2010 Young Atlanticist Summit
“NATO and the Future of Europe”
Remarks by the Estonian Foreign Minister Mr. Urmas Paet
Lisbon, 19 November 2010
Dear young leaders, delegates of this Summit,
Estonia is a relatively young member of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation, having joined the alliance six and a half years ago. So we, too, are keen to learn, just like you. For example, the opportunity to participate in shaping NATO’s fundamental strategy – the new strategic concept – for the first time has been a valuable experience for us.
NATO membership has always enjoyed high public support among the Estonian people and especially among the younger generation. There are young and enthusiastic Estonians running the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association and representing Estonia in NATO structures. Knowing that young people are always the most curious ones and tend to ask the most heated questions, I am delighted to discuss with you today the issues related to NATO and the future of Europe.
I am also glad that thanks to your efforts in making use of modern information and communications technology tools, the messages of the Lisbon summit will reach a very broad audience. This is the kind of engagement Estonia highly appreciates.
It goes without saying that every country and even the most powerful defence organisation on the globe needs as many partners and allies as it can get, regardless of their location on the map. NATO has valued relations and co-operation with aspiring and partner countries ever since it was founded. In facing 21st century security challenges that do not recognise any borders or frontiers, the importance of having like-minded partners across all continents has become an invaluable asset. We should seek to broaden our range of partnerships, for example, by launching a dialogue with China and Brazil to this end.
When speaking of emerging security challenges, Estonia has proven its reliability and competence in cyber security. The NATO cyber defence centre of excellence was founded in Tallinn two years ago. Although its main task is to enhance the cyber defence capability of the Alliance and its member states, it is open to cooperative relations with non-NATO nations, universities, research institutions, and businesses as Contributing Participants. This is an example of the co-operation we need to develop more vigorously in the digital era, and the younger generation is certainly in a position to contribute to this goal.
Although new countries have joined and some others are in line, NATO’s core principles, including the open door policy, have remained unchanged since the Washington Treaty was signed 61 years ago. And this is the solid ground on which our success – including with the enlargement process—can firmly stand now and in the future. NATO enlargement is aimed at building a Europe whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values. It is a win for all of Europe, and it cannot pose a threat to any country, democratic or not.
In this context I would like to recall the words of the late president of Estonia Mr. Lennart Meri before Estonia’s accession to the alliance: “The perception of leaving a zone of instability and entering a zone of stability, democracy and prosperity virtually guarantees that the countries admitted to NATO will concentrate on issues of the future, rather than on the wounds of the past.” And that is exactly what Estonia is doing by supporting the applicants as they work their way towards meeting NATO standards and requirements. We are true believers of the open door policy and we are glad that the continuation of this policy is clearly stated in the new strategic concept.
After Estonia joined the alliance in 2004, there has been another enlargement round with the accession of Albania and Croatia. Some aspiring countries, like Georgia and Ukraine have started the Annual National Programme, and others, like Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, have been given the Membership Action Plan (MAP). I am pleased to note that Bosnia and Herzegovina received the MAP at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting that was held earlier this year in my hometown Tallinn, and we hope that they start its implementation in due course. Estonia also supports Macedonia’s accession, as soon as the name issue has been resolved.
Let me stress to this end that every democratic state has the right to make its own security policy choices provided that it serves peace and cooperation. No third country can have a say in this. NATO’s door remains open to any European country that is in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership, and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Estonia considers it essential to continue on that path, and to make sure that candidates are evaluated according to their performance and readiness for accession.
Along with the integration of acceding countries, I would also like to point out our co-operation with troop-contributing partners as well as international organisations, particularly the European Union and United Nations.
In Afghanistan, all the abovementioned dimensions cross. Within NATO-led ISAF mission there are 20 non-allied nations contributing troops -- along with the 28 NATO allies operating side by side. There is also the co-operation with local Afghan forces as well as international contributors. It is in this mission, deep in the field, where the gaps and blanks in the co-operation chain immediately become evident. In order to fill the gaps, better co-operation and co-ordination among NATO, the EU, the UN and other international players is urgently needed.
Along with reaffirmed commitment and solidarity, this is the way to ensure that a truly comprehensive approach shall prevail. This is crucial in order to achieve sustainable peace in Afghanistan. I especially have in mind the co-operation between the European Union and NATO, which should be taken to a new level. All in all, NATO’s largest out-of-area mission in Afghanistan is a touchstone that points out our strengths as well as shortcomings. Thereby it is a valuable lesson we should learn from when setting our course towards the future.
Summing up this long story I would like to highlight three essential points for the future of our continent and the whole Euro-Atlantic area: most of all, enlargement, which in today’s world is not so much about expanding in a geographical sense, but expanding the room of shared values.
Second, reaffirming the principle of collective defence that forms the very core of our organization as stated in Article V. After all, the commitments shared by us, the 28 North-Atlantic Treaty allies come first. And, the stronger the relations between allies, the better the foundation for furthering our partnerships.
Third, forging strong co-operation with all our partners. With emerging global security challenges like cyber threats, climate change and energy security, the importance of co-operative security will grow even more in the years to come.
The bottom line is that 21st century Europe needs a 21st century approach. And this is also where the young atlanticist of today have an opportunity and a responsibility to contribute.