50th anniversary of the “Harmel Report”

A conference dedicated to the “Harmel Report” is taking place tomorrow at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. The Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs organizes the conference in collaboration with the Royal Institute for International Relations (Egmont Institute) at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the report which was adopted in 1967. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders will open the conference, followed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Minister of State Etienne Davignon, who was Pierre Harmel’s Head of Cabinet at the time.

Minister Reynders will recall in his speech the defining role played by the report “on the future tasks of the Alliance”. Initiated by former Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Harmel, the document brought a new impulse to NATO at a time when its existence was put in question. It concluded that “military security and a policy of détente are not contradictory, but complementary”. The reflection led by Pierre Harmel became a cornerstone of the strategy of the Alliance. It marked a shift in policy and made the East-West rapprochement possible. It enabled the German Ostpolitik and eventually the fall of the Berlin wall.

The Harmel Report is also remembered as a success story of Belgian diplomacy, which has always been playing a leading role in forging consensus. The Harmel Report remains relevant today, even if the security challenges that we face in the Euro-Atlantic zone differ greatly from those of the Cold War.

The ultimate political objective of the “dual track approach” (deterrence and détente) recommended by the Harmel Report was to “reach a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe (…)”. Since 1967, the European Economic Community with 6 countries has become a European Union with 28 Member States. NATO and EU share the same values and are confronted with the same challenges. The two are destined to work together, to complement and to reinforce each other. Substantial progress has been made in this regard with the Warsaw joint declaration of 2016.

The EU is taking important steps in order to become an even more credible security partner on the international stage. This was demonstrated by the recent launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and of an European Defense Action Plan (EDAP). Belgium supports those initiatives since their inception and implements them coherently and complementary with its NATO obligations.

The next NATO Summit will take place in Brussels in July 2018. It will be an excellent occasion to recall the messages of the Harmel Report.