Sofia, 5 September: Bulgaria is ready for membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said Friday (5 September). He spoke at the opening of a conference on Shaping a Common Security Agenda For Southeast Europe: New Approaches and Shared Responsibilities, held at the Boyana Residence. In his speech the NATO Secretary General said that back in 2000 he was saying that a lot needed to be done to reform the Bulgarian defence system, and now these reforms have been carried through and the country is ready for NATO membership. NATO has invested serious political, financial and human resources in Southeast Europe and this investment bears fruit. Southeast Europe returns to Europe and conflicts in the region become increasingly less possible, he added. The speaker stressed that NATO is determined to carry on its principle role of keeping security in the region. The Alliance is optimizing its resources in the region but is not yet pulling out, he said. He believes that the countries in the region are now capable of taking on a major part of the responsibility for their own security and for fighting organized crime and illegal arms trafficking. The countries of Southeast Europe are still faced with multiple problems halting their progress, Robertson went on to say. There are the economic stagnation, corruption and the old defence structures, and the main responsibility for dealing with these rests with the political leaders of the countries. Sometimes these problems are solved at the price of painful decisions and short-term sacrifices, he added. Among the participants in the Boyana conference are Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, Defence Minister Nikolay Svinarov, Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov, Stability Pact Special Coordinator Erhard Busek and six defence ministers of the Balkan region. The forum is organized by the Sofia Centre for the Study of Democracy and will be on until Saturday.