13 Nov. 2008

Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
at the High-Level NATO-Ukraine Consultations

Mr President,
Mr Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and welcome to the 2008 High-Level NATO-Ukraine Consultations held under the auspices of the Joint Working Group on Defence Reform. These meetings are key in setting the course for defence and security relations between NATO and Ukraine. 

First, let me express my sincere gratitude to the Minister of Defence of Estonia, Mr Jaak Aaviksoo, for offering to host this important meeting in the beautiful city of Tallinn. 

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to the President of Estonia, Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who hosted a wonderful dinner yesterday and has kindly agreed to deliver a keynote speech at our meeting.  I am also grateful to the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn for organising this conference.  

It also gives me great pleasure to welcome Minister Yekhanurov, Secretary Havrysh, Mr Gorbulin, and Minister Khandogyi, and the strong team of other representatives from across Ukraine’s security sector and, of course, all of the Allied Ministers and senior officials who have come to Tallinn for this meeting. 

Our consultations are taking place at a special moment in NATO-Ukraine relations. 

Let me remind you that at the Bucharest Summit earlier this year, NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO and agreed that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance.  Allies also made it clear that they support Ukraine’s application for the Membership Action Plan. They decided to begin a period of intensive engagement with Ukraine at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to Ukraine’s Membership Action Plan application. 

And they asked NATO Foreign Ministers to make a first assessment of progress at their December 2008 meeting.

It is in the context of these decisions that our meeting is taking place.  And the results of our deliberations today, focusing on questions pertaining to defence and security policy, strategy and reform, will be taken into account in the first assessment of progress to be carried out in December.

The overall theme of our consultations is “NATO-Ukraine Relations in an Evolving Security Environment”. Our meeting provides a perfect opportunity to exchange views, at a high-level, about the current security environment in the Euro-Atlantic area, as well as to address Ukraine’s capabilities to meet modern security challenges and contribute to NATO’s operational efforts.

There can be no denying that the Russia-Georgia conflict last August has changed the European security environment.  The unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia, violating basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity will not lead to the viable Euro-Atlantic security structure we seek to achieve in constructive engagement with Russia.  A country’s right to freely choose its security alignments is another important principle in this regard and a test for the Europe that we all seek to build.  It is a principle that we will not compromise. 

Today we will also take stock of progress achieved by Ukraine in transforming its national security structures and practices; including in the area of defence and security sector reform.

With this introduction, let me now invite the Estonian and Ukrainian Ministers of Defence, and the Director of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn to deliver their opening remarks.