Updated: 07-Sep-2001 NATO Speeches

John Moores University,
6 September

"International Citizenship"

Speech by the Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon. Let me begin by adding my congratulations to the winner of Good Citizenship Award, Ms. Joenney. We have all just heard how deserving you are of this honour, and I am very pleased indeed to share the podium with you today.

I must say that, as someone who has spent much of his life in politics, it is very refreshing to be invited to speak at the Good Citizenship Award ceremony. Politicians are not always held up as paragons of virtue, or examples that the young should follow. Shakespeare's most terrible insult in King Lear was: "Get thee glass eyes, and like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not".

And my own compatriot, the Scotsman Thomas Carlyle, accused politicians of being "little other than a red-tape Talking Machine, an unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence".

But despite these critiques -- sometimes deserved, I must admit -- most politicians stand for office because they want to make a difference. To make things better, not only for themselves but for their community and perhaps even for their country. That is, by any definition, good citizenship, and I hope it qualifies me to speak today at the Roscoe lectures.

I must say that I find my assigned topic to be rather challenging. "International citizenship" is quite a concept. Indeed, it is almost a paradox; how can one be a citizen of something other than a country?

And yet, the idea of international citizenship is, I believe, a very useful innovation, because it captures a new concept: the idea of the international community. As we enter the 21st century, that expression is used almost every day, by politicians around the world, to describe something that is relatively novel on the international scene: a community of states, and their citizens, that increasingly share common values and common interests.

Over the past decade, hundreds of millions of people have embraced democracy as not only the best way to run a society, but as a fundamental right. Almost every state on earth has adopted market economies as the most effective way to improve the standard of living of its citizens.

Increasingly, basic human rights are seen to be for everyone, not just a privileged few in Western Europe and North America. And more and more people understand that democracy and prosperity can only flourish in a peaceful international environment.

But these are relatively recent developments, and often, the progress is fragile. In the post-Cold War world, our challenge is clear. How do we foster fledgling democracy within states? How do we ensure democratic international relations between states, whereby all countries have the opportunity to participate fully and freely in tackling international challenges? And how do we coordinate that activity, to ensure that interests are balanced in a peaceful and equitable manner?

As Rousseau put it, in his writings on the Social Contract: "the problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before."

I would certainly not claim that NATO is the only, or even the lead actor in tackling these challenges. The United Nations is the broadest and most inclusive example of international community. It serves as a forum in which all states can participate, and have a voice and a vote.

No country is left out, unless it refuses totally to play by even the most basic rules. And the UN helps to set those rules -- to set standards to which the entire international community can agree, and goals towards which all states can work.

For all these reasons, the UN is truly the foundation of the international community. It is the definition, and the embodiment, of inclusiveness and participation. But built on that essential foundation are other, smaller international organisations which bring together like-minded groups of countries, and of course their citizens, to address in a focused way their particular common interests. NATO, of course, is one of these smaller communities.

The most common perception of NATO is that its members came together in 1949 to resist a growing Soviet threat to their security. Of course, it is true that Soviet expansionism was the most powerful cause for NATO's foundation.

But NATO's 12 original members came together for three more, very good reasons: all reasons which still resonate today, and which in fact go very far to explain why NATO is still thriving a decade after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The first reason was cultural. NATO's members shared common values: democracy, freedom and basic human rights, at a time when those basic values were under threat virtually all around the world. In a very real sense, NATO was a community of like-minded nations.

The second reason was practical: NATO provided a structure for its members to defend those values for their citizens. It was the mechanism to pool what were then scarce military resources, to be able to field an effective defence. The Alliance also represented a venue for political consultation among the democracies, and a way for them to develop and then implement common decisions together.

The third reason was political: NATO provided a way to overcome historical ghosts of division, and instead build a cooperative, peaceful future. By coordinating military activity, NATO prevented any re-nationalisation of defence. In enshrining the transatlantic security relationship, the Alliance ensured that Western Europe and North America remained partners rather than potentially becoming rivals. And by creating a broad and inclusive security framework, NATO facilitated Germany's re-entry into European politics in a non-threatening way.

All in all, NATO has always been a powerful forum to allow democratic countries to engage in effective, coordinated action towards common goals. As such, the Alliance quickly became a vital pillar of a new community: the Euro-Atlantic community, which grew to 16 NATO-members and their partners in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council by the early 1990s.

When the Cold War ended, however, some pundits called NATO's existence into question. In their mind, NATO only existed to face down the Soviets. With that mission accomplished, what further reason could there be to stay in business?

The answer of course, is that NATO today has those same three missions it has always had: to protect and foster our common values; to provide a means of practical security cooperation; and to help to break down historical divisions. But today, the Alliance is not just accomplishing this mission for only its members: it is reaching out the hand of Partnership to countries right across Europe, and even into Central Asia.

The opportunity we have is an historic one, because the values NATO has always held as paramount are now coming to be shared more and more broadly across the continent. Democracy has swept across Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. Market economies are increasingly the norm, rather than the exception. And basic human rights are being protected, both in law and in reality.

NATO's mission, as we enter the 21st Century, is to nourish that common culture. To reach out, proactively, to support democracy within countries, and peaceful participation by states in international relations. And the Alliance is doing that by providing to the new democracies what is has always provided its members: mechanisms through which to work together; a table around which to discuss common challenges, and, thereby, a framework within which old historical grievances can be left behind.

Perhaps the most concrete way in which NATO is playing this role is through our ongoing enlargement process. The logic is very clear: the mere prospect of NATO membership serves as an incentive for aspirants to get their house in order, and membership itself consolidates democracy.

Just look at Central, Southern and Northern Europe today. NATO's decision to take in new members has sparked a wave of democratic reform within aspirant nations. It has encouraged many serious attempts to resolve minority issues, and to establish proper democratic control over militaries.

Why? Because all of the aspirants know that if they want to join NATO -- or the EU -- they need to do their homework. Proper democracy is not an agreeable extra for the Alliance-- it is a necessary prerequisite for any serious membership application. NATO membership is of enormous strategic significance to aspirants, not a political gesture or a consolation prize for not getting into the EU as fast as planned.

NATO's willingness to enlarge therefore has enormous potential to help foster democracy in countries right across the continent, and thereby to help bring Europe closer together -- in spirit and in practice.

And the strategic benefits of NATO enlargement are not confined to the period before full membership. NATO membership helps countries in transition to make the right choices when it comes to democracy and modernisation. NATO membership helps "lock in reform" -- and as members of the Alliance, new democracies can play a full, confident role in international security.

This, from my perspective, is a direct contribution to security in Europe. It is another reason why NATO remains so healthy today. And this is why, next November, the Alliance will move to take in one or more new members.

But NATO is reaching far beyond potential new members, to promote democracy and participatory international relations right across the Euro-Atlantic area through the Partnership for Peace Programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnerships Council.

Since 1994, NATO has had bilateral security relationship with almost every country in Europe and Central Asia through the Partnership for Peace. Today, there are 27 non-NATO Partners in the PfP, as we call it, including all former Warsaw Pact members, and all the former Soviet states, including Russia and Ukraine, and even neutral countries such as Switzerland, which is not even in the United Nations!

The PfP concentrates on very practical cooperation.

The political "roof" over this practical cooperation is the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, or EAPC.

The value of this inclusive framework is very clear. Every country in Europe has a structure through which they can enhance their security interests. No small, rigid regional alliances are necessary. No unilateral solutions are required.

Together, PfP and EAPC are helping to democratise security across Europe by structuring it towards inclusion and cooperation. That alone is, in my opinion, a massive change from the past, and a major contribution to the stability of the continent.

This practical, inclusive cooperation has demonstrated its value very clearly in another major element of NATO's efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe. I am referring to the now three NATO-led operations in the Balkans, where NATO forces are working alongside those of our Partners to bring peace and security to a very troubled region of Europe, and to help lay the foundations of lasting democracy here too.

How do these operations help? First and foremost, by stopping the worst violations of human rights. In Bosnia, and then in Kosovo, NATO took a stand, to make it clear that in today's Europe, we can no longer accept the crimes we too often accepted in the past: mass expulsions, ethnic terror, concentration camps, mass graves, rape as a weapon of terror. Having values must also mean standing up for them, when they are challenged.

But NATO's operations are not just designed to stanch the bleeding. There is a longer-term goal as well: to help these countries make the transition to normal European countries: stable, peaceful, prosperous. And as an essential step in that process, fostering true democracy.

Now, I'm not trying to claim that NATO is a social worker. But we know that our forces can only leave the Balkans when there is lasting, self-sustaining peace. And that requires functioning democracy, where all citizens can participate freely in political life; where minorities have their interests protected; and where political change is made by ballot, rather than by bullet.

Are we making progress? Definitely. Bosnia has had a whole series of elections, and increasingly the people of that country are voting for moderates, rather than ethnic nationalists. Kosovo is about to have its second free election in living memory, and space has been reserved in the new Government for ethnic minorities.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the international community has worked hard to convince the Government to give ethnic minorities fair representation in political life, and thereby to undercut support for the insurgents.

Just 2 weeks ago we decided to launch Operation "Essential Harvest" at the request of the government, in an effort to help the people of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to overcome the crisis in their country.

"Essential Harvest" does not reflect the belief that NATO could somehow provide a long-term military solution to the challenges of Macedonia. Those challenges are political in essence, and thus must be met politically. But if there is a chance that we can help FYROM to step back from the brink of civil war, we must seize it. That is why the Alliance decided to become engaged, along with the rest of the international community. Because we have learned that in the Balkans indifference can turn out to be more expensive than engagement.

Today the parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia took the historic decision to proceed with constitutional reforms that will restore peace and stability to the country. With this vote, the democratically-elected representatives of the people of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are bringing their country closer to the European family of nations. These constitutional changes will establish the basis for a new era of mutual trust between the communities of the country.

I congratulate those parliamentarians with the courage and vision to vote in favour of the reforms. I appreciate how difficult a decision this was for some and I welcome their commitment to peace. The voting today enjoyed a broad majority and it reflects the determination of lawmakers, and those that they represent, to move forward rapidly with the peace process.

Now it is again the so-called NLA's turn to move the process forward: by surrendering more of their weapons to NATO.

NATO has supported the efforts of the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at every step in the search of a lasting solution to this crisis. We continue to do so and stand ready to resume the collection of weapons immediately.

The future of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and of Europe as a whole rests on tolerance and respect. Its people should be proud of what their elected representatives have decided today. They should encourage their representatives to complete the process. It is up to the parliament to continue turning the principles laid down in the Framework Agreement into a permanent gain for democracy and stability. That means resisting any efforts during the parliamentary process to derail or alter the agreement.

The democratic representatives of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have the momentous opportunity to bring their country back from the edge of civil of war and to put it firmly on the path to European integration. I am confident that they will continue to take the right decisions.

Indeed, in many ways, the Balkan operations have been the ultimate proof that a new Euro-Atlantic community is being built. In Bosnia, and again in Kosovo, almost every country in Europe has been with NATO, providing their political support and their military personnel to the operations. Again and again, the new democracies have demonstrated that they not only share our values -- they are willing to make sacrifices in defence of them.

The true test of community comes in moments of crisis -- and the Balkan crises of the past decade have demonstrated clearly that the Euro-Atlantic community of values is much more than just a slogan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Secretary General of NATO, I am quite naturally focused on international relations, and the importance of fostering an international system of democratic, peace-loving nations that seek cooperation towards common solutions. But I believe that ceremonies such as this one, which give recognition for good citizenship, are a vital contribution to meeting that goal.

A US judge once wrote that "it is not the function of the Government to prevent citizens from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error."

States only serve as expressions of the will of their citizens, and good citizens are therefore an essential building block of the international system -- citizens who want to play an active, educated role in the political life of their country.

The Good Citizen Award, and the philosophy behind it, help to make that happen here. I congratulate those who are making it happen, as well as those who receive the award -- because you are not only part of a broader community, an international community, you are helping to build a better one.

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