Mr. Martin opened thanking SACEUR and the personnel of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) for their continued commitment to peace and stability throughout Europe. He also said that General Wolters was an “essential actor in the stability and protection of Europe,” (translated from French).
“In 70 years of existence, NATO has been protecting us and preventing many conflicts,” (translated from French) said Mr. Martin.
We have had 52-years of friendship and good relationships between SHAPE and the city of Mons
General Wolters addressed those gathered and expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome.
“We have had 52-years of friendship and good relationships between SHAPE and the city of Mons and I have no doubt that this friendship will carry on for the next 50 years,” said General Wolters.
The unique relationship between the city of Mons and SHAPE was extolled by both men during their addresses.
Mr. Martin recounted how SHAPE came to call Mons home, noting that the city of Mons considers all ‘Shapians’ full residents and part of the dynamic and beautiful city.
Although the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formed April 4, 1949, Allied Command Operations wasn’t activated until April 2, 1951 under the first SACEUR U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1951 SHAPE, along with the NATO political headquarters, was located in Paris, France. By December 1965, tensions in France and the changing military strategy and organisation of SHAPE prompted then French President Charles de Gaulle to announce that all military forces within France’s borders would come under French control by April 1969. He also announced that France was withdrawing from the headquarters of Allied Command Europe, the predecessor to Allied Command Operations, and that SHAPE had to find a new home by April 1967.
Belgium offered the NATO political headquarters land in Brussels for their headquarters, but insisted that SHAPE be at least 50 km away, due to its potential as a military target during conflict. The Belgian government offered Camp Casteau near Mons and committed to building a highway connecting Mons to Brussels.
The current SHAPE campus was built in six and a half months with the opening ceremony held on 31 March 1967.