Nearly seventy years ago NATO secretary general Lord Ismay famously said that the Alliance was designed at the beginning to keep “the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.” The first two might still be true, but Germany - and many other continental European states – are now economically well-developed and essential contributors to transatlantic security. But how has the relationship between NATO and European institutions evolved over time? Given the EU’s gradually growing capabilities - and ambitions - in defence, as reflected in the Lisbon Treaty, the EU Global Strategy, the PESCO initiative, and beyond, what is the likelihood that the two organizations will be able to work together smoothly in the future?
To celebrate this 70 years anniversary of NATO the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in cooperation with the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association held the annual “NATO-EU Roundtable” on the 4th – 6th of April 2019.
NATO-EU Roundtable 2019 is a conference aimed at young professionals from all over the world. Taking place for the 7th time in 2019, the aim of the event has always been to increase the knowledge of young people in foreign and security policy by discussing the working principles of NATO and important topics related to the work and cooperation of NATO and the EU.
The first day started out with lectures and debates, held by different ambassadors, researchers and analysts. Among topics that were discussed were the impact of Brexit, Transatlantic relations and cooperation between the EU and NATO. Interestingly enough, during the same day, the new Estonian Parliament was sworn in and this was a topic that also came up during some of the discussions. In many ways, the discussion over Estonian politics added spark to the overall debate, as the local speakers were vivid and emotional when bringing out points of worry and commenting on what was happening in Estonia.
This year’s simulation aimed to achieve more learning outcomes and deliver more in-depth knowledge to the 53 participants. Participants were mostly students, altogether from over 30 nations. There were in total two simulations held - first one on counter-terrorism trends and freedom-security dilemmas. The second simulation focused on NATO decision-making process and challenges for the Alliance.
During the two days, the young professionals had the opportunity to visit the historical border city of Narva and also hold discussions of their own. Lt-Col (Res.) Uri Ben Yaakov kicked the NATO roundtable off with an excellent and thought-provoking lecture on important dilemmas in our current societies. Should we allow more freedoms to our citizens and visitors and risk more casualties in terrorist attacks? What tools and methods should we (or should not) use achieve a safer and securer world?
The lecture was followed by a practical simulation where participants were put into national decision-makers’ shoes and were supposed to make harsh calls in a hypothetical Syria-like environment. Participants adjusted quickly to the difficult environment and grasped the moral, ethical and national problem sets hidden in each of those decisions. For the second part of the event, participants were all assigned the complicated task of representing one NATO nation in a demanding simulation. Consensus building was especially hard, because storyline also included aggressive diplomatic activities from Russia. Final meeting of the simulation focused on imitating the NAC procedures.
The conference was organised in cooperation with the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, NATO Headquarters, Estonian Ministry of Defence, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Estonian Foreign Policy Institute/International Centre for Defence and Security.