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The Trans-Atlantic link Is The Key

The Trans-Atlantic link Is The Key

Opening Statement by the Secretary General at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council In Defence Ministers Session. Brussels, June 7, 2001. Source: NATO.

Good morning, and welcome to this meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers Session.

I want to offer a special word of welcome to Minister Jaroslav Tvrdík of the Czech Republic and Minister Jan Troejborg of Denmark who are attending the Council in Defence Ministers Session for the first time. I also want to welcome Secretary Rumsfeld, but this is more a matter of welcoming him back, since he has attended Alliance meetings in the past both as the U.S. Permanent Representative and as the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Welcome Home.

I would also like to take the opportunity to say farewell to Minister Sergio Mattarella, who is attending his last Ministerial Meeting and whose distinguished services as his country's Defence Minister will shortly be ending. I know I speak for all of his colleagues in wishing him every success in the future.

I also take this opportunity to say farewell to the Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Sergio Balanzino, who is attending his last Ministerial Meeting here before he retires later on this month. He has been the Deputy Secretary General for a record seven years and on three occasions has had to take on the responsibility of being the Acting Secretary General of the Alliance. I know that we will all miss him and that we wish him well in the future.

Let me say at the outset of our meeting that this Alliance is as essential as ever in ensuring the safety and security of our people, and in building a stronger, more democratic Euro-Atlantic area. The trans-Atlantic link is the key, and that is why we are all here.

But the challenges we face today are of course far different from those of the past. We owe it to ourselves, and to our publics, to think through these challenges, and to think through how best we should address them. And we will do so together, as we have always done.

I think this meeting will bear out the fact that last week's news stories of an Alliance divided were, in reality, a pure fiction. We are here today to talk, to consult, to share our thinking, and to work together toward a better future. No more, no less than that.

Today, we have already heard a briefing by U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on his thinking as he works his way through a far-reaching defence review. This takes in missile defence, nuclear strategy, and many other topics. It marks an important opportunity for Allies to consult about the direction of U.S. thinking before any decisions are made. We welcome this commitment to consultation in NATO, and have no doubt that it will continue, and deepen still further.

Responding to today's challenges means discussing not only new U.S. thinking, but also developing European thinking and we will spend some time today talking about the European Security and Defence Identity. It is in NATO's interest to see the Europeans develop a greater ability to manage crises both within NATO, and where NATO as a whole is not engaged.

But the key to all of this is capabilities. Unless the nations around this table develop and maintain the necessary defence capabilities, the ability of our governments to respond to political calls for military action - whether through NATO or indeed through the EU or elsewhere will be severely limited. In 1999, NATO's Heads of State and Government launched the Defence Capabilities Initiative, designed directly to address this need. Today, we will take stock of where we are in implementing DCI. And I will be taking up this issue again with Presidents and Prime Ministers who will sit around this table next Wednesday.

We will also spend some time reviewing the situation in the Balkans, including the status of NATO-led operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo. We have seen tremendous progress since the brutal ethnic fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended in 1995; since the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo ended in 1999; and now in forging a new relationship with a democratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

But the challenges in the Balkans are far from over. I am particularly concerned about the crisis in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. NATO utterly condemns the violence of yesterday in which five soldiers were killed. Such cowardly, senseless attacks will never achieve any political goals, and they must cease. I urge the men of violence to lay down their arms and to take part in a normal political process. They have no support in the international community at all. I also encourage the government in Skopje to persevere in its two-track approach of engaging in an effective political dialogue, while using necessary and proportionate military force.

Later today we will meet with Ukrainian Defence Minister Kuzmuk in the NATO-Ukraine Commission and, tomorrow, we will have our first meeting with Sergei Ivanov, our new Russian colleague in the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, and then with all Partner Defence Ministers in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

So there is plenty of work ahead of us and I therefore suggest we start right away.


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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).