Address by Mr Indulis Berzins, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, at the meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Budapest, 30 May 2001

24.03.2004. 14:57

Address by Mr Indulis Berzins,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia,
at the meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council

Budapest, 30 May 2001

"Dear Colleagues, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me thank our Hungarian friends for hosting this meeting in Budapest. This is, of course, the first NATO and EAPC Foreign Ministers meeting to take place in the capital of a new member of the Alliance and, therefore, is symbolic of the dramatic changes in the political landscape of modern Europe where NATO continues to play a crucial part.

The presence at our meeting of Foreign Minister from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which would have been inconceivable one year ago, exemplifies the positive developments that have recently emerged in the Balkans. We welcome the fact that under a democratic leadership, Yugoslavia has become a more constructive partner for the international community. Without lasting peace and stability in the Balkans, Europe cannot be united, democratic and free. This is why there is a continuing need for all our countries to keep a focus on the Balkans.

But the process of reshaping the future security architecture in the Transatlantic Area is not carried out exclusively in the Balkans. International security is also being affected by emerging new threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The existing arms control regimes have not been effective enough in stopping this proliferation. Therefore, there is a clear need to establish a set of effective countermeasures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The continuing process of NATO enlargement is not only priority direction of Latvia's foreign policy. It is, undoubtedly, also one of the major items on the trans-Atlantic policy agenda, and time for decisions on this issue is drawing nearer. Clearly, Baltic membership in NATO is indispensable, if not central, part of the enlargement issue. 

The visionary and authoritative speech of President Havel in Bratislava has set the standard for this debate and underlined the essential rationale for NATO enlargement - to erase the former dividing lines in Europe. Enlargement presents opportunities and benefits for everyone by reducing uncertainty and enhancing stability. In President Havel's words, it represents "shared will to fight everything that jeopardizes a better future for humankind". 

For our part, Latvia will be ready to receive an invitation next year in Prague and to continue to contribute to security and stability in the Euroatlantic region. Our commitment to be part of NATO-led peace forces in Balkans remains in place. Our defence planning has received positive evaluation through the MAP process. Latvia's efforts to improve our defence capabilities recently received a further boost through the vote by an overwhelming majority of Latvian Parliamentarians to pass a law increasing defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2003.

Our membership aspirations are part of the wider process of building Europe whole and free. Cooperation and coordination within the Vilnius group of candidate countries makes us stronger applicants. The meeting of Chiefs of Defence from aspirant countries in Riga next month shows that practical cooperation in this process is as important as the political impetus that V9 brings to the enlargement debate. 

I know that the question of invitations will be considered in the capitals of the Alliance before we meet again later this year. The upcoming Prague summit presents an opportunity to further stabilize our continent and to correct injustices of history. Making full use of this opportunity will ensure that the Alliance remains in the driving seat of European security. "

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