Wednesday, 2 April 2008

NATO SecGen Speaks

The German Marshall Fund has organized a pre-Summit conference in Bucharest, and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer addressed it earlier today. He ran through the agenda of the Summit, highlighting those pieces he felt most important.

On Afghanistan

Tomorrow, for the first time ever, the leaders of the 39 nations in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan will meet with President Karzai, the Secretary General of the United Nations and top officials from the European Union and other major international organisations. This meeting will not just emphasise the need for a Comprehensive Approach by the entire International Community – it will also show that this Comprehensive Approach is finally moving from theory to practice. But this meeting will do even more. It will set out the path to a new phase in our Afghanistan engagement – what used to be a predominantly military effort will begin to shift towards a more balanced approach, with a stronger emphasis on civilian efforts and on Afghan ownership.

On Enlargement (he was positive about the Balkans, less so about Ukraine and Georgia)

I expect that tomorrow Allies will open NATO’s door to new members from the Western Balkans. I am hopeful that this will be a significant enlargement – significant enough to give the Balkans region the boost of stability and confidence that it needs. I also expect this Summit to reach out to new Partners, such as Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have made it clear that they, too, do not want to be left behind. NATO will also do its part to engage Serbia, and make it not only a partner in theory, but in practice as well.

Ukraine and Georgia have both expressed their aspiration to be part of Euro-Atlantic integration, and part of NATO. Whatever decision we take tomorrow on their request to be granted the Membership Action Plan, our message will be positive and unambiguous. Yes, both countries have their place in Euro-Atlantic integration. Our door is open and, provided they meet our standards, one day they will pass through it. If they so wish.

Answering questions during the day at a youth conference, de Hoop Scheffer said of the Macedonia issue that "The time is running out, but in my extensive career I learned that in politics, 72 hours can be quite a long time. Therefore, we mustn't allow ourselves to despair, although the situation is very difficult. We still have to try and find a solution. It is always there, so it's just a matter of time when it will be reached." He reiterated that the possibility for compromise will remain open until the Summit closes on Friday afternoon.

De Hoop Scheffer also talked about a range of other issues, including possible progress on NATO-Russia relations and NATO transformation.

He also said that an initiative he proposed a couple of weeks ago, for a new Atlantic Charter would likely move forward and be launched at the 2009 Summit. This would be in the form of "an Atlantic Declaration ... such a document must contain in providing the beginning of the conceptual clarity we need on the challenges that are confronting NATO today and tomorrow."

The original Atlantic Charter, launched in 1941 in some of the darkest days of World War II, was the vision statement that underpinned the Allied war effort against the Nazis. It led to the founding the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and NATO, and was the basis for the entire post-war internationalist settlement. To revisit such a document to provide a 21st century vision for international peace and security would be a major achievement. By downgrading the name ot a declaration, it would appear that NATO nations are already ducking the challenge. The question is, will they duck the strategic concept review challenge too?

The full text of the Secretary General's speech can be found here.

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