Review Hari Stefanatos
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar had a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, on Tuesday, during which the latter praised Slovenia’s contribution to the alliance’s operations, especially in Kosovo, but also in Afghanistan, adding that there is the need to increase defence spending.
Stoltenberg also highlighted Slovenia’s role in the Western Balkans, but the two men also discussed the fact that Slovenia is at the bottom of the member states list on defence spending with 2% of the defence budget. In this framework the Secretary General stressed that the joint defence that is provided by NATO is free of cost, pointing to the budget commitments made by members at the Wales summit.
On his part, Cerar acknowledged these commitments and said that Slovenia would honor them. As long as the economic situation remains difficult, the government will refrain from any further budget cuts, while when the situation improves a gradual increase in defence spending will follow. Meanwhile, the Slovenian PM continued, the budget structure will be adjusted to meet urgent challenges.
Cerar expressed Slovenia’s readiness to contribute to a a spearhead rapid reaction force in response to the Ukraine crisis, adding however that an in-depth debate would first have to take place in Slovenia.
Moreover, Cerar warned against NATO neglecting the Western Balkans, highlighting the importance of NATO’s open doors policy and announcing Slovenia will continue to actively push for a membership invitation to Montenegro in 2015.
Cerar’s visit was the first ever official visit by a Slovenian prime minister at NATO’s headquarters, where he also visited Slovenia’s permanent NATO representation office, saying that there is little appreciation in Slovenia to those who contribute to its defence.