Updated: 21-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


21 Nov. 2002

Press Statement

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

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the North Atlantic Alliance I welcome you to Prague, the heart of Europe, for NATO’s first summit meeting of the 21st century.

Our theme has been transformation. We have enlarged the Alliance, expanded its missions, enhanced its military capabilities and strengthened its partnerships. This is not business as usual but the emergence of a new and modernised NATO, fit for the challenges of the new century.

Earlier this morning, NATO’s Heads of State and Government issued invitations to seven European countries to begin accession talks to join the Alliance. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia are transforming themselves to meet NATO’s demanding standards. They still have work to do but I am delighted that they have today been invited to join our transatlantic family.

This momentous decision will strengthen NATO as we face the challenges of the post September 11 security environment.

To defeat these challenges we must modernise our Alliance. The decisions taken today will do precisely that.

NATO’s credibility depends fundamentally on its military capabilities. We are the world’s largest permanent coalition and its most effective military organisation. But we need to become even more effective to keep our people safe in today’s very uncertain world.

So NATO’s Presidents and Prime Ministers have today each made a firm political commitment, the Prague Capabilities Commitment, to deliver specific essential military enhancement, from heavy transport aircraft through air tankers to precision guidance weapons and protection against chemical and biological weapons. These are decisions, not just declarations.

They have established the NATO Response Force, a cutting edge, high capability addition to NATO’s force structure. And they have mandated a major streamlining of the Alliance command arrangements, together with a radical reform package to modernise NATO’s headquarters and its way of working.

Linked fundamentally to capabilities is NATO’s capacity to deal with new threats such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. No-one is immune from these dangers and the Alliance has a major role to play in defeating them. NATO leaders have therefore put the seal on a comprehensive package which will dramatically improve our ability to do so.

A modernised, transformed NATO will not only be a better safeguard for its own members, it will be a stronger partner for its friends throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.

As part of our transformation, we have intensified our Partnership process which involves 27 non-NATO nations and upgraded NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. Tomorrow, we will demonstrate the vitality of these relationships in meetings of the NATO Russia Council, the NATO Ukraine Commission and of course the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

New members, new missions, new capabilities and new relationships. Prague has been a landmark meeting for the transatlantic family of nations.

NATO remains the embodiment of transatlantic security. We came to Prague determined to make a good organisation better and that is precisely what we have done today.

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