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Address By. Sergio Balanzino, dep. Sec. Gen. of Nato at the RAND seminar

Miscellaneous Directory

From: Chris Scheurweghs <>



I am very pleased to be here this morning to make the key note remarks, on behalf of the Secretary General, at the opening of this seminar sponsored jointly by Rand and NATO. I believe the seminar is a very useful and timely one: we need to encourage greater Mediterranean dialogue between the countries on both of its shores. And we need to gather experts and interested parties together to address dispassionately the important issues of Mediterranean security in the post-Cold War era.

NATO's support for this event is an indication of a growing realisation that the security of Europe cannot be divorced from countries of the southern Mediterranean. In a sense, NATO has always had a close interest in the region. There are six Mediterranean member countries of the Alliance, and they enjoy a security guarantee under the Washington Treaty. As we all know, under Article V, the Allies have an obligation to defend each other against armed attack, and to restore and maintain their security.

For the past 40 years this obligation was seen largely in the light of a massive Soviet threat. Today, we do not consider ourselves to be under threat of attack either from the East or from other directions. The lifting of the Iron Curtain has changed fundamentally the nature of European and even world politics. And NATO is changing with it. We have moved from confrontation to cooperation and partnership with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including with Russia and the other countries on the territory of the former Soviet Union.

The most visible and substantial achievements are certainly those in Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the difficulties of the transition process to democracy and market economy of the former communist states, a general mood of optimism prevails there, in part because of the role NATO is playing in projecting security to the East.

The end of East-West confrontation has also had its positive impact in the Mediterranean, as the tensions resulting from that confrontation, which also affected that area, have eased and almost disappeared. But both the Gulf War and the war in the former Yugoslavia have reminded us that the issue of Mediterranean security extends well beyond the end of the Cold War. It is thus quite appropriate that the Mediterranean has become a greater focus of NATO attention.

Since our landmark Brussels Summit in January of last year we have sought to develop a more specific approach towards Mediterranean security. In December 1994, our Foreign Ministers decided to establish contacts, on a case-by-case basis, between the Alliance and Mediterranean non-member countries. In February of this year, the Council decided to invite Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia to discuss possible participation in this dialogue.

In the initial discussion we briefed the representatives of these five countries on NATO's new agenda and sought their views on Mediterranean security issues. We have since then held follow-up meetings and are currently discussing the way ahead. We hope that further discussions will lead to the establishment of a permanent dialogue with them and, let me emphasise, we hope in time to extend the initiative to other Mediterranean countries.

This manifestation of NATO's increasing interest in stability in and around the Mediterranean should not, however, be misconstrued. Let me state clearly that NATO does not see Islam as a threat, and does not need to find a new role or conjure up new threats to keep itself busy. The Mediterranean is not a horizontal dividing line, separating the European North from an "arc of crisis" in the African South. The Mediterranean Sea links three continents. Quite naturally, therefore, it is a region of tremendous cultural and religious diversity. This pluralism is an asset: complexity is not synonymous with "threat" or "disorder".

The first point, therefore, I would like to make is that a great value of any debate about Mediterranean security is that it should dispel the clouds of misunderstanding, deliberate myth-making and sheer ignorance in which much discussion of this subject has become shrouded. This is not easy. The human mind likes to simplify things, and for some it has become tempting to project the East-West pattern of the Cold War to other regions. So, the clash of ideologies of the Cold War has now re-emerged in new academic clothes as a "clash of civilisations."

While these views may still be fashionable in some quarters, reality - as so often - is already proving them wrong. The Atlantic Alliance itself is an example of how diversity can mean strength and not antagonism. In NATO we are made up of 16 countries of diverse cultures and different religious traditions, including one Moslem country, which have worked together for one common mutual benefit for more than four decades. The real world is much more sophisticated, much less fractured and infinitely more capable of real cooperation than some wish to admit.

That brings me to the second value of a conference such as this one. That is, it can identify and underline how much we have in common. Indeed, how much our interests coincide, rather than clash.

We certainly believe that there is great benefit in an intensified and expanding Mediterranean dialogue. You will receive tomorrow a detailed briefing on NATO's Mediterranean initiative. Let me just say at this point that we undertook to develop our relationship out of a positive belief in the mutual value of friendship across the Mediterranean.

Some may view sceptically the importance of "soft" diplomacy. But I think it is wrong to underestimate the power of such dialogue and its potential to stimulate and develop constructive and deepening cooperation. In fact, all the major developments associated with the end of the Cold War, from German unity to NATO's deepening relationship with Russia, began with dialogue. In Europe, the examples can be multiplied. To understand how powerful dialogue can be as an instrument of change, you only have to look at the development of the CSCE, which began tentatively as a forum for discussion across a geographically and ideologically divided Europe. Now it is a fully fledged organisation, building its own capacity for conflict prevention.

The history of NATO's outreach to its East since 1990 is another vivid example of how dialogue can expand and lead to something much deeper. Since 1994, we have seen how Partnership for Peace has fed on its own success so that it now far exceeds all initial expectations.

Of course, our Mediterranean initiative occurs in the context of many other challenges facing the Alliance - enlargement, our relationship with Russia, and NATO-WEU relations. Yet, there is much we can contribute to more friendly relations in the Mediterranean. That is why we have initiated a tailor-made dialogue which, drawing on successful concepts which have been applied elsewhere, begins with initial contacts and has the potential to grow. Our foremost initial aim is to make NATO as transparent and understandable as possible to our counterparts in the Mediterranean region. We have started, but our initiative still has some way to go before we reach the degree of understanding we would like.

I would note that NATO's efforts are intended to complement other initiatives, including those by the EU and WEU. In this regard, the Alliance has unique capacity and expertise, particularly in underlining the transatlantic dimension of security cooperation. We have a proven track record in bringing together countries of such different security backgrounds to serve the common interest of peace and stability. It would thus be paradoxical indeed if we did not try to develop our relatons with countries in the Mediterranean who share a common interest with us in promoting a peaceful and friendly security environment.

That brings me to the third positive value of this conference. It will allow us to put the problems and challenges of the Mediterranean in their proper context.

Analysts point to the many conflicts, real and potential, which originate in or impact on the area. Yes, it is true that numerous conflicts reverberate throughout the area and beyond. The Bosnian conflict, for example, has had a powerful impact on attitudes among the Islamic states. We still struggle with the aftershocks of the Gulf War. And we will have to find an answer to the pressing problem of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means. I would note, however, that the recent successes of the Middle East peace process remind us that to view the the Mediterranean region as one huge potential crisis area is unjustified.

The steps towards a resolution of the Bosnian conflict, which NATO is seeking to help bring about, consitute further indication of a momentum in the right direction.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude. The new Mediterranean initiatives and projects such as this conference are part of a growing involvement and interest in the Mediterranean region by NATO and other arrangements supported by the EU and the WEU. Greater understanding in itself is a stimulus for a virtuous circle of increasing contacts and a more far-reaching cooperation. I am sure that the next two days will prove most profitable in all these areas and I hope I have given you a clear idea of how important a subject we in the Alliance believe this to be.

The Secretary General and I very much look forward to hearing your conclusions.

NATO - OTAN Tel.: (32)-2-728.4599 EXECUTIVE SECRETARIAT FAX : (32)-2-728.5229 NATO INTEGRATED DATA SERVICE (NIDS) Chris SCHEURWEGHS E-MAIL: Leopold III laan 1110 BRUSSEL, Belgium Moderator E-MAIL NATOSCIENCE: haaaj01@blekul11.bitnet of NATODATA & NATOSCI
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