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Bucharest: a milestone in NATO’s transformation

NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, describes the role he sees the Bucharest Summit playing in NATO’s evolution

On April 3 and 4, in Bucharest, NATO will hold its next Summit meeting.

This event is part of a three-Summit-strategy that started with the Riga Summit in 2006 and will conclude with NATO’s 60th Anniversary Summit next year.

Within this rather short time span, we want to significantly accelerate NATO’s transformation: with stronger operational capabilities, and new political relationships with other nations and institutions, the Alliance will be a much more effective security provider in an increasingly globalized and more dangerous world.

In terms of the number of nations participating, the Bucharest Summit will be NATO’s biggest ever. Heads of State or Government from all 26 NATO nations, partner countries from across the globe, and representatives from many major international institutions will come together to discuss new ways of building security.

Nothing could underscore more clearly NATO’s evolving role as a hub of broader coalitions – a flexible political-military instrument at the service not just of its own member nations, but also at the service of the wider international community.

What will be the major issues at the Bucharest Summit? Four key areas stand out.

First of all, operations.

Our Bucharest Summit will feature a strong focus on NATO’s operational commitments. Over 60,000 brave men and women are deployed in NATO-led missions and operations today, on three different continents. At Bucharest, we will underline the commitment of all 26 Allies to the success of those operations, and send a strong message of support in particular to the people of Kosovo and Afghanistan.

As far as Kosovo is concerned, the Allies have made clear that KFOR will remain there on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, unless the Security Council decides otherwise. KFOR is there to ensure a safe and secure environment – for all the people of Kosovo.

But they have also stressed that this should be a controlled and coordinated process. The Balkans lie at the heart of Europe and they are vital to the stability of our continent. We want all countries from the region to integrate with the rest of Europe. That is why NATO will continue to help Kosovo to get on its feet, but also continue to assist reform efforts by Serbia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

We must continue to help Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic, and properly governed nation.

Afghanistan represents a long-term commitment for NATO. We must continue to help Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic, and properly governed nation that no longer exports terrorism, crime and drugs to our nations and the rest of the world. There are clear signs of progress, in a number of areas – better education, economic growth, functioning institutions. The challenge before us is to reinforce and sustain that progress.

I expect our Bucharest Summit to agree on a clear strategy for the way ahead in Afghanistan – with a robust NATO presence underlining our commitment; enhanced training of the Afghan National Army to make sure the Afghans are better able to look after their own security; better interaction between international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union, to make sure that security goes hand in hand with reconstruction and development; and a strong appeal to Afghanistan’s neighbours to support our common goal of a stable and democratic Afghanistan.

A second major issue that will be high on the agenda of our Bucharest Summit is NATO enlargement.

The NATO Allies have committed to issue invitations at Bucharest to aspirant countries that meet our performance-based standards, and that are able to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security. We have been working hard in the context of our Membership Action Plan (MAP) to assist Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* with their preparations for eventual membership. And it is clear that, if they were to join, that would be a major step in the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Balkans region.

As I write these words, nothing has been decided yet. All three MAP countries still have work to do to merit an invitation. As in previous rounds of NATO enlargement, the Bucharest decision will ultimately be a political one. I cannot and do not want to prejudge that decision here and now. It will reflect the consensus among our current 26 members on the next stage of NATO enlargement. Clearly, though, NATO does not suffer from enlargement fatigue – and I hope that the same can be said for the European Union. Because it is the combination of NATO and EU enlargement that offers the best guarantee for long-term peace and stability on our continent.

Third, our Bucharest Summit must advance NATO's transformation.

This means the adaptation of NATO’s own structures and capabilities to the new security environment. It is obvious that not all security challenges require military solutions, but military competence has been, and no doubt will remain, crucial for dealing with many of them. And so it is vital that the Alliance maintains it military edge, and that all our member nations continue to make the necessary investments – in making our forces more flexible and useable, and giving them the right equipment to do their job. is vital that the Alliance maintains it military edge, and that all our member nations continue to make the necessary investments – in making our forces more flexible and useable, and giving them the right equipment to do their job.

While we reinforce our ability to meet current requirements, we must also look ahead and prepare for emerging security challenges. In light of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, we have decided to take a fresh look at missile defence, and to examine ways to make the system which the United States has been discussing with Poland and the Czech Republic complementary to ongoing NATO programmes.

But we are also looking at ways to better protect the security of our energy infrastructures and how NATO can add value to efforts by the international community to ensure greater energy security. And we are developing policies to improve the protection of NATO’s key information systems against internet crime and cyber attacks.

The fourth and final Bucharest Summit issue that I wish to highlight is the development of NATO’s partnership relations.

Over the past 15 years, NATO has helped non-member countries all across Europe to meet difficult reform challenges – and this has been a major boost to the security and stability of our continent.

Many of our Euro-Atlantic Partners have shown a strong determination to be providers of security rather than mere consumers, by making valuable contributions to NATO missions and operations. And so NATO has a strong interest in continuing this Partnership policy – to tailor it even better to the needs and requirements of our Euro-Atlantic Partners – and to further engage them in meeting today’s security challenges. There will be a meeting with our Euro-Atlantic Partners in conjunction with our Bucharest Summit, and that will be an excellent opportunity to reach out to our Partners all over Europe and Central Asia.

Russia is part and parcel of this Partnership effort, and I look forward to its participation at the Bucharest Summit. Despite its recent harsh rhetoric, and the stance which it has taken on issues such as Kosovo and the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Russia occupies a special place among NATO’s Partners. We value and want to continue our constructive and frank dialogue with Russia, including on issues on which we disagree, and to continue to look for common ground. As far as NATO is concerned, there really are no “red lines”, and no limits, on how far our relationship can go.

Finally, we also want to strengthen NATO’s partnership network beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. From Northern Africa to the Middle East to the Asian-Pacific region, interest in NATO is rising – and for good reason. Countries in these regions have carefully observed NATO’s evolution. They have concluded that many of NATO’s operations benefit their own security, and that it is in their interest to work with the NATO team. We in NATO should make that possible – by engaging in dialogue, opening new channels of cooperation, and enhancing the interoperability of our forces with those of interested countries.

And now, what about beyond Bucharest?

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Bucharest Summit will not be an isolated event. It will further the implementation of many decisions taken at the previous Summit in Riga, as well as generate decisions to be implemented in the months ahead. Next year, when NATO will be celebrating its 60th anniversary, we will take NATO's transformation another major step further. I believe that this should include a decision to revisit NATO’s conceptual foundations, possibly by starting work on a new Strategic Concept. Such a document should lay out why NATO is unique; how it is transforming; and how it will tackle the core security challenges before us. It will strengthen our common purpose, and it will ensure that NATO remains understood by our publics, and relevant to their security needs.

Mr Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General

The NATO Secretary General meeting some of those doing the job on the ground

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