No. 5 - Sept.-
Oct. 1997
Vol. 45 - pp. 8

NATO and the Czech Republic:
A common destiny

Vclav Havel

President of the Czech Republic

President Vclav Havel in Madrid on 8 July.
(Reuters - 31Kb)
For the first time in modern European history, the democratic transformation in 1989 gave the nations of Central and Eastern Europe the opportunity to repudiate the status imposed on them by the bipolar super-powers. These nations were at last able to make their own decisions: about their destinies, values, and the defence and political-economic institutions in which they wished to participate. The intervening years have helped to prove again, as we are reminded by the tragedy in the Balkans, that Euro-Atlantic values, especially the respect and care for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the free market economy, must be defended by those who subscribe to them. The new European security system must be built by democratic forces. The North Atlantic Alliance is, as recent experience has shown, the most appropriate means of ensuring the collective security of our values.

In Madrid, the Czech Republic, together with Poland and Hungary, was invited to begin accession talks with the Alliance. This invitation represented recognition of the free will of the Central European nations to choose integration into the institutions which unite countries with the same fundamental values. The offer of NATO membership is, for us, not only a chance to fulfil our security needs but, above all, a chance to share and play a part in the peaceful and democratic development of this continent and the whole world, together with our European and American partners.

With the opening of its doors, the Alliance is embarking on a new chapter in its history. I am certain that it is only the beginning of the process, and that the Alliance will gradually offer invitations to other qualified European democracies seeking membership in NATO.

As far as impending risks to security, it no longer seems likely that Europe will be threatened by some gigantic strategic enemy, as during the Cold War. On the contrary, Ukraine and Russia have shed their totalitarian regimes and are becoming NATO's partners. Rather, democratic order in Europe is threatened by a number of new dangers, such as national and local conflicts, in which the boundaries between war, terrorism and organised crime are disappearing. As it transforms, NATO will have to adapt to these new dangers, while at the same time maintaining its fighting ability. For this reason, it will be useful for the newly-designated member nations to immediately intensify cooperation within NATO, so that we can start today to think about our common tasks for the future and look for optimal solutions together with our new allies.

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