by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the last meeting in the current NATO Headquarters
In Allied navies there is often a tradition of formally decommissioning warships. Today, we decommission this chamber. Because this is the last-ever meeting here. To mark the occasion I am using a gavel donated to NATO in 1963 by the Icelandic Government. It was used for special meetings in NATO, the Council until the 1980s. The United Nations has actually a similar one that’s also used for special occasions in New York. We thought ours was lost. Until it was discovered during the packing for the move to the new Headquarters.
In the years since the Alliance first made its home in this building, this room has hosted the North Atlantic Council. NATO’s highest decision-making body. Hundreds of distinguished diplomats and politicians have debated here. Countless arguments have been made. And countless decisions taken.
The words on the wall read ‘Animus In Consulendo Liber’. A Latin expression urging us to maintain a free and independent spirit in our discussions. For more than five decades, the men and women in this Council have displayed that spirit. In the relentless pursuit, and defence, of peace and security. If they could speak, these walls would have many tales to tell.
At the very first meeting of Foreign Ministers here, more than fifty years ago, Allies formally adopted the Harmel Report. The document which firmly established NATO’s policy of seeking peace through deterrence and détente.
After the Berlin Wall came down, Chancellor Helmut Kohl drove from Bonn to address the Ambassadors here. To reassure them that the reunification of his country would mean not a German Europe, but a European Germany.
There was the meeting in 1994 when Secretary General Manfred Worner, sick from cancer and attached to a hospital drip, chaired the Council.
In order to oversee the decision to use force. To help protect UN peacekeepers and expand the no-fly zone in the former Yugoslavia.
Seven years after that, following the September 11 attacks, this room witnessed the first and only invocation of our collective defence clause, Article 5. A solemn statement of transatlantic solidarity. Which led to our biggest-ever operation – in Afghanistan. There have been numerous other moments too.
None more symbolic than the time Vaclav Havel addressed the Council in 1991. At a meeting of Foreign Ministers like this one. My father was Norwegian Foreign Minister at that time. He took part in the meeting and described the scene to me. Havel explained how, as a boy, he had been told again and again that NATO was a bastion of imperialism. A menace to peace. He went on to say that if there is a reason why Europe enjoys democracy and prosperity, then it is this Alliance. He called it the instrument of liberty. And of our values. Freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
This is the very last meeting of the North Atlantic Council in this building. The next time the Foreign Ministers gather will be for the Summit at our brand new Headquarters across the road. Our move signals that NATO continues to evolve as the world changes. But what will never change is our commitment to our values. And our determination to preserve peace and security.
And with that this meeting stands adjourned, thank you so much.