STA, 20 February 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor underscored the need to invest in security as he visited NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeated his call for an increase in defence spending.
"Slovenia is increasing defence spending not because it would face a direct military threat, but because the world is less safe a place today, and also because [Slovenia] is part of the western world. Like fifteen years ago, I continue to believe today it's important we understand this," said Pahor.
Slovenia joined NATO and the EU in 2004 and Pahor said his latest visit to NATO was also important symbolically considering the 15th anniversary of the country's membership of the two organisations.
Pahor argued that in compliance with the alliance's defence targets was not about meeting the country's obligations to NATO but rather about its own security; Slovenia must invest in security, he said.
The president said it was understandable for NATO to expect of Slovenia to meet the target of increasing defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2024.
He told Stoltenberg that Slovenia was planning to increase defence budget to 1.5% of GDP by 2024, which he said was a substantial increase considering the strong economic growth.
Stoltenberg lauded Slovenia as a valuable ally which he said contributed to common security and defence in many ways and played an important role in the Western Balkans, in particular in the KFOR mission in Kosovo and in the efforts to bring the countries in the region closer to the EU and NATO.
He also noted Slovenia's participation in the Afghanistan mission, in the battalion in Latvia and in the Trident Juncture exercise.
He again welcomed the fact that after years of decline Slovenia started increasing defence spending, which was substantial in absolute terms considering the economic growth, but he also repeated that he would want the country to make more effort.
Asked for comment about the Slovenian Armed Forces' poor readiness assessments, Stoltenberg repeated that NATO appreciated Slovenia's contribution in the allied missions and operations.
He said that he had met Slovenian soldiers and was able to see their commitment and professionalism, in particular in their key role in Kosovo.
He acknowledged that there had been some readiness issues in the past, but said the very reason of NATO testing the forces to be deployed in its missions and operations was to recognise the problems so they could be dealt with.
This is what Slovenia has done, the readiness problem was addressed, Slovenian troops took part in Trident Juncture, which is a very demanding exercise, and did excellently, said Stoltenberg.
The Western Balkans ranked high on the agenda with Pahor noting the significance of NATO's and the EU's enlargement to countries in the region. He said NATO was doing much better in that respect than the EU having admitted Montenegro with enlargement to North Macedonia due soon.
Pahor, the supreme commender of the Slovenian Armed Forces, noted that he was the first president to visit NATO headquarters last year, which he would want to become a tradition.