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Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, Munich Security Conference speech, 7 February 2009

Munich Security Conference: Selected speeches

For a full list of speeches go to www.securityconference.de.

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, Munich Security Conference speech, 6 February 2009

There are two distinct debates about European security today.

The first is about security in its conventional sense. It is about concern for territorial integrity and protection of state sovereignty. In parts of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, countries remain suspicious of their neighbours; or nationalist tensions threaten internal cohesion. Such fears are real, and they reate a potent sense of insecurity. In Bosnia and Kosovo people are still struggling to escape ethnic divides and heal the scars of bloody conflict. The conflict in Georgia last summer showed how vulnerable individual states are when there is a breakdown in respect for basic principles like peaceful resolution of conflicts.

The second debate is about new threats to our security; above all terrorism, but also the impact of the global economic downturn, climate change and energy security. Thanks to the post war recipe of collective defence and economic integration, much of Europe no longer has any reason to fear conventional conflict. Yet the paradox is that while our nations are more peaceful and prosperous than ever, our citizens still do not feel secure. Why? Because they know how the breakdown in law and order in Pakistan or Afghanistan can threaten their security - in London, Hamburg or Istanbul. They understand that without rapid action to secure a stable, global climate, untold damage could be done to our planet - and our way of life. They know that the threats we face are global - and that it is increasingly difficult for the individual nation state alone to provide the protection and security they seek.

Europe's security architecture therefore needs to address both new global fears and our traditional concerns. And it needs to build on the systems and institutions that proved themselves over the last few decades - NATO, the EU, the OSCE, the UN and the Council of Europe - while reaching out to forge new relationships to underpin our stability and prosperity.

NATO provides a commitment to collective defence. The Article 5 Guarantee and the integrated military structures reassure each and every one of our Allies that their borders are inviolable. Backed by the political and military might of 26 democracies, including Canada and crucially the US, it is a commitment that builds confidence at home and allows us to focus on addressing new threats abroad. This is a significant change. The post-cold war reality demands a more expeditionary and more comprehensive approach; because we have learned from bitter experience how instability abroad can lead to insecurity at home. So NATO was right to act to reverse Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. At stake was not just the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, but the stability of central Europe. And NATO troops are now engaged in Afghanistan to deny Al Qaeda a base from which to launch attacks of the kind we saw on 9/11. This is a real test for NATO. We'll be talking about this in tomorrow's session when my colleague John Hutton will be speaking. Suffice to say here that it demands not just new capabilities and technologies, but troops trained for irregular or asymmetrical warfare. The sacrifice is enormous. But we should be in no doubt that if we leave before the Afghan authorities - especially the Afghan National Army that Coalition and NATO forces are training - are able to defend themselves, the Taleban will be back, and the country will once again become a haven for those who seek to do us harm. It is also of course a test for the EU. The EU began as a bargain over coal and steel to prevent another Franco-German war. Sixty years on it is the world's most successful experiment in pooling sovereignty and promoting intergovernmental cooperation. It has shown how collective action can enhance national and global security. It has charted a course for regional cooperation between small and medium sized states. It has become a model power - those who are near us, want to join us. And some of those who are far away, want to imitate us.

And it is a test for the EU and NATO together. They are complementary, grappling with the same security challenges. As President Sarkozy says, NATO is an Alliance between Europeans as well as between Europe and the US. We need them to work together seamlessly.

But as the world changes, so must the EU. It must modernize and adapt. It must turn its attention to the wider range of insecurities. Take energy for example: if we want to secure our energy supplies, we need a properly functioning internal market, more interconnections between countries, more diverse sources, secure routes of supply and ambitious action to drive a global low-carbon revolution. The EU needs to stand for open markets at home and abroad. And if we are to address insecurity and instability beyond our borders, we need to use the accession process and partnership arrangements to encourage political and economic reform. But we must also develop the hard edge of our external action. Be it tackling piracy in the Gulf of Aden, building the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, or training police in Kosovo. The EU is showing how its instruments add real value to our security, provided that NATO and the EU work co-operatively to support each other's efforts. I have talked about institutions. But however much European security may today be defined by cooperation within Europe, our alliance with the US and our relationship with Russia remain at the heart of the European security debate. The West has spent the last twenty years seeking partnership with Russia. It has never sought to encircle, threaten or weaken it. Yet whatever our intentions, the perception in Moscow is different. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Russia feels "uncomfortable" with the current European security arrangements. There is a clear deficit of trust that we must work together to overcome. So we welcome President Medvedev's call for a debate about the future of European Security. In taking this debate forward we should be pursuing our mutual interest in resolving and preventing conflict in Europe, tackling WMD proliferation, combating organised crime and addressing the threat from extremism. This enterprise can only be successful if we work to a shared understanding of what security means. Though we must also be clear; this does not undermine our commitment to leave the door to NATO membership open for those who desire it. Its starting point needs to be an acceptance of the fundamental principles of territorial integrity, democratic governance and international law, and recognition that, in the 21st century, breaking these principles will have serious consequences. It needs to embrace a wide definition of security: not just military security and state sovereignty, but economic, energy and climate security, human security and human rights. And it should take place across Europe's enduring security institutions - including the OSCE, EU and NATO - which have served us well and must not be undermined. Which brings me to the US and the Transatlantic relationship. European and North American interests - political, economic and military - are very closely aligned. We all believe that liberty, equality and justice are the foundations of peace and prosperity. And we know that when we act together, we have an unrivalled ability to shape the world around us. Yet ours is a relationship that has been strained b divisions over Iraq and more recently questions of burden-sharing, leading to talk of a "two tier alliance".

This is the moment for us to renew the alliance. Because as global power becomes more diffuse we will need each other more. And because President Obama has signalled that he wants to intensify our partnership. As he said in Berlin "In this century..."America needs "a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad." If Europe wants to work with the new Administration, if it wants to re-energise multilateralism for the 21st century, it needs to show that we are not just a partner of historical choice but a partner of future choice too. We need to invest in the alliance, and not just support from the sidelines. That means practising what we preach. It means taking the difficult decisions not just the easy ones. And it means being willing and able to combine hard and soft power in a credible way.

We welcome US willingness to talk to Iran. But if Iran doesn't respond we will need to be read to impose much tougher sanctions, even if that imposes costs on us here in Europe. In this instance, nuclear security must come above commercial interests. We also need to work much harder to generate military and civilian resources if we are to continue to be taken seriously as an international player. And we need to sweep away the obstacles to genuine NATO/EU partnership, in strategic dialogue, but also in practical co-operation. This includes developing a common approach which makes all of us, including Russia, feel more secure, rather than just talking about it. And we - and I include the UK here - need to show that we want to be not just bilateral partners of the US but also European partners.

The backdrop to all discussions of European security in 2009 will inevitably be the economic downturn. This is strengthening two opposing political forces. The first is for countries to turn inwards. The second is multilateralism: people recognise that unless countries can work together we will be powerless to respond to the great challenges of our time. Europe has a central role to play in ensuring that the latter wins out over the former. We have spent sixty years fine tuning our own multilateral institutions. Both NATO and the EU are remarkable success stories. Now we need to turn outwards, renewing old alliances but also reaching out to new partners. Using our collective power and influence to forge a new era of global cooperation and shared interest. This is the best, indeed the only way to ensure that the peace and prosperity we have enjoyed over the last sixty years will continue for the next.

Source: Munich Security Conference, www.securityconference.de.

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