At the
on the Political
Relevance of the
1648 Peace of

12 Nov. 1998

"Securing Peace in Europe"


by Dr. Javier Solana, Secretary General of NATO

Admiral Gehman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Madame Mayor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to speak to you on this important occasion. The Heads of State of the powers that participated in the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia officially commemorated this event last month.

This symposium looks at the political relevance of the Peace of Westphalia. In this regard, I would like to offer the views of someone who is confronted by real-time security issues. As Federal President Roman Herzog has pointed out in his commemoration speech some parallels between past and present are all too real: "The atrocities which happen on our doorstep today remind us of the cruelties experienced during the 30 Years War" is as he put it.

It is my general contention that humanity and democracy - two principles essentially irrelevant to the original Westphalian order - can serve as guideposts in crafting a new international order, better adapted to the security realities, and challenges, of today's Europe.

The Westphalian Peace, signed here in Mnster, was the first all-European peace after the first all-European war. It has shaped our thinking about the structure of the international system, and thus about war and peace, perhaps more than any other single event in the last 350 years.

Yet the Westphalian system had its limits. For one, the principle of sovereignty it relied on also produced the basis for rivalry, not community of states; exclusion, not integration. Further, the idea of a strong, sovereign state was later draped with nationalistic fervour that degenerated into a destructive political force. The stability of this system could only be maintained by constantly shifting alliances, cordial and not-so-cordial ententes, and secret agreements.

In the end, it was a system that could not guarantee peace. Nor did it prevent war, as the history of the last three centuries has so tragically demonstrated.

It was only out of the ashes of the Second World War that the possibility of a new order for European security emerged. In the decade following the end of the war, its foundations were laid.

In the United Nations, the ideal of a global institution including all nations became a reality.

With the efforts of the European Coal and Steel Community, the ideal of European integration was set in motion. The vision of Europe's founding fathers was based on the prospect, and the necessity, of European reconciliation.

The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty almost fifty years ago, in 1949, brought into being a community of nations defending shared democratic values. The catalyst was the perilous security situation in Europe in the late 1940s, as the ideological and military divide between East and West took root.

But an integral part of the evolution of the Atlantic Alliance was the idea of reconciliation: the integration of our militaries, the common project of collective defence, and the willingness to work towards a common approach to defend the Alliance's common values.

Unfortunately, also out of the same ashes of the second world war emerged the East-West confrontation that left Europe deeply divided for more than four decades. As our century comes to an end, we at last have the opportunity to overcome this division and to set free all the creative energies this continent can muster to build the new security order which will lead us into the 21st century.

The key elements of such an order are already in place: the United Nations, the OSCE, NATO, the WEU and the European Union. Individually, each of these institutions reflects a distinct approach to security. Together, they offer the chance to establish a new quality of security in the 21st century.

The United Nations has been given a new lease of life after the end of the Cold War. As a result, demands and expectations have risen. These competing claims mean that today the UN is both overburdened and underfunded.

Alone, the UN cannot shoulder the task of managing security in Europe. It needs the support of other organisations. They, too, must take their share of responsibility in creating a safer continent. They, too, must develop the instruments that can underpin stability in the region while permitting peaceful and democratic change within.

The OSCE is such a European organisation. It has consistently broadened its range of tasks and policies. It remains our key institution in defusing minority problems across Europe. The OSCE's role in organising free elections in Bosnia, and, most recently, in verifying an agreement on Kosovo, demonstrates its growing importance.

Yet, as we have seen in Bosnia and we see today in Kosovo, the OSCE, much like the UN, cannot function at full effectiveness without a secure environment. If peacekeeping is to be successful, if peace-building is to take root, if free and fair elections are to prepare the ground for democracy, close cooperation among all major organisations remains essential.

NATO has demonstrated that it is ready and able to play its full part in this emerging system of mutually reinforcing institutions. In Kosovo, its cooperation with the OSCE offers new hope for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. In Bosnia, it has proven essential in creating a safe environment and thus the basic conditions for long term reconstruction.

But NATO's role goes beyond Bosnia. By admitting new members, NATO helps erase old dividing lines and projects confidence to the new democracies to our east. By creating ever-closer ties with non-member countries, NATO has planted the seeds of a new security culture across the Euro-Atlantic area.

This commitment to Europe's wider stability is no mere rhetoric. NATO Allies and 27 Partner nations are linked in an ever-tighter network of security cooperation across this continent called Partnership for Peace. Allies and Partners consult on all matters that affect their security. NATO's distinct relationship with Ukraine helps this young, important nation find its own place in European and transatlantic structures.

While many would agree that there can be no stability in Europe without Russia, - much less against Russia - NATO has made this principle the basis of its practical policy towards its former adversary. About 18 months ago, we created with Russia a permanent body of cooperation which has grown into a forum of vivid exchange nurturing mutual trust. During the Kosovo crisis the Permanent Joint Council passed a crucial test: despite differences points of view communication did not break down. On the contrary, because we disagreed, we worked even closer together to find common ground.

NATO must also seek new approaches to deal with the "hard" security challenges that lie ahead - such as proliferation and regional conflicts. And it must help foster a more mature transatlantic relationship, where burdens and responsibilities are equitably shared between North America and Europe.

This brings me to the last, and perhaps most ambitious element in this architecture: the European integration process. What sets this process apart from the Westphalian system is the willingness of states to cede elements of national sovereignty for the common good of a united Europe. It thus aims directly at eliminating those root causes of conflict that Westphalia could not overcome.

The European Monetary Union marks an important step in this direction. The next step is a common foreign and security policy which enables Europe to play a political role commensurate with its ambitious and its economic strength. Clarity of vision and readiness to lead will be vital to move forward this important project whose time, I feel, has come.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The institutional architecture I have outlined to you rests on mutual reliance rather than competition among institutions. It is an architecture of synergy rather than hierarchy.

But while one could argue that the basic institutional structures for our security are thus in place, I see today a need to re-examine fundamentally the concepts around which our security has been organised. 350 years after the Treaty of Westphalia, the conflict in Kosovo demonstrates that we stand at a crossroads: where does the sovereignty of a state end and where does the international obligation to defend human rights and to avert a humanitarian disaster start?

Which principles could serve as guideposts in meeting this challenge? Which principles should we stress when we set about to manage security in the 21st century? In my view, we could identify two: humanity and democracy. These concepts were of little value to the negotiators that came together here in this city 350 years ago. We cannot blame them. But we would have ourselves to blame if we still ignored these key principles today.

Humanity means orienting our policies to serve the needs of man. Indeed, one could argue that a security policy which is not constructed around the needs of man and humanity will risk the worst fate - being ineffectual. That is indeed borne out by the narrow-minded nationalistic policies that have led to so many wars in Europe. Most of the conflicts we see today are between or within states that disregard fundamental human needs. It is thus no accident that the last years have seen an increase in the demand for humanitarian actions. Yet despite the obvious need, we have found ourselves restrained by the principle of non-interference.

Democracy is equally important. The root cause of conflicts in Europe and beyond can be traced directly to the absence of democracy and openness. The absence of the pressure valve of democratic discourse can lead these societies to explode into violence.

Moreover, democracies remain far better equipped to deal peacefully with the challenges of modernisation and globalisation. Open societies are better geared towards change and pragmatic problem-solving -- the key survival instincts for the next century. An open and free media is the best insurance against policies of replacing historical facts with self-serving myths. And it remains a fact that open, multi-cultural societies are the best insurance against excesses of the kind we have seen in Bosnia.

But what does this suggest for the future of the Westphalian system? Will the appeal to human rights be abused as a convenient mask to hide the reckless pursuit of national interests? Will it be replaced by a system of the strong imposing their will onto the weak?

Obviously, the answer must be a resounding "no". Advocating human security should not be mistaken for a crusade. Advocating democracy also is to acknowledge its different interpretations according to geography, history and culture. But wherever we can influence events, be it in the re-building of Bosnia, in supporting diplomatic efforts to reach a political solution for Kosovo, or in setting criteria for NATO and EU membership, we should never lose sight of the importance of humanity and democracy as guiding principles.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For us, on whom falls the responsibility of organising security for a new century, the Westphalian Peace remains a strong inspiration.

The Peace of Westphalia was a peace without winners and losers. If there was any winner at all, it was reason. It is, in short, a hopeful sign of mankind's ability to make progress.

Security in the 21st century must be, above all, a human, a democratic security.

Thank you.

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