|Updated: 09-May-2003||NATO Speeches|
8 May 2003
NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Lord Robertson: I've been delighted today to greet President Parvanov to the Headquarters of NATO.
As one of the leaders of the seven invited countries he is very welcome here and of course, next year he will be coming home.
But I think it's entirely appropriate that he should visit me this afternoon only a matter of hours after the United States Senate ratified the accession protocol for Bulgaria by 96 votes to zero.
So this is the third parliament of NATO countries to say yes to Bulgarian membership and we look forward to the rest of those parliaments doing so expeditiously as well.
And I have just had good discussions with the President, who has informed me about the progress being made with reforms in accordance with the promises made by Bulgaria to NATO.
And I've told the President that he and the Bulgarian government and authorities must press on with this reform process because that is the eventual answer to NATO membership.
And the main areas that Bulgaria needs to focus on include the protection of classified NATO information; a continuing determination to stamp out corruption; and of course, further improvements in the quality of public administration.
But everyday Bulgaria is proving that it was a wise decision taken by the NATO heads of state and government at Prague. And we're very pleased with the progress being made and the co-operation given to NATO by Bulgaria.
H.E. Georgi Parvanov (President, Bulgaria): (Interpretation) Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to confess how delighted I am of this... with this one of a series of meetings with the NATO Secretary General. Indeed, it has become a good tradition. Each time I come to Brussels, a visit to NATO headquarters is a part of my visit.
Indeed, the coincidence of this visit with the ratification is a very happy occasion for our country. In my meeting with the Secretary General I presented to him updated information about the progress of our reform, the implementation of Plan 2004, the strategic defence review which is under way, and which will hopefully provide and give a full picture of the Bulgarian... of how the Bulgarian defence would look in the days and months to come and in the longer term.
And while we are satisfied with the positive assessment of what we have achieved, both in Washington, D.C. and here in Brussels, we are aware of the work that remains to be done in all areas, including the further reform process, what remains to be done in respect of the classified... protection of the classified information and on that very painful issue, the control on illicit trade in arms and dual purpose goods, while we take into account all the remarks and recommendations that we hear from our partners in all our meetings and talks. (Interpretation Ends)
Questions and answers:
Q: Mr. Secretary General, Georgi Kourtev, Sega Daily, Sofia. Mr. Secretary General, indeed, great news from Washington today. Nevertheless, this NATO is not working. What kind of NATO is Bulgaria joining?
Lord Robertson: I think some of the permanent questioners here at NATO are staggered by the question.
This is still the most effective, the most efficient, the most rapidly deployable and most popular democratic security alliance in the world.
And that is why Bulgaria wants to join it. The six other invited countries want to join it and others are still lining up.
And if I could just give you two examples of why NATO is so popular. Three weeks ago this Alliance decided to take over the stabilization force in Afghanistan, a continent and a half away from its old centre of gravity.
And on Tuesday of next week the NATO-Russia Council with the 20 countries of NATO and of Russia sitting 'round one table will meet in Moscow, in the capital city of the Russian federation.
So these are just two indications about how NATO is facing up to the challenges of the 21st Century, never mind our great record in the 20th Century.
Q: John Chalmers with Reuters. Mr. President, I was wondering if you could tell us what role you see for Bulgaria in the stabilization force in Iraq and whether you think that NATO should have a role there?
H.E. Georgi Parvanov (President, Bulgaria): (Interpretation) As you know Bulgaria was a member of the coalition which undertook the military operation that deposed Saddam, that removed Saddam Hussein.
Bulgaria was, as I said, a member of the coalition now it has certain commitments. In the post-Saddam era Bulgaria has moral and political commitment to be present there, and both militarily and otherwise through a battalion which will have protective powers and which will work to prevent the chaos which may be attempted to be rigged by certain quarters and forces in that country.
But of course I do hope that this stabilization period will not last long, will be short... maximum short, after which we will have a legitimately elected government, appointed government of Iraq and activities where the United Nations will have a central role to play.
If NATO decides to get engaged there we'll discuss this carefully and we'll pronounce ourselves on that in due course.