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Toast by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, at the official dinner, hosted by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Georgij Parvanov

Sofia, Bulgaria, 06/17/2003  |  speech

Dear Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
it is my great pleasure to be among you again, in your beautiful capital Sofia. It is no coincidence that I have decided to pay one of my first official visits as President of the Republic of Slovenia to the Republic of Bulgaria. I have come to a country with which we not only have good mutual relations, but also common aspirations and expectations for the future.

Next week, Slovenia will celebrate its twelfth anniversary of independence. Today, when we look back on the path taken independently, we are glad to note that we have come a long way: Slovenia is a democratic, economically successful country, well grounded in the international community. We are nevertheless aware that we could not have achieved all of this alone, despite our determination and courage. Therefore we are grateful for the strong friendship Bulgaria has continuously demonstrated to Slovenia since our independence.

Mr President, dear friends,
from the very beginning of their relations, Slovenia and Bulgaria have shared common endeavours to achieve strategic goals, in particular to gain membership of the Euro-Atlantic institutions. Last November at the Prague Summit, both countries received a long-awaited invitation to join the North Atlantic Alliance. The readiness to enter this system of collective security demonstrates the will, strength and confidence of our two countries not only to follow world events, but also to participate in them on equal footing and with equal tasks, and to jointly shape.

The confidence and a responsible approach to foreign policy of both of our countries are also reflected in the preparations for a more important role in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I strongly believe that in the year to come, Bulgaria will successfully and with all the necessary wisdom preside over this important institution. Your experience will be most valuable to Slovenia, which is preparing to hold the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2005. In the following months, this will most surely lead to an even stronger political cooperation between our two countries.

Mr President,
Slovenia’s entry to the European Union next year will additionally contribute to our deeper relations. The signing of the Accession Treaties in Athens marked a historic day not only for the ten candidate countries, but for all Europe. The European mosaic of nations, languages and cultures is finally growing into a common entity, Bulgaria being its integral part. We wish that you may soon follow us into the European Union. Therefore I would like to underline Slovenia’s readiness to offer Bulgaria all the required support and help to achieve the set goal of gaining membership by 2007.

The upcoming entry of Slovenia and other candidate countries into the European Union will for the first time provide the latter with an important Slavic dimension. Slavic roots, language and culture represent an important link between our two nations. This is why I am glad to see Bulgaria’s support to the Slovene initiative for the establishment of the Slavic Cultural Forum that could, uniquely, function as a bridge between the EU member states and the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The citizens of Slovenia do, in fact, feel that present endeavours to surpass former European borders should in no way lead to new divisions.

Mr President,
I would like to take this opportunity to express our wish that we may better avail ourselves of the favourable atmosphere of good and friendly relations to deepen our economic cooperation. I am glad to note that Bulgaria’s membership in CEFTA has provided fresh impetus for the trade in goods between our two countries. I firmly believe that the Bulgarian market will also in the future remain significant for Slovene businessmen who, with their Bulgarian colleagues, realize a higher volume of trade than with some of the EU member states. I am glad that shortly, Slovenia and Bulgaria will conclude an agreement on avoiding double taxation, and that in the last six months, Slovene and Bulgarian economic delegations have exchanged visits. It is vital to promote direct contacts between our entrepreneurs, investors and tourism workers, and to define them as a priority task. I therefore welcome the planned participation of Bulgarian representatives at the Regional Business Meeting Point at Bled in October this year.

Mr President,
before concluding, may I remind all of us here that Slovenia and Bulgaria share an important historic experience. Both have become modern countries on the basis of defiance against a stronger force and out of conviction that each nation should master its own destiny. The noble yearning for freedom was common also to our greatest poets France Prešeren and Ivan Vazov, who during Europe’s “Spring of Nations” advocated a humanistic vision of equality and the right to independence. For this reason, too, our plans and cooperation must be oriented towards the future, towards constructing a new Europe of equal and strongly interconnected nations, who will contribute to its image, both jointly and individually.

As a final greeting, allow me, dear Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, to toast to the friendship of our countries and nations, to our common future, and dear friends, to all of you.
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