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Slovenia, may there be many years ahead

Ljubljana, 06/24/2003  |  speech

Click to enlargeAddress by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek on the occasion of Slovene National Day

Dear citizens of Slovenia,

The Slovenian state is celebrating its 12th birthday today. We say that we are 12 years young. A tender age for a country, though maturity was needed to even get our own country in the first place. Its creation was mature, democratic, enjoying the broad support of the plebiscite decision of our citizens. Our former federation was too unnatural, too inflexible a structure to exist without coercion, at the free will of all its constituent nations and peoples. Its internal relations were insufficiently democratic, the mechanisms of common action not equitable enough to meet the expectations and the needs of all its citizens and nations. We strived to achieve independence in a peaceful manner, to appease the previously tensed relations through dialogue. Regrettably the other side did not accept this and tried to hold back Slovenia's independence through military force. We were successful in defending ourselves in that ten-day war.

The great unity and resolve of the citizens of Slovenia convinced both the aggressors and the international community that the will of the people cannot be broken by military force. The successful negotiations that followed brought Slovenia's story of independence to a successful close. That could not have happened without the support of a large majority of our citizens, of our compatriots across the border and further abroad, as well as many friends who stood by our side in those historic moments, inciting us with courage and resolve. Our endless gratitude goes out to them.

Click to enlargeRegrettably, some of us had to give their lives for independence. National Day is an opportunity to remember them. We also regret the perished soldiers of the JNA; they were launched into a senseless war, which they neither wanted nor understood. We also regret the horrific suffering of our former landsmen from other Yugoslav republics. Hundreds of thousands perished and millions lost their homes. Yet another tremendous reminder to mankind of what senseless escalation of ethnic and religious differences can lead to. They pushed into oblivion the fundamental and universal value of humaneness.

Twelve years on, all of this seems history long past. So much happened in these years. Many doubted that a new country of two million would survive, especially following the total disintegration of the former country, which it had strong economic links with. But we survived, we developed successfully. The new parliamentary and capital based market system, which we took on as a matter of course with the creation of the new state, made us comparable with the countries we once wanted to approach. Today, Slovenia is among the top thirty countries in the world according to the human development index. They say we are the most successful transition country. We ourselves know that a lot still needs doing in order to ensure a decent living and jobs for all our citizens. That is not easy. The struggle for survival in this world is tough and unyielding, yet this does not absolve us from the task of striving for a better life for all. In the mass of work and changes we undertook, we might have made mistakes, injustices may have happened. That is understandable. What is important is that we are aware of them and that we strive to rectify them.

We were not fully prepared for the larger social gaps brought on by the new economic system. We still are not, especially if we believe that these differences are unjustified and that they are not the result of someone's better work or actual performance. In spite of the problems of transition we strived to preserve the highest possible levels of social solidarity and security. As much as sustainable development and international competition permits. We live on a very small territory, almost all of us know one another. It would be difficult for us to accept such social stratification as is known by many other places around the world.

This twelfth year of independent life in our country is particularly important for our future. The general will of the people decided in favour of EU and NATO accession. This was not an easy decision for a young country - especially after the bitter experience with the former federation. The foundations of this new alliance are completely different, though. The kind that we wanted to have back then.
Never in the history of the Slovene nation had our position been as solid as it is today. EU and NATO accession ensure as much equality and security as this world has to offer.

Certainly, we have not answered all the questions, doubts and fears of human life and coexistence. No country or ideology has ever succeeded in doing so. The European Union is in our firm belief the most progressive achievement of civilisation in terms of coexistence of states and peoples. Its goals are very dear to us: respect of human rights, recognition of differences, strengthening of civil society, sustainable development where economic success is paralleled by efforts for a decent living for all citizens, care for health and for a clean environment.

All of this, however, cannot be implemented merely through laws, institutions and regulations. We would in fact prefer them to be fewer. We could thus develop more creativity. But neither the European nor the Slovene bureaucracy can do it all alone. They can improve, they can become more open, more down-to-earth, without themselves becoming the purpose of their existence. Institutions often develop their own lives and alienate themselves from the people. This applies so much more so to companies, to multinationals giving rise to many disequilibria in the world. It is only through responsible policy at the level of states and their alliances, responsible corporate governance and civic pressure that we can expect more balanced development.

Things will only change once we raise and fine-tune the general awareness of our ability to survive on our own only if we at the same time look after those living in distress, in poverty, with the awareness that we must preserve our environment, clean air, water and soil for our future generations. What matters more than the letter of the law, than coercion, are our mutual relations, understanding, tolerance, openness, mutual respect. The need for a positive attitude towards ourselves and towards others is perhaps what we need to place particular emphasis on.

In the past we attempted to resolve imbalances and tensions in society through violent revolutions and radical institutional changes. History shows that such behaviour only leads to new imbalances and brings about only more wrath. It is also clear today that blind faith in market mechanisms and in the logic of capital will not resolve the world's or the individual's problems. Quite the opposite. Disproportions and tensions are on the increase. It is precisely for this reason that the European project and our own national project are of such importance. They are striving to complement in a meaningful way the logic of capital with social and environmental adjustments in order to ensure sustainable development. Through a culture of peace, equality between nations and states, tolerance, respect of minorities, religious freedom and ecumenical tolerance, they are trying to eradicate the causes of millennia of wars in Europe. It is in this way, through a united Europe, that we shall try to influence global relations and to alleviate the negative effects of globalisation. It is in this way that we shall strive for peace. With care for people in need, with tolerance and mutual respect, there should be no reason for the so-called clash of civilisations. Especially if we manage to better attract other nations and states to such efforts.

Distinguished citizens,

Twelve years ago we were drifting on the tidal waves of history. We could have drowned, but we swam ashore. We could have let ourselves get drawn into a great war, but we avoided it. We created a new country. For the first time in our thousand-year history. In these twelve years we tried to make it as good as we could. We worked to equip it as best we could, taking into consideration the experiences and models of other, mainly European countries. We must now give it soul, make it a kind place to live in, for that is its purpose.
I wish you every personal satisfaction and peace on the occasion of National Day, every success at work and a kind life in our beautiful homeland

Slovenia, may there be many years ahead!
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