The accession talks cover the political, military resources, security and legal commitments of NATO membership. The invited countries meet with a team of NATO experts on a number of sessions (generally two) to discuss and confirm their readiness to assume all of their obligations as new members of the Alliance.
NATO will then prepare accession protocols for each one of the invited countries. The protocols are amendments to the North Atlantic Treaty, which once signed and ratified by the Allies, will enable Albania and Croatia to become parties to the Treaty and members of NATO.
Letters of intent
After the conclusion of the talks, the foreign ministers of Albania and Croatia will send a letter of intent to NATO confirming their interest, willingness and ability to join the Alliance. Together with the letters they submit a timetable for necessary reforms to be completed before and after accession in order to enhance their contribution to the Alliance.
Signature of the accession protocols
With the reception of this letter, and the reply sent by NATO’s Secretary General, all requirements are met for the signature of the accession protocols, which has been scheduled for 9 July 2008. From that moment on, Albania and Croatia will be involved in most of the Alliance’s activities and will continue to participate in a tailored Membership Action Plan (MAP) focusing on the implementation of their timetable for reforms.
Once the accession protocols are signed, they still have to be approved by all NATO member countries. This may be a time-consuming process as the 26 Allies have to ratify the protocols according to their national requirements and procedures.
Once the ratification process is complete, the NATO Secretary General will invite the prospective new members to become parties to the North Atlantic Treaty.
Once the ratification process is complete, Albania and Croatia will deposit their formal instruments of accession with the United States (the United States Department of State is the depository), and formally become parties to the North Atlantic Treaty and thus members of NATO.
This will be the sixth round of enlargement in the Alliance's history. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia joined in 2004; the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999; Spain in 1982; Germany in 1955 and Greece and Turkey joined the Alliance in 1952.