A regular summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) opens in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, on November 21. Altogether 45 presidents, prime-ministers, of foreign affairs and of defence have assembled in Prague. Represented at the meeting are also, apart from the alliance's 19 member-states, the candidate-states for accession to NATO, as well as member-countries of NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program. More than 3,000 foreign pressmen will be covering the work of the NATO summit.
NATO is a military-political alliance of countries of Europe and North America. It was founded on April 4, 1949, by the North-Atlantic Treaty. The aim of the alliance is to protect its members against possible attacks by potential adversaries, as well as to coordinate the defence and foreign policy of the alliance's member-states. The following countries are members of the organization: Belgium, Britain, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the USA, Turkey, France (it does not belong to NATO's military structure), the Czech Republic. The highest political and military authority of NATO is the Council that consists of representatives of all member-states of the organization. The Council meets twice a year and acts at the level of foreign ministers or, in exceptional cases, at the level of heads of state and government. During the period between sessions the Permanent Council carries out the general leadership of the alliance.
The following permanent working bodies work under the Permanent Council: a political committee, a consultative group for Atlantic policy issues, an economic committee, committees for examining defence issues, on the military budget, on issues of infra-structure, on science, on information and relations in the sphere of culture, on coordination in the European air space.
The military planning committee which meets twice a year holds a special place. During the period between its meetings, acts a permanent military planning committee. The system of military bodies also includes the group of nuclear planning, a military committee, an international military staff, and a military college. The organization's executive body is the International Secretariat which is responsible for the general organization of the work of all bodies of the organization. The Secretariat is headed by its Secretary-General (George Robertson, Britain, since October 1999).
The Alliance has its own armed forces which are divided into two categories - units within NATO's structure and units that are part of the defence departments of NATO member-countries that are dispatched to the operations defence departments of NATO in case of hostilities.
The main item on the agenda of the NATO summit that is opening in Prague is the invitation to join the alliance to seven new members - Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Considerable attention will be paid to discussions of the problem of NATO's transformation, its adaptation to the cardinally changed geopolitical situation in the world. It is also planned to take the final decision on the creation of a NATO rapid deployment force. This force, to number about 21,000 men, will allow the alliance to deal blows at terrorist or other groups posing a threat to the security of NATO member-states.
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