„Dear Madam President of the Assembly, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests, Welcome to Bratislava. I wish to extend a special welcome to you, members of national parliaments. Because usually, when we discuss security and defence, we tend to have in mind meetings of the Heads of states, ministers of foreign affairs or defence, or Chiefs of staffs. And we often forget that it has one more, very important dimension: our parliaments. Our elected representatives. Those, who in many instances are the ones who say the final yes or no to our plans and to our commitments.
We have achieved a lot, but there are still challenges ahead of us. And in many of them, your role is very important.
First, the political will. We are hearing a lot of criticism from the other bank of the Atlantic that Europe is not delivering as much as it should. We may have different views on that, but to a large extend, it is true. Because, there is a big disproportion between the European ambitions and our capabilities. Instead of investing into our forces, into being faster, better prepared and able to react with appropriate means, we look for arguments how we can do more with less. Or how to create new institutions instead of strengthening our existing capabilities. As if talking about defence spending has become politically unpopular.
Let me be clear, we have the best security guarantees in the history. It is our Alliance we can rely on. But our duty is to explain to our citizens that if we want to be safer, if Europe wants to play a role it deserves and it wants, we need to invest in our forces. For me, a stronger Europe means more dedication and real delivery in meeting our NATO commitments. It means a stronger and better prepared European part of NATO. And it also means better cooperation between NATO and the EU. But our homework must come first. You, in your parliaments, have a strong say in what strategic steps we will take in this regard.
Second, the resources. The reality of not that old history demonstrates that we may have the best plans, but without adequate resources, they are just empty shells. Yes, the situation in our defence spending is getting better. But we are still far behind what might be considered a fair burden sharing. In the recent years, it has proven right to engage our ministers of finance in our defence. But frankly, at the end of the day, it is not the ministers who decide. In most of our countries, it is the Parliament that approves the annual budget. You have it in your hands. To show how much you care about our security. To decide, whether Europe pays its debts or not.
Third, our ability to react. Because even adequate political will and sufficient resources may not be enough. On one hand, we, as the Alliance, were able to agree to send our troops to our Eastern border. And to reinforce it, should the need be. But, are we able to send the troops quickly enough? In the EU, the free movement of people, capital and services, has become a symbol of European freedom and efficiency. What did we do wrong that it doesn´t apply to our ability to deploy forces and equipment? That it doesn´t take days, but weeks, to have everything we need in place? If Russia can deploy its forces in a matter of hours or days, we should be able to do the same. There is no good argument why the military Schengen should not work with the same efficiency. And as such, in most cases, it again depends on national legislation. The one, that is in the hands of the parliaments.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am glad that today we are able to react faster, we invest more in our defence and we recognize the challenges we face. But it is also our imperative to spend our resources wisely. Not to duplicate what already exists. As I already mentioned, we need more cooperation between NATO and the EU. Strengthen our ability to address security challenges we face as the EU.
And not to forget, that our security depends very much on who is our friend and partner. The situation in our neighbourhood will always be one of the most important factors of our security. Be it in the east or in the south. For Slovakia, naturally, the developments in Ukraine are of utmost attention. This country, as well as Georgia and others, know what it means to be under attack. And, at the same time, to strive for NATO membership. We in Slovakia have not forgotten how much it helped our country to have that motivation on our integration path of reforms. It must be our priority not to divert these countries from this path. Because the risk of doing so is very high – by our inaction, by the lack of patience or simply by our ignorance.
For that reason, I visited Ukraine and Georgia several times. Not only to show support. But to learn about problems Ukrainians and Georgians have to cope with. I want to encourage you - do the same. Come and see that there are people with a simple desire - to live in peace.
In my case, it made me to push hard for their cause. It also made it easier for me to explain it at home. And finally, it made me realize that it is our moral duty, to offer our aspirants a vision, that one day, they would sit with us at one table. And to our partners, that we care. Because without them, our security will not be complete.
Dear Assembly members, thank you once again for coming to Bratislava. Thank you for caring about our security. I hope your voice will be heard when the discussion on our security will be put on the tables of your parliaments.