The international conference on Globalization and NATO in the 21st Century was held on April 24th -25th 2001 at the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan under the motto “Ten Atlantic Years in Central and Eastern Europe”. The highlight of the conference was the 10th anniversary of the organized Atlantic movement in Central and Eastern Europe and the 10th anniversary of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
The conference was organized by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, co-sponsored by NATO Headquarters, The German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Atlantic Treaty Association, and in co-operation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders, the Open Society Foundation, the Manfred Wörner Foundation, the Euro-Atlantic Foundation for Security and Foreign Policy and the NATO Information Center in Sofia.
The opening session began with a special video address sent by Lord George Robertson, NATO Secretary General, which generated a good deal of interest among the audience.
Alan Lee Williams – President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, Boyko Noev – Minister of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria, Brigadier General Pellumb Qazimi – Chief of the Albanian Armed Forces and Bob Miller – former Nevada Governor have also addressed the conference. Video addresses have also been sent by Stjepe Mesic – President of the Republic of Croatia and Avis Bohlen – US Assistant Secretary of State. William Cohen – former US Defense Secretary – has joined in the myriad of congratulations by sending his written address.
More than forty world known figures have offered their congratulations, among them being: President George Bush, President Gerald Ford, Jr., President Jimmy Carter, Jr., President Milan Kucan of Slovenia, President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate President Lech Walesa, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom Robin Cook, the Minister of Defense of Hungary Dr. Janos Szabo, the Minister of Defense of Romania Ioan Pascu, the Minister of State for the UK Armed Forces John Spellar, The Rt. Hon. Baroness Thatcher of the British House of Lords, The Rt. Hon. Michael Portillo of the British House of Commons, Professor Samuel Huntington, Dr. Henry Kissinger and the Secretary General of Interpol Ronald Noble.
Thirty four session co-chairs and moderators from fourteen countries have made their presentations in the course of five sessions. This made it possible for NATO member-states like USA, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey to share their views along with NATO recent members like Poland and Hungary.
Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, whose considerable efforts are geared toward their future membership, plus neutral states like Finland and Austria, have also had their input into the conference deliberations. It is to be noted that, for the first time, members of the newly formed Atlantic Club of Yugoslavia have attended the proceedings of an international conference like this. In their presentations they remained intent on promoting Atlantic ideas in Yugoslavia and bringing their country into the Euro-Atlantic structures.
The first session focused on the process of globalization and the future of NATO. In the course of the session, an analysis was built on the new mission of NATO in the light of a changed military and political environment with a stress on the role and importance of the Transatlantic link. The lessons drawn from the accession of the three new member-states and the prospects for new memberships have also been elaborated on. The presentations of Jose Maria Lopez-Navarro from the NATO Office of Information and Press and Captain Milos Ladicorbic of the Institute for Geopolitical Studies in Belgrade have attracted a special attention.
The second session dealt with the new security environment and Russia’s contribution to Europe’s stability. Joao Gomes of Portugal presented a thorough analysis of European identity in the field of security and defense and a common foreign and security policy of the EU member-states. He went on discuss the co-operation between NATO and Russia as well. Dr. Jyrki Iivonen, adviser to the Ministry of Defense of Finland dwelt on the security discourse in Northern Europe and the Baltic countries’ co-operation.
The third session on “New Partnership: Ten Years of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council” was co-chaired by Alan Lee Williams, President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, and General Miho Mihov, Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. The prospects for implementation of the Partnership for Peace Program and the Membership Action Plan together with co-operation in peace-making and peace-keeping operations have also been touched upon. Major General Orlin Marinchev, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, made a detailed review of the on-going military reform and the extent of readiness of the Armed Forces to handle common tasks along with the Alliance’s forces in peace-making and peace-keeping operations.
The fourth session on “NATO’s Role in Securing Stability in the Balkans” has prompted lively discussion. Attendees from Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and the USA were drawn into discussions on the consequences following former Yugoslavia’s disintegration and the future of Balkan co-operation, on the future of KFOR, on newly emerging risks and dangers for the region’s stability resulting from Albanian extremists’ action in Macedonia. Bulgaria’s role in strengthening security in South-Eastern Europe has also been reviewed.
The closing session outlined the risks and dangers for future security. Detailed presentations have been made by Nikolay Milkov, Director of the Analysis and Planning Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Georgi Krastev of the Ministry of Interior and Colonel Volodya Kotsev of the Ministry of Defense. About 400 invitees attended the opening ceremony with subsequent sessions involving 200 participants. There were over 50 foreign participants representing 18 countries. Among Bulgarian participants were Presidential Secretaries, MPs, representatives of both ruling and opposition political parties, government and NGO officials, university lecturers and students, generals and officers of the Armed Forces. Journalist and business communities as well as Atlantic Club members and advocates were also attending.
The international conference on “Globalization and NATO in the 21st Century” received wide media coverage. Thus the highlights of the conference on the new mission of NATO in the 21st century, the importance of Atlantic values, the Alliance’s role for European security and the overall security on the Balkans have reached not only the participants but the general public as well.