Address of the Foreign Minister of Iceland, H.E. Mr. Halldor Asgrimsson, at the opening of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Meeting in Reykjavík
15 May 2002
Secretary-General, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by saying how pleased I am to be able to welcome you all here in Reykjavik on the occasion of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting, the first meeting of its kind in Iceland. Never before have so many Foreign Ministers been assembled at once here.
When Iceland last hosted the NATO Foreign Ministerial meeting there was no co-operation with Partners. This was back in 1987 before the end of the Cold War, and the then 16 NATO foreign ministers met in Reykjavik to discuss the further development of a comprehensive concept of arms control and disarmament.
Much has changed since then and the Alliance has transformed itself time and again. We are now yet again in a new phase of adaptation, perhaps the most important one to date, and this will and must have implications for our Partnership.
At our meeting here today we need to explore ways to adapt our Partnership to the new NATO, to the new tasks and challenges ahead, to further enlargement, that might eventually lead to the Alliance member states becoming more numerous than the Partners. And to our new relationship with Russia. Over the past decade of our co-operation the Partnership has evolved and adapted to new realities. This, I am certain, will also be the case now and it reflects the strength of our co-operation. Its core principles have always been flexibility and transparency.
The importance of the EAPC and PfP as coalition building mechanism became clear in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September. The international fight againt terrorism has since been added to the agenda of the EAPC and steps have been undertaken to develop EAPC's practical response to terrorism. The valuable role played by our Partners, not least our Partners in Russia, and in Central Asia, has to be commended. Those of you who have followed discussions in the EAPC in recent years are aware of the important input to the discussion on the threat of international terrorism by our Partners in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Their representatives around the table were more acutely aware then we were at the time, prior to 11 September, of the imminent threat and the need to confront it. Now we rely on their assistance and knowledge in our common fight.
In the last months the need to transform the EAPC has been discussed at great length and rightly so. But we also need to be aware how far we have come in the decade of our co-operation and to recognise that this co-operation played a key role in bringing peace and stability to the Euro-Atlantic area. Without our co-operation in the Balkans, where all our concerted efforts are still needed, the successes we can now enjoy would have been unthinkable. This success is reflected in the presence around this table of many of our Partners in the Balkans and Croatia}s entry today to the Membership Action Plan.
Of course there is always room for more reforms, and we need to continue to think of new ways and be innovative about our co-operation, seeking means to make the most of this important forum and its unique dynamic nature.
Our common task in fighting international terrorism will be our most important mission in the foreseeable future and we need to find practical ways to co-operate in that fight. There is real need for this important coalition and I have no doubt that the EAPC and the PfP, will keep its place in an enlarged and transformed Alliance.