On April 2-3, 2009 the forth NATO Youth Summit „NATO 2020: What Lies Ahead?” was organised on the sidelines of the NATO summit held in Strasbourg/Kehl. Latvia was represented by two active youngsters – Uldis Šalajevs, vice-president of Latvian Youth Council and Arvils Zeltiņš, 4th grade student at the Riga Stradiņš University.
As it was in the previous years in Prague (2002), Istanbul (2004), Riga (2006) and Bucharest (2008), this year in Strasbourg on the eve of the NATO 60th Anniversary young leaders from all over the Atlantic discussed the future of NATO and new security challenges as well as met with prominent experts and world leaders, like Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General, Dr. Fran Burwell, Vice-President of the Atlantic Council of the United States, Dr. Jamie Shea, Director of Policy Planning in the Private Office of the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist of the Financial Times, Mr. Edward Lucas, the Central and Eastern Europe correspondent for “The Economist”, as well as with the president of the United States Barack Obama. In total, more than 300 youngsters from 57 countries participated in the NATO youth summit.
Strasbourg/Kehl as the place of the NATO summit on its 60th anniversary has been chosen as a symbolic place on the border between France and Germany, thus stressing one of the NATO’s missions – establishing peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. During the summit 28 leaders of the NATO member countries discussed such issues as the progress of NATO’s strategy for Afghanistan and the results of the strategy review undertaken by the new US Administration, relations with Russia, France’s closer involvement in the Alliance and its impact on NATO-EU relations, and finally initiating work on a new strategic concept for the Alliance.
A meeting with the NATO Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoope Scheffer could be named as the one of the most interesting and important events during the NATO Youth Summit, where he, addressing young leader from NATO member states and its partners, pointed to the three central issues: 1) NATO should cooperate more with the international organisations; 2) NATO has to transform its military capability till 2020 and 3) NATO needs to expand further and become a forum for political debate. Answering the question asked by Latvian young leader Uldis Šalajevs on what kind of specific role would be for Baltic States to strengthen NATO, Secretary General pointed that in NATO all nations are equal members and Baltic state do not have a specific role, but they are respected, distinguished members of the Alliance. He also stressed that NATO member states should find their own „niche” and „added value” to the Alliance. The second important meeting in the framework of the Youth Summit was with the president of the United States Barack Obama.
According to Uldis Šalajevs “the goal of the NATO Youth Summit – to discuss the development of NATO till the year 2020 – has not been fully reached, because in general young leaders from 57 countries discussed the current issues of the NATO agenda. I think that NATO in the following 10 years should increase its role as the collective security provider and find adequate response to the new security threats (terrorism, scarse nature resources, climate change etc.)”
In his turn, Arvils Zeltiņš writes that “in general Youth Summit has justified itself. Disregarding that the majority of youngsters represented the United States, France and Germany, self-glorification in honor of the NATO 60th anniversary receded to the background. NATO-led operation in Afghanistan with its critical assessment and firm determination to continue has been brought to the forefront.” The whole article written by Arvils Zeltiņš is available (in Latvian) here.
This year NATO Youth Summit is organised by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Atlantic Treaty Association, Youth Atlantic Treaty Association, the Atlantic Council of the United States, l’Ecole Nationale D’Administration (ENA) and l’Office Franco-Allemand pour la Jeunesse (OFAL).
Latvian Transatlantic organisation and Latvian Transatlantic Youth Club are the national coordinators in Latvia.