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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 21, 1998
                              FACT SHEET
                           NATO ENLARGEMENT

In a Rose Garden Ceremony at the White House today, President Clinton will sign the instruments of ratification for enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In so doing, the President will officially grant U.S. approval for admitting Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to the NATO alliance.

Today's ceremony fulfills the President's vision of building a peaceful, undivided Europe for the first time in history. The President first proposed the concept of enlarging the NATO alliance to admit the former satellite states of the former Soviet Union in 1994. Since then, the President has worked closely with our European allies and both parties in Congress to achieve this goal. The Senate voted 80-19 on April 30, in a bipartisan demonstration of support, for a strong American role in the future of European security.

In President Clinton's speech in Brussels on January 9, 1994, during his first trip to Europe as President, he articulated a vision of the U.S. and our European allies working together to ensure that the entire continent enjoys the benefits of democracy, prosperity and security. Integral to this vision was the President's Partnership for Peace, which "will advance a process of evolution for NATO's formal enlargement...[and] looks to the day when NATO will take on new members who assume the Alliance's full responsibilities."

On July 7, 1994, the President addressed the Polish parliament and affirmed his intent to pursue NATO's enlargement, calling on the Alliance to begin concrete steps towards accepting new members.

In his letter to Congress on August 17, 1995, President Clinton reported on the success of the Partnership for Peace in "forging new cooperative ties between the Alliance and its partners", and noted that for "those Partners interested in joining NATO, PFP will be the path to membership."

The President reaffirmed his support for enlargement of the Alliance during a major foreign policy address in Detroit, Michigan on October 22, 1996, when he called for the completion of ratification by the end of 1998 so that the first new members could be welcomed into the Alliance by the 50th anniversary summit in 1999.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle announced the creation of the Senate NATO Observer Group on April 22, 1997. This group, composed of 28 Senators from both parties, was charged with working with the Administration to examine NATO enlargement. The Administration held over a dozen briefings for the group over the next nine months.

On May 27, 1997, President Clinton and other NATO leaders joined President Boris Yeltsin of Russia in signing the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Russian Federation." The President devoted his commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York to the issue of enlargement later that month.

At a summit held in Madrid, Spain on July 8 and 9, 1997, President Clinton and his NATO counterparts extended invitations to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to begin accession talks with the Alliance. The President invited a bipartisan Congressional delegation to participate in the summit. On July 9, President Clinton, the other NATO leaders, NATO Secretary General Solana and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed a "Charter on a Distinctive NATO-Ukraine Partnership."

On December 16, 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her NATO counterparts signed the three protocols of accession for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, making them full members of the Alliance, subject to ratification by all current and incoming NATO member states. President Clinton transmitted the protocols to the Senate for its advice and consent on February 11, 1998.

On February 24, 1998, Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of Defense Cohen, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shelton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the final hearing on NATO enlargement. Four Senate Committees held twelve such hearings beginning in April 1997.

The Senate provided its advice and consent on April 30, 1998, signaling its overwhelming, bipartisan support for the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO in a 80-19 vote.

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