by Grete Faremo, Defence Minister of Norway at the Third Seminar on NATO’s Strategic Concept,
Dear participants, and ladies and gentlemen, I am very glad to hear about your rich discussion because this was really what we hoped for today. And I felt encouraged already yesterday at the working diner in our city hall where also participation was strong. I remember the Minister of Foreign Affairs referred to big house, city house, small country, and I don’t know if it's a symbol but today you have been in what I think is even the tallest house still in the country. I hope it has provided some inspiration.
I also was encouraged by yesterday's focus on values. I am sure this will be a very important part of the discussions also talking about partnerships. Sharing values and knowing who you are when you also talk with friends and partners is very important.
And since NATO started developing its partnership policies in the wake of the Cold War, partnerships have become a crucial part for the Alliance. And looking to decades into the past, NATO's partnerships have flourished. And today NATO engages with partners on a global scale. And partner countries are today engaged with NATO in tackling the most important security challenges of our time. Many partners participate fully in NATO's operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and elsewhere.
I think also partnerships have been instrumental in facilitating the enlargement of NATO by helping partners qualify for membership in the Alliance. The original objective of NATO's partnership policy was to break down barriers and to build security through dialogue and cooperation. And two decades on, it is my assessment that the partnership policy represents a historic success.
It is my hope that the new strategic concept can help to renew and adapt NATO's partnership structures by engaging allies and partners alike in a constructive discussion on how to further develop our cooperation.
When I say that NATO's partnerships must be renewed and adapted, it is not because today's partnership structures have not been successful; on the contrary they have been, as I already said, very successful. The cooperation between allies and partners has contributed to greater security in the Euro-Atlantic area by fostering dialogue, cooperation and confidence building measures.
However we must not be afraid to adapt, develop and change the partnership structures in a rapidly changing world. We must be willing to change and develop actually what we wish to preserve.
I feel certain that partnerships will have an important, perhaps increasingly important role to play in the future. I believe that allies and partners alike recognize the inherent benefit and need for closer cooperation on a range of issues. This is why today's seminar is important. It is important that we allow ourselves some time for reflection. It is important that we take the time to debate our security needs and challenges, so we can erect a partnership structure on a sound foundation to the benefit of all partners and allies alike.
NATO's relations with Russia are of outmost importance. It is important to build a strategic partnership with Russia which focuses on our shared interests and not on our differences.
NATO's enlargement has been a historic success. NATO should continue to develop a partnership policy which helps facilitate potential members' accession to the Alliance, also important to build a viable partnership with the EU. I say this even coming from a non EU member country. And it is important to include a division of labour to avoid duplication of effort.
The development of a new strategic concept coincides with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and this represents in my opinion an opportunity to place NATO-EU relations on a firm foundation.
I must say I am strongly encouraged by the broad participation at this seminar, and I am especially pleased that the partner countries have decided to take such an active part in the development of NATO's new strategic concept.
And I will have to especially thank you, Madam Madeleine Albright and your group of experts for their efforts to stimulate the open debate on the future of the Alliance through this line of seminars. And I wish you the best of luck with your work in the months ahead.
And also, finally, I wish to thank you all again for your active participation, your willingness to share your thoughts and ideas on the future of NATO partnerships. This is only what can bring us forward.
Thank you very much.