Speech by the Prime Minister of Iceland, Davíð Oddsson,
at a banquet in Slovenia - May 2000
It is an honour for me to be the first Icelandic Prime Minister to make an official visit to Slovenia and I am delighted to have the chance to see this beautiful country for myself. In my talks with the Prime Minister earlier today, a clear desire emerged on both sides to strengthen the ties between our countries, since we have very much in common, not least fundamental values and a shared vision of the world.
Iceland was the first country after the Vatican to recognize Slovenian independence in 1991. The newly independent states are very prominent in the Icelanders' thoughts even though more than fifty years have passed since Iceland became a republic and more than seventy years since it became independent. We know We know how much effort is worth making for independence and the benefits that can be reaped once it is attained.
It is admirable how the Slovenian nation has handled its domestic and foreign affairs during the less than ten years that it has enjoyed independence, and in fact the result is so impressive that it has drawn attention throughout Europe and much farther afield. This is true not only of its economic record but also in the field of democratic government and, not least, rights of minority groups. Slovenia can serve as a model for its neighbours who have suffered tragically in recent years as a result of undemocratic government, nationalist extremism and large-scale violations of human rights.
For this reason, Slovenia ought to find it easy to realize its aims of membership of the European Union and NATO during the coming years and be among the very first new states admitted to these organizations. Iceland is a member of NATO and I would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our firm support for the continuing enlargement of the Alliance.
I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Slovenia for its important support for the NATO action in Kosovo last year. We watched the way that decades of oppression sapped the countries behind the Iron Curtain of their strength and creativity. We know that the freedom and security of nations is not to be taken for granted and that the Western world might be losing a unique opportunity if the enlargement of NATO were to be halted.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I do not want to finish speaking here without mentioning the special friendship that the Prime Minister of Slovenia has shown towards Iceland and Icelandic interests in recent years. We have enjoyed good cooperation and particularly enjoyable relations for the past eight years.