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The Bucharest Summit: NATO’s New Perspective

 

Like on so many previous occasions, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance that has throughout the past almost sixty years proved successful in defending and promoting security and shared democratic values, will hold a summit meeting in Bucharest at a moment of critical importance for stability not only for the entire transatlantic community, but way beyond.(03/04/2008)


NATO's 26 member states are facing a number of formidable challenges. Many of these are hard, or even impossible, to predict yet. Substantive responses can only be given to them if the Alliance proves ready and able to advance the process of transformation, which has constituted the bedrock of NATO's achievements in security and attractiveness to new nations to seek membership.

The Alliance has been capable of constantly adapting itself to the ever evolving and changing security conditions by embracing new missions, admitting new allies and establishing new partnerships. All this must be closely accompanied by a continuous development and expansion of its varied capabilities, a process that has been figuring high on NATO's agenda, particularly since the Prague Summit in 2002.

But transformation will only be effective in bringing about the desired results if the Alliance maintains, and even enhances, its cohesion. This, in turn, requires each and every Ally to act for a spirit of consensus, to which commitments and sacrifices are required. In joint undertakings each and every ally, big or small, has to take its share. Hungary and the Czech Republic have been definitely living up to such expectations, and are committed to doing so in the future, as well.

Our two countries share a thousand years of history. Both have developed autonomously but have at the same time reflected the same historical impulses, cultural as well as political. Both societies have learned to embrace the same ideals. Today we view each other as fair and trustworthy allies, which is not always the case in today's Europe.

We are grateful to all who have helped this tradition and have contributed to the development of honorable and neighborly relations even in more troubled times. Lasting sympathy of the Czech society is connected with the 1956 Hungarian uprising that showed that dictatorship cannot be tolerated even at the highest price. And in the seventies and eighties, Hungary became an island of cultural freedom, especially for young Czechs. The work of Czech artists has touched the Hungarian public as well as their countrymen. Such experiences are binding.

The continuation of NATO's ISAF operation in Afghanistan, and ultimately completing it with success, represents one of the most demanding challenges NATO has ever faced. Also, it is perhaps the most demanding and most complex military operation, with decisive effects on the present and the future of the Alliance. Besides the contribution to security and stability, NATO countries, and partners, are also offering a wide range of development assistance to support the emergence of a society capable to sustain its own aspirations. The Czech Republic and Hungary have already been playing a full part in this multicomplex undertaking and are committed to doing so in the future, as well.

The other major challenge NATO is facing is Kosovo, which is certainly the most complicated and neuralgic security issue in Europe today. The situation that has emerged after the declaration of independence carries a number of sensitivities, threats and therefore potential conflicts. It is, therefore, imperative for the Alliance to act in unison, both politically and operationally. This also goes for the European Union, as it is about to launch its own rule of law mission there. No wonder that the soon parallel operation on the ground calls for closer NATO-EU cooperation at political level as well. This is the only way to ensure that all parties involved demonstrate self-restraint and constructiveness. NATO no doubt has a key role to play in making sure that a better future for the region will not remain wishful thinking only.

Under such circumstances, NATO, on the one hand, is expected to uphold its strong military presence in order to help preserving safety and security in and around Kosovo. This is all the more so since developments in Kosovo as well as in Serbia may have a crucial impact on the realities in the Western Balkans. A new situation, on the other hand, will require NATO to seriously consider and ultimately take decisions on other ways to promote the stabilization of Kosovo. Also, stability in the entire Western Balkan region must be tangibly advanced. To this, the completion of the Euro-Atlantic integration of all countries in the region could offer the anchor to security and prosperity.

NATO now has a chance, and a moral obligation, to make a substantial contribution to this objective at the Bucharest Summit by inviting Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into its ranks, as it was envisaged at the Riga summit in November 2006. This would be a major step on the part of the Alliance, and constitute a milestone in the process of bringing lasting security and stability to this previously war-torn region. They have been making steady progress to meet the conditions of accession to the Alliance, and it is the historic moment to prove that NATO really means business. The inclusion of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia to NATO's Partnership for Peace, a program for extensive cooperation with countries interested in a meaning partnership with the Alliance, also sent a firm message on the prospect of integration, and also constitutes a useful instrument in promoting democratic reform.

A decision on inviting new members must, of course, abide by the principle of judging candidates on the basis of individual performance and merits. No country ready and able should be delayed in its well-deserved aspiration just because others are not yet able to live up to NATO's expectations. That said, particularly in light of the situation in the region, we must also take into consideration the aspect of regional stability. The three aspirant countries established broad cooperation on versatile areas among themselves that has an important bearing on the region. Also, their future perspective of membership will undoubtedly encourage the Partnership for Peace group to mature through preparations and work hard on reforms and results.

It is our firm belief that a broadest possible next wave of enlargement embracing Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would be the best way to advance the security landscape on the entire Western Balkan region and beyond. With a target date in hand, they further consolidated the necessary reforms and achieved remarkable progress, including the fight against corruption and organized crime. All three countries have already proved that they are ready and capable to provide added value to NATO in implementing important military missions in their own region as well as elsewhere, like ISAF in Afghanistan. Their participation in NATO-led peace support operations has perhaps been the most visible and convincing evidence of their ability to bring something to the party.

It is our strong conviction that such an impressive record in terms of reforms and achievements would have been less likely without the perspective of Euro-Atlantic integration. Czechs and Hungarians know this from experience. And like other countries that have since been welcomed to the club, the three aspirant nations also know that advancing this process forward will not end with an invitation. On the contrary, it will only be the beginning of meeting the standards, as they will be set even higher. Both Hungary and the Czech Republic will be there to provide political support, as well as practical advice and assistance, throughout the process of preparation, to successfully fulfilling their aspiration.

To conclude, we believe it is high time that, as on previous occasions in NATO's history at important crossroads for the future of security in Europe, the Allies close ranks and take courageous decisions. The Bucharest Summit will be a great opportunity to once again demonstrate to the world that NATO has not only had a past it can be proud of, but also has a promising future. NATO must not miss this opportunity. NATO will not miss this opportunity. And we all, current and future allies, as well as other countries around, will only be profiting from it.

Dr. Kinga Göncz
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Republic of Hungary

Karel Schwarzenberg
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Czech Republic

April 3, 2008

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