From the event


15 Dec. 2008

New Year's Message

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Let me, for the last time as NATO Secretary General, take this opportunity to wish you and yours my best wishes for the holiday season, and for a happy 2009.

As I have done these past few years, I must begin by paying tribute to our men and women in the field:  over 60,000 people, far away from home, at a time when being at home means so much.  It may sound clichéd, but it is still true that those of us living in NATO countries enjoy the security we have in large part due to the work that you do.   Our thoughts are with you.  And we remember those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have lost their lives in our operations -- and whose families have lost them. 

But there should be no doubt of the importance of the work that these military personnel do.  Look at Afghanistan. The going is tough.  But slowly, we are helping the Afghan people build a country where they are free and safe – and from which terrorism can no longer threaten the entire world.  Look at Kosovo, which despite great political uncertainty, remains stable, thanks in large part to our KFOR mission.  Look at what our sailors have done off the coast of Somalia, helping protect over 30,000 tons of food delivered by the World Food Program to the Somali people.  These are just some examples, but they tell a powerful story.

The political side of NATO has been equally busy.  Two more countries are preparing for membership – and I hope, one day soon, a third and then more will join them.  Despite some real complications, we’ve deepened our relations with partners across Europe and beyond – and started to put our relationship with Russia back on track.  And let me also mention something which I personally consider very welcome – thanks to the leadership of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the UN and NATO have put our relationship on a more political footing, to match our good and mutually beneficial cooperation on the ground.

If 2008 was busy, 2009 will be more so.  We will welcome the new US President Obama to his first NATO Summit, in April, in Strasbourg and Kehl.  Our Alliance will grow larger.  So will our operation in Afghanistan.  And there will be, I’m sure, some surprises for my successor as Secretary General as well.

Let me again wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy new year.  And to the NATO and Partner soldiers far away from home, my thanks and best wishes during this festive season.