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Introductory remarks by The Rt. Hon. Baroness Symons of Vernam Dean

The Rt. Hon. Baroness Symons of Vernam Dean

On:  60th Anniversary NATO

9th November 2009

“Your Royal Highness, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the European-Atlantic Group, may I begin by wishing you all a very warm welcome this evening, and saying how delighted we are that so many of you have been able to join us this evening. 

It really is terrific to see so many old friends and new friends with us.  But in particular, we are especially honoured to welcome His Royal Highness, the Duke of York, and to thank him very much for being with us this evening.  May I also give a particular welcome to all our friends and visitors who have travelled from overseas.  There are very many of you, and each of you has made a real effort to join us this evening, and we do appreciate that hugely.

We have visitors here from Afghanistan, we have visitors from Albania, we have visitors from Malta, and from many, many other places around the globe.  It is also my happy duty to thank the patrons for the dinner this evening: the British Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Albania, Jan Boulting, BaxterBear Ltd., Kevin Cahill, The European Azerbaijan Society, Third Bar Films, and Biscuit Public Relations.  I would also like to acknowledge the help we’ve received from the Pilgrims, from the National Artillery Company, and from the Honourable Company of Musketeers. 

Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, when I finish making these few remarks, I understand that we will have a very brief – and it really is a very brief – thirty second tape recording which is a record of the late Lord Besborough, who was of course the former president of the EAG, and it was made at the 40th Anniversary Celebration in 1989, and it refers back to the tenth Anniversary celebration when His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh was guest of honour.  After that we will have a brief intervention from His Excellency the German Ambassador, and from Her Highness Princess Zohra of Afghanistan. 

Your Royal Highness, NATO is an extraordinary and unique alliance.  In celebrating this, its 60th year, we honour the history of an alliance which has been the cornerstone of British security for six decades.  We all know how much the world has changed over those years, but many of the threats to the members of the alliance are hugely different now to what they were in the earlier years.  Appalling as those threats were then, we recognised them immediately and we were confident about how we could deal with them together.  Today the threats and challenges are far more complex and are far less clear.  It was, I think, particularly poignant in the Remembrance Day services that many of us attended over this last weekend, that there were extraordinary crowds, extraordinary turnouts in village churches, in cathedrals, and in our city centres of those who wanted to demonstrate the debt of gratitude that we owe to our service men and women.  But however much the task of NATO changes, its fundamental principles, the enduring rock upon which it stands, is unchanged. 

The fundamental task of the common defence of its member states, the decisions which are made by consensus, the consultation on threats to national security, and the willingness to welcome amongst us new members, who share our values and will take their share of the responsibilities.  NATO has kept us safe for over 60 years.  Without NATO, the world would be a much more unpredictable place and have a far more unpredictable future. 

So we celebrate this evening with pride and with real gratitude.  Thank you.”