|Evolving and Adapting to New Circumstances |
Evolving and Adapting to New Circumstances
Informal meeting of NATO Defence ministers, Birmingham, U.K., October 10, 2000. Introduction by Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary General.
When we set the date for this meeting none of us could have imagined or even dared to hope hat it would come at such a significant time.
The events of the last week can truly be described as historic and offer the hope of a decisive turning point in a region of Europe scarred by tragedy for most of the last decade. But for all those who wish Yugoslavia well there is now a major challenge to turn this hope for reform into reality.
We all know that in Southeastern Europe and the Former Yugoslavia there is an enormous opportunity. The international community must and will do everything it can to help the Yugoslav people chart their course to their true place as a full part of the Euro- Atlantic community.
Meanwhile NATO and the international community will continue to carry out their missions in Kosovo and Bosnia. It is too early to identify exactly how the changes in Yugoslavia will affect the region, but rest assured KFOR and SFOR our troops in Kosovo and Bosnia will continue to provide a bedrock of security and stability as long as is needed.
Inevitably the Balkans will play a big part in today's talks, but we are also facing other key issues.
Although clearly an overall success, last year's air campaign also revealed shortcomings in our militaries that we are now addressing. After years of decreasing defence budgets, I believe we have now won the argument and that it's time to reverse that trend. There must be constant effort to reform our armed forces to make them more suited to the new threats of the 21st century.
NATO is also continuing to evolve and adapt to new circumstances. This includes very much the new relationship with the EU, where our two organizations are working well together as the EU develops a force capable of carrying out peacekeeping tasks if NATO is not involved.
The recent crisis in the Balkans has also proved the value and maturity of our relations with other NATO's Partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace. These links encompass virtually every nation in the Euro-Atlantic zone, and I look forward, more now than ever, to the time when every European nation is involved with us.
I would now like to give the floor to our host, Geoff Hoon, for any introductory remarks he would like to make.