From the event



4 Feb 2008

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure for the North Atlantic Council and for me personally to welcome President Ilves of Estonia this afternoon at NATO Headquarters. I said in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council ending a moment ago, it doesn't happen everyday that a head of state of a NATO ally comes to visit NATO Headquarters. Many from partner nations appear, but it was very good, and I think almost very worthwhile that President Ilves took the trouble to come and discuss what is basically the Bucharest agenda, what we have on NATO's plate.

Let me start by saying that Estonia is doing an excellent job in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, as far as its participation in NATO's operations and missions. I visited the Estonian contingent personally in the more difficult part of Afghanistan, and that is highly appreciated.

We know, of course, President Ilves as somebody who always speaks in a very frank and open way. That is what he did in council, so we discussed the Bucharest agenda, which is basically NATO's operations and missions, Afghanistan, Kosovo, as we did in our bilateral meeting preceding the North Atlantic Council.

Of course, NATO enlargement was very much on the agenda and it will come as no surprise to you that what I call the 21st century challenges, and more specifically given Estonia's very advanced position on IT, to phrase it like this, and the cyber attacks that Estonia suffered, that cyber defence, which is also very much on the Bucharest agenda, was an important item, where I think, quite honestly, President Ilves had to tell us more than we had to tell him.

In other words, I think it is a very successful visit. I hope the president sets an example for his NATO colleagues. We have now to do and to engage in the preparation for Bucharest where President Ilves and all of us will certainly meet again.

Mr. President, a warm welcome once again.

TOOMAS HENDRICK ILVES (President of Estonia): Thank you very much. I'm glad in the tradition of transparency in NATO that we have...  there's nothing between us and the press.

Well, you've covered almost everything. Perhaps I would just touch upon a few points. The one is that clearly on the issue of what happens with future enlargements and with giving MAP, that we need to look at the efforts of countries and not be given into blackmail and I did in my talk go over the history of red lines when it comes to the enlargement of NATO, recalling that initially the first red line was a unified Germany inside of NATO in 1989/1990 and then we had the red line of Poland, and then we had the red line of the Baltic countries and then we had... now we had another red line. Red lines have a way of disappearing.

And that we should not give into pressure, or blackmail, that if a country like Ukraine or a country like Georgia, has moved towards democracy, openness, rule of law, and they want to join NATO, then there is no reason why we should not trust them enough to do that, and I do hope that the Bucharest Summit will take into account the legitimate desire of democratic countries such as Georgia and Ukraine.

What they would be offered, I don't know, but certainly it is the hope of Estonia that the Membership Action Plan is something that they be given an opportunity to join in addition to the invitations extended to, we hope, three members, three candidates in the Bucharest Summit.

Then, of course, yes, we did talk about cyber attacks and we are very proud that our Centre of Excellence has come into being in Tallinn and we look forward to doing much more work together in NATO on the issue of cyber security, which is not only a hardware matter, but it's also a software matter in the sense that it's a matter of the legal infrastructure in all of our countries as well.

Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Questions?  

Q: (Inaudible)... Estonian Television. Mr. Scheffer, could you please evaluate Estonia and output compared to other NATO countries in Afghanistan?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Oh that's... that compares I think very favourably given the size of Estonia, the size of its armed forces. Coming from a small country, The Netherlands, I know what that means.

I say again, I visited them. I was there in Afghanistan and I think Estonia is making, not only in absolute, but also in relative terms, a very important contribution in Afghanistan.  

And as I said in my introductory words, in the more difficult part. In Helmand, why we see your people operating, and I think they do that with a high degree of professionalism, and are a very important... play a very important supportive role for the operation in Afghanistan.


Q: Yes, Paul Ames, from the Associated Press. First of all, for President Ilves, your country is one of those with troops stationed in the more dangerous part of Afghanistan. What is your message to those countries, other European allies, which are not agreeing to send troops to those more dangerous parts of the country?

And for the Secretary General, what is... could you elaborate a little bit more on your feelings about the public debate on this very issue, the divisions between countries which will or will not send their troops down towards the southern part of the country and how do you see that playing out in Vilnius?

ILVES: Well, for one we're no happy with caveats, and secondly, we certainly would like to see NATO live up to its... the full... its full potential in that if we have a nation à la carte we may end up falling off the menu. This is why we want to have everyone doing their share, with a full understanding of the risks taken. The risks taken by some, I mean, really come at the expense of... or let's put it this way. We don't want to see a NATO where some take greater risks than others. We think we should share it.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me repeat what I have said before on this, and that is also the answer to your question. I think what we should not have is a sort  of public process of force generation. It goes without saying that I support President Ilves when he says that we should have the least number of caveats possible in any operation. Not only in Afghanistan.

But secondly, I think that that we, and we is the Alliance and the allied members, we should really be careful in not starting a sort of public force generated exercise. That we have a chain of command in NATO, led by the Supreme Allied Commander. We have a civilian, quote/unquote, chain which is led by me, and the best recipe for the most efficient and effective force generation is that the Supreme Allied Commander and I can do... can do our work. That Ministers can do their work, that nations can do their work, but force generation should, in my opinion, not be a public process, because it obscures the successes in Afghanistan.

Seventy percent of the attacks in Afghanistan are occurring, taking place, in less than 10 percent of the whole country. In other words, we can see a lot of achievements. That does not mean that there are not challenges, great challenges, but I also would like to underline that we have made a lot of progress.

You know my opinion. We could and should do more as far as force generation is concerns, but let that process take its course. You'll be the first to hear the results.

ILVES: Let me just add one thing here, which is, it's not simply an internal, it's not simply a NATO matter. We actually need to get other international institutions involved, and I said this here in my speech as well, that I will raise this issue in other fora.

It is not as if... I mean, what seems to have happened is the world community said okay, Afghanistan, that's NATO, as if we don't need to do anything. None of the other organizations have to do anything there, and if we cannot get the European Union, which is made up mainly of NATO members to actually do its share on issues that really are not NATO, but should be... but certainly fall into the purview of European Union activity, then I think there's something very funny or something odd, because after all NATO makes up the majority of the European Union and we should be in there as—I'm speaking now as a European Union member—we should be doing those things that really aren't NATO jobs, such as developing a police force.

Q: (Inaudible)..., Estonia. I would like to ask the impression of both Mr. President of Estonia and Mr. Secretary General, can the question of the cyber defence be named as a priority for Alliance at the moment, because it is the fact that not all the members of the Alliance are equally interested in the topic? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Oh, it is certainly a priority. And the President and I both called on the NATO allies. I said, after the president had said that, that nations should be open to send their staff, their people, their representatives to the Centre of Excellence in Estonia on cyber defence. It is certainly... cyber defence for me, and for the allies, and for all the allies, I mean, we have no discussion on cyber defence, is a very important element for the Bucharest Summit, and beyond, of course.

ILVES: Well, after a country has experienced a cyber attack it becomes... they tend to become supporters of cyber defence.

APPATHURAI: Two... last two here and then there.

Q: Yeah, Jim Neuger from Bloomberg News. Mr. Secretary General, a question about Serbia. Mr. Tadic was re-elected last night with a fairly narrow margin. What are your thoughts about the strength of the consensus in Serbia to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration? And what will NATO do to help Serbia along this path. My impression is that the PfP, for example, with Serbia, exists more on paper than in practice and will you take any initiative to energize this?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, I do not agree with you, with your last remark, that the PfP exists on paper more than in practice. I think we can say that we have worked a lot on PfP. There are things we can do better, and the fact that President Tadic has been chosen yesterday, as President of Serbia, I think will open the way.

My position and the Alliance's position vis-à-vis Serbia is that we should be as open as possible to have as intensive a relationship with Serbia as possible. Serbia is a very important nation in the region. You know my mantra, Euro-Atlantic integration is "the" recipe and I think the only one, for lasting security and stability in the region and Serbia very much forms part of that region.

And I'm happy to be able to continue my good, personal relationship with President Tadic and see that that becomes, apart for any other elements, instrumental in having a very fruitful and close relationship between NATO and Serbia.

It's important for Serbia, it's important for NATO, but most importantly, it is important for the region.

APPATHURAI: Final question is there.

Q: A question for the Secretary General about the Baltic air policing. What was your message to the Estonia president in terms of the Baltic states coming up with a plan, a viable plan to take it over, as the deadline is set by 2018.

Aren't they losing time in developing their viable plan what to do with the policing, once they need to take it over?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, this time I must admit I had no special message for President Ilves, the reason being that we do have air policing, that we should have air policing, that we do have a long-term program for air policing. And you also know, I think, my opinion, I voiced it many, many times, that I do not think that the Baltic nations should spend a lot of money which can be better spent elsewhere on fighter aircraft, because the North Atlantic Alliance, based on solidarity, we should be able to go on in providing the necessary air policing over, you know my mantra, NATO air space.

I do not know Baltic air space. I only know NATO air space. There is air policing, there will be air policing, even long after was left my present job.

APPATHURAI: That's all we have time for.