Today our countries - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - are becoming members of the North Atlantic Alliance. NATO will now unite 26 Allies. This is a historical accomplishment for our countries, for NATO, for Europe, for the whole Euro-Atlantic community.
Membership in NATO is the achievement of our longstanding goal to rejoin the Euro-Atlantic family of nations. By virtue of our culture and values, we always felt that we belonged to this family from which we were separated. This round of NATO enlargement, the biggest ever, embraces countries from the Baltic to the Adriatic and the Black Seas. It represents another important step towards the fulfilment of our joint vision of an undivided, democratic and peaceful Europe. Today, nearly 50 million more people in Europe will feel more secure in the knowledge that history will not repeat itself.
We are well aware that NATO membership is not a one-way street. For us, the benefits of membership go hand in hand with obligations. We are ready to assume those responsibilities, and to contribute politically, as well as militarily, to our common endeavour of making our neighbourhood and that of others a safe place to live.
Each of the new members is a contributor to peace and security. We bring our unique experience, strategic value, capabilities and knowledge to the Alliance. We are sharing our firsthand experience in political, economic and military transformation with other countries. Our integration processes can be a model for extending the area of freedom, democracy and stability towards Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Black Sea region, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. We also bring new military capabilities to the Alliance. These capabilities have already been put to the test in various NATO missions from the Western Balkans to Afghanistan. We are determined to improve them even further. On our way to NATO, we launched the Vilnius process, which promoted cooperation over competition. This spirit of solidarity will now help us work within NATO in a consensual manner. It will reenergize the Alliance and make it stronger.
We are entering NATO on the eve of its 55th anniversary. By signing the North Atlantic Treaty on the 4th of April 1949, twelve Allies undertook "to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law". This commitment is as vital today as it was in past decades. It is so not despite, but because of the nature of the security environment, which has changed so dramatically in recent years.
The current security agenda of NATO is a challenging one: tackling the new threats of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their deadly nexus; carrying out ongoing operations from Kosovo to Afghanistan; further enhancing relations with 20 Partner States, who want to work with NATO, and assisting the efforts of those that aspire to NATO membership or wish to join its Partnership for Peace; further developing practical cooperation with the Russian Federation; reinforcing the dialogue with the countries of the Mediterranean and also exploring possibilities of engaging countries in the greater Middle East; and all of this while working to upgrade Alliance capabilities for carrying out new tasks.
This ambitious agenda requires a clear focus, determination and commitment to close cooperation within the Alliance. The transatlantic link, which is at the core of NATO, remains essential for the security of the Euro-Atlantic area. We are committed to keep that link because Europe and North America must work together to succeed. NATO-s achievements, including enlargement - a major security milestone in its own right, are proof of that success.
Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Juhan Parts, Prime Minister of Estonia
Indulis Emsis, Prime Minister of Latvia
Algirdas Brazauskas, Prime Minister of Lithuania
Adrian Năstase, Prime Minister of Romania
Mikuláš Dzurinda, Prime Minister of Slovakia
Anton Rop, Prime Minister of Slovenia
March 29, 2004