Vol. 11, Issue No. 31/2004
Celebrations Held at the White House and Corcoran Gallery
Baltics Join NATO
The flags of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovenia were raised at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, marking the admission of these countries to NATO. The number of NATO members was thus increased to 26. Their admission became official earlier this week in Washington on March 29, 2004 when the Prime Ministers of the seven new member states presented the protocols of accession to the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The seven prime ministers of the new member states attended a formal ceremony at the White House on March 29th where they were received by President George W. Bush, members of his Cabinet and Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other officials and dignitaries. Among those participating was NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who greeted some two thousand participants attending the White House ceremony on the South lawn of the White House.
The three Baltic countries were represented by their respective prime ministers Indulis Emsis of Latvia, Juhan Parts of Estonia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania. Noting that NATO is strengthened by the admission of the seven new member states, President Bush emphasized the historical significance of the admission of the seven new members to NATO: "As witness to some of the great crimes of the last century, our new members bring moral clarity to the purposes of the Alliance. They understand our cause in Afghanistan and in Iraq, because tyranny for them is still a fresh memory. These nations know that when great democracies fail to confront danger, far worse peril can follow."
Other participants at the ceremony included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, as well as Senators John Warner and Majority Leader Bill Frist. The prime ministers of Croatia, Macedonia and Albania also participated in the White House ceremony, representing countries awaiting admission to NATO at some future date.
Following the White House event, a news conference with the Prime Ministers was held at the National Press Club. Celebrations were concluded with a gala reception at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing 18 national organizations and 13 ethnic communities in the U.S. cooperated with the embassies of the new NATO member states in organizing the event.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered the keynote address at the reception, at which there were some 1000 participants. The premiers of the "Vilnius 10" countries, along with other delegation members and representatives of the CEEC joined Secretary Rumsfeld on the marble staircase in the grand hall of the Gallery. JBANC and Lithuanian American Council President Saulius Kuprys, American Latvian Association President Dace Copeland and Estonian American National Council President Mati Kõiva also joined in the program. Regina Narusis of the Lithuanian American Community was master of ceremonies, and Frank Koszorus of the Hungarian American Coalition spoke on behalf of the CEEC, emphasizing the need to further broaden the Transatlantic Alliance. The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC), has supported NATO enlargement to the Baltic countries and warmly welcomes Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into NATO.
JOINT BALTIC AMERICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE, INC.
JBANC represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association, Inc. and the Lithuanian American Council, Inc.
400 Hurley Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
Tel: (301) 340-1954
Fax: (301) 309-1406