2009 Strasbourg–Kehl summit
Strasbourg–Kehl summit logo
|Dates||3–4 April 2009|
|Venue(s)||Palais de la musique et des congrès (Strasbourg, France), Kurhaus of Baden-Baden and Kehl, Germany.|
The 2009 Strasbourg–Kehl Summit was a NATO summit of heads of state and heads of government held in Strasbourg, France, and in Kehl and Baden-Baden, Germany, on 3–4 April 2009. The summit marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Expected to be primarily a celebratory 60th-anniversary event, the agenda included a number of urgent topics commanding the NATO leaders' attention.
To symbolize an evolving vision of European cooperation, for the first time a NATO summit was jointly hosted by two member nations: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The formal meetings were chaired by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. This was the last summit for de Hoop Scheffer, whose 61st birthday, coincidentally, came just one day before this 60th-anniversary summit.
Although the first of the significant summit events in Germany was held in Baden-Baden, the town was left off the official logo. This led to protests from local politicians; but the result was a comparatively calm beginning to a summit which also provided the opportunity for dramatic protests on the second day.
On Friday, 3 April 2009, the summit's first official event was a working dinner at the Kurhaus, Baden-Baden.
The first event on Saturday, 4 April 2009, focused on Chancellor Merkel's welcome to the NATO leaders as they arrived individually in Kehl, Germany. Then, having gathered on the German side of the Rhine River, the NATO Leaders walked together across the Passerelle pedestrian bridge to Strasbourg, France. The NATO leaders were greeted at the French border by President Sarkozy. Meetings were held at the Palais de la musique et des congrès with an arrival ceremony at the Palais Rohan, Strasbourg.
On the French side of the Rhine, the 28 national leaders posed for the NATO "family portrait", a tradition at NATO summits. Then the main work began with a working lunch and at other meetings in Strasbourg.
In addition, several heads of state, government leaders and other principals were involved in non–summit events which encompassed individual and/or bilateral events on the margins of the formal summit agenda.
Some have argued that the most critical issue NATO faces in 2009 arises from Afghanistan. Any NATO discussion about Afghanistan involves developing a comprehensive strategy which brings non-NATO regional powers into a discussion about how best to proceed in short- and longer-term time frames. Although the newly elected Obama continued to enjoy a reservoir of good will, experts anticipated only token gestures of support for any plan which involves increased levels of European troops. In the end, the allies managed to find more reasons for consensus than had been expected, and the increases in the various commitments from the Europeans was a little greater than had been anticipated.
Relations with Russia
Russia's relationships with the West are a perennial NATO concern. Obama summarized his view of the dialogue with Russia about maintaining stability while protecting the autonomy of all countries in Europe: "I think that it is important for NATO allies to engage Russia and to recognize that they have legitimate interests in some cases, we’ve got common interests, but we also have some core disagreements."
France's decision to seek reintegration with the NATO military hierarchy caused all the allies to evaluate the potential ramifications. In 1966, then-President Charles de Gaulle caused France to withdraw from the U.S.-led military command. Sarkozy determined that the time was ripe to change course radically, and the French Parliament backed this decision with a vote of confidence. In time, the NATO allies will adjust fully to this new reality, but this NATO summit was only a beginning in that uncertain process of reconciliation.
New strategic concept
The tumble of events in the past years has made it necessary to re-examine NATO's core strategic concepts. This re-assessment opens up possibilities for change and for plausible "new" strategies and "new" assumptions as well. At this summit, the allied leaders moved forward in a process which is expected to result in a new strategic doctrine which will be formally adopted at next year's summit in Lisbon, Portugal. The updated vision of NATO contemplates a range of expanded responsibilities, including out-of-area operations in Afghanistan and anti-piracy patrols near the Horn of Africa.
Unresolved questions surrounded all aspects of potential NATO expansion. On 1 April 2009, two days before the summit's first day, Albania and Croatia were accepted as full members of the organization. The President and Prime Minister of each of these newest NATO allies attended the summit. Official flag-raising ceremonies at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, were planned for 7 April 2009.
Pre-summit speculation about the next NATO Secretary-General focused on five candidates: Bulgaria's former Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Canada's Defense Minister Peter MacKay, and Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. In the end, Rasmussen was chosen by consensus.
Protests and security measures
In view of announced protests, French and German authorities announced plans to restrict access to and movement within designated security areas, including parts of Strasbourg and Kehl. These included the requirement that 700 local residents living in a restricted area of Kehl would not be allowed to leave their homes between Friday night and Saturday morning without requesting a police escort. In response, War Resisters International argued that the measures are contrary to the French constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Following negotiations, protest organizers accused German authorities of stalling tactics and are considering legal action.
German police estimates anticipate that 25,000 protesters will seek to express themselves during the summit. The threat will be met with a projected 15,000 German police; and these forces will be augmented by Bundeswehr support, including interceptor planes, transport helicopters, paramedics, motorcycle escorts, buses and other vehicles. Major demonstrations and protest activities are anticipated on Saturday in France. In contrast, Baden-Baden's increased security preparations seemed not to affect an abiding sense of calm in the German resort town.
France is temporarily reactivating border controls with neighboring European nations for two weeks in anticipation of the summit. These strict measures are designed to "guarantee security" and minimize terrorism risks during the summit. Special permission has been granted to France and Germany to suspend the Schengen Agreement which guarantees free passage for all European Union citizens traveling between EU member states.
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