Updated: 26-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches


26 March 2003


by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson,
at the press conference following
the signature of Accession Protocols

Ladies and gentlemen,

In these difficult times, it is a pleasure to see you here at an event, which is quite simply, good news. The signing of the NATO accession protocols for Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia is another important step on the road to the biggest enlargement in the Alliance’s history. This is our big bang. It marks a vital stage in the growth of a Euro Atlantic community, with great promise for security and stability on both sides of the Atlantic.

You have heard the formal statements made this afternoon. They speak for themselves and they all, I hope, convey the satisfaction and pleasure throughout this headquarters and this Alliance on this very special day.

Soon the representatives of the seven governments who today took their seats temporarily at the NATO table will have the names of their countries permanently displayed at that table as full members. The new contours of the transatlantic security architecture are being drawn in front of your very eyes. NATO, by its power and unity won the cold war, and now it is restructuring, evolving and enlarging to play an equally important role in protecting our future security as well.

So the most important consequences of the accession protocols lie ahead. New members will bring fresh blood and ideas. They will also bring the experiences, often harsh, which taught them the true value of freedom, democracy and collective security. All seven countries worked very hard to meet the high standards characterising this Alliance. All of them have earned their invitation.

Today’s signature opens the way for the ratification process in the 19 NATO parliaments. It is a crucial phase where democratic review procedures will be exercised to the fullest by these national parliaments. The invitees must face the spotlight and they must continue to push through their reforms.

Joining NATO involves becoming a member of a team, and like all the best teams, success depends on everyone working together. The huge benefits also involve serious obligations. Their record so far provides the best reassurance that they are now going to rise to this challenge.

Can I just say a little unscripted word, since in this audience today, I recognise so many of the press from the invited countries who have pursued me during the three and a half years that I have been Secretary General of NATO, asking exactly the same question in a thousand different varieties. I congratulate you and I thank you for your persistence but also for getting the message over of how important this whole process was. So the media is here and it is through the media, in NATO countries and in the invited nations’ countries, that we get our message across, that we are an Alliance for the future and an Alliance strengthened today and making the world a safer and better place for future generations.

I am now ready to take your questions.

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