Updated: 18-May-2004 NATO Speeches

Atlantic Club of
Bulgaria, Sofia

14 May 2004


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Vice President,
Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to speak at this distinguished institution and before such a distinguished audience. And I am sure you know why I feel so glad to be here. Several of my predecessors have come here, from Manfred Woerner to George Robertson. But none of them could say what I am able to say to you right now: “Welcome to NATO!” Bulgaria is now a full member of the Alliance. And everyone knows that the Atlantic Club has played a major role in bringing this about.

The Atlantic Club was the first Atlantic NGO to be formed in a non-NATO country in 1991. Since its creation it has served as an agent of change, and as a forum for new ideas. It has relentlessly promoted Bulgaria’s integration into NATO – and it has even produced Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister!

The Atlantic Club’s initial aim has now been achieved. Bulgaria is a full member of NATO, and its membership in the European Union is only a matter of time. Still, the Atlantic Club has not lost its dynamism. Just a month ago, it helped to found the “Afghanistan Council for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation”. Clearly, you show every intention to continue the hard work that has brought about your excellent reputation in Bulgaria and beyond.

The continuing dynamism of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria very much mirrors the development of NATO at large. As much as we rejoice at what we have achieved, there can be no resting on our laurels. As the saying goes, if you are resting on your laurels, you are wearing them at the wrong place.

The challenges are there for everyone to see:

Terrorism has mutated from a problem of law enforcement into a lethal threat to international security. Faraway “failed states” can produce deadly spillover. And because we now know that there are individuals hateful enough to kill great numbers of innocent people, we also must prepare to defend against the use of weapons of mass destruction.

These are the great challenges of this era. And neither our populations, nor history, will judge us kindly if we fail to do all that we can to meet these challenges.

NATO has understood this historic responsibility. We have understood that, in order to prevail, we need to change the way we think about security. But we have also understood that we need to change the way we do business –the way we organise, train and equip our forces. And the way we cooperate with other nations and with other institutions.

All these changes have been set in train – and they are happening fast. After “9/11” it took NATO only a few hours to invoke Article 5 of its Treaty, and to initiate the first countermeasures. We then went to Afghanistan. In doing so, we did away with pointless notions of “in-” and “out-of-area”. And we helped opening the prospect for the people of Afghanistan to build a future in peace and stability.

We have also expanded our naval presence in the Mediterranean. We agreed a new concept for the defence against terrorism. We agreed new, ambitious goals to improve crucial military capabilities – strategic airlift, command and control, precision-guided munitions. We stepped up our capability to defend against weapons of mass destruction. We intensified our work on theatre missile defence. We are standing up the NATO Response Force. And we now have a new, streamlined command structure, with a Strategic Command dedicated exclusively to transformation.

And that is not all. We have also intensified NATO’s interaction with its Partners and with other organisations. We have elevated the NATO-Russia relationship to a new level. We are engaging with all our Partners in furthering our political dialogue and pragmatic cooperation against common threats. Our relationship with the European Union has progressed to the point where the EU can take over important security responsibilities from NATO in parts of the Balkans. And our relations with the United Nations are improving further as well.

Relations between NATO and the OSCE are also developing well. Indeed, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Foreign Minister Passy, the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office, for his active role in moving our relationship forward.

Last, but certainly not least, we have added seven new members to the NATO team. This move has not only benefited our new members but also strengthened our Alliance.

All these changes within NATO have happened within a remarkably short timespan. They refute any assertion that big organisations cannot change. NATO can change, and it has changed. In just a few years, NATO has transformed from a “eurocentric” Alliance to a provider of security and stability in places as far away as Afghanistan. It has made excellent progress in adapting to the challenges of the 21st century.

But we are not there yet. Giving our Alliance all the tools it needs to be effective against the new threats requires even more work. That is why I consistently remind people that NATO’s transformation is not a single event. It is a continuing process.

Our Istanbul Summit next month will be an important milestone in this ongoing transformation. The Summit will push forward NATO’s internal adaptation. But it will also make further progress on NATO’s cooperative relations with Partners – old and possibly new.

One critical challenge in our internal adaptation is to review the way we generate forces for missions such as the one we are conducting in Afghanistan. NATO has established itself as an important peacemaker, peacekeeper, and provider of security and stability. This means that the demand for our Alliance is likely to increase even further.

But we cannot meet this demand if we stick to current force planning and force generation procedures. That is why, at the Istanbul Summit, I expect to see the first results of a new approach. Istanbul should make clear that NATO remains an organisation that can match its political ambition with the right military capabilities.

A key challenge in our external adaptation is to develop new patterns of cooperation with our Partners. We need to ensure that Partnership retains its strategic value even after NATO’s recent enlargement. That is why, at Istanbul, 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. But we also want to reach out across the Mediterranean and the wider region. Because there is a growing consensus within our transatlantic community that the time has come to build closer ties with this pivotal region.

Istanbul is a city that, quite literally, bridges two continents. It is thus a very appropriate place for building new bridges to our Partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Istanbul Summit next month will show an Alliance in action. An Alliance dealing with the threats to our security, and doing so with new members, new missions, new partnerships, and new capabilities.

The new Alliance may be quite different from the one which Bulgaria set out to join many years ago. But we know that you appreciate and support the direction in which NATO has evolved. And we know that we can count on Bulgaria to make our Alliance even stronger, and even more relevant to the challenges that we face.

Go to Homepage Go to Index