Remarks at a Signing Ceremony for North Atlantic Treaty Organization Accession Protocols for Albania and Croatia
President Bush. Welcome. Please be seated. Mr. Secretary General, it's good to have you here in the White House.
Secretary General Jakob Gijsbert "Jaap" de Hoop Scheffer of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Thank you, Mr. President.
President Bush. Thank you for your steadfast leadership and your courage. Ambassadors, thank you for joining us. The Ambassador of Croatia and Albania are here for a special reason. Congressman Engel, I think he's here—[laughter]—right in front of us. Congressman, we are so honored you have taken time to be here. Deputy Secretary England; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, thank you for coming. Ambassadors, members of the administration, members of the diplomatic corps, friends of freedom: Welcome, we are glad you're here. This is a special moment in the hopeful story of human liberty, as America formally declares its support for Albania and Croatia's entry into NATO.
With today's ceremony, we celebrate two young and vigorous democracies seeking to assume new responsibilities in a time of terrorism and a time of war. We strengthen America's partnership with nations that once found themselves in the shackles of communism. We rejoice in taking a major step toward welcoming the people of Albania and Croatia into the greatest alliance for freedom the world has ever known.
The United States is proud to have supported the NATO aspirations of these nations from the beginning. Laura and I fondly remember our visits to Tirana and Zagreb, where we met people who are showing the world the potential and the promise of human freedom. The citizens of Albania and Croatia have overcome war and hardship, built peaceful relations with their neighbors, and helped other young democracies build and strengthen free societies. And the people of Albania and Croatia are helping move the world closer to a great triumph of history: a Europe that is whole, a Europe that is free, and a Europe that is at peace.
The invitation to join NATO is recognition of the difficult reforms these countries have undertaken on the path to prosperity and peace. In return, NATO membership offers the promise of security and stability. The United States and our NATO allies will stand united in defense of our fellow members. Once Albania and Croatia formally join NATO, their people can know: If any nation threatens their security, every member of our alliance will be at their side.
The road of reform does not end with acceptance into NATO. Every member of the alliance has a responsibility to enhance, promote, and defend the cause of democracy. I'm confident that Albania and Croatia will deliver on their commitments to strengthen their democratic institutions and free market systems.
Albania and Croatia's entry into NATO is an historic step for the Balkans. In the space of a single decade, this region has transformed itself from a land consumed by war to a contributor to international peace and stability. America looks forward to the day when the ranks of NATO include all the nations in the Balkans, including Macedonia. I thank Macedonia's Ambassador for joining us today. We're proud of the steps you're taking to strengthen your democracy. The great NATO alliance is holding a place for you at our table. And we look forward to your admission as a full NATO member as soon as possible.
Our nations seek a path to NATO—other nations seek a path to NATO membership, and they have the full support of the United States Government. Today I reiterate America's commitment to the NATO aspirations of Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro. The door to NATO membership also remains open to the people of Serbia, should they choose that path. All these nations treasure the blessings of liberty because they remember the pain of tyranny. They share NATO's solemn commitment to defend the free against the unfree and the weak against the strong.
The lasting strength of the NATO alliance is a testament to the enduring power of freedom. And the expansion of this alliance will lead the way to a safer and more hopeful world. On behalf of my fellow citizens, I offer congratulations to the people of Albania and Croatia on this historic achievement. May your children always honor the struggles you endured. May the stories of Albania and Croatia be a light to those who remain in the darkness of tyranny. And may your example help guide them to a brighter day.
It's now my honor to welcome the Secretary General to the podium. Mr. Secretary General.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Croatia's Ambassador to the U.S. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic; Albania's Ambassador to the U.S. Aleksander Sallabanda; and Macedonia's Ambassador to the U.S. Zoran Jolevski. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Signing Ceremony for North Atlantic Treaty Organization Accession Protocols for Albania and Croatia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285115