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Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the Tbilisi State University
/ 4 Oct.'07 / 16:56

October 4, 2007                                                       Source: NATO

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The last time I was in Georgia was in 2004, during my first year in office as NATO’s Secretary General, and I am delighted to be back and let me add that in 2003 I was also in the same room as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE so it feels a bit like homecoming.  I also feel very honoured with the opportunity to speak at the oldest university in the entire Caucasus region.  And I wish to thank Rector Georgi Khubua most sincerely for his kind words of introduction.

Georgia and NATO have both seen enormous change these last few years.  NATO, for its part, has made great strides in adapting its policies, structures and capabilities to a new security environment that is marked by terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other complex challenges.  There is a strong consensus in the Alliance today that these challenges require active engagement.  And we have already shown our preparedness, and our ability, to tackle these challenges head-on – even if that may mean sending our forces on dangerous missions far away from our traditional European borders.

As I speak, well over 50,000 troops are deployed under NATO’s operational command on three different continents.  More than 40,000 brave men and women serve in Afghanistan, where NATO leads a most challenging mission that includes peacekeeping tasks as well as combat operations.  But we are also keeping the peace in Kosovo.  NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in an anti-terrorist mission.  We are assisting the African Union with transport and logistics support for its operation in Darfur.  NATO is training Iraqi and Afghan security forces.  And NATO have been involved in major disaster response and humanitarian relief operations, especially after the devastating earthquake that struck Pakistan two years ago.

In all these different missions and operations, the Alliance is a team player, working closely with the rest of the international community – and that is another key characteristic of NATO today.  All 26 Allies realise that – whether in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Darfur or elsewhere – other, civilian actors must be involved together with us, because there can be no security without development, and no development without security.  As a consequence of this we see that more and more countries – from Australia to New Zealand, and from Japan to the Republic of Korea – are interested in cooperating with the Alliance, as are regional organisations like the African Union.  And we are keen to engage with these countries and institutions in a common effort to deal with today’s security challenges.

However, as the Alliance tackles challenges as Afghanistan, far away from our traditional area of operations, we certainly do not forget that there is unfinished business in Europe.  The Alliance has long aspired to the creation of a Europe that is whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values.  Both NATO and the European Union have played a major role in fulfilling this aspiration.  But it is not a reality just yet.  There is still work to do. And NATO is very much committed to continue playing its part.

First of all in the Balkans.  NATO has been instrumental in bringing peace and stability to this region, but more must be done to fully integrate the countries from this region into the European mainstream.  And so we will continue to help Kosovo get on its feet once its status has been decided, and we will intensify our dialogue and cooperation with the countries in the region, including our most recent Partners Bosnia and Herzegovina,  Montenegro and Serbia.

But NATO also wants to play a role in helping to stabilise and integrate the wider Europe.  Over the past 15 years, through partnership and cooperation, NATO has helped countries all across the continent to modernise their military establishments and meet other difficult reform challenges.  We have also helped to create a true Euro-Atlantic security culture – a strong disposition to work together in tackling common security challenges.  And we see this in the valuable contributions which many of our Partners, including Georgia, are making to our operations.  And so we want to continue this policy of Partnership to tailor it even better to the needs and requirements of our Partners – to help them to integrate with the rest of Europe -- and to further engage them in meeting today’s security challenges.

Several of our Partners have indicated that they wish not only to cooperate with NATO, but to become a member of the Alliance.  The door to NATO membership is open today, and it will remain open in the future – but it is not an automatic door.  Aspirants must meet rigorous standards before they are admitted.  We have been working hard, for several years, with Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1 in the context of our Membership Action Plan, to help them to meet those rigorous standards.  NATO Heads of State and Government have made clear that they intend at their meeting in Bucharest next spring to extend further invitations to those countries who meet NATO’s performance-based standards, and are able to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security and stability.  And let me stress once again that there is no automaticity in this process.

But let me also stress two other things.  First, that the enlargement of NATO’s membership is not directed against any country.  And second, that no country which is not a member of NATO has a veto or “droit de regard” over NATO enlargement decisions. The process of NATO enlargement will continue, with due caution but also with a clear purpose.  Over the past fifteen years, the Alliance has used the interest of countries in joining NATO to promote democratic and security sector reforms, and to hold aspirant countries to the highest standards.  This has already helped to make our continent much more stable and secure.  And that will remain our key objective.

There is one more element of the broader context of European security that I should like to mention, and that is the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, the CFE Treaty.  Russia has announced a suspension of the CFE Treaty, and the NATO Allies regret that announcement.  We have a shared interest in maintaining military transparency and predictability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area, and the CFE Treaty is critical in that regard.  There were frank and constructive discussions in Berlin earlier this week and there are discussions in Vienna, to address not just Russia’s concerns about the Treaty, but also those of NATO countries and other nations, and I very much hope that constructive spirit will prevail.

Finding solutions to the conflicts here in this country and the wider Caucasus region is vital for the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic region. NATO has repeatedly expressed its support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and its other Partner countries in the Caucasus. But the mandate and expertise to try and resolve the conflicts in this region rest with the OSCE and the UN, not with NATO.  And the Alliance does not seek stronger involvement.  The Georgian Government has made a number of concrete proposals to build confidence.  It has also committed itself repeatedly to peaceful, negotiated solutions, including in documents which it has signed with NATO.  The NATO Allies, and I myself, are of the view that the Georgian Government must stick to this commitment – and that the other parties concerned should also negotiate in good faith and work towards a peaceful resolution of these conflicts. There are no alternatives.

And I am confident that the Georgian Government will stick to its commitment because it has, over the past few years, shown a growing seriousness in tackling difficult domestic issues, and conducting a constructive foreign policy.  We appreciate the restraint and responsibility that Georgia has shown in its relations with Russia, and its determination to find constructive solutions.  And we welcome Georgia’s strong contribution to peacekeeping operations further a field, including in Kosovo, where Georgia has close to 200 troops working with our German and Turkish Allies, as well as in Afghanistan, where Georgia is now also preparing to help out in the vital area of training the Afghan National Army.  All of this shows that Georgia understands the logic of what I call cooperation in security.  It shows that Georgia wants to be a provider of security, rather than a mere consumer.  And that it is a reliable Partner for the Alliance.

Relations between NATO and Georgia have intensified steadily over the past few years.  We now engage in substantive and frank political dialogue on a regular basis, at all levels, and on a wide array of issues of common interest.  Before the summer, Georgia’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence and European and Euro-Atlantic integration paid a highly successful joint visit to NATO HQ in Brussels.  And I am confident that my discussions with President Saakashvili and other senior Georgian politicians later today will again underline the maturity of the NATO-Georgia relationship.

Georgia was the first Partner country with which NATO adopted an Individual Partnership Action Plan – or IPAP -- back in 2004, and we have made good progress in elaborating an updated Action Plan and making it public.  IPAP remains the main practical tool for our cooperation. It lays out a programme of quite specific reforms to be undertaken by the Georgian Government, and where NATO is offering its advice and assistance.  And many individual Allies are of course engaged in practical cooperation bilaterally as well.

At the political level, through our Intensified Dialogue, we discuss Georgia’s aspirations for further Euro-Atlantic integration.  I want to stress that there is no timeline for our Intensified Dialogue.  More than ever before, NATO is a performance-based organisation, which is making very serious demands of its members.  And further progress in our relationship will depend on Georgia being able to demonstrate that it is capable of meeting those commitments.

The Georgian Government has successfully implemented reforms in many areas these last few years, and there are many achievements to be proud of.  There is a very clear reform drive, and good coordination of reforms between the different branches of Government.  Economic liberalisation has made possible impressive GDP growth and a substantial rise in foreign direct investment, not just in energy infrastructure but increasingly in tourism, transport and other sectors as well.  There has also been distinct progress in elaborating and implementing an anti-corruption strategy.  And we have been pleased to work with Georgia on its Strategic Defence Review, and to see that its Ministry of Defence and armed forces have introduced longer-term planning and budgeting.

Contrary to what people may think, modernisation of the defence and security sector is not all that NATO is interested in.  As a matter of fact, quite the opposite is true.  NATO supports Georgia's sovereign right to spend what it chooses on defence, and to organise its military forces as it thinks best.  However, the Alliance will continue to look carefully at how the defence process is conducted, in order to ensure that money is spent rationally, according to agreed plans, and balanced against other priorities like poverty reduction and education.  When assessing progress in Georgia, NATO has looked, and will continue to look, at the whole reform picture, and not just the military dimension.

One crucial reform priority that is not linked to the military is to firmly establish the rule of law, which really is the cornerstone of any democracy.  Georgia has made significant progress in outlining and beginning the implementation of judicial reform.  But there must be continued progress, especially in ensuring the independence of the judiciary.  We also feel that there is a need for greater transparency on the part of the political establishment – in order to better explain and debate reforms with the general public, strengthen their credibility and consolidate the democratic process.  This is one more area on which we will keep a close eye in the run-up to your Parliamentary and Presidential elections next year, which we all hope will continue the positive trend that we saw in the local elections last year.

Four years ago, during the “Rose Revolution”, Georgians stood up to defend their right to choose their own leaders, without manipulation or intimidation -- the right to speak their mind without fear of reprisal, and to plan their own future.  These are the very same values and principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law that NATO, the North Atlantic Alliance has stood for almost six decades.  And that is why I hope, and expect, that Georgia will continue to embrace those democratic principles.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO and Georgia have come a long way these last few years.  Our political dialogue has intensified and so has our practical cooperation.  With NATO’s encouragement and assistance, Georgia has set out on a bold reform course, and demonstrated a strong determination to contribute to security and stability in its own region and beyond. 

I have been forthright in commenting on the state of our relationship -- giving credit where I believe it is due, but also making a few critical remarks where I think they are in order.  I have no doubt that my remarks will be considered in the same positive spirit in which I have made them.  Because our relationship has matured – and I am convinced that it will continue to deepen.

Thank you.

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