NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană addresses the “NATO Engages: Innovating the Alliance” Conference
I’m coming from the stairs and I was wondering if we are performing today a Romanian, “Romania’s Got Talent” show. It’s not the case or “Wheels of Fortune.” This gets closer a little bit. The Apprentice? I’m coming from Romania and I was lucky enough to be the first Deputy Secretary General of NATO representing a new ally. A region, my country, millions and millions and millions and millions of European who have been separated from our natural family by Communism. Who would have imagined that 30 years our region will be a fully fledged part of the Western world, members of NATO, members of the EU. Sometime I think I’m living a dream. As a young Romanian trying to apply every summer for a visa to get out and see the West. You know what I’ve got every summer? A postcard in an indistinguishable color. I think it also had a bad smell. A postcard from the Securitate saying your visa request has been approved, it was printed, negatively. Year after year after year, not allowing young Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Baltic countries, Czechs, Slovaks, and so many others to do things that for our Western friends and colleagues and allies now seems to be the normal thing to do. It was not a done deal that NATO would enlarge. No, no, no, there was a big hesitation and I have to thank, as a Romanian, two incredibly important leaders like Vaclav Havel or Lech Walesa because they also made the moral, not only the strategic, argument for why should we reunify Europe? Why should we give back to the generations of Europeans who have been denied the blessing of freedom? The divine right to choose your leaders, it was the right thing to do. NATO enlarged 20 years ago with the first countries, 15 years ago, Solomon Passy, this guy with the red sneakers here, we were praying together in the old headquarters of NATO as foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Romania. He gave us a Trabant as a gift. If you visit the headquarters, you’ll see a nice Trabant, NATO 04, that’s Solomon. When our countries, together with other seven nations, we are welcomed as new members. I even have my signature on European failed constitution. I’m just saying that what we are bringing to this alliance of ours, to this Western institution of ours, is a sense of intense urgency for us to continue to stay relevant, to stay true to our values, not to be deterred by the world which is changing so rapidly. A Romanian as a Deputy Secretary General of NATO. That’s a good one. I remember also having an intense provincial complex. After receiving the beautiful, bad-smelling cards from the Securitate that I was not allowed to travel, my first big experience in the West was going to the ENA, Ecole Nationale d’Administration, mon General, a great school. I remember I was scared to death, because I thought that I would not be up to the job but yes I was and yes we are and yes we will be. So when someone comes to us and tells us, “Choose between Europe and America,” I’ll say we cannot do that. Because Europe and North America, we’re the two sides of the same coin. Don’t make us choose because we always choose security. Because we have, in our history and our geography in that part of Europe I represent, a very narrow sense of survival, we have a very narrow sense of survival. There’s no way in which the West should give up the fight because the fight is not only, my young friends, my younger friends, and I’m speaking to you because you’ll be the leaders of our society. You’ll be the ones who’ll be leading, irrespective how much economic, technological, or vagaries of history will be on your shoulders as future leaders of the world. Remember there is one thing that makes the difference is the values we share. Never doubt of our values, never doubt of the values of freedom, never doubt of the values of democracy, never doubt of the values of an open society. But your fight, if my fight as a generation is to reunite Europe, or as the fight of the founding fathers of alliance was basically not to repeat the devastating wars that destroyed Europe and the world in the 20th century, and I think what Article 5 says was what Thomas Jefferson said at the inception of the American experiment. If we have that quote I will quote it, if not, I still have a provincial complex. But look, look at there, that was Thomas Jefferson saying, “I have but one system of ethics for man and for nations.” There’s not a different set of ethics for man and women and for nations. This is the difference between democracies and authoritarian regimes. “To be grateful, to be faithful “to all engagements and under all circumstances.” This is Article 5, my friends, to be faithful to our engagements no matter what, and there is something that I will beg you to do. When you will be in positions like this, continue to innovate. Democracy and freedom are not things that cannot, will not survive if you don’t invest and innovate. NATO is innovating, European Union is innovating, you should continue to innovate. 30 years ago in the streets of Bucharest and Timisoara, in the only bloody revolution in all former Communist countries, in my country, young people like yourselves and like myself, they took out a big hole from the national flag of Romania just as a symbol of separation from the incredible, tough past. Through that hole we imagined a future. Through that hole we wanted to catch up with a historical lost time. History is impatient with us, history will give us and will give you, the younger generation, so many hurdles and so many challenges. Never doubt of yourselves, never doubt of our values. Fight for democracy, fight for freedom, fight for our shared values. And we’ll have another 500 years, not 70 more years but hundreds of years, of things like we have to do today. Embrace and cherish freedom, my friends. This is the message which comes from a difficult part of Europe and I’m here to serve the greatest alliance not only in the history of mankind but an alliance that will shape the future for many generations to come, salute and God bless you all.