|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Conference following North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting
Sintra, Portugal, May 29, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, May 30, 1997
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good evening. Let me give you a brief overview of our discussions and our decisions today at the NAC before I take your questions.
After months of hard work and historic events in Europe, today's ministerial laid the groundwork for the NATO Summit forty days from now in Madrid, and for the decisions President Clinton and his fellow leaders must make between now and then.
Today, NATO initialed a charter with Ukraine, which our leaders will sign in Madrid. The charter opens the door to even deeper practical cooperation with Ukraine. It reflects Ukraine's commitment to be part of the community we're building, and its support for NATO's decision to welcome new allies and partners.
We also approved a series of measures today that will give all the members of the Partnership for Peace an active role in planning all the missions we undertake together. The Partnership will not only remain a centerpiece of our strategy, but it is becoming stronger even as NATO admits new members. And tomorrow, all of our Partners will join us for the first meeting of the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. In the future, when NATO approves a mission, such as the one in Bosnia, and our Partners join us, the EAPC is where we will coordinate and guide our common efforts.
This progress makes it clear that NATO's area of interest is wider than its area of membership and that the framework we are building is erasing Europe's old divisions, not creating new ones.
Today we also began to talk about the size and composition of the first round of NATO enlargement. I laid out the principles that the United States believes should guide our decisions. Enlargement must make NATO stronger and more cohesive. It must be backed by solid parliamentary and public majorities, and it must continue to provide the nations of Central and Eastern Europe with an incentive to stay on the path of reform on reconciliation.
An equally fundamental principle is that NATO must make a clear and credible commitment in Madrid that the first round of enlargement will not be the last. Our Partners must be confident that there is no invisible barrier across the open door we have pledged. In other words, we must have high standards for new members today, but we must also have a process that encourages other nations to meet those standards tomorrow -- a process that helps aspiring nations understand what they must do and how they must change to make membership a possibility.
The United States has come to no final conclusions about which nations should be invited to join NATO in Madrid. But our decisions will be based on these two principles.
We also discussed NATO's mission in Bosnia today. I was pleased to hear many of our Allies agreed on the need to re-energize civilian implementation of the Dayton Accords. I made it clear that, while SFOR will remain principally focused on enforcing the military aspects of Dayton, it must also actively support crucial civil implementation tasks within its mandate and capabilities. I also stressed, once again, that full compliance with the Dayton Agreement is our goal in every area, including the obligation to comply with orders of the War Crimes Tribunal. The only aid we will provide or support for Bosnia is aid that helps people who are helping Dayton to succeed.
Let me add that the NAC received its final briefing by Carl Bildt, who will soon be leaving his post of High Representative. We all expressed our deep gratitude for Mr. Bildt's tireless efforts.
Our strategy in Bosnia is very much related to our larger strategy in Europe. We want Europe to come together so that we can act together effectively in places such as Bosnia, and I believe that Bosnia will ultimately come together as well, because it wants to be a part of the new Europe we are building.
Thank you very much, and I will now be happy to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, apparently you were in the minority today in terms of preferring three over four or five new members of NATO. How much does it matter that, at this moment in time, most of your NATO partners seem to be in favor of a more expanded Alliance?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that there has been no final decision on this subject, either by the United States or by the people that participated in what was the first formal discussion that we have had. There has obviously been a great deal of speculation about the countries or the number of countries that are coming in, but this was the first formal discussion of the subject, and there will be others.
In our discussions, we were guided by the principles that I mentioned, that is that the enlarged NATO needs to be strong and cohesive and that the process has to be one of an open door -- that the first shall not be the last. That was made quite clear in our communiqués. We will have further discussions on the subject. They are confidential. And we will, obviously, be talking about it in the next forty days, and I will be reporting what I heard today to the President.
QUESTION: I am with Portugese TV. I would like to know why is America closing the door for the five member states to join NATO? Are you afraid of the difficulties of ratification? Is this a money matter? Or do you expect at the end that there will be three getting in and obviously they will blame the United States for it? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I have said, there has been no final decision either by the United States or by the NATO Alliance. This was the first meeting that we had. We will be abiding by the guiding principles that I mentioned. We obviously are interested in what our members of Congress think and believe. Obviously I think that it is very important -- and I raised this issue in a number of places -- for the current members of the Alliance to be aware of the cost of enlarging the Alliance.
QUESTION: A question from the Washington Post. Madam Secretary, the United States is preparing to negotiate a charter with the Baltic republics. In this charter would you be prepared to include a statement supporting the aspiration of the Baltic states to eventual NATO membership? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have made very clear that NATO membership is open to all democracies in Europe, and have said that the first shall not be the last and that the door is open. That applies to the Baltics as it does to the other countries in the region. We have been working very closely with the Baltics in a number of ways to include them and embrace them in a European system. We have talked about their security in terms of a Baltic Battalion, and we generally feel that they need to be embraced within the European family.
QUESTION: BBC World Service. Madam Secretary, how will you ensure that there will be no invisible barrier across the open door? Because in the EAPC, you will have candidates who will have started negotiations, candidates that are recognized as acceptable candidates but will be left for a second wave, and countries that do not want to join NATO at all. How will the difference between those countries be made?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I have said, we will be guided by the principles that I enunciated -- a cohesive and strong NATO -- and the fact that it will be open. We will be reiterating that statement. The statement is within the communiqué. I think nations here agree on the fact that the process needs to be an open one.
I also think that -- and I ask you all to reflect on this -- a few years ago, nobody would have imagined that we would have signed a NATO-Russia Founding Act the day before yesterday in Paris. In fact, nobody would have imagined that we would be talking about an enlarged NATO. There is a very dynamic process going on in Europe as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan and look towards the future. I would predict that the whole process here is one that would develop a dynamic of its own, and that the open door will not need to be pushed upon very hard. That there will be countries that will meet those guiding principles, and the United States stands strongly behind the open door policy.
QUESTION: German News Agency. I would like to know, is it true that the United States will consider withdrawing troops from Bosnia in case the Bosnian side does not implement the peace agreements?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have committed ourselves to our troops in Bosnia until the SFOR mission is over next summer, and we are pressing very hard for implementation of the Dayton Accords. I am going to Bosnia tomorrow and meeting with the leaders there. I am also going to Croatia and Serbia, and my main message is that it is essential for there to be implementation of the Dayton Accords.
I have stated a number of times that President Clinton had directed a review of our policy and we have emerged from that review rededicated to the implementation of Dayton, a unitary state with two multicultural, multiethnic entities, and will be, in fact, conditioning our assistance in a way to those, as I said in my statement, who will be practically implementing the Dayton Accords. That is the conditionality.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in the course of the discussion on the "who" in enlargement, was there any parallel discussion on the length of a possible pause or connection with the "who" this time and how long it might be before there would be another round?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I said, I think basically this was a first discussion on a confidential basis. It was, in a general way, talked about the importance of keeping the door open and keeping the process going. But I am not going to go into final details on that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) in Madrid or at a later occasion, do you see any other abilities to grant security on political and military aspects?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we are, in fact, talking, as I said, about a Baltic Battalion and a way they are increasing their ties with many of the Nordic countries. We are having lengthy discussions with them generally about, as I said, embracing them within a European system. We are very supportive of their evolution. I must say that it is very important for everybody to realize that, in fact, it has now been determined in a number of signed documents that every sovereign state has a right to choose its own means for ensuring its security, and that is true of the Baltic states.
QUESTION: Charles Grant, with The Economist. It is possible that, after June 1998, there will be a need for some sort of force in Bosnia. The British and French have reaffirmed today at their briefings that they would not want to keep troops in Bosnia without some Americans present. Do you think it is at least conceivable that there could be American troops in Bosnia after June 1998?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The President today reiterated that he expects that our troops will leave on time, and we have no plans for having them stay there. We all, however, do see the need for a great deal more work to be done, and for a re-energized civilian implementation, and for there to really be a lot of energy given to moving the process forward.
Some of you know that I used to be a professor. So let me liken what is going on here in terms of the questions of the deadline to what it was like to teach. It was like, when you walked into class the first day and you handed out the syllabus, and at the end of the syllabus it said there was a term paper due four months hence at the end of the semester. A student would come in and say, "I cannot possibly do that. I need an extension," on the first day. I would always say, "Let us do the work, and you will see that you will be able to get that paper in on time." I think that is what we need to focus on. We need to focus on a re-energized civilian implementation where there is the closest cooperation between the military and the civilian, so that we can get the job done on time.
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