Updated: 27-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches


26 March 2003

Questions and answers

with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson,
at the press conference following
the signature of Accession Protocols

MODERATOR: Okay, questions please. Before I start, can I just ask you to give your name and organization when we point the microphone to you. The gentlemen there is first, please.

Q: Secretary General, Braun from Deutsche Welle Television.
We heard lots about the future. You suggest this moment that NATO is the organization of the future but it's also facing big challenges which a poll today published an interview saying that NATO is not the organization to be... to face those challenges of the 21st century. What's your comment on that?

LORD ROBERTSON: Well, there have been pundits and experts and people with strong opinions who have written the Alliance off many times in its past, and because we're an Alliance of democratic countries, no doubt there will be people who will do it again.
Some of those who made the initial predictions that we had no future are now dead and gone and the Alliance is still alive and well. I expect that there will be cycles of questioning of NATO, but there is no better advertisement of the relevance and the importance of NATO than seven countries today, seven democratic countries, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, lining up to join an Alliance that they believe is going to help them and the world in the future.
So to those who come out with the ritual predictions of doom, I say look at NATO's history and that every one of the predictions in the past failed to come true, and we'll be there long after they're there to make the criticisms.

MODERATOR: The gentleman there.

Q: Secretary General, Paul Taylor from Reuters, old NATO. A couple of questions, if I may. First of all, what role do you see for this reinvigorated Alliance in post-war Iraq. And secondly, four members of the Alliance who were not particularly marked by their enthusiasm for the conflicts in Iraq are holding a summit next month to discuss closer European defense integration. What's your view of that development?

LORD ROBERTSON: Well, we haven't yet got to a situation that could be called post-war Iraq. But if somebody comes along and asks the Alliance to do something in the aftermath of that conflict, then the NATO Council will consider it, and they will decide as they decide on everything at the level of 19 this year and the level of 26 next year. But nobody has approached us yet.
The situation has not arisen but we'll wait and see what happens. What was your second question, Paul.

Q: The four countries holding a ...

LORD ROBERTSON: Oh yeah, well... It's, of course, open to any group of countries. We have the Vilnius Ten. We have the members of NATO who are in the European Union. We have the two countries on the other side of the Atlantic, and occasionally, people meet in different configurations and that's perfectly reasonable in circumstances where you have a democratic Alliance.
I would say that if four European countries are coming together to talk about better co-operation, then I hope that they will take my message during the time that I've been here, and that is that if you want to play a role in the world in determining security, you need to get the capabilities, and if our links with the European Union and linkages between countries produce more capabilities, then that is going to produce more security.
But anything that is not backed up with capabilities, I fear, would prove to be yet another paper tiger. But I remain optimistic that people will go by outputs and not by inputs when they get together to discuss security issues.

MODERATOR: The lady there.

Q:... Austrian Broadcasting Company. Secretary General, have you discussed in today's NATO Council, the issue of Turkey's possible invasion in Iraq? What will be NATO's reaction concerning your support if Turkey sends troops in northern Iraq?

LORD ROBERTSON: The matter of Turkey's defense is always on the agenda now of the Defense Planning Committee and of the North Atlantic Council and it was today. We have received assurances from the Turkish Ambassador to NATO and I have received assurances from the foreign minister of Turkey that no additional troops will cross the border between Turkey and Iraq and I believe and we accept those assurances.
That is the way the situation exists at the present moment, and I don't intend to deal with hypothetical issues of what might happen in different circumstances. These are the assurances that we've been given and we accept them.

MODERATOR: The lady there please, on your left.

Q: Sorry I had the same question, like the lady.

MODERATOR: Okay, the gentleman there.

LORD ROBERTSON: You get the same answer, I can assure you. Even if it was a different question, you were probably going to get the same answer about that issue!

MODERATOR: Okay. The gentleman on the centre aisle, there.

Q: ... Bulgarian Telegraph Agency. Secretary General, do you perceive any impediments to the ratification process in the 19 countries of NATO, stemming from differences on foreign affairs events or positions?

LORD ROBERTSON: No, I don't, and indeed, around the table of our lunch today, although it was an informal and private lunch, I had no signals that indicated that there would be any complications in the ratification process, that were not related to the performance of the invited countries of living up to the standards that they had committed themselves to for NATO membership.
So, and the 19 parliaments, all 19 parliaments, the judgement will be on countries and whether they are able to make the military and political changes that will allow them to be integrated into the Alliance, and I see no signs whatsoever that the different political positions of countries will in any have an effect on the ratification process, and it shouldn't have anyway.

MODERATOR: Okay, the lady there.

Q: Secretary General, ... Romero from the Spanish News Agency EFE.
Do you think that with 26 members, it will be necessary to change the consensus rule because it would be very difficult to make decisions by consensus?

LORD ROBERTSON: There's no reason why it should be any more difficult difficult to make decisions by consensus for 26 than it is at 19. And every time the Alliance has enlarged, even when your own country became a member of the Alliance, people said you will disturb the existing ability to come to consensus. And in every case, it was proved that consensus could still be established; sometimes in the most difficult and controversial circumstances.
So I don't see why numbers alone should do it. What it will mean is that for my successor as Secretary General, if they don't curtail their speeches in the North Atlantic Council, the meetings will become infinitely longer.
A tour de table at 26 with five-minute speeches made by each will last for two hours and ten minutes. And we have a lot of agenda items where people want to speak. So I'm looking forward to 26 nations who commit themselves, not just to collective security but to collective restraint in the length of their contributions.

MODERATOR: The gentleman there.

Q: I'm also from Latvian television. I'd like to know if you fully trust those new nations if you don't allow them now to have full access to all the NATO committees but just three months later?

ROBERTSON: Well, of course we trust those countries or they would not have received invitations. But they don't become full members of the Alliance until all the parliaments have ratified the accession protocols and they have all been deposited with the United States of America. And that will happen in May of next year.
What we're doing, because this is a much shorter accession process than previously as applied to new countries, is to make sure that we are content and the invited countries are content that they have got the capability of handling the kind of sensitive and classified information that is the daily bread and butter of this organization. And that is why, a very short period of 90 days has been put in place in order that we can satisfy ourselves and the countries can satisfy themselves that they've got these procedures absolutely right.
So it's not a question of trust. These countries are joining a serious organization that takes confidential information extremely seriously, as it must when military matters are concerned.
And nobody has complained to me. Not one of those countries has complained to me about the fact that we all want to double-check, they and us, that they're capable of doing that. And there will be a very rigorous process during those 90 days to ensure that they can do it.

MODERATOR: The gentleman at the back, just the left of the centre.

Q: ... Secretary General, what kind of advice would you give to the newcomers in an Alliance which is so deeply divided on the Iraqi case, how to get through it?

ROBERTSON: My advice would be remember your core values. Remember that whatever divides you, it is insignificant in terms of what unites you and always focus on that broad degree of unity.
This is not the only organization that has got internal differences of opinions on the present situation in Iraq. The European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League, just to name a few organizations, all have internal disagreement on that issue. It doesn't render any of them less powerful or less effective as a consequence of that.
And what I can tell you is, is that in the six days since the conflict started in Iraq, this organization in an adult and in a very sensible and a cool manner has continued to act as that fundamental consultation platform between the two sides of the Atlantic and between European countries with differing views. That has been its historic role.
And in our discussions and in our briefings, there have been no histrionics, there has been no display of division. People listen to the information, value you the opportunity of getting that information and the exchange of views that go along with it.
We are a democratic Alliance and democracies will occasionally disagree and that is the life blood of democracy. So at the end of the day, we'll still be united by our common values and that is what I would say to the seven new countries, as well as to the 19 already in the Alliance. Keep their heads, keep cool and remember that what unites you is much more important that what divides you at this moment.

MODERATOR: Okay. I'm sorry, we can't go on any further. We've run out of time. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

ROBERTSON: Thank you very much. A very important day.

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