Updated: 26-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches


26 March 2003


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Extraordinary meeting of the Council with the participation of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia And Slovenia

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We meet today for an event that is good news for everybody concerned.

Seven countries from across Europe are taking a great stride towards their common goal of membership of NATO’s transatlantic security family.

Doors closed for decades by artificial divisions of the Cold War were opened last November at Prague and the seven invited countries are now moving smoothly through them.

Today, the 19 Permanent Representatives to the North Atlantic Council will sign the Protocols of Accession to NATO for Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

This is - by far the largest number of countries ever to join NATO at once.

Nothing could illustrate better the profound transformation of both Europe and our Atlantic Alliance itself.

Today’s ceremony is a vindication of the vision of all those who have, for many years, sought to anchor their countries firmly to a Europe with which they share democratic values.

This ceremony today is a testament to the hard work of all those who have been involved in turning that vision into a reality.

Now we can look ahead with confidence to the process of ratification of the Protocols of Accession by NATO member states.

And we look forward to the successful outcome of this process, and to welcoming our seven future Allies as full members at our next Summit Meeting in May 2004.

However, while the ratification process moves to the 19 Alliance capitals, NATO Allies expect the invited countries to continue to vigorously pursue the reform programmes that they have pledged, to ensure that they can make a meaningful contribution to this Alliance.

All seven countries have drawn up timetables for completion of necessary reforms which will enable them to do so, and they will continue to work through the Membership Action Plan, to carry forward all of these reforms.

I am certain that future historians will recognise that this decision to open NATO's doors has been a turning point in the building of a Europe reunited and free: a Europe united in peace, democracy and common values, from the Baltics to the Balkans, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

A Europe united in an unbreakable bond with North America.

And as NATO’s Presidents and Prime Ministers said last November in Prague, today’s invitees will not be the last.

NATO’s door remains open.

Joining NATO will bring enormous benefits to our new members.

A seat at the table where key decisions are taken to shape and to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security.

A role in the planning and conduct of major military operations.

And, of course, the ultimate security guarantee of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

To the Foreign Ministers of the seven invited countries gathered here today, let me, in the name of the North Atlantic Council, offer my deepest congratulations to you and to your people.

You have shown vision and determination.

You have made the deep changes and forced the pace of reform.

You have made the grade and accepted the responsibilities of being a NATO member.

In a time when we are constantly reminded not to take our security for granted, today's ceremony is a significant and inspiring example that if we stand firm in defence of our values, we can genuinely change history -- for our countries, and for the Euro-Atlantic Community that we are building together.

Together, we make our neighbourhood a safer and more secure place.


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