At the extraordinary
open session of the
Foreign Affairs
and Defence Committees
of the Hungarian
26th Feb. 1998

Speech by the Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege and an honour to address you today.

This magnificent building on the banks of the Danube is not only the symbol of your beautiful capital, Budapest. It is also a symbol of Hungarian democracy, of the triumph of freedom over oppression.

In the last decade, democracy has flourished across Europe, and economic recovery and progress have taken hold. The countries of Central Europe are back on the political map, with their own distinctive voice, no longer the object of others' ambitions. With new confidence and new energy, people once denied their future can now actively shape it. Today, the division of Europe is consigned to where it belongs - the dustbin of history.

Hungary has been at the vanguard of change. Back in 1990, you were the first country of the former Eastern Bloc to be admitted to the Council of Europe. Rapid economic reform and liberalisation have created one of the fastest-growing markets in the region. Politically and practically, Hungary is ready and determined to be part of the larger Europe from which it was unnaturally separated for so long.

Last summer, Hungary took another step on the journey back to Europe when the Heads of State and Government of NATO took the historic decision to invite your country, together with the Czech Republic and Poland, to begin accession talks with NATO.

That goal became even closer last December, when NATO Foreign Ministers, in the presence of their Hungarian, Czech and Polish counterparts, signed the Accession Protocols that will pave the way for your country to become a full member of the Alliance at our 50th Anniversary Summit in 1999.

In the same month, the European Council at Luxembourg invited Hungary to begin accession negotiations with the European Union. Together, NATO and the EU stand for the most crucial lesson of the 20th century - that European unity and North American engagement are indispensable. Without unity, the European continent cannot break the fateful cycle of mistrust and rivalry that has haunted it for centuries. Without an outward-looking and engaged North America, Europe cannot find the equilibrium it needs to complete the grand project of unity. Without each other, Europe and North America cannot meet successfully the challenges of the wider world.

Membership of these institutions is not a matter of signing treaties or joining bureaucracies. Nor is membership of NATO on the eve of the 21st century simply about mutual defence commitments. Rather, it is to participate in a process of change and transformation that has revolutionised Europe over the past decade. It is to aspire to a role that goes beyond narrow national confines.

Hungary has shown herself ready to move with the new direction of Europe. You have concluded over 170 cooperation agreements with your neighbours. Let me mention just a few - with Slovenia and Italy you are establishing a trilateral peacekeeping brigade; you have an agreement with Romania to form a combined peacekeeping battalion; you have concluded treaties with Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine on good neighbourly relations and cooperation and continue your efforts in this regard.

These political efforts show clearly the determination of the Hungarian people to overcome the shadows of the past. Hungary is showing the way forward to a Central Europe at peace and resolved to work together for the common goal of integration and cooperation.

Let me give another example close to my heart: Bosnia. From the earliest days of the UN Protection Force, and later the Implementation and Stabilisation Forces, Hungary has been a stalwart friend. The Hungarian Government and people have shown their support, cooperation and hospitality to the multinational endeavours to bring peace to the Balkans. When NATO asked for bases in Hungary, the request was quickly granted. Mounting successfully these large, multinational peacekeeping operations could never have been accomplished so effectively without Hungarian support. Your bases have become the supply lifeline for troops rotating in and out of the former Yugoslavia.

The Bosnian experience tells us much about the new Europe. The historically unique coalition for peace, led by NATO, demonstrates an undivided Europe at work. It is a Europe with a new sense of strategic direction and purpose.

Bosnia also tells us something about NATO itself.

The Alliance of today is not the NATO of the past. Of course, the essentials remain - the transatlantic link and the core function of collective defence that are key to NATO's continuing success and relevance. But preserving such essentials has not prevented the Alliance from undertaking far-reaching change and adaptation over the past few years.

We are radically revamping our internal structures and procedures, including command reform, to reflect the remarkable change in the strategic environment. This will lead a two-thirds reduction of NATO military headquarters.

Today's Alliance is adding to its collective defence function a new role of promoting stability and security in all of Europe. The Alliance's initiatives to reach out to the wider Europe through the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council have altered forever the security dynamics across this continent. So has the NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Partnership; and the Charter on a Distinctive Relationship with Ukraine.

These bold initiatives will gain momentum in the months and years ahead. We count on Hungary to continue your active role in the Partnership for Peace and the EAPC.

The most striking evidence of the Alliance's transformation is its policy of the open door. We see it as a natural and organic part of Euro-Atlantic integration, against the backdrop of an evolving cooperative security environment.

Let me pause here to dispel a myth - that this policy of the open door, this policy of responding to the aspirations of the new democracies of Europe, is directed against Russia, and will result in a new division of Europe.

I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. Anchoring a democratic Russia in a new Europe is a goal shared by all Allies. We are firmly committed to the development of a strong, enduring partnership with Russia - a partnership based on the NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed last May.

I sincerely believe that NATO and Russia - a democratic Russia - are destined to cooperate. The mutual benefits are clear. It is our way of showing that we want Russia, a powerful and important country, to sit down with us to discuss, to consult and to cooperate across a whole range of security- and military-related issues. It also shows emphatically that our response to the wishes of Hungary and others to join our Alliance is not directed against Russia; quite the reverse.

As a new member of NATO, Hungary will be at the centre of shaping the new security environment. Last December, at the ceremony marking the signing of the Protocols of Accession, Foreign Minister Kovacs remarked that this event was truly a moment of historic significance. It was the moment when Hungary underscored its willingness to assume all the responsibilities and obligations of NATO membership. It conveyed the readiness of Hungary to join other Allies to uphold the democratic values that we share, and to preserve them through mutual commitment to collective defence.

Membership in NATO means that Hungary will be part of a democratic Alliance - and by its own free choice. In future, you will be able to organise your security collectively, together with like-minded Allies. But, as you know, membership of NATO is a two-way street. The benefits of Alliance membership bring with them responsibilities. Future new members must be prepared to shoulder their obligations and costs.

Of course, wide-ranging adjustments still have to be made in all three of the invited states. Modernisation of the armed forces must continue in a serious manner. This will require qualitative improvements in equipment and training, so that Hungary achieve the essential levels of compatibility with NATO systems and standards.

All these adjustments are manageable. No one is interested in overburdening the Hungarian economy, nor is NATO demanding that you spend huge sums on high-tech new equipment.

What we want to achieve is, first and foremost, interoperability between our armed forces. We need communications systems that can communicate; we need to be able to send reinforcements in times of crises; and we need our soldiers to speak the same language.

NATO will provide a solid, reliable - and cost-effective - framework for this long-term restructuring. And NATO Allies will continue to help you achieve your objectives by providing training, advice, and material assistance. Once you are full members, this will include financial help through the Security Investment Programme. Reforming military doctrine, overhauling training systems and modernising equipment are not small tasks. But we are confident that they will be done.

Becoming a member of the Alliance is a solemn and serious commitment. Hungary has signalled her readiness to meet this commitment:

- By the unambiguous outcome of the November referendum, when the Hungarian people overwhelmingly endorsed NATO membership.

- By your commitment to continuing efforts to resolve remaining regional problems.

- By the Hungarian Government's intention to commit the bulk of the country's armed forces to the Alliance's integrated military structure.

- By your pledge to bring defence spending in line with that of NATO member states.

- By your Government's acceptance to pay its fair share of NATO's common-funded budgets.

Looking ahead, the goal of the Alliance is clear and unequivocal. Allied leaders declared at Madrid their intention to welcome the three invited countries into NATO as full members by the time of the Washington Summit in April 1999. We are already associating your representatives with all areas of our work to make the transition seamless and effective.

Today, as we approach the ratification in Alliance Parliaments of the accession of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, we can say with confidence that we are on the right track. Canada and Denmark have already cast their vote for an enlarged NATO. Their confidence should be an inspiration to us all.

Here, in the Parliament of Hungary - in the cradle of Hungarian democracy - I extend my hand in welcome. Welcome to the Alliance of countries that have upheld, defended and promulgated, for almost half a century, the very principles of freedom, rule of law, human rights and peace and security to which this Hungarian Parliament is fully dedicated.

Let us go forward together - a new NATO, a NATO with Hungary as a full member.

Thank you.

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