Updated: 26-Mar-2002 NATO Speeches

Istituto Affari Internazionali,
Rome, Italy
23 March 2002

Concluding remarks

by Deputy Secretary General
Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo
at the Conference on
"Governing Stability Across the Mediterranean Sea:
a Transatlantic Perspective"

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me start by noting what a pleasure it is for me to be here. It is of course always a pleasure to be in my native Italy. But I have also been looking forward to this conference, because it deals with such an important subject, not just from the point of view of the NATO Alliance, which I represent.

Given that NATO is my "professional home", as it were, let me say a few words about NATO's current political agenda first, before I turn to the Mediterranean. At the moment, the Alliance is busy preparing for a Summit meeting of Heads of State and Government in Prague in November. The challenge before us is to demonstrate that we are able to deal with the kind of security threats we were confronted with on 11 September, and to move forward the successful policy agenda NATO already had prior to that date.

NATO's enlargement has been one important item on this policy agenda for the better part of the last decade. NATO leaders are committed to inviting one or more new members in Prague. The inclusion of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into NATO three years ago made NATO stronger, and Europe more stable and more secure. The next round of NATO enlargement should have an equally positive effect.

This will be more than a simple process of selection. Managing enlargement also means keeping the door open for future members, and it entails continued engagement with all our Partners, whether they aspire to NATO membership or not. These are also important goals for Prague.

Even before Prague, we hope to have in place a new framework that will allow NATO and Russia to go beyond consultation -- and to be able to work constructively together on all the issues where we have what President Putin calls "the logic of common interests". We are working hard to reach agreement with Russia on such a framework, and even though there are some difficult issues to resolve, I am confident that we will succeed simply because the logic is undeniable.

As we move towards Prague, ensuring that NATO has the right capabilities to deal with future challenges is perhaps the toughest job of all, particularly for the European Allies. Few European countries are currently able to deploy and sustain effective forces in significant numbers outside their borders. Unless this deficiency is remedied, the transatlantic burden-sharing debate is bound to get more acrimonious, and NATO is likely to suffer.

Hence, the Prague Summit should demonstrate that measures within the Alliance to prop up defence capabilities have begun to yield results, and that these efforts are tying in with the European Union's implementation of an effective Security and Defence Policy. A greater European role in stabilising the Balkans would be a further demonstration that European nations are serious about their own security, and that fair transatlantic burden sharing is not just a noble aspiration, but an emerging reality.

The events of 11 September and their aftermath have only underlined the need to improve our capabilities. Clearly, the fight against terrorism requires a broad approach in which military means are just one element. But as Afghanistan has shown, military means are important. And this means that the Alliance, as the world's most effective military organisation, has a role to play.

We are hard at work to maximise the Alliance's terrorist fighting potential. Intelligence sharing among the Allies is being increased. Their defence capabilities are being reviewed to tailor them more specifically to the requirements of combating terrorism. We are also focusing more systematically on the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, on the protection of our forces and populations against these lethal weapons, and on ballistic missile defence.

There is one further, important element of our response to terrorism, and that is our interest in engaging our partners - not just the 27 that form part of our Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, but also the seven that take part in our Mediterranean Dialogue. And that leads me to some more specific remarks about the importance of the Mediterranean region to the Alliance.

The Mediterranean has always played a significant part in the European security equation. Still, during the Cold War, the focus of our attention was on the so-called Central Region. And accordingly, the Mediterranean region was seen as the "Southern Flank". Luckily, the period of bipolarity is now safely behind us and with it the notion of the Mediterranean as -- merely -- NATO's "Southern Flank".

At the same time, however, the Gulf War, the break-up of Yugoslavia and -- most recently -- the threat of terrorism, have all shown that security and stability in and around Europe is still very much a work in progress. These developments have also reinforced the notion that security in Europe is linked to security in the Mediterranean region. And they have led the Alliance to focus more specifically on the region as one with unique characteristics and dynamics -- and presenting specific security challenges.

So what are some of these broad characteristics that apply -- to a lesser or greater extent -- to countries throughout the region, and what kind of a security challenge do they present? Let me mention five problem areas.

A first, very distinct problem is the rift between Europe and the Mediterranean region in terms of their democratic and economic development: simply put, an open and affluent North -- and a poor, underdeveloped South. Since 1986, the per capita income in Middle Eastern and North African countries has fallen by some 2 per cent 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 cent per year. The results are obvious: high unemployment rates, particularly among the younger generation, and, consequently, migration out of these countries and -- for the most part -- into Europe. At the moment, about six million immigrants from the Maghreb region alone reside in the European Union.

A second, related, problem is the persistence of a several regional tensions. The end of the East-West conflict ended the Soviet influence on several countries in the regions, and this offered new opportunities to resolve such tensions. However, to date, more than ten years after the Cold War, disputes still continue about the future of the Western Sahara, Cyprus, and -- most importantly -- the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The UN Peacekeeping forces deployed in these three areas have been there for decades, and will probably be there for many more years to come.

Of all these problems, the unresolved Middle East crisis stands out. More than any other conflict, it has implications that go far beyond its point of origin. Because without a serious Middle East peace process, a major obstacle to sound relations between the Western and Arab worlds will remain. And clearly, given the emergence of the terrorist threat, such a normalisation of relations is now more urgent than ever.

A third problem are limited 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, although water is a much sought-after resource, no internationally binding legal norms exist for its distribution. And the Mediterranean region is very much affected by this problem. For example, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria all get their water from the Jordan basin. And both Palestinians and Jewish settlers on the West Bank depend on ground water that is underneath a strip of land that is highly contested.

The fourth problem I want to mention is 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.

A fifth and final problem I want to mention -- I need to mention -- is terrorism. Let me stress right away that this is obviously not a specifically Mediterranean phenomenon, nor one linked with any particular religious beliefs. It is clear, at the same time that whereas open societies can cope with the speed of progress and globalisation -- and indeed are the engines behind such progress -- closed, undemocratic states find it difficult to provide their people with even the basic needs of modern life. And the lack of democratic and economic reforms that I already mentioned, combined with a lack of fundamental freedoms and human rights, all provide a fertile breeding ground for terrorism in many parts of the Mediterranean.

So those are some of the broad security challenges presented by the Mediterranean region. It is clear that most of them derive from weakness and fragmentation rather than strength. And there can be no doubt that worsening socio-economic conditions are the greatest challenge of all.

This, in turn, points to the European Union as the international organisation most suitable to foster co-operative relations in the Mediterranean region and between the region and the rest of Europe. The EU offers what the region undoubtedly needs 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 key players in Mediterranean security, notably Turkey and the United States. In order for the Mediterranean to become a more stable, prosperous region, it is therefore logical for other institutional players to play their part as well. And one of these players is NATO.

The Alliance has, from the mid-1990s onwards, adopted a differentiated approach to Mediterranean security. And through the Mediterranean Dialogue that we launched in 1994, we currently offer opportunities for both political consultation and practical co-operation in a wide range of areas to a total of seven non-NATO Mediterranean countries -- Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

Let me stress that our Dialogue is not a one-way street. It is not all about NATO Allies trying to win over the Dialogue Partners to their vision of security. The Dialogue is as much a vehicle for the Allies to learn about the concerns and aspirations of the Mediterranean countries, as vice versa. And this channel of communication, this two-way street, has only become more important after 11 September.

At a time when NATO is gearing up to be better able to deal with terrorism, we realise full well that this is another security challenge that threatens Allies and non-Allies alike, and that requires a co-operative approach. That is why, in responding to terrorism and facing up to other security challenges, we attach so much importance to engaging all our partners -- our 27 European partners as well as the 7 partners in our Mediterranean Dialogue.

And that is also why NATO will continue to sponsor gatherings such as the meeting you have had here these last few days. I hope that you have found it of use to your work, and that you have enjoyed it as well.

Thank you.

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