We have convened in Riga to reaffirm our common vision and to take stock of the progress our nations have made in achieving the objectives our countries established when our foreign ministers first met in Vilnius two years ago. We recognize that we are in the midst of an historic endeavor, not only to defend our democracies from the threat to our freedoms posed by terrorism, but also to build a Europe that is truly whole and free.
The countries who banded together on the Baltic shores in August of 1989, in Visegrad in 1991 and in Vilnius in 2000 have played an important role in making what seemed a dream of our forefathers into a reality for our children. Our countries came together because we had drawn the lesson from our own past that we can better achieve our common aspirations if we cooperate with one another. We wanted the Vilnius Group to become an engine of regional cooperation and integration that would help overcome our continent's past divide and set a cornerstone for a Europe whole and free.
Since 1989, we have learned that we will be called upon to teach far more often than we will be forced to fight. But we must be prepared to do both with a seriousness of purpose. We have learned that a common insecurity may have brought us together, but it will be a common vision of man that finally unites a democratic Europe. Thus, we set for ourselves the goal of acting in solidarity and as de facto allies – towards each other and towards those Western institutions that we aspire to join.
We have learned that the damage done in the 20th century to all the nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea by nationalism, fascism and communism was far more profound than we could have imagined. From the outset our goal has been to bring our countries back into the community of nations from which we were bitterly separated for nearly half a century. The reintegration of our democracies into the Euro-Atlantic community has required huge economic sacrifices, painstaking reform, and significant political risks. Nevertheless, the path we have chosen is clear. History requires but two things of Europe's new democracies: the acceleration of reform at home and a steadiness of resolve abroad.
Five months from now the leaders of the Euro-Atlantic will gather in Prague and Copenhagen to make decisions that will shape our continent's future for decades to come. We are determined to ensure that each of our countries will be as prepared as possible to achieve its goals of integration into the European Union and membership in the NATO alliance. We believe that as many of our countries as have completed their preparations should be invited to join NATO in November and the European Union in December. But we have also committed at this summit to continue to support and assist one another beyond Prague and Copenhagen by further strengthening our democratic institutions and by pursuing a policy of continuous reform in our militaries and civil societies. We believe that Prague and Copenhagen will mark a new beginning for the process of reform and a further deepening of our commitment to the democratic transformation of our countries.
We continue to share the view we expressed at the Bucharest summit that stability and security in Europe can best be served by a balanced approach between regional cooperation in Northern Europe and the emerging "southern dimension" of Euro-Atlantic security. In our preparations for NATO membership, we have emphasized the role of regional partnerships and the essential character of close cooperation between Europe's north and Europe's south. We have discussed the ways in which we contribute to NATO operations and agreed on the urgent need to develop new capabilities in the Alliance, as set forth in the Reykjavik communique of NATO's foreign ministers. In support of this initiative, we have begun to identify specific capabilities that will contribute to the specialization of NATO forces and will increase the interoperability of our forces in alliance operations.
Following the terrorist attacks on the United States last fall, our heads of state gathered in Sofia to respond to NATO's invocation of Article 5 (which declares an attack on one member is an attack on all) and the call to defend our democracies from the common threat to our freedoms posed by terrorism. In Sofia, the nations represented here pledged to act as allies and in the spirit of Article 5 by volunteering our own contributions to the war on terrorism. Today, we stand united in our support for action against international terrorism, whether led by a coalition, by NATO or by the European Union. We have adjusted our legislation and institutions to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and those who collaborate with them and to allow our military forces to join the fight against terrorism. We are committed to participate in international military and support operations against terrorism as we have in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
We applaud the new relationship between NATO and Russia that was achieved in Rome this May. We believe that this was a watershed in European history, and we stand ready to contribute to success of the NATO-Russia council and to other initiatives aimed at increasing cooperation and trade between Russia and Europe.
We are proud that our reforms and commitment to democracy may serve as a guide for other nations in Europe and beyond who are seeking a closer partnership with Euro-Atlantic institutions. We are particularly delighted to welcome Ukraine as a guest at this summit. We have been impressed by Ukraine's decision to build closer ties with European structures, and we look forward to our close cooperation in the future to advance this commendable goal.
Our meetings in the last two days have strengthened our conviction that the decisions the leaders of European democracies, including those represented here, will make in 2002 will shape the face of Europe for generations to come. We approach this time of decision with a common faith in the power of democracy to free the imagination of our peoples and, with this freedom restored, to change the course of history. The example of the Vilnius Group has already captured the imagination of the Euro-Atlantic community. We have every hope that our countries will complete the reforms that we have undertaken and fulfill the promises we have made to our children.
(This declaration and speeches by the various government leaders and others in attendance, including video addresses by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George Bush and Czech President Vaclav Havel, are available on the Internet at www.rigasummit.lv.)