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To become a full-fledged NATO member was one of Slovenia's strategic goals in the period following its independence. Its aspirations built on fundamental values, strategic security, and vital national interests.

Slovenia joined NATO on 29 March 2004. The invitation to membership reflected the Alliance's belief that Slovenia would be able to contribute to the implementation of the North Atlantic Treaty politically and in terms of defence. Although the Treaty has been in force for almost 70 years, it remains the basic document of the Euro-Atlantic community.

NATO membership has strengthened Slovenia's security and enhanced its long-term development, incorporating it in the political and security framework of the most developed Western countries, and raising its profile as a democratic and peaceful state that supports integration. Accordingly, the preamble to the 2015 Declaration of Foreign Policy of the Republic of Slovenia specifies that a basic framework for ensuring national security has been provided through NATO membership.

About NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established on 4 April 1949 pursuant to Article 51 of the UN Charter granting countries the right of individual or collective self-defence. By signing the North Atlantic Treaty or acceding to it at a later stage, the Parties decided to unite their efforts for peace and security. In accordance with the Treaty and the UN Charter, they undertook to work together to safeguard the freedom, common heritage, and values of their respective nations by political and military means.

In political terms, NATO promotes democratic values, facilitates consultations between allies, and enhances joint resolution of political and security-related issues, thus preventing conflicts in the long term. NATO is also committed to peaceful conflict resolution. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis response and management operations pursuant to the collective defence clause (North Atlantic Treaty, Article 5).

NATO Strategic Concept

The Strategic Concept is an official document outlining NATO’s key tasks and activities together with its strategic environment features and goals for each particular decade. The current Strategic Concept (2010) outlines NATO’s three essential core tasks – collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security.

Collective defence

Collective defence and deterrence against any threat to individual allies are the core tasks of the Organization. The allies can raise any issue concerning the security of a particular member country with the North Atlantic Council (NAC). They consult daily, all year round, on all major issues relating to Euro-Atlantic security. Decisions at all levels are taken by consensus.

During the past decade, NATO allies have been faced with an increasingly diverse, complex, demanding, and unstable security environment. Their enhanced defence and deterrence abilities are based on conventional armed forces, Forward Presence, joint air and naval forces, cyber defence, civil preparedness, countering hybrid threats, and cooperation with the European Union, with special focus on the implementation of the Wales defence spending commitment.

Crisis management

To ensure security in NATO member countries, it is sometimes necessary to take action beyond their borders and project stability in the neighbourhood. Based on a consensus, the Alliance helps prevent conflicts, takes active part in crisis management, and undertakes joint efforts to combat terrorism.

About 20,000 NATO troops have been deployed to international military operations and crisis management missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and the Mediterranean. In the summer of 2018, a non-combat mission was launched in Iraq, where NATO provides assistance and training in the setting up of Iraqi security institutions and structures.

Cooperative security and partnerships

NATO is more than a defence alliance; it is also a security alliance. Cooperation with non-NATO partners – countries and international organisations – is becoming increasingly important. The promotion of a wide partnership, cooperation and dialogue with other countries or organisations in the Euro-Atlantic area aimed at increasing the transparency of operations, mutual trust, and capabilities for joint action with NATO is the best way to enhance Euro-Atlantic security. Given the complex international security environment, countries or organisations cannot effectively tackle modern security challenges on their own. Different forms of NATO’s partnerships provide a platform for political dialogue, regional cooperation on security and defence, and the fostering of common values.

NATO integration timeline

1993 – The National Assembly adopts the Resolution on the Starting-Points for a National Security Plan. 

1994 – The democratically expressed political will to join NATO is clearly reflected in the supplements to the Resolution on the Starting-Points for a National Security Plan adopted by the National Assembly in January 1994. Based on this decision, Slovenia becomes one of the first countries to be included in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) on 30 March 1994 and an associate partner in the North Atlantic Assembly (NAA) in the same year.

1995 – Slovenia launches the first cycle of the Planning and Review Process (PARP), an annual process, in which each country presents its national defence policy and planning, announces its participation in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, and outlines its policy on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Slovenia delivers its first Individual Partnership Programme (IPAP). In August, members of the Slovenian Armed Forces take part for the first time in a PfP exercise in the United States (Cooperative Nugget). The Status of Forces and Transit Agreement for IFOR/SFOR is signed.

1996 – In late January, Slovenia becomes a full-fledged member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). Its political decision to join NATO is clearly expressed in the resolution adopted by the National Assembly on 11 April 1996, stating that "the Republic of Slovenia wishes to guarantee its basic security interest within the framework of a system of collective security provided by NATO membership." Slovenia is among the first PfP countries to respond to NATO's proposal for individual dialogue, which is launched on 17 April 1996. Slovenia presents its political, economic, and defence arrangements in three rounds of individual dialogue.

1997 – In April, the National Assembly adopts the Declaration on NATO Membership. In August, President Milan Kučan signs the order on establishing the Mission of the Republic of Slovenia to NATO. In October, members of the Slovenian Armed Forces are deployed to SFOR.

1998 – In February, the Government presents the National Strategy for the Integration of the Republic of Slovenia into NATO. In October, Slovenia opens its airspace for overflights of NATO aircraft. The largest NATO/PfP exercise outside NATO territory takes place in Slovenia (Cooperative Adventure Exchange ‘98), with more than 6,000 troops from NATO and PfP countries taking part. 

1999 – The Membership Action Plan (MAP) is adopted at the Washington Summit in April. With the adoption of the Annual National Programme (ANP) for the implementation of MAP 1999–2000 and its submission, Slovenia is included in the MAP process. 

2000 – In April, Slovenia hosts a NATO research workshop. The first MAP cycle (1999–2000) concludes in May with a meeting between the North Atlantic Council and Slovenia. In ANP 2000–2001, Slovenia again outlines its activities and goals, including the methods and roadmaps.

2001 – Slovenia draws up its third ANP (2001–2002), which is adopted by the Government in September and submitted to NATO’s International Secretariat in October.

2002 – In September, Slovenia submits its ANP for MAP 2002–2003. At the NATO Summit Meeting in Prague on 21 and 22 November, Slovenia is invited to start accession talks along with Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia. On 26 November, the Slovenian Government receives a formal written invitation from NATO Secretary General to begin accession talks. On 24 December, the Government adopts the relevant negotiating positions.

2003 – Accession talks are held in two rounds (21 and 31 January). On 23 January, the Government adopts the Initiative for Accession to the North Atlantic Treaty. NATO membership is supported by 66.08% of voters at a referendum held on 23 March. The Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of the Republic of Slovenia is signed in Brussels on 26 March by the permanent representatives of the 19 NATO member countries. Slovenia’s ANP for MAP 2003–2004 implementation is submitted on 15 October.

2004 – On 24 February, the National Assembly adopts the Act ratifying the North Atlantic Treaty, and on 29 March, Slovenia deposits its instrument of accession with the depositary (the US), thus becoming a NATO member. In March, Slovenian troops are deployed to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.