BY Mirjana Pantic
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization needs to undergo a transformation in order to better deal with security issues, said former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini in an exclusive interview with Allvoices. Frattini is running for the post of NATO’s secretary-general.
Frattini believes that in the future, NATO should focus more on helping rebuild countries in the post-war period and optimize the use of the resources in time of financial difficulties.
“NATO needs inevitable transformation and a new role that would be much stronger,” he said. “Let’s take Afghanistan for example. Although there are plans for withdrawal of combat NATO troops from Afghanistan next year, it is absolutely sure that West cannot leave that country after 2014.”
Frattini explained that NATO will need to remain involved in military training of Afghan forces and institution building after forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.
The Italian politician believes that NATO should have a similar political role in Libya. In his opinion, NATO’s task should be to guarantee stability, not to conduct military action.
“To me, it is very important to talk about institution building or institution rebuilding,” Frattini said. “Military action in Libya has ended and NATO has to help Libya to build viable army, to establish ministry of defense and national guard... After the war we have to win the peace, the stabilization. Otherwise, we would have been wasting time, resources and people.”
Frattini is one of the most respected politicians in Europe. He has been Italy’s foreign minister twice and has served as a vice president of the European Commission and European commissioner for justice, freedom and security. He is officially the only candidate for the NATO secretary-general so far.
Considering his engagement with EU institutions, it is not surprising that Frattini wants to pursue a stronger European presence within NATO.
“We need to strengthen European defense,” Frattini said. “Europe should be a security provider, not just a security consumer at the expanse of the United States. We do not need less America within NATO, we need more Europe. More Europe is in the interest of the US, but it is also in our own interest to be stronger and have the capacity of protecting our citizens within the framework of NATO.”
He said one of the key moments in NATO’s transformation would be optimization of available resources or avoiding duplication of the resources. According to him, it means that one NATO member state will strengthen its refueling capacity, another will have more capabilities to fight against cybercrime, etc. It means avoiding a scenario such as the one in Afghanistan when NATO recorded a huge surplus of warplanes, but didn’t have enough helicopters.
In addition, Frattini argues that Europe needs to focus more on its common market and defense industry.
“Europe needs a new procurement process that would help avoiding competition among European countries in the same industrial products. Instead, we would be optimizing the distribution. We would be implementing our capacity to provide capabilities,” Frattini said.
The common European defense policy will be on the agenda at the meeting of the heads of states or governments of the European Council in December 2013. Some analysts claim that strengthening EU’s common defense policy might undermine cooperation between Europe and the US and weaken NATO as a result.
However, Frattini claims that this is not a goal of common European defense policy.
“This is not against the US,” he said. “We really need to be responsible. We need helicopters, sophisticated technology... We need to invest in our security.”
Frattini’s candidacy for the post of NATO secretary-general is backed by the Italian government. He told Allvoices that he is very proud to be the candidate strongly supported by his own country. Frattini said that he has support from other countries as well, but he didn’t want to name them.
If elected, Frattini would replace current NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in 2014.
According to the NATO website, the secretary-general needs to be elected by consensus: “The selection is carried through informal diplomatic consultations among member countries, which put forward candidates for the post. No decision is confirmed until consensus is reached on one candidate.”
The secretary-general is appointed for a four-year term but could be offered to keep the post for a fifth year.