|Updated: 14-May-2002||NATO Speeches|
by US Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright
I want to begin by thanking our previous speakers for their excellent presentations, which underscore the importance of bringing lasting stability to Southeast Europe. This is an endeavor of historic strategic importance to us all, and a worthy goal for this Partnership Council.
In one way or another, every member of this Council is contributing or can contribute to our shared objective. Many are participating actively in KFOR or SFOR or both.
Most are strong supporters of the Southeast Europe Stability Pact. And I want to highlight today the importance of one Pact initiative, and that is the development of a regional civil emergency response capability. This is a much-needed project that can make a real difference in saving and enriching people's lives. NATO and this Council have expertise to share, and I hope we can count on support from the UN, the EU, and other international bodies.
Of course, the success of the Pact, and the emergency response initiative, depend primarily on the policies and practices of countries in the region.
And today, I want to join Allies and partners in welcoming one of those countries, Croatia, to this Council.
Croatia's new leaders deserve enormous credit for the steps they have taken to bring their land closer to Europe's democratic mainstream, and away from the extreme nationalism that has sometimes plagued Southeast Europe. The new Croatia can be a model for others, and a key contributor to regional security and peace.
During the last decade, the Partnership for Peace and the EAPC achieved two important objectives. First, we established a means for security cooperation that extends across the entire transatlantic community. The result has been big gains in resolving longstanding diplomatic differences and in improving military-to-military relations.
Second, we have tested the promise of cooperation by putting it into practice, in concrete ways, to ensure stability in Bosnia, and help Kosovo to recover and rebuild.
Looking ahead, we know we have unfinished work to do, and new areas of cooperation to explore.
The Council's working groups on small arms, demining, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance have made great strides. We should continue to move forward in each of these areas.
We should be sure, even as we support stability in Southeast Europe, to give proper attention to other important regions. This calls for an intensified focus on the Caucasus, and the formation of a working group on Central Asia.
The Council would also benefit from improved Partner participation in Allied decision making and planning, so I urge that we fully implement the Political-Military Framework provisions that our leaders agreed to at the Washington Summit.
Finally, while working to improve cooperation between Allies and Partners, we must remember NATO's commitment to enlargement. We all want a Europe whole and free, and the enlargement process remains an essential part of reaching that goal.
So I urge aspiring countries to continue to move forward on their Membership Action Plans, to make themselves the strongest possible candidates for joining the Alliance.
I also want to applaud the statement issued by aspiring members in Vilnius last week. Their support for democratic values; their recognition of the importance of the transatlantic link; and their commitment to do what is necessary to contribute to our common security deserve high praise.
In a few short years, this Partnership Council has made major contributions to peace and security in Europe. As I look around this room, I feel confident that its work is only beginning, and that our nations will continue to strengthen our cooperation on behalf of peace and democratic values for many years to come.
That is good news for us all.
Thank you very much.