13 June 1997

Opening Statement by the Secretary General

Meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
in Defence Ministers Session

Good morning. Today we are all present at an historic event of great political importance to us all -- the inaugural meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Defence Ministers Session.

This is the sixth time that Defence Ministers of your nations have met since 1992. In those five very short years, we have progressed to a true Euro-Atlantic partnership of practical cooperation.

We have already reaped the early benefits of this partnership in the former Yugoslavia. But the real dividend lies ahead -- and the EAPC is about the future.

This new structure will provide a framework for enhancing efforts in both an expanded political dimension of partnership and in practical cooperation in the Partnership for Peace in which Defence Ministers play such a key role.

It has great promise, offers new opportunities and carries with it new challenges. It is with this vision of the future that we approach today's meeting. We are indeed launching a new era.

At Sintra two weeks ago, important new steps were agreed to strengthen the Partnership for Peace, setting the stage to fundamentally change the scope and character of our relationship.

These initiatives -- which will be carried forward within the framework of the EAPC -- define a new Partnership, for a new Alliance, in a new Europe.

Enhanced PfP will prepare us to act together in future crises should the need arise, building on the experience and lessons already learned through cooperation in IFOR and SFOR. Within the framework of the EAPC, it will also offer Partners a greater role in planning and decision making in peacetime and in crisis.

We meet today to provide a "defence perspective" on the decisions taken at Sintra, and to discuss the role that Defence Ministers will play in the implementation and further development of the EAPC and the enhanced Partnership.

Our meeting today also provides the opportunity to exchange views on a wide range of security issues, including the historic signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation, and the initialling of a charter on a distinctive partnership with Ukraine, which we expect to be signed in Madrid.

We will also discuss our cooperation in SFOR and its important role in stabilizing the peace in Bosnia. SFOR, like IFOR before it, has applied on the ground what we learned from PfP. We have also been able to benefit from the lessons of IFOR and SFOR in deciding how to strengthen PfP for the future.

We have a full agenda and I am very much looking forward to today's discussions.

May I now invite the representatives of the media to leave, so that we can start our deliberations.

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