In the past decade we witnessed, and often also participated in many important events which made a direct impact on the security architecture on the European continent. There was a final collapse of the bipolar system of security. A number of Central European countries, including Poland, regained the possibility to make sovereign decisions choosing the direction of their foreign and security policy, and opted for integration with the western cooperation structures.
Â The new geostrategic situation has enabled the Launching of numerous initiatives to enhance the process of consolidating the security and stability in Europe. From our, Polish perspective the decision to enlarge NATO was absolutely a key initiative for the development of the European security architecture.
Â To us, NATO remains to be a community of states which not only seek to defend themselves together against threats, but whose goal is also to further the shared principles of democracy and to develop conditions fostering stability and prosperity. In our opinion, a crucial asset of the Alliance is also its ability to prevent effectively re-nationalization of the defense policy. To act as a forum for consultations on all security related issues, and in a way, to become an organizer" of security by undertaking initiatives aimed at developing dialogue and cooperation with other European countries.
Â Poland views the enlargement of NATO as a historic process producing benefits for the entire Euro-Atlantic security area. The enlargement of the Alliance is of a key significance for the final overcoming of the Cold War, and for the transition from the post-Cold War division of power to a system of security based on cooperation and dialogue, NATO's opening to new members expands the area elf security, stabilizing the situation in Central and Eastern Europe. In that sense, the current enlargement of NATO plays the same role in the integration of the new democracies with Western Europe, as the establishment of the Alliance did fifty years ago in consolidating the coherence of the present member states and creating the foundations of the true transatlantic partnership.
Â At the same time, Poland is convinced that the enlargement of the Alliance will produce a positive effect on the strength and internal coherence of the Alliance. As a new member, Poland would like the enlarged NATO to be able to fulfill more effectively is collective defense mission and to react efficiently to new threats arising to European security. We would also like to strengthen the role of NATO as the chief organizer of political and military cooperation with the remaining countries of the continent.
Â We believe that Poland's accession to the Alliance will also consolidate the transatlantic ties between the United States and Europe. At this point, I would like to place a strong stress on the fact that poles have always been America's traditional allies. We definitely support maintaining the United States' political and military presence on the continent. We consider that presence to be not only a source of benefits resulting from the opportunity of close cooperation, but most of all a factor of key significance for preserving peace and stability in Europe. The cooperation in the area of security and defense - developed between Poland and the United States since the early 1990s - has been one of the most important factors facilitating our integration with the Alliance.
Â Now, when joining the Alliance, Poland strongly supports the NATO open door policy, which constitutes an important element in the development of the European system of security. We fully agree with the opinion that NATO should remain open to new members who will be able to further the principles of the Washington Treaty and make a contribution to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area. Moreover, I would like to note that, as Poland has learnt from its own experience, the allies' policy of openness towards new members stimulates transformations in the countries aspiring to achieve NATO membership.
Â We know that the issue of further enlargement will be the subject of serious debates before the Washington summit. We believe that the decisions of the summit will clearly bring the most advanced partners closer to prospects for membership in the Alliance.
Â Bearing that in mind, already now, on the eve of Poland's membership in NATO, we share our experience gathered during the time of preparations and in the course of our accession process with the partner countries wishing to join the Alliance.
Â It is understood that Poland would like to see its closest neighbors became part of NATO. This is obviously linked with our geographical situation. However, that attitude by no means implies a geographic approach aimed at supporting the countries situated in the closest vicinity at the cost of other countries aspiring to the membership in the Alliance.
Â One should note that, apart from the enlargement process, NATO's contribution to the development of the European security architecture comprises yet another very important initiative undertaken by the allies, namely the enhancement of multilevel international political and military cooperation. I am naturally referring to the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The programs provide their participants with a wide range of opportunities for dialogue as well as political and military cooperation with NATO. Poland holds the opinion that it is important for the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council to maintain their individualized and open formula allowing for practically all initiatives in the area of security and defense policy, with the exception of collective defense. This particular approach to PfP means that in the foreseeable future the program has a chance of becoming one of the pillars of the new security order on the European continent. Poland, already as a NATO member, would like to continue to make an active contribution to PfP as understood in that way. We will make efforts to fill with content the Partnership enhancement program delineated in Sintra and Madrid in order to increase the involvement of the partner countries in the decision making process and to step up the specific cooperation offer. We will also work on behalf of further expansion and enhancement of the PfP formula. This is certainly a prerequisite for the Partnership to remain attractive to its participants.
Â In a similar context we view the individualized dialogue and cooperation between the Alliance and Russia. We consider the signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the establishment of the Permanent Joint Council to be one of the greatest achievements in the process of transition from a bipolar division of power on the continent to a new cooperative structure. From the beginning we supported the idea of establishing a special relationship between the Alliance and Russia, which would be based on the Founding Act, and we stressed the importance of that mechanism for the security of Europe as a whole. We are convinced that the wide range of areas of possible dialogue and specific political and military cooperation envisaged in the Founding Act enables Russia to develop a genuinely strategic partnership with NATO, and to participate fully in the process of building a cooperative, non-hierarchical security architecture in Europe, which would be based on a system of interlocking institutions. Poland is determined to participate actively in thus defined partnership and to work on its further development.
Â However, it is important that both sides fully agree as to the goals and rules of cooperation within the Permanent Joint Council, and that they are able to demonstrate that in practice. The dialogue within the PJC should bring about a growing trust and confidence between the two sides, and not enable the "extraction" of information that could later be used to weaken the potential, "rival". It is also important to agree that the Permanent Joint Council cannot serve as a decision making body on issues which can only be decided among the member stares, such as a further enlargement of NATO or an update of the Strategic Concept.
Â Poland attaches an equally great importance to the development of distinctive partnership between NATO and Ukraine. I think that there is full agreement that a sovereign and stable Ukraine cooperating with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures is vital to the security of our region, and at the same time, of the entire continent. In our opinion, a very important step bringing Ukraine closer to the Euro-Atlantic community was the signing of the Distinctive Partnership Charter between NATO and Ukraine, and inviting Ukraine to be involved in the partnership programs.
Â I believe that, drawing from its extensive experience in to-date political and military contacts with the eastern neighbor - let me just to mention in this context the establishment of the Polish-Ukrainian battalion designed to carry out peacekeeping operations - Poland is able to help in filling with content the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership Charter. With true satisfaction did we observe several years how Ukraine's attitude gradually evolved from not opposing the enlargement of NATO into understanding of the process. Now, the country's wish to develop closer relations with NATO is welcomed both in the context of the security interests of Poland - a new NATO state bordering with Ukraine, and in the context of the whole process of European security development.
Â When speaking of the rule of initiatives undertaken within NATO on behalf of the development of the European security architecture, one must not forget about cooperation with other organizations whose activities produce a major impact on the security situation on the continent.
A broad forum for consultations in the field of security constitutes the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - which is not only pan-European institution, but also the one comprises the United States and Canada. The OSCE fulfills its role through preventive diplomacy, stabilization of regions threatened with conflicts, as well as the development of security and confidence building measures. Thereby the Organization plays a vital role in the European security architecture. The process of adjustment of the CFE Treaty, so important for the conventional arms reduction in Europe, and hence the stability and security on the continent, is also taking place with support from the OSCIE. Therefore, it is crucial for the activities undertaken by the OSCE and NATO to he complementary, so that the two organizations would nor compete with each other or overlap their respective efforts, but they would cooperate on behalf of European security without creating hierarchical structures of interdependency. A practical example showing the existence of such cooperation is the joint involvement of both organizations in settling problems resulting from the particularly complex situation in the Balkans (in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo). Last year, during our chairmanship of the OSCE works, Poland placed a great stress on the development of such cooperation between the OSCE and NATO.
Â For the European countries and their people, the European Union has also been an important forum of cooperation in a number of different areas of activities. The political and economic links among the EU members have been growing closer over the years. It seems important from the point of view of the European security architecture that the recent years also saw a clear intensification of efforts on behalf of the development of the Common Foreign and Security Policy by the EU member states. Poland, which started accession talks with the European Union last year, actively supports all the processes stepping up Europe's ability to pursue a Common Foreign and Security Policy. However, it is important to us that these processes strengthen the transatlantic ties by reinforcing and not offering an alternative to the efforts undertaken by NATO with the aim of ensuring stability and security on the European continent.
Â We believe that one of the key elements of the European security system is also the Western European Union with which we have been cooperating actively for a long time as an Associate Partner. We support the strengthening of the WEU which can play a unique role of a link between NATO and the European Union. Poland, which will become a WEU Associate Member after its accession to NATO, is going to provide full backing for the policy of developing Europe's ability to react within the North Atlantic Alliance, to threats arising to the security of the continent.
Â The new situation emerging in Europe is influenced as well by the network of regional cooperation and links, both institutionalized such as the Baltic Sea Countries Council or the Central European Initiative, and through non-institutionalized bilateral and multilateral partnership relations between individual countries. While taking part in the processes of integration with the Euro-Atlantic and European security structures, Poland has not forgotten about that element of building the security architecture. We have bilateral cooperation with a number of countries, including our neighbors, and we have been involved in multilateral initiatives, for example, with Germany and France, or with Germany and Denmark. This way, we try to supplement the cooperation realized within international organizations.
Â To conclude, I would like to note that, in the recent years, Central Europe has become a stable region without tensions and conflicts, and has consolidated the mechanisms of versatile cooperation and democratic as well as intensive development of its countries. We believe that the enlargement of NATO and the allied cooperation programs, along with other integration processes currently occurring in Europe, will preserve the to-date achievements, while providing countries such as Poland with new opportunities for participation in the shaping of the cooperative system of security on the European continent.