Slovenia as a Factor of European Stability
His Excellency Zoran Thaler
Foreign Minister of Slovenia
SLOVENIA'S STRATEGIC LOCATION
With the Mediterranean to its south and the Balkans to its southeast, Slovenia is situated at a strategic junction of Western and Central Europe, whose southeastern area has the potential of becoming a hotbed of crisis. As it has been throughout history, Slovenia remains a kind of Fulda Gap to a southern theater of war, through which major North-South and East-West lines of communication run.
Slovenia, however, like other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, does not now face either a direct or an indirect military threat to its national security. Like other countries of the region, Slovenia faces non-military challenges and dangers that have appeared along the rim of Europe.
The same cannot be said of our neighbors to the southeast, a point illustrated by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There the major threat to security, peace, and stability has been military force, the reasons for which are numerous and are becoming better understood. While IFOR and SFOR troops did stop the war there, difficulties implementing the political portion of the Dayton Agreement are precluding an assessment that might prevent hostilities from reoccurring. We therefore support the efforts being made towards finding a permanent political solution, which I discussed recently with President Izetbegovic and other leaders in Sarajevo. But while the international community, particularly those countries contributing forces to IFOR, accepted relatively easily the extension and modification of the SFOR mandate, it is not at all certain that we can expect such an extension again in 1998. It would be worthwhile, we therefore believe, to begin considering "the schedule for '98" now, both its civil and military components.
THE NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Post-Cold War security must be based on the principle of cooperation. Throughout its existence, Slovenia has clearly expressed its willingness to participate in international endeavors aimed at neutralizing security challenges and reestablishing stability. In the interlinked world of today, a serious security challenge poses a threat--in one way or another--to all countries, and so it is in the interest of all countries to participate, within their capabilities, in the elimination of security challenges.
However, it is the primary interest of every country to eliminate the security challenges to its own region. This includes not only actively responding to such challenges when they occur but particularly creating conditions that will prevent such challenges from occurring. Prevention cannot always be accomplished, however, when past problems are so numerous that they require additional countries' involvement.
Slovenia will soon be celebrating the sixth anniversary of its birth. Though young, Slovenia is internally stable and willing to cooperate, two factors that can help it promote stability in the region. Within a short period of time, we have been able to establish a system and regulate internal affairs in a way that has enabled us to consolidate security. This accomplishment is best illustrated in Slovenia's fulfillment of the criteria set by NATO for countries interested in joining its ranks.
I should like to stress that our internal stability derives greatly from our successful economic development. The success of our economic restructuring can also be seen in our GDP per inhabitant, which amounted to US$9,300 in 1996. This high level of economic development places Slovenia first among the states in transition.
To deal with potential crises in the region, Slovenia has followed a policy of active involvement in international efforts towards stabilization and the establishment of security, taking into account historic limitations. Since March 1996, we have participated in the endeavors of the CSCE, and later of the OSCE, aimed at settling problems in Southeastern Europe, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Slovenia was the first among the states of the former Yugoslavia to transparently provide information concerning its armed forces. We also respected the embargo--though it was unfair--on the import of arms and military equipment; put forward numerous initiatives concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina (e.g., "the safe areas"); and assisted in carrying out regional security consultations and in gaining control over and disarming the belligerent parties. We were also engaged in similar activities as a U.N. member-state.
Participation in IFOR, SFOR, and Operation Alba
Slovenia joined the IFOR operation at the very beginning, with the agreement regarding transit arrangements--transit that is still underway within the SFOR operation. From December 20, 1995, when the agreement went into effect, to June 11, 1997, approximately 700 IFOR/SFOR convoys crossed Slovenian territory, and several hundred flights took place over our land. When the Dayton Agreement established the political-security preconditions necessary for greater Slovenian involvement in SFOR, my country offered to support SFOR with its helicopters, medical facilities, and military airport in Cerklje. Since modalities of the Agreement have now been brought into line, we hope that our pilots will soon start to carry out SFOR tasks.
Slovenia is also supplying its sanitary corps to the Alba operation in Albania. In this regard I would like to note that, despite its brief existence and despite the fact that the structures for participation in peace-support operations are only now being formed, the Slovenian army has succeeded in joining with the armies of other countries to carry out this important mission.
Regional efforts cannot be directed only towards prevention. They must also strive to establish cooperative security activities to dispel mistrust and strengthen ties between the neighboring countries. Regional efforts should also enable participating countries to enhance their ability to take part in peace-support operations.
To this end, Slovenia has established exemplary relationships with all of its neighbors, a fact with which NATO, as a result of discussions and individual dialogues, concurs. Slovenia also has established relationships with countries to the southeast, particularly Bosnia, Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Albania. Certain issues still exist between Slovenia and Croatia, but these are being solved through dialogue and negotiations between the two states, and do not involve risks to security. An offer to normalize relations and establish diplomatic relations was made to Serbia (FRY), but we are still awaiting their answer. The common problem of succession issues regarding the former Yugoslavia is being solved within the international framework of EU.
In fall 1996, Slovenia established trilateral cooperation with Italy and Hungary. This cooperation has not only laid the foundation for long-term stability in this part of Europe, but has also enabled the three countries' joint participation in efforts to neutralize security challenges of the post-Cold War period. Under the auspices of this trilateral security arrangement, a joint search and rescue exercise has been carried out by Slovenia and Italy. A joint exercise involving all three countries is planned for 1997, and discussions are underway concerning the formation of a joint military unit. As part of security-defense cooperation, the three countries' Defense Ministers met in Ljubljana in April 1997.
Our cooperative security experiences have already contributed to the strengthening of regional security and stability, and have confirmed our belief that regional cooperation represents the territorial nucleus of the new European security architecture. Regional cooperation cannot, of course, replace the enlarged NATO that is envisioned. It can, however, serve as an appropriate framework for supporting that enlargement.
NATO ENLARGEMENT MUST PROJECT STABILITY
We do not consider NATO enlargement to be a separate issue from the broader context of Euro-Atlantic security and its new arrangement. We see it as part of the process of forming a much larger, all-encompassing strategy for strengthening security by projecting stability from the West to the East and the South of Europe. This process is driving the internal transformation of NATO into the so-called New NATO, an organization able to respond to the challenges created by the admission of new members, to establish significant relationships with those who wish to enter NATO but are unable as yet to do so, and to settle NATO's relationships with the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The prospect of NATO membership has already greatly contributed to settling numerous open bilateral questions and issues for the countries in transition.
As NATO enlarges, it will be crucial for European security that enlargement take place in a balanced manner and include countries in strategic areas that can project stability toward areas of potential crisis. Such an approach would help to eliminate crises and not just provide a reactive defense mechanism for crisis containment. I hope that the enlargement strategy will actively project stability and not passively contain the current security challenges.
If enlargement does not include countries close to areas that are sources of tension and instability, security threats to the region, and exporters of destabilizing factors that can affect all of Europe, we must ask an important question: "Will such an enlargement attain its objective of a higher level of security and stability?" If stable countries that are not security receivers are left out, a dividing line between stable countries will be unnecessarily drawn. NATO enlargement would thus artificially limit the area of stability instead of consolidating the existing one. Such an outcome would be detrimental to both the stability of the countries beyond the line and to that of the region as well.