|Updated: 13-Jun-2001||NATO Speeches|
Statement to the Press
by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
We have just concluded our meeting of NATO's Presidents and Prime Ministers - the first meeting at this level since NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington in 1999.
For fifty-two years, NATO has kept the peace in Europe, and ensured the safety of its people. It has been a bastion of freedom, an inspiration to millions who had been denied their basic rights, and a promise to future generations.
It was NATO which protected our people in the Cold War. NATO which laid the foundation stones where democracy and prosperity could be built. NATO which stopped the blood-letting in the Balkans. And NATO which has taken the lead in overcoming the divide between the Eastern and Western halves of this continent.
Our vision is that all people in the Euro-Atlantic area will enjoy the same safety and liberty that we have secured for ourselves - and that this will be achieved through cooperation, not conflict. In the history of peace and conflict, no organisation has done so much, for so many, so peacefully, as this Alliance of great democracies.
Today, NATO's leaders renewed their commitment to the continuing purpose of this Alliance, to the trans-Atlantic cooperation which is at its heart, and to the vision of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. We reviewed the major issues on NATO's agenda, and helped chart the course toward our next Summit meeting in Prague in November 2002.
While we discussed NATO's full agenda leading to the Prague Summit, let me point to four areas in particular.
Firstly, today was an important opportunity to engage directly with President Bush about U.S. thinking on new concepts of deterrence, the strategic environment, and the means of dealing with the challenges facing the NATO of today, and the NATO of tomorrow. This included U.S. thinking about non-conventional and asymmetric threats, missile defence, nuclear force reductions, building the right mix of offensive and defensive forces, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and continuing our transformation of NATO's armed forces.
NATO has embarked on a major thinking process about the challenges we face and the best means of addressing them. These consultations will continue and deepen. We did not seek to take any decisions today. We committed ourselves to a continuing process of consultations, before decisions are made, in order to ensure that the interests of all Allies are fully considered and taken into account in forging a common NATO approach.
As Secretary General, I gave a personal and urgent message that NATO's credibility is its capability. If we want NATO to be as successful in the future as it has been in the past, we must all invest wisely and enough, to ensure that we have the military capabilities for any crisis of the future.
Second, we reaffirmed our commitment to the successful strengthening of Europe's defence role. NATO's success in the future depends in part on the equitable sharing of roles, responsibilities, and burdens, among all its members.
Heads of State and Government welcomed the EU's progress in defining its role in future crisis management activities, and establishing the Headline Goal, which reinforces NATO's call for nations to strengthen their overall defence capabilities. The development of the European Security and Defence Identity is of great importance for NATO. Its development must naturally be consistent with NATO's existing defence planning arrangements, and it must take account of the security interests of all Allies, including those that are not members of the European Union.
Third, NATO will continue to carry out its role in managing existing security challenges facing the Euro-Atlantic area today. Foremost, this concerns NATO's involvement in the Balkans, where we have stopped two wars, assisted the return of nearly two-million refugees, and laid a foundation for democratic reform, from Zagreb to Belgrade, and Brcko to Pristina.
We are proud of the accomplishments of our 50,000 troops in the Balkans, and the thousands of others who preceded them. And NATO's troops are, of course, joined by a further 10,000 troops from partner nations. We are grateful to all of these soldiers and to their families. Their sacrifices are understood, deeply appreciated, and extraordinarily important. They meant and still mean the difference between life and death, between suffering and hope, for millions of people.
Our goal is to see the democratic structures in the region become strong enough to be self-sustaining. That job is not yet done. We will therefore maintain our presence, and our commitment to the tasks ahead.
One immediate task ahead is to assist the government in Skopje in dealing with the ethnic Albanian insurgency. Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their full support for the government in Skopje and their complete and total rejection of the attacks on this democratic government. The only way to address the legitimate concerns of the local ethnic Albanian population is through a normal political process. The armed extremists must lay down their arms. There is no other way.
Finally, we reaffirmed our commitment to the enlargement of the Alliance, in accordance with Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, and we discussed the preparations for our review of the process of NATO enlargement, which will take place at our Summit meeting in Prague. No decisions were taken, and we did not discuss any question of "who" might be invited to join NATO in the future.
But there was general agreement today on the following points: