No. 6 - Nov. 1996
Vol. 44 - pp. 24-25

Preparing for membership:
Slovenia's expanding ties to NATO

Ignac Golob
State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia

Ignac Golob
From the perspective of Slovenia, NATO is an indispensable instrument of stability in Europe. Its enlargement to include new members, sooner rather than later, is the only viable means to address the security vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe. Slovenia is doing what it can to contribute to a secure and stable Europe as part of its preparations for eventual membership in NATO.

NATO is indispensable for security in Europe today and will remain so into the next century. Certainly from Slovenia's perspective, its importance is growing.

While the Cold War has ended, neither the nature of man nor that of international relations has fundamentally changed. The end of the Cold War has not altered the nature of the state and has not prevented the reappearance of expansionism, revanchism or pernicious nationalism. Nor has it seen the end of undemocratic attempts to re-establish control or influence in some parts of Europe. Such problems are likely to stay with us well into the new era.

There is no doubt that we should be building a new security architecture for the present and future, while not losing sight of trends in the past that have an ugly tendency of repeating themselves. The experiences of countries from the Baltic to the Balkans, different but at the same time surprisingly similar, can teach us a lot.

Predictability in international relations is frequently mentioned as something well nigh impossible to achieve. This is usually accompanied by claims that security needs in some parts of Europe cannot be foreseen due to the unpredictability of events.

On the face of it, this may be true. However, a closer look at Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans tells a different story.

Security vacuum

Drnovsek & Solana
Slovene Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek (left) with NATO Secretary General Solana during a visit to Brussels last May.
(NATO Photo 24Kb)
There is a security vacuum in this region which can produce a lot of uncertainty if left to itself. In many cases, uncertainty and lack of security are brought about by neglect and an attitude that it would be best if everyone were left to fend for himself up to a certain point. Once that point is reached, however, it is usually too late to avoid a serious breakdown or conflagration.

NATO is an instrument of stability and has been so all along. European stability has been most effectively enhanced by NATO for decades through collective defence. In order to maintain this stability it would seem necessary to fill the security vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe. The future may very well prove that not to do so could carry a much greater price tag than doing so now.

At present, Europe cannot count on any other instrument than NATO to achieve this and there is no other in sight.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is certainly promising; in practice, however, it would seem unrealistic to hope that it alone could produce a lasting and effective security system that would be in place soon enough to preclude potential untoward developments.

The only effective and long-term answer from our perspective seems to be the enlargement of NATO to include new member states, accompanied by the development of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI).

The Partnership for Peace programme (PfP), met by some with appreciation and by others with misunderstanding, has proved to be a creative and forward looking idea with a lot of capacity for growth. It has been unjustly dubbed a 'waiting room' or a 'prep school' for membership by some. It should now be obvious, however, that PfP is much more and, if carefully led and managed, it may become a long-term fixture of the European security scene.

The development and, hopefully in the not too distant future, the functioning of the ESDI will help Europeans to articulate effective measures on their own while still maintaining a strong and close transatlantic link. Slovenia appreciates greatly NATO's decision to provide assistance for the development of ESDI and thus the strengthening of the Western European Union (WEU).

Cooperative security will take on new meaning with joint NATO/WEU-led operations that will embrace the PfP partner countries.

A transatlantic community

Slovenia, which recently became an Associate Partner of WEU, considers that European security, built on the basis of an enlarged NATO and a more substantive WEU, cannot but be premised on a strong transatlantic link. It is in the strategic interest of the US to be engaged in Europe and one need only look at the Bosnia situation and the Dayton agreements to see that it is clearly in the interest of European security that the US maintains its presence.

Such a security community would maintain its ability to put in motion its defence mechanisms if need be (let us hope that this eventuality does not arise!). At the same time, it would promote stability and keep at bay or limit the spread of flare-ups that are unavoidably going to appear on the scene. NATO may not necessarily do this through its military arm but through its time-honoured and respected political arm.

An enlarged NATO will thus mean an enlarged collective security system and this will make it easier to downsize the armed forces of the present and future member states.

In member as well as partner states, the issue of downsizing is multifaceted. It is dictated by military reasons, as well as economic and financial ones, particularly in the case of countries intending to enter the European Union. Slovenia is a rather unique case in that it is building its forces from scratch, equipping them in conformity with Slovenian legislation, strictly according to NATO standards, and making its force structure in the image of NATO.

There is another challenging aspect of national and international security, particularly, but not exclusively, as far as countries in transition are concerned. Social and economic stability must underpin any serious security model if it is to be lasting. Widespread unemployment and the tensions it may cause will, if not undermine, then seriously weaken, the sense of purpose and determination to maintain a strong alliance.

Unemployment, as history teaches us, may very well produce and feed chauvinism that may in turn seriously test internal conflict resolution mechanisms. Moreover, these are as yet to be sufficiently developed in a number of countries.

Dialogue with NATO

Slovenia is making these views known through the process of individual dialogue with NATO. It is looking forward to the next and final phase of the dialogue, which it has valued greatly since its inception. The dialogue as conceptualized and implemented is a process sui generis and very well suited to its purpose and aim.

In the course of the dialogue, we are talking about all substantive facets and building blocks of European security in the 21st century. We have reaffirmed our full readiness to continue to cooperate with IFOR, to enhance our participation in the Partnership for Peace, to continue to take part in bilateral and multilateral military exercises with NATO and Partnership for Peace states, and to host a session of the Political-Military Steering Committee on Partnership for Peace in Slovenia which we did in October. (1)

The recent study on NATO enlargement says that enlargement will contribute to the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area, as part of a broad European security architecture and in support of the objective of an undivided Europe. And last but not least, the purposes and principles of the Washington Treaty should be fully and completely accepted by new members. Slovenia adheres wholeheartedly and without reservation to these principles and stands ready to make its contribution.


  1. In North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC)/PfP format

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