THE MINISTER - Our meeting today is an important stage in the preparation of the Riga NATO Summit. This afternoon we talked about three major subjects to be tackled in Riga : the Alliance’s military modernization, enlargement and partnerships. As regards the first major subject, military modernization, the Alliance’s credibility stands or falls according to the effectiveness of its military operations. This is why I believe our priority must be to go on strengthening our military capabilities. Much has been done since Prague. The main achievement is the establishment of the NATO Response Force (NRF), but we must of course pursue the efforts set in train. France is playing her full part in this. She is one of the very leading contributors to NATO operations, particularly in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and, of course, through her participation in the NRF. The second major subject of discussion in Riga will be enlargement. The Alliance remains collectively committed by the promise to bring in every democratic European State wishing to join once it has fulfilled the conditions. This is the "open door" principle. The Allies welcomed the progress made by the countries aspiring to join the Alliance, but no date was put forward for issuing formal invitations. So the discussion will continue in Riga. The third subject which will be discussed in Riga : partnerships. NATO’s relationship with its partners is one of the areas in which the Alliance is endeavouring to adapt. I think that our objective mustn’t be to create new categories of partner countries or to seek, on principle, to extend the network of them. Our objective is concretely to improve our ability to work with countries participating in NATO operations. In our relationship with them, we’ll also have to make sure we safeguard the specificity of the one established between NATO and the European Union.
Q. We are here in a former Warsaw Pact country and NATO is now declaring that it is keeping the door open to other countries, including Ukraine and Georgia, and also that it aspires to have closer relations with other countries, Japan, [South] Korea, Australia. Isn’t this a slightly threatening scenario for Russia ?
THE MINISTER - As regards Ukraine, she is an essential strategic partner for NATO. We are adding our support for pursuing the Intensified Dialogue with that country, launched almost exactly a year ago. All the possibilities offered by the Intensified Dialogue are very far from being exhausted. A decision to enlarge is, however, weighty, important for the security of the whole European continent. It is for the candidate country to demonstrate its ability to join NATO. We aren’t closing off any prospect [of membership] and when the time comes our decisions will have to be carefully weighed up. We don’t know what the future Ukrainian government will choose to do. The elections last March were a milestone. We are encouraging the next government to pursue its defence reform, consolidate the rule of law in democracy and contribute to regional stability. As for Georgia, we know that country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and are well aware of the efforts it is making to this end. Our informal meeting here in Sofia has given us the chance for an initial discussion on the possibility of opening an Intensified Dialogue with Georgia. I don’t think we should anticipate decisions to be taken at the Riga Summit. Once again, in a few months we’ll be returning to this issue./.