Updated: 14-May-2002 NATO Speeches

Meeting of the
Council in
24 May 2000

Opening statement

by Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary General

Good morning. Let me welcome you to this meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers Session. I extend a special welcome to Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland and Mr. Josep Piqué, as to Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Ralston who are joining us for the first time in this configuration.

Also, welcome to the Secretary General of the WEU, Dr. Javier Solana, to this familiar forum.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is NATO's first Ministerial meeting of the 21st Century -- and the Alliance enters the new millennium in very good shape. The NATO-led missions in the Balkans are playing a key role in international efforts to bring lasting peace to Bosnia and Kosovo, and the Alliance is supporting broader efforts to build stability and prosperity in South East Europe. NATO's relations with Russia are getting back on track. Relations with Ukraine continue to deepen. Our three newest members are fully part of the team. And the Alliance is taking major strides to maintain its military effectiveness, both by improving the defence capabilities of its members, and by supporting the development of a stronger European capability.

These are significant accomplishments. They illustrate NATO's continuing success at helping to build real peace and security right across the Euro-Atlantic area. At today's meeting, we will review the progress we have made in implementing the agenda that was set at the Washington Summit, and provide guidance for further action.

We will discuss NATO's efforts to consolidate peace and stability in South East Europe. On Kosovo, our meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of the achievements we've made, over the past year, in bringing peace and security to the citizens of Kosovo. We will also look at how to build on that success, and help give the people of Kosovo the brighter future they deserve. We will also discuss the pressure Belgrade is putting on the democratic Government of Montenegro as well as Milosevic's attempts to muzzle critical media in his country.

On a more positive note, we will examine the general progress being made across Southeast Europe in building lasting stability, including Croatia's encouraging moves towards democracy and peaceful relations. As part of NATO's broad efforts to support that progress, we will formally welcome Croatia into the Partnership for Peace and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and thereby make it very clear to the countries of the region that progress in the right direction can bring real rewards.

We will also discuss NATO's support to the EU's Stability Pact, through our own South East Europe Initiative, and look at ways of enhancing that support. We look forward to our discussion with Mr. Bodo Hombach, the Special Coordinator for the Stability Pact, when he attends the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting tomorrow morning.

L'Identité européenne de sécurité et de défense se développe à un rythme très
rapide. Une fois en place, elle contribuera efficacement à la défense de nos valeurs et de nos intérêts communs. Aujourd'hui, nous réfléchirons à la manière dont l'OTAN peut continuer à encourager cette évolution positive, pour parvenir aux résultats escomptés. Par ailleurs, nous poursuivrons les discussions en cours au sein de l'Alliance sur les projets des Etats-Unis pour un éventuel déploiement d'un système national de défense anti-missiles.

Plus tard dans la journée, nous accueillerons le Ministre des affaires étrangères de la Russie, Igor Ivanov, à la réunion du Conseil conjoint permanent OTAN-Russie. Sa présence parmi nous à Florence constitue un développement positif. Elle souligne que la Russie tient à coopérer, avec l'Alliance pour rechercher des solutions face aux défis auxquels l'Europe est confrontée en matière de sécurité. Nous sommes persuadés que la réunion d'aujourd'hui constitue une importante étape vers une coopération plus étroite pour le bénéfice de l'OTAN, de la Russie et de l'ensemble de la région euro-atlantique.

These are only some of the items on NATO's broad agenda. It is an agenda of an organisation that remains vital to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area. We will ensure that NATO remains fit and ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

This concludes the public part of our ministerial meeting. May I please ask the press to leave the room. Thank you.

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