STA, 20 March 2019 - NATO member states consider the alliance "the best answer to the question of ensuring national security," President Borut Pahor said in his keynote to the ceremony marking Slovenia's 15th anniversary in NATO at the Brdo pri Kranju conference centre on Wednesday.
Slovenia is marking the anniversary "with a well-founded feeling that fifteen years ago it made the right decision and that [NATO] will do its utmost to ensure that our high expectations for ensuring national and collective security are also met in the future."
For nearly three quarters of a century, the alliance has been preserved and strengthened, an impressive feat for the modern international community. This means that the alliance's fundamental values exceed "the mere provision of a high level of national security".
In his speech, the president also talked about global politics and the dwindling trust in multilateralism, pointing to the "poorer relationship" between Europe and the US.
Pred prireditvijo ob 15. obletnici vstopa Republike Slovenije v zvezo NATO se je predsednik Pahor srečal z nekdanjim generalnim sekretarjem zveze NATO lordom Georgeom Robertsonom. @NATO pic.twitter.com/sTpKP429Ni— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) March 20, 2019
"The result is a consideration of stronger European security and military cooperation," said Pahor, underlining, however, that "it is necessary to strive for close cooperation with the US".
He moreover expressed his "appreciation to NATO for its understanding of the needs of its enlargement to the Western Balkans countries. The membership of Montenegro and the imminent accession of North Macedonia are good prospects for a greater geopolitical stability of this highly sensitive and vulnerable part of the European continent."
He moreover said he would like to see "some of this pragmatism and broader political judgement in the enlargement of the EU to this part of Europe."
"I understand that the standards and conditions are different and more demanding in this respect, but history will prove that the EU will help ensure the peace, security and prosperity of this part of Europe only if it also understands the expansion to this part as an eminently political, even geopolitical project rather than a narrowly procedural or bureaucratic project that depends only on the meticulous fulfilment of the membership criteria."
Pahor also touched on defence spending, with NATO members obligated to contribute 2% of their GDP. "The world is changing, becoming less secure and more unpredictable. It is necessary to invest in security, also financially."
"Slovenia is aware of this fact. By 2024, it will allocate 1.5% of GDP for defence, which means a significant increase."
The ceremony was also addressed by foreign and defence ministers Miro Cerar and Karl Erjavec, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the event via video link.
The ceremony was followed by a round table debate moderated by former Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces Dobran Božič, who is currently serving as state secretary at the Foreign Ministry. The debate also featured former NATO Secretary General George Robertson.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Lord Robertson said that US President Donald Trump had done a great favour to the European countries by demanding an increase in defence spending, because he "shattered the complacency that previously existed".
Saying that many European countries had imagined the US would always be available, Robertson said that Trump put that into question and that European allies would have to do much more, not only to satisfy Trump, but for their own self-interest.
Robertson, who served as NATO secretary general between 1999 and 2004, expressed the hope that Slovenia, which trails NATO members in terms of defence spending, too would listen to this reasoning and continue to play its role in the alliance. But he did commend Slovenia on its contribution to NATO missions and operations.
The significance of the member states' commitment to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP was also noted by Camille Grand, NATO assistant secretary general for defence investment, in his address to the panel at Brdo estate.
He labelled Slovenia as a firm ally which shouldered its part of the burden, noting its role in the NATO force in Kosovo.