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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Aboard Air Force One)
For Immediate Release                                     March 13, 2000


On March 12, 1999, in Independence, Missouri, the Foreign Ministers of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. One year ago, America became safer, NATO became stronger, and Europe more stable and united.

Today we take the opportunity to reaffirm that the first new members of NATO shall not be the last. From the Baltic Sea to the Balkans, in the heart of Europe, and wherever NATO's partners are found, there are many countries that share our democratic values and our determination to defend them. As they become able to meet the responsibilities of NATO membership and to contribute to the security of the transatlantic area, we will support their aspirations to become our allies.

NATO is erasing arbitrary lines of division across Europe. That is essential if we are to meet our goal, shared by our administration and a broad bipartisan coalition, of a Europe undivided, democratic, and at peace for the first time in history. We will also continue to deepen our partnership with Russia and Ukraine, who play essential roles in the new Europe.

At the NATO Summit in Washington in April 1999, the Allies laid out a roadmap to membership. We are helping aspiring allies intensify their participation in the Partnership for Peace, encouraging them to follow Membership Action Plans to achieve greater interoperability with NATO, and engaging with them in a full set of consultations and cooperative measures. In these ways, aspiring countries are demonstrating their commitment to closer ties with NATO and preparing for possible membership in the Alliance. They are also embracing economic and political reforms as well as defense policies that strengthen their democracies and contribute to peace and security in Europe. We urge them to continue pursuing their Membership Action Plans, the surest path to joining NATO, with even greater dedication in the months ahead.

On this occasion, we thank our allies, new and old, for working with us to make sure NATO does in the next half-century what it has done in the last: unite our strength to deter war and defend our common interests. NATO's door is open to those who will help us do that in the future.