Updated: 05-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches


4 Dec. 2003

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Foreign Ministerial Session

Opening statement by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and a warm welcome to this meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers’ session, especially to those who join us for the first time in this setting: Minister Teresa Gouveia of Portugal, Minister Bernard Bot of the Netherlands and the Ministers of the 7 countries that will soon join the Alliance: Solomon Passy, Kristiina Ojuland, Sandra Kalniete, Antanas Valionis, Mircea Geoana, Eduard Kukan and Dimitrij Rupel.

As usual in NATO, our agenda is a demanding one. Following this morning’s session, at which we will begin preparations for next June’s Istanbul Summit, and a working lunch discussion on transatlantic relations, we will have meetings with Foreign Ministers from Russia, the EU, Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic Partners.

The presence here of the invitee countries and the breadth of the subsequent meetings illustrates graphically two of the main themes of last year’s Prague transformation Summit: new members and new partners.

This is a new NATO. Not only new members and new partners but new missions and new capabilities, delivering real security from Kosovo to Kabul.

NATO troops in the Balkans are helping that region back into the European mainstream, and proving that building peace and order out of chaos is achievable even in the most difficult places. NATO ships are still patrolling the Mediterranean against terrorists. In Afghanistan, NATO’s ISAF operation is stabilizing Kabul and providing the platform for real political progress, and NATO is now preparing to move outside the capital. And the radical reform of this Headquarters has been completed.

Earlier this week, NATO Defence Ministers showcased major progress in delivering the Alliance’s military transformation, translated from the drawing board in Prague to reality only twelve months later.

Success of course brings its own challenges. These challenges will need to be confronted as we prepare for Istanbul. They must be met if we are to repeat in the 21st century NATO’s unbroken record of success during its first 54 years.

That means continuing our focus on the Western Balkans, where we should be able to extend our cooperation with the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

NATO’s partnership with the European Union, and with Russia, must have real substance. But we also need to consider how to enhance our other relationships, including with Ukraine and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries.

NATO must play its full part in defeating terrorism. Terrorist atrocities on our streets, such as the recent attacks in Istanbul, are obscene and unacceptable; so for this and other missions, our armed forces must become genuinely usable, and NATO governments need the political will to deploy them in significantly larger numbers.

We must repeat NATO’s Balkan success in Afghanistan. That means staying the course. If we fail, Afghanistan and its problems will soon appear on all of our doorsteps.

But NATO does not fail. Indeed, I am delighted to be able to announce this morning that we have now filled the critical parts of what ISAF needs in Kabul. I am extremely grateful to those many countries around this table who have helped us to do so.

Finally, the Alliance must continue to help NATO countries who take on leadership roles in Iraq, and prepare itself to take on new roles and missions where necessary.

NATO is more active and engaged than ever before, and I have no doubt that it will meet all of these challenges successfully. This is an Alliance that delivers.

For me, the past four years have been the most rewarding I could ever imagine. But it is your governments that have made NATO’s transformation possible. So your former colleague, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, will need the same support from you in the coming years. I am sure that he will get it.

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