by Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of NATO's 75th anniversary celebration

  • 04 Apr. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 04 Apr. 2024 14:21

(As delivered)

NATO Spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah
We will now proceed with the speeches by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Allies celebrating their 25th, 20th and 15th accession anniversaries. First, I invite the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Czechia, Hungary and Poland to step forward and to each deliver a short address on their 25th NATO accession anniversary. Nous allons à présent entendre les allocutions des ministres des affaires étrangères des alliés qui fêtent le 25e, le 20e, ou le 15e anniversaire de leur adhésion. J’invite d’abord les ministres des affaires étrangères de la Tchéquie, de la Hongrie, et de la Pologne à s’avancer pour prononcer tour à tour une brève allocution sur le 25e anniversaire de l’adhésion de leur pays à l’OTAN.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czechia, Jan Lipavský
Secretary General, ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Our accession to NATO in 1989 was a clear signal that the long standing division of the European continent was ending. It was an important milestone and the best embodiment of the fundamental principle that every country has the right to choose its own security arrangement. For almost a quarter of a century we have been working hard to achieve the goal of a Europe whole, free, at peace. Today that vision seems very distant, but so did our NATO accession in 1989. While signing the NATO Accession Protocol, the late President Václav Havel said “it gives us hope that our country will never again be sacrificed to an aggressor”. And at the same time, it expresses a clear commitment to share responsibility for the freedom of nations, human rights, democratic values and peace on our continent. Russian aggression against Ukraine gives those words new urgency for my country. This commitment is as relevant as it was 25 years ago. We know where we are coming from. The struggles of our ancestors must not and will not come to nothing. Thank you.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó
Secretary General, dear colleagues, dear friends. 25 years ago, Hungary has rejoined a community. The community of free and sovereign nations of the Euro-Atlantic world, a region where we always belonged to at heart, but a 40-year long communist oppression has kept us physically away. Our accession to NATO has honoured all the desire, all the struggle, and all the fight of generations of Hungarian people for freedom. We are proud of our predecessors. We are proud of our predecessors who have never given up the hope. They have not given up the hope not even under the darkest years of the communist dictatorship, when Hungarian people felt to be left totally alone. But now we are a proud member of the world's strongest defence Alliance. And we are proud to be a reliable Ally. A reliable Ally which contributes and is committed to contribute to the safety and security of our community. We are proud to be here and our predecessors are proud as well that we are finally here. Thank you.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radosław Sikorski
Ladies and gentlemen, when NATO was founded, my country, Poland, was trapped on the wrong side. Communist Soviet domination meant that if it came to war, Polish soldiers would have had to obey the orders of our enemies in order to fight our friends, a tragic situation. Fortunately, the evil empire has collapsed under the weight of its cruelty and its contradictions. We were determined to join NATO in 1999 because we felt it in our bones that the window of opportunity will not last forever. We tried to embrace Russia, but we knew that the potential for violence was there. Unfortunately, Russia is on the march again. But happily, we are where we belong, in the company of democracies, among friends at home, resisting again, like a rock. Let's prevail again. Thank you.

NATO Spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah
I now invite the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to step forward and to each deliver a shorter dress on their 20th NATO accession anniversary. J'invite à présent les ministres des affaires étrangères de la Bulgarie, de l'Estonie, de la Lettonie, de la Lituanie, de la Roumanie, de la Slovaquie et de la Slovénie à s'avancer pour prononcer tour à tour une brève allocution sur le 20e anniversaire de l'adhésion de leur pays à l'OTAN.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Mariya Gabriel
Secrétaire Général, Mesdames et Messieurs les Ministres, vos excellences. L’OTAN parce que nous sommes plus forts ensemble, c'est le slogan que la jeunesse bulgare a choisi pour marquer toutes les initiatives et les événements qui vont se dérouler en cette année d'anniversaire. 75 ans OTAN, 20 ans adhésion de la Bulgarie dans l’OTAN. L'adhésion à l’OTAN pour la Bulgarie n'était pas un objectif stratégique de politique étrangère seulement, c'était une cause parmi les plus nobles parce qu'adhère à l'OTAN, c'est tout d'abord adhérer à des valeurs de la démocratie, de la paix, de la liberté. C'est aussi un engagement, contribuer à la sécurité collective. C'est aussi un partage d’expérience et de bonnes pratiques. C'est ainsi que vous pouvez compter sur la Bulgarie pour continuer à mettre sur l'agenda l'importance stratégique de la mer Noire et de Balkans de l'Ouest. Mais c'est aussi une inspiration. L'adhésion à l’OTAN a été une source d'inspiration pour des réformes importantes dans le pays et c'est ici que je prends quelques secondes pour adresser mes remerciements à toutes les générations d'hommes et femmes politiques, militaires, le monde académique, la société civile qui ont contribué pour que l’OTAN et la Bulgarie soient là où nous sommes aujourd'hui, parce que nous sommes aujourd’hui une famille de valeurs. Nous montrons la force de notre approche, ce que c’est la coopération et ainsi assurer la sécurité. Nous montrons aussi comment on sait transformer les défis en des opportunités. Merci de rester unis. Vous pouvez compter sur une Bulgarie qui sera toujours là pour défendre ses valeurs et soyons très claire: la liberté, la paix ne sont pas des dogmes, elles se protègent tous les jours. Merci chers alliés de le faire ensemble. Merci. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Margus Tsahkna
Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen. When Estonia regained our independence in 1991 we decided one important thing: never be alone again. Because we were under 50 years of the Soviet Union occupation and we lost one fifth of our population. We made a crazy decision to join NATO. And it would seem to be impossible at this time. And the reason was that neutrality policy in the neighbourhood of Russia meant the green light for occupation and aggression. Unfortunately, this situation is the same. Russia is still an aggressive country and neutrality policy is still a green light for aggression from Russian side. That's how we feel, that it is not impossible, it is not crazy idea, to bring in to NATO these nations who would like to join, as Ukraine, because we have experienced this momentum. I can say you, dear friends, that without this membership of NATO and European Union, I couldn't stand here in front of you, as a Foreign Minister of independent Estonia, because probably we would have had an aggression from the east side. We believe in principle, one for all, all for one, and we will never be alone again. Long live NATO!

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš
Dear friends, 1949 was a great year and also a tragic year. It was a great year because this is when the NATO Alliance was founded. And it was a tragic year because in that year, in my country, in Estonia, and in Lithuania tens of thousands of people were deported to Siberia under the Soviet occupation. And it took us another 41 years until we regained our independence to rejoin the family of nations that enjoy the basic values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. When we had the opportunity to join NATO 20 years ago, this opened an entirely new chapter to us. And we understood that this family, all for one and one for all, cuts both ways. So when NATO said “we need your help in Afghanistan”, we responded to the call. Our brave soldiers fought, and some died, fighting shoulder to shoulder with other NATO Allies. We are currently in the KFOR mission and we are investing heavily in our own defence, about 3% of GDP this year. And we are also grateful that, as we see the Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine, NATO Allies have responded to our collective call for reinforcing the eastern flank. So as we went when we were called, we are extremely grateful that all Allies are responding to the call. And the eastern flank today is extremely strong because we are all together. Let us not forget why we are working together. We work together to protect the basic freedoms of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These are not a given. These are values that must be fought for and must we must remain vigilant constantly. Let us stay together. Let us be strong together. Thank you very much.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis
Dear friends, dear Allies, so many good words have been said today about NATO's achievement throughout 75 years. Where my country is concerned, the greatest victory of NATO in a Cold War made so that my country was able to reappear as an independent and sovereign country on Europe's map. Unfortunately, it could be that NATO's biggest battles and fights are still in the future and we have to be very much prepared for that. Because if those battles come to us and we are not prepared that will be the biggest mistake that we can ever have. Thank you so much.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Luminița-Teodora Odobescu
Secretary General, dear friends, we are celebrating today the most successful political-military alliance in the world. NATO has stood the test of time and demonstrated strategic vision, determination, resilience and capacity to adapt. NATO became stronger both in size and influence. The Open Door policy is the most successful instrument of our Alliance. For Romania, joining NATO represented the fulfilment of an historical aspiration and a security imperative. The Alliance is now an essential pillar of our foreign policy and security policy. Over the years, Romania has benefited from the security umbrella provided by the Alliance. In turn, we have demonstrated commitment and determination as a responsible and active Ally, a true security provider contributing to the collective security efforts. The brutal war of aggression waged by Russia on our neighbour Ukraine has changed our security environment for many years to come. We need to do our utmost to support Ukraine until the final victory. Together we are stronger. Together we are better. Together, we build our future. [speaks in Romanian]

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, Juraj Blanár
Mr Secretary General, dear friends, dear colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. 20 years ago, on the 29th of March 2004, Slovakia became a member of the strongest and most successful, successful Alliance ever. With no exaggeration, this was one of the most important and crucial decisions in our modern Slovak history. Under the current challenging security situation, marred by ongoing war in our neighbouring Ukraine and presented threat of terrorism, this decision has proven to be fundamental for the security of our citizens. I wish to thank all Allies that have contributed to our collective defence and security. Not only history, but every day makes it clear that peace is not for granted. It is the soldiers who are ready to stand in harm's way and willing to sacrifice even their lives to protect us. So let us not forget the women and men in uniform who have lost their lives in our missions and operations, including the Slovak ones. Ladies and gentleman, as a responsible and trustworthy Ally, Slovakia will remain faithful to our shared values and commitments and obligations stemming from our membership. Thank you very much.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, Tanja Fajon
Secretary General, ladies and gentleman, dear friends. 75 years, it is a remarkable achievement. It speaks for itself. 75 years of this Alliance based on our shared values. It is an Alliance of values and as an Alliance of values we continue and will continue to support Ukraine, because people of Ukraine deserves to live in peace and stability, as we deserve, and they deserve to choose for their own security arrangements, and we’ll advocate for their course also in the Security Council of United Nations, where Slovenia currently serves as a non-permanent member. Last year, or last week, excuse me, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our membership in NATO in Slovenia. Together with our membership in European Union, it gave us stability and it gave us the opportunity to promote stability and security in our direct neighbourhood of the Western Balkans. It ensured us an additional platform to promote human rights, especially women's rights. And it also gave us an opportunity to improve excellence of Slovenian armed forces and with that, we became an integral transatlantic link, part of this link. So Slovenia reconfirms today our commitment to this Alliance of ours that prevent conflicts and promotes peace, thank you.

NATO Spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah
I now invite the ministers of foreign affairs of Albania and Croatia to step forward and to each deliver a shorter dress on their 15th NATO accession anniversary. J'invite à présent les ministres des Affaires étrangères de l'Albanie et de la Croatie à s'avancer pour prononcer tour à tour une brève allocution sur le 15e anniversaire de l'adhésion de leur pays à l'OTAN. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, Igli Hasani
Secretary General, Allies. Today we celebrate two milestones that stand as testaments to the enduring power of unity and shared values. First, we mark the 75th anniversary of the Alliance. Born from the ashes of the Second World War, NATO arose as a beacon of peace and stability, a shield for the allies’ collective security. It started with 12 nations and Albania, unfortunately, was behind a double Iron Curtain. It was the North Korea of Europe. And for three quarters of a century you were the example on how to stand firm to deter aggression, to uphold the values we cherished, freedom, democracy, international law and human dignity. And you preserved the lives of people in my neighbourhood, the lives of people from both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo that were facing ethnic cleansing. Secondly, we celebrate the 15 years that my country joined this historic Alliance. This pivotal moment fulfilled the core strategic objective for our nation. While we continue our pursuit for the EU integration, Albania remains dedicated contributor to NATO. Our troops stand shoulder to shoulder with Allies in missions around the globe, a testament to our steadfast commitment. The world we face today's constantly evolving strategic competition, armed aggression, new threats, cyber and disinformation campaigns. All these demand adaptation. We are heartened by NATO's growing focus on these areas, ensuring its continued relevance in safeguarding our shared future. As a small nation, we deeply understand the power of unity, a strong NATO, a strong Euro Atlantic bond is essential for future peace and security of generations to come. Let us all recommit to NATO's unwavering spirit and ensure its continued strength in the face of evolving threats together. With strength and unity, we face the future with more confidence, and I thank you.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia, Gordan Grlić Radman
Secretary General, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. As NATO celebrate 75 years of its existence, Croatia marks the 15th anniversary of her membership in the Alliance. That means that Croatia is adolescent among 32 members, but very strong and very brave one. We are ready to contribute to any NATO mission as we did in Afghanistan, in another 11 missions of United Nations. Croatia unfortunately did not have the privilege of 75 years of peace. From 1991 to 1995, we had to fight for and defend our freedom and democracy. Facing a much stronger aggressor, at the time, we prevailed against all odds. After our victory and risen from the ashes, we transformed to modern contributor to the security and stability of the European continent, firmly embedded in our transatlantic community. Croatia’s own experience and expertise contributes today to NATO's deterrence and defence and our determination to invest in our own security, with technologically advanced defence solution is steadfast. Croatia is Danubian and Central European as well as Adriatic and a Mediterranean country. Strategically located at the crossroads of these European regions, we remain dedicated to remain reliable and strong pillar of NATO’s south eastern flank. Long live NATO. Thank you.

NATO Spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah
I now invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium to step forward and to deliver a short address. The Minister and the Secretary General will subsequently cut the NATO 75th anniversary celebration cake offered by Belgium. J'invite à présent la ministre des affaires étrangères de la Belgique à s'avancer pour prononcer une brève allocution. La ministre et le secrétaire général vont ensuite découper le gâteau offert par la Belgique à l'occasion du 75e anniversaire de l'OTAN. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Hadja Lahbib
Je vois que vous commencez à vous soulager, à sourire. Oui, je suis la dernière et je vais être très court parce qu'on a un bon gâteau qui nous attend. Dear Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. It's my duty as founding member to remember as a part of our common history 75 years ago indeed, right before the signing ceremony, Paul-Henri Spaak, at the time a Belgian President –Prime Minister said, « personne ne peut contester le droit de rassembler et d'organiser dans un coin du monde toutes les forces de ceux qui, ayant définitivement renoncé à toute idée de guerre agressive, ne vont pas se trouver un jour sans défense devant une attaque qui pourrait être dirigée contre eux ». 75 years later, his words still resonate. From 12 founding members, we have grown to 32 Allies making this defence Alliance stronger and safer than ever before. We are an alliance forged through shared values of democracy, liberty, and the rule of law. Together, we work to prevent conflict and preserve peace for 1 billion people. NATO guarantees our security and prosperity and allow us to live our lives in freedom. The strength of NATO is that despite our differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task to defend each other and keep people safe. 75 years after this creation, these situations in our neighbourhoods reminds us every day that the world needs NATO more than ever, our Alliance remains highly relevant and attractive to many because it takes its founding principles of unity and solidarity very seriously. And there is not the slightest doubt that it will continue to live up to the challenge of protecting its 1 billion citizens and every inch of Allied territory. As we look ahead to the next 75 years and beyond, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to NATO's mission ensuring a future of peace, security and prosperity for generations to come. It is with pride that Belgium takes part in this formidable project. It is with gratitude and respect towards our Allies and the organisation that we celebrate this anniversary which marks 75 years of peace, security and prosperity for Allied nations. So to quote Antony Blinken yesterday, as long as we are together, we are protected and I will quote another famous star: “Let's stick together”. Thank you. I don't know if you can play let’s stick together. No? I should ask it before. And now I will ask to the Secretary General to join me because I think that it's the cutting time for –to eat the cake.

NATO Spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah
This concludes the ceremony. La cérémonie est maintenant terminée.