NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue:
Part of the Alliance's Transformation Agenda"
by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank the organisers of this Conference:
the Italian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Italian
Institute of International Affairs. NATO has been delighted to co-sponsor
this high level event, bringing together MPs, ambassadors and senior scholars
from NATO and Med Dialogue countries.
You know that personally, I attach great importance to the contributions
made in your deliberations, which will no doubt influence the internal
discussions at NATO for the further enhancement of the Mediterranean Dialogue,
at the upcoming Prague Summit.
Today is the last day of September. A month in which we commemorated
and reflected. In which we looked back to 11 September of last year, and
considered the impact of the brutal terrorist attacks that were perpetrated
on that day.
The terrorist attacks against the United States shook the world, and
they shook the Alliance. But they also concentrated the minds of the NATO
Allies. And they strengthened our determination to prepare the Alliance
for the entire spectrum of security challenges it might come up against
in this new era.
And so, next month, NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in
Prague for their first Summit meeting in the 21st century. Our meeting
in Prague will be a real transformation Summit. It will result in an Alliance
that is better geared towards the new challenges posed by terrorism and
the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
But it will also set the Alliance firmly on course to continue to pursue
its wider agenda; achieving a more balanced transatlantic relationship;
creating long-term stability in the Balkans; broadening the Alliance's
membership; deepening the Alliance's partnership frameworks; and building
upon the groundbreaking NATO-Russia Summit which was held in Pratica di
Mare in Italy, just five months ago.
My message here to you today is a simple one. That NATO's Mediterranean
Dialogue must be part of the Alliance's transformation agenda. And the
reason is clear. Because NATO is not an inward-looking, self-centred Alliance.
NATO is in tune with the world around it -- mindful that the security
of its members is closely linked to that of neighbouring countries --
and conscious of the responsibilities this entails.
Shortly after the end of the Cold War, at the beginning of the 1990s,
this strong conviction inspired NATO to engage neighbouring countries
in Central and Eastern Europe in partnership and cooperation. And just
a few years later, in 1994, this same conviction led the Alliance to also
look to its Southern neighbours, and seek to engage them in its Mediterranean
Dialogue process. And here I would like to pay tribute to the man who
is now the President of the Italian Republic and who did so much to advance
this agenda, Mr. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
NATO's active engagement of its neighbours to the East has been a tremendous
success. It has resulted in a web of profound security relationships across
the Euro-Atlantic Area - including countries as diverse as Ireland and
Azerbaijan. Forty-six countries now regularly discuss security issues
together, train and exercise together, and carry out peacekeeping operations
together. As we saw when NATO's Partners rallied behind the United States
shortly after 11 September last year, all this interaction has helped
to foster a genuine Euro-Atlantic security culture - a real disposition
towards working together to meet common challenges.
Our Mediterranean Dialogue has also proved to be very successful. Over
the past eight years, the scope of the Dialogue has widened significantly.
The number of Dialogue countries has grown from five to seven. Political
discussions have become more frequent and more intense. The number of
cooperative activities has grown from just a few to several hundred. As
a result, many misconceptions have been dispelled, and mutual understanding
Over the years, the Alliance has worked hard to broaden and to deepen
its partnership frameworks. However, NATO has made a particular effort
this past year, in the run-up to the Prague Summit, to bolster both the
EAPC and PfP, on the one hand, and the Mediterranean Dialogue, on the
Our interest in seeking to enhance the Mediterranean Dialogue has been
influenced primarily by external developments. Last year's terrorist attacks
against the United States have turned not just NATO's, but the entire
world's attention towards what has been termed as the Greater Middle East.
There has also been mounting concern regarding the worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian
dispute, and the breakdown of the Middle East peace process. And then
there has been the influx of refugees and asylum seekers here in Italy
and in several other European Alliance countries.
These developments have reminded us, in a very stark way, of the continuing
volatility of the Mediterranean region. And of the way in which this volatility
impacts also on our safety, on our economies, and on our general sense
of well-being in Europe and America.
Having said this, we all realise that these are deep-rooted, complex,
and inter-related problems. Problems that need to be addressed first and
foremost by the countries in the region themselves. By politicians who
show vision and leadership. Men and women who are prepared to come to
terms with the past, but determined also to shape the future - that of
their own countries, and that of their region.
It is clear, at the same time, that the international community has
to be involved -- through political engagement and economic cooperation.
Among the major international institutions, the European Union obviously
has a key role to play. But I firmly believe -- and I think you would
agree -- that NATO has a role as well, in engaging the wider Atlantic
community, and complementing and reinforcing the efforts of other international
Experience with our Mediterranean Dialogue clearly shows that the Alliance
can indeed offer valuable practical cooperation in areas of common interest.
That it can help dispel misconceptions and build confidence. And that,
in so doing, it can help eradicate any notions there may exist about the
West being pitted against the Arab world. Helping to bridge the Mediterranean
-- that is what the Alliance has already proven it can do, and that is
what I firmly believe it should continue to do.
So how do we go about upgrading our Dialogue? Some have suggested turning
it into an extension of the EAPC and PfP. That may not be a practical
proposition at present. Because even if the overriding principle that
underpins all of NATO's partnerships is similar - building stability through
cooperation - the objectives that we have developed with our partners
in Europe and Central Asia differ in many respects from where we want
to take our Mediterranean Dialogue. We simply cannot transfer cooperative
models wholesale from one region to another. We would be overtaxing both
NATO's abilities and those of our Mediterranean partners.
Having said this, it would be foolish to ignore what we have already
achieved with EAPC and PfP. Foolish also, I suggest, not to draw inspiration
from the efforts that we have been making with our EAPC and PfP partners
to ensure that also after Prague - when there will be more Allies and
fewer partners - EAPC and PfP retain their dynamic, their attractiveness,
and their effectiveness.
In our effort to enhance the Mediterranean Dialogue, I think we would
therefore be well-advised to take some cues from the general direction
in which the EAPC and PfP have been progressing. Three broad lessons come
It would seem to make sense, first of all, to focus on practical cooperation
in areas of common concern, where we can achieve concrete results relatively
quickly. I am thinking of, for example, military education, training and
doctrine; defence reform and defence economics; counter-terrorism; border
security; and civil emergency planning.
Cooperation in all these areas is inherently beneficial to each of our
Mediterranean partners, regardless of how they view their longer-term
relationship with the Alliance. But it will obviously also improve the
ability of those of our Mediterranean partners who are already contributing
to NATO-led crisis response operations, or who wish to keep open this
possibility for the future.
Second, I believe that, like the EAPC and PfP, our Mediterranean Dialogue
would benefit from enhanced opportunities for political and security-related
consultations. We already have considerable experience with what we in
NATO call "19+7" and "19+1" formats - where all the
Allies meet with all the Mediterranean partners, or with individual partners,
including at Ambassadorial level. Especially since 11 September of last
year, these meetings have proved very valuable, and we should maintain
In addition, however, we should explore the scope for introducing greater
flexibility into our Dialogue. To recognise that the needs of our Mediterranean
partners vary, and that it is up to each of them to identify the kind
of cooperation that is best suited to those needs. And to develop a more
continuous process of more individualised consultations, involving experts
and higher level officials as appropriate, and at a pace that is sustainable
for everyone involved -- bearing in mind that we all have busy agendas,
limited resources, and competing requirements.
Let me add a side note here on adding value by introducing flexibility.
Some of the work that we do in the context of the EAPC and PfP, such as
on border security or counter-terrorism, would clearly benefit from the
involvement of interested Mediterranean partners, and be beneficial to
them as well. So I think that we - and when I say "we" I really
mean NATO and its EAPC and PfP partners -- should definitely also be open
to that kind of flexibility if and when we deem it useful.
Thirdly, and finally, in order to get real added value from our Dialogue,
we should all keep an open-mind. We should be open-minded in terms of
deciding whether our Dialogue is really the best instrument to pursue
cooperation in a certain area, or whether other fora are perhaps better
suited. But open-minded also in the sense of continuing to conduct our
cooperation in a transparent and inclusive manner, without raising any
suspicions, and always leaving open the possibility for other countries
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I have said on previous occasions, the Mediterranean region matters
to the Alliance. It always has mattered -- and it matters even more now
than it has ever done in the past. And that is why we want to enhance
our Mediterranean Dialogue.
Taking my inspiration from the evolution of the EAPC And PfP, I have
offered a few suggestions for taking our Mediterranean Dialogue forward
- for gearing a partnership instrument, that has already proved very valuable,
even more closely to the specific concerns and abilities of Allies and
Mediterranean partners alike.
These were, of course, just my personal suggestions, but I hope that
they will be helpful. That they will inform both your discussion here
today, as well as the important work that still needs to be done in capitals
and at NATO Headquarters in the run-up to our Prague Summit.
Because, by making our Mediterranean Dialogue an inherent part of NATO's
transformation agenda, we have a real opportunity for making a difference
in Mediterranean and Alliance security. It is an opportunity we should