NATO invites Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic to join
Alliance makes no promises to Romania, Slovenia
July 8, 1997
Web posted at: 2:25 p.m. EDT (1825 GMT)
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- It's official: NATO Tuesday formally
invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- all former
Warsaw Pact countries -- to join the alliance at the end of
this century. It would be the biggest single expansion of the
Western alliance in its 48-year history.
In a clear victory for U.S. President Bill Clinton's
diplomatic efforts, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said
"NATO remains open to new members" but limited its
first-round expansion to the three countries.
Clinton called it a "very great day" for the cause of
freedom. "We bridged the chasm in history and began the
journey to a new Europe and a new century," he told Americans
at the U.S. Embassy.
The invitation was a setback for France's effort to
immediately include Romania and Slovenia -- two other
remnants of the old Soviet bloc.
The final communique singled out the two countries for making
progress toward admission, but did not set a firm date for an
"We recognize with great interest ... partial developments
toward democracy and the rule of law in a number of
southeastern European countries, especially Romania and
Slovenia," Solana said, citing a recognized need to build
greater stability and security in southeast Europe.
Solana also left open the possibility that former Soviet
states in the Baltic region might be candidates for
admission, saying that aspiring members there had made
progress "toward greater stability and cooperation."
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The secretary-general emphasized that "no European democracy"
which had fulfilled NATO's requirements for membership would
be excluded from consideration.
The official declaration gave favorable mention to the Baltic
states without specifically naming the former Soviet
republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Russia has warned
that it would consider NATO membership by the Baltics as a
threat to its own security.
Clinton, who pushed for the three-nation limit at the current
summit, said of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic:
"These are the countries who have proved their readiness to
join us at this table."
The three nations are expected to become NATO members at the
alliance's 50th anniversary summit in April 1999.
Each invited country must first enter into specific
negotiations about military and other membership
requirements, and the member nations must each individually
approve adding the new countries to the alliance.
Clinton had alerted NATO allies in June that the United
States would insist that the initial expansion include only
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
With the U.S. position firm, the key dispute at the summit
was whether the allies should commit themselves now to
including Slovenia and Romania in the next round of
France and other European allies sought a specific pledge
that the two countries would be invited to join NATO in 1999.
The United States argued that such a commitment would
automatically close off the next enlargement group and might
take the steam out of economic and military reforms in other
countries seeking membership.
After Solana's announcement, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez
Drnosvek said he was disappointed that his country was not
among those invited in this round.
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"Already a month ago, Slovenia was told it won't be in the
first group. That was accepted in Slovenia ... but it has not
shaken our European-Atlantic aspirations," he said. He
added, "Slovenia has not been given any good explanation" why
it is not being invited now.
NATO was established to confront the Soviet Union along
Europe's East-West divide. Now members of the disbanded
Soviet-led Warsaw bloc are in a Western embrace. Although
Russia has signed a security pact with NATO, it still opposes
alliance expansion into formerly communist Eastern Europe.
Poland, eager to join the alliance, watched the summit
closely for news of the invitation.
"The day when Poland is invited to negotiations on NATO
membership has a chance of going down in history as the end
of the Yalta order in Europe," PAP news agency quoted Prime
Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz as saying.
Opening the delicate discussions, Solana called Tuesday's
meeting "a defining moment for NATO."
"Madrid will be remembered as the time when North America and
Europe came together to shape the course of a new century,"
Solana said in opening the summit. "United by common purpose
and shared values, the new alliance stands ready to shape a
brighter, more secure future."
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