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Dear friends and colleagues,
We come together at the convergence of three significant anniversaries: NATO’s 70th anniversary and the 15th anniversary of Slovakia’s membership in NATO. It is also 15 years since Slovakia hosted its first NATO PA session, just two months after its official accession to NATO.
These anniversaries are useful reminders of the Alliance’s enduring value and relevance throughout the profound changes in the international security environment which have taken place over the course of the Alliance’s history. The fact that nations still aspire to join the Alliance also sends a powerful message that NATO remains a unique and powerful instrument at the service of peace and stability in an unpredictable world.
Slovakia itself offers an excellent model of the success and benefits of NATO’s Open Door policy. Since joining the Alliance in 2004, it has demonstrated its commitment to NATO and has actively contributed to all the dimensions of NATO’s actions and adaptation. Today, Slovak troops continue to support NATO’s training and assistance Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. They participate in the Canadian-led multinational battalion in Latvia as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. Slovakia also hosts one of the eight NATO Force Integration Units which have been established across the Alliance’s eastern flank. The country is also increasing its defence spending at an impressive rate – 14% between 2017 and 2018 – and meeting NATO’s target in terms of investment in new capabilities.
Beyond its active role in NATO, Slovakia supports broader Euro-Atlantic security through its engagement in the Visegrad group, the European Union (EU) and the OSCE – of which it holds the presidency in 2019. We look forward to hearing more about Slovakia’s priorities and contributions to NATO and Euro-Atlantic security throughout this session from the country’s top officials.
At the same time, the agenda for this session includes a broad range of issues which are of central importance for our nations and for the Alliance: relations with Russia, the future of arms control, the impact of China’s rise, stability in Africa, the development of artificial intelligence, the challenge - both civil and military - of cyber security and defence, North Macedonia’s impeding accession to NATO; these issues and many more will feature in our Committee meetings as our Assembly strives to play its part in ensuring that NATO will remain the indispensable bedrock of our security for the next 70 years. Our discussions will also no doubt highlight the need to preserve those elements which constitute the foundations of our unique Alliance: the transatlantic bond, our essential commitment to democratic values, our solidarity, and our pledge of collective defence.
One of our Assembly’s critical roles is to provide a forum where these issues can be debated in the open, and thus help better inform our citizens about the challenges facing our nations and the responses needed to address them. A priority for us all should be to further engage our youth in these discussions, as well as the many women who still shy away from an area of policy long dominated by men.
I want to thank Martin Fedor, his predecessor, Anton Hrnko – who we continue to hold in our thoughts – and all the members and staff of the Slovak delegation for hosting us in Bratislava. It will be an honour and a privilege for me to preside over our discussions over the coming days.
Ms Madeleine Moon
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