|Updated: 16-Jun-2006||NATO Speeches|
12 June 2006
by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking our hosts for making it possible for me to complement my official meetings in Skopje today with a public appearance.
My visit to your country today will be followed by visits to Croatia and Albania in just a few weeks’ time. The main purpose of these visits is clear. It is to commend all three countries with the impressive progress they have made in preparing for NATO membership – and to reassure them that they will accede to NATO, if they keep up their efforts.
But I have another objective, too, with my visit to Skopje today, and to Zagreb and Tirana later. And that is to further explain – to policymakers and the public at large – what it really means to be a member of NATO today. And why it is in your interest, as well as NATO’s, that you continue your efforts to join the Alliance .
NATO is a unique institution. It features, first of all, an exceptional political consultation mechanism that is geared towards consensus. This consensus process is sometimes perceived as slow and cumbersome. But it has distinct advantages. It creates a sense of predictability. And it fosters both a responsibility and a pre-disposition among the Allies – big and small – to seek common solutions to common problems.
NATO also has an integrated multinational military structure to implement these common decisions. Over the years, the militaries of our member nations have become highly interoperable, and capable of working together effectively under the most demanding circumstances. And that military potential is another unique feature of the Alliance .
What also makes NATO unique is its transatlantic dimension. There is simply no other forum that brings Americans, Canadians and Europeans closer together. And transatlantic consultation and cooperation in the Alliance works both ways. Through NATO, the United States and Canada can make their voice heard in Europe . And we Europeans, in turn, use NATO to get our views across the Atlantic .
Together, these various characteristics make NATO a truly unique organisation. But the real glue that has held the Alliance together for more than half a century is not structures,is notbureaucracies. It is not even a common threat. What continues to bind us are the common values on which all our societies are built – pluralism, freedom, democracy, and tolerance.
What has changed – and what has changed dramatically – is the way in which those common values are threatened, and the manner in which we are having to defend them. In the face of threats from terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and failing states, reactive approaches will not do. These new and complex threats call for much more active engagement, including well away from our own borders – and that is what NATO is very much geared towards today.
NATO, today, is actively engaged on 3 continents – in Europe , in Asia , and in Africa . In Kosovo, our troops continue to keep the peace and ensure a safe and stable environment for the UN-sponsored status talks to bear fruit. In Afghanistan , the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force helps the Government of Afghanistan to provide the necessary security so that democracy can take root and redevelopment can take place. In Iraq , NATO is training Iraqi security forces to allow them to take on more responsibility for the security of their owncountry. In Africa , we are airlifting African Union peacekeepers into the Darfur region of Sudan , and providing other various forms of training assistance to that force in order to facilitate I hope, a smooth transition to the UN.
Alongside these commitments, NATO maritime forces are conducting an anti-terrorist operation in the Mediterranean . We provided humanitarian relief to the victims of last year’s Hurricane Katrina in the United States , as well as to victims of last October’s earthquake in Pakistan . And we are providing AWACS surveillance planes to Germany as part of the overall security plan during the Football World Cup Finals, just as we supported several other big public events during the past few years.
NATO’s operations are one important part of our pro-active, values-based security policy. But they are not the only one. Because the best way to safeguard our values is by nourishing them – by upholding our values at home, and advocating them abroad. By believing in the power of open, democratic systems and liberal economic systems. By encouraging other countries to open up their societies too. And by lending them advice and assistance if they so request.
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 the Caucasus and Central Asia . Through this network 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 our ability to cooperate in meeting such common challenges.
NATO’s enlargement process also shows how our values and our security interests converge. It has extended a unique zone of security throughout our continent. It has given – and continues to give – our neighbours new confidence in their own future, and a strong incentive to reform. And in so doing, it enhances prosperity and security for us all.
This logic of integration through NATO enlargement remains as valid as ever. It remains particularly valid here in Southeast Europe , because I strongly believe that for this region, Euro-Atlantic integration offers the only feasible way forward. There is simply no alternative.
Our Membership Action Plan remains the key instrument for Macedonia and other aspirant members to move closer to NATO. The MAP enables your country to benefit from the Alliance’s support and guidance to complete reforms in key areas; to stay abreast of the reforms which NATO itself is going through; and to ensure that you are able to make a meaningful contribution to the Alliance, as soon as you get on board.
These last few years, Macedonia has made great progress in implementing far-reaching domestic reforms. You deserve considerable credit for the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, which is transforming your country into a model multi-ethnic society in the region. You are to be commended, also, for the way in which you have strengthened the independence and effectiveness of your legal system in line with international recommendations.
Next month’s national elections will be a first, crucial test of the new election rules which we were glad to see adopted by all the political parties. As you know, NATO Allies – and I personally – expressed eruit concern after the local elections last year. We now all hope that the upcoming elections will meet the highest democratic standards – as is to be expected from a country that aspires to join NATO.
Police reform is one critical area related to the rule of law which has yet to be completed. NATO Allies attach great importance to the further strengthening of the rule of law in this country and its neighbours. And so we hope the new Parliament will put this issue high on its agenda, and deal with it in the most expeditious manner.
So there still is work to do. But let me tell you that, on the whole, the 26 NATO Allies view the seriousness and determination with which Macedonia is pursuing the necessary domestic reforms in a very favorable light. And we are confident that this positive trend can and will be carried through.
The same holds true for Macedonia ’s international engagement, first of all with its neighbours here in South-East Europe . Macedonia ’s cooperation with Albania and Croatia in the framework of the Adriatic Charter has been nothing less than exemplary.
But your country has also been looking further, quite literally. In addition to providing valuable host nation suport for NATO’s engagement in Kosovo , Macedonia has also contributed personnel to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan . This demonstrates that Macedonia shares our view that security today requires active engagement and solidarity. And it is another indication that Macedonia , once it joins the Alliance , is going to be a reliable and active NATO member.
So when will this be? I know there were hopes in this country and the other two MAP countries that invitations might be forthcoming in November, when NATO Heads of State and Government meet in Riga . I am glad that there is generally greater realism now. The NATO enlargement process was never driven by any artificial deadlines. It was, is, and remains a performance-based process. And as I just pointed out, some work still needs to be done.
But let me also very clearly state this: once a country has done what we expect from it, NATO will keep its own part of the deal – and open its doors for new members. This means your country’s accession to NATO is clearly no longer a question of “if”, but only of “when”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In NATO today, twenty-six strong and independent democracies consult and co-ordinate their positions on the key strategic issues of the 21 st century. They pool their individual military capabilities to create an exceptionally capable defence community. They meet common threats and challenges together, including well away from their own borders. And they shape the strategic environment in ways that no single country could ever hope to achieve on its own.
That is the community of nations which Macedonia is aspiring to join. To obtain the security guarantee of collective defence. To work shoulder-to-shoulder in one of the world’s pre-eminent peace making forces. To play a constructive role in the NATO Council, helping the Alliance to arrive at consensus. And to play its full part in defending and promoting the values that make NATO a true symbol of cooperation, democracy and peaceful relations.
Let there be no mistake -- there is still work to do. But Macedonia is well on its way towards joining the NATO community, and it will be a very welcome addition.
1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.