European Affairs


NATO and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) should coexist and not compete. They should not exclude, diminish or marginalize each other, but complement and reinforce each other. We hope that all the allies will be aware of that joint responsibility in the future.

I cannot imagine a positive outcome of the campaign such as the one in Yugoslavia in 1999, and later the Kosovo peace mission, without cooperation between the United States and the EU, or NATO and the EU. I hope that both organizations will continue to work in the region and that their common efforts will lead toward a stable and secure Southeastern Europe.

The key challenge for both the EU and NATO is enlargement to the East, or rather the extension of the West to the East. The independence of Slovenia ten years ago, the demise of Yugoslavia and the fall of the Soviet Union should be regarded as elements in the process of extending the West. The

disintegration of Yugoslavia was actually part of a process of democratization.

Today, Slovenia is half way to joining the EU and NATO, and could, in principle join both in 2003 or 2004. There is a political consensus in favor of joining both organizations, which is backed by all parties in the Parliament except the minor Slovene Nationalist Party.

Slovenia will not be a burden for either organization. Slovenian GDP per capita, in terms of purchasing power parity, is more than 70 percent of the EU average and should reach 98 percent by 2015. We are today at the same level as Greece and Portugal.

Economic growth in Slovenia reached five percent in 1999, and was almost as high last year. Over the last six years our growth rate has ranged from 3.5 percent to five percent.

Slovenia is indisputably a factor of stability and security in Central and Southeastern Europe. Our success could provide a model of development for other countries in the region.

The Government of Slovenia is pleased with the outcome of the EU intergovernmental conference in Nice last December, because it paved the way for EU enlargement. But we are concerned by the relatively low level of support for enlargement that has recently appeared in some member states.

We believe that objective information on enlargement and its importance should be provided to EU citizens in order to explain the significance of this historic process.

Our entry negotiations are proceeding well, and we hope to have completed virtually all of our Accession Agreement by the end of this year. By the end of 2002, Slovene legislation and regulations should be harmonized with those of the EU.

We expect to be fully prepared for EU membership by the beginning of 2003, and we hope to join at the beginning of 2004, which would enable us to take part in the elections for the European Parliament that year.

Once Slovenia joins the EU, the country's Eastern and Southeastern borders will represent the Southeastern border of the EU. Because of its commitment to collective defense, Slovenia hopes to receive an invitation to join NATO when the Alliance's leaders meet in Prague in 2002 to discuss admitting more countries in Central Europe.

The Prague summit will take place five years after the Madrid summit, which invited three Central European countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - to join the Alliance. Prague would provide a timely and symbolic venue for a decision to confirm the Alliance's Open Door policy by issuing further invitations.

The Washington summit of 1999 launched the Membership Action Plan, providing aspirant countries with a systematic, focused and result-oriented process to prepare for entry. Successful fulfillment of the MAP does not in itself imply an automatic invitation. We agree, however, that it should be one of the crucial conditions, and we believe that each candidate country should be assessed individually.

The time between now and 2002 will be crucial for assessing our preparedness, and, of course, for prioritizing our financial and human resources. We understand that the membership criteria have now been, as it were, upgraded.

Today's criteria are tougher and more demanding than at the time of the Madrid summit. They provide that each new entrant must bring a security bonus when it joins the Alliance. We have accepted this, because we also want the Alliance to become even stronger, so as to be able to respond to tomorrow's challenges and threats.

Slovenia has planned and implemented a range of actions in order to meet the necessary criteria, and this year will be crucial to our efforts. The question is not only why Slovenia wants to join NATO, but how it would strengthen the Alliance.

Slovenia occupies an important geopolitical and strategic position, and has always been part of Central Europe, in terms of its history, civilization, culture and economy, as well as strategically and militarily.

Slovenia thus represents an important Central European meeting point with both Mediterranean Europe and Southeastern Europe. It is a missing jigsaw puzzle piece that got lost during the first round of NATO expansion into Central Europe - a link between Italy and Hungary, both NATO members.

Slovenia can offer special military expertise in mountain/high elevation combat. And, last but not least, it has excellent knowledge of the cultures, and the diverse problems, of Southeastern Europe.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number II, Issue number III in the Summer of 2001.