A global perspective for Europe

Address by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the joint meeing of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Sub-committee on Security and Defence

  • 23 Apr. 2012 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Apr. 2013 12:49

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for that introduction.

And first of all let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to you for your long-standing contribution to European politics, your active participation in the institutional evolution of the European Union, your strong involvement in foreign and security policy and your vivid interest in the NATO-EU relations.

And it’s very good to be here. I always enjoy visiting the European Parliament. As some of you know, I was a parliamentarian myself for thirty-one years, so I feel very much at home here. And it’s always good to be reminded how close the European institutions really are to NATO in this town.

When it comes to security, Europe has reason to be proud.  Over the past decade, NATO’s European Allies have stayed the course in Afghanistan.  They flew most of the sorties in Libya.  And they helped stabilise the Balkans.  Over the same period, the European Union has taken on key roles in Georgia, the Balkans and Africa.

This is impressive.  And important.  Because Europe has a vital role to play in preserving our security.

While this may not be the most dangerous time in recent history, it is the most complex and unpredictable. Our economies are putting tremendous pressure on our populations and our public finances. At the same time, unpredictability abounds. From across North Africa and the Middle East, to the rise of new military powers, and to new threats like cyber attacks. And this is the circle to be squared: fewer resources at home but still great uncertainty in the world. We must focus on our domestic constituencies but we must not be blind to a changing world.

No single nation, no superpower, and no continent, however powerful, can address those challenges at once and on its own.

This is a time when, more than ever, we depend on each other to ensure our shared security and preserve our shared values.  So we need to keep investing in the security relationships that matter.

For over 60 years, Europe and North America have worked together in NATO to address common challenges. To preserve freedom and democracy. To develop a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Today, our security cannot be separated from global security. This sometimes means we have to deploy our forces beyond our borders to keep our people secure at home.  As we have done in Afghanistan. Off the coast of Somalia. And in the skies over Libya.

That is why I believe, that even as it tackles its economic problems, Europe cannot afford to be inward-looking or self-absorbed. When it comes to security, the only perspective that makes sense is the global perspective.

But let me be clear. I do not mean that we should automatically deal with every problem that arises in the world.  But it does mean that European nations must look outwards, and stay ready and able to act for their own sake. And be capable of joining our North American Allies in operations outside the Euro-Atlantic area.  So we can protect the security of our citizens – within the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Today’s economic difficulties may tempt European nations to become introverted.  But the need for a confident, compelling, outward-looking Europe has never been greater.

This is why European nations must continue to invest in critical military capabilities – smartly and sufficiently.  And they must continue to show willingness to use them when needed.

The good news is that Europe is not starting from scratch. Today we have a more capable and more willing Europe than 20 years ago. More European troops are deployed in more places than ever in recent history. Even smaller nations, like my own, have shown their capacity to punch above their weight.

In Libya last year, European nations clearly demonstrated that they are willing and able to lead a NATO operation. Without significant American contributions, however, Operation Unified Protector would have been less effective. Assets like air-to-air refueling, surveillance, and intelligence, made all the difference.

For Europeans to provide such assets requires political commitment, just as much as financial resources. Because individual nations can no longer afford these military capabilities on their own – now or in the future.

However, if we pool and share resources, if we help each other, if we go for multinational solutions, then we can afford the capabilities we need in the 21st Century. This is Smart Defence. And a crucial part of Smart Defence involves closer coordination and closer cooperation between NATO and the European Union.  So that we reinforce each other, rather than compete with each other. Because, we all know we share 21 members. And they only have one set of forces. And one set of tax-payers. This is why I welcome the European Union pooling and sharing initiative – and I particularly welcome the current project on air-to-air refueling.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The way ahead is clear. We all have much to gain from a more capable European defence. NATO and the European Union can, and should, play complementary and mutually reinforcing roles in supporting international peace and security.

To carry out this role, Europe must invest sufficiently in our common security. And Europe must continue to invest in the vital transatlantic bond - in political, economic, and military terms.

I believe in Europe. I believe in Europe’s commitment to promote peace and security on this continent and beyond. And I believe in Europe’s ambition to play its part in the world.

Thank you.