Euro-Atlantic Partnership

  • Last updated: 07 Mar. 2024 10:52

The Alliance seeks to foster security, stability and democratic transformation across the Euro-Atlantic area by engaging in partnership through dialogue and cooperation with non-member countries in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership is underpinned by two key mechanisms: the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme.


  • The Euro-Atlantic Partnership brings together Allies and partner countries from Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia for dialogue and consultation.
  • The 50-nation Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) is a multilateral forum for dialogue and consultation, and provides the overall political framework for cooperation between NATO member and partner countries.
  • The Partnership for Peace (PfP), launched in 1994, facilitates practical bilateral cooperation between individual partner countries and NATO, tailored according to the specific ambitions, needs and abilities of each partner.
  • The EAPC and PfP are central to the Allies’ vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.
  • As early as 1991, NATO had set up a forum to institutionalise relations with countries of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, called the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (replaced by the EAPC in 1997).


Fostering substantive dialogue and cooperation

The EAPC and the PfP programme are central to the Allies' vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. Three priorities underpin cooperation with partners:

  • Dialogue and consultations;
  • Building capabilities and strengthening interoperability; and
  • Supporting reform.

Activities under the EAPC and PfP are set out in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Work Plan. This is a catalogue of around 1,400 activities covering over 30 areas of cooperation, ranging from arms control, through language training, foreign and security policy, and military geography.

The EAPC and the PfP programme have steadily developed their own dynamic, as successive steps have been taken by NATO and its partner countries to extend security cooperation, building on the partnership arrangements they have created.

As NATO has transformed over the years to meet the new challenges of the evolving security environment, partnership has developed along with it. Today, partner countries are engaged with NATO in tackling 21st century security challenges, including terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The ways and means of cooperation developed under NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership have proven to be of mutual benefit to Allies and partners, and have helped promote stability. The mechanisms and programmes for cooperation developed under EAPC/PfP are also being used as the basis to extend cooperation to other non-member countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.

Partners are expected to fund their own participation in cooperation programmes. However, NATO supports the cost of individual participation of some countries in specific events and may also support the hosting of events in some partner countries.

Values and commitments

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership is about more than practical cooperation – it is also about values.

Each partner country signs the PfP Framework Document. In doing so, partners commit to:

  • respecting international law, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Helsinki Final Act, and international disarmament and arms control agreements;
  • refraining from the threat or use of force against other states;
  • settling disputes peacefully.

The Framework Document also enshrines a commitment by the Allies to consult with any partner country that perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity, political independence or security – a mechanism which, for example, Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia made use of during the Kosovo crisis. This commitment was also included as a provision in the 2009 Declaration to Complement the NATO-Ukraine Charter – in March 2014, with its independence and territorial integrity under threat, Ukraine invoked the provision and requested a meeting with Allies in the format of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, a consultation body that preceded the NATO-Ukraine Council.

The diversity of partners

Over the years, 34 countries have joined the Euro-Atlantic Partnership. A number of these have since become NATO member states, through seven rounds of NATO enlargement since the founding of the EAPC/PfP. This has changed the balance between Allies and partners in the EAPC/PfP: since March 2004, there have been more Allies than partners.

The remaining partners are a very diverse group, with different goals and ambitions with regard to their cooperation with NATO. They include Eastern and South-eastern European countries, the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, and Western European states.

Some partners are in the process of reforming their defence structures and capabilities. Others are able to contribute significant forces to NATO-led operations and wish to further strengthen interoperability, and can also offer fellow partner countries advice, training and assistance in various areas. Other partners are interested in using their cooperation with NATO in order to prepare for membership in the Alliance.

Facilitating dialogue and consultation

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meets at various levels and many partner countries have established diplomatic representation and liaison arrangements at NATO Headquarters and NATO Commands. Dialogue and consultation is also facilitated by various other means.

Representatives of partner countries may take up assignments as PfP interns in NATO’s International Staff and various agencies. Military staff from partner countries may also take up posts in military commands, as so-called PfP Staff Elements.

NATO has also established Contact Point Embassies in partner countries to facilitate liaison and support public diplomacy efforts. The Secretary General has appointed a Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia. NATO also has liaison and information offices in Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

Evolution of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership

November 1989 saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, signalling the end of the Cold War. Within a short period, the remarkable pace of change in Central and Eastern Europe left NATO faced with a new and very different set of security challenges.

Allied leaders responded at their summit meeting in London, in July 1990, by extending a “hand of friendship” across the old East-West divide and proposing a new cooperative relationship with all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

This sea-change in attitudes was enshrined in a new strategic concept for the Alliance, issued in November 1991, which adopted a broader approach to security. Dialogue and cooperation would be essential parts of the approach required to manage the diversity of challenges facing the Alliance. The key goals were now to reduce the risk of conflict arising out of misunderstanding or design and to better manage crises affecting the security of the Allies; to increase mutual understanding and confidence among all European states; and to expand the opportunities for genuine partnership in dealing with common security problems.

The scene was set for the establishment in December 1991 of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), a forum to bring together NATO and its new partner countries to discuss issues of common concern.

NACC consultations focused on residual Cold War security concerns such as the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic States. Political cooperation was also launched on a number of security and defence-related issues.

The NACC broke new ground in many ways. However, it focused on multilateral, political dialogue and lacked the possibility of each partner country developing individual cooperative relations with NATO.

Deepening partnership

This changed in 1994 with the launch of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), a major programme of practical bilateral cooperation between NATO and individual partner countries, which represented a significant leap forward in the cooperative process.

And in 1997, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) was created to replace the NACC and to build on its achievements, paving the way for the development of an enhanced and more operational partnership.

The EAPC and the PfP programme have steadily developed their own dynamic, as successive steps have been taken by NATO and its partner countries to extend security cooperation, building on the partnership arrangements they have created.

Further initiatives have been taken to deepen cooperation between Allies and PfP partners at successive summit meetings in Madrid (1997), Washington (1999), Prague (2002), Istanbul (2004), Riga (2006), Bucharest (2008) and Lisbon (2010). The 2010 Strategic Concept, adopted at Lisbon, stresses that cooperative security constitutes one of the Alliance’s core tasks, together with collective defence and crisis management. It states that “The Alliance will engage actively to enhance international security, through partnership with relevant countries and other international organisations (…)”. It also refers specifically to the EAPC and PfP as “central to our vision of Europe whole, free and in peace.”

In 2011, when NATO foreign ministers met in Berlin, they approved a more efficient and flexible partnership policy, designed to streamline NATO’s partnership tools in order to open all cooperative activities and exercises to all partners and to harmonise NATO’s partnership programmes. Because of this, PfP activities have been opened up to other partnership frameworks and – vice-versa – PfP partners have been able to participate in activities hosted by the other cooperative frameworks.



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    July 1990:  Allies extend a “hand of friendship” across the old East-West divide and propose a new cooperative relationship with all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

    November 1991:  The Alliance issues a new Strategic Concept for NATO, which adopts a broader approach to security, emphasising partnership, dialogue and cooperation.

    December 1991:  The North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) is established as a forum for security dialogue between NATO and its new partners.

    1994:  The Partnership for Peace (PfP), a major programme of practical bilateral cooperation between NATO and individual partner countries, is launched. Partner missions to NATO are established. A Partnership Coordination Cell is set up at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) to help coordinate PfP training and exercises.

    1995:  An International Coordination Cell is established at SHAPE to provide briefing and planning facilities for all non-NATO countries contributing troops to NATO-led peacekeeping operations.

    1996:  A number of partner countries deploy to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of a NATO-led peacekeeping force.

    1997:  The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) is created to replace the NACC.

    July 1997:  The operational role of the PfP is enhanced at the Madrid Summit.

    1998:  Creation of the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre and Disaster Response Unit.

    1999: Three partners – Czechia, Hungary and Poland – join NATO.

    April 1999: At the Washington Summit, dialogue and cooperation are included as fundamental security tasks in the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept. Moreover, the PfP is further enhanced and its operational role strengthened, including the introduction of:

    • the Operational Capabilities Concept to improve the ability of Alliance and partner forces to operate together in NATO-led operations;
    • the Political-Military Framework for partner involvement in political consultations and decision-making, in operational planning and in command arrangements;
    • a Training and Education Enhancement Programme to help reinforce the operational capabilities of partner countries.

    1999: Several partner countries deploy peacekeepers as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR).

    12 September 2001:  The EAPC meets the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and pledges to combat the scourge of terrorism.

    2002: The Partnership Trust Fund policy is launched to assist partner countries in the safe destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel mines and other munitions.

    November 2002: At the Prague Summit, partnerships are further enhanced including:

    • a Comprehensive Review to strengthen political dialogue with partners and enhance their involvement in the planning, conduct and oversight of activities in which they participate;
    • a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T);
    • Individual Partnership Action Plans, allowing the Alliance to tailor its assistance to interested partners seeking more structured support for domestic reforms, particularly in the defence and security sector.

    2003:   Some partner countries contribute troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

    2004:   Seven partners – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – join NATO.

    June 2004: At the Istanbul Summit, further steps are taken to strengthen partnership, including:

    • a Partnership Action Plan for Defence Institution Building (PAP-DIB) to encourage and support partners in building effective and democratically responsible defence institutions;
    • an enhanced Operational Capabilities Concept and partners are offered representation at Allied Command Transformation to help promote greater military interoperability between NATO and partner country forces;
    • a special focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia.

    2006:   Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia become partners.

    April 2008: At the Bucharest Summit, Malta returns to the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and joins the EAPC (Malta first joined the PfP programme in April 1995 but suspended its participation in October 1996). Also, priority is given to working with partners on building integrity in defence institutions and the important role of women in conflict resolution (as outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325).

    2009:   Two partners – Albania and Croatia – become members of NATO.

    November 2010: At the Lisbon Summit, Allies reiterate their commitment to the EAPC and the PfP programme, described in NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept as being central to the Allies’ vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. They agree to streamline NATO’s partnership tools in order to open all cooperative activities and exercises to all partners and to harmonise partnership. They also decide to review the Political-Military Framework for NATO-led PfP operations to update the way NATO works together with partner countries and shapes decisions on the operations and missions to which they contribute.

    April 2011:     Following up on the Lisbon Summit decisions, Allied foreign ministers meeting in Berlin approve a new, more efficient and flexible partnership policy. The revised Political-Military Framework for partner involvement in NATO-led operations is also noted by ministers.

    2014:   January 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the PfP programme.

    July 2016: At NATO’s summit in Warsaw, Allied leaders underline that – against the background of an increasingly unstable, global security environment, and based on a broad and strengthened deterrence and defence posture – NATO will seek to contribute more to the efforts of the international community in projecting stability and strengthening security outside NATO territory, thereby contributing to Alliance security overall. As part of these efforts NATO will develop a more strategic, more coherent, and more effective approach to partnerships.

    June 2017: Partner country Montenegro becomes a member of NATO.

    March 2020: Partner country the Republic of North Macedonia joins NATO.

    April 2023: Partner country Finland joins NATO.

    March 2024: Partner country Sweden joins NATO.