Representatives of NATO’s three newest member nations spoke in the Marvin Center ballroom Thursday about their countries’ entry into the alliance.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became the first former Warsaw Pact countries to enter NATO, officially joining the organization last month.
Hungarian Ambassador G?za Jeszenszky, Czech Republic Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Antonin Hradilek and Polish Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Piotr Ogrodzinski spoke to professors, students and the media at the Ambassadors Lecture Series, the first event of International Week 1999.
Jessica Love, Program Board political affairs chair, said GW Friends of Poland proposed the event.
“It was a very time-consuming process,” Love said. “It was especially touch-and-go due to how close it is to (next week’s NATO summit). We were really persistent.”
The 50th Anniversary NATO Summit, which will take place in D.C. April 23-25, will feature meetings between state leaders, plenary sessions, receptions and dinners for members of the alliance. It also will celebrate the admission of the three new member countries, Jeszenszky said.
“This summit marks the end of a very troubled history for Hungary,” Jeszenszky said. “Central Europe has become a much more stable place due to NATO.”
Jeszenszky cited Nazism and communism as obstacles Hungary has tried to overcome.
“Hungary knows what it is – an undemocratic country,” he said. “I grew up under communism and I know how important it is to have democracy.”
Hradilek said “historical experience and geographic positioning” were the main reasons for Czech interest in NATO membership.
“Hopefully, our much overlooked country will no longer be left alone now that we have been embraced by NATO,” Hradilek said.
Hradilek said tensions between the Czech Republic and Germany may be partially alleviated because of the Czech Republic’s admission into NATO.
“We became, at least formally, an equal member of the same club as Germany,” he said.
Ogrodzinski said Poland has achieved an “immense success” by joining NATO.
“We are very grateful for all the help we received in becoming a member of NATO,” Ogrodzinski said. “It is a very difficult thing for our people to adjust to a market economy and to a democratic government.”
Ogrodzinski and Jeszenszky also spoke about NATO intervention in the current Kosovo crisis.
“The future of NATO in the last few weeks has been a hot issue,” Jeszenszky said. “The NATO summit will be a crucial event.”
“Poland supports the unfortunate but necessary decision for involvement in Kosovo,” Ogrodzinski said. “Ethnic cleansing cannot and must not be tolerated.”
Jeszenszky agreed NATO intervention was necessary.
“We Hungarians can see the plight of the Albanians plainly,” Jeszenszky said. “The political leaders of a country have become very nasty.”
Ogrodzinski said NATO must emphasize during the Kosovo crisis that it is “indispensable.”
“Kosovo will require a long time and hard work to take care of all the consequences of this crisis. NATO will be there,” he said.