Toward an Undivided Safer Europe
His Excellency Romano Prodi
Prime Minister of Italy
It is appropriate and moving that our meeting on the eve of the Madrid Summit a summit that will contribute to defining the new security environment in Europe is taking place in Prague. Many times in this century, this splendid city, a crossroads of civilization, has been at the core of events that have shaped our common history.
Nearly 50 years ago, in response to tragic events in Prague, the Western democracies decided to create the Atlantic Alliance, not only to protect their collective security but to ensure peace on our continent. By preserving freedom in the West, the Alliance has rendered a great service to the whole of Europe. It has provided an enduring seed of hope, and has kept the flame of liberty alive. Over the years it has also encouraged the democracy, freedom, and respect for human dignity that is now established throughout Europe, a situation that, I believe, is the result of NATO's long-ago decision to stand up against the forces of oppression, to stand up against threats and aggression.
CZECH BELIEF IN NATO VALUES
For four decades, the Czech people have stood out as a magnificent example of courage, dignity, and devotion to the same goals as the Alliance. Twenty-nine years ago, in the fateful summer of 1968, the Czech people rose up against oppression and paid a heavy toll for their love of freedom. Jan Palach became a symbol of the human spirit fighting against oppression. A turning point was reached: the mask of oppression fell. Nothing, ever, was the same again in Europe.
A decade later, in our darkest hour, Charter 77 sent out to the world a message of hope: that freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity were still alive. Another man, Václav Havel, once again personified the human spirit rising up against all forms of oppression.
Finally, in 1989, Prague was able to stand up again as a beacon of light and announce to the world that oppression had not won, but that freedom, democracy, and respect had.
Freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity: these are the values for which the Czech people have fought and shed blood, and they are also the values on which our Alliance is founded. These values are deeply embedded in our common civilization; we recognize that they are the basic, indisputable values of all of our societies.
THE ROAD AHEAD
While today we can look at our past achievements with pride and at our common future with confidence, we must not be complacent. The Alliance must remain strong and committed to collective defense. Security today, however, is based less on a balance of power than on a solid architecture of interlocking institutions and commitments.
It is in this light that the accession of new members to NATO must be seen. It would be wrong to see enlargement as an attempt to occupy more strategic ground or to acquire undue political or unneeded military advantages. Rather, it should be seen as a natural result of the will and the right of the new European democracies to join the family of nations to which they belong and from which they have been forcefully separated for too long. With them, NATO will forge a Europe united by a common bond of solidarity and shared values. Already, through the fundamental accords it has reached with Russia and Ukraine, as well as through PFP and the establishment of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, NATO has begun the journey toward an undivided, safer Europe, a goal that is now, for the first time, within our reach.
ITALY'S COMMITMENT TO THE ALLIANCE
Since the NATO Summit in Rome in 1991, the Alliance has undergone a profound transformation, adapting to meet the new challenges and to undertake the new tasks that lie ahead. NATO has adjusted to the reality of the new, stronger, more distinctive European identity; is providing stability through crisis management and peace-support operations; and is fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and against new threats such as terrorism.
NATO's new missions are not easy ones. And to complete them satisfactorily, they require the joint commitment and the joint efforts of all Europeans and all North Americans.
Italy is strongly committed to the Alliance's joint endeavors. We will work toward a renewed Alliance that will be able to preserve its core functions yet perform new missions; to accept new members yet avoid creating new European dividing lines; and to be strong and cohesive yet continue to extend a friendly hand to partners on the Continent and in surrounding areas such as the Mediterranean.
This is our vision. And together, we believe, we will have the will, the patience, and the strength to carry it out.
So let us look with confidence to our future: a future in which Prague and the Czech people essential parts of our common heritage will become an integral part of European institutions. We believe the Czech Republic and the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe fully meet the criteria for membership in our free institutions. We will stand firmly by our commitment.
As we meet in Prague, let us never forget the tragedies that have plagued our continent too many times in this century, and let us also commit ourselves to a single, overarching goal: no more war, no more oppression, and no more division of our continent. Let us work together, Europeans and North Americans alike, to build an undivided, just, and peaceful Europe.