Updated: 21-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


21 Nov. 2002

Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Heads of State and Government

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to beautiful Prague, and to NATO’s first Summit of the 21st century.

I would like to extend a special welcome today to Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy of Hungary, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal who are joining us for the first time in this Council. I also welcome Dr. Javier Solana, the EU High Representatives for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. His presence here today symbolizes the excellent cooperation between NATO and the European Union.

For NATO, Prague is a transformation Summit. It is a truly defining moment for the Atlantic Alliance.

We will welcome new members, take on new missions, modernise our military capabilities, and strengthen our relations with friends and Partners throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.

By doing so, we will reinforce that essential transatlantic bond on which our security and defence still depends.

NATO was at the heart of Europe’s transformation in the 1990s. It reached out to heal a divided continent, and it acted to bring and then keep the peace in the Balkans.

NATO is still doing these jobs, and doing them well. But September 11, 2001 and its aftermath confronted the whole world with new challenges.

A deadly cocktail of threats is now menacing free societies. Terrorists and their backers, the failed states in which they flourish, and proliferating weapons of mass destruction, pose a genuine threat to everyone in the free world.

Today, NATO will demonstrate that a transformed and modernised Alliance is at the very heart of the free world’s response. We have the organisation, the military capabilities and the will to deal with threats to our people and our security from wherever they may come. We are by far the world’s largest permanent coalition of free democratic nations.

That is why NATO is enlarging, extending invitations to countries across Europe to enter into accession talks.

That is why a transformed NATO will be a stronger, more effective partner for all our friends, including the EU, Russia and all the countries we will be meeting here tomorrow.

Like NATO, the Czech Republic has also experienced major changes. Our host, President Havel, was the personification of the “Velvet revolution”, and led the transformation of his country and inspired the rest of Europe.

I am honoured to give the floor to President Havel, but not before I thank him, his Government, and the Czech people for their wonderful hospitality.

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