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 future."

* 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.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia

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Photo: NATO

A view from the Prague Summit.

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The former 19 and the new seven.

Preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty
Washington D.C. - 4 April 1949
The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments.
They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.
They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty.