NATO foreign ministers discuss prospects on enlargement and operations
NATO’s 26 foreign ministers met for informal talks at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on 6 March 2008 to set the state for possible decisions at the upcoming Bucharest Summit in April.
The meeting focused on enlargement of the 26-nation Alliance and current NATO missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Foreign ministers reviewed the progress made by Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, the aspirants to become members of the Alliance.
In a press conference, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer made clear that no decision has yet been made on issuing invitations, but stressed that the decision time is “rapidly approaching.”
“Let me only say this: there is no enlargement fatigue at NATO,” said Mr. de Hoop Scheffer. “I hope and expect that by the time of the Bucharest Summit, we will be able to say that the NATO family is growing again."
Deepen relations with the Western Balkans
Allied ministers discussed how to deepen relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and expressed the hope that NATO will be able to taken concrete steps in that direction.
“Euro-Atlantic integration is the recipe for security” in the Western Balkans, stated Mr. De Hoop Scheffer.
Foreign ministers stressed the need to keep NATO’s hand open to Serbia, a vitally important country in the region. Serbia joined the NATO Partnership for Peace in December 2006.
Ministers also discussed NATO’s relationship with Ukraine and Georgia and their recent request to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP).
The NATO Secretary General emphasized that the speed at which countries move closer to NATO will depend on the success of their reform efforts and that membership aspirations of any country will be decided by the NATO member states alone.
“No third party will influence that process. NATO's door is open,” he said.
NATO missions and operations
NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo were also key items of the meeting and the foreign ministers had a substantial discussion on all the issues related to Kosovo.
“KFOR will continue to play its role as the bedrock of security in Kosovo according to its UN mandate,” the Secretary General stated.
On Afghanistan, foreign ministers agreed that substantial progress has been made and showed their clear determination to stay united and reach success.
Heads of state and government will gather in the capital of Romania in April in NATO’s largest Summit ever to deliberate on the Alliance’s enlargement, its operations and the new security challenges.