Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs Juraj Schenk
The security situation in Central Europe has been both positively and negatively influenced by the disappearance of the old divisions that separated Europe into blocs. While the threat of open confrontation between two inexorable blocs has been reduced to a minimum, there now exists a probability for new disputes and conflicts, some of which were hidden and suppressed in the past.
Many of the security risks in Central Europe are the same as those in other European regions. One point these risks have in common is that unrecognized or underestimated, they can negatively affect both the security in the actual region as well as the security in the whole of Europe. Currently Slovakia is not directly threatened in any military sense, nor is it a source of instability, nor a threat to any other state or region in Europe. We have no territorial or border disputes, and we deal with all potential problems peacefully, through cooperation with our neighbors, bilateral dialogue, and multilateral consultations. Good-neighbor relations and regional cooperation are priorities of our foreign policy.
No Great Power currently exists in the area between Germany and Ukraine, Russia, or Belarus. This territory is home to small or medium-sized non-nuclear countries with limited strategic minerals and limited export-oriented transforming economies. Slovakia has five neighbor states. Of these, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have almost the same international positions as Slovakia. All of us have concluded the same agreements concerning association with the European Union, all are active participants in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) and in the Partnership for Peace (PFP) program, all cooperate within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and all cooperate in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and the Central European Initiative (CEI). Austria is the only one of Slovakia's neighbors that has neutral status but is also a European Union (EU) member. Ukraine has declared its interest in acquiring neutral status, and is also the only one of Slovakia's neighbors that is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), though not integrated into its military component.
The countries of the Visegrad Four (V4) form a single geopolitical complex that is interconnected by its members' cultural closeness, common historical experiences, problems of economic and political transformation, and the effort to be integrated into Western European and transatlantic economic and security structures. The Visegrad Four's foreign policy is clearly oriented toward the EU, NATO, and the Western European Union (WEU).
At present, there is an historic chance to turn the entire Central European area into a region of long-term development and stability. This chance provides great satisfaction, even a feeling of justice, because in the past Central Europe was seen only as a cordon or buffer zone.
Central European countries do not want to be passive consumers of security. They wish to actively contribute to the reinforcement of security in the region, and to enact demanding reforms that will create the right conditions for joining European and Euro-Atlantic security structures. Strengthening democracy and developing market economies and common foreign and security policy objectives will create a solid base for cooperation as well as the achievement of historic unions. For example, ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian Basic Agreement has already contributed to regional stability in an essential way.
Slovakia is interested in the maintenance of a balanced policy toward Central Europe and its individual states. We oppose the creation of new barriers in the middle of this region. Splitting the relatively compact complex limited by the V4 countries could have negative psychological, political, security, and economic impacts on its overall development and its prospects for the next century. Such a split could divide countries into more and less prosperous, more and less safe, and stronger and weaker areas, which, remembering previous divisions, would be very dangerous.
Because of its size and defense potential, Slovakia is not able to ensure its security with its own forces. This is why we seek security guarantees in our integration into European and transatlantic security structures. We consider the discussion on a European security system a search for harmony among NATO, EU, WEU, and the OSCE. The results of this discussion should contribute to the adoption of the existing security structures and to the establishment of a basic framework for communication and mutual relations for all security system participants. Slovakia supports the establishment of a new European security system that will work to guarantee the complex security of Europe. This system must be based on the U.N. Charter and on OSCE principles and standards, and must respect valid international agreements.
We oppose, however, the establishment of new spheres of influence and new dividing lines in Europe. The existence of several security organizations within the integrated security area of Europe should not result in divisions and blocs if these organizations work together in a transparent, cooperative, and non-antagonistic way. The new security system should have a pan-European, integrated, and structured character, and should be built on the complementary activities of:
Certainly the most crucial role in the European security system will be held by the extended and transformed NATO and by EU, WEU, and OSCE. We already see promise of this new security system in the operation now taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina in which the Dayton Peace Agreement is being implemented. NATO, OSCE, EU, U.N., the Council of Europe, and several non-governmental organizations are all working to maintain the peace and to build democracy in this former area of conflict. The effective operation of these organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina confirms their place and their ability to function in the new European security system. Further strengthening of the common principles of cooperation and communication will enable these organizations to work together even more effectively in future peace operations.
Slovakia has played a very active role and shared responsibility in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in IFOR. We are meeting the requirements necessary for NATO membership, and our Engineering Battalion has successfully participated in the Sweden-Slovakia United Nations Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) peacekeeping operation. All of these activities we consider important steps toward strengthening our cooperation with NATO and toward full-fledged membership in that organization.
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