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NATO Campaign to Bring Peace and Justice to Kosovo

NATO Campaign to Bring Peace and Justice to Kosovo

First Speech delivered by the new Secretary General, Lord Robertson, at the Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Amsterdam, 15 November 1999.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you for that warm welcome.

Let me begin by saying how very pleased I am to have the opportunity to address this Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I was, until weeks ago, a Minister of Government and a Parliamentarian, and I understand very well the important role played by this group in supporting and advancing the NATO agenda. That is why I think it is fortunate that I have the chance to meet with you so soon after taking up my duties as Secretary General of NATO. I am very pleased that the relationship between NATO and the NPA has recently been enhanced, and I want to ensure that it continues to remain on a strong footing.

I am told that, traditionally, the NATO Secretary General begins his address to the NPA by giving his impressions of the events of the past year. Indeed, the twelve months since the last NPA Annual Assembly have been in many ways some of the most significant in the NATO's history. One of the most important milestones, of course, was the commemoration of NATO's 50th Anniversary. This was, first and foremost, a celebration of the victory of values -- the values of peace, freedom and democracy. I was very proud to be present at that historic event. And I was pleased to see representatives of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly there in Washington as well.

But the Summit was more than just a birthday party. There was real work to do.

At NATO's Summit in April, we formally welcomed the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into the Alliance-- and in so doing, underlined the fact that Europe's divisions have gone. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly played a central role in making this a reality, by successfully guiding the ratification processes in your national parliaments.

We also set NATO's eyes to the future with the new Strategic Concept. The previous version, which dated from 1991, still spoke of maintaining a "strategic balance" in Europe. The new Strategic Concept instead talks about building security across Europe, through Partnership and, when necessary, through cooperative crisis management. This marks a historic transition. This is a historic and welcome change in emphasis.

The Summit also marked a break from the past in a hugely symbolic, and very important way -- through the simple presence of so many participants. More than 40 nations, from every corner of Europe and North America - from San Francisco to Tashkent, were represented in Washington, at the highest level.

Why? Because, as I said earlier, the Summit was a true celebration of the victory of values. And today, almost every country in Europe shares the same values -- a belief in peace, in democracy and in freedom. The Summit was proof that the Euro-Atlantic community is not just rhetorical flourish -- it is becoming a reality.

I have mentioned three ways in which, over the past year, the Alliance has closed a door on the past. There is a fourth -- the campaign to bring peace and justice to Kosovo.

While most of Europe has been growing together, and embracing the future, one small region of Europe has been consumed by its past. While everyone else has spent ten years growing together, Slobodan Milosevic and his regime have been sowing the seeds of ethnic nationalism and xenophobia, first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo. These are the darkest manifestations of Europe's past -- complete with ethnic murder and mass graves.

Even as the Alliance was celebrating the victory of our values across most of Europe, we were fighting to uphold them where they were threatened -- in Kosovo. And we were successful.

We compelled Milosevic to accept the will of the international community, to stop the ethnic cleansing and killing, and to allow the return of the Kosovo citizens he had driven from their own homeland.

And I must take this opportunity to congratulate, and commend, the members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on the important role you played during this crisis. The Kosovo campaign caused some very difficult, and sometimes divisive, domestic debates across Europe. The NPA, however, remained steadfast. It explained NATO's actions to parliaments, to governments and to your people, and in turn maintained steadfast support for this operation. I thank you warmly for your contribution - and so too do the now ex-refugees.

Through these four measures -- the 50th anniversary celebrations, enlargement, the new Strategic Concept and the Kosovo operation -- NATO demonstrated over the past year that Europe is firmly closing the door on a 20th century that saw too much war, too much division, too many violations of human rights.

Our task now is to build the Euro-Atlantic security environment of the future -- where all states share peace and democracy, and uphold basic human rights.

NATO will play a central role in building this security environment. But to remain effective, the Alliance must continue to adapt. We must build on our successes, the better to meet the challenges of the future. And here, I am not telling the NPA anything new. Indeed, your reports and proposals on NATO's development have been among the best produced in the Alliance, and have helped pave the way for some of NATO's recent adaptations.

Looking towards the future, let me mention six aspects which will be priorities for me. First: Alliance forces must remain effective and interoperable. Kosovo demonstrated the value of diplomacy backed by force. But if we need diplomacy backed by force in future, we have to ensure the force is effective. In this respect, the Kosovo crisis was not just a success, but also a wake-up call. It made crystal clear that NATO needs to improve its defence capabilities.

During the crisis, NATO's military forces have carried out a very wide range of missions -- from providing humanitarian support to refugees, to a range of air operations, to the ground operation now fully deployed in Kosovo. This illustrates the variety of unpredictable security challenges we face in the post -Cold War world -- and NATO's forces must be trained and equipped to meet them, as well as their traditional tasks. We have to make changes today, to be ready for an unpredictable tomorrow.

The Defence Capabilities Initiative, which we launched at the Washington Summit, is a big step in the right direction. It will ensure that the Alliance's forces can go quickly to where they are needed, can be supplied and reinforced for an extended period away from their home bases, can engage an adversary with great effectiveness and survive his attacks, and can co-operate closely with non-NATO forces.

The Defence Capabilities Initiative will promote greater interoperability between the forces of Allies and will also play a major role in accelerating the development of interoperability between Partner forces and those of the Alliance. One of my priorities is, bluntly, to make sure the Defence Capabilities Initiative delivers.

A second priority for the future: to help build a new, more mature transatlantic security relationship. The division of labour we saw in the Kosovo air campaign was militarily necessary, but it is politically unsustainable in the longer term. The European Security and Defence Identity is no longer just an attractive idea; it has become an urgent necessity. Simply put, the burden of dealing with European security crises should not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the US. We need to create a more balanced Alliance, with a stronger European input.

This is eminently possible. Collectively, the European members of NATO spend almost two-thirds of the United States' defence budget -- but Kosovo made it clear that they have nothing like two-thirds of the real capability of the US. In other words, it is not simply a question of spending more though some of us will have to-- it is about spending more wisely. The European Allies must look critically at the balance of their armed forces, and look at how they can operate together more effectively.

I see a Europe which recognises this -- and is doing something about it. Europe is now building capabilities, as well as institutions, to allow it to play a stronger role in preserving peace and security. And NATO stands ready to support that process. For my part, I will work to ensure that ESDI is based on three key principles, the three I's: improvement in European defence capabilities; inclusiveness and transparency for all Allies; and the indivisibility of Trans-Atlantic security, based on our shared values.

ESDI does not mean "less US" -- it means more Europe, and hence a stronger NATO. Strengthening Europe's role in security is about re-balancing the transatlantic relationship in line with European and American interests. I very much look forward to working on this project with Dr. Solana, in his new post as "Monsieur PESC". I also welcome the strong North American participation in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, because this body has its own, very valuable transatlantic link.

A third priority will be building a stronger relationship with Russia. The Kosovo operation put a considerable strain on that relationship. Russia suspended contacts with NATO during the air campaign, and even though they have returned, they do not wish, at present, to talk about anything but issues relating to the Kosovo operation.

The Kosovo operation did indeed demonstrate the potential of a strong relationship. Russia played an important role in the diplomatic process that was supported by NATO's air campaign -- and that ended on terms acceptable to both NATO and Russia. And now Russian forces are working alongside NATO troops in KFOR, and are making an important contribution on the ground.

Clearly, security in the Euro-Atlantic area works best when NATO and Russia work together. Russia and NATO have many common interests -- from peacekeeping to nuclear safety to arms control. There is no way around it. It is to our mutual benefit to cooperate where we agree, and to continue talking even when we disagree. I intend to work hard to build this kind of strong, practical relationship.

Kosovo not only illustrates, but is at the heart of my fourth priority -- to help build lasting peace and stability in the Balkans. For too long, this region has suffered from political instability, ethnic conflict and economic weakness. And for too long -- indeed, throughout this century -- the international community has ignored Balkan sparks until they became fires that burned us all.

That has now changed. The international community is now fully engaged in building stability in South Eastern Europe -- to ensure that the future of this region does not remain a prisoner of the past. And NATO is playing a central role in that project, in two main ways.

More than 70,000 troops, led by the Alliance, are keeping the peace in Bosnia and in Kosovo, and supporting civil reconstruction efforts. We are already seeing very positive results. In Kosovo, a secure environment is slowly being restored. Over 800,000 refugees have returned home. The UN has established its presence, and 1,800 UN police are on the streets.

The UCK has been disbanded, and a new civil emergency organisation formed. A multi-ethnic transitional council is meeting weekly, setting the stage for a multi-ethnic political future. And preparations are underway for elections sometime next year. This is real progress, when one remembers the chaos and violence the Kosovars suffered under Milosevic just a few months ago.

There is still much work to be done. The returning Albanian majority must control its understandable anger, and refrain from attacking the minorities that remain. The former members of the now-defunct UCK must accept that their war is over, and that KFOR will provide for security in a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo. The immediate goal of the international community, including NATO, is to help every citizen of Kosovo enjoy what we all enjoy -- peace, security and freedom.

This will require a real, determined commitment, but we will persevere. We won the war -- we will not lose the peace.

Bosnia-Herzegovina gets far less attention from the media than Kosovo, but here too, there has been real progress since NATO deployed in 1995. There are more and more moderates elected to government, because Bosnians want security and stability. In fact, the security situation has improved to the point that the Alliance will, over the next six months, reduce the numbers of troops in Bosnia by another one-third, to 20,000. Our long-term goal is getting closer -- a Bosnia-Herzegovina which enjoys self-sustaining peace.

But to reinforce our success in these two trouble spots, we must look beyond them, to South-Eastern Europe as a whole. Throughout the Kosovo campaign, our Partners from South-Eastern Europe have shown their solidarity with NATO's actions. Yugoslavia's neighbours supported NATO despite facing economic hardships and domestic troubles. They should be able to expect our support now.

The EU's Stability Pact is a major step forward. It is an acknowledgement of the need for a more comprehensive approach for all of South-Eastern Europe. The Stability Pact focuses on three areas:

· democratisation and human rights;

· economic reconstruction, development and cooperation; and

· security issues.

There is no doubt that NATO can - and will - play a key role in supporting the Pact, most actively in the security field. Our South-Eastern European Initiative, launched at the Washington Summit, is the key.

My goal is clear: to help build a Balkans that is firmly anchored inside the European family of democratic values.

I also want to strengthen still further the links between NATO and Ukraine as well as with our other Partners. Throughout the Kosovo crisis, NATO's Partners have demonstrated clearly that they are no longer on the sidelines of security -- they are contributing. The countries neighbouring Kosovo provided invaluable assistance to the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the brutality of Milosevic's security forces. They were staunch supporters of NATO operations to bring the campaign of violence to a halt. And now, as in Bosnia, over 20 Partner countries are sending troops to Kosovo, to help keep the peace.

Through these major contributions, the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council have demonstrated their value in developing a cooperative approach to security across the Euro-Atlantic area. I want these mechanisms to become even more operational and relevant to the security needs of our Partners. That is why I intend to support fully the enhancements we have recently made to PfP, to improve interoperability, and to give our Partners more say in planning and conducting NATO-led peace support operations.

Finally, one of my key responsibilities will be to prepare NATO for the next round of enlargement. NATO's Heads of State and Government have committed to consider further enlargement no later than 2002. Between now and then, we must explore the full potential of the Membership Action Plan, and give all the aspirant countries as much support as possible in meeting their targets. Partner countries want the perspective of integration into Europe. The door to NATO will remain open as an important part of that process.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Taken together, this is a broad and ambitious agenda, and it will require a lot of hard work to accomplish it. But as I look to the future of this great Alliance, I am very confident. Over the past year in particular, NATO's work plan has been so successful that the Alliance today is more relevant and more indispensable than it is has ever been.

And all of us who make up this great and unique Alliance, are taking the steps necessary to face the grave and serious challenges of the future. NATO's foundations as a 21st century Alliance are rock solid. Together we can build on them to the advantage of the whole world.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).