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Second Annual International Conference: NATO, EU and the New Risks: A Southeast Europe Perspective
29-30 October, 2004
Sofia, Bulgaria

Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, NATO Deputy Secretary General

Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.

It is always a pleasure to come here to Sofia, and I am delighted to be here today as this is my first visit since Bulgaria joined the Alliance earlier this year. I do not think that 10 years ago many people anticipated that Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia would today be members of NATO. Indeed, when I look back and compare the security landscape of South East Europe 10 years ago with the situation today, I am struck by the tremendous change that has taken place. And I am particularly struck by how much NATO has contributed to that change.

I should therefore like to thank the conference organisers for having invited me to set the scene for the first panel session today. It provides the opportunity to remind ourselves briefly of NATO's contribution to stability and security in South East Europe. And in looking at the new challenges faced by the region, I shall make some comments that you may wish to take up during the panel discussion.

But before doing that, I should like to bring you all up to date with where NATO stands at the moment. Providing security today means projecting stability in regions far away from home. In a strategic environment that is marked by terrorism, failed states and proliferation, we have to be able to tackle the problems when are where they arise. We have to act, and act quickly, otherwise these problems will end up on our doorstep. Most of today's challenges emerge from places outside of Europe. This means that we had to move NATO beyond being a purely "Eurocentric" Alliance. This is exactly what we have done and was demonstrated in our decision last year to deploy to Afghanistan. And it was reinforced this year at Istanbul, when we decided to expand our role in Afghanistan as well as take on a role in Iraq. We are already assisting Iraq to train its security forces, and we will enhance this effort soon.

This is a fundamental change, a transformation, in the way we think about - and employ - the Alliance. And this political transformation needs to be accompanied by the second feature of our new approach to security - military transformation. Put simply, the new missions require new capabilities, both to allow for a more rapid response to crises, as well as for long-term peace support operations. And through NATO's military reforms, we are addressing both these requirements.

Regarding the need for rapid responses, we now have the NATO Response Force. The NRF has already achieved its initial operational capability and it gives NATO Allies the capability to engage quickly, and collectively, wherever required.

But deploying the forces in an initial wave of a mission is only the beginning. We need to sustain those missions. That is why we are now reforming our force planning and force generation procedures, to bring them more in line with our political decision-making process. And we are also looking at how we fund our operations. These measures will help to ensure that our military means match our political ambitions.

Alongside our operations and efforts to improve our capabilities, we have the third feature of our new approach to security - stronger partnerships.

Through our commitment to partnership, we strive to bring stability and security to our partner countries. We offer our experience and expertise. And we bring transparency, which leads to confidence and trust. This confidence and trust in turn bring stability and security for everyone in the region.

And this leads my directly on to what I wanted to talk about today, our partnership with South East Europe. The South East Europe Initiative brings together, within a NATO framework, all countries from the region, including those who do not have any institutionalised ties with NATO. Through its various projects, this Initiative is already encouraging greater regional security cooperation.

In addition, the Membership Action Plan and Partnership for Peace programme helped to guide Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia's preparations for their recent accession to NATO. These same programmes continue to provide NATO's Partners with the necessary advice and guidance for assisting them with their preparations for integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Defence reform and associated improvements in security institutions are evident in all countries of the region. Military capabilities are being transformed from defence forces designed for territorial defence to forces that will have greater utility in crisis management and peacekeeping.

NATO announced at the Summit in Istanbul that the NATO-led mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina - SFOR - will be successfully concluded by the end of this year. And that we will hand over to the EU. But let me emphasise that this handover to the EU does not mark NATO's departure from the country. We will retain a NATO presence and we will continue to help the country with its defence reforms. This is because our goal remains to welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Serbia and Montenegro, into our Partnership for Peace programme in due course, once the well known conditions are met. When these countries join the Partnership, all Balkan countries will be united with the rest of Europe in a cooperative security framework. It will be another significant step forward and will be a further indication that we have overcome the difficult past and are working together to build a promising future.

But against the background of these tremendous achievements, there remain a number of challenges. And if these challenges are not dealt with successfully, all the recent accomplishments risk being undermined. First and foremost among these challenges is safeguarding a stable and multi-ethnic Kosovo.

The eruption of violence in March this year was an unpleasant reminder of the tension and insecurity that is felt within that province. NATO can keep the peace, but a way forward is needed for Kosovo's political future to provide long-term stability. I believe that Ambassador Eide's recent report to the United Nations' Secretary General on the situation in Kosovo provides an excellent basis for addressing this particular challenge. A number of steps are now being implemented. It is vital that we break the cycle of uncertainty, lack of investment, frustration and violence. Instability in Kosovo has implications for its neighbours and the region as a whole.

A challenge facing the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is next month's referendum on decentralisation. Naturally, it is for the citizens of that country to express their will as far as their future is concerned, but it is particularly important for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's future to ensure decentralisation. Decentralisation is a cornerstone of the Ohrid Agreement and an essential element to ensure the integration of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Security and stability in South East Europe is also challenged by organised crime, corruption, illegal migration, human trafficking and the unlawful trade in small arms. These activities have the potential to weaken governments. They are a ball and chain around the ankle of progress. And they tarnish the image of some parts of South East Europe. I acknowledge that a number of measures are being taken to address these challenges. But even more needs to be done. It is essential that the rule of law be strengthened. The police forces must be made more accountable and the judiciary must be seen to be both robust and independent. And border security must be improved.

Border security demands cooperation and coordination. This has been the spirit of the Ohrid Border Process launched in May 2003. NATO is keen that this yields practical results. That is why we attach particular importance to the follow-up of the process, as discussed during the Second Review Conference, two days ago in Tirana. A border always represents the interests of more than one nation, and therefore efforts by the one must be matched by the other. Since cooperation and coordination is required, it seems sensible to involve other international organisations in the process. And it is on this point, multilateral involvement, that I wish to conclude.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the NATO Deputy Secretary General, I have, naturally, focused on what NATO has done to assist the development of South East Europe. NATO remains committed to providing further assistance. And let me stress that NATO commitment means transatlantic involvement. But NATO is not alone. We cooperate closely with the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In addition, NATO is developing its strategic partnership with the EU. Together, the Stability Pact and NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme have contributed significantly to bringing stability to South East Europe. Our concerted approach on security and stability in the Western Balkans has been instrumental in bringing an end to conflict and stabilising that region. This concerted approach emphasises the common vision and determination that the two organisations share. It also stresses the importance of local ownership. Together, with each other and with the governments of the region, NATO and the EU are already acting to address the challenges that I have outlined. Thank you.
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