Updated: 10-Sep-2004 NATO Speeches


9 Sept. 2004

NATO after Istanbul

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in Finland today, and to address this distinguished audience. Finland is without exaggeration one of NATO’s most effective and valued partners. It makes very valuable contributions to NATO peace operations, and it shares the values and goals NATO stands for. In fact, NATO needs partners like Finland, and I believe Finland can use its partnership with NATO to provide its contribution to address the security challenges without precedent in history we are facing today – from terrorist attacks to “failed states” to the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

How can we – the transatlantic community, friends and like-minded nations – cope with these new challenges? First and foremost, by acknowledging one fundamental reality: projecting stability has become the precondition for our security.

Of course, territorial defence will always remain a core function – for any nation. But we simply can no longer protect our security without addressing the potential risks and threats that arise far from our homes. Either we tackle these problems when and where they emerge, or they will end up on our doorstep.

NATO has taken this logic to heart. At our Istanbul Summit last June, we took a number of decisions that will enable us to project stability more effectively. We decided to increase our presence in Afghanistan. We agreed to terminate SFOR operation in Bosnia and hand over important security responsibilities to the European Union. We responded to a request by the Iraqi Interim Government to help with the training of Iraqi security forces. We will enhance our anti-terrorist naval operations in the Mediterranean. And we will adapt our approach to force planning and force generation, to better support our new missions far away from home.

In my remarks this afternoon, I would like to focus on three major aspects of NATO’s future transformation – three major aspects that involve Finland one way or another: our operations, our partnerships, and our relations with the European Union.

First, a few words on our operations. Let me start with Afghanistan, our number one priority. Afghanistan may be halfway around the world, but its success matters to our and your security right here. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan was among the most backward countries in the world, and a safe haven for terrorists. Today, thanks to the engagement of the international community, the Taliban have lost their grip on this country – and millions of people have registered to vote. We must make sure that this positive trend continues. That is why we are reinforcing our presence in time for the elections – a contribution that is crucial to ensuring long-term peace and stability in that country.

A few words also on the Balkans. At Istanbul, we decided to conclude NATO’s SFOR operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of this year, given the much improved security situation there. NATO helped end the war in that country and, with its Partners, has kept the peace there for almost a decade. We welcome the decision by the EU to establish a new mission in the country, and we will help to make it a success, first and foremost by providing NATO planning and command assets.

The end of SFOR will bring to a close NATO’s first-ever peacekeeping operation. The success of this mission is testimony to the wisdom of taking a long-term perspective on peacekeeping and reconstruction. With patience and persistence, we can succeed. And it is precisely this patience and persistence that we need to finish the job that is still unfinished – in Kosovo. We will not put ourselves under artificial time pressure. We will stay for as long as it takes. In short, our commitment to Kosovo remains unflinching.

Let me use this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Finland for its strong support for our peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. Time and again, Finnish troops have demonstrated their peacekeeping skills. When violence flared up in Kosovo last March, Finnish troops played a major role in bringing the situation under control. This is much appreciated – by NATO Allies, by the other Partner countries, and by those many people in Kosovo who seek peace.

The effective cooperation between NATO and Partner countries would be inconceivable without the preparation through the Partnership for Peace. This brings me to my second theme today: the future of Partnership.

As you all know, we decided at Istanbul to enhance our cooperation with our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Given the challenges these regions face, and given their geopolitical importance, this is only logical. However, some have interpreted this move as a detraction from our cooperation with our Western European Partners. Some have voiced concerns that this shift, together with NATO’s recent enlargement, will deprive the Partnership of its momentum.

Let me be very clear: such concerns are unfounded. Neither NATO enlargement nor the stronger focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia will detract from our cooperation with our Western European Partners. Our Western European Partners, Finland among them, remain the most active and capable. NATO and these Partners have made a strategic investment with this Partnership – an investment that pays off day to day, from Pristina to Kabul. We are not going to squander that.

On the contrary. In my view, the opportunities for Finland to further intensify the Partnership have only increased.

One new development is the possibility for Partners to participate in the NATO Response Force. As you may know, this force is designed to cope with a broad spectrum of contingencies, including non-Article 5 contingencies. So I find it quite conceivable that a Partner country like Finland would conclude that participation in an NRF operation would be in its national interest. That is why we are currently examining ways to facilitate such participation – for example by making NRF standards and criteria available to interested Partners, or by adapting PfP exercises to help prepare Partner forces for their eventual participation in the NRF.

The second innovation is the Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building that we adopted at the Istanbul Summit. Through this Action Plan we seek to enhance the democratic management of defence structures in some Partner countries. Finland has always been an important contributor to the Partnership, and has provided valuable training opportunities for other Partners. We therefore hope that the new Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building will also benefit from strong Finish involvement.

Finland has also made strong contributions to the fight against terrorism and cooperation in civil emergency planning. And Finland also has made full use of the opportunities for stronger participation of Partners at NATO Headquarters and other NATO bodies. For example, Finland was the first Partner country to have placed long-term interns in the NATO International Staff, where they work as fully-fledged action officers.

To me, this does not at all look like a weakening Partnership. On the contrary, this looks very much like a success story – a story that will continue.

The Partnership of EU-member Finland with NATO is a good example of how countries with different security traditions and different institutional memberships can work together effectively to pursue common goals and defend common values. But we need to go further. Not only must NATO and our Partnerships be retooled and reoriented to tackle the new security challenges, but we also need to build a strong strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union. There is simply no other relationship that offers more potential for shaping the strategic environment in line with our common values and interests.

Both NATO and the EU are permanent fixtures of our political landscape. Both stand uncontested – they are each indispensable instruments to shape the future. Today, you have to look hard for someone who still questions the need for an EU security dimension. And you will be equally hard-pressed to find anybody who argues that transatlantic security cooperation in NATO has become obsolete.

In short, both the European Union and NATO have every reason to be self-confident. And yet, when it comes to developing the relationship between us, I feel that we are simply not showing enough of that self-confidence. We do not seem to realise just how much more we can do – in our own interest and that of the wider world around us.

So how can we make that decisive step forward? What should be the way ahead? Clearly, I am not arguing for drawing up new grand designs for NATO-EU relations. Both institutions are still right in the middle of comprehensive transformation processes, and this is not the time for ambitious blueprints.

Instead, we should broaden NATO-EU cooperation gradually and pragmatically. Our common aim should be to cooperate in all areas where our interests coincide, and where both institutions can complement each other.

What areas do I have in mind? The most obvious one is crisis management. In the Balkans, we have done this to great effect. But we cannot and should not limit ourselves to the Balkans.

Look at Afghanistan. NATO plays a key role as a military stabiliser in this country. The EU, for its part, is the biggest financial donor. Both our organisations are critical to the long-term future of Afghanistan. And the long-term future of Afghanistan is critical to the security of all our nations, and the well being of all our citizens. Do we really need any further reason to accept that close coordination and cooperation between NATO and the EU makes eminent sense?

But we should look even further – beyond the Balkans and beyond Afghanistan. The European Union has taken action in response to the mounting humanitarian crisis in Darfur. With regard to that troubled African region, as well, our two organisations might usefully complement each other. And I believe that we have to think creatively how we can work together. For example, by giving logistic or other assistance to the African Union, if it would ask.

There are many more areas where closer NATO-EU cooperation would be appropriate. Combating terrorism, coping with the spread of weapons of mass destruction, or improving military capabilities. And, above all, developing common approaches to support reform in the area commonly known as the broader Middle East. Only together can NATO and the EU exert a long-term, positive influence on this region – complementing each other, and reinforcing each other’s efforts.

Can such a broader cooperation be established? I believe that the prospects are good. The recent enlargements of NATO and the EU have led to a considerable overlap in their membership, and this fact alone is bound to bring them closer together. However, even countries, which do not belong to both institutions, such as Finland, will have a major role to play in improving NATO-EU relations. As a strong EU member, a strong Partner to NATO, and as a country with impeccable credentials, Finland is ideally suited to play the role of a facilitator between NATO and the EU. Because both institutions will increasingly depend on each other in crisis management and long-term stabilisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We may be living in an “age of uncertainty”, and we may be confronted with many new security challenges. But we are not condemned to be the victims of circumstances that lie beyond our control. We can shape the future. Today, the Balkans are no longer the “powderkeg” they once were. Afghanistan is no longer the “black hole” it had become under the Taliban. And even in a region as vast and complex as the broader Middle East, I think, the opportunities outweigh the risks.

What counts is that we have the will to make a difference. And that we have the instruments to make a difference: NATO, the EU, and a tight network of trusting Partnerships. With these instruments, we can shape the future in line with our common interests and our common values.

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