General of NATO, Lord Robertson
at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Foreign Ministers Session
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. Welcome to this meeting of the North Atlantic Council in
Foreign Ministers Session. Special welcome to Minister Manley from Canada
and Minister Bartoszweski from Poland who are joining us for the first
time in this setting. Also welcome Secretary General of WEU, Mr. Solana.
For NATO, the year 2000 was a period of steady progress in building
Euro-Atlantic security. Over the past twelve months, the situation in
the Balkans has improved considerably: Kosovo is more and more at peace;
both Bosnia and Kosovo have held free and fair elections; and the democratic
change of government in Yugoslavia offers the prospect of lasting peace
in the Balkans for the first time in a decade. NATO's relations with Russia
are back on track, after the disagreement over Kosovo. We have seen major
progress on ESDI and on the development of a close NATO-EU relationship.
As we look ahead, NATO's challenge is to reinforce that success. Today's
Ministerial Meeting will be an important step towards meeting this challenge.
We will, first of all, discuss NATO's efforts to consolidate peace and
stability in South- East Europe. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, we will take
note of the progress made, and share views on how best to pursue our efforts
to hand "ownership" of Bosnia and Herzegovina back to the Bosnians.
On Kosovo, our meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of the challenges
still confronting us after the municipal elections, including creating
a secure environment for minorities, the role of the Kosovo Protection
Corps, the provision of funding for reconstruction efforts, and supporting
other international organisations in theatre.
As this is the first meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers since President
Kostunica came to power, our meeting will also give us a major opportunity
to discuss the implications of the recent democratic changes in Belgrade
and of the upcoming elections in Serbia.
We will also exchange views on the broader political future of South
Eastern Europe, including the contribution the Alliance is making through
its South East Europe Initiative. We look forward to our discussion with
Mr. Petritsch, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, when
he attends tomorrow's meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
Another major issue on today's agenda will be the development of a European
Security and Defence Identity. Just a few days after the EU has held its
Summit in Nice, our meeting will provide us with a good opportunity to
take stock of the progress made to date and discuss the way ahead. Our
discussions will be an excellent prelude to the working dinner tomorrow
evening with the EU General Affairs Council. And this dinner will send
a key signal of the establishment of a genuine relationship between our
The meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission later today will serve to
highlight the strengthening relationship between Ukraine and the Alliance
and give us an opportunity to explore ways of improving our ties. We look
forward to seeing Mr Zlenko.
Tomorrow we will meet with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation,
Igor Ivanov. Deepening NATO-Russia co-operation is an essential element
in the emerging European security architecture. Tomorrow's meeting will
provide us with an excellent opportunity to discuss the way ahead in our
Our meetings today and tomorrow will reaffirm the central role of NATO
in Euro-Atlantic security. Because the Alliance is healthy and dynamic,
we can look to the future with confidence.
I would now like to give the floor to the President d'honneur of the
NAC, Minister Papandreou, for his opening remarks.