Intervention by H.E. Mr. Guntis ULMANIS
the President of the Republic of Latvia
As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of NATO, we look forward to strong and growing Alliance. NATO was strengthened by the inclusion of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. We congratulate the three new members. NATO is looking to the future.
Latvia welcomes this summit`s commitment to NATO`s active open door policy including the newly announced Membership Action Plan. We welcome in particular the fact that the Plan will help us to become a member of the Alliance.
Latvia is undertaking the responsibilities that come with NATO membership.
Members of NATO can only be nations that are strong democracies. Latvia has met this challenge by focusing on achieving an open and integrated society and a sound market economy.
We have developed a NATO Integration Plan and an Integration Council works under the direction of the Prime Minister. Our defense capacities are being modernized according to NATO standards. Defense spending has increased substantially.
Baltic defense co-operation is making a significant investment in Baltic regional and wider European security. This has been achieved thanks to the support by NATO members and partners.
We are setting an example for other regions of the New Europe.
The world has changed during the fifty years of NATO. However, the fundamental purpose of the Alliance has not changed. Just as fifty years ago, NATO stands for peace, stability and democracy. Today we face risks like ethnic conflict, political instability, territorial disputes, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism.
The Kosovo crisis has underscored that the Alliance has to be capable of dealing with a broad range of missions from the traditional collective defense to the peace support operations. Events in the Balkans show the complex security environment NATO has to address. NATO has demonstrated that it is the key organization capable of dealing with such a crisis.
Latvia is doing its part. We are participating in SFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have sent observers to OSCE's Verification Mission in Kosovo. The Latvian parliament confirmed the government`s decision to send a medical unit to the NATO-led humanitarian mission in Albania. Latvia has extended humanitarian aid to the refugees of Kosovo.
Russia is clearly an important player in European security issues. Latvia is as anxious as NATO to see a cooperative Russia, involved in the solution of the Kosovo crisis. Russia's positive and constructive engagement in Europe's security would be something Latvia welcomed.
As the twentieth century comes to a close, we can look back to it as a century of tragedy and hope for Europe. Half of this century European security environment has been characterized by the stabilizing presence of NATO and the US involvement in Europe.
Today the Alliance is determined to continue to be the most significant part of European security environment and to play its part in making the vision of its founders - a vision of a united and free Europe - come to reality in the 21st century.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman