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"Modernise or Be Marginalised"

"Modernise or Be Marginalised"

Statement by NATO Secretary General, Lord George Robertson, NAC Press Conference, Reykjavik, May 14, 2002. Source: NATO.

NATO Photo

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to see so many of you here in Reykjavik covering this meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. Right at the outset, I wish to extend, in the name of the North Atlantic Council, our gratitude to the Government and people of Iceland for its hospitality and underline its efficiency in organising this event.

Our meeting has been a vital stepping stone on the road to NATO’s summit in Prague in November. The Prague Summit will be a defining moment for the Alliance, crowning an extraordinary process of adaptation and transformation.

You will have heard me say many times that NATO must change radically if it is to be effective in the new security environment. "Modernise or be marginalised" that is my message.

Today, Foreign Ministers tackled that challenge head-on. They have provided NATO with the guidance and political impetus needed to ensure that modernisation is completed successfully at Prague.

In setting the modernisation agenda, Ministers have posed all of us who work in and with the Alliance a stiff but entirely achievable challenge.

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. Threats that cannot be measured in fleets of tanks, warships or combat aircraft. Threats no longer mounted only by governments. And threats that can come with little or no warning.

To deal with this new and dangerous world, we have agreed that NATO must modernise, and that NATO will modernise. A simple but fundamental message for all our publics.

As politicians, we all know that if we are not ambitious, we will be negligent. And the programme reviewed by Ministers is nothing if not ambitious. Terrorism, enlargement, new capabilities, new relationships this is the agenda of change.

On terrorism, Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to defeat this modern plague. They committed themselves to strengthening our national and collective capacities for doing so. And they reviewed the package of concrete measures being developed for approval at Prague.

To help deal with terrorism and fulfil the Alliance’s other roles, Ministers agreed on the importance of pushing ahead with the new military capabilities package which is urgently needed to enable NATO to deal with the threats of today and tomorrow as effectively as it dealt with those of yesterday.

They also considered other key aspects of our modernisation agenda, from practical priorities for political cooperation through streamlining our decision making to an overhaul of the organisation of NATO’s Brussels headquarters.

On enlargement, Ministers concentrated on practical issues, including the progress of the Membership Action Plan. Applicants know what needs to be done and we all urge them to stay focussed on the work ahead. Prague is not an end but a new beginning for NATO. But those invited to be members will be expected to prove their capacity to contribute effectively to the Alliance.

On Russia, Ministers acclaimed the historic breakthrough in NATO-Russian relations, and looked forward to the meeting of the Permanent Joint Council later today and to the Summit meeting "at 20" in Rome in two weeks time.

Finally, Ministers reviewed progress in building NATO’s strategic partnership with the European Union, and our joint work in strengthening peace and stability in the Balkans.

The Reykjavik Council meeting sets the scene for the landmark decisions which will be made at the Rome and Prague Summits. So Reykjavik was not business as usual but a significant milestone on the road to NATO’s fundamental transformation.

We now have a clear sense of direction towards Prague. Our next task is to return to the hard work of turning this vision into reality.

 

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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).

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