Updated: 23-Apr-2004 NATO Speeches


23 April 2004


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Slovenian Parliament

Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the evening of 26 June 1991, President Milan Kučan, during his speech at the ceremonial proclamation of Slovenia’s independence in front of this very building of Parliament, said “Tonight we are allowed to dream, tomorrow is a new day”. The Slovenian people have realised that dream. Now they have realised another dream by becoming NATO and EU members.

So let me start by saying: “Welcome to the NATO family”. You can legitimately claim that your membership in NATO is a reward for all the hard work that went into preparing your country for accession. It is a rightly deserved achievement.

What does it mean to be in NATO? First and foremost, being in NATO means never having to worry about one’s territorial integrity. And it means never having to face a security challenge alone anymore.

But there is much more to NATO membership than physical protection. Being in NATO also means being part of a unique transatlantic project of shaping change. It means participating in a common effort of promoting security and stability in Europe and beyond in line with our values and interests.

Bringing stability to Afghanistan is the most recent – and certainly most demanding – part of our transatlantic project. But if we want to win the war on terrorism, it is indispensable that we win the peace in Afghanistan. We should not harbour any illusions about the time and effort it will take until this country has regained a semblance of stability and order. But we will see this mission through. Because when NATO takes on a job, it must succeed.

NATO’s operation in Afghanistan demonstrates that our Alliance remains the world’s most effective organisation at generating, leading and supporting large, multinational and long-term peace support operations. For that reason, NATO has become an invaluable asset for the international community. And I have no doubt that the Alliance will continue to be in demand for robust peace support operations in the future.

To meet that demand, however, we must develop modern military capabilities with quickly deployable forces.

We have made very good progress. The first elements of the NATO Response Force are up and running. Allies are making improvements in key areas such as strategic lift and command and control, even if we still have a long way to go. We are enhancing our defence against weapons of mass destruction. And we are radically overhauling our military command structure – to make it leaner and more flexible, with a new command specifically dedicated to transformation.

But more needs to be done – by all Allies, old and new, big and small. In particular, we all need to look seriously at the issue of deployability and usability. Let me explain this jargon. European Allies and Canada together have around one and a half million men and women in uniform. Over two million if you count the reserves. However, with around 60,000 troops deployed in multi-national operations, they claim to be overstreched.

Clearly, our armed forces need to be made more usable. We need forces that are light, mobile and able to carry out the full spectrum of Alliance missions. Forces that can be deployed quickly and over long distances and can stay deployed for as long as needed. If we don't do this, we will soon reach a point where our political reach goes beyond our military grasp. Afghanistan will certainly not be the last crisis we face. That is why I want all member nations, including Slovenia, to take military reform seriously. This means setting priorities, and spending where necessary, to allow us to quickly deploy the right forces where they are really needed.

Another Alliance priority is to intensify our relations with Partners. In the Balkans as well as in Afghanistan, soldiers of many Partner countries are working side-by-side with NATO troops, just as Slovenian forces have done for many years. This demonstrates the enormous strategic value that these Partnerships have acquired.

With NATO’s recent enlargement, our remaining Partner countries have become even more diverse, both geographically and in terms of their security interests. This means that our Partnership policy will have to enter a new phase. A phase characterised by more individualised cooperation with Partners, a stronger focus on cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia, and a stronger focus on interoperability to meet the new threats, such as terrorism.

We must also build closer and more effective relations with one particular Partner country, which is Russia. Throughout the past decade we struggled to develop a true Partnership between NATO and Russia. But time and again Cold War stereotypes got in the way. This has changed profoundly.

Today, NATO and Russia work together on a broad spectrum of security issues -- ranging from crisis management to combating terrorism, and from dealing with chemical attacks to maritime search and rescue operations. And even though not all misperceptions have disappeared, it is becoming more and more evident by the day that Russia and NATO are indispensable Partners in meeting common challenges.

The task of enhancing our Partnerships is not confined to individual nations. It also includes enhancing our relations with other institutions. The reason is clear. An ever more complex security environment demands all our institutions to join forces. Only then will we have access to the full spectrum of political, economic and military means required for a forward-looking security policy.

A key priority here is to move forward our strategic partnership with the European Union. Good progress has already been made. First and foremost, we have set the stage for NATO to support EU-led operations. This will allow the Union gradually to assume more of our common responsibility for stability, including in the Balkans. Later this year, we hope to hand over important security responsibilities to the EU in Bosnia. That way, the EU can become an effective security actor, yet without duplicating the assets and capabilities we already have in NATO.

I want to stress, however, that NATO is not packing up and going home. We will retain a headquarters in Sarajevo, and we will continue to assist Bosnia in such areas as defence reform and the fight against terrorism. And, of course, we will stay very much engaged in Kosovo – because, clearly, our job there is not over yet.

Cooperation between NATO and the EU in the Balkans is a good start into a strategic partnership between these two institutions. But still more needs to be done. We must broaden consultation and cooperation across the entire spectrum of security challenges: from combating terrorism to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. NATO and the EU share the same strategic objectives. It is time for our institutional relationship to reflect this fact.

The need for close cooperation between NATO and the EU has also become apparent in another region -- the region that some have termed the "Greater Middle East". Because it has become increasingly clear that the problems in this region should not be left to fester.

I am perfectly aware, of course, that advancing security and political and economic progress in this region is an enormous task. It will require strong engagement by the countries in the region. It will require a sound understanding on our part of their ambitions and concerns. And it will require a new degree of cooperation between our international institutions. NATO is ready to play its role within the context of the wider international community.

When our Heads of State and Government meet in Istanbul in June, they will give additional substance to this strategy of engagement. They will implement further our common vision of a new NATO: an Alliance determined to deal with the new security threats of this century – terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and "failed states". An Alliance prepared to send its forces to wherever they are needed, and to defend against threats from wherever they may come. An Alliance that opens a new chapter in its Partnerships, reaching out to the Southern Mediterranean and the wider region. And an Alliance whose members are fully committed to developing the capabilities that are needed to underpin this ambitious agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a member of NATO and in a few days of the European Union, Slovenia has many opportunities to be part of this strategy of engagement -- to shape the strategic environment in places as far away as Central Asia or the Middle East. And I am confident that you will play your part.

But even much closer to home, in your immediate neighbourhood, Slovenia can play an important role. As the first country from the former Yugoslavia to make it into NATO and the EU, this country can serve as a role model of successful transition – and a beacon of hope for those countries who have yet to complete their own transition.

Your country’s success story is ample proof that genuine commitment and hard work pays off. I am happy for Slovenia to have achieved so much. And I am proud that NATO has a country like yours among its members.

Thank you.

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