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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Ministerial Meeting of Vilnius 9 (9 NATO Aspirants and 3 New NATO Members), NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium, December 15, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BERZINS: On behalf of all nine ministers of NATO candidate countries, let me welcome you, Madame Secretary and the Czech, Hungarian and Polish colleagues to our meeting.

We have just now reviewed our cooperation among the nine candidates and discussed the further steps we are going to take in this format in the course of the next year. And we have agreed on a joint statement in support of NATO enlargement. We reaffirmed the commitment of our countries to the completion of a Europe whole and free and our determination to join the Alliance at the next summit in 2002. We support the objective of NATO and the EU to stabilize Southeastern Europe and are ready to contribute to this process. We agreed to continue to pursue a policy towards Russia designed to ensure mutually beneficial practical cooperation on the basis of equality and spirit of good neighborliness.

Let me also say how much my colleagues and I value the engagement with the United States on the matter of NATO enlargement. U.S. involvement has been, is and will continue to be crucial for Europe's future. We have enjoyed working with you, Madame Secretary, and we hope to be able to count on the leadership of the next U.S. administration as well.

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER BARTOSZEWSKI: (English translation) Poland has always wanted to have the policy of open doors at NATO. Taking into consideration our road to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, our support for the integration activities of the aspiring countries is a natural result of our own experience.

Another thing Poland wants to emphasize is our readiness -- and also to repeat -- our offer of consultations concerning security policy including our experiences from the accession process as well as of assistance in the preparation of the annual national integration programs with the states which express such an interest.

I think it would be worth thinking about the organization of a meeting which would be devoted to the analysis of the nine participating countries in the Membership Action Plan after the spring NATO session in May next year.

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MARTONYI: I don't want to repeat what has already been said by Minister Bartoszewski. I associate myself with everything which he has just said. We are ourselves deeply interested in seeing invitations to be issued in 2002 for starting accession talks with NATO. We work on the joint activities pursued by the nine countries aspiring for NATO membership in the Vilnius framework as a useful tool to demonstrate their commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration, and to prove that their mutual relationship is characterized by cooperation and coordination.

We appreciate the mature attitude of the Vilnius 9 towards the preparation process. They fully understand that the success of the Vilnius framework depends on their social and economic stability, efficiency of their military reforms, and their performance in the framework of the Membership Action Plan. We understand that the best support Hungary can offer to the aspirant countries is to prove that the previous wave of enlargement was a success story. Beyond that, Hungary is extending a helping hand to all aspirants according to their wish in fulfilling the criteria. Hungary encourages all aspirants to continue the implementation of the annual national plan and their cooperation in the Vilnius Framework.

CZECH REPUBLIC FOREIGN MINISTER KAVAN: Thank you. I also do not want to repeat everything that was said. Just let me say that I would like to use this opportunity first of all to thank Her Excellency Madeline Albright for all the help she gave all of us. And for her support, not only in the course of our accession, but also in the period of the Czech adjustment to NATO business. Needless to say that the Czech Republic is among the active supporters of the open door policy and could be considered as living proof of its implementation. As new members we hope to develop MAP, which was lunched in Washington, and we follow closely its ongoing implementation and hope you find it as what it was designed for -- a useful, practical instrument assisting you in your preparations for possible future membership. We can see you take the process seriously and you have all made significant progress during the first year of MAP implementation. However, as we experienced similar problems that those of you encounter within its implementation, we can understand that a lot remains to be done in the same areas. We have been and will always be more than happy to share our experience and provide you with the frank feedback, which we consider one key MAP purpose.

And, finally let me say that we are sincerely looking forward to hosting the next summit in Prague in the year 2002. And one more time I would like to thank, express the thanks of the Czech Republic, to Madame Albright. Thank you.

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you very much indeed. Once again I want to repeat again. You know that how important it is your engagement, your support of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, for all nine of us. Your cooperation with us is in great importance to us to reach our common goal: to build the Europe whole and free.

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MIHAILOVA: I would like to express on behalf of the whole nine countries our great thanks to the Secretary of State, Mrs. Albright. We would like to present to her a small piece of art, and this piece of art symbolizes the explosion of our aspirations for NATO membership. The big bang, that's the way we name it, portrays the race of the hopes of the nations of eastern Europe to overcome the Yalta division of Europe. And we hope that with this piece of art you will take with you also a piece of our hopes, of our will, of our aspirations and our strong commitments to democracy and liberty and please, Madeleine, this is our small present for you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is great. Thank you. And it's symbolically appropriate.

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BERZINS: Now, it is my honor and pleasure to ask Madame Albright to say some words to us, please.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I can't say how pleased I am to have the opportunity to meet with all of you here and -- although it's a very brief meeting because of all of our requirements -- to have the opportunity to get together with NATO's newest members and those who aspire to become members when the next round of NATO enlargement occurs. Since 1994, when President Clinton first outlined his vision of a new NATO for the 21st century, America has welcomed and encouraged those European democracies who have expressed an interest in adding their strength to ours in the NATO Alliance. I think that you -- the three new members and aspiring members -- are what is going to make NATO relevant.

We all have talked about NATO's relevance in the 21sth century, and making sure that it has you as new members is part of what this story is all about. I have another month in office so some -- despite the fact everybody is saying wonderful things that one usual hears at a funeral -- but as I look back on what it is that I have done, both as a UN Ambassador and a Secretary of State, it is my job to be interested in all parts of the world but those of you who know me well know that my heart is in this work. And, I think that of the things that I am proudest of, the accession of the new three members to NATO, has been a high point and I mentioned that at the dinner last night. It is hard for any foreign minister not to take issues personally. But this is very personal to me, as I told the story last night. And so, I am very glad that this is working.

I think that it is not easy for countries to be new members of NATO. Even as I went around with General Shalikashvilli in 1994, explaining the Partnership for Peace, I made very clear that this was not a scholarship program -- I mean it is basically -- there are huge responsibilities to being members of NATO and those of you that are the new members understand that. It is not a gift. It is a responsibility. And for those of you who are seeking to be added to the world's greatest alliance I think that becomes very evident.

That is why the MAP programs are so important. I am very glad to have a chance to meet. And I am going to affirm in a little while in the EAPC Ministerial, America's commitment to the open door -- that that has not changed -- nor has our commitment to help countries that want to become allies to develop the capabilities that would enable you to walk through that open door, because we understand the issues. I am very encouraged by the progress that many of the countries represented here have made in fulfilling their Membership Action Plans. And, I am impressed by the spirit of team work and cooperation and how those who are members are already helping the aspiring partners, because I think that is the kind of openness and cooperation that is necessary.

As you know the exact timing and scope of the next round of NATO enlargement isn't certain yet. But what is certain is that the first round has led to a stronger, more capable and more dynamic Alliance. And that is very evident in the kind of work that has been taking place in the Balkans and in Yugoslavia specifically. And, I think there is every reason to believe that the further enlargement, if it is carefully planned and prepared, will yield the same results.

So I am most encouraged by your work. I think it is very important that you are getting together. And, I am very, very grateful for this presentation because as I said it is symbolic beautiful and structurally beautiful. And you are my dear friends, and I really wish you all the best in this endeavor. And fortunately this is not a funeral so even though January 20th will come, my interest in developing democracy and helping new democracies through the next transition phase is what I am going to spend the rest of my life doing. So, I am around, and when I come and visit, just remember that you used to know me.

[End of Document]
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