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1955: West Germany accepted into Nato
West Germany has formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation at a special ceremony in Paris.

The German delegates to NATO were greeted by British Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan at the Conference Hall of the Palais de Chaillot.

Ministers from 14 member countries made a short speech welcoming West Germany into the alliance, saying they believed Germany's inclusion would strengthen peace in Europe.

A decisive turning point in the history of our continent
Halward Lange, Norway's Foreign Minister
Norway's Foreign Minister, Halward Lange, who spent two years in Ravensbruck concentration camp, called the entry of Germany into Nato "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent".

Some ministers also paid tribute to Dr Konrad Adenauer, German Chancellor since 1946.

In response, Dr Adenauer said in German: "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the words of welcome you have addressed to the federal government and to the German nation.

"All your words reflected the importance of the hour and the event. You will realise that this moment fills me with deep emotion. The German people have paid harshly for the horrors which were committed in their name by evil leadership and have paid these horrors with unlimited suffering.

"Today, everywhere in Germany, peace and freedom are felt to be the greatest treasures as was true in the best periods of her history."

German flag over Nato HQ

This morning, the red, yellow and black German flag was raised at a military ceremony at Nato headquarters in Rocquencourt, France.

A British band played the German national anthem - better known as "Deutschland ueber Alles". A French band had refused to play the music because of its Nazi connotations.

Professor Hans Speidel, former general of the Third Reich and ex chief-of-staff to Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, witnessed the ceremony alongside United States General Alfred Gruenther and Major General Rene Lehr of France.

Herr Speidel was implicated in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler and spent the end of the war in a German prison.

Formal ceremonies over, the Nato members will now discuss the agenda of a proposed conference with the Soviet Union on the future of Germany and disarmament.

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Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer: "The German people have paid harshly for the horrors committed in their name"

In Context
West Germany was reunified with East Germany on 3 October 1990.

The USSR saw the inclusion into Nato of West Germany in 1955 as a direct threat and in the same year it created a counter-alliance called the Warsaw Pact.

This dissolved after the break-up of the USSR in 1991 and Nato had to re-evaluate its role as a military alliance defending Western Europe against perceived Soviet aggression.

Nato formed closer links with former eastern bloc countries by setting up a North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1991 and the Partnership for Peace programme in 1994.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first former Warsaw Pact countries to gain Nato membership in 1999. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia are expected to join in 2004.

Nato's first aggressive action against a sovereign state took place in 1999, when it bombed targets in Yugoslavia in an attempt to halt that country's policy of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo. This was strongly opposed by Russia.

But the Kremlin's supportive response to the 11 September 2001 attacks on targets in the USA led to the formation in May 2002 of the Nato-Russia Council.

This means Russia and Nato countries will have an equal role in decision-making on policy to counter terrorism and other security threats.

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