by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the ''NATO Engages: Innovating the Alliance'' conference
MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General] I’m coming from the stairs, and I was wondering if we are performing today, Romanian . . . Romania’s Got Talent show. It’s not the case. Or Wheels of Fortune. This gets closer a little bit. The Apprentice? I’m coming from Romania. And I was lucky enough to be the first Deputy Secretary General of NATO representing a new Ally. A region, my country, millions and millions and millions and millions of European who have been separated from our natural family by Communism.
Who would have imagined that, 30 years, our region will be a fully-fledged part of the Western world? Members of NATO, members of the EU. Sometime I think I’m living a dream. As a young Romanian, trying to apply every summer for a visa to get out and see the West. You know what I’ve got every summer? A postcard. In an undistinguishable colour. I think it also had a bad smell. A postcard from the Securitate saying, ‘Your visa request has been approved.’ It was printed negatively. Year after year after year. Not allowing young Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Baltic countries, Czechs, Slovaks and so many others, to do things that for our Western friends and colleagues, and Allies now, seemed to be the normal thing to do.
It was not a done deal that NATO would enlarge. No. No. No. There was a big hesitation. And I have to thank, as a Romanian, two incredibly important leaders like Vaclav Havel or Lech Walesa, because they also made the moral, not only the strategic argument, for why should we reunify Europe? Why should we give back to the generations of Europeans who have been denied the blessing of freedom? The divine right to choose your leaders. It was the right thing to do.
NATO enlarged 20 years ago with the first countries. 15 years ago, Solomon Passy, this guy with the red sneakers here, we were crying together in the Old Headquarters of NATO, as Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, he gave us a Trabant as a gift. If you visit the headquarters, you’ll see a nice Trabant, NATO 04, that’s Solomon. When our countries, together with other seven nations, we are welcomed as new members. I even have my signature on the European failed Constitution.
I’m just saying that what we are bringing to this Alliance of ours, to this Western institution of ours, is a sense of intense urgency for us to continue to stay relevant, to stay true to our values. Not to be deterred by the world, which is changing so rapidly. A Romanian as a Deputy Secretary General of NATO. That’s a good one.
I remember also having an intense provincial complex. After receiving the beautiful, bad smelling cards from the Securitate, that I was not allowed to travel. My first big experience in the West was going to be the ENA, Ecole Nationale d’Administration. A great school. I remember I was scared to death, because I thought, that I would not be up to the job. But yes, I was. And yes, we are. And yes, we will be. So when someone comes to us and tells us, ‘Choose between Europe and America.’ I’ll say, ‘We cannot do that, because Europe and North America, we are the two sides of the same coin.’ Don’t make us choose, because we always choose security. Because we have, in our history, in our geography, in the part of Europe I represent, a very narrow sense of survival. We have a very narrow sense of survival. There’s no way in which the West should give up the fight. Because the fight is not only my young friends, my younger friends. And I’m speaking to you because you’ll be the leaders of our societies, you’ll be the ones who’ll be leading. Irrespective how much economic, technological or vagaries of history will be on your shoulders as future leaders of the world, remember, there is one thing that makes the difference, it’s the values we share. Never doubt of our values. Never doubt of the values of freedom. Never doubt of the values of democracy. Never value . . . doubt of the values of an open society. But your fight, if my fight as a generation is to reunite Europe, or as the fight of the founding fathers of the Alliance was basically not to repeat the devastating wars that destroyed Europe and the world in the 20th Century.
And I think what Article 5 says, was what Thomas Jefferson said at the inception of the American experiment. If you have that quote, I will quote it, if not, I still have a provincial complex. But look, look there. That was done by Jefferson saying, ‘I have but one system of ethics, for men and for nations.’ There’s not a different set of ethics for men and women and for nations. This is the difference between democracies and authoritarian regimes. To be grateful, to be faithful to all engagements and under all circumstances. This is Article 5, my friends. To be faithful to our engagements no matter what.
And there is something that I will beg you to do. When you will be in positions like this, continue to innovate. Democracy and freedom are not things that cannot, will not survive if you don’t invest and innovate. NATO is innovating. European Union is innovating. We should continue to innovate.
30 years ago, in the streets of Bucharest and Timişoara, in the only bloody revolution in all former Communist countries, in my country, young people like yourselves and like myself, they took out a big hole from the national flag of Romania. Just as a symbol of separation from the incredible tough past. Through that hole, we imagined a future. Through that hole, we wanted to catch up with the historical lost time. History is impatient with us. History will give us and will give you, the younger generation, so many hurdles and so many challenges. Never doubt of yourselves. Never doubt of our values. Fight for democracy. Fight for freedom. Fight for our shared values. And we’ll have another 500 years. Not 70 more years, but hundreds of years of things like we have to do today. Embrace and cherish freedom, my friends. This is the message which comes from a difficult part of Europe. And I’m here to serve the greatest Alliance, not only in the history of mankind, but an Alliance that will shape the future for many generations to come.
Salute, and God bless you all.