Updated: 15 June 1999 NATO Speeches


of the North
at the level
of Heads
of State
and Government

23 Apr. 1999


by the Prime Minister of Spain, Jos Maria Aznar

Mr. President of the United States,
Mr. Secretary General,

We are leaders of an Alliance celebrating its 50th anniversary. History shows that alliances between nations disappear once they have achieved the limited goals that gave them birth, or failed to do so. The objectives pursued by the Allies 50 years ago were not limited but permanent: the defence of human rights, individual liberties and full-fledged democracy. This is why those of us who have gathered here in the city where the Atlantic Alliance was born, are privileged to celebrate its success.

I would also like to warmly welcome the three new Allies that have become a part of this joint commitment, and I wish to thank the President of the United States of America for his hospitality and the care taken in preparing this Summit.

Barely two years ago it was our turn: the Spaniards and myself, personally, celebrated in Madrid. And in view of what was called security architecture, I mentioned the well-known phrase "if you want peace, prepare for war". We should now substitute it with "if you want peace, guarantee it". We also recalled that the Atlantic Alliance has faithfully worked for this premise. We have wanted peace and we have guaranteed it. The Alliance has proven that it was a forum of negotiation for preventive diplomacy.

I added then that I belonged to the first generation of Europeans that has not lived the horrors of war nor suffered its sequels. Today, when the Alliance is carrying out a military action of profound significance, I must reconfirm my previous statements. The Alliance is the instrument of our peoples, those who care the most for human rights and freedom, to put an end to the ignominious conduct of those that undermine peace by demeaning humankind's dignity. I am proud to belong to this generation which also helps lighten the heavy burden of having to adopt decisions wanted by none but made inevitable by the pain and suffering inflicted.

This Summit takes place at a very intense and difficult time, but it is now that the principles that make us strong call us: cohesion, determination and commitment in the defence of human rights. It is now that we must renew the vision of those who met in this city half a century ago to ensure that the Alliance will continue to bind the two sides of the Atlantic in the 21st century. It is now that we begin to guarantee peace and liberty for our children, for those who come after us.

Heads of State and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen, this 23rd April is an important date for Spaniards and for those of us who speak Spanish. We remember the death of Miguel de Cervantes. Cervantes wrote in one of his most famous and well-known sentences and one of his best ideas: "Liberty is one of the most precious gifts heaven has bestowed upon man. No treasures the earth contains or the sea conceals can be compared to it. For liberty one can rightfully risk one's life." Our Alliance has been a success because we have known how to defend with realism this idea and we are the ones responsible for its success in the coming century. Thank you very much.

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