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No Alternative to Euro-Atlantic Integration Exists for Slovakia

 

No Alternative to Euro-Atlantic Integration Exists for Slovakia

"NATO: Stability, Security and Cooperation": Opening Remarks by VladimàƒÂ­r Meèiar, Chairman of the Peoples Party Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), at the International Workshop held in Bratislava, Slovakia, December 12, 2001.

The fall of socialism at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s presented civilisation and humanity with historic new opportunities. The bi-polar world, which had been based on nuclear threats and the balance of power, came to an end. States and nations of Central and Eastern Europe gained an historic opportunity to start building societies founded on the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and free market principles. Space was also created for new global geopolitical arrangements built on these values.

Political representatives of Central and Eastern European states were challenged

  • to transform a society which assumed a central role for the Communist Party into one based on political pluralism;
  • to move from totalitarianism towards democracy and human rights;
  • from a centrally-planned economy to a free market;
  • from state paternalism to social solidarity;
  • from the ecology of communism to civic and national freedom.

The Slovak Republic completed its own initial and transformation process successfully, and stands today ready to be an integrated part of the free world. It is prepared to see common values practised, as well as to contribute its own share to the defence and propagation of these values.

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) began as a citizen's movement in resistance of totalitarianism, and stood at the forefront of Slovakia's transformation process. The HZDS was the guarantor of this transformation, whether it found itself in government or opposition.

Today it is a mature democratic political party with stable 30% voter support. The movement and its representatives from the beginning have paid close attention to the new conditions of developing internal and external security, from de-politicising the Army and eliminating the influence of the Communist Party and the state security service over the police, from proposing the elimination of the state security service to the creation of an Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Democracy, and the dissolution of civil militias.

The HZDS also looked after external relations, such as the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the departure of the occupying Soviet forces. Many people have no idea that, on the basis of our initiative, Soviet forces left Slovakia a year before they departed the Czech Republic. It seems to us that the fact that two thirds of Czechoslovakia's military production capacity was located in Slovakia has not been properly taken into account. We regarded the cessation of this production and arms exports to areas of conflict, without regard for conversion or substitution, as our contribution to the security structure of Europe. We paid for it with the demise of machine manufacturing and with unemployment.

The intensive process of democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe raised the question of co-existence between nations and constituted states. This process occurred certainly later than it had in Western Europe, but nevertheless for solid reasons. I don't want to get into the reasons behind it, but in the second half of 1992, when the HZDS formed a minority government, measures were taken to secure the division of the Czech and Slovak federal republic as of January 1, 1993, and the simultaneous creation of two independent states, the Czech and Slovak Republics. A great emphasis in the politics of that time was placed on the propriety, peacefulness and constitutionality of this division, as well as on the replacement of the principle of the federal arrangement by a new element of mutual respect between two states, the free movement of people, goods and capital, the creation of a customs union and contractual obligations. From all this we may conclude that relations between Czechs and Slovaks are today better than they were during the federation.

As the Slovak Republic was created, various fears were voiced:

  • If the process of creating two states would be handled competently without allowing the crisis in the Balkans to spread to Central Europe.
  • If this country could survive given that its economic and social situation was so complicated.
  • If this state would prove to be a democratic one when its forebear, the 1938-1945 Slovak state, had existed during the fascist era.

The question of the Slovak state's relations to minorities was also posed, particularly with regard to the Hungarian minority. We answered all these questions with pragmatic politics, and not one of these fears was realised. Slovakia developed as a democratic state with guarantees for civil rights and liberties in keeping with free market principles. Besides the typical tasks associated with transformation processes in countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Slovakia also had to handle the creation of basic state functions, monetary and financial fundamentals and the bedrock of the civil service. Mistakes were made during this period, and prejudices and intense political rivalry created political animosities.

The reason I am paying so much attention to this period is that, to greater or lesser extent, we are again seeing doubts and opinions regarding what will happen if the HZDS People's Party wins the 2002 elections. Our answer is simple: A victory for the HZDS People's Party will strengthen the position of pro-integration forces in Slovakia, and guarantee both domestic stability and the conscientious fulfillment of the commitments that flow from the preparation process and membership in NATO.

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia has taken responsibility also for the security and defence capability of the state. To get an idea of the amount of work that was done we need only to look back at 1992, when most of the equipment, resources, personnel and air power of the Army was on Czech soil. Slovakia not only didn't have any military leadership structures, it didn't even have a Defence Ministry building. But following the transfer of the ministry, and a rebuilding process of the Army and all its units, NATO was able to officially conclude in 1996 that the Slovak Army was prepared for integration to NATO. We also started from scratch with security service protection. The creation of both security and police services was handled successfully with international cooperation. At the same time a system of security was being created to protect citizens from natural disasters, transport accidents, diseases and exceptional migrations of people. We also worked on protecting the country from international organised crime and terrorism.

Back in 1992, in response to a question from then-German Foreign Minister Genscher as to what meaning the creation of an independent Slovak state had in a period of European integration, the chairman of the HZDS said: "The point is for us to integrate in our own names, and to take our own measure of responsibility in integration issues."

We signed an association agreement with the EU in 1992. Slovakia's first democratic constitution in 1992 was pro-integration and open to entry to integration groupings, and set guidelines for the transfer of powers. No other party in Slovakia at that time had an integration programme. This is another partial answer to the question of whether the HZDS has a right to lead the very process it initiated.

After the acknowledgement of Slovakia and our acceptance to the UN and other international organisations, we attempted to contribute through participation in military UN missions around the world and Europe, in Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Golan Heights. Slovakia took part in Central Europe in the creation of CEFTA, the Central European Free Trade Agreement in the context of a stability pact, and put its relations in order with Hungary. Today Slovakia has very good relations with its neighbours, and no unfinished business remains.

That said, the acceptance of Slovakia's three neighbours to NATO at the Madrid Summit provoked an unusually sensitive response in this country, and evoked reactions that were rather mistaken. On the one hand it was erroneously argued that we had been ruled out of the expansion process, while on the other hand things were expressed as being stances towards the person of Vladimà­r Meèiar- for all that NATO to accepts states, not individuals. We saw incorrect reactions also from the government, even though these occurred with the best of intentions - to increase Slovakia's credibility by expressing support for Euro-Atlantic integration in a referendum. The accumulation of errors in the overall process by the government coalition, the political opposition and the then-president led to the referendum being invalid. It was a political mistake.

Experiences from the acceptance of three post-Communist central European states has already demonstrated

  • that their acceptance to NATO has not led to new lines of division being drawn in Europe;
  • that the effectiveness of the Alliance has not been compromised,
  • secret matters are taken in stride,
  • decision-taking mechanisms are efficient, and
  • that increases in costs can be handled.

It is quite rightly expected that Slovakia as a candidate country will, before full integration, deal with problems remaining in defence planning and the legal system.

We are aware that our main shortcomings in the entry process are insufficient English-language knowledge among our professionals, and faults in the number and disposition of human resources in the area of the armed forces. We are conscious of the need to ensure an increase in the defence budget, in its expenditures and structure. We also have room to improve in the compatibility of our military forces. Slovakia will also have to gradually improve the equipment at the disposal of its armed forces.

Acceptance to NATO creates a useful structure through which to connect with defence industry companies from NATO member countries to reduce our technological gap, principally in comparison with the US. We are not content that our ability to contribute to NATO has declined under the current Mikulas Dzurinda government to the point that our Army seems barely fit for combat. We are not happy that the government has allowed control of the arms trade to slip out of its grasp, and there are suspicions that some firms have become connected to deals in territories associated with international terrorism. Nor are we happy that Slovakia over the past three years has stagnated in the area of preparation for fighting international crime and terrorism. We understand that any new state representatives will face the problem of how they intend to contribute militarily to collective security, as well as how they will increase the effectiveness of various parts of the armed forces.

It was with positive feelings that we accepted and fulfilled our obligations since meeting Mr Clinton in Prague, in the form of the Partnership for Peace, through the North Atlantic Council, membership in the COCOM organisation for armaments control, and in the MAP process.

We evaluated our experiences with joint exercises and peace-keeping missions. We would very much welcome a definition or the implementation criteria for enlargement in such a way that the path from the MAP process to full membership was clear, and could not be abused as a threat against voters in the domestic political contest - that if voters don't elect the right politician or party, they will be punished by being excluded from the collective security guarantees that NATO offers.

Slovak citizens are generally positive about steps to improve cooperation with Ukraine and Russia. Even though Russia does not have the right of veto over enlargement, it must be stable and not isolated. We understand that the foundations for the definition of broad cooperation and aid are only now being laid, but without them the picture of European security would not be complete.

We regard Slovakia's efforts towards membership in the Alliance and the European Union as a complex and historic strategic interest for the country. One process is not possible without the other, and both have great meaning for stability in central Europe. Security stability is indivisible from economic and political stability. We see the EU's eastward enlargement as its most important contribution to stability.

We also see the support of our citizens for Slovakia's full integration into NATO as exceptionally important. We are watching the development of public attitudes towards integration in various EU countries, and these attitudes are not always positive.

This demonstrates the need for a wider information campaign. Nor has support in Slovakia always been the same, having fallen after the Madrid Summit decision to accept only three new members, as well as after the launch of the campaign in Yugoslavia.

The current Slovak government is losing the support of its citizens. Funds earmarked for campaigns to influence public opinion have not been used wisely. Once we saw that the government wasn't able to command the support of more than a third of citizens, that its ability to lead a dialogue with voters was impaired, we voluntarily took on ourselves, convinced of the rightness of our actions, an independent campaign to boost support in Slovakia for NATO entry, paid for out of our own pockets. The result is an increase by 20% in support, putting it over the 50% level. Our contribution cannot be doubted.

We regard the current state of the support for membership in NATO by the population as insufficient, and we will take steps to increase it.

  • We suggest that all Slovak parties take a common approach.
  • We suggest coming to an agreement that whatever government takes power after 2002 elections, its pro-integration and pro-European direction will remain unquestioned.
  • We suggest running a positive election campaign with regard to integration, to eliminate futile political squabbling from this area.

But our partners don't react. We fear that their narrow party interests have also narrowed their perception of geopolitical trends and strategic state interests. Here I would like to state that integration goals mean more to the HZDS than its participation in any government. We warn that integration must go forward with the maximum possible level of support from citizens, who must not be opposed by a grouping which has lost the trust of these citizens.

It is difficult to imagine a group leading a state to NATO and the EU which is not even able to lead its citizens to support the country's newly created regions, and which thinks that the main point of the entry process is protecting their election results. We are integrating a state, not parties or individuals.

Citizens of Slovakia have a right to security. They understand that it is indivisible, both within and beyond the state's borders, both in Europe and around the world.

NATO is growing, and with this is also increasing its brief from military-political roles to security roles. The terrorist attacks on the United States have made this process exceptionally urgent. We have expressed our solidarity with both the President and the people of the United States.

Fight against terrorism is our fight as well. We want not only to judge terrorism with words, but to take part in the fight against it as well. We stand side by side with NATO member countries. We will win this struggle.

No alternative to Euro-Atlantic integration exists for Slovakia. We took note of the 1992-1993 period, when security questions were debated and the power of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was not effective in the Balkans. We took steps which took us to the brink of NATO membership. At the Madrid Summit I spoke the following words: "Trust us as we trust you." Slovakia feels that its security is and will remain dependent on the level of stability in the security system in Europe and around the world.

For the above-mentioned reasons, Slovakia's security policy is based on a firm political orientation towards trans-Atlantic and European security structures.

I am convinced that political trust and military transparency are the basic building blocks of cooperation and stability in Europe. Slovakia is building a complete security and defence system in keeping with approved security and conceptual documents for the transformation and construction of the Slovak armed forces.

One of our main security goals is Slovakia's membership in NATO and the EU, something that would dramatically improve stability within the region and in Europe.

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia-People's Party is prepared, if it wins a mandate from voters in the next free democratic elections, to accept its share of responsibility for development, to secure an integration success for Slovakia and thus to fulfill its political goals in these areas.

Our integration interest in entering NATO is strengthened also by the unprecedented terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 this year, as we believe that as of this moment, NATO has taken on a new security dimension as a system of collective defence.

The program and policy documents of the HZDS in the area of foreign policy clearly demonstrate our eminent interest in the gradual and planned-out integration of the Slovak Republic into the NATO collective defence system as well as into the European Union.

"We, members of the HZDS People's Party, acknowledging our responsibility for the future of the Slovak Republic which we helped to found, with the goal of guaranteeing the country's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the inviolability of its borders in the long term, with the goal of preserving and promoting the constitutional democratic order and creating conditions for the steady economic and social development of Slovakia, hereby again affirm our irreversible decision with all our strength to support the integration of the Slovak Republic to NATO, which we regard as an absolute priority from the view of the future security of our state."

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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