|Updated: 14-May-2004||NATO Speeches|
13 May 2004
by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
President of the Chamber of Deputies,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address this distinguished Parliament. Speaking in a building as this is overwhelming in more ways than one. The building radiates with symbolism: built by a man who had nothing but contempt for democratic ways, it is now the heart of Romania’s vibrant parliamentary democracy. The future has triumphed over the past.
Just a few weeks ago, your country scored another triumph: Romania is now a full member of NATO. I want to extend my sincere congratulations to all of you who worked hard for Romania’s membership in the Alliance.
The recent accession of Romania and six other countries to the Alliance has vindicated NATO’s open door policy as both morally right and strategically sound.
It is morally right, because this policy has erased Cold War dividing lines for good. Countries who had their fate dictated by others are now in control again of their own destiny. Countries who were told to keep silent now have a voice again – a voice that is heard, and a voice that counts. As Foreign Minister Geoana put it at the Accession Ceremony last month, Romania’s long-standing dream has been realised: to reclaim its Western identity by rejoining the Euro-Atlantic family of democratic nations.
But NATO enlargement is also strategically sound. It enlarges the group of likeminded democracies – from the Balkans to the Baltics, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. It expands the community of shared values and shared interests. And it broadens the means and instruments we have available to tackle new, 21st century security challenges.
These new challenges need little explanation. Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and “failed states” have become the defining threats of this new century. Against such challenges, geography no longer acts as a shield. As a result, much of our traditional thinking about security has to be revised. Because new problems require new answers.
Have we found the answers? I believe that we have. One answer was our decision to deploy to Afghanistan, to free that country from the grip of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Romania was among the first Partner countries to contribute a substantial contingent of forces to that mission. And it did so while maintaining its presence in our Balkan missions SFOR and KFOR. I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for this courageous decision. If any confirmation were needed about Romania’s determination to join the Alliance, this was it.
Today, our decision to become engaged in Afghanistan has been vindicated. A new government is in place. Al Qaeda has lost Afghanistan as a safe haven. NATO is gradually extending its stabilising presence throughout the country. Slowly but surely, Afghanistan is returning to the peace it has missed for far too long. The road ahead is still bumpy, both for the Afghans and for the international community. But a hopeful beginning has been made.
Afghanistan, and our ongoing missions in the Balkans demonstrate that NATO's ability to build security and stability depends on military competence – the ability to maintain and field modern forces, designed, trained and equipped for 21st century operations. Here, too, we have made good progress in a very short time. The first elements of our NATO Response Force are up and running. Implementation of the Prague Capabilities Commitment is moving ahead. Protection against weapons of mass destruction has been stepped up. And we have undertaken a radical overhaul of our military command structure – to make it leaner and more flexible, with a new command specifically dedicated to transformation.
We have also moved the NATO-Russia relationship forward. The new threats affect NATO and Russia alike, and this has spawned a new sense of direction and purpose in our relationship. Above all, it has led to a new spirit of cooperation – cooperation on an ever broader range of issues, from peacekeeping to theatre missile defence. We have been able to make all this progress because we realised that we need to focus on the future, not on the past.
We are also deepening cooperation with our other Partner countries. Terrorism and proliferation are global challenges. To combat them, we require coalitions even bigger than NATO. That is why we have put forward new ideas on the future of Partnership: new ideas on combating terrorism, and new ideas on enhancing cooperation with Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Having been one of NATO’s most active Partner countries in the past, Romania is uniquely placed to share its wealth of expertise with those countries who want to follow a similar path.
And we also want to reach out across the Mediterranean and the wider region. Because there is a growing consensus within our transatlantic community that the time has come to build closer ties with this pivotal region.
Cooperation with other institutions is also accelerating. Indeed, it must accelerate. Only a network of cooperation will give us the full range of instruments that we need to tackle the new challenges. NATO will always need to act in close co-ordination with other organisations with responsibilities in the political and economic realm, starting with the United Nations. I am confident that Romania’s membership of the UN Security Council, and in particular its chairmanship in July, will lead to a further strengthening of cooperation between the UN and NATO. Just as Minister Geoana, as OSCE Chairman-in-Office, contributed a great deal to joint efforts by NATO, EU and the OSCE to prevent a civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) three years ago. These joint actions also led to an important strengthening of co-operation among our organizations.
That brings me to another major piece in the institutional structure which is the strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union. We all agree that these two major institutions should not only expand their memberships, but also work more closely together. Romania, as a member of NATO and a future member of the EU, has of course an important stake in this co-operation.
A strong start has already been made. We have set the stage for NATO to support EU-led operations, and we will demonstrate the strategic value of this agreement in Bosnia later this year, when the EU will take over important security responsibilities from NATO. This will help Europe to become a more effective security actor. And that, in turn, will lead to a better-balanced and more sustainable transatlantic relationship.
Given how radically our security environment has changed over the last few years, this is a very impressive track record. It is testimony to the strong sense of purpose displayed by our transatlantic community. And it is testimony to NATO’s ability to change. All along, countries like Romania, were deeply involved in shaping that change – first as Partners, then as invitees, and now as Allies.
But our work is far from over. The transformation we have set in train must continue. One critical challenge is to improve the way we generate forces for missions such as Afghanistan. NATO has established itself as an important peacemaker, peacekeeper, and provider of security and stability. This means that the demand for our Alliance is likely to increase even further. But we cannot meet this demand if we stick to current force planning and force generation procedures. That is why, at the Istanbul Summit, I expect to see the first results of a new approach – which will underline that NATO remains an organisation that can match its political ambition with the right military capabilities.
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Membership in NATO means more than physical protection. Being in NATO also means being part of a unique transatlantic project of shaping change. It means participating in a common effort of promoting security and stability in Europe and beyond – in line with our shared values and interests.
Romania will play a major part in this effort. As both a Balkan and a Black Sea country you can make important contributions to the stability and well-being of these pivotal regions. Just as your proximity to Moldova, Ukraine and indeed Belarus enables you to bring a unique perspective on these countries and their importance to our Alliance. And last but not least you bring significant military cababilities to the table.
Clearly, with its strong record of political and military commitment, and its particular regional perspective and engagement, Romania brings a lot to our Alliance. We are glad to have you on board, and to work with you as Allies.