- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

Editor's Note: The following letter to the U.S. Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, was sponsored by 20 parliamentarians of European NATO member countries.

Dear Mr. Speaker:

The horrific terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 have not only hit New York and Washington but [also] shaken the free world. Tools of modern everyday life such as civilian aircraft, the stock exchange or the Internet have been turned into deadly weapons and used against us. Although we are still struggling to fully understand the consequences, we all know that those attacks will fundamentally change our thinking on security.

NATO will play a key role in mastering the new threats to our common security but it may have to adapt. NATO has already begun to adapt over the past decade by opening up to new members and to the new missions of peacekeeping and peacemaking. Apart from a response to the threat of terrorism the next round of enlargement will be on the agenda of the alliance next year.

The "velvet revolutions" that swept across Eastern Europe in 1989-1990 opened the way to creating a "Europe whole and free" by joining the reformist countries to the European Union and NATO. After the fall of the Berlin Wall parliamentarians took the lead in inviting their colleagues from the new democracies to participate in the North Atlantic Assembly and were at the forefront of opening the alliance.

When Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic became NATO members in March 1999 NATO extended the realm of peace and stability in Europe. The alliance was strengthened by the accession of the new members. NATO's heads of state and government are going to evaluate whether the nine officially recognized candidates Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and aspiring candidate Croatia are prepared for membership. They will find that all candidate countries have seen progress in meeting the targets of the "Membership Action Plan" (MAP) since 1999, though to varying degrees.

We welcome that the heads of state and government firmly committed themselves to inviting new members next year at their Brussels meeting in June 2001. We advocate that the most advanced candidates are invited to start negotiations on membership at the Summit in 2002. Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will have met the requirements by 2002. All five have successfully transformed into stable democratic and free market societies. They have embraced civilian control of their armed forces, made significant investments to increase their defense budgets and modernize their forces. They have participated in international peacekeeping operations and demonstrated their ability to operate with allied forces under NATO standards.

Next year's decision must not lead to a decoupling of Romania and Bulgaria from the integration process. They have made significant progress and played a key role in supporting the stabilization of Southeast Europe. They must have a binding perspective for joining NATO, whenever they meet NATO's requirements.

We are aware that many wonder whether the idea of NATO membership for the Baltic States shouldn't be postponed or abandoned considering Russian opposition. However, we are convinced that the integration of the Baltic States in the EU and NATO will ensure long-term stability for Russia on its Western border. It's an encouraging sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin has toned down criticism of NATO enlargement in recent months and stated that he is willing to put NATO-Russia relations on a new footing. In keeping with the principles of the OSCE and the Charter of Paris, President Putin has acknowledged that the Baltic States are free to choose to which alliance they want to belong to.

There will be no new dividing lines in Europe. NATO remains open to any European democracy willing to join and meeting the requirements of membership. We need to demonstrate our interest in strengthening relations with Russia by expanding support for economic reforms and by engaging in more practical cooperation. Joint initiatives could focus on disarmament, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, combating international terrorism and resolving regional conflicts. We should try to reach a consensus on how to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles. Russia is the key partner in providing stability and security in Europe and beyond. Unequivocal Russian support for the international coalition on countering terrorism holds out the prospect of more. President Putin signaled during his recent trip to NATO and during the summit with U.S. President Bush that he is willing to dramatically improve NATO-Russia relations. Thus, we should consider arrangements for more binding and long-term cooperation, including decision-making on joint action as envisaged by the NATO-Russia Founding Act on a case-by-case basis.

Transparency and predictability are two key features of security. Thus, the alliance should set a date for a future round of enlargement no later than 2005. This would provide candidates not invited next year with a clear perspective for carrying out future reforms. It would inform others about our intentions. The process of integration is strengthening the transatlantic community, a community based on the shared values of freedom, human rights, democracy, rule of law and prosperity for all. NATO leaders are called to take a courageous decision to make our community more comprehensive and to respond to the new terrorist threat in 2002. We are committed to making next year's NATO summit a success.


Sincerely,


Mihaly Balla, Dr. Czeslaw Bielecki, Klaus Francke, Prof. Dr. Bronislaw Geremek, Florian Gerster, Jan Hoekema, Ulrich Irmer, Karl Lamers, Jon Lilletun, Jozef Oleksy, Tómas Ingi Olrich, Manfred Opel, Prof. Longin H. Pastusiak, Dr. Friedbert Pflüger, Alfred Recours, Christian Schmidt, Volkmar Schultz, Michael Zantovsky, Martin Zijlstra, Peter Zumkley.

Markus Meckel is a member of Germany's ruling SPD Party and the vice president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

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