by H.E. Dr. Janez Drnovšek,<br />Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia</br />at the North Atlantic Council Meeting
Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Prague, with long-time partners. A lot of hope and expectations were attached to this Summit over the past year. At the meetings with my fellow colleagues from candidate countries in Bratislava, Bucharest and Riga the need for further enlargement was emphasized repeatedly. I am therefore glad that NATO remained true to its principle of "Open-Door Policy" and, on behalf of the Republic of Slovenia, I would like to thank you for inviting us to join the Alliance.
Slovenia is a long-standing candidate country for entry into NATO. We are therefore well aware of the significance of this moment. The road that we traveled in reaching this goal was full of challenges and, sometimes, disappointments. Nonetheless, throughout this period Slovenia always stood firmly by NATO as a reliable partner, acting in the spirit of the Alliance. I believe this reflects the keen awareness in Slovenia that we owe part of our success as a country to NATO, which brought stability to our immediate neighborhood, by decisively intervening in the Balkans. In other words, we know that NATO has already contributed to our security. The invitation to join the Alliance therefore represents a welcome opportunity for Slovenia to accept its share of responsibility for the stability of Europe and international peace.
Today’s decision has historic proportions, not only for the nations invited but also for this Continent. An important and irreversible step has been made towards Europe whole and free and at peace. The nations invited to join NATO will reinvigorate the organization and strengthen its ability to remain the most successful system of collective defense to date. However, there are countries whose aspirations to join the Alliance have not been met at this Summit and who must have a chance to join it when they are able to assume the responsibilities that the membership brings.
NATO's largest enlargement ever is an important event in itself. However, we are well aware of the fact that Prague is not an end, but the beginning. For the invited countries this Summit represents the beginning of a vigorous process of final preparations for membership during the forthcoming accession procedure. For NATO it represents the beginning of an accelerated process of transformation into an international organization that is fully adapted to the challenges set by the post-September 11 era.
September 11 gave new substance to all existing forms of international cooperation, but especially to existing security structures, such as NATO. Moreover, it effectively brought to an end the Cold War inertia in thinking that lasted for a whole decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States a new world-wide coalition came into being. For the first time, there is real partnership between NATO and Russia. NATO is thus acquiring a truly new dimension – the one that we, too, wish for.
This is an important day, not only for Slovenia, but also for me personally. It represents the symbolic conclusion of a process that has been an integral part of the first decade of Slovenian independence. In all these years many things have changed, both in NATO and also in Slovenia. What has not changed, however, is our common attachment to the European ideal and to trans-Atlantic cooperation. Today's decision therefore represents an important reaffirmation of the values and ideas we share. We therefore look forward to working with all the Allied nations in our common efforts to bring more security, more stability and peace to the world.