President Lauds Progress of Young European Democracies
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 5, 2008 NATO’s invitation of membership to Albania and Croatia signifies the countries are on the right track in growing their fledgling democracies, President Bush said in his weekly radio address today.
“These countries have made extraordinary progress on the road to freedom, prosperity and peace,” he said after attending NATO's three day summit in Bucharest, Romania. “The invitation to join NATO represents the alliance’s confidence that they will continue to make necessary reforms and that they will become strong contributors to NATO’s mission of collective defense.”
President George W. Bush shakes hands with President Stjepan Mesic of Croatia during arrival ceremonies in honor of the President and Mrs. Bush Friday, April 4, 2008, at the Office of the President in Zagreb. White House photo by Chris Greenberg
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Albania and Croatia join the ranks of 10 liberated nations, including Romania, that have joined NATO since the end of the Cold War, Bush said.
“After decades of tyranny and oppression, today Romania is an important member of an international alliance dedicated to liberty,” he said. “It is setting a bold example for other former communist nations that desire to live in peace and freedom.”
The president added that he regretted that NATO couldn’t extend an invitation to a third nation during this summit.
“Like Croatia and Albania, Macedonia has met all the criteria for NATO membership,” he said. “Unfortunately, its invitation was delayed because of a dispute over its name.
“I made it clear that the name issue should be resolved quickly,” he added.
Greece blocked Macedonia’s bid saying the country’s name implies territorial pretensions toward a northern Greek province with the same name, according to news sources.
After wars in Europe that threatened destruction throughout the world, the continent has entered a promising new era, Bush said. The people of these countries, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, know what the value of liberty because they know what it means to have that liberty denied.
“They know the death and destruction that can be caused by the followers of radical ideologies who kill the innocent in pursuit of political power,” the president said. “And these lessons have led them to work alongside America in the war on terror.
Today soldiers from Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia are serving in Afghanistan. Forces from Albania and Macedonia also are serving in Iraq.
“These nations have displayed the ultimate devotion to the principle of liberty, sacrificing to provide it for others,” Bush said. “Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia are not alone in discarding the change to their past and embracing the promise of freedom.’
The president was referring to Ukraine and Georgia. While NATO did not extend invitations to the two countries, it did declare they would one day be members, something President Bush supports.
Bush quoted from a speech he made seven years ago at Warsaw University in Poland when he declared that all of Europe’s new democracies “from the Baltic to the Black Sea” should have the same chance for security and freedom as any other country.
“Seven years later we have made good progress toward fulfilling this vision (though) more work remains,” he said. “In many parts of the world, freedom is still a distant vision, but in the ancient cities and villages of Europe, it is at the center of a new era of hope.”