THE GENERAL DEBATE
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Slovakia as an EU acceding country fully endorses the statement made by the Prime Minister of Italy on behalf of the European Union. The positions and ideas expressed in Mr. Berlusconi's address perfectly reflect the values that are common to the government and people of Slovakia. I will therefore concentrate only on some topics that we consider the most important.
At the outset, I should like to congratulate you most warmly on your assumption of the presidency and wish you every success in discharging your important duties. You can rely on Slovakia's support and cooperation. Let me also add the voice of my delegation to those who have thanked your predecessor Mr. Jan Kavan for his contribution to the work of this august body.
Among the most challenging issues, the one that has drawn the closest attention of the world community is the situation in Iraq. We should join our efforts to help the Iraqi people in reconstructing their country and building a democratic society, which is the best course of action for stabilizing still volatile situation on the ground. The unprecedented tragedy of the destruction of the UN Baghdad headquarters, which ripped out from our midst the lives of many brave UN personnel, including special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, and to whom we again pay our undivided tribute, has shown that no target is safe. Uniting in help to Iraq has become a matter of our common interest.
The Security Council resolution 1483 laid an important framework enabling the international community to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction. At that time, Slovakia decided to participate in stabilization operations in Iraq by sending out mine-clearing experts. Though, given our capacity and the number of Slovak troops already deployed in active peacekeeping missions around the globe, it makes only a token contribution, I believe, it also shows our commitment to creating the conditions in which the Iraqi people can build their own future. As more troops are needed on the ground, we support the efforts to win greater participation from the willing countries. The United Nations with a specific mandate must play a greater role in the Iraqi post-war restoration.
Iraq must show that a free and democratic country is the
inevitable replacement for a dictatorship. A democratic and prosperous
Iraq is important to peace and security in the Middle East directly affecting
the rest of the world.
The difficult economic and social situation in Afghanistan, where people continue striving for building a democratic and viable society, is still leaving room for resurgence of extremists. The international community cannot move away from Afghanistan. It must stay committed and continue providing the necessary assistance to the Afghan people. I am pleased to announce that last July the Slovak Parliament decided to extend the participation of Slovakia in "Operation Enduring Freedom."
Ten years after Israelis and Palestinians astounded the world by signing the Oslo Accords, the two sides again are locked in a cycle of violence, attacks, counter-attacks and revenge. It is unfortunate that the latest wave of violence has come at the time when the Road Map has started showing signs of hope and promise. Slovakia is deeply concerned over the deteriorating situation. Recent tragic and violent events have caused enormous suffering and resulted in many innocent victims. In the, face of the current situation, both sides must act responsibly with the outmost restraint and consider carefully the enormously negative consequences of a complete breakdown of the peace process. The only realistic way out of the impasse is the creation of a viable Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, the security and survival of each guaranteed. Every effort has to be made to keep the Road Map on the table because there is no other alternative. Both sides must fully and without further delay implement their obligations in accordance with the Road Map. Slovakia reiterates its support to the Road Map and sees the role of the Quartet in the peace process as irreplaceable and essential.
We shall not drop our efforts to fight against global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Underestimation of this peril could have a fateful impact for international community. The United Nations must continue to play a decisive role in this fight. The Slovak Republic appreciates and fully supports the activities of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. Slovakia, as a party to all 12 global international conventions against terrorism, successfully implemented their provisions into its legislation.
As a party to various international conventions and treaties, Slovakia supports joint efforts to adopt global international legal instruments and standards concerning the principle of rule of law. The ratification process of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is well under way in the Slovak Republic and it should be completed by the end of this year.
In the past decade, we have witnessed an exponential growth of peacekeeping activities in an increasing number of conflicts in all parts of the globe. The recent comprehensive reform has significantly improved the effectiveness of planning and management of ever more complex and challenging UN peacekeeping operations. However, the most important factor for the success of the United Nations' peacekeeping is still the political will of member states and their readiness to contribute contingents and equipment. To support and sustain the increasing number of peacekeeping operations, timely payment of financial contributions is necessary.
Slovakia has been among the leading contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations since it became the member of the United Nations in 1993. Our peacekeepers are currently serving in 6 UN mission in Africa, Asia and Middle East. With a clear understanding of the new threats to our security and a willingness and ability to help tackle them, our engagement in peace support operations around the world will expand even more when we join EU and NATO next year. Slovakia's active involvement in peacekeeping operations confirms that the maintenance of international peace is among the priorities of our foreign policy.
In recent years attacks on humanitarian workers and on United Nations personnel have increased alarmingly. We therefore welcome the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1502 (2003) on the protection of United Nations personnel, associated personnel and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones. It emphasizes the obligation of each Member State to take every step in its authority to protect those working under the blue flag and to bring to justice those who attacked or harmed them. Slovakia has been a party to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel since 1996 and we invite States that have not yet done so to become a party to this very important international legal instrument, which provides for the protection of the UN and associated personnel.
One of the most important steps towards achieving international justice and putting an end to impunity for the most serious violations of human rights, war crimes and genocide was the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Slovakia, being a State Party to its Rome Statute, is firmly committed to ensuring that the Court is an independent, fair and effective institution. The election of eighteen judges, the Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor was essential for the successful start of its work. We are convinced that their expertise and moral integrity ensure the highest standards in their performance and will guarantee fair and impartial justice.
Slovakia views arms control as a pivotal instrument of security policy. Here I would like to reiterate our continuous support for the further strengthening of major international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, such as the Non¬Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It would be most appropriate to reinforce this cornerstone of nuclear non-proliferation by the speedy bringing into force of another significant instrument - the comprehensive nuclear test ban. Hence my delegation's repeated call upon those who have not yet done so to accede to the CTBT as soon as possible.
Slovakia also encourages those countries that have not signed or ratified the Ottawa Convention to do so quickly. The terror from landmines, despite their limited military utility, continues to spread along with the appalling humanitarian consequences of their use in actual conflicts.
With the entry of my country into the EU, Slovakia is taking over moral responsibilities towards the poorer countries of the world. Just as Slovakia had been receiving aid in the past, now it is duty-bound to help reduce social tensions and poverty in other parts of the world. It is our contribution to achieving the Millennium Developments Goals. Slovakia is systematically and consistently preparing its compact and efficient development agenda. The Slovak Government has recently adopted legal framework and strategy of the development assistance. An important step in developing official assistance was the approval of the first annual budget in December 2002.
The current, modest ODA, reflects the potential of our growing economy and we are convinced that effective and efficient use and a sustained growth of this ODA will place Slovakia more firmly within the group of new emerging donors.
We share the appeals for the strengthening of the role of the United Nations and for improving efficiency and the working methods of its major organs. First and foremost, the comprehensive reform of the Security Council and revitalization of the General Assembly is needed.
In the last year, the international community has had to deal with events whose significance have put to the test the principles governing international relations since the birth of the UN Charter. Though it is undisputed that the validity of these principles remains undiminished, we can not shy away from seeking the answers and solution to the fundamental global challenges that we face today, including extreme poverty, drug smuggling, the spread of deadly diseases and global climate change. Finding the appropriate solutions to these and other issues -requires multilateral cooperation with viable United Nations at its core. We all wish to see a strong and decisive United Nations capable of effectively responding to current and future challenges. Slovakia stays committed to multilateralism and its fundamental institutions.
Thank you for your attention.