(dpa) - NATO leaders were Thursday set to formally invite Albania and Croatia into their alliance during a ceremony in Bucharest.
The invitation party was to take place inside the city's overbearing Palace of the Parliament, a 330,000-square-metre mansion built during the regime of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, where NATO heads of state and government have been holding their summit.
According to protocol, the leaders of Albania and Croatia should be invited to enter the room of the North Atlantic Council Summit and take a seat at the table, although not in the alphabetical order reserved for full members.
The invitees will over the coming months be expected to write to NATO's secretary general confirming their acceptance while the alliance prepares amendments to its founding treaty, permitting them to join.
Membership also requires the completion of reforms by the invitees and ratification by all of the present 26 member states.
All sides hope that Albania and Croatia will become full members at NATO's next summit, which is due to take place in spring 2009, probably in Strasbourg.
Macedonian officials, who had hoped their country would also be invited, were reportedly threatening to walk out of the summit in protest after Greece blocked their bid due to an unresolved name dispute.