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26.04.2012, 10:59

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic - Miroslav Lajčák

 

Ambassador Káčer,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Rasťo, for your kind introduction and for the excellent work you and your team have done. It is stimulating to be at the GLOBSEC Security Conference, and I have always enjoyed deliberations on foreign and security policy issues. In seven years, the conference has become the leading event of its type in the region. I am very pleased to see many friends and colleagues with whom I had the pleasure of working in different places and in different capacities. Welcome to Bratislava. It is an honour to have you all here.

Prime Minister Robert Fico outlined the key foreign policy principles of the new Slovak government at the opening of the conference this afternoon. I will not repeat what he said but I once again want to underline that our decisions and policies will be guided by the values that we share with our partners and allies in the EU and NATO. The EU and NATO are the two pillars that define the principles, the values and the goals of our foreign policy. We will be a responsible and reliable partner that fully stands behind its commitments and is ready to share its part of common burden.

Our commitment is particularly needed now, when the EU faces significant challenges. We need to renew the stability of the EU to be able to meet the legitimate expectations of our citizens and to fulfil the ambitions of being a true global leader. Europe must regain its strength to be able to finish the enlargement processes. Europe is still not fully united. We cannot rest until the job is done. Strong, stable and confident Europe is indispensable for the firmness of the transatlantic bond.

Responsibility lies in the heart of all these efforts. Our transatlantic community will only grow stronger if we proceed with genuinely accountable policy. We must be responsible towards our tax payers, responsible towards our neighbours and allies, responsible towards our friends and partners who want to join our Euro-Atlantic community.

Ladies and Gentlemen

A country like Slovakia, embedded in the heart of Europe, is attaching great importance to transatlantic relations. Our history proved many times the importance of being a part of a “foolproof” security system and a reliable alliance. Last outcomes of annual Transatlantic Trends survey indicate that Americans may be turning their focus away from Europe. The majority of U.S. respondents said that their national interests lie more with the countries of Asia than with the European Union. Some experts point out that it marks a potential change for the transatlantic relationship.

Our response to these tendencies must be straight and clear. Our - European - capabilities need to achieve a comparable level with that of our US partners. To manage the current situation I see a threefold answer - in the multilateral, regional and national context:

Multilaterally, we have started the countdown to NATO’s Chicago summit. Besides Afghanistan, capabilities will be a key item on the Summit agenda. The expectations for expressing our solidarity will be high. We will adopt new measures that will show our readiness to fill the concept of Smart Defence with substance. We have to be ambitious. Smart Defence will facilitate the development of capabilities which wouldn't be otherwise obtainable for a majority of Allies.

Intensive regional cooperation also seems to be the way to find hidden reserves. Visegrad cooperation is going through one of its most productive periods. In its 20 years, this group has proven its added value not only for its members, but also for other countries.

During the Slovak V4 Presidency, ministers of defence adopted in Levoča a commitment to form the Visegrad EU Battle Group in 2016. This is the first very concrete expression of the will to strengthen regional partnership in the field of security. More examples of our cooperation will emanate from the food-for-thought put forward by the Slovak Atlantic Commission during Globsec – “A New Paradigm for Defence and Security Cooperation in the Visegrad Region” (DAV4). In times of austerity, cooperation and integration is no longer just an option, but a necessity. But as always, we have to start at the national level. During the past year, the Ministry of Defence, together with the non-governmental and academic community, conducted a Strategic Defence Review. I am glad that the new Minister of Defence already presented his determination to resolutely move from the analytical towards the implementation phase. I and my ministry will be conducive for achieving concrete results in this area.

In Europe, we have benefited from a US military presence since the Second World War. We feel secure. Several generations of Europeans have never witnessed war. Yet, there isn't time for complacency. Europe needs to reconsider how it provides for its own security and defence. We Europeans need to show our strong resolve to share the burden. Our answer must be responsibility and commitment. Responsibility in sustaining defence expenditures and effective use of available resources. Commitment to upholding the unique bond across the North Atlantic that makes us partners, friends and allies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tonight, we are honouring two great friends and strong supporters of transatlantic idea - Ron Asmus and Alexandr Vondra. I met Ron on many different occasions. I always felt inspired by his vision and determination. His article in Foreign Affairs in 1993 became part of our great history as one of the first public calls for an expansion of NATO in the wake of the Cold war. He argued that the United States should embrace the inclusion of Central European and other countries in the Alliance — as the best way to make Europe “whole, free and at peace.” Ron was an open-minded and visionary "policy entrepreneur" who had begun advocating NATO’s enlargement. Enlargement of the most successful alliance in the world, which provided our transatlantic community with an unprecedented era of peace and stability.

And one cannot commemorate 10th anniversary of our invitation in Prague without mentioning the role of our close friend and supporter Alexandr Vondra. We are well aware and deeply appreciate the effort of our regional partners – and particularly the Czech Republic – in promoting Slovakia after the difficult period of Mečiar's era. There is no doubt that, you Saša as strong proponent of the idea of Atlanticism and integration of Slovakia to NATO, share a part of our success story.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased that Bratislava has welcomed so many distinguished guests. At the same time it puts a little extra pressure on our schedule. I will have to excuse myself and leave before the “desert is served” to meet the president of Croatia who is also visiting Slovakia.

Again, it is an honour to welcome you all here in Bratislava. Our city will for next few days be the epicentre of the foreign and security policy universe. I am sure that this year’s conference will again be successful and will inspire new ideas and approaches. Once again, I wish you all the best. Thank you.

 



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