Slovenia through the lens of EU leaders and NATO
We proudly present Slovenia through the lens of EU leaders and NATO, revealing how they perceive Slovenia as a young, 25 year old state and what are the main challenges and opportunities for the country?
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Twenty five years ago, a new era began in the history of Slovenia - a milestone when, with confidence and pride, you won independence through your own efforts. By taking risks and making sacrifices you became masters of your own destiny. This was a change for the better: you gained democracy, political autonomy and territorial integrity.
Slovenia is a young but mature state. As of 1 May 2004 you became a proud member of the European Union, thus reconciling European geography and history. Slovenia was, rightly, the first country among the 2004 enlargement wave to introduce the euro in 2007 and successfully held the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2008. Your people - from scientists to sportsmen - are great ambassadors.
Despite these numerous accomplishments, major challenges lie ahead. As a responsible member of the international community, Slovenia contributes decisively to security and stability in the region. You serve as a bridge between the EU and the countries of the Western Balkans aspiring to become EU members. You also play a key role in the management of the refugee crisis and I would like to applaud the Slovenian people for their solidarity during the most difficult months of this crisis.
On the economic front, the country has reached a turning point. Slovenia can count on our support and solidarity. Under our Investment Plan for Europe, EUR 180m is already available for SMEs in Slovenia. This is just the first step to bigger and better finance for investment projects.
We look to the future with determination and courage. Together, let us address our shared challenges and make the most of new opportunities.
As President of the European Commission, I Feel Slovenia!
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
"Slovenia is a land of remarkable charm and a country of variety, being located at a crossroads of Europe's cultural routes, the Alpine and the Adriatic. Since independence, Slovenia has consolidated its unique role in the family of European countries, demonstrating confidence and competence: from the successful Slovenian EU Presidency in 2008 to your country's role in the major political debates in Europe today. One example is the ongoing migration crisis. Last year, Prime Minister Cerar was absolutely a key voice around the European Council table pushing for a comprehensive approach on irregular migrants and asylum seekers. This is indeed the path we then took, allowing us to get the situation in the Western Balkans under control. That is not to obscure another huge challenge affecting all our citizens, namely the need to propel the European economy towards significant growth again. This is true in Slovenia, with its industrious and clever people, and especially in the Balkan region which has suffered a lot in recent times.
Finally, I would say that all of us in Europe need to be on guard against the kinds of brutal and radical populism we see on the rise in many places in Europe. But I am full of confidence in this respect, because of all you sacrificed in the recent past to have independence and peace here."
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament
"This year Slovenia celebrates its 25th Statehood Day, which marks the country's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. If one goes back to consider the events that led to Slovenia's independence, one can already appreciate the temper with which this small and young state has been forged. Slovene citizens courageously stood on the side of freedom and on the side of Europe. This twin vocation has accompanied Slovenia throughout its history, making it in many ways a pioneering nation. Slovenia reformed itself in record time: it adopted a new and forward-looking constitution; it abandoned the state-controlled economic model and it joined NATO in 2004. Its European path has been equally impressive: it has been the first country of the former Yugoslavia to join the EU in 2004 showing an impressive and unmatched reform zeal. Thanks to the determination and pro-Europeanism of Slovene citizens, the young state joined the single currency in 2007. Slovenia has worked hard for peace and reconciliation in the Balkans and has worked hard to ensure that other Balkan countries could also benefit from EU integration. Successive Slovenian governments have always stood on the side of European integration and I still remember vividly the productive enthusiasm of the 2008 Slovenian Council presidency, which led to agreements on important files ranging from environmental protection to labour law. Slovene MEPs in the European Parliament have worked tirelessly and competently to advance and improve EU legislation and scrutinise the work of the European Commission. European Commissioners from Slovenia have equally shown professionalism and a strong pro-European commitment. Throughout these years Slovenia has shown how a nation small in size can think big to the benefit of the whole EU. I am sure Slovenia will continue to inspire and strengthen the European project."
General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee
Being from the Czech Republic, I remember well how things were before the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Although Slovenia was never part of the Soviet Bloc, you did not really escape the Soviet influence. Slovenia has come a long way since that time.
After your independence in 1991, you joined the EU and NATO in 2004. Since then, Slovenia has been a highly valued and reliable NATO ally, actively contributing to NATO missions and operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. And, starting in 2018, together with Italy you will be a part of the Very High Readiness Task Force that NATO has recently established.
I want to commend Slovenia for its plans to further develop and better equip its armed forces by 2025. You are also committed to stopping defence cuts by 2016 and plan an increase for 2017. This is an encouraging step towards achieving the pledge made at the Summit in Wales to stop the cuts in defence spending and then gradually increase to two percent of GDP over a decade.
All of this reflects Slovenia's strong commitment to NATO. Slovenia also benefits from the collective defence and the collective security NATO provides. NATO is an Alliance based on the idea of "one for all and all for one" - we protect and defend each other and that is important for all of us.