“Today NATO is bigger, stronger and more united than ever” – Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Edited by Anna Popper

On 4 April 2024, the 75th anniversary of NATO was celebrated, acknowledging that the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty was a pivotal moment in world history. This milestone is a profound testament to the enduring strength of unity and common principles within the Alliance. Emerging from the ruins of World War II, NATO has served as a bulwark of collective security for its members since its inception in 1949.

Over the past 75 years, NATO has played a vital role in safeguarding peace, stability, democracy and prosperity for its member nations. What began with 12 founding members has now expanded to 32 allies, uniting over a billion people on both sides of the Atlantic under a common commitment to mutual defence and shared values.

This year’s NATO Day is particularly significant as it follows Sweden’s recent accession as the 32nd member of the Alliance.


To mark the 75th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, foreign ministers of member countries convened at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on the day of the formation of the defensive bloc in 1949.

In his speech, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “Today we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the strongest, most enduring and most successful alliance in history. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. NATO. Congratulations!”

“Two world wars, the Cold War and every challenge we have faced since have taught us that we need each other. Europe needs America for its security. Fair burden sharing is essential. And Europe is investing more. Much more. At the same time, North America also needs Europe. The European allies provide world-class militaries, vast intelligence networks and unique diplomatic leverage. Multiplying America’s might. Through NATO, the United States has more friends and more allies than any other major power. I do not believe in America alone. Just as I don’t believe in Europe alone. I believe in America and Europe together. In NATO. Because we are stronger and safer together.”

“Today NATO is bigger, stronger and more united than ever.”

Secretary General Stoltenberg welcomed that the NATO founding treaty, normally kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., has been on display at NATO Headquarters for the first time, saying: “never has a single document with so few words meant so much to so many people. So much security, so much prosperity and so much peace. All because of its solemn promise: that we stand together and protect one another, as we have for 75 years.”

Admiral Robert Peter Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, stated that across Europe and North America, 3.5 million men and women in uniform are upholding a shield against aggression.“Together, we are protecting much more than physical safety. We are collectively defending freedom and democracy”, Admiral Bauer said.

During the ceremony twelve Allied Foreign Ministers delivered statements on the occasion of their 25th (Czechia, Hungary, Poland), 20th (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) and 15th (Albania, Croatia) anniversaries of accession. To conclude the statements, as the host nation, the Belgian Foreign Minister delivered a speech and offered a 75th anniversary cake.

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic, Jan Lipavský:

“Our accession to NATO in 1999 was a clear signal that the long-standing division of the European continent was ending. It was an important milestone. And the best embodiment of the fundamental principle that every country has the right to choose its own security arrangements. For almost a quarter-century, we have been working hard to achieve the goal of Europe whole, free and at peace. Today, that vision seems very distant. But so did our NATO accession in 1989.

While signing the NATO accession protocol the late President Václav Havel said: ‘It gives us hope that our country will never again succumb to or be sacrificed to any aggressor, and at the same time it expresses a clear commitment to share responsibility for the freedom of nations, human rights, democratic values and peace on our continent.’

Russian aggression against Ukraine gives those words new urgency. For my country, this commitment is as relevant as it was 25 years ago. We know where we are coming from. The struggles of our ancestors must not and will not come to nothing.”

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radosław Sikorski:

“When NATO was founded, my country, Poland, was trapped on the wrong side. Communist Soviet domination meant that if it came to war, Polish soldiers would have had to obey the orders of our enemies to fight our friends, a tragic situation. Fortunately, the evil empire has collapsed under the weight of its cruelty and its contradictions. We were determined to join NATO in 1999 because we felt in our bones that the window of opportunity will not last forever. We tried to embrace Russia, but we knew the potential for violence was there. Unfortunately, Russia is on the march again. But happily, we are where we belong, in the company of democracies, among friends at home, resisting again like a rock. Let’s prevail again.”

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó:

“25 years ago, Hungary rejoined a community. The community of free and sovereign nations of the Euro-Atlantic world, a region where we always belonged to at heart, but 40 years of communist oppression have kept us physically away. Our accession to NATO has honoured all the desire, all the struggle, and all the fight of generations of Hungarian people for freedom. We are proud of our predecessors, who never gave up hope, even in the darkest years of the communist dictatorship, when the Hungarian people felt to be left totally alone. But now we are a proud member of the world’s strongest defence Alliance. And we are proud to be a reliable Ally that contributes and advocates for safety and security of our community. We are proud to be here and our predecessors are proud as well that we are finally here.”

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš:

“Dear friends, 1949 was a great year and also a tragic year. It was a great year because this is when the NATO Alliance was founded. And it was a tragic year because in that year, in my country, in Estonia, and in Lithuania tens of thousands of people were deported to Siberia under the Soviet occupation. And it took us another 41 years until we regained our independence to rejoin the family of nations that enjoy the basic values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. When we had the opportunity to join NATO 20 years ago, this opened an entirely new chapter to us. And we understood that this family, all for one and one for all, cuts both ways. So when NATO said ‘we need your help in Afghanistan’, we responded to the call. Our brave soldiers fought, and some died, fighting shoulder to shoulder with other NATO Allies. We are currently in the KFOR mission and we are investing heavily in our own defence, about 3% of GDP this year. And we are also grateful that, as we see the Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine, NATO Allies have responded to our collective call for reinforcing the eastern flank. So as we went when we were called, we are extremely grateful that all Allies are responding to the call. And the eastern flank today is extremely strong because we are all together. Let us not forget why we are working together. We work together to protect the basic freedoms of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These are not given. These are values that must be fought for and we must remain vigilant constantly. Let us stay together. Let us be strong together.”

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, Juraj Blanár:

“20 years ago, on 29 March 2004, Slovakia became a member of the strongest and most successful Alliance ever. With no exaggeration, this was one of the most important and crucial decisions in our modern Slovak history. Under the current challenging security situation, marred by ongoing war in our neighbouring Ukraine and presented threat of terrorism, this decision has proven to be fundamental for the security of our citizens. I wish to thank all Allies that have contributed to our collective defence and security. Not only history, but every day makes it clear that peace is not for granted. It is the soldiers who are ready to stand in harm’s way and willing to sacrifice even their lives to protect us. So let us not forget the women and men in uniform who have lost their lives in our missions and operations, including the Slovak ones. As a responsible and trustworthy Ally, Slovakia will remain faithful to our shared values, commitments and obligations stemming from our membership.”

Remarks of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Luminița-Teodora Odobescu:

“We are celebrating today the most successful political-military alliance in the world. NATO has stood the test of time and demonstrated strategic vision, determination, resilience and capacity to adapt. NATO became stronger both in size and influence. The Open Door policy is the most successful instrument of our Alliance. For Romania, joining NATO represented the fulfilment of an historical aspiration and a security imperative. The Alliance is now an essential pillar of our foreign policy and security policy. Over the years, Romania has benefited from the security umbrella provided by the Alliance. In turn, we have demonstrated commitment and determination as a responsible and active Ally, a true security provider contributing to the collective security efforts. The brutal war of aggression waged by Russia on our neighbour Ukraine has changed our security environment for many years to come. We need to do our utmost to support Ukraine until the final victory. Together we are stronger. Together we are better. Together, we build our future.”

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia, Gordan Grlić Radman – delivered by State Secretary Frano Matušić:

“As NATO celebrate 75 years of its existence, Croatia marks the 15th anniversary of its membership in the Alliance. It means that Croatia is adolescent among 32 members, but very strong and very brave one. We are ready to contribute to any NATO mission as we did in Afghanistan, in other 11 missions of United Nations. Croatia unfortunately did not have the privilege of 75 years of peace. From 1991 to 1995, we had to fight for and defend our freedom and democracy. Facing a much stronger aggressor, at the time, we prevailed against all odds. After our victory and risen from the ashes, we transformed to modern contributor to the security and stability of the European continent, firmly embedded in our transatlantic community. Croatia’s own experience and expertise contributes today to NATO’s deterrence and defence and our determination to invest in our own security, with technologically advanced defence solution is steadfast. Croatia is Danubian and Central European as well as Adriatic and a Mediterranean country. Strategically located at the crossroads of these European regions, we remain dedicated to remain a reliable and strong pillar of NATO’s south-eastern flank. Long live NATO.”

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Hadja Lahbib:

“It’s my duty as founding member to remember as a part of our common history 75 years ago indeed, right before the signing ceremony, Paul-Henri Spaak, at the time a Belgian President – Prime Minister said: «personne ne peut contester le droit de rassembler et d’organiser dans un coin du monde toutes les forces de ceux qui, ayant définitivement renoncé à toute idée de guerre agressive, ne vont pas se trouver un jour sans défense devant une attaque qui pourrait être dirigée contre eux». (No one can contest the right to gather and organize in one corner of the world all the forces of those who, having definitively renounced any idea of aggressive war, will not one day find themselves defenceless against an attack that could be directed against them.) 

75 years later, his words still resonate. From 12 founding members, we have grown to 32 Allies making this defence Alliance stronger and safer than ever before. We are an alliance forged through shared values of democracy, liberty, and the rule of law. Together, we work to prevent conflict and preserve peace for 1 billion people. NATO guarantees our security and prosperity and allow us to live our lives in freedom. The strength of NATO is that despite our differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task to defend each other and keep people safe. 75 years after this creation, these situations in our neighbourhoods reminds us every day that the world needs NATO more than ever, our Alliance remains highly relevant and attractive to many because it takes its founding principles of unity and solidarity very seriously. And there is not the slightest doubt that it will continue to live up to the challenge of protecting its 1 billion citizens and every inch of Allied territory. As we look ahead to the next 75 years and beyond, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to NATO’s mission ensuring a future of peace, security and prosperity for generations to come. It is with pride that Belgium takes part in this formidable project. It is with gratitude and respect towards our Allies and the organisation that we celebrate this anniversary which marks 75 years of peace, security and prosperity for Allied nations. So to quote Antony Blinken yesterday: ‘as long as we are together, we are protected’ and I will quote another famous star Bryan Ferry: ‘Let’s stick together’. Thank you.”

And now I will ask the Secretary General to join me because I think that it is time for cutting the cake.

The commemoration also included a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial in NATO HQ dedicated to the Alliance service members who fell in NATO operations, paying tribute to their memory by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO Military Council, and Mircea Geoană, NATO Deputy Secretary General.

The solemn event was elevated with live musical performances by the Royal Band of the Belgian Air Force and the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Monuments across Brussels also marked NATO’s anniversary. In Parc du Cinquantenaire, the NATO flag flew under the Memorial Arch and buildings around the city were illuminated in the signature NATO blue, including the City Hall of Brussels and the Egmont Palace. The iconic Manneken Pis statue, renowned as one of Brussels’ most recognizable symbols, was adorned in a special costume to mark NATO Day and join the festivities. NATO allies also commemorated the anniversary with various events, including public discussions, musical performances and the illumination of buildings in NATO blue.

On the same day the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting took place at foreign minister level, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to NATO Headquarters. The ministers’ discussion primarily focused on long-term support for Ukraine. All Allies agreed on the need to support Ukraine in this critical moment. Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the Alliance is looking for stronger ways to organise support, to create a more robust and predictable framework. The Secretary General praised the courage, determination and bravery of the Ukrainian people, saying this matters for Ukraine, but also for the entire NATO and our security.

Foreign Ministers of NATO member states have been invited to a major informal meeting by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Jan Lipavský, scheduled to be held in Prague at the end of May 2024.

The upcoming NATO Summit is set to take place between 9-11 July 2024 in Washington, D.C., where the founding treaty was signed in 1949, marking a milestone in its history. This important event holds a special significance as it will celebrate the 75th anniversary of NATO at the birthplace of the defensive Alliance.

Source: NATO – nato.int

Photos from NATO – nato.int