of future partnerships is more or less out of the question. The thing seems to be whether it is necessary to create new fora or new institutions to invent new institutions. What is your opinion on that, because this seems to be quite a controversial point of discussion?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, you're right, but I said it's early in the day. Several allies have tabled proposals on this issue. And in some proposals you see a structure, and in some proposals you see other forms. That has not been... that has not been decided yet. It's simply too early in the day.

My opinion would be that certainly, as I said in French a moment ago, certainly we could and should build something more what we do already in the framework of Afghanistan, that we have the partners, NATO partners participating in our operations, whose men and women run the same risks more frequently at the NATO table to discuss, of course, operational matters, but also to discuss political matters.

And then you have other nations, if I say not a global alliance, but an alliance with global partners, there are a number of global partners who are themselves interested in NATO.

Now, how you structure that exactly it is too early to say and that discussion will go on. I do not see, by the way, any controversy neither in Brussels in the session we have discussed with ambassadors, nor here by the way, because there is strong support for building flexible partnerships and how that exactly will take shape the coming month we'll have to learn.




DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Just a second, because I'm not a technician, as you see, I have to plug it in.


DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I think I can answer you that every allied Defence Minister and that goes, of course, in your question more specifically about the nations who are EU and NATO member, is working with one single set of forces. We don't have soldiers, separate soldiers who have an EU patch on their shoulder or a NATO. Those are the same soldiers. And that's the reason that as the European Union develops its security and defence identify, in consultation and in complementarity with NATO, I'm very much in favour, I've said that many times before, I repeat it here.

At the same time it's quite true that the challenges and the call on NATO and NATO allies, but also European allies, for their forces, increases.

Now that means two things. First of all, that reorganization and restructuring of armed forces needs to go on efficiently and effectively. We have come a long way, but we are not there yet.

Point number two, that every ally should realize that restructuring your defence forces costs money, as Bulgaria knows and any other ally knows. And if I see defence budgets on the downslope it doesn't make me happy as Secretary General, to put it very mildly.

Point number three, I think if you look at NATO and if you look at the European Union and if you look at the demands of both organizations there is a lot to do, for both organizations. But the one should not go to the detriment of the other, and that's why I use the words complementarity. It's not necessary for the European Union to reinvent the wheel which has been turning in the NATO framework very successfully for decades. On the other hand, it is logic, given the process of European integration, that Europe takes its own responsibility.

We have seen a smooth transition from NATO to the European Union in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where SFOR became UFOR, under a formula which we call Berlin Plus in our jargon, which means drawing on NATO means. And now we see, for instance, the European Union becoming active in the democratic republic of Congo .

In Darfur we work together. In other words the one should not go to the detriment of the other.

Q: George Popokochev(?) from TV Europe. The situation in Kosovo is still very precarious. What are the plans of NATO for Kosovo and is there any specific role for Bulgaria in these plans? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: NATO supports President Ahtisaari and the status talks and the UN. And if you ask for a NATO role it is create a climate of security and stability through KFOR, protecting majority and majority alike. A climate in which those status talks can proceed. That is NATO's role. KFOR is there. KFOR is there to stay. KFOR is 17,000 men and women strong. That is a very important role.

What that role will be after, hopefully we would see an end to the status talks--we don't know when that will be--is of course a matter for discussion. But I could not see that NATO would immediately give up its responsibility in that framework.

At the same time, to see that the status talks succeed. All parties should make it a point that they can operate, and all parties should make it a point that this is a process where all parties have to make concessions, and where all parties have to refrain from remarks which hamper, always go to the detriment of the status talks. But NATO is there, and NATO is there for the time being to stay.

APPATHURAI: Sorry to those who have asked questions, but this is the last one, in the back, that we have time for. Okay.

Q: Yes. What is the reason for you to decide to enhance the cooperation with countries like Australia or Japan ? Especially what do you... what the NATO would get as a good point with the relationship with Japan ?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, I can tell you from my personal experience that when I was in Japan last year the Japanese government showed a keen interest in NATO, showed a keen interest in what NATO is doing. Showed a keen interest in the reasons behind NATO being in Afghanistan , showed a keen interest in regional players in the Japanese... in the recent participating in NATO forces.

I think the best argument I can give you is that Minister Aso will come to the NATO Council soon and that is what I call a political dialogue. And Japan is an important nation. Japan plays a role. Japan might play other roles in the future. And now this is not the moment.

So it is, I think, may I use the expression, added value again. I think there is certainly added value in Minister Aso's visit, or my visit to Japan for NATO. And Minister Aso proves that he thinks that there is also added value for Japan to come to NATO and explain a number of Japanese positions, listen to the NATO ambassadors.

This is a consequence of the fact that, as I said a moment ago, we are facing global threats and challenges, and I say again, that does not mean that we are going for a global NATO which is a sort of global cop, the world's policeman. NATO doesn't have that ambition. But the discussion is a very relevant one, keeping the focus on the Euro-Atlantic area, that goes without saying, that you see an Alliance with an increased relation with global partners.

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