From the event


12 Feb. 2009

Eng. / Fr.


by the Secretary general of NATO,
Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, to the National Assembly

Honourable Presidents,
Honourable Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First I must give you all my condolences for the death of a French soldier in Afghanistan yesterday.  French troops are achieving remarkable things in that country.

It is with great pleasure and pride that I address you this morning.  As you know, I was myself a parliamentarian for many years in my country, the Netherlands, and as Secretary General of NATO I sometimes appear before parliaments, both in Allied and Partner countries.  So last November, when President Poniatowski was visiting Brussels, and proposed that I should come to speak to the Standing Committees of the National Assembly, I accepted without hesitation.  But I have to say that this occasion has particular importance in my eyes.

In the first place I was in Munich last weekend, at the security conference, and of course I heard the President of the Republic announce that he wanted a national debate with the French people, and thus also with you, their representatives, on the question of renewing French links with the Alliance, before the Strasbourg/Kehl summit.  My coming here was planned long ago, but it really falls at an appropriate moment!  This is what we call foresight – which is not a useless quality for a security organization, you will agree.

But, above all, it is in fact the first time that I have spoken to the French National Assembly as NATO Secretary General – and, I believe, the first time for more than 15 years that a Secretary General has that chance.  Now I do not know if France will once again play her full part in NATO – although personally I would welcome it, of course – but as far as I am concerned I am very happy to play my part in the National Assembly.

I know that as early as next week ministers Kouchner and Morin will speak to you about the future of France in NATO.  It thus seems a good moment for me also to give you my thoughts on this relationship, and to tell you quite simply that a renovated Alliance needs France, and that a France who had completely reintegrated with NATO structures would have everything to gain.  First of all, however, allow me to say a few words about this Alliance which I have had the privilege of leading for more than five years now, to explain how much it has changed.

Ladies and gentlemen, NATO today is no longer the NATO of 1966, nor even that of 1995 when France first began her rapprochement.  The Alliance has given up its cold-war posture, focused on the defence of territory – while of course maintaining its mission, its very raison d’etre, which is collective defence in case of aggression, Article 5.  It has begun to contribute to international stability and to defend the interests of its members beyond NATO’s borders – in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, and also quite recently off the cost of Somalia to combat piracy.  In most cases, furthermore, it is doing these things under United Nations mandate.

These developments are logical and, make no mistake about it, in no way mean that NATO has suddenly developed the ambition of becoming the world’s policeman.  NATO has to evolve because the world itself is changing, because the threats have changed.  Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, transnational trafficking, piracy, cyber attacks are just so many new threats to the members of NATO.  NATO would have failed in its mission if it had not adapted to meet these challenges.  And in many regards this process is still under way, as the Alliance must properly identify the value it can add.

It is also a process which NATO is undergoing in acute awareness of the need to mesh in with the whole broad constellation of international and regional organizations, in a “global approach”.  NATO cannot and will not do everything.  This is a current constraint in Afghanistan: we can only stabilize – the mission of NATO – if we reconstruct – the mission of the United Nations, the European Union, the Afghan government itself, the World Bank, the NGOs.  NATO must learn to work consistently with all these players in an integrated manner.  Personally I have worked to improve relations between NATO and the UN: I was the first NATO Secretary General to speak before the Security Council in New York; I was among the first to promote the idea of a senior international aid coordinator for Afghanistan – a post which has now been created and is held by Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General; and I worked ceaselessly for a statement on NATO-UN cooperation, which I signed with Ban Ki-Moon last September on my annual visit to the United Nations General Assembly.

NATO’s missions have changed; it has also reformed its structures accordingly.  This is what we call “transformation” in our jargon: simplification of the chain of command, encouragement of new capability initiatives focusing on the deployability of forces, creation of the NATO Reaction Force, the NRF.  Integrated forces no longer exist: forces are made available to NATO by the nations for a given mission (only a few dedicated forces remain, for practical reasons of consistency, as in the case of air defence).  This reform effort is continuing, and it is close to my heart – even though it will be up to my successor to complete it and, I hope, to reap the benefits.  Thus next week, in Krakow, I will propose a new series of reforms of the functioning of NATO Headquarters and the International Staff to the 26 defence ministers.  These reforms have been strongly encouraged and supported by the French authorities, and I thank them for that.

While NATO was changing its skin, France has not stood still – far from it.  A founder member who has always been active in the civil structure – and the proof is that I am accompanied this morning by one of my closest colleagues, the Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Jean-François Bureau, whom most of you know well – since 1991 France has gradually been drawing closer to the military structure which she previously left.

Since 1993 the French Chief of Defence Staff has again taken part in Military Committee meetings, to start with case by case and then, from 1996, systematically.  Since 1994 the French Defence Minister has played an active part in the ministerial meetings of the North Atlantic Council.  And since 2003 there have been no less than 110 French officers present at the strategic commands of ACT, in Norfolk, and ACO (SHAPE), in Mons.

On top of that, of course, comes the fact that French participation in operations is major – even a determining factor.  France is today the fifth contributor of troops in NATO – and, I must emphasize, with more French troops under NATO command than under EU or UN command.  She has even commanded Alliance operations, as was recently the case with General Bout de Marnhac at the head of KFOR and also in Afghanistan in the past.  NATO could not do without these contributions.

In doing these things France has lost nothing of her sovereignty – any more than she would lose it tomorrow if she decided once again to take her rightful place in the Alliance.  The decision to take part in any operation, and the nature of the commitment, remain national.  Indeed this is the daily challenge facing the Secretary General: to make sure that all, whatever their degree of commitment, nevertheless contribute to the consensus, to the proper operation of the Alliance, to its overall solidarity.  At the moment Spain has no part in the “new tasks” of NATO in Kosovo; the new Kosovo Security Force has nevertheless been set up, just a few weeks ago, with the support and expertise of NATO.

Finally, for me France is a key player in the sense that she alone symbolizes the complementarity of NATO and the European Security and Defence Policy.  Personally I see myself as a European and an Atlanticist, so you will understand why this notion of complementarity is so important to me.  Allow me to dwell on this a few moments.

The need for a strong ESDP is henceforth a truism.  The Europe of defence is in the interests of NATO.  I would even say that for NATO what is important is not less of Europe, as some may have believed 10 years ago, but on the contrary it is more of Europe, in particular as regards military capabilities.  The strengthening of NATO and EU capabilities must be mutual, for in most cases these efforts aim to make up for similar deficits.  Thus I fully subscribe to the opinions published last week by President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel in Le Monde: they are fully in the right when they say that we must move towards true cooperation based on a necessary complementarity.  And this view is fully shared on the other side of the Atlantic.  I can tell you this because I see it every day: the theological debate on the subject in the United States is dead.  President Bush used very firm and positive words in this regard at the Bucharest Summit last year.  Vice-President Biden, just a few days ago in Munich, took the same line.

The French presidency of the European Union over the last half year in itself did much to relaunch and raise the profile of the ESDP.  Operationally in the first place: in Georgia, with the commencement of the EULEX mission in Kosovo, and with the beginning of Operation Atalanta off Somalia – which took over from a naval force deployed in haste by NATO.  A lot of assets on the balance sheet!  On top of that come long-term capability initiatives which seem very positive to me, and a real desire to extend cooperation between NATO and EU.  Secretary of State Jouyet came to explain French priorities to the North Atlantic Council – a real innovation!  The French presidency also invited me to come to talk to the General Affairs and External Relations Council about Afghanistan – another first.  The Allies felt this to be very positive.  Positive because these initiatives are fundamental.  But also positive in terms of appearances, because this helps to finally dissipate the impression that France has sometimes been playing off one organization against the other, that any progress with the EU could only be achieved to the detriment of NATO, that there were ulterior motives.

A NATO which is changing, a France which is evolving.  These two movements are converging, and it seems to me they could reinforce each other even more if France chooses to complete the renovation of its relationships with NATO – which is its own sovereign decision, that goes without saying.

Reinforce each other, first of all, because the Alliance would undoubtedly benefit from greater French involvement in its work.  France has just gone through the exercise of its White Paper on defence and national security – and I know that several of you Honourable Members have been personally involved in that; I also had the chance to explain my views to the Mallet Committee during my official visit to Paris last year.  France has now acquired a new, consistent and comprehensive strategic doctrine.  On this basis the French analysis will incontestably add value to the discussions in the NATO Council.  In no way is it the case of “drowning” French ideas in “uniform NATO thinking”.  On the contrary, the aim is to help to improve the efficiency of the Alliance in all fields.

Let me give you another example which illustrates the special French position on a vital subject: future relations with Russia.  The security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area are directly bound up with healthy and balanced cooperation between NATO and Russia.  Unfortunately the crisis in Georgia has dealt a blow to this relationship.  Following the December ministerial meeting the Allies have adopted a measured and progressive approach to their relations with Russia.  In accordance with this mandate I have recommenced the dialogue on the political level, meeting Mr Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Vice Prime Minister, in Munich last weekend.  I hope that the Strasbourg/Kehl summit will allow us to continue this approach of a dialogue which makes no concessions but is positive and forward-looking.  France has been one of the drivers of this whole process, active in mediation of the Georgia crisis through the EU presidency, and strong in her knowledge of Russia.

But I mentioned mutual advantage.  The full reintegration of France in the standing military structures and the defence planning mechanisms of the Alliance would, I believe, bring many benefits to France, with the common denominator of improved consistency without added constraints.  In the area of defence planning, for example, France would participate fully in defining the level of ambition of the Alliance, i.e. the number and type of missions which the Alliance should be capable of conducting at one time.  In this way she could ensure concordance between the levels of commitment of the EU and NATO.  She could also contribute to defining the Allies’ medium-term and long-term capability requirements, as well as the collective capabilities which the Alliance needs.  The Allies’ defence plans would be more transparent to France, and she would have the possibility of influencing them.  This could only be very positive for a country like yours, who tirelessly encourages her European partners to do more in the field of defence investment.

I would add, to take a last example, that today France plays no part in drawing up most of the crisis management “scenarios” which she is subsequently involved in, because of her low level of representation in the military structure.  This is surely paradoxical, in view of the eminent position held by France when operations are launched!  The presence of French experts on all levels of the military structure would allow France to be concretely involved both in preparing the future (which is the work of ACT) and in drafting crisis management scenarios, preparing operational plans and controlling operations in the field (which is the role of ACO and the subordinate commands).

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Presidents and Members, together with Germany France is preparing to host the 60th anniversary summit of NATO, on 3 and 4 April, in Strasbourg and Kehl.  I really welcome this, as I can see no better symbol of that initial promise of those who drafted the Treaty of Washington, of a Europe united and free after overcoming its historic divisions.

However the summit will not just be the occasion to celebrate an anniversary, and to welcome a new president of the United States to the transatlantic community.  It will also be the occasion for the Alliance to express choices for the future, for the 21st century.  The Heads of State and Government will adopt a declaration on the security of the Alliance which should manifest this vision.  They will also, I hope, launch the crafting of a new strategic concept for NATO, as the present one goes back to 1999.  France should play her rightful part in this important debate.  I am sure she will come up to the mark.

Thank you very much for your attention.  I would be delighted to answer your questions.