NATO Chief Says Ukrainians Will Rule On Membership

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Ukraine's decision on whether to join NATO and the European Union rests with its people, the military alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said Monday during a trip to Bucharest.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

"The Ukrainian people will decide what course Ukraine will follow vis-a-vis NATO and vis-a-vis the EU," the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) said during a press conference.

Ukranian President Viktor Yushchenko, who will visit Bucharest on Tuesday, suggested last week that the question of NATO membership would be put to a national referendum.

Yushchenko, whose rule has been bolstered by the victory of a pro-Western coalition in last month's parliamentary election, has regularly advocated joining the NATO alliance.

Scheffer said that no decision had been made on the issue of inviting new members during the next military alliance summit next April in Bucharest, but that applications made by Albania, Croatia and Macedonia would be examined.

"No tickets are punched as we speak, there's no certainty about invitations, because the nations aspiring to become a NATO member will have to perform properly before invitations can be issued," he said.

In responding to a question on Romania's fears of being left unprotected by a planned US anti-missile radar programme, Scheffer said: "Romania is a member of NATO. In NATO we do not have class A and class B members. All members of NATO, all allies are equal."

"If we discuss missile defence, this means that every single NATO ally will have to enjoy the same protection as every other ally," he added.

Source: EU Business