Updated: 28-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches


28 June 2004


by H. E. Ivan Gašparovič, President of the Slovak Republic
at the North Atlantic Council Meeting
at the level of Heads of State and Government

NATO Istanbul Summit

Mr Secretary General,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is not easy to find the most appropriate attribute for the Istanbul Summit, which has just started. Should it be referred to as ‘historic’, ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘stock-taking’? Perhaps it is not even necessary to look for the best word, although for all of us, the seven new Allies, it will always be remembered as a truly historic one. There is no need to look for the word, since our role is not to seek flowery language, but rather to find answers to specific security challenges, which we face.

In spite of that, permit me to express my pleasure at the fact that the Slovak Republic and six other states have, for the first time, the opportunity of attending the Summit of the Alliance as its new members. The fact that we have joined NATO provides us with great fulfilment, and it proves the remarkable success of the Alliance itself and its profound transformation. Slovakia will no longer be a mere witness to historic decisions; it will be one of the decision-makers from now on. May I express our deep sense of gratitude to all of those who have supported NATO enlargement with the aim of enhancing global stability and security. I would like to extend our sincere thanks to all member states and, particularly, to the Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and his predecessors, especially Lord Robertson and Javier Solana, for the assistance and support provided to the Slovak Republic in its preparation for the membership of NATO.

It is my firm conviction that the Alliance’s determination, unity and power are not only capable of ensuring collective defence, but also contribute in a decisive manner to the projection of stability and security around us. The Alliance’s responsibility and credibility crossed the frontiers of its members a long tome ago. From the very start, Slovakia will promote this kind of Alliance: one with a strong transatlantic link, equipped and ready to face security threats coming from anywhere. This is our vision of NATO for the 21st century.

NATO Open Door Policy

There are several preconditions if such a vision is to achieve success. The Alliance has expanded to 26 members now, thus enlarging both the stability zone and increasing the number of countries, which contribute to the extension of that zone. This integration effect, I think, needs to be preserved. I do not only refer to the three aspirant countries, which, I believe, will soon qualify through their own endeavour to start accession talks. I also have in mind other countries such as the Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, countries of the Black Sea area and Caucasus. The prospects of NATO membership represent a strong incentive to the reforms in both the aspirant and partner countries, and the Alliance should use this instrument in a reasonable way.

NATO Transformation and Capabilities

It is necessary to complete the Alliance’s military transformation, including the development of the NATO Response Force (NRF), fulfilment of the Prague Capabilities Commitments (PCC) and measures devised for the fight against terrorism and for the protection of the civilian population. In Prague, we adopted important decisions pertaining to capabilities. Today, new and enhanced measures will be added to tackle the area of fight against international terrorism.

I suppose we all know what NATO needs in order to be flexible, well prepared and with capabilities of assistance, prevention, deterrent and enforcement. In order to accomplish these ideas political will and sufficient financial resources are indispensable. Slovakia has been trying for several years to allocate sufficient funds for defence. It certainly has not been simple, especially in the light of several major reforms under way in our country. The respective political decision-makers have understood the significance and value of security. I think we should support the proposals made by the Secretary General, which are intended to harmonize the Alliance’s political ambitions and military capabilities. The full magnitude of the challenge in this area has been manifested in a discussion on the issue of NATO’s commitments in Afghanistan, which has practically been going on since NATO assumed responsibility for the operation in August 2003. Slovakia favours the implementation of the idea relating to the establishment of a new mechanism, which would allow common funding of critical capabilities’ deployment and of force planning and generation for operations.

NATO Operations

Improved military capabilities, their transformation – that is not an end in itself. Their purpose is to prepare and equip the Alliance for new missions and operations, including those in distant regions.

SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Alliance’s first ‘out-of-area’ peacekeeping operation is a clear indication of what can be achieved through persistence, determination and patience. Today, almost 9 years since Dayton, the SFOR has completed its mission, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is on its way to join the Euro-Atlantic structures and, I believe, it will soon join the PfP and EAPC. This gives evidence of the Alliance’s strength – both military and political. It is my firm conviction that we shall be equally successful in Kosovo and Afghanistan – if we show persistence, determination and patience. Both Afghanistan and Kosovo must be successful, too.

The Alliance’s key priority is its contribution to peace and stability through the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. Successful elections – the first ever-free elections in the country’s history after decades of authoritarian regimes, civil wars and foreign occupations – are crucial for Afghanistan’s future. Their failure, on the other hand, may lead to disillusionment with a „freedom“ which might descend into anarchy. I do believe that such a scenario will not play out. The PRT concept is a good, innovative development of islands of stability from which it can continue to spread further.

Although NATO is not the only international body and it certainly is not the only one responsible for the development, for ensuring peace in conflict areas, it still is – thanks to its specific strong features – a substantial element of the international community’s efforts in building peace and enhancing stability in various regions of the world. What I have in mind specifically at this point is Iraq. As Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi has requested us to provide assistance, the Alliance should be politically decided and prepared to adequately help. In this respect, I welcome the Declaration on Iraq adopted.

NATO Partnerships

The Alliance’s strength, its ability to cement peace and project stability does not only depend on its military capabilities. Partnerships represent a significant vehicle to this effect. Partnership for Peace (PfP), which has been in existence for 10 years now, and the EAPC, are a very good example of how political dialogue and practical cooperation can contribute to greater stability. Therefore, we fully support further extension and deepening of the existing partnerships, including the Mediterranean Dialogue. We are also in support of creative thinking about new possible partnerships, including the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative relating to NATO and broader Middle East countries.

With our eyes focused on visions far into the future, however, we should not neglect our closest surroundings. The Western Balkans, as the violence in Kosovo in March this year brought to our attention, is not a „mission accomplished“. It seems to me that we are just dragging our feet, trying to hide behind the slogan “standards before the status”. I find it to be quite natural that our involvement in the region must continue, with the use of all the instruments available. It is my conviction that the participation of Serbia and Montenegro in the PfP and EAPC will contribute to the increase of stability in the whole region. I hope that it will happen as soon as possible.

Talking about partnerships, I cannot fail to mention the EU, which is NATO’s natural strategic partner. It is a pity that a joint NATO-EU summit could not be held here in Istanbul. More important than holding summits is the development of practical cooperation aimed to benefit both member states’ and other regions’ citizens, and to enhance security. Joint activities of both NATO and EU in the Western Balkans, and especially their joint mission and future cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are a tangible practical manifestation of their strategic partnership. There are prospective possibilities for their cooperation in other areas, too. These include civil emergency planning and defence planning.

Bluntly speaking, developing a dialogue with partners, be it the EU, Russia or the Ukraine, and cultivating the avenues for practical and pragmatic cooperation in all areas, wherever possible and useful to the parties involved -- that can never do any harm.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The present address of mine is the very first speech I am making at a multilateral forum in my capacity as President of the Slovak Republic. Therefore, it is of special significance to me personally. I was leaving for the Summit with the expectation of finding an Alliance, which is viable, active and relevant. I am pleased to say that my expectations have been fulfilled. I appreciate the fact that we jointly discuss important issues and jointly make decisions, which are taking the Alliance forward. I shall return from this Summit with the firm conviction that the transatlantic link is strong and the Alliance is viable indeed.

In conclusion, I wish to thank our Turkish hosts for their warm hospitality extended to us during this Summit.


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