NATO Secretary General praises Slovenia’s role in the Western Balkans
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Slovenia’s active engagement in the Western Balkans and its strong commitment to the Alliance’s collective security during his visit to Ljubljana on Monday (13 July 2015). At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Miro Cerar, Mr. Stoltenberg described Slovenia as “a valued Ally”, stressing that “Slovenia plays an important role in bringing the region closer to the rest of Europe and the transatlantic family”.
The Secretary General thanked Slovenia for its significant contribution to NATO’s operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He also welcomed the availability of Slovenian helicopters to NATO’s pool of deployable forces.
Mr. Stoltenberg said that the security environment has fundamentally changed and that in response, the Alliance is implementing the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the end of the Cold War. “Of course this will require more investment in defence, as we pledged at the Wales Summit last year, where we said we would stop defence cuts, raise investments as our economies recover, and reach 2 percent within a decade. This is not easy and it won’t happen overnight. But I welcome the announcement by the Slovenian government that you will stop the cuts and gradually increase defence investment.”
During the press conference Mr Stoltenberg also welcomed recent defence spending commitments by other Allies. “Just last week the UK announced that it increase defence expenditure in real terms over the next five years and gave a strong commitment to our pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence. This is a great example of leadership within our Alliance. And it shows that it can be done,” Mr Stoltenberg said.
In the Secretary General’s talks with Prime Minister Cerar, the leaders discussed challenges to Allied security from the east and the south, and NATO's adaptation to face them. In Ljubljana, the Secretary General also held talks with President Borut Pahor, Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec and Defence Minister Andreja Katič. During his visit, Mr Stoltenberg also met President of the National Assembly Milan Brglez.
Late on Monday the Secretary General visited the Slovenian Mountain Warfare Centre in Poljče, which is on its way to becoming NATO’s latest Centre of Excellence. “For all NATO Allies, but especially those who do not have the benefit of their own mountains, this centre will be an essential part of their training, to help them deal with cold and snow and the ever-changing weather,” Secretary General Stoltenberg said during his visit. He expressed his appreciation to Slovenia for hosting the Centre which will train troops and experts in mountain warfare, the specialized skills required for working in mountainous terrain.