Podium: Nato and the euro show way ahead

Javier Solana From a speech by Nato's Secretary General to the Executive Club in Belgium
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BARELY TWO weeks ago, European Monetary Union was launched, raising European integration to an entirely new level. Barely four months from now, Nato will celebrate its 50th anniversary at our Washington Summit, thus marking a new stage in the transatlantic relationship as well. Today, Nato and the EU stand as the world's foremost models of multinational, democratic co-operation. Both organisations have inspired the larger European project of integration, of co-operation and reconciliation that is healing the unnatural divide of the past between East and West.

They are thus both leaders of the drawing together of Europe, its rejuvenation and reconstruction. Just as the European Union is more than a common market, it is the embodiment of a political ideal, so, too, Nato is more than a military alliance for the collective defence of its members. It is a symbol of how countries can strive together for peace, security and stability across a whole continent. Neither Nato nor the European Union exists, therefore, for its own sake. They are instruments that help us solve concrete problems. they are dynamic, not static.

Indeed, it is precisely their potential for evolution that determines their value. Nato, for sure, has been anything but standing still. Let me take you briefly through some of the main features of our political agenda, starting with Nato enlargement, our partnership with other European countries, especially Russia, our new missions of crisis management and peace support, and the effort under way to develop a European defence identity in Nato. All these changes will be reflected in our new strategic concept, which will be unveiled at the forthcoming Washington summit in April. What is this strategic concept?

In reflecting both the significant political, military and security changes that have taken place in Europe over the past decade, the strategic concept will provide a chart to guide us through the waters ahead. It will forecast the evolution of the alliance into the next millennium. At Washington, allied leaders will welcome into the alliance as full members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Sixty million people will, through Nato enlargement, be reunited with the European mainstream from which they have been separated for so long. This act of integration is a concrete way of enlarging the area of Europe in which armed conflict and wars simply do not occur.In complementing alliance enlargement, the separate enlargement of the EU will also help to create the basis for both economic progress and political stability. Both enlargements, therefore, are two sides of the same coin. Our policy is that we expect to invite additional new members to join Nato in future. To help aspiring countries prepare themselves better for possible Nato membership, we have enhanced many aspects of our co-operation programmes.

The summit will be the occasion on which this package of measures will be unveiled. At Washington, we will also strengthen our partnerships.

The Partnership for Peace programme was established in 1994 as a programme for developing greater practical cooperation in the military and defence- related fields among allies and countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Today, 27 countries have taken up the offer by the allies. One partner, in particular, is of key importance to Euro-Atlantic security: Russia. The importance of Russia to European security is as obvious to business people as to security specialists. Political and economic turmoil in Russia can have a wider effect.

We all wish to see this large and important country emerge from its current difficulties. Indeed, if we want to help bring Russia into the European mainstream, there is only one chance: that North America and Europe do this together. The EU and the US account for roughly 60 per cent of the world economy.

The close co-ordination of these two solid economic centres is essential if Russia - and others - are to be helped in a meaningful way. Nato has long believed in the strategic wisdom of a co-operative relationship with Russia. This recognition led Nato and Russia to set up a Permanent Joint Council. Together we have used this council to consult and co-operate regularly on a wide range of activities.

The political impulse behind our spirit of partnership has brought Nato and Ukraine together under a charter of co-operation that establishes what we call a distinctive relationship. And we have set up a dialogue with six Mediterranean countries, to help build better mutual understanding in a region that is clearly of security interest to the alliance.