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President Drnovšek talks of the importance of a policy of tolerance

Ohrid, Macedonia, 08/29/2003  |  press release

Today, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, attended the regional forum on Dialogue between Civilisations, held in Ohrid under the auspices of the Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, and the UNESCO General Secretary Koichiro Matsuura. The forum is a part of the programme of activities adopted by the United Nations in 2001 and implemented by UNESCO. This year was dedicated to the dialogue between different cultures and civilisations. The two-day gathering in Ohrid is also being attended by the Presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Hungary, Croatia, the presiding Bosnia and Herzegovina and high representatives from the European Union, the United Nations and other international organisations and non-governmental organisations.

UNESCO’s recommendations on the need to improve dialogue and create conditions for fruitful co-operation are particularly pertinent in SE Europe, where there is exceptional cultural diversity, and where various ethnic and national minorities, nations and languages exist side by side. Renowned speakers all emphasised the importance of co-operation, mutual tolerance and communication in a world which is becoming ever smaller. The experience of SE Europe has to serve as an incentive for finding ways of overcoming differences, for stressing that which unites rather than divides us, was one of the points emphasised by the morning’s contributors.

In his address, the Slovenian President Dr Drnovšek said that Ohrid is a special place, not just because of its beauty and cultural diversity, but because it was also the scene of one of the last attempts at a peaceful solution to the Yugoslav crisis. The then Presidency of the Presidency tried to find a way to resolve the crisis, but some of those involved unfortunately decided to take the path of violence, said Dr Drnovšek. He added that Ohrid was also where two years ago an important agreement was signed; an agreement which represents a framework of stability for modern Macedonia and of a peaceful co-existence between the various ethnic groups in that country. The Yugoslav crisis was a serious and dangerous warning as to what may happen if politicians do not resolve problems through dialogue. It is illustrative of a negative politics, based on the search for various external enemies, the encouragement of hatred and nationalism. It also shows that, even then, there were politicians who were trying to draw attention to the importance of tolerance, dialogue and patience. A policy of dialogue and tolerance often fails to produce rapid results and the proposed solutions are frequently not very popular. However, as the Yugoslav and many other examples show, only a policy based on dialogue, tolerance and co-operation produces long-term success, emphasised Dr Drnovšek.

President Drnovšek went on to say that the operation of political power is always difficult as it does not bring quick results and demands a great deal of patience. There is always a danger that people become impatient and individual politicians irresponsible, striving for over-rapid solutions. The international community is well aware of such pitfalls in the stabilisation of the SE Europe region. The example of the former Yugoslavia has to become a positive example for the whole of the humanity, as it emphasises the importance of building trust, tolerance, dialogue, moderate policies and mutual respect. It is important that the international community retains a presence in this part of Europe. The European Union is an example of a successful model of co-dependence for many nations and countries. Europe has experienced numerous crises and wars and the European Union has grown out of these negative experiences. It has built democratic institutions, which make intolerant policies and violence impossible. It is important that this aspect of the European Union is recognised by all the countries in the region. With its presence, the EU ensures that all the countries of SE Europe will gradually become a part of the Union. Democratic institutions and politics based on trust and dialogue are the only possible way forward for the countries of the region, added the Slovenian President, who went on to praise the efforts of the international community, one of which is represented by the forum, towards building an awareness that only dialogue and tolerance lead to the successful solution of problems.

In the afternoon, President Drnovšek will have separate meetings with UNESCO General Secretary Koichiro Matsuura, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and the special emissary for Kosovo, Harri Holkeri. Tomorrow morning, he will meet with the Croatian President, Stjepan Mesić.