Updated: 14-May-2002 NATO Speeches

14 Dec. 2000

Opening Statement

by Secretary 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 two organisations.

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 co-operation.

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.

Go to Homepage Go to Index