Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary Start Celebrating 20 Years since Joining NATO
The Visegrad Group EU member states have already become season members of NATO, according to Poland’s Defense Minister.
Central European EU member states Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are celebrating the 20th anniversary since they joined NATO, the North Atlantic military alliance.
The celebrations for the important anniversary began in Warsaw on Sunday, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hosting his counterparts from the Visegrad Group, which also includes Slovakia, as well as the defense ministers of the four states.
Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary became NATO members on March 12, 1999, in the fourth enlargement of the Alliance, and its first enlargement east, to include former Soviet satellites from the former Warsaw Pact.
It came less than a decade after the end of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and less than 8 years after the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact was formally dissolved on July 1, 1991.
Slovakia, the fourth member of the Visegrad Group, joined NATO in the fifth enlargement of the Alliance, on March 29, 2004, together with other Eastern European states (which have also been EU members for years now) – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovenia.
Nonetheless, Slovakia was also part of the 20 years in NATO celebrations of its Visegrad counterparts.
The celebrations were started on Sunday in Warsaw’s district of Wesola by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“The geopolitical uncertainty of [Central-Eastern Europe] left in the aftermath of the ‘iron courtain’s’ fall was settled with our states’ accession to NATO,” Morawiecki said, as cited by PolandIn.
“One cannot find another power in the global security architecture like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Alliance is unique in that it attracts democratic states while not depriving them of their sovereignty,” he added.
“Today our expectations… are heightened because the international security context demands it. The war in the east of Ukraine is where traditional military threat meets hybrid modes of warfare. Instability prevails on NATO’s southern flank and the threat from international terrorism does not abate. Let us also add to this threat is related to cybersecurity,” Poland’s Prime Minister elaborated.
According to Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, the past 20 years have made the Visegrad Four states seasoned members of the Alliance.
“We create a community that is the strongest alliance in world history. We constitute a community of free states that guarantees security to us all,” Blaszczak said.
“20 years ago, NATO became the pillar of security and defensive capabilities of most Central-Eastern European states,” stressed in turn Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
“We understand NATO membership to mean both that someone is defending us and that we are together responsible for the others,” he said in Warsaw.
“Slovakia became a part of a community of states that have the decisive say not only in regional but also in the global dimension,” declared Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini regarding the benefits his country had reaped from its NATO accession.
The celebrations of the 20th anniversary since Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary joined NATO are to be followed by a series of events in Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest over the next few days.
At the end of 2018, the Visegrad Group EU member states also celebrated other important historical anniversaries such as the 100th year since the birth of the former Czechoslovakia and the 100th year since the independence of Poland after the breakup of Austria-Hungary at the end of World War I.
(Banner image: Video grab from PolandIn)