by NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General Carmen Romero on the occasion of the 20th NIDC Anniversary, Kyiv, Ukraine
Madame Vice-Prime Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
It is a great honour for me to be here today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Kyiv.
I am also very touched to see so many guests here today: the representatives of Ukrainian government institutions, diplomatic corps, media, civil society and very importantly – so many students and young people!
Your presence here is important to us. It shows that our office and our work in the past two decades mattered and continues to matter. It demonstrates the ongoing interest in NATO, in who we are, what we do and what we stand for.
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary General responsible for public diplomacy at NATO, I often hear and read how the young generation is no longer interested in NATO; how little they care about politics. But your impressive attendance here today shows that young people do care. That they are still eager to learn and are interested in what is happening around them.
I am also grateful to the Institute of International Relations and the University of Taras Schevchenko for hosting our office from the very beginning. We purposely chose to locate our first-ever information Centre in an institution, which is dedicated to educating young people in foreign policy.
And whilst the NATO Information and Documentation Centre will be moving to new premises this summer to join its sister organization, the NATO Liaison Office, our commitment to promote NATO amongst the Ukrainian successor generation and to work with academic institutions, including the Taras Shevchenko University, will remain as strong as ever.
The main mission of our Centre is as valid as it was twenty years ago – to increase understanding and awareness about the Alliance and its role in safeguarding peace and security in Europe.
NATO has played a very important role in modern European history. It is the most successful political-military Alliance in history. For nearly seven decades, NATO has helped to keep the peace in Europe.
NATO continues to stand for its values that have formed the bedrock of our transatlantic security for 68 years: Democracy. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the media. Independence of the judiciary. Protection of minorities.
The Alliance has adapted to new environments and new challenges continuously – from a collective defence organization during the Cold War, to the crisis management period during the 90s, and in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Today, NATO and its partners face many different challenges from different directions – from an aggressive and insurgent Russia to the East to the threat of terrorism and the biggest refugee crisis since WWII to the South.
In less than a week from now, the NATO Heads of States and Governments will gather in Brussels on 25 May to address the most pressing issues and how to best respond to them – by increasing our defence spending and exploring how NATO can be more active in the Global Fight Against ISIL and terrorism. The future of our relationship with Russia will also feature in the discussions as it is Russia’s aggressive behavior towards its neighbors, and towards Ukraine in particular, that has triggered NATO’s biggest reinforcements in collective defence since the end of the Cold War and a freeze in NATO-Russia relations.
And let me now turn to Ukraine and the importance of our partnership.
NATO remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to supporting Ukraine through practical cooperation and strong political support.
Today, Ukraine benefits from six NATO Trust Funds; dozens of experts and advisors provide guidance in the areas of difficult defence and security sector reforms, and it is the biggest beneficiary of NATO’s Science for Peace Programme.
Our political exchanges are frequent at all levels of the government: the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers, the Prime-Minister, the President of Ukraine. On 25 April, we had the pleasure of welcoming Ivanna Klympush Tsintadze in Brussels, presenting Ukraine’s Annual National Plan for 2017. This plan is a very important tool that helps us to identify the areas of necessary reforms for Ukraine, measure achieved progress and point out areas that need more work. Reforms are difficult but necessary – the Allies encourage Ukraine to press ahead with the reform process. Because in the long-term, all citizens of Ukraine will benefit from them.
And we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership with a high-level visit in Kyiv in the near future.
Ukraine remains one of NATO’s most valued partners, one who has always stood by NATO´s side in all its operations and missions. And NATO stands by Ukraine – from the moment of its independence, during the Orange Revolution, the years in which Ukraine opted for neutrality, during the EuroMaidan and the spring of 2014. Today, NATO is assisting Ukraine with difficult reforms so that Ukraine becomes a stable and democratic country that shares the fundamental values of the Alliance. Because a strong and stable Ukraine is good for NATO and the whole Euro-Atlantic community.
The NATO Information and Documentation Centre has always been welcomed in Ukraine. In the good times, and in the difficult times, the Ukrainian public has always been eager to learn about NATO. And NATO has responded – by organizing visits to NATO HQ, by providing opportunities to Ukrainian journalists to cover NATO stories, by facilitating important exchanges on difficult questions and by setting up platforms for discussions.
But our work would not have been possible without a strong civil society that forms a bedrock of Ukrainian society. Let me quote here Joe Biden, the former Vice President of the United States: ‘No fundamental social change occurs merely because government acts. It's because civil society, the conscience of a country, begins to rise up and demand - demand - demand change’.
And nowhere is this quote so powerful as in Ukraine. It is the civil society that has played leading roles in the Orange Revolution and during EuroMaidan.
We were honoured to have assisted many non-governmental actors during the EuroMaidan, such as the Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre, to provide the world with factual information and news about the events on the ground. We provided financial assistance to grass-root activists who fought Russian propaganda and we assisted in the formation of new independent Ukrainian media.
In addition to our public diplomacy work, we are also assisting the Ukrainian government in developing effective strategic communications so it can better communicate its national strategic objectives, government policies and ongoing reforms at home and abroad.
And our Allies are also jointly committed to support Ukraine in countering hybrid warfare and disinformation by both the continued support to NGOs but also to the government in establishing a Hybrid Warfare Platform.
In its twenty years of active engagement in Ukraine, the NATO Information and Documentation Centre has made an important contribution to Ukraine. The topic of NATO is no longer taboo and many of the myths and stereotypes about NATO have been dispelled through active dialogue.
So let us therefore jointly celebrate our achievement!