|Updated: 20-Dec-2006||NATO Speeches|
End of year message
by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
As we are approaching the end of this year and are getting ready for Christmas and the New Year, often among our loved ones, I would like to convey to you a few personal thoughts on our NATO family.
First and foremost we should remember those colleagues, men and women, who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure peace and stability far away from home in Afghanistan and those who were wounded there in our operations. We should pay tribute to their courage, and our thoughts go out to their families and friends who need all our sympathy and support, especially in these days around Christmas.
We should honour their memory by finishing the difficult and dangerous work that still lies ahead of us, relying on the determination of our brave men and women, military and civilians alike.
Essentially this was what the Riga Summit was all about: making sure that they, and all our other men and women, be it in our operations and missions elsewhere or at HQ in Brussels, can do their work in the best possible conditions.
Our Summit demonstrated that our transatlantic alliance delivers when it comes to projecting stability and delivering security, that it protects our values whenever and wherever needed and that it safeguards our democracies even if this means doing so far away from home.
We received full political support for our endeavours from our Heads of State and Government and we took decisions that will strengthen our partnerships with those countries that support us and take part in our operations and missions. We also took decisions that will give us more and better military tools to do the job.
We will all benefit from the decisions taken in Riga, which was yet another important step on the road to a fully transformed Alliance. But having the right tools is not enough. The Alliance derives its ultimate strength from solidarity in confronting the threats of today. Solidarity is our hallmark. That solidarity stems in large part from the support we receive from our citizens, and that support cannot always be taken for granted. We have to explain over and over again why we are bringing peace and stability to often faraway places - and in almost all cases under a UN-mandate - to ensure our security at home.
As 2006 draws to an end, we are already preparing for 2007 and beyond. Our difficult operation in Afghanistan will require all our attention and remains our top priority. We will no doubt see developments in Kosovo, where KFOR will continue to play its role. We will continue our Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean and also our important Training Mission in Iraq. We will go on assisting the African Union in addressing the deteriorating situation in Darfur and in 2007 we will have to prepare a NATO Summit in 2008 where decisions could be taken about further extending the NATO family.
I know that I can count on all of you, on your dedication, inspiration and professionalism, in making this all happen. You are all, whatever your role and responsibilities, indispensable members of our NATO family. Thank you so much for all your efforts this year, and I am looking forward to our joint work in the new year after a well deserved rest.
My wife and I wish you and your family and friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!