Remarks at the Opening of the XIVth NATO Workshop
His Excellency Václav Havel
President of the Czech Republic
I still remember the 13th NATO Workshop that was held in Warsaw, where I was also present. It was there that I invited you to come to Prague to this 14th Workshop. I am very happy that this event is taking place, and that it is taking place here, and that you all have been able to come. I should like to promise you all that we will do everything in our power to make this event a success.
Also, I would like to use this opportunity to convey here the wish of Mr. Solana, who telephoned me and asked me to tell you that he is here with you in spirit.
Warsaw reminds me of another event. It was the very last meeting of the Warsaw Pact, of the Warsaw Pact Treaty, that was held here at the Prague Castle, and as the Czechoslovak President at that time, I had the honor of announcing to the world that the Warsaw Treaty Pact had just been dissolved. From the first moment after the fall of communism, it was clear that the Warsaw Pact as a powerful tool of hegemonic powers, had to be dissolved, and we did much to assure that this would happen. At the same time, it was very important to start conceiving of a new system of collective security for this continent of Europe. Soon, it became obvious that there was only one way of meeting this goal. It would not have been reasonable to start building a new security system from scratch. It was obvious that we should rely on the existing alliance, that is, on NATO, which is probably the most effectively functioning defense collective in today's world.
It is not by chance that the new democracies in Europe, all the newly emerged European countries that shook off communism, are now striving to become members of NATO. They realize that this is the very best tool for a collective European defense, for the defense of democratic values of states under the rule of law, and for the achievements of civilization and the traditions of the Euro-Atlantic area that are the Alliance.
And I think it is absolutely wonderful that this is something that not only these new democracies have realized, but also that NATO has realized, and has decided to open itself to the outside world. And, I think that the whole process of this event, in fact, has a very symbolic value because it is being held at the time when this opening up is becoming a reality, that is, two weeks before the Madrid Summit.
I think that it is clear to everybody that this new opening up of NATO means also a new chapter for the history of this Alliance. NATO will no longer be here simply to deter communism nor to defend Western democracies against the possibility of communist expansion from the East. It will be joined by all democracies---at least I hope that it will be joined by all democracies---one day, that are situated in this Euro-Atlantic area; and it will help them also, and they will help NATO, to face the whole spectrum or range of threats, be they regional conflicts, local conflicts, or all sorts of different assaults from any corner of the world.
I would like to say one thing: that is, that it is obvious to all those who are prudent that not all candidate countries can be accepted by NATO at the same time. That could mean a collapse of the Alliance. The enlargement process should be implemented step by step. It should be gradual because individual countries are ready to join the Alliance at different times. However, we should add one thing. That is, it is in the spirit of the Washington Treaty that the Alliance should be open to everybody. There should be no discrimination involved. No countries should be excluded. They should all be given the same hope that, whenever conditions are given, they can be accepted as a member of the Alliance.
I think that it would be truly wonderful if this idea could also be voiced at the Madrid Summit because this would then add to the logic of this enlargement process, and would also, perhaps, set a timetable. It should also explain why some countries will be accepted sooner and some later.
My last remark concerns something else. When President Clinton was here in Prague a couple of years ago, to inform us about the then-prepared program, Partnership for Peace program, we all agreed that we wanted to become members of NATO, and we also made it quite clear that this should be done against the backdrop of a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation, the Russian Federation being a very important power in the Euro-Asian region.
It is very important that this is exactly what is happening now. This process of enlargement is being pursued against the backdrop of the fundamental charter that was signed recently with the Russian Federation, and also the agreement between NATO and Ukraine that has recently been initialed.
What is at stake now is that this idea of collective European defense should be explained to all citizens. I do not mean by this just the citizens of the Czech Republic, but also to the citizens of all the candidate countries, the citizens of Western Europe, and also the citizens of the United States. We should all do everything in our power to pursue this goal of building up this collective security and defense system. It is very important, as I said, to explain to our citizens, especially to those who still have their doubts, that defense is important because, unfortunately, there are still threats to fundamental democratic freedoms.