Here in Headquarters Multinational Corps reflected a modified purpose though a new strategic concept and, we feel honored by the fact that the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the accession of Czechia, Hungary and Poland to NATO, are taking place here, in the Baltic Barracks. This is a sign of the prestige of this Headquarters. Moreover, it is our opportunity to send the message to the whole region that we are on constant guard on the eastern frontier of the Alliance.
The significance of where we are today is linked to decisions taken in the past. Twenty years ago, when NATO was 50 years old, in parallel to the efforts of its enlargement, Denmark and Germany together with Poland decided to establish a Corps Headquarters in Szczecin. Its initial aim was to facilitate the introduction of Poland’s armed forces to the NATO Command and Force Structures. Thanks to those far-sighted decisions, Czechia and Hungary were able to join us here 8 years later. Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin is the place where our fortunes – forged in 1999 – correlated. Today, more than one hundred and fifty soldiers from Poland, Hungary and Czechia successfully work abreast with twenty two other NATO and non-NATO member nations of the HQ.
However, within those 20 years the HQ became much more than an Alliance integrator for the whole region. The evolution of the Corps Headquarters is tightly connected to and reflected in the transformation of NATO itself. Security challenges demanded a shift in thinking. The readiness status was raised and ground troops were put into the spotlight. This happened in the whole area of operations of the Corps, also known as the eastern flank, stretching from the Baltic Region in the north to Hungary and Slovakia in the south.
General Dempsey once said: “Diversity produces knowledge, perspective and strength but nothing inspires and motivates more than a sense of belonging”. All of us, gathered here today, know the feeling described by the General. Immediately after the accession our countries showed that the new members are fully committed to the cause of freedom. We have displayed our dedication, passion and willingness. Polish, Czech and Hungarian soldiers are forward deployed on a variety of NATO operations. They are on a deterrence mission for safety and security but they are prepared to defend if required so. All this shows the significance of the accession act from 1999. Here and now, we know that we are being recognized for our deeds, merits and sacrifices.
Today’s celebration should not overshadow the challenges we have been facing. With the gradual revelation of the new characters of war, we cannot forget their old, inevitable logic and detrimental harms. This is why now, even more than in those past 20 years, we must remain united. In NATO, we are one for all and all for one.
So today, in the year marking the 70th anniversary of the Alliance, I wish that this spirit which helped the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians in 1999 will be alive for at least another 70 years.
Thank you very much.