HomeDOCUMENTSSpecial Publications200428 June 2004 - NATO’s Door Is Open to Croatia By Doug Bereuter
28 June 2004 - NATO’s Door Is Open to Croatia By Doug Bereuter
Article published June 28 in the Croatian newspaper Vjesnik
WASHINGTON – At the Istanbul Summit, NATO leaders will welcome seven new democracies into the world’s most successful military alliance. At the same time, those leaders must emphasize that NATO’s door remains open to all European countries that wish to join the Alliance and that meet the commitments and standards for membership.
It is important for NATO to ensure that momentum is not lost. To underline the importance that legislators from across the Alliance place on enlargement, I will visit Zagreb as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly immediately after the Istanbul Summit. The Assembly consists of representatives from the national legislatures of the 26 NATO countries, and it also includes 21 other associate and observer nations, including Croatia. In my meetings with Croatian government and parliamentary officials, I will stress that the door to NATO is open to your country, and it is your progress toward meeting the standards of the Alliance that will determine when Croatia is invited to join.
The decision to encourage, assist, and admit former communist nations from Central and Eastern Europe into the Atlantic Alliance is one of the great successes of Alliance policy since the end of the Cold War. It is also a success in which the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has played an important role. In the pivotal year of 1989, a time when the nations of Central Europe were still under the yoke of communist oppression, our Assembly reached out and invited Members from the still communist parliaments of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to observe the workings of the Assembly and meet with their Western counterparts.
As communism crumbled, the Assembly remained at the forefront of outreach to the parliaments of Central Europe. In 1990 we established the category of associate membership to allow Members from those parliaments and others to routinely attend and participate substantively in our sessions. Since then, the Assembly has repeatedly declared and demonstrated its support for NATO enlargement and the fundamental role of NATO in European and transatlantic security. We recognize that throughout its history, NATO has succeeded not only in keeping its members free and secure, but also in extending that freedom to new lands whose citizens had long yearned for freedom’s blessings. In our most recent declaration on enlargement, at our 2002 Annual Session in Istanbul, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly urged their governments and parliaments to continue to support Croatia’s efforts toward meeting NATO standards.
Likewise, since 1994, the U.S. House of Representatives has repeatedly declared its support for NATO enlargement and the fundamental role of NATO in transatlantic security. Most recently, in March of this year, I introduced a resolution in the U.S. Congress that reiterated our sense that NATO should invite Croatia to join as soon as Croatia implements the necessary reforms and demonstrates the ability to assume the responsibilities of NATO membership. Additionally, my resolution noted the apparent commitment of the new Croatian government to implement those reforms. My colleagues approved this resolution by a 422-2 vote.
The admission of seven new members this spring was a great accomplishment for NATO, but the enlargement process must continue. When as the Assembly president I address the leaders of the 26 NATO nations at the Istanbul Summit, I will repeat my call that they schedule the next enlargement summit no later than 2007, a deadline that has been endorsed by both the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives.
A 2007 enlargement summit would continue a five-year cycle for NATO enlargement. Three nations received invitations in 1997 at Madrid, and seven nations were invited in 2002 in Prague. I believe that this is a reasonable timetable, one that gives NATO time to incorporate the seven new members while ensuring that the three remaining candidates and others to be added to the waiting list are not forgotten, but instead are encouraged and energized.
Already, Croatia is acting as an ally, contributing 47 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Your government is also to be commended for working with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, whose chief prosecutor praised its “full cooperation” with the tribunal’s investigations. However, fugitive general Ante Gotovina must be apprehended and turned over to The Hague before possible objections to Croatia’s NATO membership can be completely removed.
NATO=s door remains open to all who are willing and able to assume the responsibilities of membership, and it is the achievements of Croatia that will determine when its aspirations for accession will be realized. The members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly stand ready to assist Croatia in this effort.
U.S. Congressman Doug Bereuter is President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe of the House International Relations Committee.