Merkel urges greater civilian role for NATO
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday called on NATO to develop a stronger civilian component in order to better carry out the transatlantic alliance’s military mission.
Merkel, who was attending this week's NATO summit in Romania, said a planned overhaul of NATO’s fundamental strategy must not ignore political questions while addressing the transatlantic alliance’s core military focus.
Referring to a “peacekeeping NATO,” the German leader said progress in this regard had already been made since its last summit in the Latvian capital Riga in 2006.
The alliance’s mission in Afghanistan was proof that NATO needed civil reconstruction capabilities as well as military power. “In Riga, we said we need it. Today we see that we have it,” Merkel said.
Germany has come under immense pressure from its NATO partners for refusing to join the fierce fighting in southern Afghanistan while preferring to keep troops up north focused on reconstruction efforts.
Berlin, along with other European governments, also stymied US plans to expand NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia at the summit in Romania for fear of upsetting Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Thursday that the alliance will hold its next summit in 2009 in the adjacent French and German cities of Strasbourg and Kehl.
No firm date was revealed for the gathering, which will mark the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty that - for the first time - committed the United States to the security of Europe's democracies.
"Let me say there will be a summit next year, and I'm very happy to confirm that it will be hosted together by France and Germany in Kehl and Strasbourg," Scheffer said.
A French official indicated that the summit would take place sometime in April next year. Strasbourg and Kehl lie across from each other on the River Rhine. They flip-flopped frequently between France and Germany rule prior to the end of World War II. Strasbourg now hosts the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.