Updated: 21-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


21 November

Closing remarks

by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council with invitees

Thank you. This has been a day of real celebration, not just or the seven countries represented here for the first time, but for the Alliance as a whole.

I know myself how hard all of those seven countries have worked in order to achieve this decision today. And if I could just say a little word, personally, my three years in office has coincided with the three years of the Membership Action Plan, kindly donated to me by Javier Solana when he left the Organization. And I have been round the countries , I have talked to all of the people, I have been tough, occasionally I have been rough, I have been difficult, I have occasionaly been very rude, I have been unrelenting and persistent in my criticisms and my cajoling and in my reminding that there were high obligations on both the political and on the military side. I think sometimes I ruffeled feathers, I think I was regarded most of the time as a complete nuisance.

But I just want to say on this historic day that I do not regret a single word, not one, because I think that those words of criticism but also of encouragement from me and from the other countries around this table have made today possible and have made the strong and unanimous decision that it was. As I kept reminding all of you, I didn't have a vote today, I simply wielded the gavel at the end of the process, and gathered the voices. But I know how much was done in order to make it happen and I realize the sacrifices that were made,. and if you think I have finished with being a nuisance, then you are wrong. You've got your invitation today but the accession process and the ratification process is still to come. And that is why the determination with which all of you have spoken of your desire to strengthen NATO and to pledge yourself to continue the reforms and modernization on which you are embarked is so important to be heard round the table. All NATO countries will welcome that message and will commit themselves along with me to helping you in that continuing process. And that, after all, is what NATO is all about: collective security and defence, a common commitment to dealing with today's threats and producing joint solutions to military and political challenges as well. So we look forward to a successful accession process, and eventually welcoming you around this table as full members of this great Alliance. Thank you very much.

This has been a very special day for NATO. But it is not yet finished. In the presence of our seven invitee countries, we will now hold the formal signing ceremony for the transfer from Belgium to NATO of the land on which we will build the Alliance's new headquarters.

So I will be joined by Prime Minister Verhofstadt and Defence Minister Flahaut of the Kingdom of Belgium.

Mr Prime Minister,

Mr Minister of Defence,

First of all, I would like to express the Alliance's gratitude and recognition for the hospitality that your country has been extending to our Organisation since 1967. And we still inhabit the temporary headquarters that we moved into in that remarkable year.

Next, I would like to confirm that the North Atlantic Council has accepted with appreciation Belgium's offer of the site on which to build NATO's new permanent Headquarters.

Finally, before signing this agreement on behalf of the Alliance, I would like to take the opportunity to express the deep gratitude of the International Staff, the International Military Staff and the National Delegations, to the Belgian Authorities for having hosted us for 35 years.

Thank you, Prime Minister, to you and your Government and also to the people of Belgium.

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