The Kosovo Crisis from the Perspective of a New Slovakia
His Excellency Eduard Kukan
Foreign Minister of Slovakia
I would like to begin by commenting on the security of NATO and Europe following the Kosovo crisis. NATO undertook its actions in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after all other means were exhausted. Its success there shows that brutal violations of human rights, or genocide, if you wish, cannot be hidden under the principle of sovereignty of states. This lesson has become more and more clear, and should be confirmed in a legal document, as difficult as that might be.
The reaction of the international community, the performance of NATO, and the cooperation of Partner states during the Kosovo crisis were very nice and very positive surprises. With their efforts, the cohesion of the Alliance and the solidarity of its members and partners were strongly confirmed. In the same manner, states aspiring to NATO membership, even under circumstances as difficult as these, must be ready and willing to take on their part of the responsibility for international security.
EUROPEAN SECURITY AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Kosovo crisis clearly confirmed many facts politicians have been speaking about since the end of the Cold War. I would like to mention five of them.
- Europe is based on values. If the policy that is supporting the defense of these values is rejected, the international community must have effective instruments with which to defend them.
- In the 21st century, the security of Europe will be based on the transatlantic Alliance, in which the central role will be played by NATO and the Partnership for Peace. These two communities will have the capacity and the resources to successfully face all new challenges.
- Even though the Kosovo crisis complicated NATO relations with Russia and made them more difficult, I am confident that, in the long term, the conflict will actually serve as a catalyst for the enhancement of that relationship. I think that everyone in the international community believes that Russia is a key factor in security, and wishes Russia to be part of the solution to the Kosovo problem.
- Europe has big ambitions to take on more responsibility for the defense of its own region. I believe, however, that these ambitions must be translated into action in the near future. Kosovo should serve as a catalyst in discussions about how to achieve this. If Europe now has a common currency, it should be brave enough to establish a common defense. Let us think about it.
- In my opinion, Kosovo must be the last ethnic tragedy in the Balkans. To make this a certainty, it is necessary to start immediately to bring the entire Balkan area closer to European values. The people of this region must fulfill this task.
SLOVAK VIEWS AND GOALS
After last years parliamentary elections, the new government of Slovakia declared its foreign policy priorityto start behaving like a de facto Ally. I think that Slovakias actions during the Kosovo crisis proved that the Slovak government transformed this statement into reality. Public opinion was not completely favorable to the air strikes, and although it would have been easy, Slovakia did not heed public sentiment. Instead, it showed very consistent political leadership and the need for a state to openly support the values it believes in. The new Strategic Concept that was adopted in Washington is an inspiration for Slovakia and a concept it completely identifies with.
I would now like to make some remarks concerning the responsibility of Slovakia, as well as other small and medium-sized countries, for the security and stability of Europe. Internal stability, plus the effective functioning of democratic institutions and strong civic responsibility of individual states, are the guarantors of the wider international community. To underestimate these elements and to push through the particular interests of one group at the expense of another could lead to the kinds of tense situations and open conflicts we have seen of late. Today there are increasingly interconnected relations between a states internal stability and its external security. In my opinion, the current situation in the Balkans shows the need to increase the share of small and medium-sized states responsibility for overall international security. Slovakia showed its understanding of these points and the necessity to take on its share of the responsibility through its votes in recent parliamentary and presidential elections.
In the last several years, Slovakias name was always connected with political problems or trouble. I want to assure you that, since the September 1998 parliamentary elections, and with the arrival of the new Slovakian government, we are fully committed to membership in NATO and the European Union. With all modesty, I can say that in the first half of 1999, Slovakia gave much proof of this commitment. The new President was inaugurated in early June, and Slovakian institutions are fully in place. The new President will also be making foreign policy statements strengthening the governments commitment. I know that many of you are pessimistic and want to wait and see if we are serious about our commitment. We shall provide all of you with many more facts and deeds that show that we are a new Slovakia now, and that we hope to be the driving force behind the next wave of NATO enlargement.