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Slovenia's ten years in the Council of Europe

Ljubljana, 05/13/2003  |  press release

Article by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Janez Drnovšek for the DELO newspaper supplement marking the 10th anniversary of Slovenia's membership in the Council of Europe

Today, after more than five decades of this international organisation's existence, we can say that the founding of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949 was a kind of resistance and protest against the forced division of Europe, and at the same time an announcement of renewed unification based on the common values of Europe’s tradition. From the very beginning, and throughout the subsequent phases of association – which are still going on today – the Council of Europe has remained the guardian of tradition and at the same time a creator of the new Europe in the very best sense of the word.

For this reason the Council of Europe is justifiably a synonym for the oldest and widest association of European countries: it is their forum and a permanent school of democracy for the new members, as well as for those countries with so-called established democracy. They are bound together by values without which no common life of different individuals, cultures, nations, minorities and countries is possible.

What are these values? First and foremost they are respect for the free individual and his or her inalienable rights, which are protected by countries based on the rule of law, as well as by the international community. It was to this end that the European Court of Human Rights was established; respect of linguistic, cultural, ethnic and other differences are guaranteed by numerous international legal documents, created and safeguarded by the Council of Europe. Only on the basis of these values is it possible to have a democracy which ensures that people live freely in their everyday lives, that countries exercise their legitimate interests and that they resolve their mutual problems peacefully.

Of all international organisations, the Council of Europe has perhaps most convincingly and consistently incorporated into its working that civilising awareness which teaches that the coexistence of countries is possible only with respect for differences.

The philosophy described here is the foundation stone upon which at the end of the Cold War, the Council of Europe established itself at the forefront of the international organisations that most rapidly and clearly drafted the framework of the new European architecture. This process of association has in the last ten years evolved gradually and not always without difficulty, but seen in its entirety, it has been successful, and has progressed in a genuine mutual complementing of the main European and trans-Atlantic organisations.

In ten years Slovenia has shown itself to be a very active member, respecting human and minority rights and to the best of its abilities enhancing democratic institutions and establishing the rule of law. We wish to function as an active and rationally connected link in international relations, consolidating our alliances, helping others and building a common future in the European family of countries.

We may perhaps need here to recall the common state of Yugoslavia, which was incapable of taking this step of becoming a member – something that would have signified its modernisation and Europeanisation – and in this way it announced its own imminent collapse. For this reason it is very good that today all the countries that have emerged out of the former Yugoslavia, are members of the Council of Europe, since they have thereby announced their determination to pursue further approximation to the European Union and Nato.

I am convinced that in the years to come Europe will be shaped into a complete geopolitical whole, something indicated by the gradual completion of the membership of countries in the Council of Europe. Yet this whole cannot be self-contained or closed, and the Council of Europe is therefore far from exhausting its mission: on the one hand it will continue to strive for an intensification of the internal European dialogue, and on the other hand it will also need to play its part in globalisation as a forum for dialogue with non-European cultures and civilisations and their organisations.

Without the universal ethics pervading the entire working of the Council of Europe, people in many parts of the world might sense globalisation primarily as the forcing of European standards on the rest of the world.

The Council of Europe is therefore a symbol of modernity, on which it makes true sense to build the future. For all the newly established and newly democratised countries of Central and Eastern Europe, membership in the Council of Europe was the first step towards normalisation and Europeanisation on the path to the European Union and Nato – in fact the only prospect leading to a stable and peaceful future in the family of countries that have bound themselves to the same values and to the gradual adoption of the same standards.
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