Security experts are gathered for a two-day meeting in Sicily organized by the Italian Atlantic Committee and the Atlantic Treaty Association, umbrella organizations working on security issues in NATO countries. The discussions are focusing on the need to increase stability in the Mediterranean region. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from Palermo.
In an address at the start of the conference, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alessandro Minuto Rizzo said the North Atlantic alliance faces new security risks that need to quickly be addressed.
Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy have experienced an influx of illegal immigrants, particularly from Iraq, Afghanistan, and west Africa. Although stricter border checks and cooperation with migrants' countries of origin have helped ease the influx, there are other issues that pose security threats to the region.
These include an increase in terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Minuto Rizzo outlined steps that the NATO alliance needs to take to combat these issues.
"One, developing our cooperation with other international actors; two, improving our capabilities, and three, deepening and extending our partnerships," he said.
Minuto Rizzo said more than 50,000 troops are deployed under NATO's operational command on three different continents. He says a strong partnership is needed between NATO and the European Union in order to maintain security throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In a video message at the conference, Franco Frattini, justice and security commissioner for the EU, agreed on the importance of strengthening Euro-Atlantic ties, which includes the United States, a NATO member.
Frattini says the Mediterranean can and must become a region of peace and economic development. He said NATO can no longer just focus on military defense but must turn toward cooperation on the political and security fronts.
Frattini said that cooperation between the European Union and NATO will strengthen the region's abililty to prevent and react to terrorism. He said Europe is a target of terrorism as are the Mediterranean states, and that is why common efforts must be made.