STATEMENT BY SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA
Palacio de Congresos
SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Today the heads of state and government have agreed to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to begin accession talks with NATO. Our goal is to sign the protocol of accession at the time of the ministerial meeting in December 1997, and to see the ratification process completed in time for membership to become effective by the 50th anniversary of the Washington Treaty in April 1999.
We reaffirm that NATO remains open to new members under Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The Alliance will continue to welcome new members in the position to further the principles of the treaty and contribute to the security in the Euro Atlantic area.
The Alliance expects to extend further invitations in coming -- and NATO will maintain an active relationship with those nations that have expressed an interest in NATO membership, as well as those who may wish to seek membership in the future. Those nations who previously expressed an interest in becoming NATO members but were not invited to begin accession talks today will remain under consideration for future membership. No European democracy whose submission will fulfill the objectives of the treaty will be excluded from consideration.
In keeping with our pledge to maintain an open door to the admission of additional Alliance members in the future, we also direct the NATO foreign ministers keep that process under continual review and report to heads of state. We will review the process at our next meeting in 1999.
With regard to those foreign members, we recognize with great interest and take account of the positive developments toward democracy and the rule of law in a number of southeastern*
European countries, especially Romania and Slovenia. The Alliance recognizes the need to build greater stability, security and regional cooperation in the countries of southeast Europe and in promoting their increasing integration into the Euro Atlantic community. At the same time, we recognize the progress achieved
towards greater stability and cooperation by the states in the Baltic region, who are also aspiring members. As we look to the future of the Alliance, progress with these objectives will be important to our overall goal of a free, prosperous and undivided Europe at peace.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
My dear friends, we come to an end of this historical summit. But before we close this meeting, let me note that this will be the last time our two major NATO commanders SACEUR and SACLANT will address a meeting of this nature. Both General Joulwan and General Sheehan have served the Alliance in this country with great success, with great distinction, and are deserving of the highest praise. They have guided their commands extremely effectively through the complex changes and important challenges that have faced the Alliance through their terms.
George, John, the Alliance is deeply grateful for your many contributions. We will miss you and we wish you all the best for the future. George and John, thank you very much. (Applause.)
I thank you very much for your cooperation. I apologize to the media for keeping you waiting for a few minutes. And the meeting is adjourned.
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