|Updated: 19-Dec-2006||NATO Speeches|
19 Dec 2006
by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me, first of all, say how much I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you this morning. And let me also express my sincere thanks to the Atlantic Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for arranging today’s meeting. I am aware that the programme was put together at relatively short notice, so I should especially like to thank all of you for taking the time and effort to attend.
Last month, at their summit meeting in Riga, NATO’s Heads of State and Government decided to invite Serbia to join Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Last week, President Tadic and NATO’s Secretary General participated in a signing ceremony at the NATO headquarters in Brussels that marked the official entry of Serbia into those two principal cooperative frameworks of the Alliance. And the main purpose of my visit to Belgrade is the opening of a NATO Military Liaison Office that should greatly facilitate our cooperation.
It is clear for everyone to see that there is a new, promising momentum in the relationship between NATO and Serbia. And that reflects the positive change that we have witnessed throughout the entire Balkans region in recent years. All across South-East Europe, countries are moving away from radicalism and nationalism and are opting for regional cooperation and Euro-Atlantic integration. NATO has played a full part in promoting this positive momentum – and it is committed to continuing to do so.
Four countries in your neighbourhood -- Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia – have turned from active partners of the Alliance during the 1990s, into valued member countries of NATO, and major contributors to security and stability on this continent and beyond.
During the eleven years that NATO has been present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the security situation there has consistently improved. Like Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, too, joined Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council last week, as did Montenegro, and we look forward to working with all our three new Partners and to develop our relationship.
And so, throughout this region, NATO is engaged in a variety of ways to assist reform, encourage cooperation, and promote integration. We firmly belief that full Euro-Atlantic integration is the only way for the region to attain sustained stability, security, and economic development. And we are determined to continue to play our part in bringing all the countries of this region back into the European mainstream – which is where they belong.
But, of course, NATO cannot do all the work alone. The path to integration is most definitely not a one way street. It first and foremost requires hard work by the countries in the region. Many of your neighbours have implemented bold changes over the past few years. And more recently, your country, as well, has made impressive efforts, both in terms of domestic reform and pursuing a responsible foreign policy.
Most encouraging in this regard are the steps which Serbia has taken to rebuild its ties with its neighbours and the wider international community. In particular, I should like to commend the mature, constructive and democratic approach that was taken by Serbia in response to the decision by the people of Montenegro to take an independent path.
We look forward to a similarly constructive approach next year which, as you all know, is going to be a crucial year for the future of Kosovo. A final settlement of Kosovo’s status issue is very much in Serbia’s interests, because it will improve stability in the whole of South-East Europe. And it will significantly enhance Serbia’s prospects -- as well as those of the entire region -- for further integration into the Euro-Atlantic community of nations.
NATO and Serbia have a solid basis on which to develop their relationship. For the past few years, under a tailored cooperation programme, this country has been able to benefit from assistance in areas as diverse as defence reform; defence planning, budgeting and resource management; conceptual, planning and operational aspects of peacekeeping; the fight against terrorism and illegal trafficking; logistics; and language training.
There is also the NATO-Serbia Defence Reform Group. This group provides advice and assistance to the Serbian authorities to enable them to reform and modernise Serbia’s armed forces and to build a modern, affordable and democratically controlled defence structure here in Serbia.
We have also been working together successfully in the context of several NATO Trust Funds in order to address a number of very specific problems, including the destruction of landmines and small arms and light weapons, and the retraining of redundant military personnel.
Finally, we also have an agreement in place on transit arrangements for peace support operations, notably NATO’s engagement in Kosovo. Given the crucial, stabilising role of our military presence there, Belgrade shares that interest. And this agreement is another very strong indicator of how relations between Serbia and NATO are moving closer – both in practical terms, and politically.
So there is already a lot of cooperation for us to build upon. And this cooperation was given a very visible and concrete face when, yesterday, I officially opened the NATO Military Liaison Office here in Belgrade. The timing of the opening of this new office could not have been better, because it will greatly facilitate the increased cooperation that will undoubtedly flow from the new stage in our relationship.
The tailored cooperation programme that I just mentioned will now be superseded by detailed programmes that are an integral part of the Partnership for Peace. A number of powerful and tested tools will be available to help Serbia to further reform its security and defence structures and institutions. These include opportunities for assistance that is specifically geared to your country’s needs and concerns, as well as the possibility to benefit from NATO’s enormous expertise in military training and defence education.
At the same time, partnership is about far more than defence and security reform. It also offers a unique opportunity for political dialogue and consultation on key security concerns, and not just with the 26 NATO Allies, but the 22 other Partner countries of the Alliance as well.
Partnership with NATO offers Serbia the opportunity to work together much more closely -- politically as well as militarily -- with almost fifty countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the United States to Russia, and from Ireland to Kazakhstan. And that will be a significant further step for Serbia along the path to Euro-Atlantic integration.
Let me conclude by emphasising that membership in Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council brings Serbia considerable benefits, but also responsibilities. And these responsibilities include adherence to the values and principles set out in the relevant basic documents which President Tadic signed in Brussels last week. Values and principles that underpin the Alliance itself: democracy, the individual liberty and the rule of law.
It is in this spirit that NATO Allies expect Serbia to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. They will closely follow Serbian efforts in this regard. And NATO will also be expecting Serbia to play a full and active role in ensuring long term peace and stability in the entire Western Balkans region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, in a world of globalised insecurity, the 26 NATO Allies are defending their security and their common values in new ways and in new places. NATO is involved in peacekeeping operations in places as far away as Afghanistan. We are training Iraqi security forces, and we support the African Union in its efforts to bring an end to the violence and suffering in Darfur.
These are the NATO activities that dominate the headlines. But let me reassure you that none of these activities will divert us from our commitment to help the countries of this region in realising their Euro-Atlantic ambitions.
The time has come for NATO and Serbia to leave behind a difficult past, and to establish a closer, more productive relationship. By entering into Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Serbia has made clear that it wishes to move into that direction – to continue on the reform path, to become a real producer of security, and a responsible member of the Euro-Atlantic community of nations. Full Euro-Atlantic integration is in Serbia’s interest, as well as NATO’s. And I am convinced that, together, we can achieve it.
* Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.