the meeting
of the
Council in

18 Feb. 1997


by Secretary General

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

We have just finished this special meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Ministerial Session. We extended a warm welcome to the new US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who was attending a NATO Ministerial for the first time. Our purpose today was to focus on the key issues on NATO's agenda as we prepare for our Summit in Madrid in July. This Summit will define a "new NATO" for the 21st century; and it will also be a major landmark in building the new, more integrated Europe that is our vision for the future. To be ready to take momentous decisions in Madrid, we reviewed today our progress in adapting NATO both internally and externally to meeting our future tasks. Our main topics were:

  • the Alliance's internal restructuring, particularly the strengthening of the European Security and Defence Identity within NATO;

  • the opening of the Alliance to new members;

  • the building of a close and durable relationship between NATO and Russia; and

  • the development of an enhanced Partnership For Peace and the initiative to establish an Atlantic Partnership Council.

Allow me to comment briefly on each.

Balanzino & Solana

First, NATO's opening to new members. This process is well on track. At Madrid we will be ready to invite one or more countries of Central and Eastern Europe to join the Alliance. With this aim in mind, we are working hard to complete all the tasks defined by Foreign Ministers last December. A comprehensive report on these preparations will be submitted to the Council in time for our next Ministerial meeting in Portugal.

On NATO/Russia relations all of the Allies have confirmed today their common determination to reach a balanced, substantive agreement with Russia going far beyond where we are today. I have been given a mandate by Ministers last December to negotiate a NATO/Russia agreement and I will try to achieve this before the Madrid Summit if at all possible. As you know, I will meet Foreign Minister Primakov here in Brussels on Sunday and I hope we can make further progress. A NATO/Russia agreement is not a compensation for enlargement; it is a worthwhile objective in its own right given the weight and importance of Russia in Europe. Negotiating such an agreement will not be easy. Nevertheless, I am convinced that it is in the fundamental interests of both sides to be able to consult closely and, where possible, act jointly like we are doing at the moment in SFOR in Bosnia. Differences remain but, I believe, we will succeed.

We all know the importance of the modernization of the CFE Treaty to allaying Russian concerns. The Allies are very close to agreeing to a NATO negotiating proposal for the talks in Vienna. This will help us to strive to complete an agreement on principles for the modernization of the CFE Treaty.

We are also committed to developing a distinctive and effective NATO/Ukraine agreement. I aim to begin my discussions with the Ukrainian government soon to formalize an agreement in time for the Madrid Summit.

Third, we are off to a good start in enhancing the Partnership For Peace. We will not only intensify our practical cooperation activities but also increase opportunities for Partner decision-making in PFP. We are working with our Partners on the US initiative to set up an Atlantic Partnership Council to bring together the best elements of NACC and PFP and enhance the political consultation element of the Partnership. Last Friday NATO's Senior Level Group met for the first time with Partners to work out a general set of principles to guide the development of the APC. Together, the enhanced PFP and the APC will provide an important reassurance for those not invited to join NATO at Madrid that they too will draw closer to us. But let me insist: for those who aspire to membership of the Alliance, the door will remain open.

Finally, we discussed the internal adaptation of the Alliance. We have already done an enormous amount to adapt our force structures and NATO procedures to meet our new tasks of crisis management and support for peacekeeping. You have all seen how we have applied the initial results during our IFOR/SFOR mission in Bosnia. We are drawing the lessons for future missions of this type. Work in the Alliance on the implementation of the CJTF concept, on the new command structure and on the development of the European Security and Defence Identity is progressing well. Of course there are some important issues outstanding but I am confident the Allies will find solutions in time for the Summit.

Let me stress in conclusion that our meeting today was an informal one. No decisions were taken nor were expected to be taken. We still have much work to do to be ready for Madrid. But today's meeting was very useful in giving us additional guidance to complete this heavy agenda. Most important of all the Allies have once again demonstrated their unity and determination to succeed with every aspect of NATO's external and internal adaptation. We are creating a new NATO as our best guarantee for a more stable, peaceful and united Europe.

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