As world leaders met this April for the largest NATO summit in Alliance history, future leaders from across the Euro-Atlantic region and Afghanistan convened in Bucharest to grapple with the major security issues facing the Atlantic Community today and to launch an innovative on-line community – the Young Atlanticist Network. The Young Atlanticist Summit, held in conjunction with the official NATO Summit, brought together over 120 students and young professionals representing NATO and Partnership for Peace countries, as well as top students from the University of Kabul. They had an extraordinary opportunity to meet directly with national and Alliance decision-makers and to build consensus on critical issues in the Alliance. Delegates at the Young Atlanticist Summit issued statements addressing the Alliance role in energy security , the controversy over the Macedonian name , and mechanisms for building closer relations between Alliance and Afghan publics.
The Young Atlanticists discussed current Alliance priorities and challenges with a wide range of leaders, including Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Supreme Allied Commander General John Craddock, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, U.S. President George W. Bush, Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende, Albanian PM Sali Berisha, Estonian President Toomas Ilves, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and U.S. First Lady Laura Bush. Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu and President Traian Basescu also met with the group, the latter at the official summit's North Atlantic Council table.
Reaching out through the first ever videoconference link with the University of Kabul, the Young Atlanticists learned about the many challenges affecting the security of that country and heard Afghan perspectives on the type of assistance most needed by Kabul. At the end of the Young Atlanticist Summit, a joint declaration was issued calling for the creation of a network of Afghan youth that could be linked to the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association network in order to strengthen links between civil societies.
When the official NATO summit failed to invite FYR Macedonia to join the Alliance because of Greek objections to the name Republic of Macedonia, the Young Atlanticist delegates rallied to find a solution. During a day of intensive talks, Greek and Macedonian delegates stressed the common Euro-Atlantic perspective shared by their countries and announced their plans to initiate a combined working group of the Greek and Macedonian YATAs to promote joint activities, including further discussion of the name issue.
The Young Atlanticists also participated in a model NATO simulation, each acting as their national delegation as NATO struggled to define its policy toward energy security in the midst of a crisis. The lively debates brought together the different perspectives of 35 nations, but also led to a forward-looking communique that identified NATO's role in key areas.
Driven by a dynamic website featuring live-blogging and videos by young journalists, the Young Atlanticist Summit laid the groundwork for the launch of a major new initiative – the Young Atlanticist Network. Designed to promote consensus and leadership, this network will provide a permanent on-line forum for Summit participants and other future leaders to exchange views, engage with world leaders, and stay in contact for years to come.
The Young Atlanticist Summit was organized under the leadership of the Atlantic Council of the United States and the Euro-Atlantic Council of Romania, in association with the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association and the Atlantic Treaty Association. It updates the tradition of the highly successful youth summits organized in Istanbul (2004) and Prague (2002), which each brought together 200 young leaders from NATO and PfP countries. The Young Atlanticist Summit was hosted by the Romanian Intelligence Service [logo and link] and was made possible through the generous support of its sponsors, including Boeing, which is a founding sponsor of the Young Atlanticist Network, and NATO's Public Diplomacy Division, as well as others.
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On Tuesday, March 21, 2006 the Atlantic Council organized an informal conversation between NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and 24 students from 18 colleges and universities across the United States at American University in Washington DC. Participating students came from Burma, Germany, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, as well as the United States. Texas A&M University, the University of Michigan, and the Claremont Consortium of Colleges joined in the discussion through a video conference. Students in the audience at American University were selected through an application process from the colleges and universities in the area, as well as numerous ‘study in Washington’ programs.
Moderated by David Ensor, national security correspondent for CNN, the discussion covered a range of issues. Christine DuBois at Scripps College inquired about NATO's proper response to conflicts like Darfur, while Alexander Khapatnyukovsky of Nebraska Wesleyan University asked about the future of the Ukrainian military industry after NATO membership. Amine Tourki and Amber Forbes from the University of Michigan wanted to discuss NATO’s role in the war on terrorism, particularly the war of ideas. Several students, including Elizabeth Parker from Tufts University, sought to explore the ways in which the Alliance collaborates with other international organizations, like the European Union and the United Nations. When Anita Sundarajan of Claremont McKenna College asked about the relationship between unemployment in Europe and European security, the Secretary General also talked about areas where he believes NATO should not get involved.
In Washington as part of his regular diplomatic duties, Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer had meetings with President Bush and other senior U.S. policymakers, but he also chose to meet with what he called the “successor generation of Alliance leaders” in an effort to engage them in thinking about the challenges they will face in the future.
Following the discussion, students made the following comments:
“I appreciated the Secretary General's candid opinion of membership in NATO — that new members had to ‘perform’ just like the current members. His remark regarding NATO and the formation of the European Defense Agency reflected the mixture of opinions in the EU: some wanting to involve NATO, which of course means somehow involving the U.S.”
- Melanie Mickelson Graham, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS
“I was pleased [to hear] the Secretary General's enthusiasm for NATO expansion.… He routinely mentioned Georgia and Ukraine when discussing the topic, and he made it clear that he was confident that the Alliance has not seen the last round of expansion. Very encouraging.”
- Joel Myers, Old Dominion University
“He was particularly frank concerning the future of NATO. I thought that it was great that he realistically addressed the shortcomings of the organization and the fact that it had to adapt to avoid becoming irrelevant. Normally you don’t see that type of candor from such a high-profile figure.”
- Austin Kiessig, Claremont McKenna College