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Powell Remarks at the NATO Accession Lunch

Remarks at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Accession Lunch

Secretary Colin L. Powell Department of Treasury Washington, DC March 29, 2004

12:45 a.m. EST

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, their Excellencies, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, the Prime Minister of Romania, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State.

SECRETARY POWELL: Please join me in welcoming these distinguished guests.

(Applause.)

Please be seated and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure to welcome you here today for this historic occasion, and I feel myself especially privileged to be hosting this event, especially privileged because most my life was spent as a soldier. Most of my life was spent as a soldier of NATO. Most of my adult life was spent as a soldier who looked over an Iron Curtain at what I used to call the "red side of the map," and we were on the blue side of the map.

In 1989, after I ceased being National Security Advisor for President Reagan and went back into the Army, I went back into the Army having seen what was happening in Europe, realizing that great forces were at work. And I remember saying to some of my Army colleagues in the spring of 1989, I said, "Guys, things are changing. Things are changing in the Soviet Union. Don't be surprised if one day it comes apart and we are giving out membership applications to all the former members of the Warsaw Pact."

They laughed a little bit. Here it is.

(Applause.)

Nearly three years ago in Warsaw, President Bush called for a new round of NATO enlargement to extend Europe's zone of freedom and security from the Baltics to the Black Sea. Today, March 29th, 2004, is a historic day, a historic moment, for today we mark a major step for the achievement of this vision.

The ceremony we now undertake marks the formal entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of seven independent and democratic European nations: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

To the seven heads of state here assembled, I say to you and to all of your people, "Welcome to the greatest and most successful alliance in history. Welcome."

(Applause.)

We all know of NATO's achievements. For half a century, NATO defended a continent that was half free from tyranny and subversion, until the source of that tyranny collapsed without a shot being fired. You know this particularly well because all seven of your countries were held captive by that tyranny. But now you are free, and by joining NATO's bonds of collective security, Article 5 and all, you will remain free.

We must not forget the past, but we must not dwell on it. We must learn from it. Your nations are now free from shackles of old, but you must know what you are free for. And you do know. You have each shown, through a rigorous process of political, economic and military reform that you embrace the shared principles that are at the very heart of our great alliance.

You are free for the pursuit of a better future, the future of liberty, of prosperity, a future of peace. All 19 NATO allies you joined with today will help you achieve this future, but you seven will also help the 19. You bring a new vigor to the alliance. You bring a deep and abiding appreciation for what it means to be free. And so you will form the vanguard of NATO's determination to support the yearning of other people for freedom and for peace around the world. NATO, at 26 strong, is still an open alliance, not just a military coalition but as a community of builders of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

So I am happy to welcome the Prime Ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia here today as well. We recognize your countries' commitment to achieve NATO membership and I can assure you that we support your aspirations and will make everything possible that we can make possible for you to one day be participating in a ceremony such as this.

(Applause.)

Today heralds a great occasion. It's a great accomplishment. NATO's enlargement, together with that of the European Union on May 1st, brings us closer to that very, very vital vision of ours, a Europe whole, free, and at peace. This ceremony, however, does not mark an ending, it marks a new beginning. Our common future will be bright. It will be worthy of the sacrifices of those who have come before us and worthy of the dreams of those not yet born.

We have to make that future happen. The threats to freedom today are different from those of the 20th century, but they're no less ominous. We still live in a dangerous world where our enemies seek not only the death of multitudes but the death of liberty itself. They will not succeed, for we stand united in the global war against terrorism, a war that compels the resistance of all free peoples and must be won by free peoples together in alliance.

Each of your countries has been an active participant in this struggle. Your contributions in Afghanistan, in Iraq, the Balkans and elsewhere bear witness to your devotion to our common security.

My friends, for most of its existence, NATO has been concerned mainly with the defense of common territory. NATO is now transformed, as only a league of democracies can be, into an alliance concerned mainly with the defense of common interest and common ideals.

NATO was determined, above all, to prevent aggression. Now it is determined, above all, to promote freedom, to extend the reach of liberty, and to deepen the peace. And I am confident that with the new energy that these seven nations bring to our alliance, our alliance will be as successful in the future as it has been in the past.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and very, very distinct privilege, on behalf of President Bush and the American people, to invite the seven Prime Ministers to deposit their instruments of accession with me, making all seven nations full and equal partners to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

(The Instruments of Accession are deposited.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Bravo.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to stand and raise your glasses in a toast.

A toast to seven new allies dedicated and true, who take our alliance from strength to still greater strength, to freedom, security, and peace to us all.

To your health.

SECRETARY GENERAL SCHEFFER: Ladies and gentlemen, if I propose a toast, it is a toast on values. It is a toast on the values this unique Atlantic alliance has defended throughout its history very successfully, values which might be so normal for many of us, but who are not automatic and not normal for the seven great nations, which have acceded to the Atlantic Treaty today.

They have done the work. I applaud them and I commend them. And I hope that we can, together, with this 26-nation strong alliance and more members to follow, continue to defend these values. And let's hope we can transform them -- transfer them to generations to come.

SECRETARY POWELL: Hear! Hear!

(Hear! Hear!)

PRIME MINISTER DZURINDA: Mr. Secretary, dear Colleagues, Prime Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, historical project of Europe whole and free, Europe at peace gets a strong boost today. Our seven countries are joining NATO. We are erasing the dividing line of Yalta and immorality of Munich.

But this is much more than that. This is new opportunity: New opportunity for Europe; new opportunity for transatlantic community, new opportunity for freedom; new opportunity to make the world a better place.

For our people at home, membership in NATO brings more security. It is our duty and honor to work that the day feels secure. This is the big bone of our policy at home. We have seen the horrible tragedies in New York and Madrid. And in our membership in NATO, we feel that we have done that right thing for our nations, for our peoples.

We remember very well that United States helped us to defeat fascism. We will remember forever that the United States and NATO helped us to defeat communism. We strongly believe that Europe and the United States have to work together, not only for transatlantic cooperation, but for long-term prosperity and stability in Europe, in the United States, inside of all NATO countries and in the world.

As the fight against terrorism has shown, we have to be united. As allies, we should keep NATO doors open. We know that the solidarity of us, the seven, help us in our individual performances. We are very thankful to the United States to all NATO countries, especially to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, the countries which enlarged the NATO organization during the last wave of enlargement.

Today, we want to show our ability, our solidarity. I am very, very happy that three prime ministers from Balkan states are among us: the Prime Minister of Albania, Prime Minister of Croatia, Prime Minister of Macedonia. And we know that we should not forget about Serbia and Montenegro and others who join us in our commitment to shared values.

Dear Mr. Secretary, Mr. Secretary General, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, we are looking forward to cooperate to the United States, to all states, members of the NATO organization, for the future of our nations, for the future of the world.

To your health.

(Toasting of glasses.)

(Applause.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Please enjoy your lunch.

Thank you.

2004/339 [End]

Released on March 29, 2004

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