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The active and open role of Slovenian foreign policy - Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek at the 9th Diplomatic consultation

Brdo by Kranj, 02/03/2003  |  speech


Click to enlargeExcellencies, colleagues in the creation of foreign policy, a warm greeting to you.

The present moment in international politics is of course highly complex. There is virtually no country today that would have an easy job of trying to articulate its position and its stance regarding the most salient issues in the world. This precise moment is dominated by the question of Iraq, and the situation associated with it. In my view this does not simply involve Iraq, and the question of whether there will be intervention in Iraq or not, and how events will unfold, but it involves wider issues, the question of the role played by the UN, the Security Council, and ultimately of course the role played by long-term allies and their mutual relations. It also involves the question of how relations will be shaped at this point, in this situation, and what it will signify for the future role of the UN, for the future role of the alliance, and ultimately also for Nato and international relations in general. I think that special attention should be paid to these aspects. We all wish for the UN Security Council to adopt a united position regarding the Iraq situation.

In that event, things will be easier for us all. The UN will preserve its importance and its role. Among the allies, the current tensions will subside and in some way the present world order will continue to function, still of course with a range of issues unresolved. The situation will not be resolved, but nothing very special will happen in the functioning of the world system. If the Security Council does not find agreement, and if the USA nevertheless decides to intervene, which is highly probable, then the situation will be worse. It would be possible for the UN and the Security Council to end up marginalised, and for some kind of outward image to disintegrate, and if this happens, it will of course be bad for the whole world. There would be grudges between the main allies, and the question is, how long would such grudges last, in what way would they be resolved, and what would the consequences be for the functioning of institutions, not only the UN, but also Nato and the European Union. For divisions spread, as we can see, into Europe too, including most recently within the EU.

The EU member states have differing positions in relation to this issue, and in general to security issues, to the USA as a pillar of global politics, and ultimately also to being allies and working together. The worst thing in this situation today, is the prospect of having to declare ourselves in favour of the more European or the more American option, and such a declaration is very hard for us. We see in the USA an ally, we see of course the most powerful country in the world, yet a country that has already intervened several times in Europe, and through its intervention and numerous sacrifices ultimately ensured peace, democracy and stability for Europe. It intervened, not just in the First and Second World Wars, but also recently in the Balkans, and ensured peace and stability in our direct vicinity. And the USA has always been a champion of values, and has seen its main opponent, its opposite pole, in totalitarianism, in totalitarian regimes.

For this reason it is of course difficult to paint a one-sided picture of the USA as a global hegemonist, which is conducting and seeking to conduct unilateral policies without regard for the rest of the world. Experiences thus far have been different. I think that we should not forget this, and we should not forget the truly positive role played by the USA as the largest world power over the last decades in Europe, nor indeed its positive influence on what we have today in Slovenia. Our stability, and our prosperity.On the other hand, we are in the situation of becoming members of the EU. We have excellent relations with our European allies, and do not want to stand either for the USA and against them, or at the same time for our European allies and against the USA. In this area I see of course a very difficult task, but one that alone makes sense: to appeal for the forging of united positions, for the preservation of the alliance, for the preservation of the Security Council and the UN, even though it is imperfect, since after all it is the one institution which this world has, and which still provides a framework for the world to find always one or another solution in various focal points of crisis. To seek out and organise the joint functioning of countries in peace-keeping operations, and in the reconstruction of countries where such terrible crises have occurred. We have nothing better than the UN. If it is imperfect and occasionally ineffective, it is because this world is imperfect and does not function and cannot always function in harmony and always in a simple way. Yet we must strive to ensure that despite the fact that there are such impasses, sometimes oppositions, and also apparent ineffectiveness, this can be endured, that we can find a way out, that we can find solutions and move ahead in that kind of configuration, at least regarding the democratic countries, those which are objectively striving towards a peaceful, normal life with similar values. I am convinced – and I trust – that agreement will be found in the Security Council. The USA effected just such a serious test last autumn under the auspices of the UN, and an agreement was reached in the Security Council even after it seemed impossible. The majority of observers, and that probably includes many of you here, take the view that there will be or there should be agreement this time, too. For this reason we were very pleased by the announcement that the USA would present new evidence to the Security Council, and that this could smooth the way to a common decision in the Security Council. On the other hand the members of the Security Council, especially the permanent members, are aware that the option they have, the option of veto or disagreement, represents something that gives them some objective power and importance. However, if they start using this frequently, then it will lose its value, solutions will be sought outside that institution, and the Security Council will also lose its importance. Objectively speaking, no one wants to go too far in this game, and to end up in situations that would no longer be manageable.

As for Iraq: by definition, everyone desires peaceful and peace-seeking solutions. In this case, at least if we are speaking about Slovenia, of course the final decision about whether there is war or not, is beyond our reach and our influence. It is highly probable that there will be military intervention in Iraq. The US is very determined. And what are the motives? Some say they are strategic or geopolitical, that this would lead to new and in the long term more stable relations in that region, and also to the possibility of eliminating the existing crisis in the Middle East. Another supposed motive is the economic motive, primarily oil and along with it the new economic impetus that would be generated. It is possible that both these motives feature in the American assessment. But there is another, third, thing that also features, of this I am convinced, and this is the nature of the regime in Iraq. It is a totalitarian regime, which already has a long history of horrors. If there was not this third reason, then the first two would in no way justify intervention, nor would the USA be setting out its consideration of intervention, of this I am certain. However in this game today, when we look on the one hand at the greatest world power and on the other hand at the poorer and weaker Iraq, and when we are inclined always to sympathise with those who are weaker, we cannot forget what kind of history that regime has had in the last twenty years. It attacked two neighbouring countries, first Iran and then Kuwait. It armed itself right from the outset, including with weapons of mass destruction, which it has also used. We cannot forget that poisons and chemical weapons have been used. This is something which despite differing interests and assessments we cannot forget. The regime is totalitarian, with all the potential instruments of repression available to totalitarian regimes. And if we look at the entire history of the last twenty years, then we might conclude that if there had been no intervention back in 1991, after the attack on Kuwait, and if there had nevertheless been no kind of international control, that regime would probably during this time have again undertaken something similar to what it had already done. And it is in fact only serious international control which has probably prevented this. This above all we must not forget. If we compare this to the situation in 1999 in the former Yugoslavia and in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, when the USA intervened with its bombardment of the FRY, intending to deal with all the problems that Serbian policies had amassed, we can state that the Iraqi regime is worse than the regime that was in Belgrade, although of course there was no question of us sympathising with the Belgrade regime. Yet the record that Baghdad has established is even worse than the albeit bloody record set by the Belgrade regime in the Balkans. But in some way this involves two comparable situations. The intervention in Belgrade ensured for Slovenia stability and peace, along with security. Not least security, which in fact sometimes leads us astray into unrealistic, illusory thinking, about how we are no longer threatened, how everything in this world is some kind of abstraction, and we can set ourselves up as if we were talking in such a way that things are all finally resolved for us, too, and we can now theorise about the issues and problems of others. This history of ours is still very fresh and close, and peace in the territory of the former Yugoslavia without the presence of the American, European and other forces, not least our own, too, would not be guaranteed. In many people’s assessment the withdrawal of the international community from the territory of the former Yugoslavia today could re-open the field to various conflicts, tensions and nationalisms, since owing to the poor economic conditions they still have more of a hold than we might expect. In short, an international presence is still needed in that territory, and our security depends on it. We are aware of this and for this rea
son we also see our role and function being primarily in that area, in South-East Europe, where we also wish through our military contribution, and through cooperation in the peace-keeping operations, to give our share and also to assume our share of responsibility for ensuring that peace and stability will be preserved in this part of Europe. In the future, too, when we are members of the EU and Nato, we see primarily in this region our role as being important actors for peace and also ultimately economic development in the area of SE Europe. Slovenia’s special role, not least for historical reasons and owing to our geographical location, will be directed towards SE Europe. Of course this does not release us from responsibilities and situations where we will have to say our piece about other issues, other crisis areas and also probably cooperate with the entire international community in resolving other issues, in peace-keeping situations or in the reconstruction of countries. We must assume our share of responsibility, if we desire some time in the future that someone else will be prepared to do something for us if we, too, find ourselves in difficulty. I think that a more open and active approach in world politics is the right decision for Slovenia and an appropriate line for its foreign policy. For Slovenia to close into itself – some sort of isolationism or neutrality, as some people are suggesting – I think this is out of the question.

When we talk about the new world security situation, we know that we no longer have the former bloc system, there are no longer two blocs, and no longer the Soviet Union on one hand and the USA on the other, maintaining a balance. At that time people could be or could try to be in the middle between the two blocs, and conduct such a policy. That situation no longer exists, and there is no longer even non-alignment or a similar neutrality. The Americans say, and not just the Americans, others too, that the main challenge of the future is terrorism. This is probably true. It would be hard to imagine today some other classic wars, although they may indeed happen. Hard, however, in the most developed part of the world, especially if the present alliances and present institutions remain in place. Yet we can imagine terrorism and a constant struggle against terrorism. There are those who think that if we do not join Nato, in that way we will guarantee ourselves some kind of neutrality, perhaps even from the terrorists, who in that case would spare Slovenia from their activities. I think that, sadly, such thinking has no serious foundation. I find it hard to imagine neutrality in the case of terrorism. A country which in that event declared itself neutral and which would in some way conduct such a policy, I believe, would have trouble holding out in the present international relations.

Firstly, being a terrorism-friendly country is hard, since then the terrorists would like coming here, and they would set up their bases, logistics and so forth among us. And I find it hard to imagine our allies or the developed world tolerating that. And if we acted against terrorism so that they did not feel so welcome among us, then we would no longer be neutral towards terrorists and sooner or later there would be some kind of retaliatory action. I think that this simply is not possible. And if we talk about the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction, and using biological weapons – they will not stop at the borders of a country that is neutral. This involves a danger that threatens, we could say, the whole world, primarily in truth the more developed world, the Western, democratic world. Yet in all our other parameters we have somehow taken the position that we belong in that world, and it would be hard for just some of us to break off and say: no, we’re going to be neutral here. I do not think that would work. Put simply, we are a part of this world, and through our decision in 1991 we said clearly that we are a part of the Western, democratic world and system, that we belong there and we will more or less throw in our lot with the Western world. Occasionally it will seem to us that it might be better not to be part of it, but in the great majority of cases it seems and it will seem much better to be a part of it. I do not see a better alternative, a better option, and there is none. We cannot go back to the Balkans, and be the only ones in the modern currents of globalisation; it would be hard to imagine such a situation. In any event our position would be less solid and more endangered, and despite everything we would be more vulnerable.

This is what we have held in view throughout the past twelve years, I could say, in the approximately twelve years since our independence, and throughout these twelve years we have conducted the kind of policies that would place us firmly in Western structures, in political, economic and also security terms, both in the European Union and in Nato. And throughout this time we have desired to be as active as possible on the world scene, to carry some weight and to have our say. For this reason we were even members of the Security Council, and for this reason we stood as candidates for and secured the position of heading the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe for 2005. This will be a very demanding and important assignment for our diplomatic corps, and for the whole country, but it will re-consolidate Slovenia’s position in the very year when we expect for the first time to have a complete year as members of both the EU and Nato, while at the same time presiding over the OSCE. This will in our assessment provide some stimulus, along with greater importance, for Slovenia at the very beginning of its full functioning in the institutions of the EU and Nato. And those, especially yourselves, who work in the diplomatic service, know that our influence is greater if we are present in EU structures, if we are members of Nato, and if we are part of the decision-making. It is not true that a relatively small country would have no influence. It can wield influence if it has a properly formulated approach, if it is appreciated, if it presents arguments, if it is active, if it has experience in international politics, and if it plays the kind of role and ultimately has the kind of people who can make an impression. In any event, in this case our influence will be significantly greater than our weight relative to our geographical size, or our population number or some other thing. For this reason I think that our policy seriously cannot be some kind of closing up, but an active policy, open to the world, facing the challenges of the modern world, a policy that makes its contribution. In this of course we are counting on the entire country being this way, as open as possible, as active as possible, and that we might share the good and the bad with those countries of which we think they are similar to us, where the people are similar to us and with whom we share similar values and aims. Of course our fundamental orientation is also ultimately our role in Europe. We are becoming members of the EU, we have finished our negotiations, in April we are signing the treaty and next year our full membership begins. This is what is in prospect for us. And we will be active in building up the European Union. And the thing that I frequently tell my American friends and that I think we must keep telling them, is that we are grateful to the United States for its positive role in modern history, and not least for our own security, for its frequently positive role in saving democracy in the world and in reinforcing it, but we could also tell them at the same time, as friends, that we would welcome their more active role in other areas, in environmental protection. Why not the Kyoto agreement? And if not the Kyoto agreement, why does the United States not take a more active role in this area and turn its attention to resolving issues of the future, not least our climate and the future of the Earth? Why is the United States not more active in dealing with the issue of poverty in the world? It is true, the current administration, perhaps somewhat unobserved, is significantly increasing the funds allocated for that purpose. But given the potential the USA has and the role we recognise, which the world recognises it plays, it could also do a great deal more in this area. I see the European Union as a society which is now already ascribing greater importance to the environment, as well as to social issues, and ultimately also to the issue of more balanced development in the world, and this is something that I think together with our European
partners we Slovenians will intensively support and try to bring into the world. However, if the USA assumed its share of responsibility also in these areas, I am convinced that there would be less antipathy and also less of the kind of anti-American sentiment which in its extreme form can lead to terrorism and similar situations. I have just such a view regarding our relations with Europe and also with the United Nations. We are an ally and a friend of the United States, and we are also prepared to do something for this, sometimes even something unpleasant, and to assume our share of responsibility, while at the same time we can tell the USA what we think they could do better in this world than they may have done to date. I think that here we can be sufficiently clear, and that we do not need simply to assent to today’s division in Europe: whether you belong to this group of “eight” or “nine”, or to some other group of “ eight” or “nine”, those who are with the Americans and those who are more in favour of an independent Europe. I think we are with the Americans, we are with Europe, and we see and desire joint work on all issues of world development, not just security, but also of course the environment, the elimination of poverty and all other global issues.

I hope I have not been too long. I would like to draw to a close, and to wish you a very pleasant few days, of course along with the most useful possible exchange of opinions at your consultation, and I trust that in the future you will continue to exercise the highest quality and conscientiousness in doing your work, promoting and representing Slovenia in the world, and that you will also work in an active way towards resolving the issues of which I spoke. Thank you very much.
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