19 Jan. 2009


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the reception for Press and Media

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General):  Bonjour à toutes et à tous.  Quelqu'un de vous peut-être...  C'est que j'ai une certaine préférence pour la langue de Voltaire.  Mais quoi qu'il y ait quelques difficultés avec l'interprétation dans cette salle, je continuerai en anglais.  Bonne année, mes meilleurs voeux.

What I have just said in French is Happy New Year.  All my best wishes.  But given the fact that NATO is a bilingual organization, I speak some French as well.  But since we have no interpretation in this room, I'll continue in English which might make it a bit easier for some of you. 

So Happy New Year.  Let me start by making a few remarks, taking a few minutes to outline for you what I think will be the highlights of the next few months.  I can't say as far as I'm concerned for the coming year, because as you know my term will end this summer.  And for anyone of you who read a Belgian newspaper today, this press reception was also considered to be the start of the discussion on who will succeed me.  But I leave that to you and to others of course. 

Let's then focus on the coming 10 weeks or so, given the fact that NATO has of course an important summit in the beginning of April.  Defence ministers will meet in Krakow, in Poland, in a few weeks time.  They'll not only meet in the NATO family but they'll also meet with their ISAF partners, in the larger group. 

In March, here in Brussels, Secretary of State, then Secretary of State Clinton will attend her first NATO foreign ministers meeting which is, I think, also a preparatory meeting for the summit as is the defence ministers meeting in Krakow. I'll be not surprised, which is not in direct relationship with the summit, if the foreign ministers meeting in March would also pay attention to the NATO-Russia relationship, given the fact that as you might remember, ministers asked me at a meeting in December to be instrumental in the gradual reengagement with the Russian Federation which I also think is necessary.   I mean that process...  And I would not be surprised if the NATO-Russia relationship would appear again in the calendar of foreign ministers in March. 

Then, we'll have a summit in April.  Let me start to make a remark on the location of the summit which, I think, is important.  NATO is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary in the heart of Europe, in Strasbourg and Kehl, in France and in Germany.  I think, as such, is a very noteworthy location.  I consider it important given the fact...  you know me, that being an Atlanticist and being a convinced European goes very well together.  And that also goes for NATO and for the relationship between the NATO Allies and the European Union.    So I do consider Strasbourg and Kehl a very important venue for that summit.

About the summit and the substance:  first of all, of course, it will be a sixtieth anniversary celebration.  I think NATO has every reason to look back at this organization's history and to be proud of what has been accomplished.  And what we are in the process of accomplishing. It is a unique organization.  And that will certainly be underlined in Strasbourg and Kehl. 

Second remark:  the substance, of course, will be part of President Obama's first visit to Europe.  And I'm quite sure it will be a moment for him as well when the family bonds between Europe and North America, the United States and Canada will be reaffirmed.  And that is of course more than just festive decorations or photo opportunities.  It means a lot a more.

What does it mean?  It means, in my opinion, that first of all, NATO will greet Croatia and Albania...  Albania and Croatia to the Washington Treaty, into the Alliance.  I hope that will be a possibility.  That is largely in the hands now of the ratification process in the parliaments of the 26 NATO Allies. 

Some parliaments have been quick  quick off the mark.  Other parliaments are still in the process of ratification.  I'll try to be instrumental that all 26 parliaments will have ratified and deposited their protocol of ratification in Washington.  So that we can really greet Albania and Croatia in the family in Strasbourg and Kehl.

My second remark on the substance will be that I hope...  but that is entirely of course in the hands of the French government, I hope that Strasbourg-Kehl might be the moment in which we can welcome France's move to take its full place again in NATO, particularly in the military structure. 

La France reprenant toute sa place au sein de l'Alliance.  

We do not speak about reintegration, beware, be careful.  France is a very important, appreciated member participating in all NATO operations.  So we're not talking reintegration here, we'd be speaking about retaking its full place into NATO and more specifically, as you know, in the military structure.

I think that will be fitting.  But I say again, this in the hand of the French government and not of NATO.  I would welcome it.  But I think it will be fitting at the summit, as I said, taking place in the heart of Europe. 

Certainly, during the summit, we'll be looking closely at our operation, of course, and in particular to Afghanistan.  2009 as you know will see an infusion of United States forces in this operation. And I strongly hope that we'll also see the other Allies step up... with more forces.  And when that's not possible with more civilian aid, development, cooperation, reconstruction aid. 

I think it's fair and also politically healthy for the Alliance if we have a fair sharing of the burdens in this Alliance and in this mission between all the Allies.  So the potential US decision to send in more forces, I think, should be matched by other Allies, be it in the military, be it in the civilian domain.  Because let me repeat what I said many times before, this is not a theater, Afghanistan, an operation where we talk about military victory.  It is about nation building.  It is about reconstruction.  It is about development. 

For that process, we need forces.  We need more forces because there are still too many spoilers.  This will certainly be discussed at the summit.  As will, an element you have certainly found in the op-ed I wrote for the Washington Post, we need a more regional focus I think.  When we discuss Afghanistan, we might have seen Afghanistan too much over the past period as only Afghanistan, which I think the regional focus, given the fact that Afghanistan is not an island, is important.  And regional problems also need regional solutions.  And it will come, I think, as a remark which one might expect that Pakistan, of course, plays a very important role in this regard.

In the same vein, I add that if I address the Allies and ask for more forces, more civilian reconstruction, then we also need to demand more from the Afghan government. 

As I wrote, we have paid a lot in blood and treasure to help the Afghan people.  We will continue to do so.  We have a long-term commitment with Afghan.  They are friends and our partners.  But I think in the meantime, we have earned the right. And I've earned the right to demand more concrete progress in fighting corruption and improving effectiveness.  That is how you act between friends and that is what I repeat this morning with you.

2009 will certainly not be an easy year in Afghanistan.  There will be... certainly be more violence including...  because we put more forces on the ground.  Successful elections will be of extreme importance in Afghanistan.  And as you know, there will be elections in 2009.  NATO will support those elections. We'll support that electoral process.  And we'll support those elections. 

And we need also an intensive engagement from all our partners in Afghanistan.  If I say there's no military solution, I come immediately to our other important partners, the United Nations, UNAMA under the very able and competent leadership of our friend ambassador Kai Eide.  He needs our support.  I mentioned already the important role Pakistan is playing, and our other partners like the European Union as well. 

Let's, when we discuss Afghanistan, also realize, Ladies and Gentlemen that we have achieved a lot.  Half of the country basically at peace.  Women have a public life again.  The government is democratic.  The Afghan Security Forces are getting bigger and better every day.  And neither the Taliban nor al-Qaeda has any chance of retaking power and threatening the world again from Afghanistan. 

And that is, I think, a strong foundation on which to built and we will do just that.  And I repeat we've entered into a long-term commitment with Afghanistan. 

So, this about Afghanistan, to mention another item which I hope will have a prominent place at the summit and that is the launch of a process to renew NATO's strategic concept.  I'm working now on a declaration on Alliance security.  This was a task given by the heads of State and government of NATO at the Bucharest:  a declaration on Alliance security for Strasbourg which I hope will be adopted by heads of States and government at that Summit.  And I hope that this declaration on Alliance security will be the "launch pad" for a new strategic concept which I consider to be overdue, to reaffirm NATO's enduring purpose and to set the direction for NATO's new missions and NATO's new task.  Let's in the meantime never forget that when I speak about NATO's new missions and NATO'S new tasks, the core function, the core responsibility of NATO will always stay the same.  That is the Washington Treaty.  That is Article 5.  That is the integrated military structure.  That is the integrity of the NATO territory.  Let's not forget that. 

I'm sure other important operations and missions will also be discussed.  You know them, be it Kosovo, be it the NATO training mission in Iraq, be it our naval operation in the Mediterranean Operation Active Endeavour, be it our contacts...  increasing contacts with the African Union and the support we're giving to the AU in their operations in Darfur and in Somalia. 

I'm extremely sure and certain...  And to my joy, I see many representatives also from the press court of our partner nations.  I'm sure that certainly also my successor will invest a lot in present partnerships.  I just came back last weekend from a trip to Jordan and Israel.    We are and have built these relationships.  We have built the relationship with the Gulf States in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.  We are building an ever-increasing political relationship with those nations who are instrumental for NATO's operations and missions. 

In other words, the partnership element of NATO, the partnership character of NATO is growing more and more important.  I'm sure that will also be an element for the summit.  And I'm absolutely certain that those partnerships be it with the European Union which I consider as one of the most important, if not the most important one, will be further fostered in the near future. 

I will stop here.  I'll give you the opportunity James.  I think that's the object of the exercise in this group to ask some questions.  And then I might have some time what is called "to circulate among you" for a while.  Thank you.

APPATHURAI:  You can speak out a bit. 

Q:  Secretary General, you mentioned the regional aspect of Afghanistan, specifically about Pakistan, you've been there a couple of times.  But the formal relations between NATO and Pakistan are still in construction.  Could you give me some more information on what specifically is planned to build up, maybe formalize the relation between NATO and Pakistan?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  We're certainly looking for...  and I'm certainly looking for a deepening of the political dialogue with Pakistan.  I think that's necessary.  And I know this is a wish which is also very much alive in Islamabad.  You might remember that we've had a number of high level visitors quite recently , the former Pakistani prime minister.  I've been there.  I'll certainly go there again at a certain stage, deepening the political dialogue.  I add that Pakistan is an important partner in its own right.  Pakistan should not only be seen through the prism of Afghanistan, although of course those theaters are so much interlinked that Pakistan, of course, is important for our relationship and our operation and mission in Afghanistan. 

I think, by the way, that the President Zardari doing a lot in fighting the same forms of extremism and fundamentalism as ISAF is fighting in Afghanistan.  But we have intensive military to military cooperation.  We should strengthen the political cooperation.  Yes, come again...

Q:  There are many structures in NATO for such political cooperation Partnership for peace and others.  Many possible formats, any of these formal formats been considered.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  No, I'm not thinking about a formal format as we speak.  I'm thinking about having an intensified political dialogue; deepening political dialogue I should say; having exchanges with Pakistani military and offices; having for instance at a certain stage a liaison element in Islamabad. These kind of things.  I'm not thinking about formal structures.  But I attach great importance to the Pakistani-NATO relationship in this regard.  And I'm happy and glad that the relationship between President Karzai and President Zardari is such a good one at the moment.  Because I think that's the basis of all.  I mean they... that relationship is even more important between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And that's developing very well. 

Q:  (INAUDIBLE) ... Agency.   I'm wondering if you can upgrade a little more about the NATO-Russia relationship for the progress that you foresee "à propos" of the war of August.  (INAUDIBLE)  ... there is some relation, some consequences on the relationship maybe. 

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Well, let me repeat my bottom line.  NATO needs Russia.  And Russia needs NATO.  Russia is an important partner of NATO.  NATO is an important partner for Russia. And despite the fact that of course the August war has created a serious conflict between Russia and NATO, and despite of the fact that we have a number of issues where we do not see eye-to-eye.  I could mention the CFE Treaty, conventional forces in Europe Treaty, the adapted treated.  I could mention something like missile defence or Kosovo. 

The bottom line is that we need each other.  And I'm working, based on the mandate given to me by the foreign ministers in December to be personally as a Secretary General.  I'm working in the framework of this graduated reengagement.  I'm working with my Russian partners and friends to see that we can restart, be it for the moment on an informal basis a dialogue with Russia.  And there are subjects, very important.. important subjects we should discuss with them .

May I mention Afghanistan, Russia and NATO have a lot in common.  Let me mention the fight against terrorism.  Let me mention the relatively new subject like piracy.  But having said this, we also need to discuss with the Russian the subjects where we do not agree.  I mean this partnership is not only to be nice to each other.  And to say "Yes, we do agree".  But also we do not agree.  And how can we proceed?  So this is a graduated process.  Do not expect immediate results.  But as far as I'm concerned speaking generally I'm quite happy with the way things are developing.  And I hope to see further progress in the near future.

APPATHURAI:  Pascal Mallet, AFP:    Monsieur le Secrétaire Général, vous pouvez répondre en anglais.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Non, mais c'est à vous...

Q:  Je vais vous poser la question.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Mais s'il-vous-plaît.

Q:  Je voulais vous demander si vous penseriez en tant que Secrétaire Général de l'OTAN, en dehors du fait que vous allez me dire que c'est hypothétique d'un retrait américain du projet de défense anti-missile éventuel, à la faveur de l'arrivée de la nouvelle administration américaine à Washington dans le cas où ils jugeraient que c'est trop cher et que ça cause trop de problèmes.  Est-ce que vous considériez que l'OTAN a perdu un (INAUDIBLE) un niveau de sécurité?  Ou est-ce que vous considériez que c'est absolument bilatéral et que ça concerne uniquement Washington et les deux pays concernés?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  En anglais, on l'appelle "an iffy question" parce que votre question a commencé avec un "si".  Et si je ne me trompe pas le "si" c'est le "if" en anglais, n'est-ce pas, pas le "when but if". 

And I've learned as a non-native speaker from James, there's a big difference between if and when.  Let me not speculate on what the still President Elect Obama, tomorrow President Obama will decide. 

But let me add that missile defence also... apart from the US position, is an important subject for NATO.  You know that Theatre missile defence is already being discussed by NATO for quite some time.  But on the "fond" to use another French word, on the "fond" of the discussion, I'm not going to speculate about President Obama might do or might not do.  There is a clear decision taken as you know in Bucharest.  NATO works on the basis of that decision and will continue to work on the basis of that decision unless the circumstance change.  But let me not further speculate on this regard.  I don't think that would be wise.

Q:  Youssef Magdy, First a very Happy New Year.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Thank you, thank you.

Q:  Secretary General.  Since you're just back from Jordan and Israel, and actually it was a very critical moment in Gaza I'm just wondering is there anybody ask you to help in the situation?  Do you find a role for NATO after the ceasefires now?  And the second part, since you... NATO has a lot of experience in Afghanistan in your mission.  Do you see that the casualties, the civilian casualties in Gaza, this is (INAUDIBLE) war, it could be avoided and they will not (INAUDIBLE) tension from this area to avoid.  Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Civilian casualties are never normal.  Civilian casualties are never normal.  That is my general line.  And that is, I think, a universal statement.  In any conflict, innocent civilians always suffer first.  And where it can be avoided, it should be avoided.  That's my first remark. 

My second remark is that during my visit to Jordan and Israel last week there was no direct mentioning of the role of NATO.  And the background of this is... and you know my opinion, and I told my Jordanian and Israeli interlocutors NATO is not seeking any direct role in the region and in the peace process.  And let's hope after the cessation of hostilities, let's hope that's durable and enduring in Gaza.  Let's hope there will at a certain stage be some kind of a launch... a relaunch of the peace process.  NATO is not seeking a role there.  And you know my mantra, I'm not going to repeat my mantra with the "ifs" and a NATO role. 

I do not exclude that NATO Allies under the present circumstances are now coming back to the ceasefire in Gaza.  That's NATO Allies not NATO as an Alliance could be asked to play a role.  I have heard a UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others referring.... Italy if I'm not mistaken...  Germany mentioning participating or a potential participation either on land or at sea.  Because the sea is also an important element of course to seal Gaza from importation of all kinds of evil good slide rockets for Hamas and other things we would like to see imported into Gaza. 

NATO as an Alliance, that is your question if you address it to the Secretary General, NATO as an alliance, a role for NATO as an alliance in this regard I do not see as yet. 

Q:  Katarzyna Szymanska, Radio Polonaise. 

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Radio Polonaise, n'est-ce pas?

Q:  Ce n'est pas la rédaction.  J'aimerais retourner vers la question sur gaz.  Est-ce que vous pouvez donnez votre analyse du point de sécurité pour l'Europe de cette crise quand même sans précédent?  Est-ce que vous pensez que dans le futur, l'article 5 peut être utilisé dans le cas que l'approvisionnement pour l'Europe est stoppé?  Et deuxième question, un peu plus pour les Polonais, mais vous avez sans doute provoqué.  Est-ce que vous pensez que c'est peut-être le temps qu'un nouveau Secrétaire Général vient d'un nouveau pays?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Ha, ha, ha.  Bonne question.  Mauvaise réponse pour vous, mauvaise réponse.

Because it's crystal clear that I'll be the last one.  And I should be the last one to speculate.  I mean I should focus on what I still have to do in this alliance.  I can tell you that's quite a lot with the summit coming up.  So I'll not answer your second question.  I follow newspapers with interest as a newspaper reader, addicted to newspapers.  But apart from that, on your first question I mean exactly what the Washington Treaty is.  You know what article 5 is.  So I'm not, here again, I'm not going to speculate article 5 exists.  Everybody knows it exists.  And you also know what the Washington Treaty looks like, what it is and what article 5 of the Washington Treaty says.  And there's not a word more to be said about that.

Q: Bulgarian News Agency.  Let me ask the other side of the coin with respect to war between Russia and Ukraine around the gas.  Does this war... upon the escalation with Ukraine to get Ukraine to a membership?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  No, I don't think so quite honestly.  Let us hope.  But here again, NATO is not a player in this dispute.  European Union is; NATO is not, should not.  But it is a conflict and a serious one, affecting European citizens between Russia and Ukraine, two partners of NATO.  My answer to your question is:  "No, I do not think it will affect Ukraine's position in this sense...  But I was in the chorus of people who humbly asked the Ukrainians and the Russians to find a solution for this conflict as soon as possible.  Because we need reliable providers of natural gas.  And we need reliable transporters of natural gas.  I'm not going to tell you here and now who was considered the most to blame.  It is important now that there seems to be an agreement.  And I hope that the gas will flow... they'll will flow soon again.


Q:  A daily thing...  First question, how do you judge a Serbian idea to abolish security zones between Serbia and Kosovo?  And second, how do you read the cooperation between EULEX and KFOR bearing in mind that almost 40 (?) days EULEX has started to work in Kosovo?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  I think the EULEX-KFOR cooperation is in good shape.  Each in its own responsibility and each its own role.  KFOR will continue to do what it has done being an impartial force.  But I not need to repeat you my mantra.  KFOR having the confidence and the trust, I think, of every single Kosovar citizen be it a majority, be it a minority.  I think the cooperation between Serbia and KFOR is good.  So EULEX-KFOR, that's developing and moving very well.  On the MTA, if Serbia would like to make a proposal in this regard, I'm ready to study those proposals.  I haven't seen complete proposals yet.  But if Serbia so wishes, and I'm the addressee of a letter, the Allies will of course very seriously discuss this.

Q:  Oana Lungescu, BBC WS  Secretary General, in your op-ed about Afghanistan yesterday you said that the basic problem in Afghanistan isn't too much Talibans but too little governance.  Can you say at this moment in time, that President Karzai enjoys a 100% your confidence and how long do you give the Afghan government to show that they're taking effective measures against corruption.  And secondly, on Russia, you said you're quite happy with the way things are going.  Can relations achieve full resumption by the ministers in March?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  The last question, that's difficult to say.  And that will largely be up to ministers coming to Brussels in March.  So I do not know.  This is... this is a process.  We come, of course, from an "ebb".  That's correct English, in August.  But I'll try to be instrumental, given the mandate given to me as Secretary General to see that I can report to ministers when they meet in March.  It's up to our political masters and my political master sort to say to take that decision.  So it's a bit early to say. 

On your question on Afghanistan, President Karzai.  I think for President Karzai it is important not as much my confidence, but the confidence of the people.  There are elections in Afghanistan.  That's up to the Afghan people not up to me.  I can tell you that President Karzai has my confidence.  But between friends it should be possible at a certain stage to speak your mind also publicly.  President Karzai speaks to his mind to me and to us.  And quite rightly so on an important issue of civilian casualties.  And he calls on the international community, "Please, on me and NATO, please avoid civilian casualties as much as you can."  He's right.  He's right.  And we're doing everything we can.

Nobody, then, should be surprised that at a certain stage from my part, I say there is still a lot to be done in the fight against corruption and those related subject.  That's what I did in Islamabad.   And between friends that should be possible I think.  But President Karzai, of course, has my full confidence.  The Afghan people will decide in the elections who they're going to elect as a President.  That's not up to me.

Q:  (INAUDIBLE)  So Mr.  Secretary General you didn't mention the prospects for Ukraine and Georgia.  Would expect MAP for this (COUGHING) the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  As you know, in December, last year, we had the inauguration of the NATO-Georgia Commission and the NATO-Ukraine Commission with, in principle, an evaluation once yearly which means basically that an evaluation is on the calendar for December 2009, December of this year.  One should never exclude these discussions coming back at Earlier stage I should say.  At the moment, I go from the assumption that it might well be that this evaluation will take place in December.  But I say again it can never be excluded that it will come back earlier. 

But we are now working hard on the NATO-Ukraine Commission because you know we need a certain change in the relationship, in the formal relationship given the NATO-Ukraine Commission as it exists at the moment to bring in line with the NATO-Georgia Commission to see that both nations will develop annual national plans.  So we are in close contact with Georgia and in close contact with Ukraine.

I think the Bucharest decision stands as it is.  If you ask a first formal evaluation December or a earlier if a political decision to that effect is taken.

APPATHURAI:  Last two there. 

Q:  (INAUDIBLE) German Radio (INAUDIBLE).  General Ramms gave an interview to the German magazine Stern.  And he said that around 8,000 to 10,000 soldiers will be needed in Afghanistan war.  Do you agree on that number?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  I never discuss numbers in public because there is, I think, an expression in German "fine to admit".  That means that your opponent, your enemy is listening in.  And I'm not going to publicly discuss numbers.  And my advice to all military and civilians in NATO will not to do that either, to follow that line.

APPATHURAI:  Last question is there.

Q:  (INAUDIBLE)  could you spell out for us exactly what steps concretely need to happen for you to feel that President Karzai has taken your message, your criticism on wartime coming?  On (INAUDIBLE), there will be progress and will there more Afghan cooperation that you're seeking...  Everybody of course will be focused on that war.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Well, you cannot possibly of course develop line by line what should happen.  But I made clear in my op-ed that must happen in Afghanistan than it is at this very moment.  We see...  Let me mention... let me mention a positive sign for instance and that's the nomination of minister Atmar as the minister of the Interior.  I know him fairly well.  And I was one of the first to give him a call, telephone call after he was appointed and confirmed by Parliament.  I think that is a plus.  But on the whole, I think in the fight against narcotics, in the establishment of a stronger anti-corruption drive more is necessary.  And I say again between friends this should be possible.  And there's no reason to get angry.  I don't get angry if I'm criticized for civilian casualties because I think the president is right.  And nobody should get angry when I publicly say what I think and what I think should happen in Afghanistan.  It is a discussion between friends. 

APPATHURAI:  Folks, that's it for the formal question session.