The 14th Portuguese Atlantic Youth Seminar, taking place in the Alfeite Naval Academy, started Saturday (1st of August), with more than thirty participants. The seminar presentation panel counted with Rear Admiral Luís Macieira Fragoso, Alfeite Naval Academy Commander, Mr. Bernardino Gomes, Executive President of the Portuguese Atlantic Treaty Association, Giuseppe Belardetti, President of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association and Samuel de Paiva Pires, President of the Portuguese Atlantic Youth Association, as introductory speakers and with Professor António Vitorino as its keynote speaker. Professor Vitorino, former European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, is spoken of as a possible nominee for NATO’s wise-men group.
The keynote speech was, as is this seminar, focused on the Alliance’s new strategic concept that is scheduled to be discussed and adopted in Lisbon, during the next year. Professor Vitorino explained that it has always been the basic political guideline of the Organization and its members. It proved to be vital for the adaptation and evolution of NATO troughout it’s sixty years of existence. However unlike the time when the “Iron Curtain” fell, 9/11 proved to be a bigger challenge for NATO. In the Professor’s wording the Alliance hasn’t yet adapted as well to this new paradigm of the XXI century, where it is facing threats from both conventional and unconventional forces, where the line distinguishing defence and national security has faded.
Despite the apparent difficulties to adopt a new strategic concept, Mr. Vitorino believes that now is a better time than ever to give the Alliance the conditions it needs to adapt to a post-9/11 world. He stated that the change of the US’s views on an EU Defence Community since Istanbul, the French reintegration in the military command structure, and the personal charisma of Barack Obama are some of many contributing factors that demise a previously sore relationship, opening room for the strengthening of links.
The spokesperson introduced 4 main issues with which NATO is faced with and that should guide us throughout the upcoming week. First is the evaluation of the re-implementation of the collective defence policy adapted to today’s and tomorrow’s world. Then, he referred the urgent need for the redefinition of what are considered to be the alliance’s main threats. Thirdly, a question about whether NATO should remain mainly a political and military organisation or if it should broaden its nature and include other structures, with different specialties. Finally, he deemed it necessary to mention the way the European public opinion understands the Alliance and the need for that to be changed.
As the lecture finished, many questions were raised and a lot of discussion followed, fulfilling the objective of this first concept: to introduce debate over the new strategic concept among participants.