Updated: 22-Mar-2004 NATO Speeches

At the Prime


19 March 2004

"Towards a Wider Europe: The New Agenda"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Prime Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by saying what a great honour it is for me to be here, in front of such an eminent audience gathered by the Slovak Government.

This is a historic period for Europe. In the next few weeks, both NATO and the EU will admit a significant number of new members – many of which are represented here today. This will bring us a huge step closer to what has always been a strategic objective of both our organisations: a Europe whole and free, united in democracy and common values.

In a formal sense, the enlargement processes of NATO and the EU were never linked. Politically, however, they were always connected. After all, the idea of Europe that emerged after the dark years of World War Two was, at the same time, an Atlantic idea.

The new Europe that visionaries such as Monnet, Schuman or Marshall wanted to build was a Europe firmly linked to the North American democracies. It was NATO's security umbrella, and the generous support provided by the United States, that gave Europe the self-confidence to embark on the historic path towards reconciliation and, ultimately, integration.

Yet as long as our continent remained divided, our wider aspirations remained unfulfilled. The new Europe remained incomplete: its dynamics constrained by ideological divides; its democratic ideals confined to flourish in only one half of the continent.

It was only after the "velvet revolutions" that Europe's other half was finally able to determine its own future. And almost without exception, countries in the region made a very clear choice: to become a full part of this twin project of European integration and transatlantic cooperation.

For many of the nations now about to join NATO and the EU, there will be a sense of homecoming -- a return to the Europe from which they were once separated against their will. For these nations in particular, their formal reunification with the rest of Europe is a historical achievement – an achievement that they have every reason to be proud of.

But if our continent is increasingly unified, its security is still at risk. Indeed, terrorism – as witnessed again only recently in Madrid – as well as weapons of mass destruction and failed states all represent challenges that are, in many ways, more complex than those of the past.

Meeting these challenges requires new ways of cooperation, new strategies, and new instruments. NATO and the EU have risen to the task, bringing to bear their unique skills, assets and experience. We have both adapted, and continue to do so. NATO, in addition to planning the greatest ever enlargement in its membership, is also going through the most profound transformation in its 55-year history.

We have done a lot – NATO and the EU – but we need to go further. For over half a century, the policies of NATO and the European integration process have been complementary – if not by design then at least in practice. Today, however, we need a true strategic partnership between our organisations – and we need our new members to build it with us.

What we need, in particular, is to give real substance to our relationship. And the way to do it is by broadening our common agenda to deal with the full spectrum of challenges before us – including the fight against terrorism, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But there is more. In addition to the broadening of NATO-EU cooperation to new functional areas, I believe we should also extend it to new geographical areas. And in this regard too, our new members can have a real impact.

In the Balkans, over the past decade, NATO and the EU have worked together more and more effectively – to reinforce each other’s efforts – and even, three years ago, to prevent a civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1) . We are making good progress now in handing over important NATO responsibilities in Bosnia to the EU later this year.

But the job in the Balkans is not yet fully done. Unfortunately we have just seen an outbreak of violence in Kosovo. KFOR soldiers, with reinforcements, and UNMIK police, are doing their utmost to protect the people of Kosovo regardless of their ethnic identity.

But we can not succeed on our own. Therefore I urge all concerned political leaders to act now to restore peace and security. This violence must stop immediately.

Those who think that they can achieve political ends through orchestrated violence will be severely disappointed. The international community will not tolerate a return to the practices of the past, from whomever they may originate.

We need a strong, pragmatic engagement by the international community wherever else our common interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference by working together – either within the Euro-Atlantic area, or outside it.

This logic of engagement applies first of all to Afghanistan. Because the stability of that country, and the region around it, is just as important to us all as that of the Balkans. There is no doubt in my mind that if we let Afghanistan slip back into chaos, and become a safe haven for terrorists again, it won’t be long before we feel the effects here in our own countries.

At the moment, NATO is fully engaged in Afghanistan – extending its stabilising influence throughout the country, and helping its people to lead better lives. The European Union, already one of the biggest donors, has a major stake in Afghanistan’s future too. Shaping that future will require effective cooperation on our part, and with other international actors. And I look forward to the Berlin conference later this month as a step in that direction.

The strategic partnership between NATO and the EU must be close and trusting – and it should cover functional and geographic areas where our interests converge. I am an Atlanticist at heart with a European vocation. So I support the development of the European Union’s defence policy. But this must be done in complementarity with NATO. And there should be no duplication. We cannot afford to waste our scarce resources.

We must also remember: defence does not come on the cheap. If we, NATO and the EU, are serious about facing today’s security challenges, we have to allocate the adequate resources. But at the same time, both our organisations must also be open and inclusive.

For the past ten years, through Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, NATO has promoted military and political interoperability across this entire continent. And with great success. During our engagement in the Balkans, and again in the wake of 11 September, our relations with our Partners have proved their value many times over.

NATO wants to continue to engage its Partners. By offering them cooperation that is geared even better to their specific interests and concerns. By focussing on interoperability to meet the new threats and risks. And by making a particular effort towards the Caucasus and Central Asia -- regions which are of enormous strategic importance, but which also face serious endemic problems such as border security, illegal migration, and organised crime.

Seven NATO Partners are about to join our Alliance, and they will become a member of the European Union before too long. But that will still leave many countries on this continent looking for political stability, economic perspectives, and a sense of belonging. They deserve not only our continued support, but a perspective of membership too.

The Alliance will continue to display that openness and engagement, also after this next round of NATO enlargement. Closing our doors is simply not an option. It would not only amount to an abdication of our responsibility, but of our very vision of Europe as a zone of freedom and shared values.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO and the European Union are advancing freedom to all of Europe. The enlargement of our two organisations is not about conquest -- but about voluntary association. It is not about division -- but about unification. Not about footprints, forward bases, or new dividing lines -- but about meeting common challenges together. And it takes place at no one's expense.

Soon, many of the countries represented here today will join NATO and the EU. In just a few months, our organisations will have not just eleven, but nineteen members in common. That convergence in our membership alone will be an important stimulus for the NATO-EU strategic partnership.

I hope, and expect, that it will promote genuine cooperation in new functional and geographic areas – and that it will also underline the openness of both our organisations. Because that will reinforce the transatlantic relationship that we all value so much. And it will bring us even closer to the Europe that we are trying to build.

Thank you.

1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

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