Over seven decades, NATO has stepped up repeatedly to keep our people safe, and we will continue to stand together to prevent conflict and preserve peace.
For more than 74 years, NATO has been bringing together Allies from Europe and North America – not only in a military pact to defend each other against any threat, but also in an Alliance of shared values, friendly cooperation and transatlantic unity.
From 12 founding members in 1949 – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States – the Alliance has been growing with years passing. This is the result of sovereign decisions made by individual countries, which applied for full NATO’s membership.
In time, joined in hope for a better and safer future, old foes became friends, old disputes and historical differences were put aside, and those who were once enemies became allies. Bonded by shared values and by the ultimate security guarantee. The collective defence clause – “all for one one for all” – enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Greece and Türkiye joined in 1952, with Germany only few years after, in 1955. Then, Spain (1982), Czechia, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia (2020). Today, 30 countries across Europe and North America are members of our Alliance. In the coming days, we will become 31, and Finland will formally join our Alliance. Its membership will make Finland safer and NATO stronger.
From its establishment to this day, NATO has held its door open to European countries who wish to become part of and contribute to something bigger, as part of a family that through hard work and dedication continues its efforts to create a safer and more secure tomorrow for all its citizens. In NATO, values of peace and prosperity are protected and ensured, providing a thriving environment for a better future for our next generations.
We all know that the aftermath of World War II devastated Europe in a way that is now difficult to envision. Approximately 36.5 million Europeans had died in the conflict, 19 million of them civilians. Refugee camps and rationing dominated daily life. In some areas, infant mortality rates were one in four. Millions of orphans wandered in the burnt-out shells of former metropolises. At time of need, the aid provided through the U.S.-funded Marshall Plan (also known as the European Recovery Program) and other means boosted economic stabilization, but nevertheless, European states still needed confidence in their security, before they would begin talking and trading with each other. Military cooperation, and the security it would bring, would have to develop in parallel with economic and political progress.
With this in mind, several Western European democracies came together to implement various projects for greater military cooperation and collective defence, only to realize that only a truly transatlantic security agreement could provide stability while simultaneously preventing the revival of European militarism and laying the groundwork for political integration. That is why, after much discussion and debate, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 4 April 1949.
That is how April 4th became the day NATO was founded, with its mission to keep its citizens safe and protect and promote the democratic values of its members in all that it does. As Article 2 of the Washington Treaty states: “The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being.”
With the benefit of aid and a security umbrella, political stability was gradually restored to Western Europe and the post-war economic miracle began.