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
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
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
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.