Seven SFOR TCNs invited to join NATO
Capt. Constantin Spinu
First published in
SFOR Informer#153, December 5, 2002
NATO Heads of State and Government have formally invited
the following countries, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, to Accession Talks with NATO.
Coincidence or not, all these seven nations are already contributing
troops to SFOR.
Prague- The decision was announced during the opening session
of a two-day Summit meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government
in the Czech capital Prague, Nov. 21 and 22. "This has
been a hugely significant decision for NATO, for these seven
countries that we have just invited to start accession talks,
and for the Euro-Atlantic Community," said NATO Secretary
General Lord Robertson when announcing the decision.
The invited countries are expected to join NATO in 2004.
NATO - quick overview
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington on 4 April
1949, creating an alliance of 12 independent nations committed
to each other's defence. Four more European nations later
acceded to the Treaty: Greece and Turkey joined in 1952; Germany
in 1955; Spain in 1982. On Mar. 12, 1999, the Czech Republic,
Hungary and Poland (already members of SFOR) were welcomed
into the Alliance, which now numbers 19 members. This will
be the fifth enlargement in the Alliance's history but other
countries are still to be invited: "Today's the invitees
will not be the last. Through the MAP (Membership Action Plan)
process, we will continue to help you pursue your reform process,
and we remain committed to your full integration into the
Euro-Atlantic family of nations," said Robertson in a
message to those aspiring countries who were not invited to
begin accession talks.
Not if, but when
All the new seven invited countries to join the Alliance are
SFOR Troops Contributing Nations (TCN). Their tasks will not
be changed overnight, they will continue to perform their
missions as usual. Despite this, it is still a significant
change for all NATO personnel. "This is a historical
moment for my country," said Lt. Col. Gabriel Matei of
the Romanian Army. "All my friends belonging to NATO's
nations are looking forward to Romania's accession to NATO:
'It is not a matter of IF, but WHEN' they said and they were
right. I know we still have a lot of other things to do but
the most important step has been taken. As Lord Robertson
said, 'those who say it cannot be done should not disturb
those who are just doing it.'" Fine words. "Because
I am a soldier, I think as a soldier: this invitation means
better co-operation with NATO soldiers as well as a lot of
other opportunities to learn from each other," explained
Maj. Primoz Protner of the Slovenian Army.
Important benefits in several areas
Maj. Iavor Mateev of the Bulgarian Armed Forces felt immensely
proud: "I feel I am a part of this big advance for my
country. Not just me only, but every man and woman in uniform.
The most important benefit coming from this invitation will
be an improvement in the Bulgarian economy. And, of course,
this is important for the entire Balkans area. Together with
Romania, Bulgaria contributes decisively to the stability
in this region."
Lt. Col. Slavomir Milan, Slovakian Army, stated: "We
are finally successful and I am happy. For me, as for many
Slovakians serving in the Armed Forces this means a lot of
opportunities to prove that we can be as well trained as the
other NATO soldiers. Thanks to all NATO countries for their
confidence and support for Slovakian Armed Forces."
And 1Lt. Intars Pazãns, Latvian Army, based in Doboj,
concluded on behalf of the three Baltic countries*: "I
am really proud that Latvia was able to reach the standards,
which were demanded in order to be invited to join the Alliance.
More jobs and new tasks related to joining NATO in 2004 could
be the main change in my duties back home. I do not think
that there will be any sharp changes in my career in nearest
* Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are rotating every six months
as components of the Nordic-Polish (NORDPOL) Battle Group.
Presently, it is the turn of Latvia to be deployed.
Nations of SFOR: Bulgaria,