From the event


9 Oct 2008


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the ceremony honouring Hungarian ISAF soldiers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured to take part in this ceremony to welcome home the soldiers who have recently completed their tour of duty in Afghanistan – Hungarians who served in the PRT at Pol-e-Khomri, as well as some of their colleagues from Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia.  It is a privilege for me to be sharing this occasion with you.

For almost six decades, NATO has successfully defended the freedom, democracy and common values of its member nations.  In recent years, a range of new threats has made that task a lot more difficult, and a lot more dangerous.  And the demands that we make of our brave men and women in uniform continue to grow.

Today, well over 60,000 NATO soldiers serve in Alliance-led operations in many different parts of the world, and all our Allies, including Hungary, are making a major contribution to those operations.

In Afghanistan, our largest and most challenging operation ever, NATO soldiers are putting their own lives on the line to create a better future for the long-suffering Afghan population, and to ensure that the country will never again be a sanctuary for terrorists.

That is not just a noble cause, it is also crucial to the security of our own nations and our own citizens.  And that is why we – Hungary, its 25 Allies in NATO, and a wide range of partner countries from all over the world – are determined to see this mission through.  And we will.

I have visited Afghanistan on many occasions.  Indeed, I was there only a couple of months ago.  I know from my own experience there just how difficult and challenging the conditions are – but I also know that our security presence there is not just making a difference to the lives of the Afghan people, it is also increasing our security at home.

On each of my visits, I have been struck by the steady progress that is being made – progress that is possible only because of the extremely brave and courageous work by people like you.  People who are prepared to leave the comfort and love of their own homes and families here in Europe, and to deploy to Central Asia to try and improve the quality of life for the people of Afghanistan.

But while you are away, your families live with the constant worry about your safety, and they have to continue their own daily lives without you.  I often feel that we do not acknowledge sufficiently the important role played by service personnel’s families – and so I should like to say a very special “thank you” to all the families that support our service men and women while they are away on NATO-led operations.

Regrettably, two soldiers who deployed with you to Pol-e-Khomri are not here today.  Major Krisztian NEMES and Second Lieutenant Gyula KOVACS, from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal platoon1, were the first Hungarian soldiers to lose their lives in Afghanistan.  I should therefore like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathy to their families and loved ones.

Ladies and Gentlemen.  All of you – and all of your colleagues who have already served their country and NATO, or who are about to do so – are very special people.  And that is why I was delighted to be here with you today.  So that I can express my own – and the Alliance’s – deep appreciation for your courage, your dedication and your hard work.  You have demonstrated the highest standards of excellence in NATO.  You can all be very proud of what you have done.  I am very proud of all of you.

  1. Killed in two separate roadside ambushes.