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Address by Minister of Defence Karl Erjavec to the Informal Meeting of Defence Policy Directors-General of EU Member States

Dear ladies and gentlemen, honourable general, honourable officers and other guests!

It is my great pleasure to say a few words at the beginning of your important meeting. I'm well aware of its importnace and of the fact that this is the first meeting in the field of European Security and Defence Policy, which we have the opportunity to host here in Brdo in Slovenia. I welcome you and wish you a pleasant stay in Slovenia!

I'm convinced that you are familiarised with the priority tasks of our presidency, which is why I won't present them separately, however I do want to emphasize some topics, which inseparably connect the European Security and Defence Policy with broader, very important European Union's programme priorities, like the enlargement and the Treaty of Lisbon, climate change, free flow of knowledge, and the intercultural dialogue. Only a secure and stable Europe and a secure and stable wider environment can provide opportunities for further economic growth and development, and thus the basis of these priorities.

The Western Balkans is a region, in which the EU performs a very important task and where it actually proves its capabilities in the context of ESDP operations. Because of the immediate vicinity and historical, cultural, economic and political ties, the stability in the region is of great importance for the EU and thus also for Slovenia. Only a clear and assured European perspective for the countries in the region will finally stabilise the Western Balkans. However without the solution to the Kosovo issue, which would be acceptable for everyone, I cannot imagine the region's integration into the EU. The aim of our presence in Kosovo has to be the assurance and implementation of the respect for human rights, rule of law and minority rights. These are namely the values of Europe.

The success of the operation “Althea” in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the proof of a good cooperation between various international organizations as well as of the unity of EU Member States and even broader. Only unity can bring the synergetic effects and therefore success. I'm sure that this is how it's going to be in the operations on the oldest continent, on African soil. Ethnic conflics and humanitarian disasters keep spreading across the African continent, which causes concern of the international community.  It is also the reason that the Slovenian government supported my proposal that we, especially as the presiding country, have to contribute our share in the EUFOR operation in Chad/Central African Republic. Humanitarian disasters there concern us all. That's why we cannot allow ourselves to fail, because Europe would be seen as having no credibility in the eyes of the world and Africa. We also wish that the UNMID operation will be fully operational as soon as possible and, most of all, successful. Of course, all this won't be possible without successful cooperation with the United Nations and the African Union as well as with other international organizations.

EU military capability and the European Defence Agency are of major importance for the strengthening of the ESDP. The achievement of the goals, which we set as the most important in HG 2010, will be impossible without eliminating the shortcomings in the formation of our common ambitions, which would consequently mean that we won't be capable to carry out military as well as civilian operations in the future. The EDA and the EU Military Committee can do a lot with joint efforts, so that our capability plans will be of good quality and oriented towards the future.   I also think that a harmonised development of civilian and military capability contributes a lot to a more stable and secure strategic environment. I look forward to the exceptional progress of the European Defence Agency as well as the progress in creating a capability development plan. I'm convinced that strategic planning capabilities will enable greater flexibility and harmonisation, and also the EU's response.

Certain progress was made in the field of cooperation between the strategic partners, but further steps forward can still be made. Only a close dialogue with the UN, NATO and the AU can ensure important progress and thus strengthen the significance of partnership cooperation. Acquired experience from the cooperation between NATO and the EU in BiH and also in other places could be invaluable here. I'm aware that quick shifts in the improvement of the cooperation are hard to expect, but I think that there's no need for duplication because the inexorable reality in the operations requires from us complementarity and rationality.  Without the search for innovative solutions, I'm convinced that there will be no progress.

In all these important tasks we cannot forget the human rights issue, especially the position of children and women in armed conflicts, because the experience shows us how important these issues are.

Since the Western Balkans is our special priority, we decided to organise at the end of our presidency an informal meeting of South East European ministers of defence in June this year, which will provide, in my opinion, additional success for the WB integration.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, a lot of challenges and hard work are ahead of us all, but I'm sure that we together ─ united and unified ─ will be successful.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you a successful work!


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Date: 29.01.2008