North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
Belgium is a founding member of the Atlantic Alliance, which was established at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on 4 April 1949. Belgium's membership reflects the political decision to guarantee the security and defence of our country in a multilateral framework: following the Second World War, Belgium has consistently placed its foreign security policy in a multilateral framework, in which NATO is the cornerstone of defence. This policy has been highly effective over the last 70 years.
In the current European security architecture, there is no alternative which can guarantee the objective of defending our country. Belgium attaches great importance to the collective and defensive character of the Alliance, as enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Today, the Alliance is the guarantee of the defence of the shared values and principles on which our society is built. The Allies have "faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and [desire] to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security."
NATO plays a central role in our security and defence policy, both in terms of deterrence and defending NATO territory, and conducting peace and security efforts elsewhere in the world. Trans-Atlantic cooperation and consultation in the area of security and defence are also essential within NATO. Belgium wants to function as a reliable and credible partner within NATO, and also advocates for the Alliance to continue to respond appropriately to new challenges and threats.
According to the Strategic Concept (Lisbon, 2010), the Alliance has 3 core tasks; see: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_68580.htm:
- deterrence and collective defence;
- crisis management;
- cooperative security.
These core tasks of the Alliance each have their own importance and must remain in balance. More information regarding the structure, functioning, etc. of NATO can be found on their website http://www.nato.int.
- Deterrence and collective defence
The European security environment has experienced a negative evolution in recent years. Important challenges and threats in the east and in the south are cause for concern, and highlight the importance of being a member of the defence organisation for our foreign security. It is important for Belgium to ensure cohesion and solidarity within the Alliance. NATO remains focused on current threats (including cyber threats) and challenges, for which the Alliance maintains a 360° azimuth and simultaneously and effectively responds to the challenges in the north, east and south.
The first core task is reflected in enhanced Forward Presence, the task of Air Policing, cyber defence, commitments with regards to defence spending (Wales, 2014) and national resilience (Warsaw, 2016), etc. In a sense, the operations in Iraq in the combat against IS also fall under this category.
- Crisis Management
The increase in the number of operations and missions outside its territory is part of the second core task of crisis management. These operations and missions generally fall under a mandate of the United Nations Security Council, which has the backing of our country. The Alliance can either act as the primary or most important actor, or contribute to the efforts of the international community, if it is present and active.
The second core task is reflected in operations including Libya (2011), the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, etc.
- Cooperative security
NATO cooperates in various ways with more than 40 partner countries: the Euro-Atlantic Partnership, de NATO Russia Council, the NATO Ukraine Commission, the NATO Georgia Commission, the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative; the Alliance also cooperates with partners in other parts of the world. The intention is to strengthen local security and defence, by generating, through dialogue and cooperation, more transparency, mutual understanding and security. NATO's Projecting Stability initiative also falls within this category, whereby the Alliance intends to create internal security and stability in affected countries, by preventing terrorism and other challenges. EU countries which are not members of NATO, and Ukraine and Georgia, are important partners for the Alliance.
With the Defence and security related Capacity Building (DCB) initiative, NATO intends to raise the capacity and resilience of specific partners by aligning the cooperation more effectively with their specific needs.
The EU is a strategic partner of NATO. Seamless, transparent, and mutually reinforcing cooperation between NATO and the EU is vital, and is a priority for Belgium. As such, our country's action is focused both on NATO and the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU. With respect to NATO, the EU is a complementary actor in the spheres of security and defence, for which the EU even has the ambition of taking more responsibility in resolving certain crises, especially in Europe.
In addition, the Allies pursue an 'open door' policy, meaning that countries who wish to join and who meet certain criteria, can become members. This policy was initiated in 1952 with the accession of Greece and Turkey; the most recent accession at the present time is Montenegro (2017).
Disarmament and non-proliferation are also significant causes for concern. We strongly support all credible and targeted efforts with the aim of effective and balanced disarmament around the world, both for nuclear and conventional weapons. NATO's Strategic Concept confirms the Belgian vision, and is unequivocal in this respect: the Alliance is determined to bring about a safer world for all and create the circumstances in which a world without nuclear weapons is possible, whilst also reiterating that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. Belgium has actively supported the Alliance's meaningful nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War.
Belgium takes the role of being the host nation for the (civil-military) headquarters of NATO in Brussels (Haren/Evere) and the SHAPE military command in Mons seriously, and provides jointly agreed support.
The most recent state of affairs in the various NATO issues can be consulted in the Communiqué of the last NATO summit meeting of heads of state and government. Follow this link for the Warsaw Summit (2016).