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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK

World: Europe

The role of the secretary-general

The job facing the 10th secretary-general of Nato at the turn of the millennium is demanding: the alliance is looking for a new role after the end of the cold war and is about to enlarge its membership.

[ image:  ]
As the occupant of Nato's top civilian seat the secretary-general is the chairman of the North Atlantic Council, the Defence Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group as well as the titular chairman of other senior committees.

He may propose items for discussion and decision and has the authority to use his good offices in cases of dispute between member countries.

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Fast facts:
Nato: Who, what, why
The way ahead for Nato was agreed in principle at the Washington summit marking the organisation's 50th anniversary earlier this year.

It includes

  • strengthening relations with Russia and Ukraine
  • bringing in more European members including those from former communist nations
  • tempering France's desire to create a stronger European alliance, which could eventually shut the US out of Nato

Both the out-going secretary-general, Javier Solana, and his successor share a vision of a strong Nato with a solid European pillar, but not excluding the Americans. The realisation of that vision would allow the European nations to carry out peace support operations without the need for America's overwhelming military or political assistance.

[ image: The present-day Nato began to take shape in 1991 under Manfred Woerner]
The present-day Nato began to take shape in 1991 under Manfred Woerner
The secretary-general is based at Nato headquarters in Brussels, which is the political headquarters of the alliance, and the permanent home of the North Atlantic Council. He steers the consultation and decision-making process, and is responsible for directing the International Staff. He is also the alliance's principal spokesman in relations between governments and with the media.

In the same complex are the ambassadors and national delegations, national military representatives, the chairman of the Military Committee and the International Military Staff, and a number of Nato agencies.

Since 1994, a number of Co-operation Partner representatives have also had liaison offices at Nato Headquarters.

Other functions working under the secretary-general's direction include the legal adviser, and the special adviser for Central and Eastern European Affairs.

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