Updated: 18-Feb-2002 NATO Speeches

At the NATO
Defense College,
24 Nov. 2001

NATO and the Mediterranean

Presentation by the Deputy Secretary General,
Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo,
on the occasion of the
Mediterranean Dialogue International Research Seminar

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two months ago, when hi-jacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center, some were quick to argue that this ended an era that we used to call "post-Cold War". They saw the dawn of a dramatically new era: "the age of terrorism".

Of course, only time will tell if we are really on the threshold of a dramatically different new era, and if the future is as ominous as these pundits would like us to believe. But there is no reason to doubt the ability of the international community to face up to this new challenge, just as it has addressed equally daunting and seemingly insoluble questions in the past.

As far as NATO is concerned, it is obvious that the Alliance will have to adjust its agenda. The political and military solidarity that NATO provided in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy was invaluable. But we must also look towards the longer term. In particular, we will have to examine our existing mechanisms and see how they can be adapted to help us in the struggle against terrorism. But, contrary to the views of some, NATO's traditional agenda has not been invalidated. If anything, its logic has been reinforced.

NATO's role in the Balkans, for example, has been vindicated by the events of September 11. Because stable, multi-ethnic states are our best insurance against terrorism emerging in the first place. By the same token, NATO's support for a stronger European contribution was vindicated as well. Because we now see that there can be situations when the US is engaged in an operation outside of Europe. In such cases, the Europeans need to be organised to take more responsibility on their own. September 11 has also reinforced the logic of NATO enlargement. The broad coalition that we need to respond to the scourge of terrorism makes the notion of "ins" and "outs" less and less relevant.

The Mediterranean Dialogue is another case in point. The events of September 11 have made it more important. Allow me, therefore, to give an overview on the Dialogue: on its genesis, its rationale, and its prospects.

In 1948, during the preliminary negotiations of the Washington Treaty, Italy declared its desire to join the emerging Alliance. This caused a considerable philosophical debate: could a "North Atlantic" Alliance be extended into the Mediterranean? It may be hard to believe today -- particularly here at the NATO Defense College in Rome -- but as Italy has no geographical connection with the Atlantic, some argued back then that it could not be part of an "Atlantic" Alliance.

In retrospect, these arguments seem very pedantic. Luckily, the diplomats were more interested in defending common values rather than narrow geographical space. The initial result of this pragmatism was the accession of Italy to the Atlantic Alliance, and several more Mediterranean countries were to follow. No one could doubt today the far-sightedness of such pragmatism and the positive and profoundly stabilising effect that NATO has had on security in the region over the years.

As we have entered the 21st century, NATO's stabilising potential for the Mediterranean region is, nonetheless, far from exhausted. The Atlantic Alliance has much to contribute to the building of new, cooperative security relationships across the Mediterranean region. But realising such potential first requires a fuller understanding of the Mediterranean itself -- both of its challenges as well as of its opportunities.

In my remarks today I would like to provide you with a brief analysis of the challenges -- and with an overview of the NATO approach to this region.

The Mediterranean has always played an important part in the European security equation. Still, the Cold War security focus was on the so-called Central Region. Accordingly, the Mediterranean became the "Southern Flank".

The period of bipolarity is now safely behind us -- and with it the notion of the Mediterranean as "NATO's Southern Flank". Yet both the Gulf War and the conflict in the former Yugoslavia have shown that a stable and enduring peace in and around Europe is yet to be achieved. Both conflicts have added to the incentive for the Alliance to broaden its approach towards the Mediterranean region by viewing it as a region with its own specific dynamics and challenges -- and with a still largely untapped potential for dialogue and cooperation on security issues. Indeed, the end of the East-West conflict allows us to adopt a far more differentiated, more comprehensive perspective on Mediterranean security.

Such a differentiated perspective is all the more necessary since the Mediterranean region is a region of enormous pluralism: political, religious, cultural, economic. More than 20 states border the Mediterranean. So the Mediterranean eludes a coherent definition. Some look at the Mediterranean as "the place where the Persian Gulf begins" -- that is, in terms of its proximity to geostrategically sensitive areas such as the Middle East. Others look at developments in and around the Mediterranean mainly in terms of their implications for broader European security and stability. Some believe it useful to approach the Mediterranean in sub-regional terms and consider the Western and Eastern Mediterranean as distinct areas characterised by different problems and issues.

Whatever definition one prefers, it is obvious that to approach the Mediterranean as a single entity will be misleading at best and dangerous at worst.

If we want to achieve long-term stability throughout the Mediterranean region we must resist the tendency to generalise. Once we lose our ability to differentiate, we lose our ability to influence positively the developments in that region. After all, the Mediterranean deserves attention as a region sui generis. It is, as I said before, no longer simply a "Southern flank" in an antagonistic East-West relationship.

So let us differentiate. Let us look at each challenge in its own right. And then let us devise the right approach.

What are the challenges?

First and foremost, terrorism. To state the two most obvious things at the outset: Terrorism is not a specifically Mediterranean phenomenon, and second, NATO will not become the lead organisation in combating terrorism. Given the complexity of the challenge, in particular the many different root causes and forms of terrorism, other approaches may prove to be far more important. I am thinking, for instance, of international police cooperation, the freezing of bank accounts, and not least of the evolution of international law.

But NATO is not simply a bystander in this struggle. Take, for example, the Alliance's engagement in the Balkans. The whole purpose of this engagement is to help create stable, multi-ethnic democracies, in which there is no room for hatred, crime and terrorism to fester. The long-term objective is to draw all the countries of South-eastern Europe back into the European mainstream, which is clearly where they belong.

And I may add that NATO's Balkan engagement has been proceeding without a religious or ideological agenda. Indeed, the most challenging part of that engagement, the 1999 Kosovo air campaign, was taken in defence of Muslims. Nowhere was there any notion of a "clash of civilizations".

The same is true for the current actions against the Al-Qeida network in Afghanistan. The coalition of nations that support these actions spans across continents and religions. Because all nations have understood that they all are vulnerable to the threat of terrorism. And that they need to work together if they want to stand a chance of pushing terrorism to the fringes of our global society.

Second, there are serious economic and demographic disparities between Europe and the Mediterranean: simply put, a rich North and a poor South. Since 1986 the per capita income in Middle East and North African countries has fallen by 2% annually. This is the largest decline in any developing region. At the same time, the population growth rate in this region is 2.5% per year. The results are obvious: high unemployment rates, particularly among the younger generation, and, consequently, migration. About six million immigrants from the Maghreb region reside in the European Union, highlighting once again that the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean cannot be artificially separated.

Third, resources. Most people may still think in terms of oil and gas, yet some experts predict that the struggle for water could become one of the major sources for conflict in the 21st century. Indeed, water is a much sought-after resource, yet no internationally binding legal norms exist for its distribution. And the Mediterranean region is very much affected by this challenge. For example, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria all get their water from the Jordan basin. Another example: The Palestinians and the Jewish settlers on the West Bank depend on ground water that is underneath land that is highly contested. And yet a third example: due to overuse, the ground water level in the Gaza strip sinks by about 5 inches each year.

Having just mentioned the Gaza strip brings me straight to the fourth challenge: the Middle East Peace process. The unresolved Middle East crisis continues to have implications far beyond its point of origin. Because without a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process, a major obstacle to normalising Western relations with the Arab world will remain.

The fifth challenge: proliferation. Some countries along the Mediterranean shores are believed to be acquiring weapons of mass destruction. We must be prudent in our analysis and refrain from the simplistic suggestion that this quest results from the South's challenge of the North, or from a contest between civilisations. It is clear to serious analysts that the rationale for acquiring these weapons is in itself largely caused by regional circumstances. But the example of Iraq, a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, demonstrates the difficulties of preventing a determined government from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. And Iraq is only the distance of a short-range missile from the eastern Mediterranean region.

Sixth and finally, there is a security challenge of a very different kind: the lack of coherence in the institutional approaches to the Mediterranean. There are currently no fewer than five diplomatic initiatives under way to establish co-operation to the area: the Barcelona process of the European Union (EU), the Mediterranean Forum, and the Mediterranean initiatives of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO, in addition to the Middle East peace process. The number of these initiatives is in itself a positive sign of the growing interest in the Mediterranean region. But as of now, these initiatives remain disparate. Clearly, large, overarching institutional frameworks for the Mediterranean are unrealistic. But better coordination of existing initiatives is imperative if one is to maximise the benefits of sustained dialogue, cooperation and transparency.

All this makes clear that most security challenges in the Mediterranean derive from weakness and fragmentation rather than strength. And there can be no doubt that worsening socio-economic conditions are the key problem above all others.

Since the current problems in the region are mainly socio-economic in nature, it is logical that the EU should be in the vanguard of those fostering co-operative relations in the Mediterranean. The EU offers what the region probably needs the most: economic co-operation.

That said, however, It is equally clear that the EU alone could not deal with the scope and the diversity of the Mediterranean region. Furthermore, the EU does not include several countries that strongly influence security in the Mediterranean, if you think of Turkey and the United States. In order for the Mediterranean to become a stable, prosperous region, it is therefore logical for other institutional players to play their part as well. And one of these players is NATO.

I believe that NATO has drawn the right conclusions from all these facts. We have adopted a differentiated approach to Mediterranean security, an approach that is first and foremost political, yet does not neglect the potential for safeguarding our security against unwelcome developments. It was with this approach in mind that the Alliance has invited non-NATO Mediterranean countries -- currently Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia -- to join us in a Mediterranean Dialogue.

The Dialogue reflects the Alliance's view that security in Europe is closely linked to security and stability in the Mediterranean. It is an integral part of NATO's external adaptation to the post-Cold War security environment. Indeed, NATO's new Strategic Concept clearly states that the Mediterranean Dialogue is an important component of the Alliance's policy of outreach and cooperation. Other components of this policy of cooperation and outreach are, for example, the Partnership for Peace programme, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Permanent Joint Council with Russia, and the NATO-Ukraine Commission. In other words, the Mediterranean Dialogue is a logical and organic part of NATO's attempt at creating new security relationships across the entire Euro-Atlantic area. It is part and parcel of this new momentum for regional cooperation with and within the Mediterranean. It also appreciates the pluralist nature of the Mediterranean, as it is primarily bilateral and does not pretend that the same solutions can be applied wholesale to the entire region.

As some of you come from the Dialogue countries, I want to spare you a lengthy explanation of each and every aspect of the initiative. But I think that a brief overview may be quite helpful.

A key component of the Dialogue is information. Above all, one major aim of the initiative is facilitate mutual understanding between the Alliance and Dialogue countries. We need to dispel whatever misconceptions still may exist about our policies. NATO, therefore, has supported conferences and seminars for representatives from Dialogue countries. The Alliance has also awarded Institutional Fellowships to scholars from the region. Other information activities include visits of opinion leaders, academics, journalists, and parliamentarians from Dialogue countries to NATO Headquarters.

Another important step in the effort to exchange information has been the establishment - in 1999 - of NATO Contact Point Embassies in Mediterranean Dialogue countries. That is, the embassy of a NATO member country represents the Alliance in each Dialogue country. This approach has been successfully operating in Central and Eastern European partner countries since 1992. It thus promises to further enhance the operational aspects of the Dialogue.

Another key component of the Work Programme is Civil Emergency Planning (CEP). Mediterranean partners have been invited to participate in CEP courses at the NATO School in Oberammergau, as well as in seminars in Greece and Turkey, designed specifically for Mediterranean Dialogue countries. Jordan has offered to organise the next NATO-sponsored CEP seminar sometime in 2002. This event will be the first of this kind to be organised by a Mediterranean Dialogue country. A NATO CEP team has conducted visits to all Mediterranean Dialogue countries. They exchanged views on CEP issues with the relevant agencies and established working level contacts.

Briefings on NATO Crisis Management have become another element of the Dialogue's agenda. These briefings were added because some of our Mediterranean Dialogue partners displayed a strong interest in these issues. We have briefed Dialogue partners on military and civil emergency aspects of crisis management, as well as on NATO's crisis management exercises.

NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue has also promoted scientific cooperation through the NATO Science Programme. In 2000 for instance, 108 Dialogue country scientists participated in NATO-sponsored Advanced Research Workshops, Advanced Study Institutes, Collaborative Research Grants and Science Fellowships.

Finally, there is also a military dimension to the Dialogue. Our Work Programme includes invitations to Dialogue countries to either observe or participate with troops in selected NATO/PfP sea and land exercises, attend seminars and workshops, and visit NATO military bodies. The programme also includes port visits to Dialogue countries by NATO's Standing Naval Forces in the Mediterranean.

NATO's Military Authorities have devised a military concept specifically designed for the Mediterranean Dialogue countries. This concept has three main components: courses at the NATO School in Oberammergau, courses and other academic activities here at the NATO Defense College in Rome, and specific activities to be conducted under the responsibility of Allied Command Europe and Allied Command Atlantic. In 2000, for instance 104 military officers from all Mediterranean partner countries participated in military activities offered in the framework of the Mediterranean Dialogue.

In this context, it is perhaps worth noting that three of the Mediterranean Dialogue countries -- Egypt, Jordan and Morocco -- have already cooperated militarily with the Alliance in the NATO-led operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

It is obvious, then, that the Mediterranean Dialogue has progressed well.

That is why, at the Washington Summit in 1999, NATO Heads of State and Government decided to enhance both the political and practical dimensions of the Dialogue. For example, we have increased the frequency of political discussions between representatives from NATO and Mediterranean Dialogue countries. We are also offering additional opportunities for Ambassadors' meetings in conjunction with ad hoc events, including conferences and seminars on the Mediterranean Dialogue.

An important step in this direction was taken in 2000 when, for the first time, NATO Senior Political Officials visited the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries and were met by the highest authorities in most of these countries.

In October this year, the North Atlantic Council met with the Ambassadors of the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries in the so-called 19+7 format to explain NATO's role following the tragic events of 11 September.

The meeting took place immediately after the conclusion of the 5th round of political discussions with each Mediterranean partner in the so-called 19+1 format. This series of seven meetings aimed at exchanging views on the political and security situation in the Mediterranean region and discussing the current status and future development of the Mediterranean Dialogue. They also provided a welcomed opportunity to exchange views on the implications of 11 September and the on-going fight against terrorism.

Last but certainly not least, Turkey has offered to host the next Mediterranean Dialogue Conference at Ambassadorial level in 2002. Previous conferences were successfully held in Rome (1997) and Valencia (1999).

As for strengthening the practical dimension of the Dialogue, we want to include additional activities in areas where NATO can add value, particularly in the military field, and in areas where Dialogue countries have expressed specific interest. In this regard, a military expert team visited all Mediterranean Dialogue countries in order to assess the possibilities of cooperation in the military field. The results of these visits formed the basis for the development of the annual Mediterranean Dialogue Military Programme.

The Dialogue, then, is not a one-way street. It can evolve in accordance with our Dialogue Partners' interests and priorities. For it to do so, however, requires consistent input by our Partners. Only through their continuing engagement will this Dialogue move ahead. That is why I strongly encourage our Partners to take initiatives.

All these developments demonstrate that the Mediterranean Dialogue has major evolutionary potential. We are a long way from the "Partnership for Peace for the South" that some have suggested. But we have made NATO's Mediterranean far more visible than before. Dialogue with Mediterranean countries is now firmly embedded in NATO's structures and policies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The great French historian Fernand Braudel once called the Mediterranean "a thousand things in one." He was referring to the unique character of this region as a crossroads of cultures, religions, and ideas. This character of the Mediterranean has sometimes been forgotten, but it has never been eclipsed.

The end of the Cold War has injected a new sense of dynamism into the Mediterranean region. There is now much more fluidity, a situation far more conducive to exert a positive influence on the region. The new NATO, acting in concert with other major institutions, notably the EU, is in a better position than ever to have a stabilising effect.

Thank You

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