by Deputy Secretary General
First of all, let me welcome you to NATO HQ. I am afraid that Brussels on a rainy day cannot compete with the scenic surroundings of the Bavarian Alps which you enjoy on a daily basis. But grey skies and wet weather concentrate the mind wonderfully, and I am sure that you will nevertheless have a very productive and informative visit here today.
This is the second time I have had the pleasure of addressing a class from the Marshall Centre. Since its foundation, the Centre has done valuable work to foster closer academic and professional contacts with our Partner countries. We at NATO very much appreciate and recognize your efforts in this field.
The Madrid Summit last July represented the culmination of a series of important meetings over the first six months of 1997, that took a number of key decisions that will shape NATO into the 21st century. Let me briefly run through these.
Firstly, as you know, the decision was made by Heads of State and Government of the Alliance at Madrid to invite 3 nations - the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - to begin accession talks with the Alliance. We decided that these three countries were the best prepared to meet the obligations and the responsibilities of NATO membership. But Heads of State and Government also made it clear that NATO enlargement was not a one-off process. NATO's doors remain open, we expect to extend further invitations in the future, and no European democracy is excluded from consideration.
This is important. The prospect of NATO membership has already encouraged a number of Central and Eastern European countries to conclude bilateral treaties of friendship and cooperation. The policy of the open door will continue to serve as an incentive for good neighbourly relations, political and economic reform, and the entrenchment of democracy across the wider Europe.
Secondly, NATO's Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Sintra last May created the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, to act as an overarching framework for NATO members and Cooperation Partners to conduct regular consultations on issues of mutual concern. The Heads of State of EAPC nations also held a meeting at Madrid - the first such meeting of Allies and Partners at that level.
At the same time, the decision was made to enhance the Partnership for Peace. Since its creation in 1994, PfP has been remarkably successful in developing programmes of practical cooperation in the military and defence-related fields. We are now going much further, involving Partners more deeply in a whole range of NATO's activities.
Russia is a member both of PfP and of the EAPC. It goes without saying that no security architecture in Europe is viable without Russian participation. The NATO-Russia framework Act signed last May in Paris has created, through the Permanent Joint Council, a forum to conduct and manage NATO-Russia political consultations as well as to oversee the enhancement of military-to-military cooperation. We want to ensure that Russia is not excluded from the ongoing process of building cooperative security in Europe.
As part of this inclusive approach, Allied leaders also signed at Madrid a Charter on a distinctive relationship between NATO and the Ukraine. This will help consolidate Ukraine's relations with NATO and its role in the new European architecture.
We are now moving from initiative to implementation. As you will appreciate, this means a lot of hard work. Accession talks with the three invitees on the obligations and responsibilities of NATO membership will shortly be concluded. NATO Foreign Ministers plan to sign accession protocols in December. Following ratification by Allied parliaments, we hope to welcome the invitees as full members of the Alliance by the time of its 50th anniversary in 1999.
We have already held several meetings of the Permanent Joint Council, including at Ministerial level, and a workplan of cooperative activities is now being implemented. A Russian military mission to NATO has recently been established, under Lieutenant General Zaverzin.
The NATO-Ukraine Charter is also being turned from paper into a living body. The NATO-Ukraine Commission which will oversee our joint activities has already began meeting. And, to underline the importance of this new relationship, the NATO Political Committee travelled earlier this month to Kiev to hold a series of high-level meetings on the nature, direction and content of future NATO-Ukraine cooperation.
The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council is likewise working well and hard on a wide range of issues, and is overseeing the development of an enhanced Partnership for Peace.
All these initiatives, each element of this ambitious agenda, forms part of a whole, concerted approach by NATO. Not only are we responding to the changed security environment but we are also contributing to the construction of a new security order through new patterns and new concept of cooperative security.
That also implies changes to the way that NATO does business. We are streamlining our command structure and implementing new concepts such as Combined Joint Task Forces, to provide the Alliance with an organized capability to deploy peacekeeping forces into a crisis area. CJTFs are, most significantly, also designed to operate with the participation of non-NATO countries.
We are responding to the growing role and responsibilities of Europe within NATO by re-enforcing a European security and defence identity. To achieve this, we are developing modalities to allow the Western European Union to undertake peacekeeping and crisis management using NATO assets. We are reforming our Command Structure to be more streamlined and to respond better to crises as and when they occur.
And we are not just focussing on Europe and the Euro-Atlantic area. Our Partners for Peace include the republics of the Caucasus and Central and Eastern Asia; and NATO is also looking south - a Mediterranean dialogue with several non-NATO countries of the Mediterranean littoral is opening channels of communication on security-related issues in the Mediterranean region.
This is a broad agenda. In pursuing it, however, we are clear that we must complement rather than compete with other security organisations. And remember also that, although much is altering about our North Atlantic Alliance, NATO's core values remain unchanged. It is a military Alliance, built around the concept of collective defence, and founded on a strong and dynamic transatlantic relationship. Those three elements are at the heart of NATO, and will continue to be as important in the future as they have been in the past half century.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Bosnia, where 36 countries - 16 Allies and 20 non-NATO - are cooperating to bring peace to that sad country. Much work remains to be done before a lasting peace is built in Bosnia. But we must recognize that IFOR and SFOR have helped end Europe's bloodiest conflict since the Second World War.
It is no exaggeration to say that IFOR and SFOR have vindicated the goals set up by the Partnership for Peace. The military cooperation through PfP has allowed IFOR and SFOR forces to be organized and deployed with speed and effectiveness. This has given our overall cooperative approach a much needed and very valuable operational dimension. It has proved in the most positive way possible the sheer value of cooperation.
You have a busy and interesting schedule ahead of you today, and I hope that this quick canter through NATO's agenda for change has helped to clarify rather than confuse. I shall be glad to take any questions that you may have.