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Janez Drnovšek: NATO And The EU: The Defense of Western Values

Wall Street Journal, 1 June 2001

Slovenia has been a strong believer in European and trans-Atlantic integration since it became independent 10 years ago. True, during the first few years, our endeavors were partly guided by the idea that membership in the European Union and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization represented some kind of seal of approval -- vouching that we had really made it as part of the developed and democratic Western world. Today we no longer need this seal, but we remain just as attached to the European ideal and to trans-Atlantic cooperation.

Judging by the pace of negotiations, and assuming that the European Union lives up to its commitments, we expect to become a member of the EU by 2003. Economically, Slovenia is rapidly closing the gap with the EU. We have become politically stable and economically prosperous in the past decade. It is this very success that makes us ready to accept our responsibility for the future of Europe and for the stability of the world as a whole.

We do indeed think of it as fulfilling our obligations. According to some studies, Slovenia might very well enter the European Union as a net contributor. Hence, our membership aspirations are not based on expectations of massive aid. We are guided in our efforts by the realization that Europe is our common place and our common objective.

Although the European Union is not a perfect institution -- let's be frank, we see sometimes a lot of horse-trading and not very consistent solutions -- it is the best possible institution available in Europe. And, taking into account the history of European conflicts and wars, its existence represents a great historical achievement.

The trans-Atlantic community is equally vital. Cooperation between Europe and the United States is important for the world as a whole. I therefore believe that NATO and EU are complementary. The EU is developing now its own common defense and security policy. It is not very clear how this concept should evolve: it can be a very far-reaching concept or not, more complementary with NATO or less. It depends on both partners, in particular on the United States, how this concept will develop.

If we are also invited to become a member of NATO, we'll do our part to strengthen the harmony between the two institutions. If, on the other hand, we are not invited, we will find ourselves in the position of some other members of the European Union who are not members of NATO, and will concentrate on the European concept of defense as the remaining alternative.

The European Union itself will focus more on its own common defense if it perceives the United States as becoming less interested in a partnership, or concentrating more on other priorities around the world, such as for example Asia.

It is hard to envisage enhanced stability in Europe and in the world if the United States gradually diminishes its presence in Europe or attaches less importance to Euro-American cooperation in the field of defense and stability. The United States has had a presence in Europe throughout the 20th century, participating in both world wars, and taking an active part in the last 50 years of European history, including, most recently, the crisis in Southeastern Europe.

The U.S. presence in Europe therefore remains indispensable. Together we can efficiently tackle various future challenges. The goal of making Europe a crisis-free zone will only be attainable through close trans-Atlantic cooperation. That is, through the common defense and development of our shared ideas and values.

I certainly hope that this will be the case, and that the complementarity between NATO and the European Union will only increase in the future. For this to happen, though, NATO's "Open-Door Policy" needs to be more than a slogan -- it must be implemented. There will obviously be more NATO in Europe if new members are invited to join.

The European Union is about to enlarge. I believe it will go on embracing new countries until gradually it will comprise the whole of Europe. The trans-Atlantic partnership therefore will be a community between North America and the European Union one day. But to meet this harmonious goal we need clarity in the purpose of both organizations. A lack of clear intentions could result, gradually, in more competition and more tension. We certainly do not want to see this kind of development.

Having said all this, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is important to cooperate with Russia. Russia is a part of Europe. Therefore, it is very important that, when speaking about the enlargement of NATO and the European Union, we give positive messages to Russia. Russia should not feel excluded from this process. Russia must see in its future cooperation with Europe, with NATO and with the United States. It must even be able to aspire to joining the process of integration in the future. If we don't send Russia these messages, other ideas will inevitably develop there -- other concepts that could create tensions and potential security risks. It is thus imperative to send Moscow the message that the enlargement of NATO is not directed against Russia.

The continuing crisis in Southeast Europe serves as a reminder of the alternative to an integrated and consolidated West. Without a strong European Union and a trans-Atlantic alliance, we will inevitably have to face the same kind of conflicts and ghosts of the past that still afflict some parts of the Balkans.
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