Updated: 23-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches


23 June 2005


by Secretary General at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address this gathering today. The Council of Europe is clearly among the most prestigious institutions on this continent. For well over half a century, it has served as a standard bearer of democracy and human rights, on this continent and beyond.

The Council of Europe was founded in 1949, in a Europe that was economically shattered and ravaged by war. Through the creation of this unique Council, Europe institutionalised a major lesson from two World Wars: that only a Europe in which democratic ideals would flourish could prevent yet another act of self-destruction. The Council of Europe thus became the symbol of a new – and better – Europe.

But there was a second lesson that Europe took to heart: the need to build permanent ties with the democracies of North America. Tying the United States and Canada to Europe would not only help to ensure security in Europe; it would also give Europe the necessary self-confidence to tackle the daunting challenges of post-war reconstruction. That second lesson became institutionalised as well – in the creation of NATO.

The year 1949, therefore, saw both the creation of the Council of Europe and of the Atlantic Alliance. The need to foster common democratic values, and the need to protect these values – these lessons were firmly embedded in our two institutions.

Today’s Europe bears little resemblance to the Europe of 1949. The division of Europe has been overcome. The ideological clashes of the past are gone as well. And the risk that a world war would ever again break out on this continent is very remote indeed.

Yet Europe remains, in many ways, unfinished business. Establishing democratic standards and respect for human rights remains a work in progress. Several parts of this continent are still haunted by the spectre of regional conflict. And we have come to realise that, in an increasingly globalised world, the security of our continent is increasingly affected by developments that happen elsewhere.

Since the end of the Cold War, both our institutions, each in its own way, have been working hard to finish Europe’s unfinished business. Both have taken on pan-European responsibilities. And while NATO and the Council of Europe have no elaborate formal relationship, we both aspire to consolidate Europe as a common space that is both free and secure.

In helping to consolidate Europe, both our institutions follow the same basic conviction – the conviction that democracy is key. Because Immanuel Kant was right: democracies are less prone to violence. Indeed, most of the conflicts we see today in the world are between or within states that lack the fundamentals of democratic societies or statehood.

Democracies remain far better equipped to deal with the challenges of modernisation and globalisation. Open societies are geared towards change and towards pragmatic problem-solving. Open and free media are the best insurance against any inclination to replace historical facts with self-serving myths. And although ethnic tolerance in our own countries is sometimes more preached than practised, open, multi-cultural societies are the best insurance against excesses of the kind we have seen in some parts of Europe, and even more tragically elsewhere.

Clearly, sustaining a pluralist, multi-ethnic society is a constant challenge – both for those who live in it and for those who aspire to join it. Only a society that rests on a firm foundation of values will have the inner cohesion and moral clarity that will allow it to embrace people with different cultures and backgrounds as a true enrichment. Again, a difficult challenge, but a challenge worth taking on.

To ensure that democracy and open societies take root and flourish across – and beyond – the Euro-Atlantic area is thus the single most important response to the challenges of the 21 st century. It remains the best investment that we can make into our future.

Spreading the commitment to democracy and its associated values is key to both our organisations. We should help countries that are interested in emulating our success – and there are many. We should encourage these countries to open up their societies too – as the only way to meet the challenge of globalisation, to provide their people with the basic needs of modern life, and prevent lawlessness and terrorism from taking root. We should advise and assist interested countries in breaking free from the past, by introducing democratic, economic and also military reforms. And we should make it clear that democratic control over security forces is essential to peaceful transformation.

NATO has acted in line with this logic. Over the past fifteen years, the Alliance has built up a wide network of security relationships – all over Europe and into Central Asia. Through this network of security relationships, we have not only been able to promote our values. We have also fostered a genuine Euro-Atlantic security culture – a strong disposition to tackle common security problems by working together. And we have greatly improved the ability of our military forces to cooperate in meeting, and defeating, such common challenges.

Maintaining relations with so many diverse countries is bound to create challenges, all the more so as some of these countries are undergoing profound processes of transition. The recent events in Uzbekistan have made this painfully clear. As our Euro-Atlantic partnership is based not only on shared security interests, but also on shared values, we cannot be but disturbed by what happened there. Unanimously, Allies have strongly condemned the reported use of excessive and disproportionate force by the security forces, and we fully support the UN, EU and OSCE’s calls for an independent international inquiry. We expect our Partners to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we will continue to make this clear to them.

Today, NATO’s partnership covers most of Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. But it is not complete yet. In the Balkans, both Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia and Montenegro still remain outside of this framework. I believe that it is in the long-term interest of us all to see these countries joining the NATO partnership. And we also made it very clear that we look forward to welcoming both countries into the Partnership for Peace – provided, however, that they meet certain conditions, including full cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

In pursuing our overall objective to consolidate Europe as a free, secure and prosperous space, we have also used NATO’s enlargement process, alongside that of the European Union. The enlargement of the European Union has helped to stabilise Europe politically and economically. And the opening of NATO’s doors has extended a unique zone of security throughout our continent. Both enlargement processes have given – and should continue to give – our eastern neighbours new confidence in their own future, and a strong incentive to reform. And in so doing, they enhance prosperity and security for us all.

These policies of NATO demonstrate that advocating and promoting democracy is crucially important, and that NATO can make a substantial contribution to this aim. But promoting freedom and tolerance is not always enough. In defending our freedom today, we must also be prepared, if the need arises, to make use of the military means at our disposal. We must ensure that those means are suitable to the task at hand, and deployed with due caution and respect for international law. And NATO has been acting in line with that logic.

Si, d’une manière générale, la paix règne dans les Balkans aujourd’hui, et si les pays de cette région suivent désormais fermement la voie vers une Europe intégrée, c’est aussi parce que l’OTAN n’a pas eu peur de recourir à la force au bon moment. Les soldats de l’OTAN ont arrêté le bain de sang en Bosnie. L’Alliance a mis fin au nettoyage ethnique au Kosovo. Et grâce à sa présence dans les Balkans, l’OTAN a créé les conditions de sécurité dans lesquelles d’autres institutions peuvent oeuvrer à la reconstruction et à la réconciliation. Aujourd’hui, nous poursuivons le dialogue avec les pays de la région, en leur offrant conseils et assistance et en restant ouverts à d’autres adhésions.

L’OTAN a aussi joué un rôle majeur pour ramener la sécurité et la stabilité en Afghanistan. Aujourd’hui, ce pays ne se trouve plus sous la botte des talibans. Al-Qaida a perdu un sanctuaire d’où planifier des attaques contre nous. L’OTAN élargit actuellement sa présence dans le pays afin d’aider le gouvernement du président Karzaï à asseoir son autorité. Et nous contribuerons à assurer la sécurité pour les élections parlementaires et provinciales, comme nous l’avons fait pour les élections présidentielles, l’an dernier. Parce que nous sommes déterminés à continuer d’aider le peuple afghan à réaliser son rêve d’un avenir meilleur.

Plus récemment, l’OTAN a mis en place une mission destinée à former les forces de sécurité iraquiennes. Suite à la réussite des élections, l’Iraq possède enfin un gouvernement entièrement légitime. Il est toutefois évident qu’il faudra du temps pour que le processus politique s’implante en Iraq, pour édifier des institutions solides et efficaces, faire respecter la primauté du droit et encourager le progrès économique. Tous ces efforts dépendront essentiellement de l’aptitude des autorités iraquiennes à assurer la sécurité fondamentale de leurs citoyens. L’OTAN est résolue à les aider à relever ce défi. En effet, un Iraq démocratique et sûr contribuera dans une large mesure à apporter plus de stabilité au Proche-Orient, et c’est là un objectif que nous partageons tous.

Plus récemment encore, l’Union africaine a répondu à des appels en faveur d’une force plus importante qui pourrait mettre fin à la violation des droits de l’homme au Darfour. L’OTAN, avec l’Union européenne, a accepté de soutenir l’expansion de cette force de l’Union africaine sur le plan logistique.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When one looks at the agendas of the Council of Europe and of NATO, one can see two institutions that are dealing with an ever-widening range of issues. This Council’s mandate, for example, ranges from scrutinising a country’s human rights record to preventing trafficking in people. And the Atlantic Alliance is simultaneously running several demanding peacekeeping mission in Europe and beyond.

Some have argued that this busy agenda shows that we are overwhelmed by the complexities of today’s challenges – that our societies are overwhelmed by an ever-increasing number of issues that they can no longer hope to manage.

I disagree. The busy agenda of our institutions demonstrates just the opposite – namely our determination to shape events, and not be their victims. We have learned from history. We have understood that for security and democracy to last, one must move from safeguarding it to actively promoting it. Above all, however, we have created instruments to help us achieve these aims – instruments that less fortunate generations lacked.

The Council of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance are two of these instruments. Both our organisations, each in its own distinct way, have helped to shape the evolution of this continent for the better. What was only a distant vision in 1949 has now come within our reach: a Europe whole, free and secure, united by common interests and by common values.

Thank you.

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