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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Thomas Pickering, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Address to the Slovak Foreign Policy Association,
Bratislava, Slovakia, February 4, 2000
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As delivered

A Transatlantic Community for the 21st Century

Thank you Mrs. Vasaryova and all members of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association for cosponsoring this event. I would also like to acknowledge Mr. Peter Weiss, chairman of the foreign relations committee and Mr. Vladimir Palko, chairman of the defense committee. Thank you both for coming. It is a very great privilege to be here today. In the Primate's Palace, culture and history are intertwined, as in so much of your country.

Slovakia's Example

Voltaire wrote, "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." In Slovakia, has fear of a government in the wrong ever extinguished the flame? Slovakia's history is the story of brave men and women who never gave up their vision of a free, independent, and secure nation; who never let go their sense of what was right, no matter how wrong the government was or how dangerous the consequences of dreaming out loud.

From the earliest centuries of rebellion against foreign rule to the national revival in the 18th and 19th centuries and the Slovak National Uprising's courageous bid to break from the grasp of Nazism, Slovakia kept its dream alive. In 1968, Alexander Dubcek -- a Slovak -- introduced the Prague Spring reforms. Tanks rolled in but never rolled over that vision. A dozen years ago, velvet triumphed over steel, in student protests that began here. And when the time came to separate, Czechs and Slovaks did so in peace, setting an example for civility and understanding that others might well follow. Because of you and others across the continent who insisted that it was time to return to Europe, we have entered a new world. That is why it is an honor to be here today.

The U.S. Vision for Europe

What new world have we entered? When the words, "a Europe whole and free," a community of nations from Vancouver to Vladivostok were uttered -- not many years ago chronologically but an eon ago politically -- they were words to inspire a new future; they were not yet words that described the present. And yet, with the spark that was struck here at the center of Europe, those words are becoming reality for millions of people.

I harbor an abiding hope for our future -- for you in Slovakia, for Americans, and for our entire transatlantic community. We are creating the largest partnership of free and independent countries the world has ever seen. Devoted to peace and connected by choice, the transatlantic community allows our citizens to live in hope, not fear; our governments to work together, not in opposition; and people around the world to believe that freedom and respect for human rights are possible. Remember how often war has burned Europe and how history is replete with one European country invading another! The reality of our transatlantic community says to all: Enemies can reconcile and when they do they can create a better future for and with their citizens.


Together with all our partners in the transatlantic community, my country's goal is to secure this new peace. That is why the United States is committed to enlarging NATO, to helping those who want to join, and to ensuring that those who prefer not to join can be our strong and reliable partners through the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC).

Secretary Albright said to you in November, "The United States supports Slovakia's desire to become a member of NATO and believes that NATO is the best guarantor of a peaceful, prosperous, and undivided Europe." I urge you to become the best candidate you can be for NATO, the best partner you can be now, and that you help us give further life to the promise of the EAPC.

At the NATO summit last April, the concept of the Membership Action Plan was adopted to help guide countries through the process. We look forward to working with Slovakia as it implements its plan and makes its forces more interoperable with NATO forces. In that regard, I am confident that the assessment our Department of Defense will provide you this spring will be of assistance.

Securing the peace is a joint task, not something any one country can guarantee for all others. That is why NATO and the United States were thankful for Slovakia's key support during the Kosovo crisis. We also are impressed by the expertise Foreign Minister Kukan provides as a United Nations Special Envoy for the Balkans and we are grateful for his service. By the same token, Slovakia's contributions to peacekeeping around the world are extremely valuable. I thank you for your willingness to reach beyond your own borders and make a strong contribution to international stability.

Democracy and Prosperity

The United States believes that the freedom that each country has bravely won must endure. That is why we are working with young democracies as they take dramatic and painful steps to strengthen their new political and economic systems.

In Slovakia, the United States is supporting democratic and economic reform, whether through cooperation with your vibrant civil society or through support for such crucial efforts as restructuring Slovakia's banking and financial sector.

I know circumstances can be tough and that some people in Slovakia are discouraged. Indeed, the delay in reform has exacted a painful price. However, Slovakia is now on the right path as it begins to implement difficult and important reforms, including those required for EU accession. There is much hard work to do, but the people of Slovakia have shown throughout history that they do not shrink from a challenge. Now is the time for all reform-minded forces here to work together to help make up for lost time. Political stability is key to Slovakia achieving its integration goals. With courage, ingenuity, and commitment to reform, the final victory will be yours.

I am certain that Slovakia not only will succeed but that Slovakia in turn will help those countries in Europe that also are on this path. Your experience with citizen-driven democratic and legal reform at home can be extremely valuable to those in eastern and southeastern Europe who are undertaking their own transitions.

The same is true of Slovakia's relations with the wider world. Your active participation in the World Trade Organization can help pave the way for others in Europe who have not yet joined.

European Integration

The U.S. envisions a transatlantic community in which all countries look to their neighbors as partners, not as threats. That is why the United States strongly supports European integration and the expansion of NATO and the European Union. Indeed, our entire foreign policy, for many decades, has had as its starting point an unshakeable commitment to Europe. That commitment is enduring. It rests on the premise that European countries are equally committed to the relationship.

We are very pleased that the EU is moving toward expansion, and we are confident you will help us ensure that United States trade, investment, and political interests are preserved and protected. Likewise, we support the European Union's dream of a stronger, more unified defense and foreign policy. Done right, ESDP can strengthen all of us. There are four issues for us:

NATO First. We believe that crises require swift, coordinated action. If NATO members and partners wish to join an effort, it would be fruitless, even dangerous, to delay action while a debate took place over whether the EU or NATO will lead. NATO should lead.

Capabilities. ESDP will mean little without improved capabilities. As much as possible, these improvements should be pursued through established NATO defense planning and Partnership for Peace mechanisms.

Participation. Non-EU members must be included in EU military planning and operations. This is especially urgent both to encourage European integration, rather than working against it, and for a straight-up security reason: Other countries could be dragged into a conflict initially engaged by the EU. The EU has more work to do on this front.

NATO-EU Links. Maximum transparency and practical working arrangements are essential. The EU needs to move forward on this. In short, ESDI is the issue we have to get right, with all members of the transatlantic community playing a role and having a voice.

OSCE: Building a New Future

My country believes the future can be different from the past. Rebuilding the Maria Valeria bridge to relink Sturovo, Slovakia, and Esztergom, Hungary, is a powerful symbol for the 21st century. It shows the world that the past cannot be forgotten but that it can be redeemed. You are building a bridge others would do well to cross. You are setting an example for other people in Europe.

By the same token, the worst parts of the past must not be repeated. That is why NATO requires aspirants to settle disputes. That is why the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is so vitally important. It is said that the past is prologue, but to what? To a better future or to a scarred and discouraged one? The OSCE is seeking to resolve disputes before shots are fired, blood is shed, or memories of violence and violation are imposed upon future generations.

Under the OSCE umbrella, the entire transatlantic community works together. Sometimes with trumpets blaring but most often quietly and away from the headlines, the OSCE helps to resolve tensions, especially within borders. At the OSCE summit in Istanbul, our leaders agreed to give the OSCE another tool to prevent conflict: REACT, a civilian rapid reaction force, to help OSCE states reduce tensions. As we determined in Istanbul, security within states is everyone's business and the OSCE has to be adequately prepared to help promote such stability.

The OSCE is equipping itself for the future, and the appointment of a son of Slovakia, Jan Kubis as Secretary General ensures that it will succeed. Here again, Slovakia has set an example for others.

Unfinished Business: Russia

If our goal is a transatlantic community in which neighbors see each other as partners, not as threats; a transatlantic community of free and independent countries who work together; and a transatlantic community that is whole, then we cannot disregard Russia. Russia clearly is at a delicate stage in its transition and the decisions it makes today will shape the kind of future Russia has -- both how its citizens live and its role in the world.

For our part, the U.S. remains deeply committed to engagement with Russia. The stakes are high and it is important that the U.S. and Russia continue to work for common approaches on issues ranging from strategic arms control and non-proliferation to European integration, the Middle East Peace Process, Iraq, and respect for human rights. Secretary Albright was just in Moscow to discuss and pursue common approaches on these issues.

Ultimately, it is Russians who must choose their path and Russians who must shape their own future. Of course, we cannot turn a blind eye to that which we find dangerous and wrong. While we support the territorial integrity of Russia and Russia's right to root out terrorists, we cannot agree with Russia's methods in Chechnya.

Likewise, the Russian Government has not yet met all of our expectations on economic reform, good governance and transparency. And yet we cannot turn our backs on this important country or on the Russian people. We need to give the new Duma and the next democratically elected president time -- time to enact the full suite of legislation needed to realize the promise of Russian democracy and economic liberty, time to perform effectively -- even as our skepticism has been increased by the recent surprising deal for the leadership of the Duma.

Unfinished Business: Southeastern Europe

Likewise, the transatlantic community cannot consider itself complete until all people in southeastern Europe are free from fear, free of war, and certain of democracy. No more sobering fact confronts us than that more Europeans have died violently since the Cold War ended than during it.

Bringing southeastern Europe fully into our transatlantic community is a challenge too complex to solve alone. The United States, the European Union, and countries in the region that have successfully reformed are reaching out through the Stability Pact to help stabilize southeastern Europe. In Sarajevo, our leaders agreed to a straightforward arrangement: We and our European partners will work to stabilize and transform the countries of southeastern Europe and integrate them into the European and transatlantic mainstream. We have made a respectable start.

Some of our accomplishments include: a regional anti-corruption initiative and a regional investment compact to promote private enterprise, a Business Advisory Council for the region, agreement to seize or destroy illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons, and common efforts to promote free and independent media and examine the teaching of history.

The countries of the region, for their part, must tackle corruption at its roots, create conditions conducive to private enterprise, eliminate barriers to the flow of goods, people, and ideas; respect human rights, promote free and independent media, advance democracy and the rule of law; and cooperate to create a sense of confidence and security within and between the young democracies of the region. Together, we must stand with them. Slovakia can provide a strong example. Indeed, we are relying on Europe's younger democracies. As different as your histories and cultures may be, you, far more recently than we, have transformed your countries. In the case of Slovakia, you also have recent experience in banding together as citizens to build a stronger democracy. That know-how will be of great help to others who are still struggling to realize the full scope of freedom -- including the Serbs.

I have been inspired by the work of non-governmental organizations -- what you in Slovakia call the Third Sector -- and of the political parties, media, and others. I urge you to share widely the Slovak experience of developing a strong and vibrant civil society that amplifies the voice of the people and ensures their active participation in governance. Your commitment, experience, and creativity are essential if we are to complete our dream of a fully democratic transatlantic community. No country understands the importance of this project more than Slovakia. Slovak statesman and intellectual Milan Hodza once said, "I am convinced that the future of Central Europe and European peace in general lies in its unity." I thank you for your contributions to unity and for the efforts of all Slovaks as they pass the flame to those still in the cold.

Looking Beyond our Borders

Together, we can aim still higher and farther. Our agenda regards not only what we can do in and for our transatlantic community, but what we can do in and for the wider world. On our very best days, we in the transatlantic community cooperate on issues that transcend our borders, from countries in crisis to issues such as the environment, disease, trafficking of human beings, and terrorism. We work together on preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and on nuclear safety, including in Ukraine and Russia. Those problems know no borders and can be overcome only with the united efforts of our transatlantic community. Slovakia's voice and expertise are essential in this common effort.

Choosing Each Other

In our transatlantic community, we are joined together by choice, not command. Does this mean we will easily agree on every trade or political issue before us? Of course not. If that were the case, it would be a Europe of command, not choice. The strength of democracies is the wisdom that comes from multiple voices and the competition of ideas. This is equally true of a partnership among democracies. There will be differences of opinion. There will be outright competition. Our task is to manage these differences and to seek creative compromise.

We have to deal constructively with differences that arise among the countries of our community, whether over trade, the ABM treaty, ESDP, international issues, or the evolution of our institutions. We must all keep our eyes on the larger good. At no time in history in any part of the world has such a large group of nations agreed to partnership. To squander that over any one issue would be a tragedy of historic proportion.

Today, I have set out a vision for our transatlantic community. Sadly, there are a few on both sides of the Atlantic who contest this vision and who would rather stand apart than together. They are missing the forces of history and integration. Indeed, those who would pit one part of our transatlantic community against another would undermine all that we have achieved together, from World War II to the post-Cold War era, and all that we can achieve in the future, from completing European integration to working together internationally. None of us can let that view triumph -- not those of us who have been joined in friendship and sacrifice for 50 years and not those who courageously tore down the iron curtain, restored their democracies, and joined the transatlantic community. I ask you to add your voice in support of those who believe strength comes from unity.

Secretary Albright said, "To those inclined now to build a new wall, this time not across Europe but across the Atlantic, I say we have had enough of walls." We have indeed had enough of walls! The value of the transatlantic community is that we define ourselves by what we are for, not by what we are against. The strength of the transatlantic community is in our diversity. This is not a community by command, it is a community by choice. This is not a community in which only large countries and large organizations have a voice. This is a community made rich, made strong, and made whole by the sum of all our parts -- by the contributions of every organization, by the unique vision each country offers, and by the wonderful minds, souls, and aspirations of our citizens.

As a citizen, I am fortunate that individuals around the world have set wrong governments right -- whether the bold figures we can name, such as Nelson Mandela and Alexander Dubcek, or the hundreds of students who demonstrated here, in Bratislava, on November 16, 1989, or the thousands upon thousands of people who have dared to dream out loud. As a diplomat, I look back on the last 10 years and forward to the next decade, and I want to say to everyone: Thank you for a job well done. The world is better than it was and there is no greater gift we can offer the next generation. With all our partners, east and west, large and small, on one side of the Atlantic or the other, let us together complete the work before us.

[end of document]

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