by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the meeting of the Adriatic Five
Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a short appearance at this gathering of the “Adriatic Five” – and even more pleased to be able to actually say a few words.
Last year’s decision to invite Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro into the Adriatic Charter Cooperation was a further demonstration that the logic of working together has become firmly ingrained in this region. Cooperation has replaced confrontation, and this has opened up exciting new opportunities for all of Southeast Europe.
I have long been convinced that Euro-Atlantic integration offers the only feasible way for Southeast Europe to move forward. That is why, throughout my tenure as Secretary General of NATO, I have been a very firm supporter of NATO’s “open door” policy. And why I was very pleased that, at our recent NATO Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, we were able to welcome Albania and Croatia as full members of the Alliance.
This is a huge success for these two countries, who have worked hard to turn their aspirations into reality. But it is also a success for the entire region. It should serve as an example of what can be achieved and, I hope, it will provide further encouragement for those other nations in this region who share the same objective of joining the Atlantic Alliance as full members.
We are fully aware that not all countries here in this region have yet been able to realise that ambition. But the logic of integration through NATO enlargement remains as valid as ever. That is why NATO’s door will remain open. It is why countries that aspire to NATO membership must maintain, and indeed intensify, their reform efforts. And why NATO – including its newest member countries – must continue to encourage and assist those efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In many respects, the origins of NATO’s transformation after the end of the Cold War lie here in Southeast Europe. It was Yugoslavia’s collapse that forced NATO to assume a role it had never before contemplated – that of crisis manager and peacekeeper. With the resolution of that crisis, and the establishment of peace throughout this region, NATO’s commitment has not lessened, and should not. Quite the opposite – NATO now enjoys a unique and special relationship with the countries of Southeast Europe, including those countries assembled here today. It is a solid and trustful relationship – and a relationship that will deepen as we continue to move together towards a Europe that is whole, free, and secure.