European Affairs

Let's Not Build a New Wall Across the Atlantic     Print Email
Madeleine K. Albright

US Secretary of State

Last year was a time of extraordinary testing and accomplishment on both sides of the Atlantic. In January, the euro was launched, providing dramatic evidence of the economic clout of an increasingly integrated Europe. Today, trade and investment across the Atlantic exceed $l trillion annually and provide more than 14 million jobs.

In April, NATO leaders gathered in Washington to observe the 50th anniversary of our alliance and welcome new members. We kept the door open to NATO enlargement. The United States reiterated support for a European Security and Defense Identity that strengthens the transatlantic relationship and allows a more balanced sharing of burdens and responsibilities.


In June in Bonn, and later in Washington, the United States and European Union met and mapped plans for acting together in fast-breaking crises and addressing global challenges. In July, in Sarajevo, the United States and the EU launched a Stability Pact aimed at securing the long-term future of Southeastern Europe.

In November, in Istanbul, we signed a new Charter for European Security, recognizing that security within societies is as important as security between states. This means how a government treats its people, including ethnic minorities, is not only its business. It is everyone's business.

And in December, the EU expanded its policy of inclusiveness by asking additional countries to accession talks, and inviting Turkey to become a candidate.

As these events show, the leaders of the transatlantic community are making progress month by month towards the long-denied dream of a Europe whole and free.

This reflects the success of the strategy President Clinton has been pursuing since he took office; a strategy based on partnership between America and a new Europe, designed to promote democracy, security and prosperity. This partnership works through our shared institutions - NATO, the US-EU partnership and the OSCE - to meet challenges within and beyond Europe.

The United States wants a Europe that is united and strong, where democratic practices are deeply rooted and wars simply do not happen. Now, more than ever, that kind of Europe exists. But there remains a missing piece, in the continent's southeast corner. And there, last year in Kosovo, we took a decisive stand.

Under the leadership of President Clinton and his NATO counterparts, our Alliance responded forcefully to Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing. We stuck together despite repeated efforts to divide us. And we persisted until Belgrade's forces were withdrawn.

Those who still question whether what we did was right should consider what would have happened if we had sat back and tolerated what was so clearly wrong. Hundreds of thousands of refugees would still be huddled in camps throughout Southeast Europe. In Kosovo itself, many thousands more would be living in terror, without homes, naked to the winter's cold.

As we begin the new century, our first challenge is to help integrate Kosovo and all of Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream - to transform the region from a source of instability into a full participant and partner in the new Europe.

Through the Stability Pact, the EU has agreed to contribute the lion's share of assistance in support of reform and economic development in Southeast Europe. The European Commission has pledged close to $12 billion over the next six years; individual member state contributions should raise that figure substantially. And the EU has invited Romania and Bulgaria to begin accession negotiations, enabling them to join Hungary and Slovenia on the track for membership in one of the world's most prosperous clubs.

For our part, the United States has expanded the work of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation with $350 million in credit lines and investment funds that can attract new business to the region. We are also working with multilateral financial institutions to mobilize other private and public financing to promote business investment in Southeast Europe. New trade legislation that we have proposed to Congress would give regional businesses greater duty-free access to the US market.

Our Southeast European partners have also made a respectable start in implementing their Stability Pact commitments. They have launched regional Anti-Corruption and Investment Compacts to promote foreign and domestic business. They are beginning to eliminate barriers to trade.

A Stability Pact Business Advisory Council has been formed and is working with international companies in the region to push for needed reforms. Eleven countries of the region are working together in the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), improving border access and fighting organized crime.

No one familiar with Southeast Europe should be naive enough to think of the Stability Pact as an instant process. This is not a case of "just add money and stir." We are seeking to transform years of neglect and conflict into a future of democracy, economic development and security.

To succeed, those in the region must make the hard choices required to create truly democratic societies and market economies based on freedom and law. The international community must follow through on its part of the bargain - encouraging and responding to reforms by fully supporting the region's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

Progress in fulfilling both parts of this bargain should help generate private-sector led investment and growth in the region, which is the key to its long-term economic development.

Fortunately, we are starting with a strong base of democratic leadership. Hungary has joined NATO. Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania have democratically elected governments and demonstrated throughout the Kosovo conflict that they want their societies to prosper and live in peace.

We are also heartened by democratic progress in the former Yugoslavia. In Croatia, recent elections represented a true breakthrough, a triumph for civil society and a major turning point away from excessive nationalism and towards democratic values. Slovenia is free. Since Dayton, elections have been held at all levels in Bosnia.

In Macedonia there was a peaceful transfer of power last year. In Montenegro, President Djukanovic continues to champion democracy. And increasingly in Serbia, the people are asking when they will be given the same right as their neighbors to choose their leaders freely, fairly and without fear.

That leads to the second fundamental challenge we face - preparing the way for democracy in Kosovo by engaging in the task of building peace with the same determination that we used to end the conflict.

Here, as with the region as a whole, it is vital that our partners join us not only in pledging generously, but also in disbursing promptly. We have managed to avoid an immediate Kosovo budget crisis, but the UN Mission in Kosovo will continue to face cash shortages unless we can find ways to provide support more quickly.

For UNMIK cannot provide public security, arrange elections, and revitalize the economy with promises alone. It must have the resources required to help the people rebuild their society and resume normal lives. There is a particular need for more international police. The number of UN police in Kosovo has only recently risen to about half the 4,718 required.

The transatlantic community also faces a more general challenge in the year 2000. That is to demonstrate our partnership is still growing fast and going strong.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. Our community rests on the understanding that the destinies of Europe and America are linked. This is the understanding that defeated Hitler, rebuilt Western Europe, faced down Communism, and forged regional and global institutions upon which the world now depends.

The poet Yeats wrote that when the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passion, anarchy is loosed upon the world, and the center cannot hold.

Our generation has no greater task than to see that the center does hold. We must defend passionately our conviction that America and Europe must remain linked in the tasks of security, the means of prosperity, and the arts of democratic life.

Today, there are voices - some strident, others quite subtle - that seek to divide Europe from America. Some in the United States disparage the contributions of our allies, discount legitimate European concerns and dismiss America's stake in the continent's security and prosperity.

Other voices have European accents and their emphasis is not on the many interests we share, but on narrow differences. They distort American intentions; revel in American setbacks; forget American sacrifice; and tell neighbors they must choose between Europe and the United States.

Of course, disagreements are bound to arise on both sides of the "pond." We are cousins, not clones. We have disputes over trade. We differ, at times, on sanctions. We must continue to work towards a better mutual understanding on National Missile Defense.

But the differences do not compare to the interests we share, the values we cherish, the friendships we have forged. Nor do they interfere with our day-to-day cooperation on matters related to Europe and, increasingly, around the world.

To those inclined to build a new wall, this time not in Europe, but across the Atlantic, I say we have had enough of walls. The new century will differ greatly from the last, but not in the passion and persistence of we who believe in the transatlantic community.

Ours is a community not of governments alone, but also of businesses, organizations, academic institutions, and individuals. It is a community diverse in language, history and culture; brought together by shared interests; sustained by the memory of unbearable sacrifice; and inspired by the vision of a world more peaceful, prosperous and free than it has ever been.

I was born in Europe, lived through World War II, was welcomed by America, and came of age during the Cold War. It is no exaggeration to say that our partnership across the sea has made all the difference in my life, as it did in the lives of millions of others who were helped by democratic nations, defended by democratic armies, or inspired by democratic ideals.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to see the transatlantic community cross the threshold into a new century and millennium. And as I look ahead to the future, I am convinced that our best years are still to come.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number I, Issue number II in the Spring of 2000.