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In search of a mission, NATO has to change - Slovenian President

With the NATO Summit just around the corner, one of its participants, Slovenian President Danilo Turk says a Russian partnership could play a big role in the alliance's future.

He also discusses with RT his country's battle with the financial crisis and whether or not he regrets joining the EU.

RT: Now, the NATO summit is coming up in a couple of days, and you have played an active role in promoting closer ties between Russia and NATO. How much do you think NATO had to change in order to recognize the value of Russian partnership?

Danilo Turk: NATO has to change, and NATO is in a search for a mission for a long time. After the end of the Cold War, the legitimate question was whether NATO was necessary at all. But the mission was never completely defined, and I think that it cannot be completely defined without a true partnership with Russia. We don’t have the Cold War anymore, and we have to figure out what this new partnership means. And I think in Lisbon, in the coming days, we’ll come closer to that definition.

RT: Mr. President, President Medvedev has proposed European Security Treaty. Do you think it actually energized the NATO leadership into a concept review?

DT: President Medvedev’s proposal was an excellent beginning, and that it generated a lot of creative thinking in NATO. And I think that it indirectly contributed to the new strategic concept of NATO which is much more open and which is much more appropriate for a real partnership between NATO and Russia. Here I’m talking about the assessment of security threats, commitment to the Charter of the UN and also on the possibility to establish partnership with regard to missile defense.

RT: What do you expect to see in NATO’s new strategic concept announcement, something that you do not expect to see?

DT: I think that we shall see a meaningful step towards partnership with others. And I think that that’s the key in the new strategic concept. The platform which the new strategic concept offers will be appropriate for reaching an agreement on security threats, on missiles, and on nuclear weapons. I think these are security challenged which have to be addressed through a strategic concept.

RT: If we talk a little bit more about EU and Slovenia and its concept. Does Slovenia’s dependence on EU cohesion worry you, especially now that the commitment to its rules is under review by the big euro powerhouses?

DT: The EU has been affected very badly by the current financial and economic crisis. And that has had an impact on the system of euro, the common currency to which many EU members, but not all, belong. And now we’re in a situation where we have to find a proper financial stability mechanism which would be appropriate for management of financial crisis of the future.

RT: Slovenia’s gross domestic product dropped the most among the 16 nations sharing the euro; plus the unemployment that has hit through the 100,000 mark. Do you ever regret joining the currency? What are the main pros and cons?

DT: Almost three yeas after the introduction of the euro, people have totally accepted the euro as the currency in the country. They know obviously that the lack of monetary sovereignty and inability to devalue a national currency is a problem when markets are low. The solution is seen in a better adjustment to the euro zone in general, improvement in our competitiveness and necessary changes in our economic and social model which will allow competitiveness to grow and also social stability to continue.

RT: Angela Merkel’s push against the Lisbon Treaty budgetary criteria: do you see this as a power shift from Brussels to Berlin?

DT: There has always been a division of power, so to speak. And I think that we should not forget the EU is not a state; the EU is a system of sovereign states. And in that context, Germany as the major contributor of funds to the EU and a major economic powerhouse of the EU has a legitimate role. We do not deny that, it is a leading role. But it has to be exercised in a manner which allows solutions to be in the interests of the entire EU.

RT: Also, the EU has mooted a visa-free regime with Russia, but the details are still thin on the ground. What do you think would be a good first step in this direction?

DT: I think we need political determination first. I think we need to change the political awareness about these things. But in the EU there is still hesitation, and I think this hesitation has to be overcome. Freedom of movement is a human right; we should never forget that.

RT: Do you see Russia as a part of Europe?

DT: Certainly, in a cultural sense, in a political sense, yes. But I certainly see Russia as a part of the European space; it has been so for centuries.

RT: Previously you’ve called for a multilateral framework to consolidate energy supplies to the EU markets. Today not much has been done in that perspective. How do you assure of the EU consumer security?

DT: I think we need a much wider multilateral outlook, because energy security depends on a multitude of players. Russia is always there, Russia is a key player, a key supplier, a key partner, and most of us in Europe have an extremely good experience with Russia. We have been buying Russian gas in Slovenia for 32 years by now and it has always worked perfectly. So there is no reason why we should be in any way uncomfortable with that. We need Russia in that multilateral framework. But we need others as well, both consumers and suppliers. That has not been done because we have worked on specific projects – Nord Stream, South Stream, Nabucco and other projects. But I think the time has come to look at the whole picture and work out a co-operative arrangement for the future.

RT: You’ve touched on South Stream. How would the development of South Stream change the energy sector in Slovenia? What exactly do you expect from it?

DT: We see the multiplying effect of the gas pipeline, because the gas pipeline brings not only gas, it brings other economic activities. It brings gas-based electricity plants which we need and others need in the region. And we can develop that to produce electric energy. And secondly, there are also other elements in the pipeline like for example optic cables, communication networks that can also be developed in that context. This is an opportunity. It’s really a basic opportunity. Let’s look at these opportunities in a co-operative framework with more confidence than we were used to before.

RT: You speak about the multilateral framework in terms of consumer and supplier, but on a different occasion you told RT that one should connect with where the energy is, and energy is in Russia. Why are you so persistent about Nabucco?

DT: Well, I am not persistent. Slovenia is not a part of Nabucco project.

RT: But you are a part of the EU.

DT: Yes, we are part of the EU. We would like to see the totality. We do not see these as mutually exclusive projects. We believe in South Stream. And we would like South Stream to progress rapidly. Nabucco is a separate project, but not the one that excludes the South Stream project. I’d like to see a meeting where both would be discussed. As I’ve said we have to improve the level of confidence of these discussions.

RT: Mr. President, Slovenia was one of the countries to be consumed both by Fascism and Communism during the World War II.

DT: Yes.

RT: You actually stressed on importance of the Red Army and its role in liberating Europe from fascism. But as it seems today, Europe is still under threat, especially during the recession. What do you think you should do to tackle the raising fascism?

DT: I am not sure whether the extremist movements that we see today are fascist movements in the sense of the first half of the twentieth century. These are different movements. What we now have is an outburst of dissatisfaction among people which is turned against immigrants in particular. So we see elements of xenophobia, elements of racism, elements of chauvinism coagulating, being brought together into a sui generis movement of our time. And we have seen this in all parts of Europe. That’s very worrying. We see this from south to north. And even in Sweden these kinds of policies have made progress in the past months. We need obviously a conservative Christian democrat element which has to be strong and which has to respond to the part of the population which is attached to the traditional Christian values. We need left liberal socially-minded political actors as well. They have been somewhat in decline in the past years or so. But they have to figure out what are the priorities of our time are; where does one really improve the condition of working people and how does one improve solidarity in society.

RT: Sir, persecutions for political ideals is also a part of your country’s history. And now Russia and Poland are trying to reinvestigate the Katyn horrors. What advice would you give to those who are actually seeking to recover peace from their past?

DT: Well, that is a very difficult question. And I can tell you that we in Slovenia have also our part of difficult past and we have not been able to overcome it. We have constant discussions about this and constant reflections on the tragedy – not only tragedy, but also crimes that were committed. And these wounds are healing very slowly. In our country, in Slovenia, and elsewhere, we should first of all condemn all crimes irrespective of who committed them. We have to bury all the dead, and bury them with dignity. We have to commemorate the tragedy of all who died. And that’s not always easy to do, because there are many that would say: well, why should we return to the past? And I agree, we should not be enslaved, we should not be prisoners of our past. We have to find the right measure of ethical attitude towards the dead.