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NATO Summit 21-22 November - Fact Sheet Q&A

NATO Summit 21-22 November

The Prime Minister Tony Blair and other leaders from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) have met in Prague to decide on the Alliance's future roles and tasks. Here we answer some of your questions about the Summit and NATO itself.

What is the Summit aiming to achieve?

The Summit aims to adapt Alliance policies to changing needs and circumstances.

The Prague Summit expects to deliver a transformed NATO, capable of dealing with the new threats and challenges of the 21st century. Heads of State and Government are expected to unveil a package of measures to enhance the Alliance's capacity to fight terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

This will be the 16th Summit in NATO's history.

What do these measures include?

Measures include NATO nations taking a joint position on the acquisition of the capabilities essential to today's operations such as: heavy lift, air tankers, precision guided weapons, chemical and biological defences, ground surveillance radars.

They will endorse the creation of a special NATO rapid response force and NATO's command and force structure will be streamlined.

What does NATO do?

NATO's main functions are to:

help provide security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area;
provide a transatlantic forum for member states to consult on issues of common concern;
deter and defend against any threats the territory of any NATO member state;
contribute to crisis management and conflict prevention on a case by case basis; and
promote partnership, co-operation and dialogue with other countries in the Euro-Atlantic area.
What countries are currently members of NATO?

NATO's original 12 members were the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal. Greece and Turkey joined in 1952, followed by the Federal Republic of Germany three years later and Spain in 1982. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became members in 1999.

Who is hoping to join NATO?

NATO have formally invited the following nations, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, to Accession Talks with NATO. The invited countries are expected to join NATO in 2004. The decision was announced at the opening session of the Summit.

This will be the fifth enlargement in the Alliance's history: Greece and Turkey joined in 1952; Germany in 1955; Spain in 1982; and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999.

Why is NATO expanding?

NATO is expanding in response to dramatic changes in the international security environment since the end of the Cold War. The emergence of new threats to Euro-Atlantic peace and stability, have led to a review of NATO's role.

The attacks of 11 September demonstrated the new threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. These and other possible threats pose the challenge of adapting institutions, preserving their values while keeping them effective in a radically different world.

In May 2002 the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair and the Spanish President, Aznar wrote a joint letter to the NATO Secretary General laying out their shared vision of NATO revitalised at Prague to face new threats, with new roles, new capabilities, new members, and new relationships with Russia and with other Partners to our east and south.

What have we done to help the applicants?

The Membership Action Plan (MAP) was adopted at the 1999 Washington Summit as a way of reinforcing Allies' commitment to further enlargement of NATO.

The UK has demonstrated its commitment to helping all aspirants with practical preparations to enable them to be as fully prepared for the Prague Summit as possible.

The Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office programmes include English language training, secondment of military and civilian advisors to Ministries of Defence and General Staffs, promotion of interoperability through visits and exercises and staff training in the UK.

How did NATO respond to the terrorist atrocities in New York?

When NATO was formed, the members declared "an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all". The commitment is in accordance with the right to individual or collective self-defence, recognised by the United Nations Charter.

This declaration was contained in Article 5 of its Treaty. This was invoked for the first time following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Article 5 commits all member states to support military action taken by the US following the attacks.

ENDS

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