Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's Opening Comments in Connection with the 10th Meeting
CHAIRMAN BARAJ: Good morning everybody, distinguished Ministers and SEDM participants. Distinguished ministers, and SEDM guests, I would like to welcome you all to the Pan South Eastern Europe Defense Ministerial Meeting.
Allow me to express my appreciation to you for your participation in this important meeting. Along with my sincere wishes that it will be a very fruitful one.
Let me extend my thanks and appreciation to the United States of America and the Secretary of Defense Mr. Donald Rumsfeld for the excellent organization of this meeting and distinctive, warm, American hospitality.
From its inception in '96 the SEDM process has shown to be of significant importance in building a safer, more secure and stable environment. Not only in Southeastern Europe, but also in neighboring regions as well. This process has as its principal objective to facilitate the EuroAtlantic integration of all nations in the region. The historical decision reached by SEDM nations for the SEDM deployment in Afghanistan and the enlargement of SEDM with new members will give a new dimension to the entire process in facing future challenges.
I would like to acknowledge our host, Secretary Rumsfeld, of the United States for the excellent preparation in hosting this event and offer the floor to you for some remarks.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, fellow Ministers, Ambassadors, delegates. Welcome to this year's conference. We even have a lot of sunshine today to follow the snow yesterday.
We certainly enjoyed visiting last night with some of our, those that were able to make it. I do want to offer a very special welcome to Minister Druschenko representing Ukraine in the first meeting as a full member. And special greeting to the observers from Moldova and Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, Montenegro. We welcome you all and we look forward to building stronger ties between our nations.
The membership of this body has almost doubled since its inception some nine years ago, I guess. This is certainly a good sign as countries in the region are increasingly leaning forward and working more closely together in important ways.
The breadth of our agenda at this meeting is an indication of the increasingly prominent role being played by each of our countries in issues such as Kosovo, border security, counterproliferation, the deployment of the Southeastern European Defense Brigade.
The importance of this cooperation is clear as new threats emerge against the aspirations and the security of free people. These threats we've seen in Bali and Beslan and Madrid, in London, and in our countries.
Some 90 nations now have, across the globe, have come together to combat the extremists and their poisonous ideology, and we're certainly grateful that the countries represented here today are among them.
I look forward to our discussions and to strengthening our partnership and to seeing the positive impact that this partnership can bring to Southeastern Europe and beyond your borders.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.