NATO newcomers celebrate

from right to left: Valdas Adamkus, Vaira Vikeová-Freibergaova, Siim Kallas, Georgi Parvanov, Photo: CTK

The seven East European countries who have been invited to join NATO are celebrating. We feature quotes from some of the speeches made at the summit.

from right to left: Valdas Adamkus,  Vaira Vikeová-Freibergaova,  Siim Kallas,  Georgi Parvanov,  Photo: CTK
For the three Baltic republics in particular the implications of being invited to join NATO are enormous.

The Latvian President Vaika Vike Freiberg:

"On behalf of the Republic of Latvia and its people, I thank all the heads of state and government of the NATO member countries for the courage to take the decision that they announced today. For us in Latvia it comes as a sign of international justice. Latvia lost its independence for a very long time and it knows the meaning both of liberty and the loss of it. Latvia knows the meaning of security and the loss of it. And this is why being invited to join an alliance that will ensure our security is a momentous moment that will be written large in the history of our nation."

The Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas:

President Rudolf Schuster,  Photo: CTK
"For many of us today is one of the most remarkable days in the history of the world. At the beginning of the 90s we Estonians were living in the exciting atmosphere of our regained independence. But even at that time, when everything seemed attainable and nothing seemed impossible, few of us could believe in the prospect of NATO membership. But fortunately some deeds and events have developed faster than could have been predicted and our wildest dreams from those days are beginning to come true. "

The seven members-to-be are leaving Prague well satisfied but aware of the fact that there's a lot of work to be done between now and 2004 - the projected entry date.

The Prime Minister of Slovenia Janes Drnovsek:

"Prague is not an end but a beginning. For the invited countries this summit represents the beginning of a vigorous process of final preparations for membership during the forthcoming accession procedure. For NATO it represents the beginning of an accelerated process of transformation into an international organization that is fully adapted to the challenges set by the post September 11th era. "

The Slovak President Rudolf Schuster said the invitation to join the North Atlantic Alliance would give his country new impetus to continue along the road of reform and accept its share of responsibility for world peace and stability:

"This invitation is a challenge for us to continue the reform of our armed forces and we are ready to expedite this reform with the view of helping the alliance to build new capabilities. As the commander in chief of the Slovak Armed Forces I will see to it that Slovakia remains a functional and reliable ally in our fight with the challenges of the present day. "