"NATO enlargement: doing it right" - Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Mr Indulis Berzins at the 47th annual assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association in Bled, Slovenia, 4 October 2001

24.03.2004. 14:57

"NATO enlargement: doing it right"

Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia
Mr Indulis Berzins
at the 47th annual assembly
of the Atlantic Treaty Association in Bled, Slovenia

4 October 2001

It is a great honor to speak to the broad audience uniting non-governmental organizations, analytics and professionals of security policy. The topic of our panel today is NATO enlargement - the key process towards building Europe whole and free.   

While discussing the issue at hand, we have to remember the tragic events of 11th of September. Our solidarity, support and sympathy go to the people and Government of the United States, to the families of victims of the horrible terrorist attacks. My country is prepared to do what it takes to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of these atrocious acts as well as to prevent anything similar from happening in future.  

The terrorist attacks of 11th of September were directed not only against the United States. They were aimed at undermining our values and basic principles - freedom, democracy, human rights and liberties. During a half century NATO Alliance has overcome many challenges. I am convinced that it will overcome the challenge of terrorism too. And the candidates are ready to do their part. 

The struggle against terrorism has become a clear priority. At the same time the priorities that existed before 11th of September are still valid. As Lord Robertson said the other day 'the actions of terrorists have not invalidated NATO's established agenda /.../ if anything they have enforced the logic of that agenda'. This applies also to the topic for our today's discussion - NATO enlargement. 

Now more than ever the Euro-Atlantic community needs permanent allies who share democratic values and are willing and able to share the responsibilities of defending those values.   

Let me provide an overview of what the candidates have achieved.

Sharing Values

Over the last decade Latvia and other candidates have worked hard to build democratic institutions and societies. Today the candidate countries are liberal democracies with functioning market economies granting human rights and liberties to their citizens. The candidates negotiating EU accession are in full compliance with the EU political criteria - a clear evidence of belonging to the Western community of shared values.  

Willingness to Defend Values

The candidates have demonstrated their readiness to defend the common values. Even before becoming full members they are acting as allies - participating in NATO-led peacekeeping efforts in Balkans, providing practical contribution and political support in struggle against terrorism. 

Ability to defend values

The candidates' practical preparedness is ensured through participation in the Membership Action Plan process. The candidates have brought their defense spending to the average level of member states. We have demonstrated ability to develop NATO compatible plans and to implement them precisely. Even if our defense capabilities are no match to those of US, UK or Germany, we have proven that our defense systems will be compatible with NATO and developed to the best of our ability. 

Getting enlargement right

There are several important prerequisites to make sure that enlargement is a success. In my view cooperation is the most important of all. 

Cooperation is crucial in many respects - it is one of the main features of being a good ally; it allows candidates to reach the best possible level of readiness for membership, and finally, cooperation ensures that enlargement does not result in new divisions. 

We have developed a high culture of cooperation in our part of the world - Northern Europe. Baltic cooperation, Nordic cooperation as well as Nordic - Baltic cooperation is well known. Baltic cooperation has enabled us to join forces in developing our societies and defense forces. Joint Baltic projects such as BALTBAT and BALTNET allow us to develop better capabilities and testify to our ability to assume obligations of membership. 

Close Baltic-Nordic cooperation in many areas, including defense, has led to full understanding and support of our security policy aspirations by NATO members in the region and non-aligned Nordic countries. Our Northern neighbors consider NATO enlargement to the Baltic States as strengthening stability and security in the region.

The Baltic Sea cooperation consisting of eleven countries also includes Russia that we see as a part of Europe whole and free. Council of Baltic Sea States, Northern Dimension of the EU as well as US North European Initiative are effective instruments to ensure productive cooperation with Russia. Regional initiatives along with close cooperation between NATO and Russia, EU and Russia are clearly beneficial to all sides and to the stability and security in Europe.

Latvia on its part is ready to assure its neighbors that its accession to the Alliance is not directed against any country. We are offering to Russia additional transparency measures, increased military contacts and active participation in the regional initiatives aimed at increased confidence and cooperation in military field. After becoming members of NATO the Baltic States will be eager supporters of closer cooperation between the Alliance and the Russian Federation. 

The last but not least aspect of cooperation is the teamwork of the candidate countries within the Vilnius group. Since the first meeting in Vilnius more than a year ago, the joint activities by the candidates have helped to advance practical preparations for membership and to encourage the enlargement debate. The meeting of V10 foreign ministers we had today was another opportunity to discuss and develop our joint efforts. I am confident that cooperation of the ten candidates will be a key ingredient in getting the next enlargement right and moving closer to our common goal - Europe whole and free.

Thank you for your attention.