Ambassador Sergio Balanzino
I am pleased to open this 24th NATO Economics Colloquium and to welcome you to NATO. This Colloquium has not only quite a history since it started in 1971, it has also already become a firm part of our cooperation activities under the North Atlantic Cooperation Council Work Plan.
Deputy Secretary General
I am pleased that this part of Nato's activities finds great interest and that we are fortunate to have again such a wide range of speakers and participants from seventeen countries. I can fairly say that economics are key for all of our countries, they are the fundamental basis of our states' stability, our peoples' well-being, and our efforts for security and crisis management.
They all depend on the resources which the economic base of our countries provides. Today, we have a broad understanding of the notion of security. Economics are part of it. Therefore, we invited you to NATO Headquarters to analyse and discuss the related issues together, to promote a common understanding of the underlying principles and challenges.
When the 14th Economics Colloquium was convened in this room in April 1985, the topic was "Adaptability to New Technologies of the USSR and East European Countries". This year, ten years later and after a period of immense political and economic change in these countries, we attempt an appraisal of the status of economic reforms, knowing that the task is still far from being finished.
Economic reform is a great challenge. We certainly do not underestimate the situation many countries face in this period of transition and reorientation. Although good progress has been made in most countries in five years, there is great variety in the pace and depth of the reform processes. No single model can guarantee success, but it is clear that all can benefit from sharing knowledge and experiences in fora such as this.
NATO cannot provide economic aid, but it can help gather economic expertise on a remarkably high level, as you can see looking at the impressive list of participants. I encourage you to have a free and broad exchange of ideas. Success will depend on yourselves, your contributions and discussions. One of the main challenges all our countries must cope with is the introduction of new high-tech, capital-intensive industries and the higher unemployment they entail as obsolete plants have to be closed.
Whether it is called "down-sizing" or "right-sizing" - as some Western companies prefer - the result is normally a smaller work force. This is particularly grave in those reform countries which are burdened with high unemployment due to the general economic situation. And as we struggle to reconcile those competing demands of modernisation, competitiveness and employment, we are made constantly aware of the no less urgent need to correct ecological damages of the past and to avoid future ones.
I can only wish you well in addressing these complex but highly important issues which are not easy to pursue. But I am certain you will conclude on a positive note. Finding the right answer to these challenges is in all our interest. After five years of reform, which is a mere blink in the development of a nation, progress is evident on all sides. A democratic Europe, undivided and free, has been our central goal for decades. We can happily say today that we have decisively moved closer to it. European-wide cooperation, in economic, political and security terms is what we here at NATO and our member countries are aiming for. I sincerely hope that undertakings like this important Colloquium will help convince those who still may have doubts, that NATO means business in its endeavours towards cooperation and building cooperative security structures.