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Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be with you all here today. Such a gathering of parliamentarians from far and wide, both from within the Alliance and from its associated partners, provides living proof of our will - and our ability - to work and talk together.
Indeed, the impressive number of parliamentarians and countries gathered here today demonstrates to me what NATO is all about – the defence of liberty and democracy
For while I am speaking to you first and foremost in my capacity as Prime Minister, I am also speaking to you as a fellow parliamentarian who understands the need for strong relationships between parliaments and governments alike. In domestic as well as in foreign affairs.
We all know, of course, why we are here and how NATO came about – but perhaps a little recap would be in order.
We have to go back to those days in August 1941, when the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, met the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, on an American battleship in Placentia Bay off Newfoundland. Here these two remarkable men formulated the principles on which NATO is based: Self-determination, free trade and collective security. The principle of self-determination had both a domestic and an international aspect and the two leaders agreed on the need to secure the right of nations to establish themselves and to freely choose their own governments.
Roosevelt and Churchill believed that nations who enjoyed self-determination were less likely to be aggressive and therefore more likely to live in peace with one another. To them, self-determination clearly meant democracy and governments accountable to the people. They reasoned that the average citizen rarely wants war so democracy would be a bulwark against aggression and conflict.
All nations under German occupation were therefore promised self-determination. Outrageously, most countries in Eastern Europe had to wait more than 40 years for that promise to be fulfilled.
As the fighting war ended the cold war began. Ideas of freedom, democracy and free trade were confronted with a communist ideology. In the Eastern bloc party and state were one – one political line and one party.
People tend to think that the determining factor in the ending of the cold war was the economy. This is only part of the explanation. I believe that mankind strives towards freedom and democracy and will generally triumph in the end. These values, coupled with free trade, will always win through against dictatorships and closed, plan economies.
The confrontations of the cold war were not just between nations, they were also between values. Principles and values which were hotly debated in European parliaments, in civil society, in schools and in the workplace.
And, however strongly we may feel, we must remember that the struggle for freedom and democracy is a political – not a religious struggle. It is about how we build our societies. How we deal with questions of liberty. How we ensure equal opportunities for men and women. How we deal with minorities. What we teach our young children. What we do to ensure the happiness and prosperity of each and every individual.
With the end of the cold war NATO was instrumental in finally fulfilling the promise of self-determination made to those East bloc countries previously denied the right to true democracy. At the time we thought, rather naively, that we could breathe a collective sigh of relief - we’d done it! But recent events show that this is not the time to be complacent. More than ever we need to stand up for our democratic principles and values.
Today, these selfsame values are pitted against extremism and radicalism. The very principles on which we build this Alliance - and our nations - are under attack.
Medieval principles and traditions of nation-building may have been fine in their time – but now we have moved on. Such principles do not mesh with freedom, democracy and free trade. The Taleban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam’s regime in Iraq clearly illustrate that freedom and prosperity fly out the window when such principles are applied.
I truly believe that we cannot let extremism, radicalism and terrorism flourish unopposed. We have an obligation to argue our case at all levels.
You, the parliamentarians of NATO, have a unique role to play in the continued struggle between freedom and oppression. NATO is the embodiment of the common set of values which we share on both sides of the Atlantic. And, when we occasionally express differences of opinion within NATO this is, perhaps, a fact well-worth remembering.
For me, NATO is not only a military Alliance with a military toolbox. Denmark has always considered NATO to be the fundamental transatlantic organisation for security cooperation. NATO is as much a political organisation as it is a military one.
NATO is the only transatlantic forum where Europeans and North Americans have a daily opportunity to discuss security-related issues of mutual interest. We should extend this dialogue to encompass other strategic issues, such as Iran. As I see it, if we are to meet - and deal with - the new challenges to our security we must use NATO as both a political and a military organisation.
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We are also faced with other challenges of a different nature. Not one of us here today is unaffected by the increasingly globalized world of trade and commerce. In a small country like Denmark we choose to regard globalisation as an opportunity to make a difference.
Denmark has chosen to take advantage of its opportunities. Through pursuing a very active foreign policy – bilaterally and multilaterally – we seek to promote Danish values and interests wherever possible. It may be in a village in Burkina Faso. It may be in the meeting rooms in Washington and Brussels. Denmark is always prepared to put words into action. Politically, economically and militarily.
But if we are to succeed we must deal with a new, common enemy. In the old days, we knew where the threats were coming from. But no longer. Today we are faced with threats of terrorism, from within and without, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and civil wars. All of which are difficult to counter.
For the past 10 years we, as politicians, have been forced to take difficult decisions. We bear the responsibility of sending our soldiers on complex and dangerous missions. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that it is one of the hardest decisions we will ever have to make.
We do not make these decisions lightly. But if we truly believe in democracy and basic human rights we cannot and must not stand idly by when these values are under threat.
Some say that NATO has passed its sell-by date. Its usefulness ran out as the cold war expired. I beg to differ.
NATO has risen to the new challenges and gone far beyond its traditional Euro-Atlantic area. As it becomes a successful, global organisation for freedom and democracy I think I can safely say NATO’s shelf-life has been increased indefinitely. Just look at its recent history.
NATO successfully dealt with the challenges of the 90s. It stopped the bloodshed in Bosnia and had the political will and military capability to put and end to the atrocities and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
With the new millennium came one of NATO’s most difficult missions. Supporting the building of a free and secure Afghanistan. Nowhere more clearly illustrates the new role of NATO. Should we ever, at any point, doubt whether we are doing the right thing in Afghanistan, we can just see how the girls in Kabul are flocking back to the schools. We owe it to its people to extend the reach of NATO to all of Afghanistan.
Today, NATO also plays an important role in Iraq. Our goal is a free, democratic and stable Iraq. NATO’s training mission supports this goal by providing the Iraqis with the training and ability to defend and secure their own new democratic society. We regard Iraqi terrorist attacks on innocent civilians as no less than a struggle between good and evil.
We have many allies in the war against terror, including those who place themselves, and their people, in danger of fanatical terrorist attack. By strengthening its resolve and broadening its scope NATO can assure its friends and allies that they are not alone. Terrorism affects us all - we are all each other's neighbour.
In short, new challenges demand new solutions. We must upgrade NATO. We must transform the Alliance.
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But talk is cheap. We must be prepared to put our money where our mouth is. When we in NATO agree to engage in a new mission, or to expand a mission, we must, as nations, also be prepared to commit the necessary forces. Too often the Secretary General has been forced to plead for more troops and capabilities, or even a few helicopters. This is far from satisfactory.
It is crucial that we transform our armed forces. Our troops must be more deployable and more sustainable. This could, of course, be solved by beefing up the defence budgets. But in most countries - including Denmark - that is not an option. But what we can do is to transform and restructure our military organisations.
In Denmark we have agreed on a new model for our defence forces. Traditional cold war territorial defence has been completely dismantled. We intend to double our capacity to deploy troops in international operations. By 2009 we will be able to deploy up to 2000 soldiers on foreign missions.
2000 soldiers may not sound much, but Denmark is a small country with a population of only 5 million. By comparison, a country with a population of 50 million should be able to deploy 20.000 soldiers on a continuous basis.
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However, transformation is not only about adjusting our military capabilities.
NATO’s operations never take place in a vacuum. More often than not, NATO operates side by side with civilian actors such as UN-agencies and NGOs.
Consequently, NATO should ensure improved coherence between the Alliance's military contribution and the efforts of the rest of the international community. In short, NATO should improve its ability, and willingness, to consult with other civilian actors. This will benefit not only the population in our mission area but also our taxpayers.
It is our sincere hope that civil/military cooperation will be high on the agenda for the 2006 NATO summit.
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There are those who choose to focus on the problems lying in wait for NATO.
I choose to focus on the opportunities. I believe we should seize them with both hands. So that the promise of self-determination, free-trade and security is not merely a dream. We can make a difference. We will make a difference.
Thank you for your attention.