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Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Samuel Žbogar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia (foto: Tamino Petelinšek/STA)

The 60th anniversary of NATO and 5th anniversary of Slovenia’s membership of the Alliance

The Washington Treaty establishing NATO in March 1949 was signed in the period of mistrust in the aftermath of World War II which marked the beginning of the Cold War and lasted several decades. At that time, the Iron Curtain divided the West and the East, a symbol of the highest degree of mistrust. The fall of the Berlin War thawed relations between Western and Eastern Europe. The majority of the states in the former Warsaw Pact, which had been trying for years to shake off the influence of the Soviet Union, saw their place in NATO. NATO’s fostering of and respect for fundamental values represented for them a guarantee of peace, security and democracy as prerequisites for the prosperity and freedom for which they had been yearning in vain for decades.

 

The accession of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to NATO upon its fiftieth anniversary marked a historic turning point – not only for these three countries, but also for NATO and its relationship with Russia. It is a great step on the path towards confidence-building and the end of the dark era of the Cold War, which was full of uncertainty.

 

The next great step in the history of the Alliance was made in March 2004, when another six new countries, including Slovenia, joined NATO. This finally confirmed the belief that NATO is an organisation of collective security enjoying overall European confidence.

 

Two new members, Albania and Croatia, will join the 26-member Alliance on the occasion of NATO’s 60th anniversary. Slovenia welcomes this enlargement, since it represents the first step on the path of more extensive accession of Western Balkan countries to the Euro-Atlantic Alliance, which in turn contributes to greater security and stability in this most turbulent part of Europe after World War II. Slovenia wishes that Macedonia, which is currently on the threshold of the Alliance, may soon join, and that other Western Balkan countries, i.e. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, will step up their preparations for NATO membership.

 

NATO's role has expanded  considerably if compared to the one it played at the time of its creation. NATO assumed new roles as a result of the new security environment, particularly new security challenges, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, which are a threat not only to the Alliance but also to the world at large. Given the form of the threats, NATO needs a specially trained and rapidly deployable response force to react within the entire range of the Alliance’s missions, spanning from intensive combat activity, peacekeeping operations, crisis management, stabilisation and assistance in reconstruction to humanitarian operations.

 

The security challenges of the 21st century require appropriate adjustments; therefore, an intense debate is taking place within the Alliance relating to missile defence, energy security, arms control, disarmament, the fight against terrorism and piracy, cyber-defence, and enhancing NATO capabilities.

 

NATO operations and missions are an important contribution by the allies to peace-building and stability in the world. Its engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, the Mediterranean, its logistic support to the European Union and the African Union, and close cooperation with other international organisations, has strengthened the belief of the international community that the Alliance’s priorities include the protection of values, such as democracy, the rule of law, protection of and respect for human rights.

 

The Alliance is aware of the importance of close cooperation with other international organisations, such as the EU, UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the African Union, in order to effectively cope with security challenges. 

 

With its open-door policy in the past decade, NATO has expressed full confidence in Central and Eastern European countries, showing that the period of mistrust lasting several decades has been finally overcome. It has paved the way for further cooperation with partners through the Partnership for Peace, the strengthening of dialogue within the Mediterranean Dialogue and with the Broader Middle East countries; cooperation with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia occupies a special place. Many countries wishing to contribute to a more secure world and better future for all, participate in NATO operations and missions.

 

Slovenia charted its path towards joining NATO upon gaining independence. It was convinced that as a NATO member, it would be better able to defend its independence, which was difficult to achieve, and become more actively involved in meeting new security challenges. Slovenia decided to become a NATO member because of the fundamental values fostered by the Organisation and due to its own strategic security interests and the protection of vital national interests.

 

 As a member of the Alliance, Slovenia participates fully in the formulation and implementation of its policy. Through its engagement in NATO-led operations and missions, it  contributes, to the best of its ability, to creating a more secure and stable world for itself and other members of the Alliance at the regional, European and, indirectly, global levels. Slovenia’s political and military engagement demonstrates that NATO membership is a guarantee of its security.

 

As a member of several international organisations, Slovenia is aware of the importance of cooperation between them, and takes an active part in these endeavours. It has made efforts to improve cooperation between NATO and the OSCE and between NATO and the EU when chairing the OSCE and holding the EU Presidency.

 

Slovenia has always advocated NATO’s open-door policy, since it believes that there is a place in the Organisation for all those European countries which share its common values and efforts to establish peace, prosperity and progress in the world.

 

On this solemn occasion, when NATO is celebrating its 60th anniversary, I can note that since its creation, NATO has come a long way - one that could not have been envisaged by its founders. Looking back on the path taken by the Alliance and considering the many tasks awaiting it in the future, I may state with certainty that many years of activity and a great future lie ahead.

 

During its five-year membership, Slovenia was successful in shaping the Alliance's common policy, ensuring its security interests, participating in NATO-led operations and missions, and in being actively involved in all areas of NATO activity. I am proud to say that Slovenia, through its dynamic activity, has indeed become its integral part.