The 9th International Symposium of the Greek Association for the Atlantic and European Cooperation that took place Athens on the 13 and 14th of December 1999 address crucial issues that concern the Euro Atlantic Alliance and furthermore the European peoples. In particular, the discussion at the 'Ambassadors' Forum' was divided in three panels that dealt with respectively: The experience, the prospects and the public opinion of the three new members of NATO (namely Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland), the European Defence and the Atlantic Solidarity and finally Stability in South Eastern Europe.
The Symposium was attended by representatives of various Embassies, members of Parliament, representatives from the Greek Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence and former Ministers. A delegation of members of the American Congress and American State Assemblies also participated in the conference.
In his welcoming address, the President of GAAEC and President of ATA Mr. Theodossis Georgiou emphasised the contribution of the strengthened Partnership for Peace and of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) towards the development of a new security and stability dynamic in Europe. While referring to the enlargement of NATO Mr Georgiou underlined the role of Non-governmental organisations in promoting cooperation and mutual understanding and trust amongst the countries and the peoples of Europe. The current 39 Atlantic Councils cover a broad geopolitical area from Vladivostok to Vancouver and have played a significant role as actors affecting the public opinion of the member countries. Moreover, these organisations can convey messages from the public to the governments and the major actors in the process of political cooperation on political, environmental and security issues.
The speech of the President of ATA was followed by the first round table discussion on the new member states of NATO. The participants in the panel were H.E. the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Greece Mr. Vladimir Zavazal, H.E. the Ambassador of Hungary to Greece Mr Istvan Pataki and H.E. the Ambassador of Poland to Greece, Mr Wojtek Lamentowicz. Comments were also made by H.E. the Ambassador Mr Alfred Cahen, Secretary General of the Atlantic Treaty Association. The Ambassadors of the three new member states of NATO provided an assessment of the participation and of their countries in the Alliance and evaluated their contribution in creating a security environment in Europe. The common denominator of all three presentations was that despite the relatively short time span since NATO's last enlargement, the three Republics have fully adapted to NATO's decision-making structures and have been efficient and effective participants in NATO's actions and peacekeeping operations. Significant steps have also been made in terms of economic development whereas in terms of political and strategic doctrine, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are fully aligned with those of their new allies.
All the Ambassadors stressed the interconnection of participation in the Alliance and the establishment and consolidation of democratic institutions in the Central and Eastern European countries. The also reaffirmed their full endorsement of the enlargement of NATO as an essential process for achieving and maintaining peace, stability and democracy in the area. With regards to the public opinion in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, the Ambassadors underlined the unequivocal support of the Euroatlantic orientation and the overall acceptance of NATO membership. The Secretary General of ATA, H.E. Ambassador Cahen, commented on the remarkable adaptability of the enlarged Alliance to the new international environment and asserted that the rate of institutional, political and economic adaptation need to be accelerated both in the new and the older member states.
The second day of the Symposium began with the speech of the Representative of the NATO Directorate of Press and Information Mr. Werner Bauwens who addressed the relation between NATO and Public Opinion. Mr Bauwens referred to the formation of public opinion in the new members of NATO as well as the candidate members and emphasised the importance of the national administrations and the national parliaments. According to Mr Bauwens the enlargement negotiations with nine candidate countries have to be organised on the basis of both a realistic and ambitious plan.
Mr Bauwens made particular reference to NATO's military operations in Kosovo and to the need to convince the public opinion that the use of force was an option of a last resort. After the failure of the peace negotiations with the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians there were no alternatives other than a military intervention that could bring peace to Kosovo. In addition NATO had to prove that it is a credible organisation which can act effectively and can maintain solidarity and cohesion among its members. Today, in the aftermath of the operations, NATO is facing the challenge of preserving peace and deter any reoccurrence of violence in Kosovo. In this context NATO forces are to be transferred from Bosnia to Kosovo.
Two basic conclusions can be drawn from the Kosovo crisis according to Mr Bauwens. First, the grey zone of military intervention without a mandate of the Security Council of the United Nations needs to be clarified. Second, the operations demonstrated the incapacity of Europe and in particular the European Union to deal with international crises. This is primarily due to the lack of both institutional and operational structures. The progressive shrinking of the national defence spending in most European countries and the technological gap between US and European armed forced are striking indications of a lamentable realty for Europe.
The French Ambassador to Greece Mr. Michel Vandepoorter who launched the discussion on 'The Europea Defence and Atlantic Solidarity' in the second round table, agreed with the observations of Mr Bauwens on the deficiencies of the European defence policy and called for the enhancement of EU's capabilities for autonomous action. He stressed however that Europe's defence is intrinsically linked with the transatlantic cooperation. The European and Atlantic institutions are not antagonistic but complementary. It is therefore necessary to develop the appropriate institutions and structures that will facilitate the establishment of common strategies and actions. NATO and the European Union have to confirm their common interests and parallel paths through processes of collective decision making and policy implementation.
H.E. Ambassador Cahen, connected the evolution of the European Security and Defence Identity with the European integration process. During the last decade, this process was accelerated both by the political and economic changes in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe as well as the institutional reforms of the EU. The establishment of a Common Foreign and Security Policy in conjunction with the creation of a multinational military force have set the basis of the revitalisation of a European Security Identity. AS a response to the Kosovo crisis a Council of Defence Ministers of the EU member states was held for the first time. The gradual incorporation of a defence dimension to CFSP was confirmed in the Cologne Summit thus creating the preconditions for the establishment of an integrated European Defence. In conclusion, Mr Cahen reaffirmed the need for a harmonious relationship between the EU and NATO on the following axes: Full transparency, parallel progress of the European Defence Identity and CFSP, deepening of the cooperation and an 'homeopathetic dose of ambiguity' (constructive ambiguity).
In his keynote address to the Symposium, H.E the Ambassador of the US in Greece, Mr Nicolas Burns identified four challenges that the Balkans are currently facing: The prevention of a recurrence of war in the Balkans, the strengthening of NATO as a powerful institution that can forge peace and stability in Europe, the rapprochement between Greece and Turkey and finally the closer cooperation between the US and Greece in dealing with regional issues. With regards to Kosovo, Mr Burns focused on the capabilities-gap between the US and its European Allies and also stressed the need to eliminate this asymmetry. The American Ambassador welcomed the recent attempts made by the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers to improve bilateral relations and attributed primordial importance to the cooperation of the two countries as a catalyst for the consolidation of peace and prosperity in the wider Balkan region.
The third round table discussion concentrated on Stability in South Eastern Europe and sought ways of establishing security, economic reform and democracy in the region. The keynote speakers were H.E. the Ambassador of Norway to Greece representing the Chairman in Office of OSCE, Mr Jan Hegg, H.E. the Ambassador of Albania to Greece Mr Kastriot Spiro Robo, H.E. the Ambassador of Bulgaria to Greece Mr Kiril Topalov, H.E. the Ambassador of Romania to Greece Mr Dan Radulescu, H.E. the Ambassador of FYROM to Greece Mr Ljupco Arsovski and H.E. the Ambassador Mr John Boukaouris, Deputy Political Director in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Interventions and comments were made by the Vice Presidenct of the Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders Ms Augustina Tzvetkova and by the Secretary General of the Atlantic Association of Hungary Mr Miklos Derer.
Mr Hegg analysed the comparative advantages of OSCE as a security institution and as a guarantor of the Stability Pact. Furthermore the OSCE (in collaboration with other EuroAtlantic institutions) has greatly contributed to the democratisation process and the protection of Human Rights in Kosovo and Bosnia. The Ambassadors of Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia made a thorough account of their foreign policy priorities and in particular the reinforcement of the ties with NATO and the EU. In a similar line of thought as the Ambassadors of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, they linked accession to these two organisations with the consolidation of democracy and the development of market economy. Albania and FYROM have made significant progress towards economic modernisation and institutional reform whereas they have improved relations with their neighbours, notably Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. The Stability Pact is undoubtedly a positive initiative for the development of the region and the gradual integration of the Balkans in the Euroatlantic institutions. However, the intensification of the efforts for institutional and economic convergence has to be followed by an increase of foreign aid both in terms of economic assistance and in terms of institutional design and technological know-how.
The discussion was completed with the interventions of the two representatives of ATA, Ms Tzvetkova and Mr Derer. With regards to South Eastern Europe the two speakers underlined the importance of the enlargement process of NATO and the EU and expressed the hope that this process will continue. Regional economic and political integration is the only means of achieving peace, stability and a harmonious coexistence of all the peoples of Europe.