Opening statement

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers - Tallinn, Estonia

  • 22 Apr. 2010
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  • Last updated: 22 Apr. 2010 13:18

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me extend to you all a warm welcome in Tallinn.

I am very pleased that so many of us have managed to make it to Estonia, despite the flight difficulties. I thank you all for your determination. Let me also say that, while Iceland consistently plays an important role in the planning of NATO events, Ambassador your country has surpassed itself this time.

Je suis heureux de constater que vous avez tous réussi à venir, car cette réunion est importante. Le sommet de Lisbonne aura lieu dans tout juste six mois. Il déterminera la voie que suivra l’OTAN au cours des dix prochaines années. Et le travail que nous accomplissons ici à Tallinn est une étape importante pour les décisions que nous prendrons à Lisbonne.

Nous allons notamment traiter du processus de transition en Afghanistan. L’importance politique de ce dossier est manifeste. Le peuple afghan et les citoyens des pays fournisseurs de troupes attendent des progrès et nous aussi. Aujourd’hui, à Tallinn, nous devons engager la prochaine étape du processus de transition vers le transfert de responsabilité aux Afghans, en définissant les conditions et les modalités de l’avancement de ce processus.

A second important issue: nuclear issues and arms control, and linked to that, missile defence. A lot of important progress has been made, in recent months, on arms control. NATO should play its part, and we will discuss just that – based on the clear principle of solidarity, shared burdens, and the need to ensure deterrence in an uncertain world.

Part of that uncertainty relates to the growing missile threat to Europe. In Lisbon, NATO nations will decide if missile defence for our European territory and population should become an Alliance mission. I make no secret that I think it should. But there are important issues to work through, like cost, and we will tackle those here, with an eye to Lisbon.

We will also exchange views on what will be a centrepiece of the Lisbon Summit: the adoption of a new Strategic Concept. The Group of Experts, led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will soon hand over its report, with its analyses and recommendations. On that basis, I will prepare a draft concept and we will start negotiations that will lead, in November, to a document that will guide NATO into its future.

That document will certainly contain new roles and missions for this Alliance. But two things will not change: NATO’s transatlantic centre of gravity, and our commitment to each other’s defence. Those are NATO’s foundations. They are as strong as ever today. They will be just as strong into the future.