Remarks by the President to the American Embassy Community

Office of the Press Secretary
(Madrid, Spain)

For Immediate Release July 8, 1997


American Embassy
Madrid, Spain

6:05 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I thank all of you for being here, for all the service that you have given either through this Embassy or through our NATO mission. Whether you are an American working for some branch of the United States government, or a foreign national who has contributed to our success here, we're very grateful to you.

And I thank those of you who have brought your children. I thank you for doing that because, after all, what we are celebrating today are actions taken to make the future of these children more secure, more rich, more full of promise, more dependent upon their own abilities and not the whims of some dictator who would seek to advance the cause of his or her power at the expense of their dreams. So I'm very, very glad to see all of you here today.

Let me begin by thanking our delegation. I thank Secretary Albright for bringing her personal life story and her vision into her work every day. I thank Secretary Cohen for his leadership at the Defense Department and for helping us to prove that our politics can still stop at the water's edge and we can work across party lines to do what's right for America.

I thank the members of this distinguished congressional delegation -- the chairman of the delegation, Senator Roth, who spoke today on behalf of parliamentarians in all the NATO countries; Senator Biden, who had to leave; Senator Mikulski; Senator Smith; and Congressmen Gilman, Solomon, Gejdenson and Sisisky -- I thank them for coming, members of both parties in both Houses of Congress, proving that we are united on

this issue.

Let me also say a special word of thanks to our distinguished Ambassador, Dick Gardner, for the fine job he has done here for the last four years. He and Danielle have done

very well, and we will always be grateful for their service. (Applause.) I also thank them for their astonishing hospitality to me, to Hillary, to our family, and to many others who have come to Spain in search of peace and beauty -- and just being happy tourists. We're very grateful to you for all that you've done.

I want to say a special word of thanks to Ambassador Hunter and the NATO Mission for all they have done to make this a success. All of you know what happened today. We bridged a chasm in history and began a journey to a new Europe and a new century by inviting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join NATO, and making clear that the door is open for others to follow. We have taken a giant stride in our efforts to create a Europe that is undivided, democratic and at peace literally for the first time since the rise of the nation state on the European continent.

There has never been a time when the entire continent was not divided, was democratic and was at peace. All three conditions have never prevailed on this continent at the same time. We have a chance to make it so now. It's a result of hard work by all the members of the Alliance. This is not an American achievement, this is a NATO achievement. Every country had its say. The statement we released today and the decision we made was a genuine consensus effort. And I am profoundly grateful to all of my fellow world leaders who are part of NATO.

I also would say to the people of Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic, your heroism made this day possible. Through long years of darkness, you kept alive the hope of freedom. I still remember the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968, the Gdansk Shipyards in 1981. But we also appreciate the fact that when these three nations threw off the shackles of tyranny, they embraced democracy and tolerance. They devoted themselves to reforming their economies and their societies, to settling age-old disputes with their neighbors. They have done the hark work of freedom now for over seven years, and they have proved that they are ready to share in the full responsibility of NATO membership.

They have also set an extraordinary example for the other new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. From the northwest to the southeast corner of Europe, we see other countries now engaged in partnerships with us through the Partnership for Peace, also interested in being considered for NATO membership. These three nations have paved the way for others to follow. They have paved the way by showing that with a long-term commitment to strengthening democracy and reforming an economy, to settling ancient quarrels, a nation can become a full partner in that free, peaceful, undivided Europe. And I am very grateful.

We actually did three things here. First, we made

NATO stronger by taking in new members and making clear that others will be allowed to come in the future. And we will

continue to work to make sure we can meet the challenges of tomorrow. Second, we're working to adapt NATO internally to meet the new challenges of tomorrow, not the old ones of yesterday. And there will be more responsibility for Europeans in a separate security defense initiative.

The third thing we're doing is reaching out to have more partners. You know we signed this historic agreement with Russia. Tomorrow there will be another historic signing with Ukraine. We have over two dozen countries in the Partnership for Peace that are working with us in Bosnia and in other ways, and they will be permitted to have a political arm through a partnership council that will give them a greater say over decisions that they will be expected to participate in.

This is a very great day, not only for Europe and the United States, not simply for NATO, but, indeed, for the cause of freedom in the aftermath of the Cold War. And every one of you who had anything to do with it, and every one of you who has a child with a big stake in it, should be very happy and very proud. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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