Five Years of the Czech Republic in NATO
Five Years of
the Czech Republic in NATO
Remarks by NATO
Secretary General, Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during his visit to the Czech
Republic. Prague, March 18, 2003.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Five years ago, in the Truman Library in the town of Independence, Missouri,
the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became Parties to the North Atlantic
From a technical point of view, depositing the instruments of accession was
just a small step -- a few signatures and a few short speeches. Politically
however, this was history in the making.
A decisive step in overcoming Europe's Cold War division.
The name of the city in which the accession ceremony took place -- "Independence"
-- was deeply symbolic. Because by joining the Atlantic Alliance, the Czech
Republic, Hungary and Poland were making their newly acquired independence
irreversible. They would no longer be the object of the ambitions of others.
For this country, in particular, becoming a member of NATO was a truly
Having suffered from many of the ill-winds that swept the 20th century, the
Czech Republic, as a member of NATO, would no longer be alone in facing the
challenges of the future.
But the Czech Republic's membership in NATO did not only benefit this
country. It was also a major step forward for our Alliance. Even before joining
NATO, the Czech Republic already demonstrated that it would be a staunch Ally.
This country embarked on the difficult challenge of defence reform, and
introduced far-reaching changes in other areas to qualify for membership. And it
demonstrated unflinching solidarity where it really counts -- on the ground, in
our common efforts to bring peace to the Balkans. Membership in NATO is about
responsibilities as well as rewards, and the Czech Republic never lost sight of
that fundamental fact.
After accession, the solidarity offered by the Czech Republic has continued
to be exemplary.
Only a few days after enlargement, the solidarity of new Allies was put to
the test when they were asked to share the responsibility of the Kosovo Air
The Czech Republic as well as the other two new members passed that test and
showed that they fully lived up to their new responsibilities. And the Air
Campaign, which lasted 78 days, succeeded in putting an end to the campaign of
violence against the Kosovar population. It also paved the way for NATO’s
subsequent peace keeping operation, KFOR.
The Czech Republic, of course, is also taking part in that operation.
As the recent tragic events have shown, the job in Kosovo is not yet done. I
would like to salute once again the courage and professionalism of all KFOR
soldiers, including the Czech troops, in dealing with the situation. Let me
stress that we are determined to help all the people of Kosovo and maintain a
safe and secure environment.
But a special duty also falls on the political leaders of all ethnic
communities in Kosovo to stop the spiral of senseless violence. I have called on
all concerned, both in Belgrade and Pristina to do the utmost to prevent further
escalation. All ethnic communities must act with calm and restraint.
I am also in contact with other international organizations, in particular
UNMIK. It goes without saying that we have to continue to work closely together.
After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, NATO
declared Article 5 – our collective defence clause. This was another challenging
period for NATO Allies, old and new.
The Czech Republic, once again, played its full part in showing Allied
solidarity with the US. Furthermore, Czech special forces will go to Afghanistan
to take part in the counter-terrorist operations in that country.
Today, Czech forces are on peacekeeping duty in Afghanistan under the
NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
So the Czech Republic has been playing a role commensurate with its political
and economic importance. And although the challenge of defence reform remains a
daunting one – for this country as well as for many other Allies -- the Czech
Republic has never left any doubt about its commitment to see it through.
This city, Prague, was a most fitting venue for NATO’s historic
transformation Summit in November 2002.
And over the past year and a half, the Czech Republic has taken an active
role in implementing the decisions that were taken at that Summit.
Decisions that will allow NATO to better meet the security challenges of this
21st century – with new members, new missions, new capabilities, and new
Czech forces will participate in the new NATO Response Force that will give
our Alliance a multinational, highly capable quick-reaction unit, ready for
operational deployment wherever required.
And most recently, the Czech Republic took the lead in NATO's new battalion
for the defence against biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons.
Through this multinational unit, all of NATO stands to gain from the Czech
armed forces' unrivalled excellence in detecting and protecting against these
As the history’s most successful alliance, NATO is increasingly called upon
to take on more and more challenging tasks. First and foremost, we are now
gradually expanding ISAF in Afghanistan beyond Kabul.
We are in the process of deploying more Provincial Reconstruction Teams in
the countryside. This is crucial if stability will return to Afghanistan in an
Getting Afghanistan right is a top priority for the Alliance, and I am
confident that I can count on the Czech Republic’s support in this process.
But more may eventually come our way: If a legitimate Iraqi government,
supported by the UN, asks for NATO help, I do not see how we can abdicate our
And the Czech Republic is already participating in the peacekeeping mission
in Iraq, another sign of its determination to take part in international peace
Solidarity has also been the hallmark of the Czech Republic's approach to its
European neighbours. Above all, Prague has consistently, and convincingly,
supported Slovakia's bid for NATO membership.
In just only two-three weeks' time, that goal -- our common goal -- will be
realised, when Slovakia and six other countries join our Alliance.
Soon, not only NATO will see the greatest ever expansion of its membership,
but also the European Union – when it includes this country and nine others
during the month of May.
These will be momentous steps in the history of our continent. Steps that
will bring us even closer to a unified goal of defending together the values
that we fought for and that we cherish so much.