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President Pahor’s speech for the 15th anniversary of Slovenia joining NATO

Brdo pri Kranju, 20. 3. 2019 | speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, attended the event marking the 15th anniversary of the Republic of Slovenia joining NATO, where he was the main speaker.

Below is the keynote speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia. The spoken word applies.

"Esteemed guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This spring marks the 15th anniversary of Slovenia joining the European Union and NATO. Slovenia became a member of NATO on 29 March 2004, and a member of the European Union on 1 May of the same year.

Slovenia's simultaneous accession to the European Union and NATO had and still has a symbolic and practical character.

Firstly, because the referendums on the accession to the European Union and NATO were held on the same day, on 23 March of the previous year.

And secondly, because most Slovenia's citizens understood the accession to the EU and NATO as two decisions on virtually the same question – whether Slovenia should become a part of the so-called Western world in a strategic, all-embracing sense.

Truth be told, it should be recalled that the people's support to the accession to NATO was smaller than the support to the accession to the European Union.

As I said, this means that not all, but still a convincing majority assessed that this was about two decisions on virtually the same issue: that Slovenia should become a part of the so-called Western world in the political, economic, social and military sense.

If the decision to join the European Union was practically unanimous, the decision to join the NATO alliance was extremely convincing, backed by a two-thirds majority, but enjoying a smaller support already at first glance.

At that time as well as today, a part of the Slovenian public fostered a belief that our so-called Western identity would not be compromised if we remained military neutral or exempt from the military cooperation of most Western world countries.

On the other hand, it was a historic fact that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that were candidates for the EU membership were also candidates for the membership in NATO, including Slovenia. Why?

Because a very concentrated course of historical events in the 1990s and at the turn of the new millennium, after the fall of Communism and the Iron Curtain, after the independence and the establishment of democratic sovereign states in Central and Eastern Europe, required a rapid, strategic and understandable geopolitical placement of this part of the so-called New Europe.
Although these recent history of these countries was different - either they had not been members of the Warsaw Pact, or were not independent states - their common denominator was that they saw NATO as the most logical, most rational and most convincing long-term guarantee of their security and their respective long-term geopolitical placement in European and global politics.

Including Slovenia. The situation, although nuanced, has actually remained the same until today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Regardless of the current polemics about NATO membership or its changing nature, Slovenia and other member states consider NATO the best answer to the question of ensuring national security.

70 years after the establishment of NATO and 15 years after Slovenia's accession to this political and military alliance, NATO maintains its basic mission. It maintains a high level of collective security for Member States.

In fact, it is impressive for the modern international community that this military and political alliance has been preserved and even strengthened for almost three quarters of a century. This means that its value bases exceed the mere provision of a high level of national security.

It is an alliance which not only defended the sovereignty and collective security of the member states after World War II, but ensured in its political dimensions the strengthening of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom in general.

This is what made it so attractive for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the democratic changes in the early 1990's.

Of course, the changed European and global situation also affects the current image, authority and attractiveness of NATO.

First of all, there is no doubt that NATO membership remains one of the main strategic goals for European countries in transition to democracy or independence. These are countries in the east and south-east of Europe.

I would like to express my appreciation to NATO for its understanding of the needs of its enlargement to the Western Balkans countries. The membership of Montenegro and the imminent accession of Northern Macedonia are good prospects for a greater geopolitical stability of this highly sensitive and vulnerable part of the European continent. NATO's enlargement capacity is therefore its virtue.

I would also like to see some of this pragmatism and broader political judgment in the enlargement of the European Union to this part of Europe. I understand that the standards and conditions are different and more demanding in this respect, but history will prove that the European Union will help ensure the peace, security and prosperity of this part of Europe only if it also understands the expansion to this part as an eminently political, even geopolitical project rather than a narrowly procedural or bureaucratic project that depends only on the meticulous fulfilment of the membership criteria.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The NATO Alliance has recently been confronted with problems which reflect changes in the broader global politics. It is a process of reducing confidence in multilateralism in general.
The illustration of this process is also a poorer relationship which is worrying between the United States of America and the European Member States.

The result is a consideration of stronger European security and military cooperation.
So far, political wisdom has won and the European countries are considering deeper military and security cooperation in a way that can be understood as strengthening the European NATO pillar.
Even before the emergence of doubts in multilateralism, Europe was thinking of measures and policies to unify its security policies.

However, we all understand that in the long run, it is necessary to think about strengthening our own European defence forces.

I think that it is necessary to continue this path, but at the same time, it is necessary to strive for close cooperation with the United States of America.

NATO is ultimately a military alliance and therefore, mutual trust and a productive comprehensive cooperation are requested. That is why trust within the alliance should be maintained; this is the responsibility of all the allies and each ally.

More recently, the fulfilment of the commitment on the allocation of two percent of the GDP of the Member States for defence purposes has more often been mentioned. This is a legitimate expectation, as it was unanimously agreed.

In my two recent visits to the NATO headquarters in Brussels, I underlined that in expectation of fulfilling these obligations, NATO must be reasonable enough that in some Member States the belief should not be consolidated that a higher share of defence funds is earmarked only because of the requirements of NATO, but because it is a common interest of the members.

The world is changing, becoming less secure and more unpredictable. It is necessary to invest in security, also financially. Slovenia is aware of this fact. By 2024, it will allocate 1.5% of GDP for defence, which means a significant increase in recent years.

When it comes to increasing funds for defence, it is clear that the Alliance enables us not to duplicate investments, but, as far as possible, security know-how and tools are mutually shared, thus reducing defence costs.

On the other hand, this requires and enables greater specialisation, of course not at the expense of developing the country's key defence capabilities. From this point of view, it is therefore very important for Slovenia and for other countries to be able to rely on the successful and solid future of the NATO in the long run, and to adjust accordingly the rational use of increased budget funds for its own defence.

At the NATO Summit in Wales, Warsaw and Brussels, we confirmed our commitment to key tasks; collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

Together, we decided to make a substantial transformation of the Alliance, aimed primarily at improving our deterrence and defence posture, based on the 360 degree approach.

Slovenia will do its best to participate in joint operations to maintain or strengthen world peace. Over the course of twenty years, more than 10.000 members of the Slovenian Armed Forces participated in the operations and missions of the Alliance.

Despite the relatively low annual assessment of military readiness by the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Force, in all these years and in all these operations, the equipment and readiness of our members were not a barrier to excellent work.

Their professional qualifications and commitment to fulfil their tasks have been and remain worthy of admiration by the Slovenian public, the countries where it worked and the allied countries.

The participation of the Slovenian Armed Forces in missions and operations around the world has made a strong contribution to the reputation of Slovenia in the international community.
I believe that NATO has the same strong reasons for further successful development as it had for its creation.

The so-called Western world faces new challenges also in security and military contexts. New world military superpowers emerge that, unlike the Western world, do not share the values of democracy and the rule of law and human rights.

As these are also becoming the technological world giants at the same time, it is clear that the digital revolution also moves into a direct military sphere if we do not even mention new dimensions of security risks.

In this respect, I consider the NATO Alliance to be of irreplaceable importance for this whole Western world, for Slovenia as a part of it, as well as for maintaining and strengthening world peace and solving problems peacefully.

Slovenia marks its 15th anniversary of joining the NATO Alliance with a well-founded feeling that fifteen years ago it made the right decision and that it will do its utmost to ensure that our high expectations for ensuring national and collective security are also met in the future."

President Pahor’s speech for the 15th anniversary of Slovenia joining NATO
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA