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NATO Defence Ministerials (Krakow)

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

I attended an informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Krakow, Poland on 19 and 20 February. It was in many ways a preparatory meeting for the NATO summit to be held in Strasbourg and Kehl next month. Ministers considered the progress being made on NATO’s wide-ranging transformation agenda, including the UK/French helicopter initiative, reforms to NATO’s command structures, ways of improving the way the headquarters in Brussels does its business, and work to make the NATO response force more sustainable. In the context of the latter, I introduced a proposal for a rapidly deployable alliance solidarity force for collective defence. This proposal will now be taken forward in the wider work on the NATO response force.

There were two sessions on operations: one as allies, and a wider discussion on Afghanistan with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) contributing nations, Kai Eide (the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative) and General Wardak (the Afghan Defence Minister). Ministers welcomed the US announcement of increased force contributions to ISAF, reviewed ISAF’s expanded role in counter-narcotics, and agreed the need for a civil “surge” to accelerate development activities, and support for the Afghan Government. Ministers also welcomed agreement that another standing NATO maritime group will contribute in the coming months to the wider international efforts to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Krakow concluded with meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the NATO-Georgia Commission, in which Defence Ministers were updated on Ukraine’s and Georgia’s progress against their annual national plans.