The Slovenia Times

NATO Sec-Gen hails Slovenia's role in W Balkans

Politics
Prime Minister Robert Golob (left) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a joint press conference in Brussels. Photo: An┼że Malovrh/STA

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the role Slovenia has played in stabilising the Western Balkans in its 20 years as a NATO member, as he met Prime Minister Golob in Brussels on 21 March. He also welcomed Slovenia's efforts to increase defence spending and strengthen its presence in Kosovo.

"Slovenia has been highly valued, an important NATO ally now for two decades," Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters. "We continue to appreciate very much the contributions that Slovenia is making to our collective defence, to our shared security."

He welcomed Golob's announcement that Slovenia will strengthen its presence in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Golob said that a more concrete plan is yet to be adopted "but we expressed today our readiness to contribute more, especially for the stability of the Western Balkan region".

Slovenia is not only focused on challenges in its vicinity, said Stoltenberg, noting the country's participation in NATO's battle groups in Latvia and Slovakia.

The pair also spoke about the continued support for Ukraine. "We believe that staying united is our major strength," said Golob, who hopes that the unity will strengthen further in light of the July NATO summit.

The secretary general welcomed the plan which will see Slovenia's defence spending increase to 2% of GDP by 2030. "I hope it will be possible to push that plan forward," he said, adding that the current times call for more investment in collective defence.

Slovenia has increased investment in military equipment by 70% in the last three years, said Golob. "I think that really shows our total readiness to fulfil our commitments."

According to the latest defence spending report, Slovenia spent 1.33% of its GDP on defence in 2023, which places it among the NATO member states with the lowest defence spending. However, the country spent 24% of its defence budget on equipment, above NATO's target of 20%.

The report also pointed to a low public support for NATO and increased defence spending among Slovenians, for which Golob believes there are several reasons, including "the spillover of the propaganda from other Western Balkans countries, also out of Russia." He believes the support is still quite strong.

The results of a survey released by NATO suggest that around 60% of Slovenians think defence expenditure should remain level or increase, which compares to a NATO-wide average of 77%. Meanwhile, 52% respondents think Slovenia should remain a member, compared to 66% on average in the entire alliance.

Golob's visit to NATO comes just days before Slovenia will mark the 20th anniversary since joining the alliance. In Brussels, Golob is also attending an EU summit where Bosnia-Herzegovina is to get the green light to start accession talks, and the first N-energy summit organised by Belgium and the IAEA.

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