Updated: 06-May-2004 NATO Speeches

The Netherlands

6 May 2004

NATO and the European Union : Partners in Security

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is my first official visit to The Netherlands as Secretary General of NATO. It is good to be back home, and a real pleasure to participate in this conference organised by Leiden University, which is my Alma Mater.

The overall theme of this conference is the role of the European Union on the world stage. I, of course, represent a different organisation – the North Atlantic Alliance. And some of you may have wondered if the conference organisers looked on the wrong page of the Brussels telephone book.

As a matter of fact, not just the memberships, but also the roles of the European Union and NATO have become more and more intertwined these last few years. More and more, our two organisations have come to rely on each other, both to build security on this continent and to project security beyond it. And that is the angle that I would like to explore in my remarks before you today.

Let’s step back in time for just a moment. Speaking about Europe’s future, US President Truman once referred to economic progress and security as two halves of the same walnut – one being necessary to enable the other. And that, indeed, is very much what we have seen in Europe after World War II.

For well over four decades, we had what almost seemed like a division of labour – in practice, if not by design. NATO engaged the United States and Canada in defending the freedom and security of Western Europe. And that made it possible to use the European Union – or the European Community as it was then called -- to promote the economic integration of this continent – and eventually also its political unification.

With the end of the Cold War, now almost fifteen years ago, the process of European integration reached a stage where it became entirely logical, indeed a strategic imperative, for European Union member nations to develop a Common Foreign and Security Policy – and to underpin this policy with credible military means.

Then, in the early 1990s, came the collapse of Yugoslavia. In trying to come to terms with the Balkans crisis, Europe learned many valuable lessons – about itself as well as about the transatlantic relationship.

The first lesson was that Europe needed to be able to organise itself militarily for those cases in which the United States would not want to take the lead. Early in the crisis, when the United States argued that they did not – as they put it -- “have a dog in this fight”, the Europeans discovered that they were not organised to conduct military operations without US leadership. As a result, much valuable time was lost in the search for a solution.

The second lesson was that when it comes to serious crisis management, American engagement remains indispensable. Not only does the United States possess unique military capabilities, it is also a political actor of considerable weight. Through NATO, North America and Europe can bring their combined political and military capabilities to bear on a crisis. And this will always be more effective than any solo effort by Europe or the US.

The essence of these Balkan lessons was clear: Europeans had to build a European Security and Defence Policy, but they must do so in harmony with NATO. And that is precisely what we have been working on – to build a close relationship between NATO and the European Union.

We have made good progress. We moved from cautious, low-level staff contacts to regular joint Ambassadorial and Ministerial meetings. We worked more and more effectively in the field, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. And we were able in 2001 to prevent civil war from breaking out in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- through early diplomatic action, in a well-coordinated, forceful manner.

At the end of 2002, we achieved a big breakthrough. We reaffirmed the strategic partnership between our two organisations. And we agreed on modalities for the European Union to draw on the Alliance’s assets and capabilities for European-led military operations.

We first used these arrangements last summer – when the European Union took over NATO’s relatively small peacekeeping operation in Macedonia. And we plan to implement the arrangements again this year as the EU prepares to take over major responsibilities from the Alliance in Bosnia.

Good progress – as I said. But not quite good enough, in my opinion. And certainly no ground for complacency. Because in this new century, the need for effective cooperation between NATO and the European Union is far greater than crisis management in the Balkans alone. I see at least six other areas where we can, and must, do better – in order to give real substance to our strategic partnership.

First, we have a strong common interest in spreading stability and security on this continent. We both enlarged our membership by a significant number of new member countries this year. In so doing, we have made huge progress towards a longstanding objective of both our organisations: a Europe that is united in freedom and democracy.

But that Europe is still unfinished. We both need to continue to engage other countries -- to complement each other in offering these countries help and assistance -- and to keep our doors open for them to walk through in the future. That remains a strategic imperative – for both our organisations.

Second, NATO and the EU must work more closely together not just in spreading stability on this continent -- but in defending that stability against a range of new threats as well. A new, indiscriminate breed of terrorism; the risk of rogue states and individuals getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction; and the prospect of “failed states” causing instability well beyond their own region.

These are threats that know no borders. Threats that may originate and fester well away from our borders before they strike at our homes. If we want to prevent that from happening, we need broad, effective cooperation between our nations, and between our institutions. And NATO and the EU have a major role to play.

Third, we need to work together to develop modern, deployable military capabilities -- which are critical if we want to meet, and to defeat, the new threats. NATO has made good progress in developing these kind of capabilities – including with its NATO Response Force. And with a view to our Istanbul Summit next month, work is in hand to see how we can make available more forces, within shorter timeframes, for operations such as the one NATO we are conducting in Afghanistan at the moment.

Modern military capabilities do not come cheap, and money is scarce in all our countries. So we must spend the money that we do have available for defence in the right way – not on paper armies or duplicative headquarters, but on real capabilities that we can deploy when and where they are needed. In this light, the small “battle groups” which the EU is now considering should be a useful complement to our common arsenal of response options.

Fourth, if we want to acquire the right military capabilities, and to acquire them for the right price, we also need transparent defence cooperation and procurement practices – in Europe and America – as well as across the Atlantic. NATO and the EU play a key role in ensuring that kind of level playing field as well.

Fifth, I already mentioned Afghanistan, and that is another urgent priority – for NATO and for the EU. Because the stability of that country is crucial to us all -- as crucial as that of the Balkans region. And because there are serious problems in Afghanistan that NATO and the EU have proved capable of tackling together in the Balkans – lawlessness, organised crime, narcotics, and weak borders.

NATO is fully engaged in Afghanistan – extending its stabilising presence throughout the country, and helping people to lead better lives. The EU, which is already one of the biggest donors, also has a major role to play in Afghanistan’s future. Shaping that future will require a sustained, long-term commitment on our part. So we must make sure that we get the most out of our common efforts.

Sixth, and finally, one more area where NATO and the EU must work together is in engaging Mediterranean countries and the wider region that is now often referred to as the “Greater Middle East”. Because it has become increasingly clear that if we do not join forces to address the many problems in this region, there will be a big price to pay before too long.

Advancing political and economic progress in this vast region is an enormous task. It will require strong involvement by the countries in the region. It will require a sound understanding on our part of their ambitions and concerns. But it will clearly also require a new degree of cooperation between international organisations – with NATO and the EU playing a major role.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ever since the end of the Cold War, NATO and the European Union have worked together on a wider range of issues, and to greater effect. Today, we face a range of new and complex challenges that force us to do even better. To work in a truly pragmatic manner – by complementing and reinforcing each other’s efforts.

Following the enlargement of the European Union’s membership this last weekend, and that of NATO last month, the Alliance and the Union now have a total of 19 members in common. That overlap in our membership should help in fostering the unity of purpose that we so clearly need in these challenging times.

I believe as strongly in the NATO-EU strategic partnership today as I did when I served in the Government of The Netherlands. As NATO Secretary General, I will continue to do everything within my power to give substance to that strategic partnership, and to make it truly effective in meeting the challenges before us.

You, as well, have an important role to play. After all, this century is your century. You are the leaders of tomorrow. You will work in politics, diplomacy, journalism or the academic world. And so you will be able to promote true, lasting complementarity between our institutions – and to shape a better world, for yourselves, and for future generations. That is both a big responsibility, and a great challenge.

Thank you.

Go to Homepage Go to Index