Updated: 22-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


22 Nov. 2002

Closing News Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Moderator (Yves Brodeur): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the news conference. I will give the floor the Secretary of State and then we'll take a few questions. Secretary General.

Lord Robertson (Secretary General, NATO): Thank you very much. This press conference is for those who really have good stamina. Politicians, journalists, reporters, if you're here at this time then you are displaying extraordinary energy.
But this has been a very important summit meeting and series of meetings and today's meeting of the 46-strong Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council was also a landmark. This summit meeting of 46 leaders from Vancouver right across to Vladisvostok showed 46 countries united in partnership and in co-operation.

NATO's transformation summit itself has already produced momentous decisions on enlargement, new missions, better defence capabilities, but the transformation agenda also includes the revitalization of NATO's partnership with the other 27 nations. And the strengthening of that relationship with partners and friends is also part of the way in which we help to build and to mould a new and better security environment.

After all, we all fact the same new threats to the safety and security of our people. And the 46 leaders resolved today to work even more closely together in meeting these new challenges and they were united in the need to increase the EAPC's contribution against terrorism. And they welcomed in particular the Partnership Action Plan against terrorism, which will take all of the national strengths of these 46 countries in building one of the world's biggest coalitions against those who would bring terror into the hearts of our countries.

As NATO evolves then so too much our partnership evolve as well. And the EAPC has to reflect the individual and diverse needs of the individual partner countries.

We are a family of nations, but we are a very diverse family as you would see from the people here today. But that is one of our critical strengths and on the 12th of September last year those 46 nations stood absolutely united and committed together in sympathy with the people of the United States but also in determination to get at the roots of terrorism and at those who practice it and promote it.

So we've endorsed new mechanisms for co-operation today which will allow us to achieve these ends.

Prague has been a truly momentous summit for all of the NATO and the partner countries, and I'm delighted and proud at what we've achieved. After all, it is a transatlantic family working together for peace into the 21st century.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the people of the Czech Republic and in particular Prague, all those who helped and have done so many diverse things around the summit to make it successful. To the huge numbers of security people who are necessary sadly for all of these events, but who have been a remarkable success in controlling and making sure that the leaders could speak frankly and safely in this city at the present moment.

I noticed that most of the people of Prague appear to have left Prague and allowed us to occupy their city for a few days, and maybe nobody else will ever see Prague as quiet as it's been over these last couple of days, but their indulgence has been to our benefit and I'm grateful to everyone for allowing that to happen.

It was well worth it. This has been a summit meeting, a return turning point and it will be remembered by history. So all of those who were discomforted by our presence here can console themselves by the fact that they've also contributed to make this a successful summit.

Moderator: We have time for a couple of questions. The gentleman, there, front row.

Q: Lord Robertson, Czech Radio 1. Let me ask you two brief questions. You touched on that, you said the summit will be remembered by history. Aren't you a little bit concerned that some diplomatic incidents, such as the non-issuing of visa for the Belarussian President Lukashenko and the visit of President Kuchma could cast a shadow on the main message of this summit?

Second question, today we have heard a rather lukewarm and maybe even unwelcoming response of Russia towards the NATO enlargement, especially by the Baltic republics. Could you possibly comment on that please? Thank you.

Lord Robertson: Well in the first case, there has been no shadow over this summit. A decision was taken by the Czech Republic in relation to one individual. It was predictable and unsurprising. The ambassador to NATO of Belarus delivered a statement, a message from his president. It was a pretty angry message, as you might imagine. It was fairly cross, and objected to the fact that the visa had not been issued.

I told the ambassador that we'd listen to him, and people had done so with respect, and that he should report back to his president that the message was given and a lengthy statement was distributed. Because we believe in free speech and in the right of contrary views to be put, however uncomfortable they may be. That is what we stand for. The value base of our Alliance is based on the delivery of these messages.

In relation to Russia, I didn't expect anything other than a lukewarm response. After all the president of Russia, the government of Russia are not advocates of NATO's enlargement. But we have a new relationship with Russia. We had a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council this morning. Highly successful. We're working on a whole range of practical areas with the Russian Federation at the moment, so Russia has nothing to fear from an enlarged Alliance that is tied in with Russia and looking at key issues and dealing with them together.

So I think that they will eventually realize that a zone of real and genuine stability is underway and is very much in the interest of the Russian Federation. But at the moment I don't expect them to be cheering us on. And I note very carefully that they are more interested now in working with us than shouting about us. That's good.

Moderator: The lady there, please.

Q: Slovenian Television. As you probably know Slovenian for the Slovenian public opinion, joining to NATO is very low. Actually one of the lowest among new countries which will join the Alliance. What would you recommend to Slovenia? It's still not sure whether to have a referendum and if yes, when do you think it will be the most appropriate time to do it? Thank you.

Lord Robertson: Well, whether there is to be a referendum and when is purely and simply a matter for the Slovenian authorities and indeed, the Slovenian people.

But all I would say is that I watch carefully public opinion in all of the countries, NATO and partner countries, and I know that support for NATO membership was low in Slovenia, but has been rising steadily over the last few months.

I think the booster will have been given to the thought of NATO membership in the last few days. I think it will change Slovenian public opinion and with the leadership of the government that has taken this country to this point, I think we'll see a change in attitudes to that. But what they do after that will be a matter for them.

Moderator: I'll take one last question there.

Q: Swedish Television. You said you have decided today to strengthen and vitalise the Partnership of co-operation, but with your decision to invite seven new members as full members of NATO isn't it a fact that the Partnership is becoming less important for NATO. Would you therefore prefer countries as Sweden to join the Alliance as full members.

Lord Robertson: That's a nice trick question. Right at the very end of the last press conference.

Yes, with the invitations that have been extended NATO will be bigger than the Partnership, as it stands at the present moment. But that doesn't mean to say that the Partnership is not crucially important to us. In fact, it may well have increased in importance, because there are countries like Sweden, like Finland and like Austria and Ireland, who are even more determined to come closer to this enlarged and revitalized NATO. And who we value, because of the contribution that they make.
So the new proposals we've put forward today, endorsed by the Heads of State and Government of the EAPC are designed to bring a new shape or a new vitality to the relationship with the partner nations.

So I see the partnership becoming ever more relevant, especially as you go further east and into the TransCaucasus and Central Asia, where these countries are not going to join NATO in the immediate future, but where their needs are great and where the potential for trouble is enormous. And I was very heartened to have virtually all of the Caucasus and Central Asia presidents with us today and they made a major contribution to the hugely interesting discussion we had over lunch. Without aides, without backup, without military experts, with nobody in the room except the leaders we've had a very profoundly interesting discussion about the roots of terror and methods of dealing with terrorism, and how best we can help the countries in the most fragile areas of the Euro-Atlantic Area to get through the troubles that they have at the present moment.

So don't give up in Sweden. And whether you join NATO is purely and simply a matter for the Parliament of the country.

Moderator: Thank you. Before we all go, we would like to pay a tribute to all these young people who've helped us so much during this summit in here, this press theatre. Could I invite all of you who wear these nice blue jackets to join us.

Thank you very much.

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