Updated: 12-May-2004 NATO Speeches



29 April 2004


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at Galatasaray University

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear students,

I am deeply honoured to have this opportunity to speak at this prestigious university. Since its foundation in 1481, Galatasaray has always been both a leading educational institution and a channel of communication and interaction between two different cultures. Galatasaray University perpetuates this tradition with brio.

I am equally honoured to be here in Istanbul, a city that – quite literally – bridges two continents.

It is quite fitting, therefore, that the next NATO Summit will take place here in Istanbul. Because this Summit – very much like this city – will be about building new bridges. And it will also be a good opportunity to highlight Turkey’s value as a staunch NATO Ally – an Ally with unique ties to the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

For over half a century, the success story of Turkey has been closely intertwined with its role in the Atlantic Alliance. Because just as Turkey unites two continents, so does NATO. It binds North America and Europe in a community of shared values and shared interests. And just a few weeks ago, seven more countries joined this community. Nothing could illustrate better how attractive this transatlantic project remains.

For as long as my generation can remember, NATO has always been there to defend the fundamental values of democracy and pluralism. But the seven new Member countries were not always able to enjoy those values, as they did not have the Alliance's protection. They had to fight to have them acknowledged. Their difficult journey shows that we must not take NATO, or the values it defends, for granted. We must endeavour not only to maintain our translatlantic community of values but also to develop it further.

Of course our security environment has changed drastically over the last decade after the end of the Cold War. When I was a student, the strategic environment was far more predictable. In those days we did not have to worry about many of the things that concern us today. With the world divided into two blocs, we were facing only one clear security threat. And, accordingly, we needed one single response.

Today, our job of providing security has become far more complicated. Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and failed states are the new threats we are facing. And they are much less predictable in nature. But does this mean that we have lost control? Are we reduced to the role of mere bystanders?

Certainly not. Security can be shaped – by developing the right ideas; by devising the right policies; and by making the right choices. Even today, in a far more complex situation, we can make a difference.

Indeed, you can make a difference. After all, the 21st century is your century. You are the leaders of tomorrow. Your generation will produce the thinkers and the do-ers to meet the challenges of the future. Some of you will work in international organizations or in the private sector. Some of you will actively engage in politics, others will write about it as journalists. Whatever you do, your active interest in world affairs, in peace and security, will help shape the future for the better.

As you progress in your professional careers, I am sure that you will approach many issues and problems in a different way than my generation does. But you will quickly find that there is no alternative to transatlantic cooperation in confronting the challenges we face.

This is well reflected in the Alliance. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has become a very flexible – and very creative – instrument for shaping change. It is not geared exclusively towards deterrence. On the contrary, it is an organization that builds stability in countries torn by conflict. It creates the conditions for peace and security so that other international organizations, primarily the United Nations, can help economic and democratic development of those societies.

NATO is active in the Balkans, where our troops have turned this region from a war zone into a region that is gradually integrating into Euro-Atlantic structures. It has halted two bloody wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and prevented another in Macedonia. In Kosovo, when the security situation deteriorated last month, NATO again acted to restore stability.

NATO is also active in Afghanistan, its first peace operation outside Europe. This is a very important mission for the future of Afghanistan, and one in which Turkey is making a substantial contribution. For too long, Afghanistan was a haven for terrorists and drug traffickers. That situation could not be allowed to continue. It was therefore essential for the entire international community to help the country to get up on its feet again after decades of war and instability.

I should also like to remind you that Mr Hikmet Çetin, who was present as Minister of Foreign Affairs when these premises were inaugurated, is now NATO's senior civilian representative for Afghanistan.

NATO ships are also patrolling the Mediterranean in anti-terrorist operations, and enhancing security of sea routes.

The transformation NATO has been undergoing since the end of the Cold War has been profound. But to us, transformation is a process, not an event. It is a never-ending challenge. We cannot stand still. Because the security environment does not stand still.

So what are the next steps on our transformation agenda?

First of all, different challenges require different instruments. Simply put, you cannot fight 21st century threats with 20th century tools. This is why we are building new capabilities to better respond to threats like terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But military instruments are not all we need. We have created a special and founding relationship with Russia and a strategic partnership with Ukraine. We are also deepening our dialogue and co-operation with all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area. With the accession to the Alliance of numerous Central and Eastern European countries, partnership activities will continue with greater emphasis on the strategic Caucasus and Central Asian regions.

We work together with all these countries in areas ranging from defence reform to combating terrorism. And forces from many of these countries serve side-by-side with ours in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Afghanistan. This is a co-operative momentum unprecedented in Europe's history.

NATO’s “Mediterranean Dialogue” is another partnership that brings together seven countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East in a constructive relationship. Through this dialogue, NATO can offer assistance in fields of expertise that are of interest to those countries. The Istanbul Summit could be an opportunity to strengthen that dialogue and establish cooperative links with other countries of the "Greater Middle East". Turkey, a secular and democratic country in the Muslim world, will no doubt play an important role in the international community’s effort to engage this region.

We are also building co-operation between NATO and the European Union. A strategic partnership between NATO and the EU holds the potential of transforming not only European security, but also the transatlantic relationship. It is bearing its first fruits in the Balkans. There is no shortage of shared challenges. It is therefore important that the two organizations develop their cooperation in pursuit of peace and stability in such a way that they complement and do not duplicate one another's work.

Dear friends,

When NATO’s Heads of State and Government meet right here in Istanbul in June, they will take another major step in the Alliance’s transformation. They will implement further our common vision – the vision of an Alliance determined to deal with the new security threats of this century. An Alliance prepared to defend against threats from wherever they may come, if necessary by sending its forces to where they are needed. An Alliance that deepens its co-operation with Partner countries throughout the Euro-Atlantic area. An Alliance that strengthens its dialogue and co-operation with the Southern Mediterranean and the wider region.

The Istanbul Summit will bring home a fundamental truth – that even in this new, complex environment, we can still shape events, and not be their victims. We must shape change advisedly. There are plenty of opportunities to do so. Because we have the instruments previous generations lacked.

If we make use of its full potential, the Alliance will remain an anchor of security not only for my generation, but also for yours and for those that follow.

When I was a student at University, I used to organise debates – often lively ones – on foreign policy. So I look forward to the NATO Youth Summit taking place at the end of next month, where young people will make their voices heard on the important security issues of the day.

And I look forward to answering all your questions right now!

Thank you.

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