Opening Ceremony of the 51st General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association
28 September 2005
It is a great honor to address the 51st General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association. On behalf of the Estonian Government, I would like to extend to all of you a very warm welcome. We are extremely proud to host this event.
The central theme of this conference – ‘Democracy and human rights – a new mission for NATO’ – is, at once, relevant and intriguing. As part of a broader, ongoing discussion on NATO’s transformation and strategic purpose, this topic raises a number of key questions including what is NATO for and what should be its new missions.
On the one hand, the answer is simple - NATO is and will remain, above all, a defensive organization. NATO’s cornerstone is collective security and so it should and will remain. On the other hand, NATO is facing a series of new threats - most of which come from beyond Europe’s borders. Terrorism, instability, failed states – all of these pose a threat to Alliance security. All of these require new responses.
NATO has proven that it has the capacity to regulate military conflicts. Now we need to determine what NATO could do to prevent such conflicts from erupting in the first place. We also need to define how NATO could do more to contribute in post-conflict situations. Experience has shown that while de-construction of a society is relatively simple, its reconstruction is more difficult. Restoring security and stability in post-conflict situations is a complex challenge.
NATO has already taken some substantial steps in this direction. In Afghanistan, NATO is helping to stabilize the country’s security environment – a vital prerequisite to building a stable, democratic country. This mission is a high priority for NATO. It is also a priority for Estonia. As a member of the Alliance, we feel that it is our duty to contribute to the NATO-led ISAF mission.
We also feel that it is our duty to contribute to the NATO training mission in Iraq. Last week I visited the mission in their new headquarters in Baghdad. I was deeply impressed with what I saw and heard. Indeed, the NATO Training Mission in Iraq is doing an extremely valuable job. By training and equipping the Iraqi Security Forces, NATO is helping to stabilize and strengthen Iraq’s domestic security environment. As deputy president Ghazi said to me - the Iraqi people want to live like people in other normal countries. They want to send their children to school in the morning and get them back in the evening. In order for this to be possible, local power structures in Iraq need to be restored as quickly as possible.
Promoting security and stability in post-conflict situations is a complex undertaking. It requires both military as well as civilian capabilities. That is why NATO should work more closely with both the European Union and the United Nations, who have extensive experience in reconstruction and rebuilding.
NATO and the European Union have already focused their attention and resources on many of the same regions such as Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. At the same time, all NATO allies and EU members should show much more political will to enhance the existing NATO-EU strategic partnership. Bosnia is proof that only a complementary relationship with NATO providing security and the European Union providing reconstruction know-how and assistance gives efficient results.
The real question that needs to be addressed in the debate on NATO’s new missions is where should NATO draw the line. Clearly there is a limit to what NATO and other organizations can do to bring stability, prosperity and democracy to countries beyond its borders. After all, change cannot be forced on society from the outside. Change needs to come from within.
But I believe that NATO can make a meaningful contribution by helping to create the elementary conditions conducive to change such as a stable and secure environment. NATO can also make a difference by requiring that its partners in regions beyond its borders such as the Caucasus and Central Asia respect NATO common values, including democracy and human rights.
In conclusion, let me extend my appreciation to the members of the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association for organizing this event and wish you three days of interesting discussions.
Valitsuse kommunikatsioonibüroo briifinguruum