WASHINGTON, May 21, 2012 — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at NATO’s summit in Chicago today that member nations are committed to the organization’s open-door membership policy, which she called a “powerful motivation” for countries wishing to join the alliance.
Speaking at a meeting of NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, Clinton said the prospect of gaining membership in the alliance spurs countries to “implement difficult but necessary reforms, resolve internal differences as well as differences with their neighbors, and contribute to security operations that benefit themselves and all of us.”
The open-door policy has produced some of the alliance’s most active and committed members, she said, and has helped to promote stability and cooperation in central and eastern Europe.
According to NATO agreements, the alliance is open to any European country able to meet the commitments and obligations of membership and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Since 1949, NATO’s membership has increased from 12 to 28 countries through six rounds of enlargement. Albania and Croatia, which were invited to join NATO at the alliance’s April 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania, formally became members April 1, 2009.
Georgia is advancing toward NATO membership, and Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina are also working to become alliance members.
Clinton said the United States is deeply committed to NATO’s open-door policy. “It is in that spirit that we welcome our aspirant nations here today,” she said.
“We will keep working with each of them, both bilaterally and through NATO, to help them implement finally the reforms needed to meet the standards for membership,” she added. “As I said yesterday, I believe this summit should be the last summit that is not an enlargement summit.”
Clinton said NATO looks to aspiring member nations to demonstrate that they share NATO’s values and =are willing and able to meet the standards for membership. “And we promise to help them as they do so because this is in our interest,” she added.
Gaining membership can be a lengthy and challenging process, Clinton acknowledged.
“We need to stick with it and remember our ultimate goal: a stronger, more durable, more effective NATO,” she said, adding that enlargement of the alliance, done right, is a core element of NATO’s purpose and its community.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)