His Excellency Miloslav Vyborny
Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic
I am pleased to be able to address you on this special occasion here in the historic Spanish Hall at Prague Castle. I believe that, in a way, this is symbolic. Even though we are meeting in Prague, our deliberations take place in the Spanish Hall. Some of you will soon be attending talks in the Spanish capital, and among other issues, your agenda will also include the Czech Republic. This fact aptly illustrates the common roots of our civilization. Roots that grow out of the past and draw on shared values.
Europe has never been a problem-free continent. In spite of its unifying wealth of culture and ideas, Europe has always been characterized by considerable diversity and multiplicity. On some occasions, Europe's multiplicity and diversity proved to be the sources of its strength, at other times of its weakness. Twice in this century, this multiplicity and diversity happened to be the source of trouble which resulted in the world war.
The experience of this century's destructive wars has been a lesson to Europeans, showing them that this European diversity and multiplicity may reflect the true substance of Europe only when respecting two elementary principles--democracy and tolerance. This idea has given rise to the principle of European integration whose main motto is precisely "unity in diversity." This has been accompanied by the awareness that neither Europe nor the United States of America should lead their separate lives. And this recognition found its expression in the establishment of NATO. The creation of the North Atlantic Alliance has linked Europe with the United States of America and Canada in an organization built politically on the principles of democracy, tolerance and dialogue, and militarily on its convincing capability of defending the principles of democracy swiftly and efficiently in case of emergency. For the first time in its history, Europe has been given an organization which has--in practical terms--succeeded in enhancing stability and promoting democracy. Even since the end of the Cold War, these very values on which the Alliance was built, have proved to be viable. This was true even at a time when Europe seemed to be standing at the crossroads of its future developments, deciding whether to proceed along one of two diverging paths: either treading the road of democratic integration, espoused by most countries of Central and Eastern Europe through their call for a "return to Europe" (not in the geographic sense but rather in the sense of returning to time-tested values) or along the path of non-tolerance, which eventually left most of the former Yugoslavia in ruins. In that country, history seemed to have justified--at least for a time-- the skeptics and all those who claim that we now live in an era that is more complicated than other periods and who emphasize what they see as the extremely complicated nature of certain European relations.
I believe that the conflict has made it abundantly clear that we are indeed facing many complicated problems but--having learned from the past--we are in a position to solve them. Yugoslavia was not only a battlefield of European apprehensions but also a meeting place of its hopes. For the third time in this century the Europeans have come to appreciate the usefulness of American presence in Europe, as the situation in the conflict area had been calmed down with the United States' assistance. Furthermore--and for the first time--present-day Bosnia shows what was until recently quite inconceivable for many of us: namely European, North American and Russian soldiers joining their forces in a mission of peace and reconciliation. The ability to carry out this joint action was the best answer to all those doubting Thomases. Indeed, democratic dialogue among former enemies, who are now allies, has become reality. NATO has demonstrated that there are no insurmountable problems for it and that even in the face of the wartime situations, which seem to be most complicated, the Alliance shall not crumble. Bosnia and Herzegovina made it clear that agreement in Europe is possible precisely because NATO is bent on expanding the zones of tolerance and democracy. History tells us that no democracy can be intolerant. No democracy will ever unleash war. That is why NATO's zone of democracy and stability should be further expanded, that is why NATO should remain open also in the future. Because the values of democracy and tolerance make it possible--while preserving Europe's multiplicity and diversity--to promote cooperation and dialogue among European nations.
If someone had claimed 10 years ago that the 14th NATO Workshop would meet in Prague and that representatives of those countries who are present today would sit down at one table, many skeptics would have judged him very harshly and curtly. Let us not be skeptical about the possibilities facing us. Let us do everything we can to make the best use of them through our work and our dialogue for the benefit of all the people.