Updated: 01-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches


1 Dec. 2003

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Defence Ministers Session with invitees

Opening Statement by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning and welcome.

We have a demanding agenda. Today we will be looking at NATO’s operations, the transformation of its capabilities and preparation for next year’s Summit in Istanbul. Then we will meet our Russian colleague Sergy Ivanov in the NATO-Russia Council. Tomorrow we will meet Ukrainian Defence Minister Yevhen Marchuk in the NATO-Ukraine Commission and, finally, the Defence Ministers of all 46 Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council countries.

All of these meetings will enable us to take stock of our success in translating last year’s Prague Summit from promises into practice. The picture is a good one.

Prague produced a genuine NATO transformation. That transformed NATO is today delivering real security from Kosovo to Kabul.

In the Balkans, NATO continues to keep the peace as the region moves towards the European mainstream. In the Mediterranean, NATO warships are on patrol against terrorism. In Afghanistan, NATO’s ISAF operation is stabilising Kabul and we are preparing to move outside the capital.

Nations are beginning to deliver on their Prague Capabilities Commitments. The NATO Response Force is up and running. So is Allied Command Transformation. The new command structure has been agreed. A new multinational chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence battalion, led by the Czech Republic, stands up today.

-The seven invitee countries are already sitting with us around NATO’s tables. Internal modernisation, to ensure that NATO can work effectively at 26 with a range of new roles and missions, has been completed.

This is a transformed Alliance which is very much in business today.

But, as usual, there is a but.

NATO, and the Defence Ministers around the table today, still face great challenges if the Alliance is to translate activity and engagement into the kind of success we achieved in our first 54 years.

Our Partnership with the European Union and Russia must have real substance. Capability programmes must become real equipment. We must make our armed forces genuinely deployable and genuinely usable. And NATO Governments must have the political will to deploy and use these forces in much larger numbers than at present.

We must help defeat the terrorists who brought bloodshed to the streets of Istanbul just a few days ago. We must stay the course in Afghanistan as we have in the Balkans. If we do not, Afghanistan and its problem will appear on all of our doorsteps. We must continue to help NATO countries who take on leadership roles in Iraq. Finally, we must prepare to be able to do tomorrow what seems inconceivable or impossible today.

NATO’s strength has always been its resilience, its adaptability and its ability to deliver. As I prepare to step down from one of the best jobs a former Defence or Foreign Minister could possibly have, I am confident that all of these challenges will be met, starting at today’s meetings.


Go to Homepage Go to Index