Introductory remarks

by Jean-François Bureau, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at the opening of the Youth Forum - Strasbourg, France

  • 02 Apr. 2009
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  • Last updated: 02 Apr. 2009 15:14

On behalf of all the organizations involved in staging this event I should like to welcome you all to this Youth Forum organized to mark the 60th anniversary of the treaty founding the Atlantic Alliance.  I am very pleased not only by how many of you are participating but also by the diversity of nationalities, backgrounds and activities you represent.

I should like first to introduce to you the persons on the stage with me, who are joint organizers of this event together with NATO's Public Diplomacy Division.  I thank them all for the interest they have shown in this initiative and for their involvement in its organization.

Dr Karl Lamers, Chairman of the Atlantic Treaty Association, eminent member of the Bundestag's Defence Committee and a Vice-Chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.  The ATA has long been a highly-appreciated partner of the Public Diplomacy Division.  It works to enhance transatlantic relations while promoting the values of the North Atlantic Treaty – democracy, liberty, peace, security and the rule of law.  For 54 years this NGO has acted as a transatlantic link, and now comprises 42 national Atlantic councils of NATO member states and Partners.  This year, the ATA will for the first time be holding its annual congress in a Partner country, in Kiev, which demonstrates its reach.

I will continue with the transatlantic community and am very pleased to welcome Fran Burwell, who represents the Atlantic Council of the United States, of which she holds the Vice-Chair.  The ACUS is also a long-standing partner with which we are frequently happy to collaborate, not only in its activities in the United States but also in Canada, Europe and NATO’s partner countries.

The ATA and the ACUS, then, are united in their efforts, and attach great importance to promoting the Alliance's values in the younger generation – those who are twenty today and were therefore born after the end of the Cold War.  The ATA and the ACUS run many exchange programmes open to young people interested in security questions and have identified more than 60 young members of Atlantic Treaty youth associations to take part in this event.  I should like to welcome you all.

Dr Eva Kuntz is Secretary General of the Franco-German Youth Office.  The OFAJ is an international organization that has been working since its establishment in 1963 to develop Franco-German co-operation among young people, particularly by supporting cultural, professional and sporting exchanges.  The OFAJ thus perfectly represents the spirit of this meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government being held on the two banks of the Rhine, but I will return to the symbolism of the Summit in a few moments.  Nearly fifty of you, Germans and French, have been selected by the OFAJ.  Thus I thank the Office for joining us in this project, and welcome you, too!

Our fourth partner, the French National School of Administration, occupies a special place in this project, firstly because it has been located in Strasbourg since 1991.  Second, in spite of its "national" label, it is also a very international institution, not only because it offers a large number of courses that attract young foreign senior officials (officials from 120 countries have followed courses there) but also because the curriculum for the French students is also open to foreign students.  That is an indication of the importance the School attaches to international issues, and I thank its director, Bernard Boucault, and also Philippe Bastellica and his team for the interest they have shown in this project, which they would of course have liked to take place at the School!  That was not possible, for organizational and security reasons, but we shall be very pleased to welcome the hundred or so young senior officials who will be taking part in the seminar tomorrow morning.

Next I would obviously like to give very warm thanks to France 3 Alsace, which is welcoming us into its premises for two days.  Furthermore, this allows us to discover or rediscover Gomila’s superb ceramic based on drawings by the painter Jean Lurçat.  And what better than this masterpiece of Lurçat on the “Creation of the World” to accompany our discussions on security?  For what civilisation can exist without peace?  Without security?  Without stability?  Without prosperity?  France 3 will of course be playing an essential role in relaying our discussions to the Summit press centre, but it will also be contributing to their substance since, on the margins of our seminar and the Summit, France 3 has planned a large number of programmes and displays addressing our topics.  Our partnership with France 3 is therefore a partnership on all fronts, and I should like to thank its director, Mrs Montaldo, and her team most warmly.

But the symbolism does not stop there.  I already mentioned a second aspect a few moments ago.  The two towns of Strasbourg and Kehl have taken on particular significance: just after this Youth Forum which brings us together today and tomorrow, on Friday night and Saturday there will be the summit of Heads of State and Government of the Alliance’s member countries to celebrate the 60th anniversary of NATO.  For the first time in the history of the Alliance a summit is to be held jointly in two countries, on German and French territory.

This cannot help but remind us of history, in its darkest hours but also in its greatest advances, particularly the building and development of the European Union.  But history does not stop here with the bilateral relationship; it goes much further, for it is indeed the shared history of the Europeans and the North Americans.  In short, through Franco-German reconciliation it is also the history of European reunification and the transatlantic link, whose importance we want to underscore.  The lesson of history holds for the future:  waiting for people to tire of war and destructive confrontations before contemplating peace, stability and security is always a terrible waste.  It is a lesson we must all consider, for it applies everywhere:  building peace and stability is always better than expecting violence to be the midwife of history.

Peace and stability, that is our mission.  Because it is what our democratic nations believe in, based as they are on the rule of law and respect for human rights.  Because it is what the Atlantic Alliance exists for, and has done for 60 years, and it will remain the foundation, but also the identity and originality of this unparalleled alliance.  And you, participants, dear colleagues, you represent this transatlantic link.  Americans, Canadians, Croats, Danes, French, Germans, Italians, Polish, Slovaks… all of you here now represent the NATO not merely of today but also of tomorrow.

The Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, your nations, our partners and ourselves, a division of NATO, we all wanted, in celebrating the 60th anniversary of NATO, to involve you and, through you, the new generation in this commemoration.  But why, you may ask?  Why associate young people with such an event?  Why organize such a meeting bringing together young people from all backgrounds and of all nationalities to address topics as wide-ranging as those we are going to discuss today and tomorrow, not from the standpoint of specialists or experts but rather from that of members of the public, that of "the man in the street"?  For one simple reason:  because we are convinced that the issues of peace, security and stability are precisely the ones that concern everyone, in their everyday lives, and on which their views and opinions count.

It was that belief that guided the conception of this seminar.  Peace and stability cannot be matters left simply to experts, because they concern us all.  That is why, in our view, philosophers, journalists, writers and NGO leaders also have much to tell us, even if they are not necessarily security experts as researchers, politicians, diplomats and last but not least members of the military might be.

Most of you were born after the time of the Cold War.  Some of you only know it from your school or college history books or from what your parents and grandparents have said about it.  At that time the threats were clearly identified, and related essentially to the spectre of an invasion, foreign occupation or, worse, total destruction.

But where do we stand today?

You all experienced 9/11, and you have all witnessed the proliferation of terrorist attacks.  You all, as users of the internet, may face cyber attack.  You all know the value of water and energy (this winter, as last, many of us have experienced energy and raw material shortages) and you have all heard talk of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Without a shadow of doubt, these risks and threats will not disappear any time soon, and we are therefore going to be living with them for the next ten years, for sure.

This is why we think it essential to discuss these issues with the generation that will take responsibility for the affairs of our States in the decade to come, first of all as citizens and then as movers in society, that is, with you.

It is 20 years since the Cold War ended, 20 years for which the opposing blocs of that time have not existed, and during which the countries that were once enemies have become Allies or partners and are all working together to uphold security and stability.  For all that, war has not disappeared, and never since its foundation has the Alliance had to involve itself to such an extent in stabilization operations, as in Afghanistan, or peacekeeping operations, as in the Balkans. So where will we be in 20 years more?  What will our security environment look like in 2020?  What challenges will there be in 2020?  How will the Alliance be understood by the other players in international society?

Indeed, since 1999, world terrorism, energy insecurity, cyber attacks, climate change and its consequences have become so many new threats or new risks  And these problems, this vast programme which will at the end of the week be the focus of discussion by our presidents and heads of government, is also your programme.

For, moving on from 1949, NATO now bears very little resemblance to the original Organization except, and this point is capital, that it still unites democratic nations which are in solidarity with one another.  It is for the sake of these shared values that it is crucial for the Alliance to evolve today and match up to these new threats, in order to imagine what kind of player, bringer of stability and security, NATO might be in 20 years time.  A few years ago, a very well-known France 3 programme was titled "What did you do with your twenties?"  Ask yourselves the question:  what will you say to those who ask you, in 2020, "What did you do with your twenties for peace and stability?"

Thus you play a part in stability and peace on our continent and beyond.  This is not just an Alliance for our politicians who direct it, it is above all our Alliance and you are the players in this Forum. So once again I welcome you all and wish you a Youth Forum which is animated, highly interactive and fruitful.

To prepare for it as well as possible I therefore propose, here too in a very open discussion, that we go back over what has been achieved – or what has not yet been completed – since the last meeting of Heads of State and Government at the Bucharest Summit in April 2008 and over not merely what will be discussed on Saturday but also what will await our national representatives next year at the Lisbon summit.  Before we think about 2020, let us try to describe what might happen between now and 2010!

And for you to properly apprehend these crucial themes for the Alliance, I present to you the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, and Dr Jamie Shea, Head of the Policy Planning Unit, who will present to you the military and political aspects of NATO’s agenda.