by NATO Secretary General at the opening of the Plenary meeting of the EAPC Security Forum
Foreign Minister Tazhin, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
As Chairman of the EAPC, let me warmly welcome you to the 2009 EAPC Security Forum.
Welcome too, to those Parliamentarians and experts who will also participate in tomorrow’s NATO Parliamentary Assembly Rose-Roth Seminar, I am happy that you have joined us and wish you all the best with your event.
I would like to offer particular thanks to our hosts. Hosting the Security Forum entails significant effort and cost. On behalf of the EAPC, thank you for your generosity.
The location is remarkable: a 21st Century city, and clearly a paradise for contemporary architects, in the midst of the immense, sweeping Central Asian steppe.
As I mentioned last night over dinner, NATO-Kazakhstan relations have grown steadily since 1992. Today, Kazakhstan is NATO’s most active Partner in the Central Asian region.
There has been solid progress in defence and military cooperation, particularly enhancing interoperability. One Kazakh brigade has been made available for participation in international operations, and Kazakhstan hosts annual exercises where our forces train together.
But our partnership goes far beyond the military. Next September Almaty will host a Civil Emergency Planning exercise.
And NATO supports a considerable number of science projects in Kazakhstan. The best-known is the “Virtual Silk Highway”, a computer networking project establishing high speed internet connectivity in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
We have also supported projects to clean the former Semipalatinsknuclear test site. Kazakhstan’s decision after its independence to return Soviet nuclear weapons to Russia and to remain a non-nuclear state was among the most significant and forward-looking decisions that a sovereign country could make.
It is therefore all the more important that this country does not suffer from the nuclear legacy of the Soviet Union.
Shifting the focus to today, the Security Forum is a unique event within the EAPC calendar. The informality and mix of participants is deliberate. The aim is to use this time to generate ideas, hold frank and open discussions, and to understand one another better.
I encourage everyone to seize the opportunities that the Security Forum offers.