STA, 6 May 2019 - A series of regional military exercises are getting under way in Slovenia on Monday involving the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and troops from 25 NATO and partner countries. The goal is to make them better prepared to provide security and preserve peace in the region.
Running until 22 June, the exercises will get under way with the tactical exercise dubbed Immediate Response, held under the leadership of United States Army Europe and Slovenian and Croatian armed forces. This will feature close to 3,000 troops from Slovenia, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Germany, North Macedonia and Poland.
Slovenia will also host Adriatic Strike, Astral Knight and Immediate Response exercise, designed to build more effective and responsive forces to provide security and maintain peace.
The exercises will also provide an opportunity to build personal, professional, technical and tactical links, the SAF said in a press release.
During the exercises, increased traffic of military vehicles, aircraft and vessels is expected en route to and in the vicinity of the Cerklje ob Krki airbase, the airstrips in Divača and Rakičan, at the SAF's main training grounds in Poček near Postojna, and in and around the Maribor and Ankaran army barracks.
Military convoys will move to the locations mostly by motorways, from border crossings with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, in a way to cause the least possible disruption to traffic, the SAF said.
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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.
STA, 17 March 2019 - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec has said NATO is a bulwark of security in the Euro-Atlantic area and a cornerstone of Slovenian security, as he spoke to the STA ahead of Slovenia's 15th anniversary of NATO membership. "With limited funds we earmark for defence, it enables us to achieve more and do better."
"On its 70th anniversary, NATO is still a key common mechanism of guaranteeing security, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and development in the Euro-Atlantic area.
"It's primarily a bulwark of common values which are the basis of the social systems of its allies. All this is supported by a system of collective security," he says.
For Slovenia, it represents one of the basic elements of national security, believes Erjavec, who held the office of foreign minister before moving to defence.
"The alliance offers us the most suitable framework to pursue our national security interests, and a possibility of joint response to contemporary security challenges."
However, Slovenia must also assume a fair share of responsibilities, notes Erjavec, adding that if it was not a NATO member, it would have to invest much more in defence.
He says Slovenia has committed to spend more on defence not only because of NATO but foremost to have adequate capabilities for its own national security.
He notes the government has come up with an ambitious plan to raise defence spending in the coming years "aiming to meet this goal which was adopted jointly".
Looking back at the 15 years in NATO, Erjavec sees NATO's 2014 summit in Wales as one of the key events, bringing a "leap in understanding changes in security" and the related need to adjust to contemporary security challenges.
Noting NATO is working on a new military strategy, he says that "just like other allies, Slovenia will strengthen its defence capabilities and pursue the commitments to raise defence spending".
"We too will join the implementation of a boosted presence in the East, where we take part in a battlegroup in Latvia. Special efforts will also have to be made to boost the country's cybersecurity."
Over the past decade and a half, the main events in Slovenia have been the integration of the Slovenian army in NATO's military structure, which was completed in 2009.
This showed according to the minister that the army was capable of working together with other allies.
Another important event was two of its units (a nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological battalion and the Role-2 medical unit) becoming NATO-certified units, showing Slovenia can contribute its capabilities into the system of collective defence.
Erjavec also highlights the deployment of troops to Kosovo. "This has been the biggest contribution so far in the history of cooperation in international operations, and it puts us on a par with the most advanced armies."
The minister believes that in its 70-year history, NATO has proved "an incredibly strong alliance able to adjust and react to various threats and challenges despite sometimes different interests and stances of its sovereign members".
Commenting on tensions between European allies and the US under President Donald Trump, and on the EU's boosting its security and defence component, Erjavec says this does not "double efforts by NATO, which remains the basis of collective defence, but strengthens the European pillar within NATO".
The EU's efforts should not been seen as competition to NATO or the US. "The European security and defence efforts present a positive contribution to providing Euro-Atlantic security." says Erjavec, noting NATO and the EU are "natural partners" which share their common values and strategic interests in facing common challenges.
As for NATO's focus on Russia since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, the minister says "the alliance does not want a confrontation with Russia".
However, "it clearly and resolutely protects NATO's principles and democratic values, as well as peace, security and stability of all of its members", according to Erjavec.
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STA, 17 March 2019 - Slovenia became a full member of NATO on 29 March 2004, accomplishing one of its strategic foreign policy goals. Fifteen years later, the alliance is considered the keystone of Slovenian and European security, although it is also a source of demands for a fairer distribution of obligations, especially in terms of defence funding.
Slovenia had been a part of the Non-Aligned movement in the era of former Yugoslavia, but when it became independent the country set out to become a member of all significant global as well as Euro-Atlantic organisations, in particular the EU and NATO.
It had had aspirations of being one of the first countries from the former Eastern bloc to be invited to join NATO, but to its chagrin, the alliance invited only Czechia, Hungary and Poland in 1999.
The invitation to begin accession talks was issued three years later at the Prague summit. According to the then foreign minister, Dimitrij Rupel, the US decided to open the doors wider in part due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Popular support for NATO membership was weaker than support for the EU, as demonstrated during both accession referendums on 23 March 2003. While the EU membership was backed by almost 90% of voters, only 66% of them voted in favour of joining NATO.
Slovenia became a full member on 29 March 2004 along with Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia.
Despite expanding significantly since its inception, the alliance is still predicated on the principle of collective defence set down in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack against one member is an attack against all of them.
The Defence Ministry also points out that NATO established itself as a bastion of liberal democracy, human rights and shared Euro-Atlantic values. Being a member, Slovenia has thus solidified its position among stable democracies in Europe and in the world.
After the end of the Cold War, NATO transformed into a major player securing global peace and security, in particular through peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
But it has also engaged in combat, most notably in Afghanistan, which involved NATO participating in state-building and combat operations against the Taliban for 13 years until it was formally ended in 2014.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has described Slovenia as a valued ally that contributes to collective security and defence in many ways. The other allies acknowledge an important role of Slovenia in operations, especially in the Kfor mission in Kosovo, with Slovenian soldiers receiving high praise for their achievement.
But being at the bottom of the defence spending rankings, Slovenia has been warned about its low contributions. Stoltenberg personally pointed that out during his visit to Ljubljana in October last year.
NATO leaders agreed at the Wales summit in 2014 to increase the share of defence expenditure to 2% of GDP in ten years, after it had shrunk due to the financial crisis. Slovenia is one of the seven allies that do not plan to meet this target by 2024; it expects to allocate only 1.5% of GDP for defence budget that year.
The structure of the Slovenian defence budget is an issue as well. All allies are supposed to dedicate at least 20% of the financing to defence modernisation, but in Slovenia this share is only 8.2%. This is largely because Slovenia allocates the highest share of defence budget to soldiers' pay - almost 72.5%.
When it comes to increasing defence spending, the minority government is in a bind since the opposition Left opposes higher spending. However, a "fairer distribution of obligations" does not only concern Slovenia but the whole Europe, since only seven members of the 29 members allocate 2% of GDP to defence.
Slovenia plans to celebrate its 15th anniversary with a ceremony in Brdo pri Kranju on 20 March, with former NATO Secretary General George Robertson as the guest of honour.
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.
STA, 18 February - President Borut Pahor will meet top EU and NATO officials in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday to promote a conference which Slovenia will host in June as part of the Three Seas Initiative. Their meetings will also focus on the upcoming EU elections.
On Wednesday, Pahor is scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
A meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk is scheduled for Thursday.
"The visit to Brussels is an opportunity to continue dialogue on topical international, European and regional issues at the highest political level," Pahor's office said before the visit.
Pahor is expected to discuss in Brussels Slovenia's active role in the EU and NATO, the EU's future and preparations for two conferences - a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Albania in May and the meeting of the presidents of the countries of the Three Seas Initiative in Slovenia in June.
"Both conferences are to be attended by high EU representatives," the president's office said. Promoting the conference hosted by Slovenia is one of the main purposes of the visit, it added.
The initiative, comprising a dozen EU members and connecting the Adriatic Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea, aims to strengthen the cooperation in infrastructure on the north-south axis and is to help find investors for these projects, including from the US, according to the office.
Slovenia will host the fourth summit of the initiative, which is still evolving. Pahor said at the Munich Security Conference last week that the initiative was "an advocate of a strong and united Europe" and "support to pan-European cooperation."
He also rejected allegation that the US wanted to turn the forum into a club like the Chinese 16+1 initiative.
According to the European Commission, Pahor will discuss topical EU issues with the EU officials in Brussels. The meeting with Mogherini is expected to focus on the Western Balkans.
An important topic will also be the upcoming EU elections and the rise of right-leaning, Eurosceptic parties.
The controversial statements made by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani at a commemoration in Basovizza, Italy, last week, which Slovenia interpreted as territorial claims, are also expected to come up.
Meanwhile, Pahor's meeting with Stoltenberg will be an opportunity to discuss topical NATO issues, reaffirm Slovenia's participation in the alliance and exchange views on other political and security issues that concern Slovenia and NATO, the president's office said.
Defence spending will undoubtedly be discussed as well, given that Slovenia is far from achieving NATO's goal of allocating 2% of GDP to defence by 2024. Slovenia's defence spending is to rise to 1.5% of GDP by then.
NATO member states should invest 20% of their defence budget funds into development of their capabilities, while Slovenia invests only 4.5%.
Pahor's visit also marks the 15th anniversary of Slovenia's EU and NATO memberships.
The president last paid a visit to Brussels at the beginning of January 2017. This will be his fourth meeting with the heads of EU institutions since he took office.
The first meeting was held in January 2013, when he chose Brussels for his first official visit after assuming office a month earlier.
Pahor's visit to NATO's headquarters will be the second visit of a Slovenian president since the country became a full-fledged member. It was Pahor who paid the first visit, in January last year.
Pahor has spent quite a lot of time in Brussels in his career. Prior to becoming prime minister in November 2008, he served as MEP from 2004. As prime minister he regularly attended EU summits there until February 2012.
STA, 11 February 2019 - Talat Xhaferi, the speaker of the Macedonian parliament, heard praise for the steps his country made to join NATO as he was welcomed by his counterpart Dejan Židan in Ljubljana on Monday, a day before the Slovenian National Assembly is to endorse Macedonia's accession to NATO under its new name.
Židan, addressing a join press conference with Xhaferi, spoke of an "historic moment" with the Macedonian parliament speaker visiting today, "and we adopting the ratification of the Accession Protocol between NATO and North Macedonia as early as tomorrow".
Asked by the STA when the Prespa Agreement with Greece changing Macedonia's name would enter into force, Xhaferi said the deal set forth that the new name applies with the ratification of the North Macedonia's NATO Accession Protocol in the Greek parliament, which happened last Friday.
However, procedure-wise, the agreement stipulates that after the ratification in the Greek parliament, Macedonia notify the United Nations on the name change, after which all UN countries need to implement internal legislation procedures to use the new name.
???? @MiroCerar na današnjem srečanju s predsednikom makedonskega Sobranja mag. Talatom Xhaferijem v Ljubljani tudi o trdni podpori Slovenije makedonskemu napredku na evroatlantski poti. Več: https://t.co/OEekfYtG4r pic.twitter.com/F0BnWO1AIP— MFA SLOVENIA (@MZZRS) February 11, 2019
Židan noted the significance of the accession protocol for Macedonia and the broader region in that "makes it possible to increase security in the Western Balkans" and give hope for the region, "divided by too many diverging views".
The ratification of the Accession Protocol was confirmed by the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee in a 15:1 vote today, while the plenary will vote tomorrow when MPs are also addressed by Xhaferi.
After Greece, Slovenia will be the second NATO member to ratify Macedonia's accession. The government initially wanted ratification with immediate effect, but the Constitution determines that it will take effect 15 days after publication.
Xhaferi expects that Macedonia will become the 30th NATO member under its new name at the end of this or at the beginning of next year, after being given observer status last week.
He believes "the fact that we have Slovenia by our side, is a strong guarantee that we as a country and the entire Western Balkan region will develop in the right direction, one that will bring peace, stability, progress and prosperity to our people".
Židan also noted Slovenia's support for Macedonia's membership of the EU, saying it was the EU's duty to set the date of the accession talks in June, in what would be an additional boost to stabilisation of the Western Balkans.
Židan also noted the traditionally good relationship between Slovenia and Macedonia and the growing volume of merchandise trade, which is nearing EUR 300m a year, but he also pointed to the still untapped potential.
He understands Xhaferi's two-day visit as a further encouragement to step up political and business ties. He also noted that 800 Macedonian students studying in Slovenia at the moment under the same terms as their Slovenian counterparts.
Xhaferi was glad to be "among declared friends who support our Euro-Atlantic aspirations without reserve". He and Židan agreed that regional initiatives such as the Brdo-Brijuni process or the process of cooperation in SE Europe were good models to overcome hatred stemming from the past and a god basis for regional cooperation.
The Macedonian speaker was received by President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar today, and met a joint delegation of the parliamentary committees for foreign policy and EU affairs and the group of friendship with Macedonia.
Cerar emphasised that Slovenia was a great supporter of Macedonia's EU and NATO aspirations. "We welcome the steps towards full membership in NATO," he wrote on Twitter.
Cerar congratulated Xhaferi on the authorities in Skopje taking responsibility and being proactive regarding the name dispute with Greece, labelling the signing of the Prespa Agreement and its implementation a historic decision.
"The next step on the Euro-Atlantic path is expected already in June, when Slovenia will be striving for and expect from the EU to launch EU membership negotiations with Macedonia," Cerar was quoted by the Foreign Ministry.
Xhaferi thanked Slovenia for its support and assistance so far and described the reform process in Macedonia.
Pahor labelled Xhaferi's visit as special, especially within the context of the ratification of the agreement between Greece and Macedonia, which along with constitutional changes is an important signal for the EU accession prospects of the region.
Pahor congratulated Macedonia and Greece for the courage in the resolving of the name dispute, adding that Slovenia had made its contribution as part of the Brdo-Brijuni initiative and the EU, the president's office said.
The president also congratulated Xhaferi on the signing of the ratification of the Accession Protocol, which he labelled as an important factor of safety, stability and well-being of the entire region and wider.
STA, 7 February 2019 - The government adopted a bill to ratify the NATO Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia and submitted it to parliament for final passage.
The protocol was signed in Brussels on Wednesday by the alliance's permanent representatives to NATO and comes after Macedonia and Greece signed and ratified the deal changing Macedonia's name.
In a press release issued after Thursday’s session, the government said that the Western Balkans was a region of strategic importance to the security of Slovenia, NATO and the EU.
The release said that the EU and NATO's enlargement to the region was one of the key stimuli of its progress and a guarantee of its stability.
Matjaž Nemec, the chair of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, subsequently called an extraordinary session of the committee for Monday to discuss the protocol, which implies that Slovenia will ratify it within the shortest possible time.
On Monday, Speaker of Macedonian Parliament Talat Xhaferi will start a visit to Slovenia for talks with his counterpart Dejan Židan, President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar. He is also expected to address the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The NATO Accession Protocol for Republic of North Macedonia will come into effect after all of the NATO member countries have officially notified the US government of its ratification.
According to foreign media, Greece will be the first country to ratify the protocol with a vote due in the Greek parliament on Friday.
STA, 24 October 2018 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar expressed support for Macedonia's push to change the country's name to allow it to proceed with its efforts to join the EU and NATO as he held talks with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov in Skopje on Wednesday.