by Carme Chacón Piqueras, Minister of Defence of Spain at the Meeting of the NATO Military Committee/NATO Military Conference in Sevilla, Spain

  • 16 Sep. 2011 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 21 Sep. 2011 10:55

Dr Carme Chacon Piqueras, Minister of Defence of Spain

Dear Chairman; Dear Giampaolo,
Chiefs of Defense
Civilian and military authorities;

NATO’s Southern Flank

Today, more than ever in the history of the Atlantic Alliance, we the Allies are aware of the great relevance of NATO’S Southern Flank. We all understand the decisive importance of this region for Europe and for the security and stability of the world.

Obviously, when we speak about the Southern Flank we do not only mean the allies located in the Mediterranean basin: we also include our partners and friendly countries from North Africa, the Near East and even the Middle East.

At this very moment many of these countries are rewriting their fate. The people of the Southern Mediterranean Basin are thrown into a turmoil which even though has the seeds of a new promise, is not free from risks.

The transformations favoured by the so-called “Arab Spring” have no turning back. And when the Allies have to face them, they can react in two different ways: considering them as a threat to our fellow citizens and, thus, protect ourselves from them or, on the contrary, we can see in these historical changes an opportunity for progress and, as a result, support them.

I think we all have a clear picture of the way ahead. The changes that these countries are undergoing represent a unique opportunity to accompany those peoples that have chosen the path of dignity, freedom and justice. By doing so, we will be reinforcing both our security and that of the Southern Flank. In other words: their freedom is also our security.

Spain can make a great contribution to this enormous task. Not only thanks to our geographical closeness to the region and our own experience regarding democratic consolidation, but also due to our privileged links with the countries in that region.

Within the framework of the Alliance, our country has been at the lead in the implementation of cooperation policies fostering security and stability in that area. This is how the Mediterranean Dialogue was born in 1994. An initiative that, as you already know, unites five countries from North Africa and two from the Middle East.
The Mediterranean Dialogue is today an excellent tool to strengthen cooperation with our partners in the region. It is crucial to continue promoting this initiative and to extend it to new countries, as Spain has proposed. This idea was included in the Strategic Concept 2010.

This new concept is proving to be particularly useful when responding to situations such as those taking place in the south of our borders.

The New Strategic Concept

The Strategic Concept fully agrees with the Spanish vision of what NATO should be. On one hand, it maintains NATO's essential foundations, that is, those of an organization based on the defense of fundamental freedoms, mutual assistance and solidarity. And, on the other hand, it raises a wider, multilateral and cooperative security approach, which is crucial to face the challenges of the 21st century.

In order to do so, the Strategic Concept obeys a basic premise: to achieve a more effective Alliance.

That is why the allies have had to deal with some important reforms within the organization, particularly those related to the Command Structure and the Agencies.

In this sense, I must say that Spain has undertaken these transformations guided by only one purpose: her responsibility towards the Alliance and its role in the world. Since we were fully aware of the goal we were pursuing: higher efficiency in terms of resources and operational capabilities. We are convinced that an adequate balance has been achieved, both in the civilian and military fields, in those areas in which a better balance was needed.

Now we have to remain alert so that the follow-on of these reforms does not introduce new inefficiencies which could jeopardize what we have already been achieved.

Likewise, numerous and important projects have been initiated. Among them, it is important to emphasize the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review, the spread of the Antimissile Defense capability or the Cyber-Defense Policy.

And again, we must be particularly cautious regarding the implementation of these processes: it is essential that the resources saved thanks to the reforms do not generate unnecessary structures.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to follow this path and to engage with renovated resolve in deepening the objectives stated in the Strategic Concept. We should not be satisfied with the goals already accomplished. There are still areas which need a deep analysis and new reforms in order to obtain what we all wish: a more efficient and modern Alliance, fully appropriate to carry out its missions in the years to come.

NATO and crisis resolution

We cannot foresee what missions we will have to face in the future, but we can anticipate two things:

  1. In the interdependent world we are living in, thousands miles away from our countries, any local conflict can quickly spiral into a threat to our own security.
  2. A purely military solution can never be the only answer to any conflict.

For all these reasons, the Strategic Concept clearly promotes a vital task, that of Crisis Management, in order to channel crisis prevention and management, the subsequent stabilization process as well as the support for the reconstruction.

Moreover, the Concept particularly emphasizes the need for NATO to jointly work with other organizations in missions where NATO does not necessarily have to be at the lead.

In this vein, the Alliance is in the process of providing itself with a sufficient civilian capacity which will allow us to plan and act in complete synergy with civilian actors.

Working in cooperation with others should be the standard way for us to proceed. However, as in Afghanistan and Libya, we cannot discard the possibility of acting alone, but always in full respect of the UN Charter and international law until the security situation allows other actors to participate.

In Afghanistan, we the Allies are providing security and development through the country, thus, contributing to better territorial governance. After ten years of conflict, we are eventually advancing in the process of transferring public responsibilities to the Afghan people.  This evolution is in line with what President Karzai pointed out about the conclusion of ISAF, which is expected to take place in 2014.

But as we stated in the Lisbon Summit, our commitment to the Afghan people is solid: we will continue to support that country beyond that date and as long as necessary because we want to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a threat to our societies.

In the case of Libya, our resolute military intervention has attained its goals. Under the mandate of the UN  Security Council, we the Allies have shown our determination and our resolution to protect the peoples when their leaders turn against them. Luckily, today we can say that Gaddafi’s Regime is history.

Therefore, I want to grasp this opportunity to personally congratulate all of you because, to a great extent, you are responsible for this achievement.

The Role of the Military Committee

You are the highest military authority of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Military Committee is the bridge between the political level and the military structure. Specifically, it plays a key role in providing the Council and the Secretary General with military assessment and guidance. We must preserve this role.

In this time of changes and budget restrictions, the view of the Military Committee should guide the Strategic Commands when they deal with operations, transformation and reforms.

The success of the Alliance in these two areas depends on that guidance.

In 1952 when the Allies decided to create the position of NATO Secretary General, the British Prime Minister at that time, Sir Winston Churchill, said that “NATO provides the best, if not he only, hope of peace in our time”. Today, more than half a century later, the context is quite different, but our ambition must be the same.

Mister Chairman, Flag Officers …

I would like to conclude by warmly welcoming the NATO Military Committee at Chiefs of Defense level on behalf of His Majesty the King and the Government of Spain.

Also allow me to express my Government’s deep satisfaction with the holding of this meeting in Seville today.

With this event, Seville, once Europe’s sole gateway to a new world, enshrines a dynamic new Alliance built upon a new Strategic Concept, friendly and cooperative relations with the Mediterranean countries and a truly invigorated transatlantic link.

I wish you all a pleasant and fruitful stay in Seville.

Thank you very much.