|Updated: 26-Mar-2003||March 2003|
Accession Protocols signed
Representatives of the 19 NATO member countries today signed Protocols of Accession, which once ratified by the Allies, will allow seven new states to join NATO.
The accession protocols are amendments to the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO’s founding document, that will permit the seven invited countries - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - to become parties to the Treaty and members of NATO.
Foreign ministers of the invited countries attended a special session of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top decision-making body, at NATO Headquarters for the signing ceremony.
One step closer to changing history
“In a time when we are constantly reminded not to take our security for granted, today's ceremony is a significant and inspiring example that if we stand firm in defence of our values, we can genuinely change history -- for our countries, and for the Euro-Atlantic Community that we are building together”, said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson.
The 19 NATO member countries will now ratify, accept or approve the protocols, according to their national requirements and procedures. Once the ratification process is complete, the NATO Secretary General will invite the invitees to become parties to the North Atlantic Treaty.
The entire process is expected to be completed in time for the countries to join NATO at the next Summit, in May 2004.
Reforms to continue
Lord Robertson noted that while the ratification process is ongoing NATO expects the countries to continue pursuing reforms to ensure that they can make a meaningful contribution to the Alliance. All seven countries have drawn up and submitted timetables for the completion of necessary reforms, which they will continue to implement.
The seven countries were invited to join the Alliance at the November
2002 NATO Summit in Prague. From December 2002 to March 2003 accession
talks were held between NATO and the individual invitees to discuss and
formally confirm their interest, willingness and ability to meet the political,
legal and military obligations and commitments of NATO membership.