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First of all, allow me to thank all the Member States – and I do underline all the Member States – for their expressions of appreciation for the work my team has done since I took up my position in April 2015. We continued to build further on the strong foundations laid by my predecessor and with the strong support of the training institutes in our network managed to increase the quantity and the quality of our training activities and started exploring new fields and disciplines.
When I proposed in the GAREA, adopted by this Committee in September, to first take a decision on my prolongation before opening the position, I based myself on the contract that was offered to me in 2015. My intention was above all to let the Member States decide on whether or not I had delivered on my vision paper from 2014, based on achievements and objective criteria. It was never the intention to exclude anyone or to try to engage in a process that was anything less than transparent. As this was the first time ever this procedure was followed, I fully understand that different readings of the texts could be made and it is the right and privilege of this Committee to decide on this issue. I will in due time make a proposal to amend the text in the Council Decision and the Committee will be invited to discuss again which procedure should be followed in a more tranquil situation. Now that a decision has been reached, I am glad that we can return to business as usual - if there is any such thing for the College and close ranks in the same exemplary way as my Austrian competitor in 2015, who was the first to congratulate me on my new position and who continued to be a positive contributor to our common training efforts.
As the next point on the agenda of today will show, it is also timely to close ranks, as new challenges face us in the coming weeks and months. These challenges will be faced with the same attitude as before, safeguarding the strong points of the College: cost-efficient, open, inclusive, flexible, innovative and fully transparent. You have my full engagement that the College will retain its main characteristics as a Member States driven network, providing high-quality training for civilian and military personnel of the Member States and EU Institutions and supporting the external action of the Union through our training activities with regional security organisations and with third countries.
In her speech at the Bibliothèque Solvay on Wednesday 13 December, at the eve of the European Council meeting deciding on PESCO, the High Representative/ Vice-President of the Commission underlined the importance of common training to achieve a common understanding of the EU’s security and defence environment. She also mentioned – and I must admit much to my surprise – the success of the Military Erasmus project. Without mentioning the ESDC by name, she could not have made a larger tribute to our work.
With this, I would once again thank the Member States for the trust they continue to place in the ESDC, in my team and in myself. We are looking confidently forward, ready to face any challenges you see fit for us to engage in.