Cooperation of eastern flank countries benefits the whole of NATO - President

Andrzej Duda was taking part in a presidential panel entitled "The Bucharest Nine ahead of the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels: achievements, challenges, prospects" PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski/PAP

Cooperation between the nine countries of NATO's eastern flank works, functions well and brings benefits not only for our part of Europe but for the whole alliance, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Friday.

The president added that thanks to the Bucharest Nine initiative, the alliance has shown that it has returned to vitality.

Andrzej Duda was taking part in a presidential panel entitled "The Bucharest Nine ahead of the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels: achievements, challenges, prospects" as part of a conference organised on the sidelines of the Bucharest Nine (B9) countries' summit in Warsaw, attended by the presidents of Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria and the head of the Czech parliament. Participants were asked among other things about how they rated the effectiveness of the B9 format over the three years since it was formed.

The Polish president said the cooperation of the nine countries on NATO's eastern flank had achieve "100 percent effectiveness so far." He drew attention to the fact that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had managed to achieve their main objective, which was the deployment of NATO troops to the region.

"The first joint declaration (of the B9 - PAP) talked about the necessity of strengthening the alliance's eastern flank, about the necessity of stationing alliance forces in our part of Europe - and it was successful," Duda pointed out. He added that the greatest success of Friday's summit was the adoption of a further joint declaration. That declaration, the president emphasised, will be passed on to the remaining allies, who as a result "will know what we, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, are about at the summit in Brussels." He said it was also fair towards other members "that we show them what our expectations are, what our needs are, and allow them to think about it and discuss it."

He went on to express satisfaction at the course of discussions at the summit, devoted to challenges facing the alliance, and said it showed that "in the majority of cases" the B9 countries saw eye to eye and shared the same opinions and assessment of the situation. He went on to say there was no doubt that the B9 format worked well and brought benefits not only for the CEE region but for the whole of NATO. "It is thanks to our initiative that the alliance has shown that it is durable, that it mobilises, that it has returned to vitality. And that is very good, because it is a defensive alliance, it serves security, it attacks no one."

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis stressed that after the NATO summit in Warsaw, the alliance's member states had started to clearly perceive the threat from the east and the need to enhance NATO's deterrence capabilities. He stressed that the B9 countries, because of their communist past, had a similar perception of Russia. He went on to stress that B9 is not about dividing NATO. "We want to raise our cooperation to a higher level," he said, adding that the group's emphasis on the eastern flank did not detract from the importance of the south.

In the view of Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, the B9 countries have contributed significantly to other members' awareness of the Russian threat. She said the countries of CEE had "plenty of information" including on new security challenges, that they could share with other members. She also stated that the alliance must continually reform itself to meet those challenges.

The chairman of the Czech parliament, Radek Vondracek, said the B9 grouping was earning ever more "reputation and recognition," stressing that the nine countries have a common position on many issues.

Members of the panel were also asked what should be on the agenda of the July NATO summit and to mention a few of the group's priorities. President Duda said the Bucharest Nine would present their requirements at the summit and noted that they concerned the alliance's further adaptation "to the situation that has arisen." "Europe will say: in 2014, when Russia attacked Ukraine, I say: in 2008, when Russia attacked Georgia, because in my opinion Russia's imperial ambitions were fully reborn then. So we want that presence on the eastern flank to be further strengthened, we want more exercises."

The Polish president also said that a strength of the B9 format is that it does not think only about the CEE region, but bears in mind NATO's 360-degree approach and that the North Atlantic Alliance "is indivisible, in solidarity, and it works everywhere where it is needed - all the allies work, and so do we," he said, highlighting that the B9 countries sent their troops to distant locations on missions such as to Afghanistan and the Middle East.

"We expect security but we also carry security, we deliver it where the allies make an appropriate decision. The alliance sees that we don't think only about ourselves," he pointed out, highlighting that the B9 countries were ready to fight terrorism. "For now there is no terrorism where we are, thank God, but we understand that we have to help, because we are together, we are in solidarity within NATO," the Polish president underscored.