11 Jan 2008

Looking ahead to NATO’s Bucharest Summit

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at Bucharest University, Romania

Rector Ioan Panzaru,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Let me start by saying that it is a real pleasure to be with you.  I want to express my gratitude to Bucharest University for organising this meeting, and to thank you all for attending.  

Romania joined NATO only a few years ago, but it has quickly established itself as a very committed and valuable member of the Alliance.  At the beginning of April, your country will be the proud host of a NATO Summit meeting, which will be a major political event.  And I really appreciate this opportunity to discuss with you how NATO is responding to the 21st century security environment, and the key priorities for the Alliance in the run-up to the Bucharest Summit.

Whenever I discuss security issues, especially with younger people, I encounter essentially two views.  One view holds that, in order to be secure, nations should simply focus on the defence of their own territory.  According to this school of thought, military engagements in faraway regions are not only unnecessary, but they are also dangerous and provocative.  So the best way to stay secure – according to this view – is to mind one’s own business and stay clear of any risky undertakings abroad.

The other school of thought argues the opposite.  It argues that in today’s increasingly interconnected world, we need to look at security in a different way than we did in the past.  According to this view, security must not just be carefully protected, it must also be actively promoted.  This means that security challenges must be tackled whenever and wherever they arise, or else they will escalate and sooner or later end up on our doorstep.

Romania and the other member nations of NATO have understood that isolation is not a viable security strategy.  They have understood that, against today’s global security challenges, geography offers no protection.  That terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and failing states are all challenges that have an impact far beyond the place in which they originate.  That these challenges need to be addressed as and where they emerge.  And that the best way of doing so is by working together as a team.

NATO is such a team – and a very unique one.  In NATO, 26 countries are united in a commitment to defend their territory and their shared values – freedom, democracy, and human rights.  And unlike other alliances in history, this commitment is not simply written on a piece of paper.  NATO also has the means – political and military means – to give substance to this commitment, and actually protect and promote our security when it is under threat. 

Over the past decade, with the addition of Romania and nine other new member countries, the NATO team has not only become stronger in numbers.  Members old and new have joined forces to tackle several immediate challenges to our security, in particular in Afghanistan.  And we have worked hard as Allies to adapt our policies and capabilities to the complex 21st century security challenges, and to better calibrate NATO’s role with that of other international actors.

We have already made good progress in adapting NATO to the 21st century security environment, but there is more work to be done.  Looking ahead to our Bucharest Summit, we are focusing on four areas in order to keep up the momentum, and take the adaptation process further.  And I should like to briefly highlight these four areas for you.

First of all, our Bucharest Summit will require a strong focus on NATO’s operational commitments.  Over 60,000 brave men and women are deployed in NATO-led missions and operations today, on three different continents.  Romania is an important contributor to those operations, and perhaps you even know people who are taking part.  We want, here in Bucharest in April, to underline the commitment of all 26 Allies to the success of those operations, and to send a strong message in particular with respect to Kosovo and Afghanistan. 

As far as Kosovo is concerned, the Allies have made clear that they wish to see progress towards a resolution of its status.  But they have also stressed that this should be controlled and coordinated process.  The NATO-led forces in Kosovo – including a sizeable Romanian contingent -- stand ready to deal with any provocation.  I sincerely hope they will not have to take action.

The Balkans lie at the heart of Europe and they are vital to the stability of our continent.  We want all the other countries from the region to follow Romania’s example and integrate with the rest of Europe.  And so it is important not only for the different parties in Kosovo to act responsibly, but also for Serbia. NATO will continue to help Kosovo to get on its feet – but also continue to assist reform efforts by Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Afghanistan represents a long-term commitment for NATO, and I welcome the important contribution which Romanian troops are also making there.  We must continue to help Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic, and properly governed nation that no longer exports terrorism, crime and drugs to our nations and the rest of the world.

There are clear signs of progress, in a number of areas – children back at school, economic growth, functioning institutions.  The challenge before us is to reinforce and sustain that progress.  And I expect our Bucharest Summit to agree on a clear strategy for the way ahead in Afghanistan – with a robust NATO presence underlining our commitment; enhanced training of the Afghan National Army to make sure the Afghans are better able to look after their own security; better interaction between international organisations, including the United Nations and the European Union, to make sure that security goes hand in hand with reconstruction and development; and a strong appeal to Afghanistan’s neighbours to support our common goal of a stable and democratic Afghanistan.

A second issue that will be high on the agenda of our Bucharest Summit is NATO enlargement.  The NATO Allies have committed to issue invitations at Bucharest to aspirant countries that meet our performance-based standards, and that are able to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security.  We have been working hard in the context of our Membership Action Plan to assist Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1 with their preparations for membership.  And it is clear that, if they were to join, that would be a major step in the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Balkans region that I just mentioned.

Let me stress, though, that nothing has been decided.  The three MAP countries still have work to do to qualify for membership.  As in previous rounds of NATO enlargement, the Bucharest decision will ultimately be a political one.  I cannot and do not want to prejudge that decision here and now.  It will reflect the consensus among our current 26 members on the next stage of NATO enlargement.  Clearly, NATO does not suffer from enlargement fatigue – and I hope that the same can be said for the European Union.  Because it is the combination of NATO and EU enlargement that offers the best guarantee for long-term peace and stability on our continent.  Of course, if the countries fulfill the criteria for membership.

Third, our Bucharest Summit must advance the adaptation of NATO’s own structures and capabilities to the new security environment.  Clearly, not all security challenges require military solutions, but military competence has been, and no doubt will remain, crucial for dealing with many of them.  And so it is vital that the Alliance maintains its military edge, and that all our member nations continue to make the necessary investments -- in making our forces more flexible and useable, and giving them the right equipment to do their job.

While we reinforce our ability to meet current requirements, we must also look ahead and prepare for emerging security challenges.  In light of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, we have decided to take a fresh look at missile defence, and to examine ways to make the system which the United States has been discussing with Poland and the Czech Republic complementary to ongoing NATO programmes.  But we are also looking at ways to better protect the security of our energy infrastructures and how NATO can add value to efforts by the international community to ensure greater energy security.  And we are developing policies to improve the protection of NATO’s key information systems against internet crime and cyber attacks.

The fourth and final Bucharest Summit issue that I wish to highlight is the development of NATO’s partnership relations.  Over the past 15 years, NATO has helped non-member countries all across Europe to meet difficult reform challenges – and this has been a major boost to the security and stability of our continent.  Many of our Euro-Atlantic Partners have shown a strong determination to be providers of security rather than mere consumers, by making valuable contributions to NATO missions and operations.  And so NATO has a strong interest in continuing this Partnership policy – to tailor it even better to the needs and requirements of our Euro-Atlantic Partners -- and to further engage them in meeting today’s security challenges.  There will be a meeting with our Euro-Atlantic Partners in conjunction with our NATO Summit here in Bucharest in April, and that will be an excellent opportunity to reach out across the Black Sea and to our other Partners all over Europe and Central Asia.

Let me stress that that effort must include Russia.  Despite its recent harsh rhetoric, and the stance which it has taken on issues such as Kosovo and the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Russia occupies a special place among NATO’s Partners.  We value and want to continue our constructive and frank dialogue with Russia, including on issues on which we disagree, and to continue to look for common ground.  As far as NATO is concerned, there really are no red lines, and no limits on how far our relationship can go. 

Finally, we also want to strengthen NATO’s partner network beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.  Across the globe, interest in NATO is rising – and for good reason.  These countries have carefully observed NATO’s evolution.  They have concluded that many of NATO’s operations benefit their own security -- and that it is in their interest to work with the NATO team.  We in NATO should make that possible – by engaging in dialogue, opening new channels of cooperation, and enhancing the interoperability of our forces with those of interested countries.

Let me stress that a NATO with global partners is not the same as a “global NATO” – or a competitor to the United Nations.  In terms of membership, NATO will essentially remain a transatlantic affair.  We will simply create more opportunities for non-members to be involved in a common effort to promote security and stability.  And rather than undermining the United Nations, I see an overtaxed  UN looking more and more for NATO support – and NATO and the UN, just like NATO and the European Union, developing more and more structured cooperation.  Do not forget that in almost all operations NATO operates under a UN mandate.

Rector Ioan Panzaru,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

For almost six decades, NATO has not only successfully adapted to changes in the international security environment, but also managed to steer those changes in a positive direction, and to shape the security environment.  The inclusion, over the past decade, of Romania and nine other countries has been an enormous boost for the NATO team – and a great step towards a Europe that is whole and free.  With a clear vision for the future of Afghanistan and the Balkans; agreement on the next stage of NATO enlargement; a greater ability to meet 21st century risks and threats to our security; and a further strengthening of our partnerships across the globe -- our upcoming Bucharest Summit will demonstrate that NATO is as capable as ever before to meet the challenge of change.

Thank you.


  1. Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.