Expatica news

De Hoop Scheffer takes Nato’s reins

5 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — Former Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer officially takes up duties in Brussels as Nato Secretary-General on Monday, replacing Britain’s Lord Robertson.

De Hoop Scheffer will take charge of the world’s biggest military alliance at a turning point in its history. One of his most important roles will be to heal the wounds resulting from the internal conflict which opened up last year over Iraq.

France and Germany were strongly opposed to the US-led war against Iraq and De Hoop Scheffer — who is an advocate of strong European-US ties — will face the task of mending transatlantic relations.

Internal tension also surfaced over the provision of military assistance to Turkey. The crisis ended when Germany, France and Belgium agreed after long negotiations to provide military assistance to Nato member Turkey should it come under attack from Iraq.

The Netherlands had previously agreed to a request from Turkey to dispatch Patriot anti-missile systems to defend the country against Iraqi rocket attacks. The request was made independent of the two nations’ Nato links.

De Hoop Scheffer will preside over his first meeting of Nato government leaders when a summit is held in the Turkish city of Istanbul at the end of June, news agency ANP reported.

The former Dutch government minister will also be called upon to finalise the planned expansion of Nato by seven countries. Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will join the alliance this year.

Suffering a tarnished reputation due to the internal disputes of 2003, Nato will also require De Hoop Scheffer’s highly praised diplomatic skills to regain lost credibility. He will also face the challenge of convincing Nato member states that the alliance must play a larger role in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nato will be confronted with the continued fight against international terrorism, US concerns over at the European Union’s plan to create its own military command and De Hoop Scheffer must also press ahead with George Robertson’s campaign to modernise Europe’s armed forces.

Many of Nato’s resources are already deployed in Iraq and the alliance is in need of hardware as it prepares to expand its peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Washington might increase pressure on Nato members to contribute more when government leaders meet in June.

De Hoop Scheffer’s travel schedule is heavily booked for the next month, with visits planned to Bosnia, Kosovo and Washington. He will also travel as quickly as possible to the capital cities of the other 18 current and seven incoming member states.

He will, in principle, serve as Nato chief for four years and will be assisted by a private Dutch secretary and a cabinet chief, who will take charge of his personal staff. He will also be provided with a heavily-secured residence in the chic Louizalaan in Brussels. 

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news + Nato