Updated: 08-Oct-2002 NATO Speeches

At the EU
Committee on
Foreign Affairs,
Human Rights,
Defence Policy
and Common


8 October 2002


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Mr. Brok,
Members of the Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to exchange views with you this afternoon. This meeting is very timely. It comes hard on the heels of a NATO Defence Ministers' meeting in Warsaw, in which Javier Solana took part; and an EU Defence Ministers' meeting in Crete, in which I took part. So the opportunities for dialogue are multiplying. Right so, because there are an enormous number of security issues on the Euro-Atlantic agenda these days. They are all complex. And they are all serious. And all require the greatest possible communication and coordination among Europeans and North Americans.

Today, I propose to begin by outlining briefly the priorities on NATO's agenda as we move towards the Prague Summit. Then I will consider in more detail those issues that concern you most: NATO-EU relations, for example.

NATO's Prague Summit is a transforming event for the Alliance. It will cover a wide range of critical issues, from terrorism, through NATO's military command arrangements and headquarters structure, to a further development of Partnership. But informed public opinion will inevitably see it as concentrating on two main areas: enlargement, and improvements to NATO's military capabilities.

As you all know, the Alliance will issue invitations to between one and nine countries aspiring to join NATO. Some of you may have seen the recent articles suggesting that political agreement has already been reached within the Alliance on which countries are to be invited. Let me assure you, there has been no formal discussion at NATO Headquarters agreeing on a list of potential invitees.

What we have agreed, however, is what course the invitation and accession process will follow. In simple terms, invitations will be issued at the November Summit, but of course countries will not join immediately. NATO and the individual invitees will still have to agree Accession protocols. NATO countries will then all have to ratify the necessary changes to the Washington Treaty. And Allies have agreed that aspirants will not join individually, but together, once all the necessary agreements are in place.

This whole process will take a matter of years, not months. We expect that new members will join the Alliance in a group before the next NATO Summit, perhaps in 2004. But it is vital that, in the interim, aspirant countries continue to make improvements to meet NATO's political and military standards. Which is why aspirants that are currently working through NATO's Membership Action Plan will stay in this process until they join.

Military capabilities is the second main issue at the Summit. The requirement for improvements is clear, and I hope that an audience such as this will not need convincing. To meet 21st century threats, and to manage effectively more traditional challenges such as regional conflicts, we need new kinds of capabilities. Lighter, rapidly deployable and sustainable forces. With modern, secure command and control, so that they can work together effectively. And with high-tech capabilities such as precision-guided munitions, to prevail with the minimum number of casualties.

The forthcoming Summit will turn aspirations into concrete political commitments by nations to develop specific capacities, within defined time-frames. The commitments will have the public backing of all 19 Heads of State and Government, which is the best possible way to ensure that we get the results we need.

When I say "we", I mean all of the member countries of NATO and of the EU. Because each nation has only one set of forces. We must therefore make sure we make the best use possible of our scarce resources, avoiding duplication and overlaps. My message is very clear: the European Capabilities Action Plan and NATO's Prague Capabilities Commitment must be coherent. That is why we need to work in full transparency on the capabilities issues.

We are not in competition but cooperating to achieve complementary goals. If we fail, you fail. And if you fail, we fail. It is that simple. And I made this point very strongly to your Defence Ministers in Crete last week.

The same point on complementarity applies to another NATO Summit initiative: the NATO Response Force. Some media reporting is characterising this force as a rival to the European Rapid Reaction Force. That is, frankly rubbish.

NATO already has a range of rapidly available forces, as we have demonstrated in a succession of Balkan operations from Bosnia, then Kosovo and finally Macedonia. No new forces are involved in the Response Force. Instead, we are re-organising our existing and planned capabilities to be able to undertake short-notice deployments more effectively. Moreover, the emphasis will be on a capacity for high intensity war-fighting, not the Petersberg tasks.

The bottom-line is that NATO's Response Force and the EU's Rapid Reaction Force should be - and will be - as complementary as the ECAP and our Prague Capabilities Commitment.

Terrorism is of course another major Summit issue. More than a year after September 11, and the invocation of Article 5, we must set out how NATO is going to address this challenge in the future. Countering terrorism will not become the Alliance's "seule raison d'être". But collective military capabilities have an important role to play in our overall response to this first great 21st century threat.

So a military concept for defence against terrorism, which will give essential guidance to NATO's military planners, is being developed. Intelligence sharing is being beefed up. And NATO is looking at developing critical capabilities required for deterring terrorist activities and potential attacks, for defending against attacks if deterrence fails, and for contributing to consequence management were attacks nonetheless succeed.

This complements another area of improvement: protecting against weapons of mass destruction. The Alliance is taking significant steps forward in meeting this threat as well. Our soldiers will be better equipped and trained to deal with attacks when they are deployed on missions. They will also be better able to support civilian authorities if such attacks were ever to take place on home soil. And NATO is developing collective capacities as well, including mobile detection teams, mobile expert response teams, and vaccine stockpiles.

In countering the terrorist threat and the threat from weapons of mass destruction, we again need practical cooperation between NATO and the EU, to avoid unnecessary overlaps in our respective responsibilities and to maximise the effectiveness of our overall response. If terrorist or rogue regimes succeed because we are not working well together, our publics will neither understand nor forgive us.

Enhancing NATO's Partnerships will be another priority. The Partnership for Peace programme, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Mediterranean Dialogue have all served us well in the past. If we continue to develop these mechanisms, they will serve us better still in the future. For example, we are currently working on a Partnership Action Plan on Terrorism, and we are thinking of ways to engage more thoroughly with our Partners in Central Asia. In short, the potential of NATO's Partnerships is far from exhausted.

This is also true for NATO-Russia relations. If the Prague Summit will not showcase any grandiose new initiative, it is simply because we already launched a new NATO-Russia relationship five months ago in Rome. Since the Rome Summit, the working atmosphere between NATO and Russia has constantly improved. This gives us the confidence that we can build further on this momentum.

Which brings me back to the overall framework for NATO-EU relations. Because that is the area where momentum is currently lacking -- and has been lacking for some time. This is particularly odd, given the fact that NATO and the EU have dealt very effectively with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Western Balkans, and, of course, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1). Javier Solana and I work as a team in Skopje, as do our representatives on the ground. And this past year, we have also had consultations on terrorism and non-proliferation issues. When it comes to cooperation on practical issues, its seems we do manage to get our act together.

Some have argued that we should therefore focus on practical cooperation, and forget the theory of building elaborate institutional ties. But let there be no mistake: The progress we have made so far has been largely made by improvisation. These achievements could all disappear in a second, if we cannot "lock them in" by putting in place permanent arrangements between NATO and the EU. If we want to realise the full potential of these relations, we must go beyond the status quo and agree on the so-called "Berlin Plus" arrangements.

As you yourself underlined in the report that you endorsed just a few weeks ago, we need to break the current impasse. We need to break it because it affects the credibility of both institutions. How can we confidently speak of a new NATO-EU relationship, when this relationship cannot be institutionalised? And how can we argue in favour of more and better defence spending and improved crisis management capabilities, if NATO and the EU are perceived as being blocked over essentially procedural issues?

It is therefore essential that the participation issue is resolved in a manner that is satisfactory to all. Simply put, we have to find the right balance between "assured access" to NATO assets for the EU-members, and "assured participation" in the EU political-military decision process for non-EU Allies. I do think this goal is within reach, even if some of our member countries still have to walk the extra mile to achieve it.

Mr. Brok,
Members of the Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

To describe NATO's Prague Summit as a "Transformation Summit" is no exaggeration. The Alliance will issue invitations to new members, ending Europe's Cold War divisions for good, and setting the stage for a wider NATO. We will deepen NATO's Partnerships with our neighbours to our East and South. We will give NATO a clearer profile in combating terrorism, and in responding to the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And we will address the challenge of improving NATO's defence capabilities, with new commitments, new targets, and concrete new improvements.

In sum, Prague should give our Alliance a new set of instruments, and a new sense of purpose. All in all, a good basis for completing the unfinished business of building solid and effective NATO-EU relations.

Thank You.

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


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