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Remarks Prepared for Delivery to the North Atlantic Council in Madrid

July 08, 1997

Mr. Secretary General; Prime Minister Aznar; fellow leaders. First I would like to thank Prime Minister Aznar for his hospitality in hosting this important meeting. I am also very pleased to be joined in Madrid by leading Members of our Congress, from both Houses and both parties.

Three and a half years ago in Brussels, we began to construct a new NATO for a new Europe, taking on new missions and new partners. Part of that effort included changes in NATO's command structure. I want to confirm my belief that we will make the alliance stronger by continuing to develop the European Security and Defense Identity and giving Europe a greater role within NATO. By working toward a simplified, more efficient military command structure, we will be better able to meet the demands of new missions.

In this regard, I welcome Spain's intention to fully integrate into NATO's military command. And I truly hope that in the very near future France will join a reformed command structure on terms acceptable to France and consistent with the military effectiveness of the alliance.

With respect to enlargement, I believe we should make our alliance broader by inviting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO, for the following reasons. Over the past 7 years, these are the countries that have proved their readiness to join us at this table. While their work is still in progress, they have met the highest standards of democratic and market reform. They have now pursued those reforms long enough to give us confidence they are irreversible, just as our offer of NATO membership is irreversible. It is important to remember that fact when we make our decision. There is no precedent for removing or disinviting members from the alliance.

Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have settled outstanding disputes with their neighbors. They have established civilian control of their armed forces and shown that they are prepared to meet the stiff military requirements NATO demands. I believe we can afford the cost to ourselves of adding these three countries to NATO's strength.

I also believe that these three countries' smooth and successful integration will create momentum for others to follow. Today, we must commit to keep the door of this alliance open to all those ready to meet the responsibilities of membership. I believe we should exclude no European democracy. There are other states that are close to being fully qualified to join. When they are ready and the time is right, I believe we should welcome them.

We should not discount the other steps that NATO is taking with its partners. Tomorrow we will hold the first summit-level meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. I am sure that every one of us is happily surprised by just how successful the Partnership For Peace has been in enabling more than two dozen countries to work closely with NATO. The new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council will give these countries a forum for deeper consultations with the alliance and greater participation in decisionmaking for operations to which they contribute. The enhancement of the Partnership For Peace will also speed countries along the road to eligibility for NATO membership.

To conclude, Mr. Secretary General, our position is that we should decide today to admit three countries to the alliance. Since this is an irreversible step, we should offer membership to those countries that are irreversibly committed to democratic reforms, while keeping the door firmly open to the admission of other countries in the future.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 11 a.m. at the Juan Carlos Conference Center, but a transcript of his remarks was not available. This item follows the advance text released by the Office of the Press Secretary. In his remarks, the President referred to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and President of the Government (Prime Minister) Jose Maria Aznar of Spain.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prepared for Delivery to the North Atlantic Council in Madrid Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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