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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 25, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                     AT OPENING SESSION OF THE

                          Mellon Auditorium
                           Washington. D.C.

12:08 P.M. EDT

SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Let me welcome all of you to this summit meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Today's meeting underscores the importance we all attach to this unique forum. Since the EAPC was launched two years ago, its focus has been on forging stronger cooperative ties among our countries. Over the last two years the EAPC has shown a remarkable capacity to adapt and evolve with the new security challenges. Our agenda has become more elaborate, more comprehensive. Our political consultations have become more substantive and more focused.

Today the Euro-Atlantic area is still troubled by violent conflict. Nationalism and ethnic strife exist and pose a direct challenge to the values and to the principles we all share and which are the basis for the Euro-Atlantic culture of cooperation. By strengthening our ties further we can move closer to our goal of a durable Euro-Atlantic, at peace. A cooperative approach to security remains our only viable option.

I want to thank all the partners for being here today with us, for working with us to build our common culture of cooperation in the positive atmosphere of this forum.

Let me now pass the floor to our host of the Washington Summit, President Clinton.

President Clinton, you have the floor.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. First of all, I would like to join you in welcoming all the members of our Partnership Council. From Central Asia to North America, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, this Council and the Partnership for Peace are building a region of shared values and shared endeavors.

Many nations in this room, indeed, are accepting risks and hardships to support the peace in Southeastern Europe. To be sure, there are challenges to our common vision of a Europe undivided, democratic, and at peace -- the challenge of overcoming instability and economic hardship in the Balkans; of defeating those who employ ethnic hatred in the service of power; the challenge of integrating a democratic Russia into the European mainstream; the challenge of averting a gulf between Europe and the Islamic world; the challenge of resolving tensions in the Aegean.

We must see reducing conflict and tensions, and increasing prosperity and integration, as two sides of the same coin. Therefore, as we fight against ethnic hatred in Kosovo, we must fight for the rebuilding of Southeastern Europe, and the integration of the region into the larger European community.

We must continue to strengthen the Partnership for Peace, and deepen the role that our partner countries play in the planning and execution of the missions we undertake together. We must continue to build on our cooperation with Russia, with Ukraine, with all the members of this Council, to advance the interests and ideals we share.

We must continue the enlargement of NATO, the Partnership for Peace, and the Partnership Council. All of these things, I am convinced, will make Europe stronger and freer and more stable. And I think that I can speak for my friend, Mr. Chretien, when I say that those of us in North America strongly support it.

As I said last night at our dinner, if you look around this room, the idea that all of us could be sitting here together around one table would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. We are here around this table together because we are thinking about our common future. And that is the best thing to say about this meeting today.

END 12:11 P.M. EDT