NATO invites Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic to join
July 8, 1997
Web posted at: 10:47 a.m. EDT (1447 GMT)
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- NATO leaders ended a fractious debate
Tuesday by agreeing to invite Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic to join the alliance.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana extended the official invitation following a three-hour meeting where NATO chiefs debated how far and how fast to expand.
Solana earlier called the agreement "a defining moment."
The invitation was a setback for France's effort to
immediately include Romania and Slovenia -- two other
remnants of the old Soviet bloc.
The news came on the first day of a two-day NATO summit in
Madrid. The question of membership for Romania and Slovenia
was backed by the majority of the NATO members. But U.S.
President Bill Clinton had indicated that he would block any
attempt to include the two.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also said expansion should
Foreign ministers meet
NATO foreign ministers, who split away from the leaders to
sort out a final statement, reached a compromise on
assurances of an "open door" to be given to the states which
did not join the first wave of enlargement, delegates said.
France and other European allies sought a specific
pledge that Romania and Slovenia will be invited to join NATO
But the United States preferred language that made clear
Romania and Slovenia are at the head of the line, but that
stopped short of any iron-clad guarantee they would be invited
to join NATO in two years.
The United States believes committing to two countries now
might take the steam out of economic and military reforms in
other countries seeking NATO membership.
Poland eager to join alliance
While Poland, Hungary and
the Czech Republic have been invited to join NATO, the
three countries must enter into specific negotiations about
military and other membership requirements.
Plans call for them to be formally admitted when NATO holds
its 50th anniversary summit in 1999.
Poland is eager to join the alliance, and its government has
been closely watching the summit for news of its possible
"The day when Poland is invited to negotiations on NATO
membership has a chance of going down in history as the end
of the Yalta order in Europe," PAP news agency quoted Prime
Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz as saying.
Opening the delicate discussions,
Solana called Tuesday's meeting "a defining moment for
"Madrid will be remembered as the time when North America and
Europe came together to shape the course of a new century,"
Solana said in opening the summit. "United by common purpose
and shared values, the new alliance stands ready to shape a
brighter, more secure future."
White House Correspondent John King, State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst,
The Associated Press and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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