NATO foreign ministers are expected to debate in Brussels on December 2-3 on how to proceed further with Georgia and Ukraine membership bid.
The foreign ministerial meeting is likely to reiterate the alliance’s Bucharest summit declaration that the two countries will become members some day, but the discussions are likely to focus on what type of practical steps should NATO undertake at this stage to put Georgia and Ukraine on a membership track.
Since 1999 NATO aspirant countries have had to follow a so called Membership Action Plan (MAP) to qualify for membership. NATO Bucharest summit in April, 2008 instructed member states’ foreign ministers to review progress by Georgia and Ukraine and decide about MAP in December.
With some NATO members against of granting MAP to two countries, the U.S. and Britain are pushing for an alternative option, that seems to involve giving more powers to two separate commissions that the alliance has with Ukraine (since 1997) and Georgia (since September, 2008).
“We have the Ukraine and Georgia commissions,” Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, said in London after talks with his British counterpart, David Miliband, on December 1.
“And we believe that those commissions can be used to continue to help prepare these states for eventual membership in NATO,” she said.
“We believe strongly in NATO’s open-door policy that states that are prepared for NATO membership and can assume the responsibilities therein should be welcomed into the organization. But there is a long road ahead for both Georgia and Ukraine to reach those standards. And the United States stands resolutely for those standards, meaning that there should be no shortcuts to membership in NATO.”
“The NATO-Georgia Commission will meet for the first time in Foreign Ministers format, and this will also provide us with an opportunity to exchange views with Foreign Minister Tkeshelashvili about the evolving security situation in the region, and other issues of mutual interest,” he said.
German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the German Parliament on November 26, as quoted by the German news agency, DPA, that there was “no reason” for the alliance to go further than the Bucharest decisions at this stage.
He reiterated the same position on December 2 upon arrival at the NATO summit.
"I hope we will agree to stick with the agreement from Bucharest. I see no reason to go beyond that for now," Reuters reported quoting Steinmeier.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General said in his opening remarks at the foreign ministerial meeting that NATO membership "entails not only privileges, but also serious obligations.”
“In particular, aspirants must demonstrate a strong commitment to political and military reform. That is why, today, Foreign Ministers will make a first assessment of progress which Georgia and Ukraine have made,” Scheffer said.
He also said that on December 3 a NATO-Georgia Commission meeting will be held on the foreign ministerial level.
Georgian Foreign Minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili told journalists in Brussels on December 1 that Tbilisi hoped NATO would agree on offering Georgia a mechanism that would help deepen integration process.