Address by the President at the diplomatic reception ceremony
Brdo pri Kranju, 7.2.2012 | speech
Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, at the 2012 diplomatic reception ceremony
Brdo pri Kranju, 7 February 2012
Your Excellency, Dean of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The past year was a testing time; while now, at the beginning of this new year, we face a number of uncertainties. The international economic situation remains precarious and raises many questions about future development. The issues at hand concern the role of the state in ensuring development, the role of market forces, and the part to be played by the financial sector. These are major issues that concern all countries – each in its own way. Slovenia is no exception. During the past year, we have managed to maintain social cohesion and restore economic growth, but there remain important tasks regarding the public finances and the urgent economic and social reforms. Early elections were held towards the end of last year. The new government is now being formed, and we wish it success in meeting its challenges.
Last year, at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of our independence, we reviewed our independence to date. We have many reasons to celebrate and a number of enviable achievements. At the same time, this was an opportunity to look back on the path we have travelled, the experiences we have gained, and the changes we must adopt to re-energize our economy. In the past, our traditional tendency to favour caution and a gradualist approach helped us to avoid many of the traps that come with economic transition, but, over time, this has become an obstacle to the adoption of essential reforms. We need these reforms in order to establish a new development model.
In these times of uncertainty, it is vital that Slovenia's international status is stable and that the fundamental directions of our foreign policy are clear. The primary test of every country’s foreign policy concerns its relations with its neighbouring countries. During Slovenia's twenty years of independence, we have successfully developed relations with our neighbours and, in recent years, made considerable progress. This was symbolically confirmed through the participation of the presidents of all four of our neighbouring countries – Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary – at the state ceremony celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Slovenia's independence. Those bilateral issues that remain are solved between us from the perspective of equal partners, with constructive and tolerant dialogue. We are particularly looking forward to the forthcoming accession of Croatia to the European Union, which will further enrich our bilateral relations with a new dimension of cooperation and with the possibility of joint actions.
The European Union, especially the euro area, is facing turbulent times. We hear the predictions about the collapse of the euro. We also hear the criticisms about the crisis of decision-making, the crisis of leadership. It is my belief that we have sufficient wisdom and determination in the EU to meet such challenges together. With an emphasis on the word "together", since no member state or group of member states can resolve such issues alone, but only with the efforts of all its 27 – soon to be 28 – members. The existence of the euro and its recovery are in everybody’s interests, as well as in the interests of the whole international community. We need to agree on a comprehensive policy approach, which, besides austerity measures, fiscal consolidation and safeguarding mechanisms, will also entail measures to boost growth and competitiveness. In this context, the recent informal meeting of the European Council was encouraging. The efforts made to establish a fiscal balance and fiscal discipline are in the interests of each European Union member state and the European Union as a whole. But we need more. We need a new impetus for the European development model. The voice of the European Commission must be heard better. And we expect the European Parliament to articulate our common European vision clearly.
The events of the past year have often held a mirror to European Union foreign policy. We could frequently dwell on the image that we reflect beyond our borders. In this context, unity or a lack of unity in the EU has not been a major issue. Short-term interests too often obscure the strategic vision. The EU has been criticised for having double standards, for a patronising attitude, and for preaching. We have been forced to reconsider how we act or react to the challenges we were unable to best anticipate and respond to. On the other hand, the tasks we have undertaken with determination, belief and in unity have ensured success. Here, I primarily refer to the conference on climate change held in Durban. I believe that we have learned a great deal in the past year and that, on the basis of the experience gained, we can create a better and more efficient common foreign and security policy.
Slovenia is one of the strongest supporters of further EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, Turkey and the East. These are the strategic hinterlands of the European Union. Accession to the EU is the best way to achieve long-term stabilisation for its neighbourhood. A credible European perspective is the most powerful engine for change and reform towards a functioning market economy and democratisation. Slovenia actively supports the reform efforts made by the Western Balkans within the framework of regional political initiatives such as the Brdo process and development assistance. Slovenia advocates that Montenegro's accession negotiations begin as soon as possible and that Serbia soon meets the conditions to obtain candidate status. The enlargement process should continue.
We are also pleased that we can contribute to these efforts – through political acts, expert assistance, and in other ways. Mr Samuel ®gobar, hitherto Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, is now about to start his mission as EUSpecial Representative in Kosovo. I believe that his knowledge and experience will contribute on a practical level to the strengthening of the European perspective for the Western Balkans.
Along with the positive developments of last year, South-East Europe often looked back to its past. No good can come from this. However, some good news came from Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of the year regarding the agreement on the formation of the Council of Ministers. We expect that this will give impetus to the implementation of necessary reforms and the fulfilment of the country's obligations regarding its future membership of the EU and NATO. Slovenia will also offer its support in this respect.
The European Union has taken the transatlantic alliance for granted for too long. Like any partnership, the EU – US relationship and the transatlantic alliance must be nurtured and supported. It is satisfying to see the positive developments that have occurred in this regard over the past year. What we need now are innovations in strengthening our common defence capabilities and collective action. At the recent Bonn conference, the international community confirmed its long-term commitment to the stability, security and development of Afghanistan. This is a strong commitment, which requires persistence in partnership as well as an innovative approach in seeking positive and practical solutions for the future.
Over the past year, there has been significant progress made in relations between the EU and Russia, and NATO and Russia, but more significant progress, particularly with the latter, has been hindered by persistent mistrust and misunderstanding. Further efforts will be needed here and Slovenia is willing to support these endeavours to the best of its ability.
These days we remember last year's events in North Africa, which have led to dramatic changes in the region. The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and other countries remind us that regimes founded on oppression, the systematic violation of human rights and flagrant violations of the rule of law cannot endure. A desire for freedom, respect and fundamental human dignity is inherent in all people. The events in the Arab world are part of the global trend towards democratisation, which has transformed Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and South-East Asia in the past decades. These long-term and painful processes are now underway in the Arab world. They require the establishment of legitimate, democratic and efficient institutions which enable a more just economic, social and political development. Europe can be of assistance in this regard, but must not impose its models and experience.
The events in the Arab world have made the need to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even more pressing. The further stagnation of the negotiating process accompanied by negative developments on the ground can only lead to the further destabilisation of the already fragile situation in the region. The time left to find a viable two-state solution, which is the only way in which to bring peace and stability, is fast running out. The internal political situation for those involved must not serve as an excuse or hinder the search for a solution.
Last September, we commemorated the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the US, a moment that has changed the world in many ways. International anti-terrorist cooperation has strengthened and must continue in this vein. Ten years later, we now see that the terrorist threat is far more versatile, serious and unexpected in nature than we could ever have imagined. This has been proved by the recent mass killings in Norway, where the perpetrator of this horrific act attempted to make his criminal idea trans-border in nature, and change Europe as a result. The global economic crisis provides a breeding ground for the growth of extremism and intolerance, including the rise of neo-Nazism. Rather than tolerating or even instigating such incidents, the politicians and media must instead be the first to fight them.
Within the framework of Slovenia's commitment to efficient multilateralism, great attention was focused last year on climate change issues, sustainable development, good governance and human rights. Confronting the global challenges requires changes being made to the system of global governance. Changes in trends are at their most apparent in the economic and financial spheres, where the G-20 Group has become a key forum for coordinating the policies of the world's strongest economies. Slovenia participates in the Global Governance Group, which has raised questions on the legitimacy, transparency and inclusiveness of global governance, particularly in reference to the G-20 group. We should strengthen calls for the comprehensive reform of the UN, which is a prerequisite for maintaining its central role in global governance. Discussions on the reform of the UN Security Council have been going on for two decades; we cannot allow that this becomes a never-ending process.
Children's rights are the main focus of our activities in the area of human rights. In the past year, Slovenia chaired the UNICEF Executive Board and devoted particular attention to the protection of children's rights in its promotion of the campaign for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have not confined our efforts to the regulatory framework, but have also engaged in practical efforts. Our humanitarian and development aid projects include the rehabilitation of children injured or traumatised in war, assistance to children with special needs, and the promotion of education on the rights of the child.
This year will mark the twentieth anniversary of Slovenia's membership of the United Nations. Throughout this period, we have endeavoured to play an active and constructive role in the UN. Five years after becoming a UN member, Slovenia was elected to the UN Security Council and successfully participated in its activities. One year ago, we concluded a successful mandate in the recently established Human Rights Council. We have gained experiences that have strengthened our belief that all members – large and small – must participate for the future benefit of our planet.
The importance of cooperation between all the nations of the world is one of the key experiences gained from our two decades of independence. We trust all who sincerely believe in the power of international cooperation. We are deeply grateful to all of you who have devoted your professional lives as diplomats to this great goal. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you, your countries and all your heads of state a prosperous 2012. I am convinced that together we can create a better and safer world for us all.