Estonian President Ilves: Enlargement fatigue is EU problem, not NATO problem
~ Riga Conference closes with debates on NATO enlargement, transatlantic defense industry ~
RIGA, Latvia (November 29, 2006) -The Riga Conference: Transforming NATO in a New Global Era concluded today with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves telling participants that "enlargement fatigue" as has been widely discussed regarding the European Union, does not apply to NATO.
"I think that in the case of the countries we're looking at today when we talk about enlargement, we can only talk about NATO simply because of the failure of the European Union to deal with its neighborhood," Ilves said. The European Union has "a complete lack of courage, a complete lack of willingness, a ‘fortress Europe' mentality that we don't want any more [countries] in."
Riga Conference participants began their day with a moment of silence, echoing a similar moment at the NATO Summit by the NATO heads of state. Two panels, one on NATO enlargement and one on the transatlantic defense industry, closed the conference.
Both panels appeared before an audience of internationally recognized policymakers, officials, scholars, and business leaders , organized by the Strategic Analysis Commission under the auspices of the President of Latvia, the Latvian Transatlantic Organization, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Volker, appearing on a panel with Ilves, said that enlargement has been, first and foremost, a tremendous success and that discussion of enlargement should not always concentrate on small issues. "NATO enlargement has not only been good for the countries that have joined NATO and for the border region; I think it's also been good for NATO itself," he said.
Earlier, on a panel discussing the transatlantic defense industry, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions said there should be more defense integration across the ocean. "It binds us closer together, that's one of the advantages of it," he said. "We create an interoperability so our systems can work together in the field in a combat area."
Thomas Enders, CEO of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), said that transatlantic defense cooperation already works and that defense integration is considerably more difficult. "The lesson I take away from recent years is that the more multinational, I guess the more difficult it is to realize," Enders said. "Cooperation works best when it is bilateral between two countries, between two companies."
The Riga Conference: Transforming NATO in a New Global Era, occurring November 27-29, during the NATO Riga Summit, convenes decision-makers who shape, enact, and exercise the policies at the core of NATO's agenda. The Riga Conference focuses on NATO's continuing transformation - on its outreach and new relationships around the world, the question of expanding NATO's role in global crises, energy security, Afghanistan, and the Balkans, its future with Russia, and its own future for enlargement.