At the North
on the Occasion
of the Individual
with NATO

5 Oct. 1998


by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Milan Kucan

Mr Secretary General Solana, Excellencies, generals, ladies and gentlemen,

Can a European nation which has resisted the non-democracy and totalitarianism of the regime -since the regime threatened its future and existence and denied human dignity and rights - a nation which in this resistance had to employ extreme measures, by claiming its natural and legitimate right to self-determination; a nation which was forced through the crude aggression of that same totalitarian regime to defend its rights even with the use of arms; can this nation have a more worthy desire than to protect its freedom, its existence and its future -and therefore its security- moreover, to protect and defend it within a system of collective security founded on the spiritual values of the European tradition of civilisation, on democracy and the respect of human rights, on tolerance and the recognition of difference? I am convinced that you, honourable ladies and gentlemen, would be favourably disposed to such a desire.

My own nation has just such a historical experience from living in the former Yugoslavia, and this is the foundation for our firm and consistent determination to be a full member of NATO. This eases my duty today, when during this important time for international security, the future of the European security order and for our own future, I have the honour and pleasure to attempt on behalf of the Republic of Slovenia to set out at this high and responsible meeting the arguments of my own country in favour of enlarging the circle of NATO member states, and the reasons for our anticipation that Slovenia will be invited to join the military alliance.

Indeed our participation is founded on such an understanding of European political, economic, social and security relations which despite all its burdens Europe possesses, sees the possibility for Europe to become truly a homeland of homelands, a safe community of different national, ethnic, regional and cultural entities, which will be able to cooperate and compete successfully with other developmental centres of the globalising world in the coming millenium.

At this point we are convinced - and this was stressed here before me by the Prime Minister Dr Drnovsek and the foreign and defence ministers -that Slovenia fulfils all the political and military conditions demanded by NATO of its members. The Republic of Slovenia ranks among the smaller European countries. And yet it is my firm belief that Slovenia's membership in NATO would contribute not only to the security of our own country, but also to the effectiveness of the alliance, and particularly to the security of our neighbouring area, the south-eastern Europe and the Balkans, as well as Europe as a whole.

So what, then, is our view of a modern Europe? We see it as a continent which is living between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, between the experience of national exclusivity and conflicts and the hope of a continent-wide interweaving and collective security. It is living in a time when the age of Eurocentrism has expired; man age which has for better or worse marked human civilisation over the last half of the outgoing millenium.

From a humankind divided into several independent and unique worlds, there is emerging one single, critically linked human world of different competitive civilisations, which are for the most part aspiring towards dialogue and cooperation. Europe now has the duty to think minutely about its position in such a world; to ba aware of the opportunity it has to emerge from its inclement history, which has been marked all too often by disputes, hegemony, wars, revolution and division.

It now has the chance to equip itself for the role of one of the world's developmental centres, which will on equal terms with others create a new world civilisation of peace, cooperation, competition and new development. It must be aware that otherwise the entire continent will dwindle into a province which will not be capable of responding to the challenges of time. It will become a prisoner of its own history.

In Europe there is still too much of what, nine years after the celebrations under the Brandenburg Gate, should now be in short measure: the decision into several Europes, into an economically developed, socially stable Europe, and an undeveloped and unstable Europe, into a part which is incorporated into the Euro-Atlantic and European integrations and a part which is outside them; into a peaceful and secure part and a part which is threatened by war and aggression.

There is still too much resolving of disputes by force, coercion and pressure, and through media faithfully monitored conflicts; there are still territorial pretensions and attempts to divide up political and economic influence and spheres of interest. There is too much vacillation regarding on the level of the existing and the achieved in relations between countries, which may have the effect of irredeemably re-establishing these relations, and setting in stone the already mapped out image of what are still several different and divided Europes, which are the remnant of old political, ideological and bloc divisions, as well as being an expression of the new European divisions.

It excluded from European life, yet there are many who are not included in it. And this is a problem! More than ever before we are beset with doubt and confusion over conditions in Russia, which in spite of everything remains a European superpower and which through both its power and impotence, its dilemmas and recurrences from the past wields a major influence on associative, dissociative and security developments.

In Europe now, political and security strategies are barely keeping pace with the dynamics of everyday events. We may be encouraged at least by the impression that Europe is gradually leaving behind the life of exclusivity and conflict between nation states. The Europe of numerous nations, languages, cultures, religions, traditions, regions and states is acquiring ever more common denominators. It is becoming increasingly what nations from other continents have long seen or wished to see in it. It is becoming an increasingly composite -although within itself a culturally diverse -continent of European civilisation, even of European policy and above all European vision. For this reason there is ever increasing hope that it will not be revisited by the malevolent past, when this continent seemed to be doomed at every decisive moment in history to make mistaken decisions to the detriment of peace and coexistence.

It is increasingly clear that a modern Europe can be founded only on the recognisable European idea, on the firm world of values enshrined in the best interpretation of the European civilisational tradition, which will convince Europeans of the sense and realism of building a common and secure European home, and of the fact that it's worth actively striving for this. The opening up of NATO will be of historic importance in strengthening this conviction; as will be the changing of NATO, which will represent its response to the historic changes that have emerged in Europe. These changes demand a different way of thinking in Europe, and an underlined need to ensure the internal security of the continent and its countries, and less so their overall defence.

We see the inclusion of new countries as an expansion and strengthening of the security and defence structure of a Europe of collective trust and the security and political function of NATO. Without this, the inclusion of new countries would be merely the shifting of the Euro-Atlantic defensive and political borders a few hundreds kilometres towards the east and Russia. It was with this conviction that last year we welcomed as historic the Madrid decision which opened the door for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. We subordinated our national concerns to the rational support of this historic simultaneous process of opening and changing NATO, which would in turn offer to those countries and nations whom for half a century the Iron Curtain had removed, not just to the ideology and politics, but also to the civilisation of the East, a final confirmation of their return under the wing of the Western circle of civilisation, within which they were formed historically, spiritually and culturally.

We supported this step as a testament to the beginning of the real end to European division. Should NATO stop in this process, it would be like a guard of honour on the grave of Stalinism. It would also itself be a prisoner of the past. The bricks of the collapsing Berlin Wall, which was a defence and symbol of totalitarianism, have landed both in the East and the West. The transformation of Europe and the emergence of a new Europe are therefore possible only as a common project, which will not sustain itself from what is dead, but from what is living, from the common seeking of paths towards creating a stable, common and secure economic, social, political and spiritual for all Europeans.

The currently acute problem of Kosovo is a new test of this aspiration and an opportunity to establish, with the end of the great ideological confrontation promised by the fall of the Berlin Wall, a dominant policy of interweaving and common security. Then it will not be possible for history to return. This century which is now ending, and which began with the misfortune of military conflict between European nation states in the First World War, opening the door to the October Revolution, on of the most radical social upheavals in the history of the modern era, complete with its malevolent consequences for the rule of human rights, and continued with the appearance of genocidal Nazism and Fascism, along with the Second World War and the bloc divisions that followed it, could then be left to the past, without it constantly reaching out to us.

European history is full of most diverse multinational creations, which in time of crisis it has been possible to preserve only through force. The flaw in these creations was never, not even in the case of the former or present Yugoslavia, their multinational character. The flaw which did (or will) demolish them was non-democracy, lack of freedom, social injustice and lack of respect for the identity of individual ethnic entities, which no longer perceived these creations as their countries nor so any reasons for their existence.

The Yugoslav, Bosnian and now again the Kosovo crises demonstrate how the European nineteenth century of exclusivity of nation states and the hegemony of the strongest nation might sadly still be the history of the present day. This happened and may happen again because the most influential European countries have variously appointed their sympathies to the parties involved in the bloody Balkan wars. This inequality too often prevents a recognising and defining of the nature of the conflict, clashes and wars and the role of the parties involved, and hinder activities designed to halt such conflict and go beyond it.

We must think about this now, when Europe faces the possibility of yet greater slaughter and even worse humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, and when it faces the outbreak of a military clash of broader dimensions, which might destabilise the Balkans for a long time, and might threaten European peace and the security of a wider area.

We must think now so as not to make the same fatal mistakes made before the genocidal outbreak of aggressive nationalism, which was only stopped through the Dayton Agreement by the direct intervention of the USA and NATO. I do not dare to think that it might be so, for at this moment, following the Bosnian experience, along with the recent parliamentary and cantonal elections, and in view of the historical dimension and nature of the dispute, a ghettoisation of the military conflict within the borders of Kosovo will be near to impossible.

It would also be dangerous in that it would lead inevitably to the division of Europe into a stable and unstable part for a long time, and the consolidation of the borders between these two parts of the current European reality.

There are numerous factors at work in the Kosovo crisis. A solution lies in the active co-operation of all democratic elements, which according to available information is also supported by the American plan for multi-level autonomy. The inhabitants of Kosovo, particularly the ancient inhabitants, both Serbs and Albanians, will have to summon up the political will and power to find, in line with their tradition, a substance and way of living productively alongside each other instead of the still living ambition on both sides to create their own ethnically pure territory. This ambition, which ultimately breeds violence and horrific human catastrophe, is the real cause of the current clashes in Kosovo.

The talk of terrorism and counter-terrorism are an indication of the consequences of the perennial ambitions in the Balkans for a Greater Serbia, a Greater Albania, Greater Bulgaria and Greater Croatia, and of the seizing of territory and people. Peace and co-existence are the right and duty of the Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo. Their local, republic and federal authorities are duty bound to enable this, and bear responsibility for this before all Europe and the world. They have at their disposal a carefully considered and elaborated basis for this in the constitutional documents from the seventies, when peace still prevailed in Kosovo.

The international community, primarily Europe and perhaps a little less the USA, who today through the slow and uncoordinated approach of Europe again, indeed for the third time this century, bear the greatest burden of responsibility for peace in Europe, can and must help them in this. If nothing else, to secure their own peace. Help must be given in such a way that the international community unanimously, consistently and clearly perseveres in the Helsinki principle of the inalterability of borders by force, in the principle of open borders and in the principle of promoting human rights, which begin with the right of each person firstly to be a free individual, and only then the member of this or that social and cultural group to which he or she belongs - and they also begin with the demand for a higher level of protection and security for minorities.

Help must also be given by opening up the realistic prospect of Europeanising the country in which they live together, and its inclusion in European integrations, when that country can fulfil all the valid democratic criteria which are required for full membership. Without turning a blind eye and without any bribery. Without persisting in the claim that this involves a clash of civilisations, in which Christian Europe is defending itself from Islamic fundamentalism. Political bribery and clouding of the truth never bore good fruit in the Balkans, I should add, for in the lands of official violence, the political careers and physical survival of those in authority are too closely linked for us to expect any reduction in violence, as if this were some remarkable commodity which could be exchanged for hard currency.

Just as it is not possible to solve the problem of refugees by financing refugee camps. Humanitarian action is humane and real only as part of an integrated plan for lasting peace and Europeanisation in the Balkans. For this reason the international community must ensure that in extreme cases the language of force must itself be silenced by force, and that the behaviour of all those local factors involved will be strictly monitored and in line with those rules of behaviour without which we cannot conceive of life in a common home, and to which all of us in Europe must be subject.

Then the international community must show solidarity with a democratic Serbia and a democratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as it did with the group of Eastern and Central European countries, including Slovenia, which co-operated in dismantling the Berlin Wall and nurturing the new Europe, and which adopted the values of the new Europe.

I have a similar, although not the same, thinking about Russia and the other independent countries which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The European security system cannot afford to ignore the latest crisis events in Russia and the reasons behind them. As a key Euro-Atlantic security and political alliance, NATO cannot be built against Russia or past it. This is another great challenge which deserves special attention and which indeed certainly receives such attention from yourselves, for it is without doubt of key importance for the future of NATO. I am convinced that the political decision to invite Slovenia into NATO would in no way weaken the dynamic and substance of the dialogue between NATO and Russia.

Mr Secretary-General, excellencies,

In Slovenia the decision to strive for the earliest possible invitation to NATO was adopted by a consensus of all parliamentary parties, including those in opposition. This speaks of the fact that the great majority of Slovene citizens see in our inclusion a guarantee of security for the future. Not merely for ourselves, but in accordance with the consciousness of a common European home and interdependent world, for all of us together.

Even in the documents determining independence, Slovenia's citizens made a plebiscite decision in favour of a connection with the emerging new Europe. They believed in and for the most part today still trust in the European idea, which remains the vital soil of the European Union, European security and European civilisation. The prevailing public opinion over the longer term also clearly indicates the conviction that as a country we are capable of assuming the political, material and security obligations.

On the basis of its adopted strategy, Slovenia adapted its relevant operations and activities to this firm determination. And after the Madrid summit - which although it passed us by, at least marked us a potential member - we intensified and instigated all the key principles required for membership.

Slovenia is a country with a stable, democratic political system, with a guaranteed and implemented high level of protection of native ethnic minorities and other cultural and ethnic groups. We have been recognised as a country, which is consistently spreading the model of a social market economy with a parallel completion of the process of privatisation and restructuring of the economy and public sector.

We are consistently vigilant in our democratic, civil and parliamentary control over the military, its non-political nature and the transparency of state expenditure on defence. We are also building our military on new European principles and on NATO standards, which we have been testing successfully in international military intervention within the Partnership for Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Cyprus and Kosovo.

We wish in full measure to fulfil the role of a linking member between the southern wing of NATO (Italy) and the newly accepted Hungary, as well as fulfilling our duty as a member in the strategic Barcelona-Kiev communication corridor. With a sense of great shared responsibility, as well as affirmation of our own national and state identity in the function of European association, we are settling relations with all our neighbouring countries - Italy, Albania, Hungary and Croatia - as evidenced by the agreements concluded on military co-operation (for example the trilateral brigade of Italy, Hungary and Slovenia) and agreements being drafted. As part of Partnership for Peace programmes of co-operation and assistance with practically all members of NATO, particularly with the USA and Germany.

Alongside all this we are aware of our geopolitical position, and hence our equal responsibility for calming and settling relations in part of the former federal Yugoslavia and in the wider Balkan region.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight in particular the realisation of our concern and responsibility for this desired Europeanisation of areas and lives in the newly emerged countries following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, as well as in the broader area of south-eastern Europe. Naturally our possibilities here are relatively limited as regards the use of our military resources in the current crisis in Kosovo and in the face of possible complications which in spite of Dayton we might also expect in Bosnia-Herzegovina, following the latest federal and cantonal elections.

Yet here it would not be right to ignore our experience gained in the decades of common life in the former Yugoslavia, when on the level of human, non-institutional relations, including against the incitement of nationalism by aggressive ethnic political elites, numerous links and mutual understandings were woven. I believe that Slovenia, with its experience of gaining independence, could serve as an example and proof to nations in the Balkan "melting pot" that there, too, it is possible to pursue a life of welfare and high democracy.

In this way, Slovenia would with its consistent democratic political, economic and social development and appropriate military capability, and as a part of NATO, not simply help to establish a temporary foothold between the stable and unstable parts of south-eastern Europe, but also send beyond its borders a ray of hope and the prospect of expansion of the European integration processes for all those who are ready to take on the European civilisational standards. Yet in order for us to function in this way, we must be entirely incorporated into the European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, for this will give us the firm foundation for activities on what is a very shaky ground.

Mr Secretary-General, honourable excellencies,

Providing for security and defence interests of individual countries is certainly one of the essential components of the future common and integrated Europe. The question of how to guarantee this vital and legitimate interest is a question of the new security and defence identity and the new security and defence architecture of the future Europe.

I am firmly convinced that today, after the disintegration of the bloc division of the continent, the European nations in cooperation with their allies across the Atlantic have an extraordinary opportunity to arrange this identity in a new way, and to build a new, non-conflixt, cooperative, rational and effective system of common security and defence. Today this is no longer a question of uniform concepts, political decisions and generally accepted values, for these are already emerging, but rather a question of the new mission, new structure and new way of operating for Europe's security and defence institutions.

My country shares the opinion that in this process the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation plays the most important role. In the conditions of exclusive division and ideological and bloc confrontation NATO guaranteed to its members a high degree of security and stability. Today, while preserving its Atlantic links, it is changing from a largely military and defence institution of just Western Europe to a largely security institution of all of Europe.

The operation of NATO will no longer rely chiefly on its common military might and capability, but on effective security mechanisms with which it will ensure a safe environment for the common democratic development and economic prosperity of its members and for the consolidation of human freedoms and rights in every member state. The path and conditions for this are an adopted and established policy of peace and non-aggression, a policy of cooperation and coordination, complete mutual trust, transparency of all operations, including from all military aspects, and ultimately the effective rejection and prevention of armed conflict, as well as effective collective defence. In such a NATO, whose enlargement is directed against no country, I am convinced there is indeed a place for Slovenia.

I trust, excellencies, that in these thoughts, and alongside my views on European security and enlargement of NATO, I have been able to set out cogent reasons for a political decision to be made at the upcoming Washington summit, which would incorporate an invitation for Slovenia to become a regular member of NATO. We are, it is true, a country with a brief history of our own national statehood, and yet the history of the Slovene nation and of what was at times the hard struggle for its identity and very existence spans many centuries.

And yet this less than ten-year history of our own state in fact has its own advantages. It allows for the complete transparency of our European orientation and approach, which are linked to our firm will and actions towards being a democratic country and sharing responsibility with other European countries for lasting security and peace in our continent. At the same time it enables the necessary adaptability which distinguishes smaller social systems, for they are not burdened with negative traditionalism and the atavisms which derive from it. I also believe in your good wishes for the development and success of Slovenia, in your direct and good awareness of our position and situation and in your judgement of the concordance of my own and you assessment of Slovenia.

To conclude, following last year's decision in Madrid, our determination to secure our future within NATO is in no way diminished. All aspects of life in our country -economic, political, social and spiritual as well as security and defence -have been established on the values, principles and criteria which are valid for life in those countries which are member states of NATO. For this we are indebted to the plebiscite decision of our citizens, with which the independent Slovene state was born; a decision which saw the future of the country in the new Europe, in which it wishes to be included through membership of the EU, the WEU and NATO.

We firmly believe that Slovenia is now ready for an Atlantic alliance, so that in Washington you may invite us to join your ranks, is of course a question that we cannot answer. Yet I trust that for the sake of its own political credibility, NATO will assess that the present time is 'right' for the next invitation, for we do not know whether the future will bring us a moment that could be better or more right.

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