Updated: 14-May-2002 NATO Speeches

14 Dec. 2000


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the Press Conference following the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers's Session

Good afternoon. We've just finished a working lunch to conclude what has been a very busy meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Foreign Ministers. Later this afternoon we'll hold a NATO-Ukraine Commission, and tomorrow we'll have a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and later a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov.

I know all of you must be very keen on knowing how our discussions on the European Security and Defence Identity went. Indeed these last days, many press reports have highlighted so called "divisions" within the Alliance on specific issues.

Let me put this into perspective. This is one of the biggest projects in NATO's history and a very complex one. These complexities, and the outstanding business, must not conceal the serious progress which has already been achieved, both in the EU and at NATO.

In the past twelve months, more progress on European defence has been made than in the past twelve years. Four NATO-EU ad hoc working groups have already engaged -- on information security issues, modalities for EU-led operations using NATO assets, on capability goals, and on permanent arrangements connecting NATO and the EU.

NATO experts made a substantial contribution to the EU's catalogue of forces which was unveiled at the Capability Commitment Conference held in Brussels a few weeks ago. This cooperative effort on planning and capabilities will continue.

The North Atlantic Council and the EU's interim Political and Security Committee (COPSI) met twice in the last two months, having very constructive exchanges to monitor progress on all these issues.

Tomorrow night, for the first time ever, the North Atlantic Council and the EU's General Affairs Council will meet together. In other words, the Ministers of the 23 nations that
together make up NATO and the EU will sit down together. This will be a truly historic event.

I think this list speaks for itself. As you can see, things are moving at a fast pace.

This does not mean, of course, that we have resolved each and every one of the issues before us. A complex set of issues such as this naturally takes time to address. But, we are currently working on all of them. There are differences of view. The difficulty of resolving some issues is all the more understandable given that, on European Defence, the stakes are very high. This European project is very ambitious - designed to rebalance roles and responsibilities between Europe and North America - a huge undertaking. But the result will be a better balanced NATO, and a much stronger European contribution to Euro-Atlantic security. To succeed, we have got to get the details right.

This is an impressive agenda which will not be completed in a day. I am confident that the right solutions will be found in due time, for the benefit of NATO, the EU and the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole. The acid test is a European Capability that should be available on target as promised in 2003.

While I know the European Security and Defence Identity may be the issue you wanted to hear about, let me also say that it is by no means the only issue we addressed.

For a start there's the situation in the Balkans. Since Foreign Ministers last met in May there have been clear signs of a sea change in the region, and NATO's efforts have played a crucial role in the new mood that now prevails.

In Kosovo for instance we've seen successful local elections, and a continuing fall in the level of violence, although it obviously remains far too high. In Bosnia there have also been peaceful and fair elections, and an encouraging rise in the number of refugees returning. There's a long way to go, but I'm increasingly confident about ultimate success.

Most encouraging of all though has been the departure of Milosevic, removing the dagger from the heart of so many of the region's troubles. With the arrival of President Kostunica, and the election next week, there is a greater chance for peace than in an decade, and a chance for a greater stability and progress throughout the area, as well as a fresh start for Serbia and its people.

We now look forward to the results of these elections, which we hope will consolidate the democratic changes in Yugoslavia and cement in place a government that will build ethnic tolerance and co-operate with its neighbours and the international community. For its part NATO wants to extend a hand to the democratic government of Yugoslavia, and build a fresh relationship. We are already seeing the first signs of such a relationship in our recent contacts with the new Yugoslav government.

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