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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2003 > December

Statement to the Press Following North Atlantic Council (NAC) Foreign Ministers Meeting

Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary General
NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium
December 4, 2003

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

We have had an extremely good meeting. As in all the best families, NATO's Foreign Ministers were frank and open with each other. That is our strength.

The Alliance enters 2004 busy, useful and very, very necessary.

In one year, the truly transformed NATO has gone from promises at Prague to action on the ground, delivering real security from Kosovo to Kabul.

Look at the record as we begin our preparations for next June's Istanbul Summit.

At Prague we invited seven countries to join the Alliance. Today they sat at the NATO table and for the first time associated themselves with our communique. Next year they will be full members.

At Prague we said NATO needed new partnerships. Now, we are talking about a partnership with the EU on the ground in Bosnia based on Berlin Plus.

Later today, we will focus on real cooperation with both the EU and Russia, which is growing all the time yet would have been inconceivable before our 2002 transformation.

Looking further ahead, our Istanbul Summit agenda will include the strengthening of our relationships with Ukraine, EAPC Partners and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries.

At Prague, we said that NATO would get new capabilities. Earlier this week, Defence Ministers showcased major progress in NATO's military transformation, from the drawing board in Prague to reality in only thirteen months.

That momentum will be maintained to Istanbul and beyond, together with our new emphasis on producing usable and deployable forces to break terrorism, build stability and bring peace. In the modern world, your credibility is based on your capability.

At Prague, we committed NATO to new missions. Today, NATO troops are stabilising Kabul and preparing to move beyond the capital. NATO warships protect Mediterranean shipping against terrorist attack. NATO planners are helping the Polish-led division in Iraq.

NATO has always delivered success. Foreign Ministers are determined that NATO will succeed in these new missions.

We have proved in the Balkans that we can build peace and order out of chaos in the most difficult places. Afghanistan poses new and difficult challenges but NATO will meet them.

The latest challenge was met this morning when I was delighted to announce that we have now found the critical parts of what NATO needs to do its job in Kabul, including attack and transport helicopters. My thanks go to all of the countries who have delivered what is required to make ISAF safe and effective.

As always, NATO delivers.

I said at the outset that Foreign Ministers were frank and open with each other.

That is why we were able to talk very constructively today about complex issues such as Iraq and European Defence.

On European Defence, transparency between the EU and NATO is essential.

After today's discussion, I am confident that the end result will avoid any unnecessary duplication, and will strengthen both NATO and the EU. I am so confident because any other outcome would be senseless for both organisations and their members.

On Iraq, no one is ruling out a wider NATO role when the time is right. This might well be an issue for Istanbul.

At Istanbul, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will be in the NATO chair. I have had an extraordinary four years as Secretary General.

In the Balkans, NATO has kept the peace and stopped wars from starting. We declared Article 5 and took NATO into the war on terror. We broke down the final stereotypes of the Cold War.

We designed and implemented the Alliance's most profound transformation ever. We changed NATO and the EU from strangers into partners. Finally, we took NATO out of area instead of out of business.

I pay the strongest possible tribute to the nations who have driven this most radical of transformations and to the staff here who have implemented it. Most of all, I pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who have placed their lives on the line to put the decisions taken here into practice in the field.

This is a new NATO and they have built it.

Released on December 4, 2003

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