Updated: 23 April 1999 NATO Speeches

At the
of the 50th

23 Apr. 1999

Opening Remarks

by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Tony Blair

Colleagues, I am younger than NATO. NATO was founded after the last World War in which my father fought for the values of decency and civilisation. And I know that, without NATO, Europe and the world would have been a less secure and peaceful place. My generation owe a lot to the vision and courage of NATO's founders.

So today we commemorate. But we know that celebration is very hard when, on Europe's doorstep, men are being taken from their homes and shot, women raped in front of their families, children orphaned amid scenes of barbarism and ethnic hatred.

As well as taking pride in its peace-keeping part, NATO can be proud of its fighting role today. We cannot and we will not stand by and allow a policy of genocide to succeed. Reversing the hideous policy of ethnic cleansing is the best anniversary memorial NATO could have.

At this Summit, we are thinking of NATO's future. We must ensure that NATO has the military capabilities and the flexible, modern structures it needs for a new century. But above all, we must remember why we founded NATO, why it remains the basis of our collective security, as vital today as it was half a century ago to the upholding of our values of peace, liberty and justice.

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