Candidates bang on NATO's "open door"

  • 2000-05-25
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - All nine NATO candidate countries signed a common document
urging the Alliance to invite them all to be full members in 2002. This
act took place at the conference on "NATO's Role in the Changing
Security Environment in Europe" organized by the governments of
Lithuania and Slovenia in Vilnius on May 19. Lord George Robertson,
NATO secretary general, attended the conference.

The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia,
Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and deputy foreign ministers of Macedonia
and Albania signed the document entitled the "Vilnius Statement." It
says that candidate countries share the values of the Euro-Atlantic
community, including a belief in individual liberty, the free market
and rule of law. "We call upon the member states at the next NATO
summit in 2002 to invite our democracies to join NATO," says the final
sentence of the document.

"The fact that the two countries that have organized this event,
Lithuania and Slovenia, come from different parts of Europe, is a
perfect illustration that in today's world distance doesn't count -
what counts are shared interests and shared values," Robertson said to
diplomats from 26 NATO members and aspiring countries gathered in the
Vilnius Town Hall.

George W. Bush and Al Gore, both candidates to the U.S. presidency,
sent letters in support of the goals of the Vilnius conference.

"I believe that the enlargement of NATO to include other nations with
democratic values, pluralist political systems and free market
economies should continue. I also believe that the development of a
democratic and stable Russia is in the interest of all of Europe, and
we do not see Russia as an enemy. But Russia must never be given a veto
over enlargement," wrote Bush, the present Texas governor and
Republican candidate for U.S. presidency.

At the conference he was echoed by Lithuanian Parliament Chairman
Vytautas Landsbergis who stated that Russia's protest against NATO
enlargement is an old-fashioned view of the world.

"Unfortunately, Russia is still suffering from the dual syndrome of the
past. Free-will-based accession of candidate countries to NATO for the
sake of collective security is interpreted as a horror scene: the enemy
is on our land! The old thinking makes a double mistake, because NATO
is not and never will want to be the 'enemy' of Russia, while candidate
countries are not part of Russian lands. However, toleration of this
mistake implies supporting it and even its consolidation, a suggestion
to continue to live in the world of dangerous myths. Anyone wishing
Russia well should not promote the expansionist myths of the past,"
Landsbergis said.

His point of view was completely backed by Foreign Minister Bronislaw
Geremek of Poland, which became a member of the Alliance in 1998.

"I don't think we should accept a neo-Brezhnev doctrine. What is good
for stability in Europe is good also for Russia," Geremek said speaking
about the Kremlin's contradiction to NATO enlargement into the Baltic

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said that the NATO enlargement
would mean an expansion of stability in the Central Europe. "The
countries of Central Europe, including Lithuania, for centuries have
found themselves in the gray zone of uncertainty, governed by power,
not by principle of law. We want this bitter experience to be never
repeated again," Adamkus said.

Dmitrij Rupel, Slovenian foreign minister, offered some criticism about
NATO. He complained about the lack of clear criteria and guarantees for
countries that wish to join the Alliance.

"The Washington Summit decisions clearly and credibly confirmed the
Open Door Policy as the outgoing process. It has introduced the
Membership Action Plan which defined the course of preparations for
NATO membership, although it has two minuses or deficiencies, if you
wish: it is not considered as the list of membership criteria therefore
it does not guarantee an invitation if one completes the tasks given,"
Rupel said.

Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins supported a "big bang"
approach speaking about expected NATO enlargement in 2002. "I call on
all aspirants and allies to work together to ensure that all candidates
are invited to the next NATO summit in the year 2002. We - aspirants
and allies - have an historic opportunity to unite Europe in one
security space and in this way to ensure liberty, democracy, human
rights and the rule of law for Europe's people," Berzins said.

Vygaudas Usackas, Lithuanian deputy foreign minister, said that he
would be happy with a "big bang" approach if it were implemented. At
the same time, he stated that NATO should at least keep continuing
enlargement in two directions in Central Europe in 2002.

"The best outcome would be to invite all candidate countries, but if
that is not the case then enlargement must proceed both to the north
and to the south," Usackas said.