|Updated: 10-Feb-2003||NATO Speeches|
10 February 2003
Audio file .MP3/2.560Kb
by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson and by Mr. Anton Rop, Prime Minister of Slovenia
SPOKESMAN: Good afternoon and welcome
to this brief point de presse with the Secretary General of NATO Lord
Robertson and the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Prime Minister Rop.
LORD ROBERTSON (Secretary General, NATO): Thank you. I'm delighted to welcome here today the Prime Minister of Slovenia, one of the countries who received an invitation to join NATO at the Prague Summit. Slovenia is a small country, but a very significant country in an important part of the world.
The Prime Minister has only recently taken over this job, but he comes from an economic background and defence and economics are very closely related. And I welcome the commitments that have been made by the Slovenian government to increase their defence expenditure and to improve the capabilities that Slovenia has in defence.
The people of Slovenia are being offered an opportunity in the next few weeks to give their judgement on the government's decision to apply for membership of NATO and I hope that they act with the seriousness and the maturity that I know people in Slovenia have.
It's a big vote, an important vote, and membership of NATO is an important thing.
There are very few countries I think in the world who know as closely as the people of Slovenia do the value of NATO in the post-Cold War world. The independence of Slovenia, the stability of Slovenia, has a lot to do with the actions taken by NATO in the 1990s to deal with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the horrifying consequences it had for the wider regions.
So I will take with me when I come to Ljubljana a very strong message of how welcome Slovenia will be to the NATO family; how important it will be in the future of the NATO Alliance in bringing stability and security to the wider Euro-Atlantic area.
So Prime Minister you're very welcome here as an applicant country, and we very much look forward to having you here as the Prime Minister of a member country as well.
ANTON ROP (Prime Minister, Slovenia): Thank you.
So we had today very fruitful discussion about Slovenia's entering NATO. I assured Lord Robertson that we shall do everything what's necessary is to be prepared to join NATO in Slovenia. We have very big political support for entering NATO. Almost all political parties in Slovenian Parliament supports entering NATO. We prepared our army and we prepared our military for entering. We restructured our military and we are really hoping that at the end, during our discussions preparing on referendum on NATO, on 23rd, we are going to win and that we are going to become full member of NATO. I'm really sure in that.
Questions and Answers
SPOKESMAN: Two questions. The lady there first, please. Could you identify yourself?
Q: Yes, (inaudible), Slovenian Television. Secretary General, if I may? If there will be a war in Iraq, and if NATO will co-operate somehow, what kind of role can play a country, small country such as Slovenia and maybe can you tell Slovenian public, because they already have lots of doubts whether to join the Alliance, which are the main advantages to be a member?
LORD ROBERTSON: Well, we have not reached the point of considering any form of military action against Iraq at the moment because Iraq still has the opportunity to comply with the will of the United Nations and the demands of the whole international community.
NATO at the moment is only looking at contingency plans in relation to Turkey and its worries about the current situation in the region. Our decisions at the moment have nothing whatsoever to do with the ongoing process in the United Nations. They are about a technical tasking of military authorities and there is no talk yet, no demand yet of NATO being involved in what might happen down the road.
All of that can be avoided if Saddam Hussein complies with what Resolution 1441 tells him to do. And the decision as to whether or not there will be military action won't be taken by anybody in this building. It will be taken by Saddam Hussein himself.
I think the advantages of membership of this organization are pretty self-evident. And they mainly include being part of the most successful defence alliance that the planet has ever know; part of a community of free-thinking, shared-value countries; and the chance and the opportunity to participate as a full member in the security shaping, the shaping of common security into the future.
Of course, if the people of Slovenia vote for NATO membership they'll be part of the arguments and the discussions that sometimes go on in NATO, but that's part of an alliance of free nations. But they'll find at the end of the day they'll have their say and we'll eventually achieve consensus and unity and that's what's going to happen here as well.
SPOKESMAN: One more question, that's all.
Q: Lord Robertson, Stephen Thacker of the BBC. The Americans say there is a crisis of confidence... sorry, let me start again. The Americans say there's a crisis of credibility here at NATO. They're clearly furious. What are you going to do about it?
LORD ROBERTSON: There's a lot of strong feelings around this headquarters today and indeed in the capitals of the 19 countries. That's not surprising. The issues are serious, the stakes are high. What we're doing at the moment is working on those issues in order to get a consensus so that we can move forward with sensible, prudent, defensive and deterrent contingency planning in relation to one of the allies.
Everybody knows that there are responsibilities on countries that join NATO and are part of NATO. These responsibilities are taken very seriously by the nations concerned. It sometimes takes a little time to get agreement. But we're going to be meeting in about three-quarters of an hour and we'll be working hard, and maybe long as well, and I estimate, as before, we'll get consensus at some point.
SPOKESMAN: Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.