HL Deb 21 June 2001 vol 626 cc2-4WA
Baroness Turner of Camden

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels. [HL34]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The Prime Minister attended a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO Headquarters on 13 June which was convened to coincide with President Bush's first official visit to Europe.

The meeting highlighted the enduring importance of the transatlantic link and the continuing role NATO plays in guaranteeing our defence and promoting peace and security beyond its borders.

NATO has adapted well to face the new challenges of the post-Cold War world. Over the last decade, NATO has done much to bring stability to the Balkans, welcomed three new members and built a new strategic relationship with Russia. It has also established new security links to other states in the Euro-Atlantic area.

The special meeting of the North Atlantic Council was a valuable opportunity for us to review the challenges ahead and look forward to the NATO Summit in Prague in November 2002.

Discussions focused on five issues:

Recognition of the emerging threat posed to all members of the Alliance by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. This poses a major security challenge to NATO. In dealing with the threat, the British Government believe we need a strategy which includes offensive and defensive systems, rigorous implementation of national and multinational proliferation controls, and continued reductions in nuclear arms. Together, Alliance leaders welcomed the extensive programme of consultations undertaken by the US Government on how best to counter the threat, and looked forward to the further intensive consultations that lie ahead;

NATO's success has attracted new applicants for membership. NATO is committed to review the question of enlargement at the Prague Summit. Lord Robertson has said that he expects the Alliance to launch a new round of enlargement then. The Prime Minister's view that once the political and military criteria agreed by NATO at the Madrid and Washington Summits are met, applicants should be invited to join was made clear;

the progress which has been made in developing Europe's capacity for crisis management operations where NATO as a whole chooses not to be engaged was discussed. President Bush made clear his view that the development of this capacity will strengthen European security. The need to assure the EU's access to NATO's planning capabilities, which is key to ensuring that the European Union's security and defence policy is firmly linked to NATO, was agreed;

the Alliance has made great progress in bringing stability to south-east Europe. But it faces continuing challenges from extremists in Macedonia. NATO leaders recognised the urgent need for action by the international community to help restore stability there;

Lord Robertson stressed the continuing need for NATO's member states to invest in the modern defence capabilities which the Alliance must have available if it is to remain effective. The Prime Minister agreed strongly with him.

One of the reasons for NATO's continued success is that it provides a forum in which Europeans and North Americans can debate the security questions which confront us all. The success of this special meeting of the North Atlantic Council showed that this is as much the case today as ever. The Prime Minister looks forward to further progress on all these issues by the time NATO leaders meet again in Prague next year.