by His Excellency Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz,
It is a true satisfaction for me to address you today. We know how busy and tight NATO's schedule is and we do appreciate this opportunity to meet you. We consider it a token of the level and intensity of cooperation and dialogue that Poland and NATO have reached.
As we are looking forward to NATO's Madrid Summit, I would like to use this occasion to comment on some of the issues which are of special concern to Poland.
I do not need to conceal that Poland expects to be among nations which in a few months will be invited to begin accession negotiations with NATO. I believe that we have earned the right to openly express this expectation. We have earned it through over seven years of intensive efforts to turn Poland into a truly democratic country, to build a working market economy, to base our relations with all our neighbours on the principles of good-neighbourhood and peaceful cooperation, to thoroughly reform our defence system in order to bring it in line with the democratic standards. Today, a few months before the Madrid Summit, I am proud to say that Poland fully meets all criteria of NATO membership.
In Poland, we differ on many issues. We have a difficult history to cope with and difficult problems to solve. However, there are issues on which almost all Poles agree -- membership of NATO is among them. The goal of the government and the people of Poland is clear -- we want, by April 1999, to become a full-fledged member of the Atlantic Alliance.
However, we have never perceived NATO enlargement as a goal in itself. For us, it has always been a part of a great, complex endeavour to build a new architecture of European security. This is not mere rhetoric -- our whole foreign policy of the past seven years stands to prove it.
We know that NATO nations share our position on the broad context of enlargement. We appreciate your efforts to adapt the Alliance -- both internally and externally -- to make it better prepared to assume the role of a key pillar of the new security system in Europe. We hope that the Madrid Summit will bring these efforts to full fruition.
I wish to stress today, and I am sure that our Russian partners would agree with me, that despite the differences over NATO enlargement, Poland's relations with Russia have good-neighbourly character and are free of conflicts. We continue and develop systematic and fruitful political dialogue. In 1996, both President and Prime Minister of Poland visited Moscow. Our economic cooperation is booming. We develop cross-border relations and intensive people-to-people contacts with Russia. No-one familiar with current Polish-Russian relations can say that we are trying to draw new dividing lines in Europe or to isolate Russia. We believe that our membership of NATO will strengthen the ties between our two countries rather than harm them.
As we watch the dialogue between Russia and NATO, we wish to once more stress that we fully share NATO's philosophy on the issue of stationing of nuclear weapons on the territories of new members of the Alliance. We neither see a need to have them on our soil, nor have any intention to change our position in the future. We will strongly oppose, however, any accords which would make us a second-class NATO member.
In this context, we follow closely, and take active part in, discussions on the adaptation of the CFE Treaty. We do see a need to adapt the Treaty to the changed political circumstances in Europe. We are eager to work toward an agreement which will increase security of all states without prejudging the conditions of any country's future membership of NATO.
We hope that the Madrid Summit will witness signing of a special accord between NATO and Ukraine. A sovereign, democratic Ukraine is one of the key factors of security and stability in Europe. The Poles and Ukrainians share difficult and often violent past. Today, we share common values and goals, and are jointly building for the future.
Polish-Ukrainian relations demonstrate, as do those between Poland and Germany, that Central and Eastern Europe is a place where even a most tragic history does not have to be an obstacle to a true friendship between nations. Poland is today and will be as a NATO member, an important pillar of stability in the region known in the past as Europe's powder-keg.
As we look forward to our accession negotiations with the Alliance, we do not lose sight of the importance of the Partnership for Peace programme, nor do we intend to lower the level of our engagement in it. The IFOR and SFOR operations have proven the significance of the Partnership programme for peace and security on our continent. They have also demonstrated a need to redefine the relations between the Allies and Partners. We have welcomed NATO's bold decisions to deepen and broaden the PfP programme. We have supported the idea to establish the Atlantic Partnership Council from the very onset of this initiative. We are eager to work, together with NATO members and Partners, on an early implementation of this initiative. We believe that the Madrid Summit would be a most appropriate forum to launch it. In our view, whatever form the APC eventually assumes, it must provide a rich and diversified menu of both military and political activities, to accommodate the different aspirations and interests of the Partner countries. The diversity of political relations between NATO and its Partners will become a fact of life the very moment Russia and Ukraine /which we hope will join the APC/ sign their accords with NATO. We believe that other Partners should also be afforded -- in the APC framework -- an opportunity to shape their political relations with the Alliance according to their specific needs.
We have come a long way preparing Poland for membership of NATO. Nevertheless, we know that although Poland meets the criteria of membership, much remains to be done to ensure that Polish armed forces and the whole defence system are fully interoperable with those of NATO. We shall do our best to meet this goal as soon as possible. For we wish to become a strong and reliable ally, prepared to contribute to all missions of the Alliance. Recently, we have undertaken institutional and organisational efforts to intensify and fully coordinate activities of all state agencies responsible for matters related to our cooperation and future integration with NATO.
We are fully aware of the evolution that NATO and its mission have undergone since the Cold War. We understand the obligations we will have to assume as a member of the new Alliance. By striving to join it, we are not seeking shelter from any immediate threat, for we do not see any. Our efforts are not driven by fear or historical complexes. As a member of NATO, we want, together with our allies, to face and cope with all today's and future challenges to broadly understood European security. I think that the best and shortest way to explain our aspirations is to repeat what I said meeting Secretary General Solana in Warsaw last year -- we wish to join NATO for the same reasons for which your countries do not consider leaving it.