APRIL 2 2008 17:04h
The first step of the long process of joining NATO is an Action Plan for the membership which Croatia started six years ago.
From April 2 to April 4 the 20th NATO summit is held in Bucharest, and will host the highest number of participants in history. During the summit Croatia, Albania and Macedonia expect to receive the letter of call to join the prestigious military pact. Apart from the three potential new members, also Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro should continue their approach NATO.
About 60 state representatives will gather in Bucharest, and the summit will be attended for the first time by the UN Head Secretary Ban Ki-moon and by the president of the European Commission Manuel Barroso. But the most important guest will be Russia’s former president Vladimir Putin.
Joining NATO requires the achievement of many conditions
Croatia, Albania and Macedonia will assist the summit in order to find out whether they receive the letter of call from NATO. This will be made public on April 3, afternoon. All these three countries are very optimistic as they think that they have fulfilled all necessary conditions, which required a long and demanding process.
Since NATO was founded in 1949, its membership has grown from 12 founder countries up to 26. As written in the Article 10 of the Washington Agreement, the membership is open to every European country which is in condition to accept the Pact’s principles and contribute to the security to the North Atlantic area.
After the end of the cold war, the Organisation raised its possibilities in order to face new threats to security such as terrorism and the spreading of weapons of mass destruction. The countries give their help through special forces in order to defend themselves from chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, and by building military bases in order to ensure quick troop transport to the critical zone. However, for key operations, such as the mission in Afghanistan , there are still not enough soldiers and equipment.
From MAP to membership in ‘just’ a few years
The first step of the long joining process is to start the Membership Action Plan (MAP), which Croatia started in 2002, while Albania and Macedonia started it in 1999. the MAP presents a represents a test to see if the countries who want to join NATO are ready to take the second step.
The conditions required to every countries who start the MAP regard reforms in the fields of politics, economy, defence and military capability, financial stability, how much care is invested in security, and justice.
Therefore, every country who starts the MAP has to prepare a yearly national programme which the ministers of foreign affairs have to hand over to the NATO council after a yearly cycle. The council will then evaluate individual progress in the preparation for the membership.
The council decides on the membership of new countries
By starting the MAP, Albania, Macedonia and Croatia have regulated the remaining activities of peace partnership with the targets and priorities of the Action Plan. From the moment they started the MAP, these countries have started planning their security and defence policies in order to adjust to the collective NATO defence programme.
When a country starts the MAP and hands over the report of its reforms, and proves to have the qualifications to become a NATO member, the council, which represents all countries, will make its decision. Considering that the strong interest of the United States in spreading the NATO, political analysts believe that Croatia and Albania will not have problems to join the Organisation, while Macedonia will have problems due to its tense relations with Greece.
Putin’s presence will raise attention
However, the membership of new countries will not be the only important event of the summit. One of the key issues will be the strategic targets in Afghanistan, that is, the reinforcement of the military forces in that area, on which the American and the French presidents.
The most interesting thing however, will be the presence of Vladimir Putin, who, during the summit, will probably try to approach Russia to NATO, which would mean a very important collaboration in the future.
NATO summit in Bucharest is the largest meeting of the members in history. Another purpose of the meeting will be to solve some of the hottest issues which concern NATO and decide who to solve urgent world crisis.