Updated: 22 June 1999 Speeches

Before the
North Atlantic Council
16 March 1999


by His Excellency Jerzy Buzek
Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland

Mr Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to address to you at the first meeting of the North Atlantic Council now consisting of 19 members. From Today morning on, Czech, Hungarian and Polish flags will be flying next to those of the other members.
Poles often differ on many issues. Nonetheless, on matters of such importance as NATO membership, we presented an almost uniform stand. The success of today crowns the accomplishments of the Polish people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we celebrate part of the most effective politico-military structure binding the strongest democracies of Europe and North America.
Today, becoming a member of this structure, we are ready to defend all those values - it means not only the defence of the territory but also democracy and human rights - and to promote them in the entire Euro-Atlantic region. As we see it, this will not only strengthen the Organisation but will contribute to the realisation of our vision of unified European continent, closely linked to the North America one, free from artificial divisions and "spheres of influence".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These are not just words.

We fully understand the obligations that we are assuming as a member of the Organisation. Together with our Allies, we face and we will have to cope with all of the current and the upcoming challenges to our common security.
First of all they represent the beginning of a new chapter in our history. On March 12, we returned to the community to which we always belonged - a community in which our culture, values and policy are rooted. We have testified to our commitment to these values many times. If only to mention the "Solidarity" movement, which shook the totalitarian empire in the 1980s.
Secondly, this come back is a great success for my country. We have come a long way - a way that can be described as a continuous struggle for freedom and independence. It was a path of great efforts to rebuild and restructure Poland's statehood and sovereignty.

As a third point: during the last decade, after regaining our independence in 1989, we have been transforming our country into a truly democratic state. We established market economy, developed good relations and co-operation with all our neighbours, changed our institutions and defence system in order to bring it in line with democratic standards.

Poland does not enter NATO with empty hands. We contribute not only to our territory, but also our people. Our military potential is not insignificant as well. Together with the constant modernisation of our armed forces, we will increase our contribution to common defence and our ability to take part in NATO's new missions such as conflict prevention and conflict resolution.

So, the Polish flag raised today in Brussels means for us also the beginning of a new stage on our path towards a deeper and more extensive integration with the Alliance. We are fully aware that we need to continue working on making the Polish armed forces, the defence system and policy planning fully interoperable with NATO. We shall do our best to meet this goal as soon as possible. At the beginning of the new millennium we want to be a strong and reliable Ally.

Besides its people, its territory and its military potential Poland also brings to the Alliance the experience and lessons learned from different forms of European co-operation. We possess a thorough knowledge of Central and Eastern Europe. Poland now has the opportunity to contribute even more effectively to the stability and prosperity of this part of our continent, to deepen the dialogue and co-operation between the Alliance and all countries of our region. We feel great responsibility in this area.

This is why we believe that we must actively participate in shaping NATO's relations with Russia, Ukraine and other partners in the eastern part of Europe. We shall do the best to enhance the development of bilateral contacts with those states. Poland has a great interest in overcoming old stereotypes and strengthening the newly established platforms for dialogue and co-operation with all partners.

We also know that the countries aspiring to NATO membership will look at us and will hope to learn from us. We want to assure that NATO's "open doors" policy acquires a concrete form and serves to improve the security needs of the Alliance. We will promote efforts of those nations that look forward to the day when their flags will be raised just like the flags of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our flag would not be raised among the flags of other NATO members if you had not understood our aspirations. The will to enlarge the Organisation and your assistance made this moment possible. On behalf of the Polish people let me express our gratitude to all those who supported our strife to acquire membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

After years of struggling for independence and sovereignty, the Polish people formally joined the North Atlantic community. Let me assure you that we take the responsibility for the security of each individual NATO member and for the interests of the entire Alliance. Under those flags, waving in the wind, allow me to say:

You can count on us.
You can count on Poland.

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