Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, on the occasion of Slovenian Statehood Day, Ljubljana, 24 June 2011
Esteemed Citizens of Slovenia,
Fellow Slovenians around the world,
Our country is celebrating its twentieth birthday. Throughout Slovenia and elsewhere in the world, this day is intended to commemorate the hope and aspirations that marked the birth of the independent and sovereign Slovenia. Many participants in the War for Slovenia and the family members of those who sacrificed that which was most dear to them – their lives – are among us tonight. It is they who most deserve our thanks for the independence we won. This year, on the twentieth anniversary of our state, we extend a special word of gratitude to them. We also recall the many contributions made by civil society, its organisations and movements, and its ideas and leaders, who outlined the intellectual and political basis for our sovereign state in the years preceding Slovenian independence.
We needed wisdom and courage for independence. We had both.
Today, twenty years later, we are justly proud of our many achievements during our first two decades. Our country celebrates its first twenty years as a successful state for all its citizens, as a state, which has achieved much in all areas, and as a state which is well respected by its neighbours and the international community.
The presidents of all four of our friendly neighbouring countries are with us here tonight. We greatly appreciate the presence of our guests: Dr Heinz Fischer, the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, Dr Ivo Josipović, the President of the Republic of Croatia, Mr Giorgio Napolitano, the President of the Italian Republic, and Dr Pál Schmitt, the President of the Republic of Hungary. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a particularly warm greeting to the presidents of our neighbouring countries, who are with us tonight. Welcome! Your presence confirms our friendship, mutual respect and trust, our success in addressing neighbourly issues and our common will to promote good neighbourly relations, a prosperous future for the European Union, and a better world.
We are gathered here today in Ljubljana's renovated Congress Square. This is highly symbolic. The square serves as a reminder of Ljubljana as a city where, two centuries ago, a Congress of European Powers was held, which put Ljubljana on the world map for the first time. It reminds us that Ljubljana is a city of historic events – the thrilling and tragic, the difficult and beautiful – events that have shaped our history. At the same time, the current renovation of Ljubljana symbolises our ability to take on the challenges of the age and show the way forward. The capital of the Republic of Slovenia and all those who steer its present dynamic makeover, vital for the country as a whole, deserve special acknowledgement today.
I would like to take the opportunity presented by this ceremony to express my appreciation to the countless citizens of the Republic of Slovenia whose work, efforts and example are constantly building our country and nourishing its vitality and success. Today's celebration is your celebration. Be proud of the contributions you make! And let us all do our best to foster creative thinking and deeds, which focus on our joint development, and to generate the energy needed to enable Slovenia to become even better, even more successful, and earn even greater international respect.
We should not underestimate the achievements of the past twenty years. During this time, Slovenia has substantially increased prosperity, delivered a better quality of life, and maintained a high degree of social cohesion and social protection. Life expectancy in Slovenia has also increased considerably. We have an exemplary level of general security. Today, we are strongly anchored in the European economic and social environment. All competent and fair comparisons made with other European countries demonstrate that we are well placed. These comparisons must serve as a further boost to our self-confidence.
We are, at the same time, well aware of our weaknesses, drawbacks and limitations, which are, at present, particularly manifest in our political life.
During these twenty years, we have failed to wholly internalise the fact that we now have our own state and that we all bear responsibility for this country and its achievements. Our ability to agree on common objectives is too weak. The present Slovenian civil society is fragmented, its initiatives disjointed. Our common ability to formulate a tangible and sustainable long-term national interest is also too weak. There is too much pessimism and political destructiveness. There is not sufficient readiness for change.
We need a different state of mind, such that will allow us to focus our energies on the common good and direct us towards common objectives and the combining of our efforts. How are we to achieve this goal? We do not live in heroic times. We do not face any serious threat. It is more difficult now to shape a common will than it was twenty years ago, a time when we were threatened with violence and had to take up arms in self defence – in defence of human rights and our nation's self-determination.
Twenty years ago, in circumstances of great peril, we understood and accepted the necessity for change and this ultimately directed us towards our great common objective – our independence. Today, just like other crucial periods in our history, we need change. What is more, we need to make a break and make a breakthrough. We must make a break from our bad habits and all the negatives, which have accumulated over the past decades. We need to make a determined break from the phenomena of corruption and clientelism, and make a decisive breakthrough in order to give effect to a responsible, market- and social-based economic model. We need a decisive break from disrespect for the rule of law, and a firm breakthrough in giving full respect to the rule of law and its successful institutional implementation. We need our politics to sober up; we need a purposeful break from politicking, and a decisive breakthrough leading to the maturity of political parties, the coalition governing effectively, and responsible actions by the opposition.
These are important tasks. They are urgent and feasible. They are taking shape.
It is increasingly understood that our country needs to be better run. The State is a precious instrument, which requires careful handling and calls for far more respect than we are able to afford it today. In a sovereign state, we are all committed to respecting the fundamental principle that our state institutions are essential for the common good. We must respect the authority of the law, the State, and its legislative, executive and judicial bodies and we must demand that they carry out their duties in a fair, responsible and efficient manner. The former goes hand in hand with the latter.
In addition, we must accept the fact that higher standards are required in our economic and social policies. Our development model is more or less exhausted. Our population is getting older and our international environment ever more demanding. We are part of a Europe and a world where economic success is harder to achieve, while life calls for more knowledge and creativity. We must search for solutions in education and employment that will be in line with the requirements of our time. We have to find solutions for the strengthening of creativity and entrepreneurship. The added value of our products needs to be higher. The quality of our services needs to be better.
And finally – we have to understand that consensus on the solutions required can be reached only through tolerant discussion in the absence of histrionics, bitterness and negativity. We can set and achieve our goals only when, in the first place, we are generally successful in improving the level of our political discourse and the quality of our democracy. We must strengthen the culture of dialogue. We must be ready to listen to each other and to debate with supporting arguments. We need to be politically aware that it is unacceptable to subject common state interests to the needs of party-based or personal aspirations. We need civil society to engage more in order for us to significantly improve the quality of our politics.
Through a better quality of politics, reasonable choices and rational behaviour and, in particular, a strongly emphasised orientation towards the common good, we will be able to achieve our development objectives and make our longing for a better world a reality. Today, Slovenia is among the thirty most developed countries in the world. This is a good achievement, containing many built-in efforts from our past. Certainly, we can do better. However, our future achievements depend on the decisions and deeds of today.
More now than ever before, we must be aware of the fact that our decisions and deeds today will determine the destiny of future generations. More now than ever before, we have to devote our attention to the future of the young and provide for their energy to be better integrated into the development efforts of our society. The young have to be given quality education and genuine opportunities for employment. Our reforms must focus on creating new opportunities in line with the requirements of our time and, particularly, on new and suitable jobs for the young. This is the only way that the young will be able to create their own security, family, and a promising future. This is the only way for the younger generation to give its full and creative contribution to our common development. This is also the only way in which to provide for intergenerational solidarity and social cohesion. The long-term future of our country will be ensured only if the young are given the opportunity to make their creative contribution to it. History never waits.
Esteemed Citizens of the Republic of Slovenia,
The twentieth anniversary of our country is a moment when we look back on our previous development, which gives us great cause for pride and self-confidence. At the same time, this imposes an obligation upon us. The problems that we are required to solve today cannot be passed on to someone else or procrastinated over. They must be solved here and now, in particular through joint efforts and with a true sense for the common good. We have the capability and knowledge to do it. Mutual confidence and creative dialogue will help us to achieve this. Let us celebrate this great holiday of ours in a spirit of self-confidence and optimism. In this spirit, I would like to offer my congratulations to all our citizens on Slovenian Statehood Day. Let me, together with you, extend my best wishes to our country for a successful and secure future.
Good luck, Slovenia!