|Updated: 11-May-2000||NATO Speeches|
11 May 2000
"The New NATO in the New Europe"
Secretary General's Speech to the Slovak Foreign Policy AssociationLadies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here. Let me begin by thanking the Slovak Foreign Policy Association for hosting this event, and for giving me the opportunity to speak with you.
The fact of this meeting illustrates a very important development in
European security -- Slovakia's continuing rapprochement with NATO. The
ties between Slovakia and NATO have never been stronger than they are
today, and I believe that much of that success is due to the efforts of
the Slovak Foreign Policy Association.
That question was answered by almost every government in the Euro-Atlantic area. The answer was unequivocally yes -- NATO had to take action to stop the state-sponsored, pre-organised violence against the Albanians of Kosovo. To have looked away when Kosovo plunged into violence would have meant abandoning not just the Kosovars but also our principles. Europe has learned from history, and the image of deportation trains running through Kosovo at the dawn of the 21st century was plainly unacceptable. The idea of ethnic origin becoming ?? once again -- an issue of life and death simply will not be tolerated in the new Europe we want to build. That is why NATO chose engagement over indifference.
Kosovo also posed a direct threat to our common interests in maintaining stability and consolidating democracy in Europe. Kosovo sits at a very strategic point -- between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, at the meeting place of Islam and Christianity. Just to the south are two long-standing NATO allies, Greece and Turkey; to the north, new NATO members in Central Europe. And all around there are small countries struggling with the transition to democracy and market economy. The crisis in Kosovo could not be seen in isolation. Left to burn unchecked, it would have caused major damage to the long-term security interest of the entire region, if not the whole continent of Europe. We did not allow this to happen. We took a stand, we upheld our values, and we defended our interests in peace and security. Together, we passed a vital test in the evolution of Europe.
This was by no means NATO acting alone. On the contrary -- we saw the entire family of European and North American nations unite in the quest to stop the violence and reverse ethnic cleansing. We saw a family of nations that not only talked about common values, but defended these values. In short, we saw a Euro-Atlantic community that is growing together.
And let me say for the record: through its actions during the Kosovo crisis, Slovakia demonstrated clearly that is it part of this new Europe. By lending your support to the international efforts, including granting NATO access to Slovak airspace, you took real political risks. And yet you did not waver. NATO prevailed because it could count on the active and unflinching support of its Partner countries, Slovakia among them. I salute Slovakia for its support -- and for its courage. This was more than help in an emergency. It was a resounding vindication of a concept of the Euro-Atlantic area as an zone of shared values -- a sign that Europe is truly becoming a common security space, united and working together to be at peace with itself.
Much of the credit for Slovakia's positive role during the crisis can, I believe, be rightly attributed to many of the people here in this room. You took on the important, but sometimes difficult job of explaining to parliament, to the public and to your media why this operation was so important. You helped Slovakia understand that NATO's actions were upholding the beliefs that we all, increasingly, share: peace, democracy and fundamental human rights.
For that contribution, I say thank you. In any democracy, public support is crucial for success. And by playing the role that you did -- as a vital bridge of understanding between the people, the Government and the wider international community -- the Association was, quite simply, an important part of our collective victory.
It has been just 11 months since the NATO-led force deployed into Kosovo -- and to my surprise, a few observers are already saying we should give up. They see one or two flashpoints and they have decided that peacekeeping in the Balkans can never work. They cite "ancient historical hatreds", and suggest we should pack up, get out, and leave the people of Kosovo to their own affairs.
I disagree completely. True, Kosovo is recovering from what Dr. Kouchner, the head of the UN mission there, has described as "forty years of communism, ten years of apartheid, and more than a year of ethnic cleansing". This will undoubtedly be a major, long-term challenge for the international community.
But we mustn't lose sight of the wood for the trees. There are already real signs of hope. Indeed, despite these massive hurdles, there has been amazing progress since KFOR deployed into Kosovo barely 10 months ago.
More than 850,000 refugees have returned from abroad, and over 50,000 homes have been rebuilt at a furious pace by the international community and by ordinary citizens. The World Food Program is giving aid to 650,000 Kosovars and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies have provided shelter kits to some 400,000 people.
Not a single person died from cold or hunger in Kosovo last winter. About 550 schools have cleared of mines and unexploded ammunition, and 300,000 children went back to school last autumn, to be taught in their own language for the first time in ten years.
And that is not all.
The Kosovo Liberation Army has been disbanded and demilitarised by KFOR, and it has handed over more than 10,000 weapons. And civilian organisations are being created to begin to govern a truly multiethnic Kosovo.
Are there still problems? Of course. To bring lasting peace, security and prosperity to Kosovo, we must rectify the shortfalls in the civilian side of peacebuilding in Kosovo. For safety in the streets, police officers are necessary, and until now the international community has simply not provided enough law enforcement personnel.
To rebuild the society, the UN mission in Kosovo must have the money to pay the salaries of civil servants, and create civic institutions -- and here again, the international community is lagging in providing the necessary funding. The longer it takes to meet these requirements, the harder it will be to meet our goals -- but we can already see progress. Funding is being disbursed, and more civilian assistance is on the way. These are what Winston Churchill once called "the problems of victory".
This victory -- of engagement over indifference, of peace over violence -- is also guiding our larger vision for the future of South-Eastern Europe. A future in which the Balkans cease to be a source of instability and conflict; a future in which the whole region of South-East Europe enjoys stability and prosperity, at peace with itself and the rest of Europe. A future in which even Serbia embraces the values shared across the Euro-Atlantic area - democracy, respect for human rights - and rejoins our common family.
Of course, NATO is not doing this alone. The European Union and the OSCE will have leading roles in this project. The EU's Stability Pact, for example, will coordinate and deepen the investment the entire international community is making to build lasting, self-sustaining peace and prosperity through cooperation. NATO's efforts in the region fully support the Stability Pact, and follow the same logic-- promoting self-sustaining peace by encouraging and supporting regional cooperation.
At last year's Washington Summit, NATO created a consultative forum on security matters on South Eastern Europe. We are also building on the existing mechanisms of the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council to give substance to our promise of assistance to Partners in the region. We are setting up security co-operation programmes for the countries in the region, and giving our PfP activities and exercises a stronger regional focus.
Can all these new plans really deliver? Can they really make a difference? My answer is clear: They can. They can, provided that all nations and institutions involved in this effort give their best. And provided that the countries of South-Eastern Europe themselves demonstrate leadership in this historic project.
The success of these three projects -- Bosnia, Kosovo and the South East Europe Initiative -- depends on close cooperation between NATO and the countries of the region. That ongoing cooperation is not only a resounding testimony to our shared values. It is also a clear vindication of the cooperative approach to European security -- an approach epitomised in the two major mechanisms NATO has built with its Partners over the last decade: The Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
In Partnership for Peace, 25 nations (and 26 by the end of May), from Ireland to Sweden, and from Slovakia to Romania, are engaging with the 19 NATO nations in military cooperation: on defence planning, on joint peace support, on humanitarian operations, on civil emergency planning. In the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the same nations consult and cooperate on the political level: on regional security in the Balkans, on defence conversion, on establishing sound civil-military relations.
The contribution of Partners to the SFOR and KFOR operations is the clearest sign that this Partnership has paid off. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that our operations in Bosnia and Kosovo could not have succeeded without Partner involvement. This is a precious achievement -- one that we must preserve. And that is why we are determined to make PfP and EAPC even more operational. The role of Partners in the preparation and conduct of joint operations will increase. Defence planning targets will become even more ambitious. The range of our consultations will become broader. And we will also make sure that the political voice of Partners will be heard loud and clear.
Slovakia is now solidly involved in the Partnership. In recent years,
your country has developed solid and realistic cooperation programmes
with NATO, and they are already paying dividends, by promoting better
defence planning, staff officer training and interoperability. NATO, in
turn, is benefiting by having an even stronger Partner to help manage
common security challenges together.
NATO-Ukraine relations are on track. NATO is offering support to Ukraine in managing some of its daunting challenges, such as defence reform. This way, we assist Ukraine in finding its rightful place as a stable and self-confident European country.
NATO-Russia relations are more complicated. Relations between Russia and the West have been somewhat strained over the past year. You do not need me to rehearse why. But we cannot forget that the relationship between NATO and Russia is vital to Euro-Atlantic security. The logic is clear. For NATO, as for Russia, there are simply too many issues in Euro-Atlantic security on which we simply must cooperate to be effective -- from peacekeeping, to preventing proliferation, to nuclear safety.
It is encouraging, therefore, that the Russians are coming back to the table. Since I visited Moscow in February - at the direct initiative of President Putin - we are seeing a true desire on the part of the Russian leadership to engage in full and substantive relations with NATO once again. This bodes well for the future -- because a strong NATO-Russia relationship is good for both, and good for European security.
NATO is also making another long-term investment in European stability -- through our ongoing enlargement process. Through our Membership Action Plan, NATO will give advice, assistance and practical support to countries aspiring to membership. The relationship between Allies and membership aspirants will become more "interactive", and we will work energetically with them to help them come closer to the Alliance.
Your country is a serious candidate for membership. Indeed, you have made very real progress, very quickly, to make your candidacy viable, and I congratulate you on it. The Alliance will help and encourage you as much as possible, through PfP and the Membership Action Plan - because a stronger relationship between NATO and Slovakia is good for you, good for us and good for European security. Just last month, senior members of the Slovak Government visited NATO headquarters in Brussels, and we had long, frank and meaningful discussions on Slovakia's Membership Action Plan.
But let me be clear: ultimately, the responsibility of thorough preparation remains with the aspirant countries themselves. They must be ready to make the reforms which are needed. They must tackle the crucial issues, such as defence reform, without delay. They must not shy away from taking tough and painful decisions, and they must allocate sufficient resources to their reforms.
Fine words are not enough. They must be backed by action. Then, and only then, can aspirant countries self-confidently step forward and say "we are ready for membership". Then, and only then, will new members make NATO stronger and Europe more secure.
Equally importantly, defence reform must be backed by a consensus across party lines, because reform is too important to be exposed to party politics. Only the broad support of all major political parties allows a nation to carry through the tough decisions required - and to fund these decisions. If you take away only one message from me today, I want it to be this. In my home country, where my party spent 18 years in opposition, we learned a very clear lesson: don't play politics with defence!
I have no doubt that the aspirant nations know what is at stake. And I have no doubt that they will deliver. In the context of the MAP, Slovakia has already developed a significant programme for the restructuring of its armed forces. Making these improvements will be a challenge. It will involve hard choices and sometimes painful decisions. But in recent years in particular, Slovakia has demonstrated that it can stay the course and make such tough decisions necessary to build for a better future -- and that gives me great confidence.
Slovakia's further integration with Europe is now inevitable. Your strong stance in the Kosovo crisis was only further proof of this country's determination to reach that goal.
Today, Slovakia's European vocation is beyond doubt. It is reflected in Slovakia's long-standing and valued cooperation in the Partnership for Peace. It is reflected in the EU's decision to invite Slovakia for accession talks. It is reflected in Slovakia's active pursuit of engagement with European institutions, and in the establishment of good relations with all of its neighbours.
I encourage you strongly to continue on the path you have chosen in recent years, because Slovakia's emergence as a strong and contributing member of the Euro-Atlantic family of nations is truly a welcome development for us all. Thank You.