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Scheffer says NATO's doors open to Balkan hopefuls
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 08 - 05 - 2009

NATO's secretary-general said today
that the alliance's door would be open to nations from the Balkans,
whose 1990s wars changed NATO into a peacekeeper, provided
they keep reforming and cooperating, according to Reuters.
Addressing a meeting of the Adriatic Five charter of new
NATO members Croatia and Albania as well as hopefuls Macedonia,
Bosnia and Montenegro, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said NATO and EU
membership would help southeast Europe move forward.
Inviting Bosnia and Montenegro last year into the Adriatic
Charter Cooperation "was a further demonstration that the logic
of working together has become firmly ingrained in this region",
Scheffer said.
"Cooperation has replaced confrontation, and this has opened
up exciting new opportunities for all of southeast Europe," he
told the five Balkan states' foreign ministers in Tirana.
"I have long been convinced that Euro-Atlantic integration
offers the only feasible way for southeast Europe to move
Hailing Croatia and Albania's entry into NATO early in
April, Scheffer said it was also a success for the whole region
and should serve as an example of what could be achieved.
Macedonia failed to be admitted as a NATO member because of
18-year-old objections from Greece over its name, the same as
Greece's northernmost province, also the birthplace of ancient
Greek hero Alexander the Great.
"We are fully aware that not all countries here in this
region have yet been able to realise that ambition. But the
logic of integration through NATO enlargement remains as valid
as ever," he added.
"That is why NATO's door will remain open. It is why
countries that aspire to NATO membership must maintain, and
indeed intensify, their reform efforts," he added.
NATO intervened first in Bosnia and Herzegovina and later in
Kosovo to stop armed conflicts that ravaged the Balkans for
almost a decade as former Yugoslavia disintegrated.
Scheffer said that, in many respects, NATO's transformation
after the end of the Cold War originated in southeast Europe, a
euphemistic term for the Balkans.
"It was Yugoslavia's collapse that forced NATO to assume a
role it had never before contemplated -- that of crisis manager
and peacekeeper," Scheffer said.
"With the resolution of that crisis, and the establishment
of peace throughout this region, NATO's commitment has not
lessened, and should not."
NATO troops are still stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo to
maintain a fragile peace between the various communities there.
Balkan countries are in various stages of their NATO and EU
membership, with Croatia now the closest to joining the EU.

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