An Alliance for Future Generations
An Alliance for Future Generations
Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer, at the Youth Summit, Istanbul, 27 June 2004.
Thanks for having me here with you today. I am in a good
mood this afternoon, and it is not just because I am in Istanbul and about to
start an important NATO Summit meeting. The main reason for my optimism is the
opportunity to address such an energetic and interested crowd.
I have been in politics for quite a while. Sometimes, politics can be a
frustrating business. But it is always stimulating. Because, at the end of the
day, it is about shaping things for the better – and about promoting and
protecting our values. So I never lost my enthusiasm for politics.
For me, politics is first and foremost about values. About the freedom to speak
your mind, the freedom to travel, the freedom to listen to the music or see the
movies you want. About the freedom to elect you own leaders, or to stand for
office yourself. To me, these values have always been non-negotiable.
During the Cold War, NATO protected these values. And that is why I have always
been an ardent supporter of this Alliance.
But what about today? The Cold War is ancient history. For many of you here, I
might as well talk about the Stone Age. The freedoms I just mentioned have
spread all across Europe. We all share the same values, from Vancouver to
So why should anyone still be concerned about protecting these values? And why
should anyone care about keeping NATO?
The answer is easy. Because we cannot take our freedoms for granted. Security,
freedom and prosperity are not humanity's natural state. These achievements
have to be worked for – day in and day out. Our values need to be promoted –
and protected. Because they are vulnerable.
We saw as much in the conflicts in the Balkans, when the values that we thought
were firmly entrenched throughout Europe were crushed. And we saw it again,
just a few years ago, on September 11. The terrorists who launched the attacks
on the United States were also attacking the values we cherish: pluralism,
freedom, democracy, and tolerance. They have made it clear that they want none
of that. On the contrary, they preach hatred and worship intolerance.
So it is evident that we continuously need to protect our values. But how?
There is no single answer. But one key tool is NATO, the Atlantic Alliance.
Tomorrow’s Summit will demonstrate why. Because the new NATO we are building
can protect and promote our values as effectively today as the old NATO did in
the very different circumstances of the past.
The key feature of this new NATO is its readiness to build stability where it
matters – in Europe, and beyond. Because today, we simply can no longer protect
our values without addressing the potential risks and threats that arise far
from our homes.
Afghanistan is a case in point. Under the Taliban, this country exported
instability to its neighbours, and terrorism and drugs all around the world. If
we do not help this country to become a more stable place, these problems will
once again end up on our doorstep. If we do not help the Afghan people to live
a life in peace and dignity, their country could once again become a safe haven
for the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
We will not let this happen. NATO is doing its part to create a better future
for Afghanistan. Tomorrow, at the Summit, we will decide to further expand our
presence in this country. And we will play a strong role in the upcoming
elections. Because nourishing democracy is the best security investment of
all. This was true for the Balkans – it is also true for Afghanistan.
But building stability in the 21st century requires more than a
readiness to take on demanding missions. It also requires strong relationships
with the countries around us. That is why we are strengthening our
relationships with an ever-growing list of partners, from the Balkans to the
Caucasus and Central Asia, across the Mediterranean and into the Middle East.
We are building closer ties with the European Union, the OSCE and the United
Nations, who are vital partners in conflict prevention, crisis management and
And we are transforming our military capabilities and the way we organise and
deploy our forces for the new kinds of operations NATO is called upon – a demand
that, I am sure, will grow in the future.
Tomorrow’s Summit will deliver across this broad spectrum of issues. It will
demonstrate that NATO is in good shape. But to keep the Alliance in good shape,
we need to do more than hold Summits. We need to make sure, above all, that we
can count on the steady support of creative and energetic people. We must
ensure that the younger generation, too, is firmly focussed on the challenge of
providing security in a complex world. Because it is a never-ending challenge.
You represent this new generation. You have come to Istanbul because you take
an active interest in international affairs and international security. By
being here today, you demonstrate that you care about NATO and its
So my key message to you is clear: preserve that spirit. Cultivate it. Get
involved. Never be content with standing at the sidelines.
You can play your part in making sure that NATO remains for you what it has
always been for me: an indispensable instrument to protect and promote our most
fundamental values and to pass them on to future generations.