At the Ceremony
of the Signing
of the Protocols
of Accession
with the
Czech Republic,
and Poland

16 Dec. 1997


by the Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is a truly remarkable day in the life of the Alliance. In a few minutes, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the North Atlantic Council will sign the Protocols of Accession to NATO for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Today's ceremony is a profound sign of NATO's transformation and how far we have overcome the divisions of Europe. We are setting the tone for the new millennium - a tone of confidence and optimism for all the peoples of our Euro-Atlantic area.

The history of NATO is one of success. A success based on shared common values, democracy, human rights and individual freedoms. Its member countries enjoy stability and security based on a robust collective defence. The Alliance provides an essential link between Europe and North America.

NATO today is very different from the one of the first 40 years of its existence. No longer are we threatened by a confrontational East-West divide. No longer are we subject to a threatening arms race.

Today, NATO is committed to fostering security and stability in the whole of Europe. We are reforming our military structures to cope with the different challenges to our security - as in Bosnia. At the same time, we are building a European Security and Defence Identity within NATO. It is a NATO with new missions, new partners, and new structures.

Excellences, Mesdames, Messieurs,

Pendant les huit dernires annes, nous avons dvelopp de nouvelles formes de coopration en matire de scurit. A travers le Conseil du Partenariat Euro-atlantique et le Partenariat pour la Paix, nous permettons d'autres pays d'Europe de travailler des oprations de maintien de la paix et de gestion des crises en troite collaboration avec nous. Notre Conseil Permanent Conjoint avec la Russie contribue galement la cration d'un systme de scurit avec la participation de tous, signe de la transformation fondamentale de l'Alliance. De mme, notre relation spciale avec l'Ukraine. Enfin, l'initiative pour un renforcement de notre Dialogue avec les pays mditerranens montre que notre approche de la coopration en matire de scurit ne se limite pas l'Europe prise isolment.

Le changement le plus significatif dans l'OTAN concerne son processus d'largissement. L'ouverture de l'OTAN amliorera la scurit de toute l'Europe. Douze pays veulent devenir membres de l'Alliance. Au Sommet de Madrid, nous avons invit la Hongrie, la Pologne et la Rpublique tchque engager des pourparlers d'adhsion.

Bien entendu, la porte de l'OTAN reste ouverte. D'ailleurs, j'espre qu' travers l'Europe cette crmonie va inciter d'autres pays renforcer leur processus de rforme et leur coopration avec l'Alliance travers le Partenariat pour la Paix renforc et le Conseil du Partenariat euro-atlantique.

Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me now to address a few words to the three countries we are inviting today: in the accession talks, you have firmly committed yourself to meeting the obligations and responsibilities under the Washington Treaty. You have expressed your wish to participate in NATO's new military structure, and you have undertaken to carry out the necessary reforms. You have already made great strides in meeting these obligations and commitments.

We have together worked hard to complete the accession talks in time for this Ministerial meeting. We can now look forward, with confidence, to the ratification process that lies ahead. From today, we will involve you in a wide range of Alliance activities. This experience will prepare you to become an active and reliable Ally.

Let me congratulate the three of you and your countries for what you already have achieved. We are entering a new era, based on integration, shared commitments and common values. Welcome !

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