|Enlargement Still On NATO Agenda - Secy Genl|
|March 12, 2009|
Future North Atlantic Treaty Organization enlargement remains on the agenda and is an integral part of the process of stabilization in Europe, the alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said in Budapest Thursday.
NATO's "doors will remain open for future members," Scheffer told a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the entry of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland into NATO.
"NATO enlargement is one of the main strategies for the consolidation of Europe," Scheffer said.
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, all former members of the Warsaw Pact, joined NATO on March 12, 1999, a decade after breaking from the crumbling communist bloc.
This first wave of admissions "ended the Cold War for good," Scheffer said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz similarly underlined the importance of further enlargement.
"While Hungary celebrates the 10th year of its NATO membership, we have to make sure that those who want to and are capable of fulfilling the criteria can also join NATO," she said.
Without NATO, Hungary would find it a lot more difficult and costly to guarantee the security of its democracy, Goncz said.
Scheffer said the biggest challenges facing NATO at the moment were Afghanistan, the alliance's relationship with Russia and new issues such as Internet crime.
"At the April summit, NATO has to show it can face up to these challenges," the secretary general said.
NATO is holding a summit in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, on April 3-4.
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