Updated: 30-Jun-2003 NATO Speeches


30 June 2003

Keynote Speech

by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Conference on "NATO & Mediterranean Security: Practical Steps towards Partnership"

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to start by thanking the Royal United Services Institute for organising, in cooperation with NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, a follow-up conference to the one they hosted last year on NATO and Mediterranean security. This is an important subject, and I am glad to be invited back again to discuss with you where we stand on the matter, and where we might go.

I am especially pleased to see so many representatives here from NATO’s seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

It has been quite a year. NATO’s Summit at Prague set the seal on a radical process of transformation, demonstrating that the Alliance was again capable of adapting quickly to the changing security needs of its members. We also established a qualitatively new working relationship with Russia, and completed the complex but vitally important Berlin Plus arrangements to enable the EU to use NATO assets, a key element of the Strategic Partnership between our two organisations.

But the challenges have increased as well, not just for NATO but the International Community as a whole. There have been further terrorist attacks in countries as diverse as Indonesia, Russia and Morocco. We have seen a worsening of the crisis in the Middle East, ameliorated slightly by recent Road Map. Growing crises in Central Africa and now Liberia. Continuing terrorism and instability in Afghanistan. And, of course, Iraq.

Iraq gave the whole International Community a collective headache earlier this year, and NATO was by no means exempt. But given the seriousness of the matter at stake, the intensity of our debate in NATO - a debate among nineteen sovereign, independent nations - was really not surprising.

Moreover, it was always clear to me that NATO would not only survive this crisis, but emerge stronger for it. And we have done so.

In April, the NATO nations decided that the Alliance should take over the lead of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. We took this decision to ensure the effectiveness and continuity of ISAF, and to demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan and their neighbours the commitment of the international community. This was a watershed decision, taken coolly and without dissension or rancour.

There has been a growing convergence of views on Iraq as well. Just a few weeks ago, as several individual NATO nations were getting ready to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq, the Alliance agreed to support Poland with the major role it is taking on in the stabilisation effort.

These are major steps for the Alliance. Steps that were simply inconceivable just two years ago. But steps which clearly demonstrate the strong practical consensus that now exists among the Allies on what NATO should do, and where it should be prepared to go. And steps which have even led some observers – and Ministers – to argue for a NATO role in the Middle East peace process.

As Gerard Baker concluded last week in the Financial Times: “Last autumn I wrote: NATO may not be dead but it is certainly missing in action. Well, six months later, I am obliged to report that the MIA has shown up and is now running enthusiastically all over the battlefield”. A very perceptive analysis.

This general background of a transforming NATO in a new security environment argues for a new departure in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue as well.

At our Prague Summit in November, we agreed to upgrade substantially the political and practical dimensions of our Mediterranean Dialogue as an integral part of the Alliance’s cooperative approach to security.

This is not rhetoric. Our Mediterranean partners have shown more and more interest in learning from and working with the Alliance. NATO, for its part, needs political and practical support from the countries in the region as it prepares for major peacekeeping operations in their neighbourhood.

Take, for example, Operation “Active Endeavour”, NATO’s maritime counter-terrorism operation in the Mediterranean. Earlier this year, we extended “Active Endeavour” to include the escort of non-military ships through the Straits of Gibraltar to protect them against possible terrorist attacks.

This mission, with more than 30,000 vessels hailed, 9 boarded, more than 240 escorted, is a big success. But its side effects have also been important because it has led to a decrease by 20 % in maritime insurance premiums in the region and an estimated reduction in illegal immigration of 50 %. Real benefits for all concerned.

But NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue has always been as much a political process as a cooperation programme. Our Heads of State and Government agreed in Prague last November that both these dimensions should be strengthened - and that is what we should work towards.

Political consultation has already increased significantly over the past year or so. There have been more meetings at more levels, both with individual Mediterranean partners, and with all seven of them together. We should continue and deepen these consultations, to keep each other informed of issues of mutual interest, to avoid any misunderstanding of new policy orientations, and to provide general direction to our cooperation.

As far as our practical work is concerned, there is considerable scope for us to focus our efforts more effectively. We need to concentrate on those areas where our interests clearly converge areas where we have something to offer each other in terms of shared knowledge or practical assistance - and areas which are relevant to the new security environment.

There are five areas to which I believe we should devote particular attention.

A first, very obvious, priority area is the fight against terrorism. In Prague we adopted a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism to enhance cooperation with our European and Central Asian Partners. I believe that we should consider how we can involve our Mediterranean partners in specific action items under this Plan as well, including those focusing on information sharing, border security, and small arms and light weapons.

Terrorism is a threat which knows no borders, and countering it requires the broadest possible international cooperation, including with our Mediterranean partners.

Countering weapons of mass destruction is the second area where we could, and I believe should, do better - to prevent the proliferation of these deadly weapons, and protect against their possible use against us. In January we gave our Mediterranean partners a general briefing on NATO’s efforts in this regard. And the Allies agreed in April to plan for expert-level consultations on both the political and defence-related aspects of WMD proliferation to take place later this year.

Third is crisis management. We have already briefed our Mediterranean partners about NATO’s crisis management exercises, about specific military and civil emergency planning aspects of crisis management, and about the organisation and operation of NATO’s Situation Centre. These information sessions were very well received, and we should build on them.

Fourth is defence reform. To make sure that military establishments are adequately sized, structured and funded is an enormous challenge. It is a challenge with which NATO countries have considerable experience. We have, for some time, been sharing this experience with our Partner countries in Europe and Central Asia. I believe we should make an extra effort as well to share it with interested Mediterranean partners.

The final area is military-to-military cooperation. This has been a major driver of the Mediterranean Dialogue process in the past. Contacts between our militaries have increased from just a few training courses in 1997 to a full-fledged annual programme with more than 140 activities today.

As a result, our Mediterranean partners have become much more confident with NATO terminology, doctrine and procedures. And the interoperability of their forces with those of the Alliance has increased.

This represents excellent progress, and it has come at the right time. A time when the Alliance is taking on new tasks in new parts of the world. Peacekeeping responsibilities that - for political and practical reasons - it will want to share with partner countries and other nations, as it has done with such great success in the Balkans over the past decade.

The role played by Mediterranean Dialogue countries in the Balkans should be much better known. Because NATO’s experience of working with them has been very positive indeed. Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have all made significant contributions to our peacekeeping operations. And Morocco is still present in both Bosnia and Kosovo with a force that is the third largest among non-NATO troop contributors. So it gives me particular pleasure to see Morocco represented here this morning, and I want to salute this country for its staunch support.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My point is a simple one. As NATO goes through a fundamental change of its policies and operations in response to the new security environment, we should also try to raise our Mediterranean Dialogue to a new level. A greater effort is needed in a number of specific areas where both NATO and its Mediterranean partners can gain by working together.

NATO’s efforts in the Mediterranean must be seen in perspective. Long-term stability and security in the region will depend in large part on economic progress. And this will depend on domestic reform to boost the productivity of labour and capital, and greater openness to foreign business with more liberal trade and investment policies.

These are areas where the European Union, in particular, has much more to offer than NATO. And where the EU is intent on making a difference with its Barcelona process.

But NATO’s role should not be underestimated either. In the areas I have highlighted, we can add real value to the efforts of other international organisations and individual nations.

Our aim - the common objective of NATO and its Mediterranean partners - should be to establish a pragmatic, long-term relationship based on mutual security interests. If we manage that, the new NATO that is now emerging - playing to its strengths and acting in concert with other major institutions - can make a real difference to Mediterranean security.

Thank you.

Go to Homepage Go to Index