Updated: 19-May-2004 NATO Speeches


13 May 2004

“Supporting an Active Romania in an Active Alliance”

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the NATO House

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have already had a busy schedule of official meetings here in Bucharest today. But I am glad that my programme also includes this meeting at the NATO House, for two reasons.

First, because I want to salute the work of the NATO Studies Centre and the Euro-Atlantic Council of Romania. I know that you have worked very hard in promoting Romania’s membership in NATO. And my colleagues and I at NATO Headquarters want to continue to work with you, and to help you in any way we can, in making that membership a real success.

Which leads me to the second reason why I am glad to be here -- to stress the important role of precisely the people that are gathered here this afternoon: young people, students, journalists, representatives of non-governmental organisations. Your active interest in security issues in general, and in NATO in particular, will help to shape the future of this country, and the role that it will play in our Alliance.

Your country’s entry into NATO, just two months ago, was a huge step towards our transatlantic community of values. It was a testament to the vision of those Romanians who always viewed their country’s future in the Alliance. And it was the culmination of many years of hard work to turn this vision into reality – by this country’s politicians, its military officials, its diplomats and many others.

Many of you will have seen pictures of the very moving ceremony that we held at NATO Headquarters last month, when we raised Romania’s flag together with the flags of six other new NATO member countries.

During this ceremony, I was struck by the words of your Foreign Minister Geoana, when he said that Romania was equal to the tasks of NATO membership – and looking forward to its journey with NATO, to promote and protect our shared values of security, freedom and democracy to the frontiers of Europe – and beyond.

Those words by Minister Geoana showed a strong realisation that membership in NATO brings not only considerable benefits, but also serious responsibilities. That is indeed a critical realisation. And it is essential that it is shared widely among the people of this country, as it embarks upon its journey with NATO.

One critical responsibility – for all NATO members, old and new, – is to develop forces that are fully capable of performing the tasks that the Alliance decides to undertake. We need to keep on working hard on the transformation of NATO’s military means to respond to the threats and challenges of the 21st century.

Your country has made good progress in building a modern defence establishment. I am confident that Romania will implement further important decisions in this regard, allowing you to contribute to our common efforts more efficiently, and more effectively.

Which brings me to the second part of Minister Geoana’s words – the determination to make a meaningful contribution to the protection and the promotion of security, freedom and democracy – in Europe and beyond. That, as well, is a critical commitment – and one that must rely on broad public support.

These last few years, we have seen a number of grave new threats to our security. A lethal, indiscriminate breed of terrorism; the spectre of weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of irresponsible individuals; and “failed states” causing instability in their own region and well beyond.

These are threats that know no borders. Threats that can fester in faraway places -- before they suddenly strike us at our homes. Threats that have forced us to defend our security in new ways, and in new places.

NATO has risen to that challenge. In addition to our continuing engagement in the Balkans, the Alliance is now active in Afghanistan, to help bring stability to that country and to make sure that it will never be a safe haven for terrorists again.

Romania made a significant contribution to our engagement in Afghanistan even before it joined NATO. I am confident that we can continue to rely on this active involvement now that Romania is a member of the Alliance. But that will require continued public support -- and your role is essential in building that support.

The new, very volatile security environment not only demands a new level of military preparedness. It also demands a new political engagement on our part – a determined effort to reinforce trust, understanding and cooperation with countries outside our Alliance.

NATO is rising to that challenge as well. At our Summit in Istanbul next month, we want to launch a new phase in our Partnership policy – with more individualised cooperation, a greater emphasis on defence reform, and a much stronger focus on cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia. And we want to reach out across the Mediterranean too.

Romania has an important role to play. Before you entered NATO you were among our most active Partners. Now that you are in NATO, countries all around you continue to long for a greater sense of security – a closer connection to the Europe in which you are now making your way.

Whether it is Moldova or Ukraine, the countries of the Western Balkans or those of the South Caucasus – Romania can be an example to them, an invaluable source of inspiration and practical assistance.

In this context, let me welcome the initiative by the NATO Studies Centre to offer training to students from South East Europe, Caspian and Caucasian countries. This, I am sure, will contribute to a better understanding of NATO by young generations in some of the Alliance’s key Partner countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Romania, many years of hard work have paid off. You have entered the NATO family. And we are very pleased to have you in our midst.

The NATO you have entered is an active Alliance. Romania has indicated that it wants to be an active member of that active Alliance. And that is an approach that certainly befits a country of your size and stature – and which occupies such a strategic position on the map of this continent.

There are two fundamental requirements for an active membership in NATO. One is continued strong political leadership – and my meetings here today have left me in no doubt on that score.

The second requirement is broad public support – a sound understanding of the security challenges that we face in this new century, and a realistic appraisal of Romania’s ability to meet those challenges, together with its NATO Allies.

You – students, journalists, representatives from NGOs -- play an essential role in fostering that public understanding in this country. By talking and writing about the threats to our security, and what it takes to defend against those threats. By learning and teaching about NATO, and informing the general public about our Alliance. And by participating in active public debate.

That kind of public debate is critical in any vibrant democracy. It is an essential precondition for an active membership in NATO. That is why I was so keen to meet with you here at the NATO House today. Because your engagement matters.

Thank you.

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