NATO foreign ministers will meet counterparts from four “aspirant countries” on the sideline of upcoming Chicago summit in an attempt to reaffirm that, although this summit is not about enlargement, the Alliance remains focused on its open door policy, a senior U.S. Department State official said on May 10.
Four states, described by NATO as “aspirant” countries, are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro.
“It is not an enlargement summit, but it’s also not a summit that should be backing away from enlargement. There is not a country ready to be included in the Alliance at this summit… But it does not mean that we are not focused on enlargement,” Philip Gordon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, discussing upcoming Chicago summit.
“One of the ways we are going to signal that is Secretary Clinton will participate in a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers with four aspirant countries to specifically acknowledge them, note that the door remains open and to talk to them about the process going forward and we expect that the communiqué will also will also signal our strong support for enlargement in general and processes for these four aspirants in particular,” Gordon said.
He made these remarks after Democrat Senator Ben Cardin told him that the fact Chicago summit was not “the enlargement summit” seemed to be sending a signal that “we are slowing down” with enlargement process. He called on the U.S. administration to send a strong signal to the aspirant countries that although there would not be enlargement decision this time, there would be a clear path that would lead to NATO expansion.
Gordon responded: “It is our goal and commitment to make sure that this summit sends a positive signal in that direction.”
“I’ll be honest, not every member of NATO is enthusiastic about enlargement process and sometimes it takes some persuading to make sure that positive signal gets sent,” he added.
Meanwhile on May 11 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a news conference, that the Alliance invited at the Chicago summit a group of thirteen partner nations to recognise “significant contributions” made by these states to NATO operations.
“NATO foreign ministers will also meet their colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to discuss the whole range of issues on the Summit agenda,” Rasmussen said.