Updated: 17-May-2002 Week of 13-19 May 2002

14-15 May 2002

Setting the agenda for the modernisation of NATO

Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland

Key security issues, including the adaptation of the Alliance to face new challenges, were at the top of the agenda for NATO and Partner Foreign Ministers who gathered in Reykjavik on 14-15 May. Considered as a "vital stepping stone on the road to NATO's Summit in Prague" and to the NATO-Russia Summit meeting in Rome on 28 May, these Spring Ministerial meetings focused on the modernisation of NATO and its adaptation to the changed security environment. "NATO was transformed after the Cold War to build a new kind of security across Europe. It was transformed yet again to meet and overcome instability in the Balkans. Now it must change once more to deal with the threats of a new century" explained NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, during a press conference. He added that Foreign Ministers had provided the guidance for NATO's transformation during the two-day meeting: "Terrorism, enlargement, new capabilities, new relationships - this is the agenda of change".

  • Terrorism and new capabilities - The need to combat terrorism and adapt the capabilities of NATO member countries to deal with new security threats were considered to be key issues in the general debate on the evolution of NATO's role. As well as terrorism, Ministers discussed the risk posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the use of chemical and biological weapons. These issues will be further discussed at the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers on 6-7 June.
  • Enlargement - Ministers received a Consolidated Progress Report on the results of the third cycle of the Membership Action Plan (MAP). They agreed that decisions on who to invite will only be taken at the Prague Summit. In the meantime, all invitees must pursue their preparations actively. Individual Annual National Programmes will be submitted in the Autumn before the Prague Summit and the signing of the individual accession protocols will take place no later than Spring 2003. Croatia has joined the MAP process and will have its first meeting with NATO member countries next Spring.
  • NATO-Russia relations - Reykjavik marked a "historic breakthrough in NATO-Russia relations" with an agreement on the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council, which will replace the existing NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. This new forum will "operate on the principle of consensus", allowing NATO members and Russia to work "as equal partners in areas of common interest while preserving NATO's prerogative to act independently". The document will be adopted and signed at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome on 28 May, making 14 May the last meeting of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council.
  • Partnerships - In addition to relations with Russia, Foreign Ministers also reviewed NATO's partnership with its 27 Partner countries within the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). At the meeting of the EAPC on 15 May, NATO and Partner Foreign Ministers discussed several practical proposals to strengthen their cooperation and make the Partnership for Peace more flexible in the wake of NATO's next round of enlargement. They also stressed the need to reinforce relations with countries participating in the Mediterranean Dialogue.
  • NATO-Ukraine relations - During the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission on 15 May, NATO Foreign Ministers and their Ukrainian counterpart, Anatoliy Zlenko, agreed to reinforce cooperation on political, economic and defence issues over the next few months and present the results at Prague this November.

In addition to these issues, NATO-EU relations were discussed during what was described as a "work in progress" meeting on 14 May. Ministers examined the NATO-EU strategic partnership, ongoing operations in the Balkans, ways of developing closer NATO-EU cooperation in response to terrorism and new security threats, as well as cooperation in other areas. Foreign Ministers also discussed NATO's commitment to South East Europe and the continued presence of NATO-led troops in the Balkans.

The programme of the meetings was as follows: on 14 May, there was a meeting of the North Atlantic Council - NATO's top decision making body - followed in the afternoon by a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council meeting and a NATO-EU meeting. On 15 May, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council convened in the morning and the event was closed by a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting in the afternoon.

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