Updated: 28-Jan-2003 NATO Speeches



Announcement on Enlargement

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Heads of State and Government

From its inception, NATO has never been an exclusive organisation. From 12 original countries, we enlarged successively to 14, 15, 16 and then, in 1999, to 19.

NATO’s door is still open. In 1999, NATO leaders set up a Membership Action Plan to assist countries across Europe to prepare for eventual membership. Aspirant countries have been working hard to modernise and reform their armed forces, and to meet NATO’s very high standards on values, the rule of law and robust democratic institutions.

All aspirants have been faced with tough and difficult decisions. It is a reflection of their political determination to join NATO that they have met this challenge.

In June last year, NATO leaders announced their intention to issue further invitations to join the Alliance.

Since then, we have been working to ensure that NATO itself is ready to enlarge. As a result of a comprehensive internal reform process, an organisation designed originally for 12 members will be ready to operate as effectively with over twice that number.

We can therefore say with complete confidence that this round of enlargement will maintain and increase NATO’s strength, cohesion and vitality, and that it is not directed against the security interests of any partner state.

You have recently received a Comprehensive report on the enlargement process. Today, we decide on further invitations to countries to begin Accession Talks.

This is a crucially important decision where consensus among Allies has emerged gradually over the last few months. I believe that consensus has now been reached. I therefore put to the Heads of State and Government of NATO that they agree that we invite to Accession talks with NATO the following nations: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. I take it that this is agreed – the Council has so decided.

Having reached this momentous decision, I would now like to give the floor to the members of the NAC at Heads of State and Government level.

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