On 12 March 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary became full members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. On the occasion of this event’s 15th anniversary, we would like to recall Poland’s path to NATO.
Diplomatic efforts and negotiations concerning Poland’s accession to NATO were possible thanks to the historic events in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided Europe into East and West, the first partly free elections to the Sejm and free elections to the Senate were held in Poland on 4 June 1989. They were the outcome of Round Table talks between representatives of communist authorities and the opposition which began in February and ended in April of the same year. These negotiations triggered the process of a peaceful transition of power in Poland.
As a result, the first non-Communist government in this part of Europe was formed, headed by Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Since its first days, the new government began to demonstrate its pro-Western orientation and started the long process of integrating Poland with Western organisations.
On 30 October 1989, the day of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers Committee of Warsaw Pact that had been planned long before the elections, the new chief of Poland’s diplomacy Krzysztof Skubiszewski sent an encrypted cable to all Polish ambassadors, instructing them to call on the highest ranking officials in their host countries to inform them that Poland was in favour of “engaging in an all-European process of bridging divisions in Europe.”
The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 and a positive response from NATO member states made Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance become a reality.
The year 1994 marked a very important stage in the negotiation process, i.e. the drafting of the Partnership for Peace programme which became an important instrument preparing Poland’s accession to NATO. As a result, in 1997 NATO heads of state and government in Madrid decided to officially invite Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary to join the organisation.
The official signing of Poland’s, the Czech Republic’s and Hungary’s accession protocols, ratified by the then member states, took place on 16 December 1997 in Brussels.
The last stage of the ratification process consisted in delivering to the United States (depositary of the Treaty) the so-called accession instrument. The ceremony was held on 12 March 1999 in Independence, Missouri. The then Foreign Minister of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Geremek officially confirmed Poland’s accession to NATO by presenting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with Poland’s act of accession to the North Atlantic Alliance.
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Poland’s NATO membership, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to present a number of documents illustrating Poland’s path to the Alliance. They are available on the MFA’s website, in the section titled “Archives of Polish Diplomacy” (in Polish).