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The Republic of Slovenia celebrates 20 years of NATO membership

On 29 March 2004, the Republic of Slovenia became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) after successfully depositing its Instrument of Accession in Washington. By joining this important political-military alliance, Slovenia achieved one of the main foreign policy and defence-military objectives it set itself at the time of its independence in 1991. This historic milestone was celebrated yesterday with a high-level meeting, panel discussions and a national ceremony at the Brdo Congress Centre.

Earlier in the morning, Minister of Defence Marjan Šarec held a bilateral meeting with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher G. Cavoli. They discussed Slovenia's role in NATO.

Mr Šarec then met the Minister of National Defence of Romania, Mr Angel Tîlvăr. During their talks, the two Ministers expressed their satisfaction with the strengthening of defence and military cooperation between the two countries. In the morning, the Romanian Minister laid a wreath at the ossuary of the victims of the First World War at Ljubljana's cemetery.

This was followed by three high-level discussions organised by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Defence.

The first panel discussion, entitled NATO Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, was organised by the Slovenian Armed Forces. The debate was moderated by Prof. Dr. Iztok Prezelj and featured General Christopher G. Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Lieutenant General Robert Glavaš, Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, Chief of the General Staff of the Italian Armed Forces, and General Rudolf Striedinger, Chief of the General Staff of the Austrian Armed Forces. They discussed the development of the Alliance to date, the future security situation in Europe and how to address key challenges. They touched upon past developmental turning points that NATO has faced and presented views on key transformational and operational changes. They also discussed the current key challenges facing NATO and its member states. In this context, the Chief of the General Staff of the Austrian Armed Forces, General Rudolf Striedinger, made a special assessment of NATO's past development and touched upon the key current challenges from the perspective of a partner country. The debate focused on a positive approach to challenges and the importance of solidarity. Also important was the recognition of the Alliance's ability to meet challenges and its integrated approach in addressing and responding to threats.

The second panel discussion, entitled Women, Peace and Security in NATO, also in anticipation of the Washington Summit, was addressed by Tanja Fajon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs. In her speech, Ms Fajon stressed that, as Slovenia's first female Foreign Minister, she is particularly aware of the importance of women's participation in decision-making processes at all levels. ”We have worked a lot with our female foreign minister colleagues, who are in the minority, to discuss what we can do to empower women and girls in conflict. I also support the new approach of the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Irene Fellin, who is working to strengthen cooperation with civil society. This is NATO's soft power and a way to give a voice to and empower women and girls, especially those in conflict,” Minister Fajon said. Irene Fellin, NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, Ann Linde, former Swedish Foreign Minister, and Prof. Dr. Ljubica Jelušič also participated in the roundtable. They agreed that women and children are most affected by armed conflict and that the Women, Peace and Security Agenda is an important pillar of the NATO Alliance that needs to be continuously strengthened, discussed and built upon. The guests thanked Minister Fajon for bringing the concept of women, peace and security to the forefront of Slovenia's agenda on this important anniversary. The debate was moderated by Dr. Andrej Benedejčič.

The third panel discussion, entitled Back to our roots and collective defence: 75 Years of NATO, was addressed by the Minister of Defence, Marjan Šarec, the Minister of National Defence of Romania, Angel Tîlvăr, and the State Secretary for International Affairs and National and International Security, Vojko Volk. Minister Šarec stressed that the war in Ukraine was a decisive turning point for European security and NATO. “Today, there are 32 countries in NATO, committed to partnership and brotherhood. We must be ready for a combination of Article 3 and Article 5, focused on our goals and on stopping the Russian threat," he stressed, adding that with the Ukrainian war, NATO is returning to collective defence, and with the military transformation, it is stronger, more united, the cornerstone of transatlantic security. Commenting on the accession of Finland and Sweden, Mr Šarec said that this fact speaks a thousand words, as it was unthinkable a few years ago. "NATO and its Member States are ready to defend democratic values and protect our way of life," he added. Turning to the Western Balkans, he stressed that stability in the region is very important for the stability of NATO and the EU. "Euro-Atlantic integration is the right way forward, because we share common values. Otherwise, a vacuum can be created and will be exploited, and hybrid activities will increase. But then it has to be credible, it has to keep its commitments," said Minister Šarec. He also stressed that in Slovenia we are not sufficiently aware of how close we are to war in Europe and in which phase we are. At the same time, he said, we must be aware that it is essential to spend more on security and deterrence, to have the equipment, the forces and the right mindset, while at the same time the efficient use of resources is crucial. Vojko Volk, State Secretary for International Affairs and National and International Security in the Prime Minister's Office, also stressed the importance of the upcoming US presidential elections for the future of transatlantic relations. "The relationship will be stronger when we recognise that we need to strengthen defence spending and that each member must be able to take care of its own defence," he said. The debate was chaired by Katja Geršak.

The national celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Slovenia's NATO membership began yesterday at 18:00 at the Brdo Congress Centre. The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Nataša Pirc Musar, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. She stressed that "NATO membership not only gives us access to a defence alliance, but also recognises that we are part of an environment based on democracy as a way of life, the rule of law, respect for human rights and territorial integrity and sovereignty". She also said that without security, other social activities cannot function. "Without it, there can be no development and no prosperity. That is why politicians and society must support a modern national security system, especially the Slovenian Armed Forces, which we rightly expect to help us in the face of all kinds of threats and disasters," she added. The speech was followed by the artistic part of the ceremony.

A photographic exhibition prepared by the Military Museum of the Slovenian Armed Forces has been on display at the Brdo Congress Centre since yesterday. The exhibition is thematically linked to the history of NATO and the role of the Republic of Slovenia in the North Atlantic Alliance.