Updated: 31-May-2001 NATO Speeches

At the Wilton
Park Conference
31 May 2001

"NATO and Europe"
"Key Steps for European Integration - Promoting
Peace and Prosperity in Europe"

Presentation by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

It is a great honour for me to be the closing speaker at this important conference. I wish I had had the opportunity to take a more active part in your discussions earlier during the week. However, following the NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting in Budapest at the beginning of the week, I have traveled to Vilnius for the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and have only just made it back to this part of the world. If you agree, I will try not to speak for very long to allow ample time for discussion so I can still benefit from your insights.

Once again, Wilton Park has managed to gather a group of eminent international experts to debate a crucial political issue. And let there be no doubt --- these are important discussions. For at least the past decade, South East Europe has been at the center of Euro-Atlantic security. No other region has seen so much turbulence. No other region has endured so much suffering. And no other area has drawn so much international attention. For Europe, and for the countries engaged in trying to assist South-East Europe, it has been a very long, and very difficult decade indeed.

But if one steps back for a moment from the immediate day-to-day challenges, and takes a broad look at the region today, a very different picture emerges. Today, South East Europe is no longer symbol of stagnation -- it is an area seeing steady progress. Where war has been replaced by peace. Where dictators have been replaced by democrats. And where violent division is being replaced inexorably by integration.

There are many examples. Bosnia, where ethnic war has been replaced by peace and growing ethnic cooperation. Kosovo, where the vast majority are now living in security after many years without it. And of course, Yugoslavia, where democracy has ousted dictatorship, and where a reflex of confrontation has been replaced by a policy of cooperation.

But perhaps the most vivid example of all is this Croatian city itself -- Dubrovnik. We all remember, too well, when the name Dubrovnik was a metaphor for the insanity of war -- a rude shock to the system we were trying to build in post-Cold War Europe, and a cruel reminder of the price to be paid if we failed to move beyond the hatreds of the past.

But today, Dubrovnik is a metaphor for a very different European trend -- progress, integration, peace. This city is once again attracting tourists and international meetings, such as this one. Indeed, the entire country has undergone a dramatic transformation. Just over a year ago, in the wake of democratic elections, Croatia was admitted into the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Partnership for Peace. Bold reforms have been introduced by Prime Minister Racan and his government, and Croatia has proven to the world that it is a responsible international actor. A remarkable transition indeed.

These four examples - Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia are powerful illustrations of the progress that we - the countries of the region, and the wider international community -- are making in bringing peace and security to a region that has suffered too much. Slowly but surely, South East Europe is becoming what it aspires to be: normal. Stable. Prosperous. Fully part of Europe, and the Euro-Atlantic community more broadly.

Has NATO been a part of that progress? Well, as NATO's Secretary General, I would have little choice but to answer yes! And it is true: NATO has been a crucial contributor to the successes we have achieved until now -- through our peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and through our political and military efforts across the region.

And let me be very clear -- NATO intends to sustain this course. NATO is committed to the promotion of security and stability in Europe. That is a very clear message from our meeting in Budapest earlier this week, and one that will no doubt be reinforced at meetings of NATO Defence Ministers and Heads of State and Government over the next two weeks.

.We have our eyes open. While overall progress is good, there is still work to be done. In Bosnia, in and around Kosovo, and across South East Europe, we still have challenges we must meet.

Just last week, we released the final part of the Ground Safety Zone, the buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia, to the FRY/Serb authorities who moved into the zone with due restraint. This followed several months of intense efforts by NATO and the EU to broker a political arrangement between Belgrade and the ethnic Albanians from the Presevo valley.

This process will have to be managed carefully, if it is to succeed in the long run. There remain serious differences between these two parties. The ethnic Albanians do have legitimate grievances, which Belgrade must accommodate. Given the constructive attitude of the new FRY Government that I already mentioned, I am confident that efforts will continue to arrive at an arrangement that will satisfy all concerned. NATO, for its part, in its own contacts with the FRY, will certainly continue to press for this.

A similar, if even more volatile scenario, is unfolding in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) . Here, as well, NATO and the EU have coordinated their actions, and the OSCE and the UN have been on board as well. As you know, I have visited Skopje twice during the past few months together with the EU High Representative Javier Solana. On both occasions, we strongly underlined the international community's support for the authorities in Skopje, and its condemnation of the irresponsible actions and murderous violence by the ethnic Albanian extremists. We will have to continue to encourage the newly formed broad coalition government to intensify the ongoing dialogue with the various ethnic groups, and to use the dialogue to respond constructively to the legitimate demands of all ethnic communities.

Our forces in Kosovo have interdicted the transfer of people and weapons into southern Serbia and the northern part of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) and will continue to do so. This comes on top of KFOR's main responsibility, which is to create and maintain a secure environment for all the people of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic origin. On the whole, we have been very successful in this regard. Despite occasional serious incidents, the overall level of violence has clearly gone down over the past few two years. The Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, for one, considers the situation sufficiently stable to hold elections on 17 November. Our troops in Kosovo will remain alert and prepared to suppress any extremist violence as we move closer towards that date.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, we have recently witnessed a more fundamental challenge. The Bosnian Croats who left the Federation structures have recently been trying to call into question the Dayton Peace Agreement and the legitimate state and entity institutions. This is completely unacceptable as it would only lead to renewed violence -- violence that would inevitably spread throughout this region.

NATO is gratified that many of those who left Federation structures have since returned. Their future, and the future of their country, depends on working for the collective interest of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole, rather than pursuing narrow parochial interests. And the Alliance is equally gratified with the position taken by Zagreb: in support of Dayton, and against those who with to undermine it. This is a major contribution to the future of all the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, regardless of their ethnic origin. It is an investment in the future stability and prosperity of the region. And it is a demonstration that today's Croatia is fully part of the Euro-Atlantic community -- a community that shares values, works towards common solutions, and grows ever-closer together.

One very prominent element of the ongoing integration is, of course, NATO's enlargement process. NATO's door remains open to new members precisely because integration promotes stability, security, and prosperity. And it is no surprise that the majority of the countries aspiring to join the Alliance are from South East Europe -- because these countries, too, understand that Euro-Atlantic integration is a net contribution to peace and prosperity in this region.

As you all know, NATO's Heads of State and Government will hold a Summit in Prague in November 2002. High on the agenda of that meeting will be the consideration of further invitations for NATO membership.

Work in NATO is continuing as hard as ever. Through the Membership Action Plan, the Alliance is working closely with the Governments and militaries of aspirant countries, to improve their ability to take care of their own defence, and their ability to work with NATO forces on joint missions. That way, we will ensure that by the time they join, they will be net contributors, not simply consumers, of security.

It is, of course, too early for any NATO member, or the Alliance as a body, to discuss possible candidates. At their meeting, Foreign Ministers considered reports on the progress aspirants are making to meet NATO standards. But as we get closer to next year's Summit, one thing is certain: the countries of South East Europe have already made enormous progress, not only in meeting the standards set by the Membership Action Plan, but more broadly in demonstrating their desire to contribute to wider peace and security. This bodes very well for the future of this region, and for the entire Euro-Atlantic community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have said these words before, and I repeat them again here: There are no easy answers to security challenges. In the real world, there are no simple and complicated solutions, no quick fixes, no magic one touch aerosol we can splash over conflicts and make them go away the next day. Anyone who expects that is both unrealistic and unfair.

But while we do not have a magic wand, we do have some very effective tools: determined engagement; patience; and cooperation. These are the tools we have all employed in helping Europe manage its challenges, and its transition. And I believe the results speak for themselves. What was so recently an area riven by conflict is now an area broadly at peace. Where just a few years ago, human rights violations were common currency, today they are becoming encouragingly rare. Where until so recently, the countries of South East Europe were seen as consumers of security, today they are increasingly seen as contributors.

Of course, there is still much more to be done. For there to be true, lasting stability in this troubled region, every country must follow some very simple guidelines. They must take responsibility of all their citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin. They must honour the agreements they have signed, with their neighbours and with the international community. They must look to cooperative solutions first, and move to integrate progressively with the rest of Europe. In the end, these will be the foundations of a new South East Europe -- and we are already seeing the beginnings. Croatia stands as a good example. And this conference is another step in the right direction.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name

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