Roma 20/05/2011

Address by Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic to the NATO Defence College on its 60th Anniversary

Secretary General Rasmussen,
Ministro Frattini,
Ministro La Russa,
Lieutenant General Loeser
Dean of the North Atlantic Council, Ambassador Linkevicius,
Chairman of the Military Committee, Admiral Di Paola,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first thank you, especially General Loeser, for inviting me to join you on this fortunate occasion celebrating the NATO Defence College's 60th Anniversary.

Italy has hosted NDC since 1966. Political circumstances of that time provided us with this opportunity and we are thankful for it - NDC presence in Roma has been beneficial both to Italy and to the Alliance, especially as recent events force NATO to look South where new challenges to the security of all increasingly come from.

This institution is at the heart of the Alliance.
In the last 20 years the College has spread its wings following NATO's outreach and opening its door to our partners. More than 60 countries, more than twice as many as the current membership, have attended, and are attending, this institution. Their participation has given a tremendous support to the Alliance political role and a boost to its capacity to effectively operate with partners in the field. I am happy to recognize a large number of them in the audience, belonging to the Partnership for Peace, to the Mediterranean Dialogue and to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

I am happy to welcome to Rome Secretary General Rasmussen, together with the members of the North Atlantic Council and of the Military Committee.
We met not long ago at your Headquarters in Brussels. I have a fresh memory of my address to the NAC and of the lively exchange of views we had in March last year.

In barely fourteen months much has changed in and outside NATO. But the fundamentals have remained the same. If any, they are reinforced by the most recent challenge undertaken by the Alliance: enforcing United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 of March 17, 2011.

Nobody had foreseen the recent events in the Mediterranean and the profound changes throughout the Arab world. We are witnessing a turning point in a region that is in our immediate neighbourhood, at our borders: and make no mistake, I am talking about NATO (or about the European Union) as a whole. "Southern" Allies, such as Italy, are immediately and directly exposed, but any significant change in North Africa or in the Middle East will affect all of us, in North or Central Europe or across the Atlantic. Security is a common good - there are not "Southern" or "Northern" or "Eastern" Allies, only "Allies".

We also need to be aware that a stable, prosperous, tolerant and economically vibrant Mediterranean will enhance Europe and the Atlantic in the global realignment of power and wealth across the world. While a Mediterranean in turmoil and poverty will heighten the Eastward shift of international balance.
The "Arab spring" is still playing out and has a great potential for triggering positive developments in civil, social and democratic growth. They will probably take time and pain but they need our confident support. We must then work for the best and fastest possible outcome, by forging a strong partnership with our Southern Mediterranean and Arab friends to promote good governance and regional stability. I am very much encouraged by yesterday President Obama's speech.

But we also need to be prepared for any transitional scenario that might affect our security. And any security challenge in the region is most likely to call for a NATO response.

Also the European Union should be able to share the burden and the responsibilities, in a spirit of cooperation and division of labour. We, Europeans, must be able to raise the EU's role in this area. The Lisbon Treaty gives us important institutional means. However, as of today, such enhanced role cannot yet be taken for granted.

Libya is a case in point. I wish to commend the Alliance, Secretary General Rasmussen and the Military Authorities, for undertaking a difficult, complex and delicate task. Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR is fraught with difficulties because of the situation on the ground and the limitations set in resolution 1973 - to which NATO must abide. Yet it has been successful in preventing a harsh repression and civilian massacres. I am confident that with patience and consistency international legitimacy will prevail in Libya.

Following the directions established on March 9 by the Supreme Defence Council, that I chair, Italy is proud to fully participate in the NATO operation in Libya.

Secretary General
Last March while addressing the Council I noted "2010 is a crucial year for NATO".
I am not going to repeat the same prediction for 2011. It is quite clear that the Alliance is facing yet another test in North Africa, in addition to all these already met last year.
Let me say then that I believe that 2010 was a year well spent. I refer, of course, to the Lisbon Summit of last November. That appointment was very much in everyone's mind - certainly in your mind.
I wish to acknowledge your leadership and wisdom and the Council's spirit of cooperation and good will in bringing the Lisbon Summit to a successful conclusion.

NATO has adopted a new Strategic Concept that recognizes the new challenges and a wide-ranging Alliance's responsibility for its members security. While Art. 5 remains at the core of the Alliance, we are better prepared to face other threats and to respond to unforeseen emergencies as we are doing in Libya today.

Afghanistan continues to be NATO's major operation and political commitment. In the last 14 months the military surge has reached its peak. We are approaching now to the second phase which will require military consolidation, through gradual a concerted draw-down in combat troops numbers, while Afghans themselves increasingly take responsibility of their own security. It will take some time but the direction is clear. It will be coupled by political transition on the domestic side, while NATO and the international community will continue to support Kabul with military training and civil assistance.
We have put enormous efforts in Afghanistan. We have all shed blood. I wish to pay tribute to our women and men in uniform. This time we must not abandon Afghanistan after our military commitment is finished.

Without Bin Laden Al Qaeda is greatly weakened. However we must remain vigilant against the terrorist threat.
I was extremely pleased with the full political resumption of the NATO-Russia relationship. President Medvedev's participation to the NRC in Lisbon, after a two and a half years discontinuity, was very good news. Practical cooperation has resumed and possibly increased, namely with regard to Afghanistan, where Moscow can be of substantial help to our efforts. I understand that difficulties remain in the major issue of Missile Defence. Its outcome can ultimately divide or unite Russia and the Alliance. Hard and complex as it is, I strongly invite you to persevere. The dialogue with Moscow has always been demanding, but its potential rewards are invaluable.

Secretary General
Commandant Loeser
NATO Defence College celebrates its 60th Anniversary while Italy celebrates our 150th Anniversary as a unified nation. It is a major benchmark in our history and I have invited many Heads of State and Government to join us on this occasion. They will be here in Rome on the 2nd of June.
This institution, and the Atlantic Alliance, are much younger. But I can assure that they have an outstanding place in our history as a democratic Republic and in our heart.