Updated: 03-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches

At the Romanian

3 March 2003


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a privilege for me, as Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to be here in Bucharest today, and to address the Parliament of one of the seven countries that has been invited to accede to our Alliance next year.

The last time I was here in Bucharest was at the end of 2001. A lot has happened since that time. NATO has undergone significant changes, and so has Romania. The decision by NATO Heads of State and Government, in Prague last November, to invite your country to join the Alliance shows just how much our values, our principles and our interests have converged.

For Romania, joining NATO will be the fulfilment of a strong aspiration, and the culmination of many years of hard work. As the first country to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme in January 1994, Romania has effectively been preparing for NATO membership for almost a decade. All this time, implementing far-reaching political, military and other reforms, and showing strong international engagement, Romania has moved closer to the Alliance. And when Romania joins NATO next year, a key foreign policy objective will be achieved.

Today, I want to salute, and to congratulate, all those who have been engaged in what I know has been an enormous effort. I commend those who have been active at the political level, across your country’s political spectrum, to promote the goal of NATO membership and the reforms that are needed to achieve it. But I also commend those who have worked hard to actually implement policy changes, to modernise structures and procedures, and to meet NATO’s standards in a wide range of areas.

NATO’s Prague Summit was a momentous event. For Romania, it was a milestone in its integration into the Euro-Atlantic family of nations. And for NATO, the invitation of seven countries represented a major step towards a strategic objective: to create a Europe truly whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values, from the Baltics to the Black Sea.

But apart from agreeing the most important enlargement in the Alliance’s history, Prague was a transformational Summit in many other respects as well. Because it set the Alliance firmly on course to meet the security challenges of the 21st century – not only with new members -- but also with new policies, new capabilities, and new ways of doing business.

Three new policy changes, in particular, define the Alliance post-Prague.

First, NATO is determined to deal with terrorism, and to do so head on. The importance of NATO playing a role is clear. Because our Alliance is so much more than a military organisation. It binds Europe and North America together in this common, long-term struggle. And it is able to marshal the full political and military might of democracies across the Euro-Atlantic area – Allies and Partners -- to disrupt, deter and defend against terrorism.

A second policy change is that we are defending ourselves better against weapons of mass destruction. The Al-Qaida terrorist network has demonstrated that there are those who will use these terrible weapons, if they get their hands on them. And since September 11th 2001, we have seen many more examples of proliferation.

The continuing crisis over Iraq’s disarmament demonstrates how central this issue has become to our security, and indeed to international stability. Which is why NATO, as the principal security organisation in the Euro-Atlantic area, must be engaged, and will be engaged. Our deployment to Turkey of AWACS early warning aircraft and Patriot missile batteries to deter and defend against Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction is clear evidence of our determination to do so.

A third policy change is equally important in gearing NATO towards the future. It is the agreement that NATO’s forces should be prepared to go wherever they are needed, and to defend against threats from wherever they may come. This is a real break with the past. The end to decades of discussion as to whether NATO could or should operate “out-of-area”. And a Summit decision that we were able to act upon right away, by providing support to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

At the moment, the Allies are working hard to implement all the policy changes they agreed in Prague. And in particular, to develop the capabilities that are needed to meet today’s security challenges.

We are putting together a new NATO Response Force. The plan is to bring together the best forces in the Alliance, from both sides of the Atlantic, into an elite and fast-moving force – a force to which Romania will be able to contribute, after joining the Alliance next year. Our aim is to have an initial operating capability by next year, if not earlier.

In parallel, each of the 19 Allies is working on very specific capability improvements in one or more of four areas that are critical to modern-day military operations, namely interoperability, strategic transport, high-technology, and protection against weapons of mass destruction. This is where NATO needs to make immediate improvements. Our Prague Capabilities Commitment sets out a realistic blueprint for this effort.

To help achieve this, the European Allies, in particular, are making a concerted effort to get more out of the money that they spend on defence. Several approaches are being explored, such as joint procurement to buy more at lower prices; the pooling of key assets such as transport and tanker aircraft; and role specialisation to develop niche capabilities. All are innovative approaches, aimed at delivering effective defence in an affordable way. They are clearly the way to go, for current and for future Allies.

In preparing to join the Alliance next year, all seven invited countries face a double challenge. You must continue, and intensify, your own political and military reforms. And you must prepare to jump onto a moving train – because the Alliance’s transformation is both fundamental, and moving fast.

You have your ticket for the NATO train. We know that you like the security it offers, and the direction in which it is going. We know that you are eager to enjoy the security guarantee of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. But we also understand and welcome that you are equally keen to shape and strengthen Euro-Atlantic security more broadly. And determined to contribute – politically and militarily – to the Alliance’s efforts in this regard.

In order to make this possible, Romania and the other six invitees will continue to work through the Membership Action Plan. This will enable you to benefit from the Alliance’s support and guidance in order to complete reforms in key areas; to stay abreast of the reforms which NATO itself is going through; and to ensure that you will be able to make a meaningful contribution to the Alliance, as soon as you get on board.

Romania has already made great progress in implementing far-reaching political, economic and military reforms. But in this process of continued preparation, there are a number of areas where Romania must continue to focus its efforts. Military reform is one of these areas. Any country that is seriously interested in contributing to security in the Alliance and the Euro-Atlantic area must have modern, deployable armed forces. And therefore, a key priority for Romania is to further streamline its forces, and to enhance their operational capability.

Another key requirement for effective cooperation in the Alliance is to guarantee the security of classified information, and to make sure that people handling that information are fully cleared to do so. I know that important work has already been done on the legal framework for the security of information, and I encourage further efforts to bring it into line with NATO requirements.

Other areas that NATO Allies have been following closely are the reform of your judiciary and public administration, as well as the ongoing effort to get a grip on corruption. For this latter problem, I know that a legal framework is in place, including the appointment of a special prosecutor. But new rules and regulations must now be enforced, without discrimination or special privileges. Otherwise democracy will be undermined, and Romania’s credibility as a future NATO member affected.

Social peace is critically important in any country. Here in Romania, you have made considerable progress in the integration of the Roma, and to improve the situation of children. The latter problem is quite specific to Romania, but it obviously has broader, international ramifications as well. They need continued close attention by the Government and the Parliament.

Finally, but importantly, further economic reform will be crucial to the overall stability of your country, as well as its long-term ability to make available adequate resources for defence.

So there is still quite a lot of work to do before Romania joins NATO next year. And the challenges are such that they will no doubt require continued attention in the years to come. But like the NATO Heads of State and Government in Prague last year, I am very confident that Romania will meet the many challenges that it faces.

I am confident because I have seen the progress that has already been made, in Romania and in the other six invited countries. A decade ago, no one could have imagined that so much political, economic and military reform would be accomplished. But it was. And that effort has delivered enormous results, to the invitee countries and to NATO. That kind of track record encourages confidence in future progress.

And I am confident of Romania’s strong determination, and its growing capability, to make a real contribution to international security. Our Romanian friends are fond of saying that, “de facto”, they have behaved like NATO Allies for many years already – and there is certainly a strong element of truth in that.

Romania’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 2001 showed a very sound appreciation of the complexities of Euro-Atlantic security. You have demonstrated a strong commitment towards South-East Europe and made a significant contribution to the Alliance’s efforts to bring peace and stability to that region. But you are also keenly aware of the critical importance of Russia and Ukraine, and as a NATO member will be able to play a significant role in drawing these countries more closely to the West in general, and our Alliance in particular.

Over the past year, Romanian forces have also worked closely together with NATO member forces in Afghanistan to fight terrorism, restore stability, and create the conditions for stability in that country. This shows that you have both a clear understanding of the new threats to our common security and a willingness and ability to help to tackle them. And this, as well, bodes very well indeed for your future as a NATO member.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The recent debate in NATO on providing defensive support to Turkey will not have gone unnoticed in this country. And I am quite sure that some observers here will have made dire predictions about the implications of this debate for NATO, and for your country’s prospective membership.

So let me reassure you. The debate in NATO was not about whether the Alliance should support Turkey in the face of the growing risk of Iraqi military action. All Allies made clear their commitment to defend a NATO member at risk. The issue was when to start planning to do so. Not whether to plan but when to plan.

After 11 days of intensive negotiations, and six meetings of Ambassadors, we reached consensus in the Defence Planning Committee – without self-excluded France – that the time was right to start the planning process. Two days later, we agreed to move from planning to deployment. And a week later, last Wednesday, the first AWACS early warning aircraft and Patriot anti-missile batteries began to arrive in Turkey.

What we saw was not an Alliance-breaking crisis but NATO’s unique process of consensus building at work. Consensus is not always easy to achieve. Watching from outside, its birth process must occasionally be confusing, perhaps even disturbing. But the process always works, even in the most difficult circumstances, and it is vital to NATO’s cohesion and effectiveness.

The Alliance’s proven ability to reach consensus, and to take decisive action when it is called for, is another record of success. A record which Romania, once it joins NATO next year, will also be able to reinforce. And I am sure that it will do just that.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of next year, Romania will become a member of NATO – not just “de facto”, but “de jure”.

Bine ati [atz] venit in familia noastra ! (welcome to our family).

Thank you.

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