WED, 30 APR 1997 23:30:10 GMT
Slovenian politics has unanimously decided to join the NATO, but it is highly questionable whether the NATO will have Slovenia
Ljubljana, 23 April, 1997
A few days ago in Slovenia, something practically impossible happened. After a long time, all parliamentary parties sat down at the table and reached an agreement concerning an issue. And this issue refers to Slovenia's joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This agreement appears to be almost impossible for at least two reasons. The first is that for more than a year, the ruling and the opposition parties in Slovenia have not been able to agree about a single question. And the other reason is the fact that not long ago they could not agree about this specific issue. On the contrary. Many prominent politicians, both from the opposition and the authorities, warned against all the drawbacks of the possible joining the NATO, and just a few days before the "D day", when the presidents of all the parties signed the joint declaration expressing the will that Slovenia become a member of the North Atlantic alliance.
This happened at the moment when it has become clear to everyone that it was quite possible that Slovenia would not make it to the NATO in the first round of its expansion, although it was expected all the time. It should not be forgotten that Slovenia has been a member of the so-called Partnership for Peace for quite some time now, and this is in fact a ticket for joining the NATO. This is certainly an advantage. Another advantage is the stable political and military situation in Slovenia, the third is the fact that according to its economic development and success Slovenia is at the very top among the countries in transition, and the last, but not the least, reason are favourable impressions Slovenia made on the highest NATO officials (from Secretary General, Javier Solana, to commander of NATO forces for Europe, general Joulwan).
But, political circumstances are changing, and interests of big powers with them, and they are the ones who decide who their allies will be and who they need the most. Although Slovenia was until just recently in the front row, now it already ranks third, maybe even in fourth. Slovenia certainly was much more interesting several months or even years ago, when the war spread in its vicinity, so it could play the role of a buffer zone. Developments on the territory of former Yugoslavia will define division of new interest spheres, and spreading of the NATO or the EU in this region. Easing of tensions in the region reduces chances Slovenia has. According to the current situation, it appears that Czeck Republic and Poland have the best chances, and Hungary, Slovenia and Romania follow right behind them. Each of these countries has countries members of the NATO speaking in their favour. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Danemark, Iceland, Greece, Turkey, partly Germany, USA and Canada are in favour of Slovenia. But some of these countries are also advocating that some of other queueing countries should be received instead, so that one can never tell.
The decision about new members of the North Atlantic alliance will be reached in two months in Madrid. That is why Slovenian diplomacy is very busy. This week all the main actors of Slovenian foreign policy are away in world metropolises. Prime Minister Dr Janez Drnovsek has been in Brussels for two days, where according to the information in the press, he successfully participated at the meeting of the Council of Western European Union and at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), and he also had a meeting with Jean-Luc Dehaen, Prime Minister of Belgium. Drnovsek will spend the end of this week in Madrid. At the same time, State Secretary of foreign affairs, Ivo Vajgl, visited Washington where he met several congressmen, senators and representatives of the State Department, in order to lobby for support to Slovenia at the June summit in Madrid, as well as to prepare ground for the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Drnovsek to the USA (he is expected to arrive in Washington on 2 May). Minister of foreign affairs, Zoran Thaler was in Brussels a week ago, and now he is getting ready to visit Danemark, while President of the state, Milan Kucan is just returning from Norway.
Drnovsek's appearance in Brussels which was especially interesting was the one at the meeting with representatives of the Western European Union, where among other he stressed the accelerated three sided cooperation among Italy, Hungary and Slovenia, which means that Slovenia is indirectly offering support to Hungary in joining the NATO, just as numerous favourable declarations of Hungarian officials about Slovenia show that there will be no battle in the ring between these two candidates for joining the NATO. Another statement Drnovsek made at the same meeting concerning the neighbouring Croatia is also interesting. Dr Drnovsek stressed in Brussels the significance of good relations between Slovenia and Croatia and especially insisted on the fact that - with the help from the west - democratic and stable Croatia had to be among the decisive factors of safety and stability in south eastern Europe. This statement is all the more significant because it could be heard in well informed circles that one of the reasons for certain reservations towards Slovenia are unsettled relations with Croatia concerning borders. One of the main criteria for joining the NATO are good relations with neighbouring countries.
Along with all the mentioned problems the young and small Slovenian state is encountering in its attempt to join the NATO, one of the main ones still has not been mentioned, and this is - money! According to the assessments of the committee for the budget of the American Congress, Slovenia's expenses for joining the NATO could amount to about 3.6 billion dollars. The Slovenian military budget would go up by several per cent of the gross social product. How that is possible in the present economic situation, noone knows. But, nor do majority of people know what joining of the NATO would actually mean for Slovenia. Should Slovenia establish new NATO bases, how many NATO soldiers would come to Slovenia and how many Slovenian soldiers would have to fight in various wars around the world (if that would be necessary at all), and similar. That is why the number of people is increasing who strongly believe that without good information about all the consequences of the possible joining of the NATO and a referendum about it, Slovenia cannot do it. If, od course, this alliance is seriously interested in having Slovenia.
Janja Klasinc AIM