by H.E. Eduard Shevardnadze,
President of Georgia
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When my generation turned fifty, we thought we would look back and review the past with eyes that had somehow wisened with age. Little did we know then that the future held virtually a second life for us - one as distinct from the first one as today's world is from that of several years ago.
I do not know whether or not the North Atlantic Alliance is feeling the same way but one thing is clear - in the next 50 years NATO will exist in an entirely new world and serve entirely different goals.
I sincerely congratulate the North Atlantic Alliance, its old and new members, on this jubilee.
Many of us have come to this anniversary by different paths and probably none of these have been easy. The latest stretch of this road has been an extremely difficult test for the Alliance and for us, its Partner states.
Let us, for a moment, go back ten years and survey this most recent epoch. On the one hand - the Berlin Wall is no more. The Soviet empire is history. A family of free and democratic nations is being built in its place. A wonderful and happy ending indeed it would be, for a film called - the 20th century.
But what of those black and white frames, showing dramatic episodes of ethnic cleansing, of millions of refugees, of the deeds of terrorists and extremists applying in old and new techniques? How must we mend these feelings of insecurity and fear for the future.
The developments in Kosovo have again, with particular drama, confirmed what other unsettled, "frozen" conflicts, including the Abkhaz conflict, have long been indicating. A complete overhaul in existing security mechanisms that were formed in a different epoch for different purposes, is imperative. The attempts to adapt the changing contemporary world to existing charters, perceptions and traditions are outright wrong. Rather, we should act the other way round - that is adjust currently available instruments to the emerging new reality and develop the ability to respond appropriately to new threats. Without strong guarantees for security and diplomacy backed by force - including the actual enforcement of peace - the world will not be healed of the epidemic of conflict. A new bold approach must terminate the current syndrome of total impunity with which crimes against humanity are perpetrated.
It is encouraging that close co-operation with Partner states is given a special place in the historic documents adopted at the Washington Summit, and is part of the vision of NATO for the 21st Century.
This co-operation ensures a secure and friendly environment in which NATO can operate, while strengthening the independence and democracy of EAPC member states remains the best way to check extremism, revanchism and aggressive nationalism in these regions.
To maintain and deepen the partnership between NATO and Russia will require great patience and farsightedness. However, without Russia's active participation it is hardly possible to build a single Euro-Atlantic home. On her part, though, Russia is obliged to walk her stretch of the road.
The success of Euro-Atlantic partnership must rest upon the broad and diverse relationships between NATO and its Partner states, on the mechanism of results-oriented political consultations, on making concerted effort and assuming responsibility for crises and force majeur, and on a system of sharing modern technologies and science.
At the core of our partnership must be a humanistic, moral high ground approach and a common world view - rather than considerations of geopolitics and balance of power alone. The pain experienced by any one state, no matter how large or small, must become a shared concern for the entire Euro-Atlantic family. This is precisely what the new mission of the alliance ought to be.
In this regard, I cannot fail to cite Abkhazia - which at the threshold of the 21st century still remains such an open wound for Georgia. I strongly believe that the time has come for the Euro-Atlantic Community, already rich in experience, to invigorate the joint effort to achieve a settlement in this conflict.
In closing, let me express my appreciation for the United States and President Clinton for the warm hospitality provided at this meeting, which has reinforced our faith in the final and irreversible transformation of the world. It also gave us confidence that each of the young democratic nations has now gained its place and its voice in today's world.