On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I welcome the five, ten, and fifteen-year anniversaries of three rounds of NATO enlargement.
I am proud to celebrate the important milestones in NATO's history that have strengthened the Alliance.
On March 12, 1999, Hungary, Poland, and Czech Republic joined; on March 29, 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined; and most recently, on April 1, 2009, Albania and Croatia joined the Alliance. NATO is strong today because of the common values that all its members share.
NATO's Open Door policy hasn't just allowed more members into its ranks. It has expanded democracy, prosperity and stability in Europe and opened new opportunities to advance security and prosperity around the globe.
Year after year, NATO's newest members have proved their mettle. I've seen it firsthand in Afghanistan, where our Allies in Central and East Europe have served with tremendous guts and grit. We honor the sacrifices their troops have made, including in some cases the ultimate sacrifice, as part of NATO missions.
The United States joins our Allies in reaffirming that NATO's door remains open to any European country in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership, and that can contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Our challenge today is to work toward a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace -- and to use the power of the planet's strongest alliance to promote peace and security for people all over the world.