by Mircea Geoana, NATO Deputy Secretary General, at the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria event, ‘Ahead of the Future: Preparing for NATO 2030’
DR. SOLOMON PASSY [President, the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria]: Now, we are behind the schedule because I was not skillful moderator of this opening panel, and I hope that we shall have now a good connection with NATO, with Brussels, from where we expect the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Mircea Geoană, impressive Foreign Minister of his country. I remember him fighting for Romania to join NATO, for Romania to join the European Union. And now, I would like to especially thank him for making this effort on a great holiday in Brussels. He is breaking his personal holiday in order to join our conference. Thank you very much, Mircea. I hope we have the connection. Do we?.
MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: We always have connection, Solomon. And always with pleasure to be with you and with our friends in Bulgaria. Mr President, Madam Vice President, dear guests. It's an honour to join you today.
And the topic, like always, Solomon finds the juiciest and the most interesting topics for our discussion.
We are living again in an extraordinary moment of our history. The ones from our generation, we believe that we have seen everything with the fall of communism and the huge transformation of Europe that follow that historical epical moment. But like always, history is not linear. We are not witnessing the end of history as some believed in the early 90s, and we are just in another moment of significant change, transformation and challenges. And the pandemic has just only amplified, accelerated and magnified some of the existing trends. We can now see very vividly how rapidly the world can change.
And I think that for my dear friend Solomon and for all of us who have been in the first line of bringing our region into the European and Euro-Atlantic families. It's a sense of déjà vu. But it's also a sense of warning and sticking together.
Just over thirty years ago, as I mentioned, almost without warning, our continent went through the most remarkable transformation with the collapse of communism. Our own countries, Romania and Bulgaria, along with many others in our region in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, threw off the shackles of dictatorship and tasted, finally, freedom for the first time in many, many decades.
I remember, still with great emotion, with Solomon and others, the seven of us, foreign ministers of the largest wave of enlargement of NATO, raising the flags of our nations with pride, not from the new headquarters but from the old headquarters across the boulevard here in Brussels.
And also I'm very happy to see the great results of the Bucharest Nine Summit of the other day with Secretary General Stoltenberg, President Biden and all the Heads of State and Government from, from the eastern flank coming together, and showing solidarity and cohesion.
And our peoples and our nations embraced the freedom that we, we get a few decades ago, we embraced democracy and embraced the broader concept of the political West, joining NATO, joining the EU. Let me say how happy we are here in NATO that we are able to continue the open door policy of NATO.
After the big wave of enlargement of the 7th edition in 2004, and we have Croatia, then we have North Macedonia, and of course Montenegro. So, it's a living proof that NATO continues to encourage democratic nations that are ready and willing to join our ranks to be with us.
But, again, today, speaking of today and the lessons of yesterday, we are also at the moment of great transformations. And when I go to play some sports outside of headquarters to the sports facility we have here a NATO, every day I cross famous Solomon Passy’s Trabant, who was so graciously given to us as a symbol of never forgetting how improbable the journey of our countries seemed in the early 90s.
And how, I think Solomon, I think your gesture and your gift to us, I think, it's also not only your remembrance of your famous trip with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the streets of Sofia in a Trabant, which is pretty vivid as a metaphor, but also the fact that when a nation, when the leaders of a nation, when the people of nations really want something, want to go in one direction, nothing can stop that. This is the lesson that all of us have.
As I come out towards the sports centre in NATO, in a way I see two things. I see the Solomon Passy Trabant and then a big symbol of Solidarność – with Polish spelling of the Solidarity movement. And I think that's a pretty vivid metaphor for what NATO stands for. As for the other entrance, we are seeing the piece of the Berlin Wall, and a piece of the Twin Towers. A very interesting symbolization of what really brings us together.
And also, also from my side congratulations for your anniversary of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria.
This has been tremendous. I encourage you to continue with the same enthusiasm, creativity, and sophistication.
Bulgaria is a steadfast Ally that contributes to our security in many, many ways. It is investing in its defence, increasing year on year, and even reaching over 3% of GDP two years ago with the purchase of F-16 fighter jets and also with other new equipment.
Bulgarian troops are helping to train local forces in Afghanistan, are a key part of our mission in Kosovo, and they make an essential contribution to Black Sea security providing ships to NATO patrols and to the region. So I thank Bulgaria, and the people of Bulgaria, for everything you do to contribute to our shared security.
But of course, speaking of the Black Sea and speaking of our region, a key challenge for NATO is, of course, Russia’s actions. We have long seen a pattern of aggressive behaviour from Russia, including its forces in Georgia, the illegal annexation of Crimea and ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is now using Crimea to project power into the Black Sea, and way beyond the Black Sea, towards the Mediterranean and Northern Africa. We must stay vigilant, especially in light of its recent and considerable military build-up in the region.
Last week only, Bulgarian officials briefed NATO’s North Atlantic Council on Russia’s illegal activities in Bulgaria over the past decade. Bulgaria has responded with legal action and by expelling Russia diplomats. NATO has expressed concern over Russia’s behaviour and strong support and solidarity with Bulgaria, but also with the Czech Republic and many allies that have been witnessing these very assertive and aggressive actions by Russia.
Our unity and our ability to adapt is even more important as we face a more unpredictable and rapidly changing world, and a growing number of other challenges. Sophisticated cyber-attacks and disinformation. Brutal terrorism. Nuclear proliferation. Disruptive technologies. The security impact of climate change. And a shifting global balance of power with the rise of China.
All of these challenges are too big for one country – or any continent – to face alone. But together, through NATO, the nations of Europe and North America are not alone. And together, we are adapting again to face any challenge that might occur.
On 14 June, Allied leaders will come to Brussels for the NATO Summit. This is a unique opportunity to strengthen our Alliance and set an ambitious transatlantic agenda for our security and defence, through NATO 2030. In the words of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, for NATO to look “ahead of the future”.
NATO 2030 is about reinforcing our unity, broadening our approach to security, and strengthening our global partnerships to uphold the rules-based international order.
In order to strengthen our cohesion and unity, we must use NATO even more as the unique platform bringing Europe and North America together every day to discuss and defend our shared security.
We must strengthen our commitment to our collective defence. We must recommit to increasing defence spending. And we must spend more together.
Keeping our people safe relies on NATO staying strong militarily. But we also need strong societies as our first line of defence. So NATO 2030 is also about broadening our approach to security.
This means making sure we have more resilient societies, supply chains and infrastructure. And that we invest more together in new technologies and maintain our technological edge in a more competitive world and that is why I would like to thank Bulgaria for lending to us and to me, as Chair of the Innovation Board at NATO, Mrs. Galia Angelova, from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, in our Advisory Group on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies. Galia is doing a tremendous work, and I want to thank, through this conference, Solomon, to Bulgaria for lending such as superb intellectual and professional to us.
We also need to address the full spectrum of threats to our security including climate change as I mentioned before.
Finally, NATO 2030 is about strengthening our global partnerships, and forging new ones with like-minded nations. We must safeguard the international rules-based order against the authoritarian push-back by countries like Russia and China that do not share our values.
We must work closely with our partners in the Indo-Pacific. Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea. We also see real potential for stepping up our dialogue with other countries that share our values, such as India. And I know that the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria made some very interesting propositions not so far ago.
This is the way in which NATO can also have a more global role. Not forgetting about our common sacred mission to defend the 1 billion citizens living in NATO countries in Europe and in North America. But for this shift of balance in global power is important for us to reach out to like-minded nations all over the world.
We should strengthen the capacity of our partners to stabilise our neighbourhood, to the east, to the south. And of course this includes working even more closely with organisations like the EU. Secretary General Stoltenberg asked me to pay, on his behalf, even closer attention to the NATO-EU relationship. I heard one of the speakers, mentioning as much as I can still understand your language from my [youth] when Romanians were watching Bulgarian TV. I still know a few words. But speaking of NATO and EU, we are two sides of the same coin.
And there was a mention of a Strategic Concept that we hope that our leaders will give us and the Secretary General the green light at our Summit in June to start revisiting our Strategic Concept which dates from 2010. 2010 It's a, it's a long, long time ago, so we need to look into how to freshen up and update our Strategic Concept, but also we are very much interested in making sure that when the European Union is moving towards a more robust posture in security and defence, that we preserve our complementarity that our Strategic Concept and the strategic compass that the European Union is now working are, in a way, an expression of a common view of the threats and challenges around the world.
So, it is our strong interest to continue to forge a very strong strategic partnership between NATO and the EU. And the Secretary General myself, we are taking this thing very much on our top list of priorities as part of NATO 2030.
As part of NATO 2030 and as part of the revised Strategic Concept or course we have to reconfirm our commitment to our shared values and also to chart a common course as we address the challenges of today and tomorrow. So if you want this combination of our common values as a foundation of our alliance, and our permanent capacity to adapt to ever changing international situation. These are the two ingenious that we have to keep our cohesion of unity, and also our robustness in the way ahead.
Allies are currently discussing a range of proposals, so we expect a substantive and forward-looking agenda for the Summit in June. What is sure is that we will be doing more., And we will be doing more together. And that will mean we will need, as I mentioned, spending and investing more together. So that NATO can fulfil its core tasks and meet the challenges of a more competitive and unpredictable world.
The Summit next month will be an opportunity for Allies to recommit to our values and to what our Alliance stands for, so that we can continue to defend our nations and keep our people safe and free.
We also look very much forward to welcoming in person President Biden, the new US administration has sent very, very powerful, convincing and engaging messages about the intent of the United States to revitalize America's alliances, starting with NATO, the cornerstone, not only of European and transatlantic security, but basically a bulwark of the system of international rules and norms.
I would say, Solomon, coming back to you and your metaphor with the famous Trabant front of our headquarters in Brussels that NATO is not by accident the most successful alliance in human history.
We are not just, you know, a congregation of nations coming together on ad hoc basis. We are here, united by something which is far more important than just mere strategic interests.
We are here to defend our values, our freedom, our liberty. And I would like to congratulate again the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria for being such a strong, strong, strong proponent of our values, of our democracy, of the rule of law and, of the values that keep these great allies of ours together. And absolutely convinced, not only because I'm speaking now in this position, in NATO but because I know it, from the bottom of my heart that this alliance will continue to be for many, many, many more decades, not only successful, but also thriving and contributing to peace and stability in Europe and around the world.
So thank you so much for having me. And if you feel the need, Solomon, to have a small dialogue, I am all yours.