Ministers, Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the seventh Ministerial meeting of this Council.
Since the last meeting, our cooperation has been given
a vigorous new impetus through the Partnership for Peace
launched, in the framework of the NACC, by the NATO
Summit in January. This new programme, which will be high
on our agenda today, is a bold initiative to deepen and
broaden the cooperation with those who join the
Partnership. In this context, we very much look forward
to welcoming Russia as a member in the near future.

The Partnership aims to improve the ability of our force
to operate together in missions such as peacekeeping,
search and rescue, humanitarian operations or others
which we may agree. This will build in part upon
excellent work of the NACC Ad Hoc Group on Cooperation
in Peacekeeping, another of whose reports we have before
us today. The Partnership will also facilitate
transparency in national defence planning and budgeting
process, and democratic control and armed forces.

There is every sign that Partners are keen to take up the
opportunities offered, and good progress has been made
to date. 20 countries have joined the Partnership, 10
have submitted Presentation Documents and we are working
actively to reach agreement on the first Individual
Partnership Programmes. Partner representatives and
military officers will shortly be starting work in the
Partnership Coordination Cell in Mons and in new offices
at NATO Headquarters which were inaugurated just last
week. First peacekeeping field exercises are envisaged
in the autumn, kindly hosted by Poland and the

Achievement of the objectives of the Partnership will
make an important contribution to the enhancement of
security and stability in Europe. We must all work hard
to maintain the momentum in the coming months to ensure
that we fully develop and realise its potential.

While Partnership for Peace focuses largely on enhanced
cooperation in the military sphere and on bilateral
links, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council remains the
major forum for broad consultation and cooperation on
issues affecting us all.

Since the inception of the NACC in December 1991, the
work in the Council and its supporting bodies has made
a substantial contribution to fostering cooperative ties
among our countries. The annual Work Plans reflect our
determination to draw closer together and build mutual
confidence through a wide and growing range of concrete

This Council also brings us together for high-level
consultations on political and security-related issues
of central importance for preserving security and
stability in our area. Regular meetings of our
Ambassadors and their staffs in Brussels also form a
vital part of this process and enable us to pursue our
common goals effectively. Political consultations have
become increasingly frequent and regular.

Nationalism, ethnic strife and violent conflict persist
today in many places. They remind us that, though we have
overcome the division of Europe, our goal of a durable
Euro-Atlantic peace order still requires all our
commitment and effort. This can only be done by
strengthening our ties further and by drawing the lessons
from our past experience and translating them into new
policy approaches. A cooperative approach to security
remains our most viable option. The alternative is
fragmentation and instability. This is why the NACC
retains its vital importance in our efforts.

Today we will strive to build on our work:

- by consulting on regional conflicts and efforts to
bring them towards resolution;

- by discussing how best to respond effectively to
security challenges; and

- by moving ahead the implementation of Partnership for
Peace and of our NACC cooperative activities, with a view
to maximizing the effectiveness of our initiatives.