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largest NATO summit in history officially opens in Bucharest, Romania, freedom of speech clampdown

April 3, 2008

largest NATO summit in history officially opens in Bucharest, Romania, freedom of speech clampdown


It is being billed as the largest NATO summit in history and officially opened this morning in Bucharest, Romania. In addition to the thousands of official delegates, military figures and journalists covering the event, Bucharest has seen a huge influx of
security personnel, numbering approximately 26,000.
All 26 members of the alliance as well as th2 23-member states of the 23 members of the Partnership for Peace are attending.

City residents have been encouraged to leave town, with schools and workplaces closed for the duration of the summit. Bucharest's Police Chief publicly warned that protests against the summit would not be tolerated. All protest permits have been denied, making anti-NATO. Demonstrations illegal. Activists attempting to enter Romania from other European Union countries say they have been denied entry with no cause given. Many local activists have been followed by the secret services, had visits to their homes, with family members receiving threats and intimidation. On Monday the 1st, at least 8 activists were detained for 8 hours with no charges laid against them.
Meanwhile, local media 'Realitatea' is reporting that activists are
coming to destroy Bucharest and encouraging residents to meet them with force or alert police to anyone who may appear to fit the
description. NATO maintains a military force in Afghanistan, a police force in Kosovo, and a training mission for security forces in Iraq.

The cost of the meeting has been estimated at about 26.5 million euros, according to Romanian officials. Romania is one of the poorest countries throughout Europe, with average monthly incomes hovering at 350 Euro. Hundreds of citizens were recruited for low paid labour intensive beautification of the city weeks leading up to the summit, while large scale displace of homeless and ‘undesirables’ were moved out of the city core.

The central guests will be US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the summit, Bush is expected to visit Pristina, Kosovo to wrap up his Eastern European. Bush’s Polish stop celebrated Poland’s decision to build a large missile defense shield, despite high controversy of risks associated with the project and wide spread opposition to the plan by citizens of the country. Afterwards while in Ukraine Bush firmly encouraged the country to continue taking steps to join the Euro-Atlantic military alliance. In response Putin gave statements to the international press that these moves could create ‘serious security concerns’.

During the summit it is expected that Albania, Croatia and Macedonia will be invited to join the alliance, and that applications from Georgia and Ukraine will be moved along in the process for eventual full membership. Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan are widely expected to be given nods towards their aspirations of further European integration via NATO. This notion of a state having more success to eventually join the European Union by meeting all the preconditions laid out by NATO strongly resonant in the Eastern countries with considerable low levels of education and high levels of poverty exist. Unsure of exactly what NATO does, or why it exists, different polls have been conducted in these excluded but hopeful countries. Overwhelmingly they have shown that the understanding by the residents of what is required for membership is low, and that most people have been mislead that should they wish to eventually join the Edenesque land of the European Union, they must first make it into NATO.

A few months ago, I spoke with Boris Raonic, Coordinator of the Nansen Dialog Center IN Podgorica, Montenegro, a country moving towards NATO membership. Nansen is an NGO which has polled people across the country and compiled research on NATO views within Montenegro. The research shows the majority of the population are either unsure or against joining.
Raonic explained how the debate on joining NATO is a sensitive issue in Montenegro, where people remember NATO'S 1999 bombing of Serbia and Montenegro only too well. He explained how “people do not analyze the point of the NATO alliance, but rather go by emotions, primarily based on the events of '99, the infamous bombings, and with the mixture of truth and misinformation that they been served, they form their opinion. In Montenegro, NATO is presented as a precondition for joining the EU, which is not based on real facts.“

Two of the most common conditions that are required are:
The signing a transit agreement, which will allow troops and personal full-unrestricted access across the country.

The destruction of old weaponry. This is primarily at the cost of the hopeful country, which in the past has cost nations millions of dollars, and in the recent example of Albania in March, also included many lives. The logic behind destroying the old weapons allows the prospective new member to buy new weaponry that is set out by the military alliance, with directed guidance on who to buy from.

The debates within potential countries who are making steps towards joining NATO includes various arguments against, citing NATO as a heavily undemocratic institution, under the patronage of the US, and that it is kept alive by the interest of the members military industries, as well that NATO presence would require foreign peacemaking missions and that this comes with the price of human lives.

The NATO summit in Bucharest will be last until April 4th.

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