Conference on
"The Future
of NATO's

10 Nov. 1997


by Dr. Javier Solana,
Secretary General Of NATO

Prime Minister Prodi,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to address this audience on NATO's Mediterranean Initiative. First of all, I would like to congratulate the RAND Corporation - as authors of the study which is being presented here today - and the Centre Militare di Studi Strategici for having convened this conference on Mediterranean security issues, which is co-sponsored by the NATO Office of Information and Press. I also extend my thanks to you, Prime Minister, and your government for your superb hospitality. From the start, Italy has played a significant role in promoting our Mediterranean Initiative. And today's event continues this prominent Italian contribution.

In July of this year, at their Madrid Summit, NATO's heads of State and Government considered that the Mediterranean Dialogue was developing progressively and successfully. They therefore decided to widen the scope and enhance this Dialogue. That is why I think today is the right time to have this meeting on the future of the Mediterranean Initiative. Once again, thank you for giving us this opportunity.

I would like to begin my remarks with a few words to situate Mediterranean security issues in the new political context of post-Cold War Europe. The end of the Cold War brought with it a wider perspective concerning security: The Mediterranean has come into focus as a security region on its own merit for all European institutions.

We have changed how we look at this region and brought it more fully into our analyses of European security. Seeing the Mediterranean region as part of a larger whole gives us better insight into the necessary conditions for stability in territories geographically close to those of the Alliance.

But it is not just the potential for instability that justifies our attention. That would be too narrow and, indeed, too negative. Instead we should consider the importance of the Mediterranean region to the rest of Europe from the viewpoint of trade, investment, maritime transport, natural resources, environmental interdependence, patterns of human migration, and so forth. Taken on this broader socio-economic level, we get a better picture of the growing ties between the Euro-Atlantic area and the Mediterranean basin.

What gives further coherence to this approach are certain facts, starting with the obvious geographic proximity of the southern and eastern Mediterranean littoral to continental Europe. There is also population growth. The North African population, for example, is growing at an approximate rate of 2.5 percent annually, and is expected to increase from 63 million in 1990 to perhaps 142 million by 2025. This large increase of population will put an enormous burden on the cities of the area, where housing, sanitation, employment, and food distribution are already under serious strain.

Consider another aspect - that of human migration. There are about six million immigrants from the Maghreb residing in the European Union, distributed mainly in France, Italy and Spain. Such large inflows are another factor in the equation that ties together the stability of countries on the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Finally, and as Allies stated in the strategic concept back in 1951, we want to maintain peaceful and non-adversarial relations with countries in the Southern Mediterranean and Middle East. Nevertheless, they also expressed their concern for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region. Indeed, some states along the Mediterranean shores are believed to be acquiring weapons of mass destruction. We must be prudent in our analysis and refrain from the simplistic suggestion that this quest results from the South's challenge of the North, or from a contest between civilisations. It is clear to serious analysts that the rationale for acquiring these weapons is in itself largely caused by regional circumstances.

All these reasons explain why the stability and security of the Mediterranean is so important to Europe.

In addressing the kind of issues I have mentioned, there may be a temptation to look to particular institutions as having the key role to play. This is far too simplistic. We should not forget that the UN, the European Union, NATO, the Western European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have different contributions to make. This equates perfectly well with the wider approach to security - that is, that security today is multi-faceted.

Various initiatives directed towards the Mediterranean region have been launched over the past few years - but with varying objectives, and varying degrees of scope and intensity. In some areas there may be some overlap between individual institutional efforts. But a little bit of overlap is far better than absence or indifference. It is proof that stability and security in this region are linked in a way that does not depend on military factors alone, but must take into account social, economic, environmental aspects. It is also a demonstration that security and stability in the region have to be dealt with by the different organisations in a complementary manner.

Another reason for encouraging a greater involvement and role of all our institutions is the sheer diversity of the region itself. Twenty-two states border the Mediterranean, making it a region of enormous religious, cultural and economic pluralism.

So, a comprehensive strategy for the Mediterranean clearly requires that the responsibility be shared by all institutions in a complementary way.

However, if we had to make generalising statements, we could say that most security challenges in the Mediterranean arise from worsening socio-economic conditions and fragmentation, not from military risks. This makes the European Union the key player in undertaking programmes and outreach that will have a general stabilising effect. Indeed, I recall very well the efforts put into establishing the EU's Barcelona process - which should remain the central multilateral initiative addressing the broader security issues in the area. Indeed, as Secretary General of NATO, I have no problem whatsoever in emphasising this point.

However, this does not mean that NATO shouldn't play an important complementary role.

This brings me to the Alliance's Mediterranean Initiative.

The Mediterranean Initiative is first and foremostly political. It reflects the Alliance's view that security in Europe is indivisible, and that NATO can play a constructive part in enhancing security and stability more widely in Europe and its neighbouring regions through programmes of outreach, cooperation and partnership. It was with this approach in mind that the Alliance invited six non-NATO Mediterranean countries - Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia - to join us in a Mediterranean Dialogue.

What we are seeking is primarily political. Through the establishment of a dialogue and regular exchanges of information, we can help dispel any misunderstandings or misconceptions that may have arisen over the activities of NATO. We can also get a better understanding of some of the security concerns and perspectives of our Dialogue Partners. The result has been a concerted attempt to meet with representatives from governments and from the informed publics of our Mediterranean Dialogue Partners to explain NATO and its policies and to hear their views.

In this context, I was very pleased last month to have met - for the first time at NATO Headquarters - parliamentarians from the six Mediterranean Dialogue countries. The mere fact that this meeting took place and that there was an open exchange of views on security matters is in itself an important contribution to confidence building. I was struck in particular at this meeting by the strong desire of the parliamentarians to learn more about NATO and to pursue closer cooperation with the West in general. We at NATO will certainly do our part to see that this occurs.

Another aim of our Mediterranean Initiative is a more practical one. Together with our Dialogue Partners, we would like to identify areas where we can, through cooperative activities, build confidence in our relations. In this regard, I cannot but stress strongly that three Dialogue Partners - Egypt, Jordan and Morocco - already cooperate militarily with NATO through their participation in IFOR and SFOR in Bosnia. Our work together for peace will doubtless have important implications for future cooperation.

In the field of science, Dialogue Partners can participate in meetings conducted under the auspices of the NATO Science Committee. In the field of information, they can participate in NATO-sponsored seminars and conferences. At the NATO School in Oberammergau, several courses have been opened to Dialogue Partners, including courses on peacekeeping, civil emergency planning, arms control and verification, responsibility of military forces in environmental protection, and European security cooperation.

The latest addition to our cooperative activities is in the military domain, with the possibility of Partners observing NATO sea and land exercises.

Last July, at the Madrid Summit, the Mediterranean Initiative was given a new dynamism with the creation of the Mediterranean Cooperation Group. It will involve Allied member states directly in the political discussions with Partners through a 16+1 format. With this, a forum now exists in which views can be exchanged on a range of issues relevant to the security situation in the Mediterranean, as well as on the future development of the Dialogue. This can only be for the mutual benefit of Allies and Partners alike.

What are the next steps in the development of our Mediterranean Initiative?

Before going any further, allow me to point out that two factors will determine to a large extent the future scope and depth of the Mediterranean Dialogue.

First, other processes are extremely pertinent to the enhancement of stability and improved security cooperation in the region. Two come immediately to mind: the Middle East peace process, and the EU's Barcelona process. Both are very different in scope and objectives - but their success or failure will have a considerable effect throughout the region. Therefore it is in the interest of all Allies to ensure that both processes are alive and functioning well if we are to be confident in the success of other bridge-building efforts.

Second, what happens in the socio-economic circumstances of Mediterranean Dialogue Partners and in the region generally will have an impact on their spirit and readiness to cooperate. Here the EU's contribution to the region takes on a particular relevance.

These are areas beyond NATO's capacity to shape or directly influence. But there are steps that we in the Alliance can take to ensure that NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue remains effective, mutually beneficial, and continues to contribute to confidence-building and stability. Future characteristics of the Dialogue could include:

  • First, ensuring that all NATO Allies remain actively involved. As I explained earlier, I cannot see how geographic proximity or distance can be the basis for calculating the Allies' security interest in the region. Our collective interest clearly indicates that we should all collectively be involved;

  • Second, we must enable the Mediterranean countries to shape this Dialogue according to their specific needs - a Dialogue of variable geometry. And we must provide each Partner with the opportunity to make its specific concerns heard;

  • Third, we must enhance the Dialogue on security matters, using the potential of the newly created Mediterranean Cooperation Group;

  • Fourth, we could consider developing additional confidence-building measures in the military domain;

  • We could also take up the interest of Mediterranean Dialogue Partners in expanding activities in the field of civil emergency planning, particularly regarding civil-military cooperation in response to natural or man-made disasters;

  • And finally, we should keep an open mind about the possibility of enlarging the participation in the Dialogue beyond the current six countries.

These are just a few ideas that need to be further elaborated but I think they point in the right direction of an adaptable and differentiated Dialogue according to our Mediterranean partners' specific needs.

Let me now conclude. The end of the Cold War has offered us a new sense of dynamism and new opportunities to exert a positive influence in the Mediterranean region. NATO is today better placed than ever before to contribute to enhanced stability and greater confidence among all countries of the region and those of the Alliance.

NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue is developing positively, and, I believe, has considerable potential for further evolution. To exploit this potential to the full requires a continuous influx of fresh ideas. The RAND Corporation, with its long tradition of creative thinking, is an excellent provider of such ideas. I wish the conference much success in its endeavours. Thank you.

 [ Go to Speeches Menu ]  [ Go to Homepage ]