The Enlargement of NATO: Slovenia as a Reliable Partner
His Excellency Dr. Janez Drnovek
Prime Minister of Slovenia
Though Slovenia established its independence only seven years ago, we have already started integrating with the European Union and have declared ourselves a candidate for NATO membership. Slovenia qualified to be in the first group of candidates for European Union membership and started negotiations for full membership early this year. At the same time, Slovenia was mentioned in the Madrid Declaration as one of the two most qualified candidates for the next round of NATO expansion scheduled to take place after the upcoming NATO summit in April next year.
We consider NATO to be an institution that is changing in order to adapt to the new post-Berlin Wall world situation. We also regard NATO as an institution that should contribute significantly to world peace and stability. This is why Slovenia would like to participate in NATO; not because we feel threatened or because we see short- or long-term danger for our country and therefore wish to be part of a defense organization. We would like to participate because we share the same objectives, values, and way of life with NATO countries, and would like to work with these countries to ensure stability and peace in Europe and throughout the world.
Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic, has been making a difference since it gained its independence seven years ago. Since that time we have not been influenced in any way by the wars and crises near our borders, first in Croatia, then in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now in Kosovo. Slovenia has remained completely outside these situations, and has been, I think, a strong, economically stable, and democratic state. While considering Slovenia for membership, NATO has seen Slovenia as very unproblematic and has also seen my country in a very positive light. This is why I believe that the Madrid Summit ended with a declaration naming Romania and Slovenia as candidates for NATO membership in 1999.
FUTURE NATO ENLARGEMENT
Like everyone else, Slovenia awaited Americas ratification of the first three candidates for NATO accession. Now that this has taken place, we ask: how will NATO enlarge in the future? When will further enlargement occur? And which countries will be candidates?
It is my belief that there is now much, much more uncertainty about this issue than there was at the Madrid Summit. European countries generally supported Slovenias and Romanias candidacy for membership, and the United States basically decided to limit the number of first-round new members. After a good deal of public discussion as well as opposition to enlargement in the States, we are now asking: Will the Clinton Administration propose further enlargement in this term? Is the American position different than it was a year ago? Will further enlargement be easier? We want to know the current position of the United States and its leaders.
Judging from my contacts with European leaders, I see no problems in Europe regarding our candidacy as well as future enlargement. However, there are still many issues to be considered, including questions about the Baltic States and relations with Russia, and the possibility that the next round of enlargement could cause more political problems than benefits, especially inside the United States. In addition, while Slovenia never had any relationship with the former Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Union, there may still be some reluctance on NATOs part to include countries that belonged to or participated in special-interest spheres or blocs. Because Slovenia is located in Central Europe, many may believe it was associated with such groups.
SLOVENIA AS A RELIABLE WESTERN PARTNER
Slovenia, though not yet a NATO member, is very much a part of the Western world, and will remain so. While this position has not yet proven to be an advantage, because we have no guarantee of future accession, we are concentrating on continuing our development and say to the world, to NATO members, We are here. We think that we are qualified candidates. We think that we have a strategic position that is advantageous to NATO. We think that we are very, very prepared, and that we are a factor of stability in this part of Europe.
We ask you to consider these issues rationally, and to remember that they are serious. These issues cannot be toyed with, nor can our internal politics nor our expectations. We hope to hear answers to these issues and our questions in the months to come.