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Statement of the President of the Republic of Slovenia on the addressing of the case of the Strojan family

Ljubljana, 11/19/2006  |  press release

The President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek notes with regret that the Government’s efforts to date in the search for a solution to the question of the permanent residence, life and protection of property of the Strojans, a Roma family from Ambrus, have not yet fulfilled expectations. This is not encouraging for the international reputation of the Republic of Slovenia or for the consolidation of democratic relations in the country, which should be based on the tolerance, coexistence and understanding of all citizens of the Republic of Slovenia regardless of their cultural, racial, national or ethnic, social or linguistic origin and difference.

The President of the Republic calls on local residents, all citizens of Slovenia and the Strojan family to seek, in a spirit of tolerance and understanding and respect for the person, human life, dignity and property, together with non-governmental organisations, the local community, municipal Roma councillors and the government of the Republic of Slovenia, in tolerant and understanding dialogue, a solution that in accordance with fundamental human rights and the principles of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Slovenia is acceptable and binding for all affected and interested parties. Above all the solution must guarantee equality, justice, dignity and safety both for the Roma family and their fellow local residents. It is impossible to address and strengthen relationships based on human warmth and understanding by means of force, threats and the methods that we witnessed in the country that we renounced precisely because we did not accept enforced decisions, threats, collective violence and intolerance. This reminds us of unpleasant times and causes us to doubt the effectiveness of the state governed by the rule of law. At the same time these events also damage the international prestige of the Republic of Slovenia as a full member of the European Union which through its membership, like the other Member States, has bound itself to respect and apply its basic acts and directives. This binds us to respect the fundamental rights set out in the general principles of Community law, including the rights, freedoms and principles contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01) and the European Convention on Human Rights. It is our duty to invest all possible human effort into promoting and strengthening peace, non-violence and permanent intercultural dialogue. As the majority, we must show special understanding and care for deprived groups in society such as the Roma, by adopting positive measures or even special legislation, if we wish to ensure them effective participation in the life of society and, above all, in public life, so that they can more effectively influence the decisions that affect them. For this reason the President of the Republic welcomes the efforts of the Government and some of the parliamentary parties to place before Parliament, as soon as possible, a bill for the additional regulation of questions relating to Roma in the Republic of Slovenia.

It is evident that as a society and as a country we have underestimated the problem. We have concerned ourselves too little with introducing positive practices for the prevention of discrimination and violence against those who are different. State bodies, parliamentary parties, non-governmental organisations and the media have all done too little in this sphere. It is our duty to rectify this. May the sympathetic resolution of the issue of the permanent safety of the Strojans and their children be our first serious challenge to begin strengthening relationships in local communities in understanding, trust, respect, tolerance, safety, justice and legality among all the inhabitants. We must not allow people to succumb to intolerance, xenophobia, racial and other hatred or even violence. The year 2007 has been designated the Year of Equal Opportunities for All. Let us Slovenes accept this challenge today and prove, through concrete actions, that we are capable, tolerantly and deliberately, of addressing and eliminating reappearances of intolerance.

The President of the Republic also calls on competent bodies to continue, through constant preventive work within the law, and through appropriate organisation, the activities that have been initiated, and to protect the safety of people and their property, which naturally includes the safety of life and property of Roma. If violations of laws are committed by either side, these bodies are obliged to act. The addressing of embittered mutual relations and mistrust must not be left to the arbitrary action of individuals or groups of local residents, nor to a manifestation of brutal and spontaneous verbal or physical violence. The competent judicial authorities, bodies responsible for social security and welfare and other bodies must take a more responsible and decisive role in proceedings.

Only through joint efforts and endeavours, understanding and tolerance, will we Slovenes consolidate mutual trust in the safe and understanding coexistence of people and in a life compatible with human dignity. It is our duty to restore and create an atmosphere of peace, trust, safety and mutual respect among all people, irrespective of difference and irrespective of past events. This is the responsibility of all of us for the future democratic development of Slovenia and for the putting into effect of the constitutional provision that Slovenia is a state governed by the rule of law and a social state.