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The Future of Partnership

The Future of Partnership

Source NATO Secretary General's Speech at the EAPC Conference, October 26, 2001.



Ladies and Gentlemen,

We meet in familiar surroundings but under a new EAPC flag and in the most challenging of times.

Today, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Partnership, the new flag stands for a new kind of security community. A community of 46 nations, united in their determination to achieve security through cooperation. The biggest permanent coalition in the world, with real influence throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.

The horrific events of September 11 have reinforced this determination. It is clearly visible in the statement of solidarity and support issued by the EAPC on September 12.

On the same day as the North Atlantic Council's historic decision to invoke Article V of the Washington Treaty, the 46 member countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council issued a statement in which they agreed that these acts were an attack not only on the US, but on our common values. And they pledged to undertake all efforts needed to combat the scourge of terrorism. Some Partners went so far as to declare that they would act as if Article V applied to them.

This Unique solidarity is not just the product of the horrifying pictures of New York and Washington. It is a solidarity that we have built together over the course of a decade.

Since 1991, we have achieved so much together that it is easy to forget the origins of our partnership. In hindsight, things may appear like a straight and logical evolution. But to those who conceived of the Partnership ten years ago, it was a great leap into the unknown.

With this audience, I do not need to rehearse the details of post-cold war history. In 1991, NATO chose to engage with the nations of the former Warsaw Pact in a unique partnership.

The North Atlantic Cooperation Council was a ground-breaking success. it focused on political dialogue and cooperative activities in a multilateral context, with everyone enjoying essentially the same opportunities. And it took on some tough challenges, including military restructuring and arms control under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. What was lacking was the possibility of each Partner having specific, tailored programmes of cooperation with NATO - a shortfall which was met in 1994 by the Partnership for Peace.

PfP offers specific, focused programmes of cooperation. And it is truly inclusive. Alongside the NATO 19 are all of the former Warsaw Pact countries, the successors to the Soviet Union and all of Europe's traditional neutrals (including Switzerland, which is not a member of the UN).

The practical value of our Partnership became very clear, very quickly. Less than two years after PfP was established, IFOR deployed to Bosnia - with key contributions from many Partner countries. Through PfP we were able to assemble a unique coalition of NATO and non-NATO forces.

With IFOR, the policy of Partnership had become a genuine two way street. We were sharing burdens and risks. We became interdependent. And, as a result, we have been able to give people in the Balkans real hope for a brighter future.

Creation of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council was the next major step forward. It reinforced the political link between NATO and Partner countries added an important political dimension to the close military cooperation already taking place on the ground.

Since then, it has been instrumental in co-ordinating national efforts on disaster relief during the Kosovo crisis, when floods hit Ukraine, and when an earthquake struck Turkey.

What has made the Partnership so successful? Success always has many fathers. But three principles have been critical:

First, there has been no rigid, pre-set agenda. Instead, we have been ready to let things evolve, to let the Partnership grow by adapting it flexibly to challenging requirements.

Second, we have avoided one-size-fits-all answers. Self-differentiation has been the key word, to allow each Partner country to develop the kind of relationship that suits it best.

Finally, we have no single institutional framework. Instead, we have developed a range of fora, tailored to accommodate the wide variety of nations involved in our Partnership.

These principles have provided the basis of other important innovative relationships: the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission. They have allowed us to develop further our existing institutions through the South East Europe Initiative and the Membership Action Plan. And they have allowed us to reach out to our Mediterranean neighbours, to promote transparency and help build confidence, a challenge which has clearly taken on greater importance following September 11.

Ten years on from the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, Partnership is one of the extraordinary success stories of the post Cold War period.

But only historians have the luxury of judging success solely in the past tense. For us, success needs a future as well. We must look forward to new challenges and new successes.

The context for this is more uncertain than at any time since our Partnership began.

Terrorism has transformed our security environment. It has opened new opportunities for cooperation. But is presents us with threats and risks on a scale we have not seen since the Cold War.

Meanwhile, NATO is changing. At Prague in a year's time the Alliance will begin another round of enlargement. One or more Partners will become Allies. The implications for the way in which we do business in NATO and with Partners, could be profound.

In parallel, the alphabet soup of ESDI and ESDP is moving closer to fruition. It is well known that I am a strong supporter of this process, provided of course that it reinforces our ability to deal effectively with today's diverse security challenges. The Laeken European Summit will be an important milestone in this respect.

What does all of this mean for Partners and Partnership? Frankly, I do not yet know. And I am on safe ground in saying that no-one else in this room does either.

Does that worry me? Certainly not. The same was true before each stage in the evolution of our Partnership. This is a vital, living relationship that gains strength at each stage in that evolution.

But let me hazard some guesses.

First, Partnership will remain - must remain - a flexible concept. Its strength is its relevance. And its relevance depends on its willingness and ability to adapt to the changing needs of its members.

Our Balkan experience shows the way. We moved rapidly from talking about peace keeping, through preparing and planning for national commitments, to real operations. What once appeared radical or even unthinkable quickly became the norm, in Bosnia and Kosovo.

We were able to do so because nations recognised that their individual and collective security interests were best served by practical cooperation, not by outdated theology or institutional competition.

In the face of new, even more dangerous risks than Balkan instability, we can and must be equally imaginative. The EAPC and the practical tools of Partnership can be vital weapons in the struggle against terrorism. Since 12 September, we have sowed the seeds of real cooperation. In the months and years to come, the terrorists must reap the whirlwind as a result.

Second, we must continue to share experience and expertise. NATO Allies have unparalleled experience in modernising their armed forces. As a result, we get more and better defence for less money. Some Partners have already gone down the same road. But others have not. So let us all use NATO even more effectively to spread knowledge, encourage reform and facilitate interoperability.

And let us apply this shared experience to all of our armed forces, not simply a few elite units.

This is not, however, a one-way street. NATO's response to events since 11 September has brought home that in some key areas it is the Allies who need to learn from Partners. In aspects of Civil Emergency Planning, and especially in defence against chemical and biological attack, many NATO members lag well behind Partners. The same may apply in other capability areas as well.

We cannot afford to be proud. No country, Ally or Partner has a monopoly of wisdom. Our people will not understand or forgive us if we do not make the maximum use of the mechanisms for cooperation set up over the past decade.

Third, we must utilise our Partnership to facilitate and promote institutional cooperation. This is one very clear lesson from our Balkan experience. NATO, the EU, the OSCE, the United Nations, and the major international financial institutions need to cooperate far more closely than ever before in tackling transnational security challenges, and in promoting cooperative approaches to building security. Our Partnership has already spearheaded entirely new approaches: just think of the retraining of discharged officers, a project let by NATO and supported by the World Bank. But more needs to be done. For example, there are I my view potentially valuable synergies between the EAPC and the OSCE, synergies that need to explored further.

Finally, we must recommit ourselves to the core principles of no fixed pre-set agenda, no one-size-fits-all answers, and no single institutional framework. Partnership is the most flexible of concepts. And flexibility is the ideal foundation for our unique permanent coalition.

Partnership can be a constantly evolving relationship because it has not, and should not in future, act as a straight-jacket to any member. Self differentiation enables one Partner to aspire to early membership of NATO and to work effectively towards it, while a second Partner concentrates instead on having practical cooperation in peacekeeping, and a third seeks only occasional political consultation.

In the future, the range of options for cooperation will, I hope, increase still further. There will be more new Allies and more new Partners. There may even be new institutional relationships.

We - you - will I am sure embrace this diversity as a further strengthening of our Euro-Atlantic web of security and stability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the ten years of its existence, our Partnership has evolved as a permanent fixture of Euro-Atlantic security. Today, Partnership is an integral part of NATO's agenda. Indeed, it has become simply impossible to envisage a NATO without Partner countries. Today, the Atlantic Alliance is bigger than its 19 member nations. To all intents and purposes, it has become a coalition of 46. And an indispensable tool in our struggle against terrorism and for a safer, more humane 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).