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Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Carinthian plebiscite

Klagenfurt, 10. 10. 2020 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, and the President of the Republic of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, jointly attended the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Carinthian plebiscite, thus confirming the friendship between the two neighbouring countries. Both presidents were keynote speakers at the ceremony.

Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Carinthian plebiscite
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia. Check against delivery!

"Esteemed President Van der Bellen, my dear friend Alexander,
Esteemed Governor of Carinthia Kaiser, my dear friend Peter,
Dear Fellow Slovenians,
Dear Austrian Friends,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Speaking from this wonderful palace as the President of Slovenia, today I will address the Austrian, Slovenian and entire European public in my own language.

I will do so at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Carinthian plebiscite.

This anniversary could continue to divide us.

However, the President of Austria and I both sincerely hope that it brings us together instead.

That is why today we are attending this commemoration together for the first time as presidents of two friendly, neighbouring countries.

This decision was based on our mutual efforts to strengthen the exemplary neighbourly cooperation between Slovenia and Austria and on our sincere endeavours to build a common European home.

This joint commemoration is especially justified by the common fundamental European values of peace, coexistence, solidarity, respect, integration and cooperation.

This joint ceremony brings those values to life, which is why today Klagenfurt is the symbolic capital of a united Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Prince's Stone found its home here in this beautiful Armorial Hall.
For many centuries, it has represented a powerful symbol. Leaders took their oaths here, first in Slovenian and later in German.

Not every nation has a stone such as this one to build on.

Our two nations have and share this stone.

A century ago, the residents of this area decided at a plebiscite that the southern part of Carinthia would become a part of Austria.

Such a decision was also made by many Slovenians, who cast the deciding vote in favour of this decision.

The plebiscite marked the border for the first time.

This border left a mark in the centuries-old coexistence of the German-speaking and Slovenian-speaking residents of the former common state.

Before and after the plebiscite, many promises were made to Slovenians, especially in the Austrian State Treaty.

The promises and commitments were fulfilled in many aspects, but not in all.

Carinthian Slovenians anticipate that the process of their fulfilment will be accelerated, especially in the context of language.

In the words of Florjan Lipuš, a recipient of decorations from both of our countries: "Language makes us or breaks us; language will make us or break us."

Carinthian Slovenians say that their circumstances have undergone substantial change throughout history.

There were times when being Slovenian was very difficult.

However, they all agree that it is easier now than 30 or 50 years ago.

The atmosphere on both sides of the border improved due to Slovenia's independence and its transition to a democratic country.

The country's accession to the European Union and the Schengen area was especially beneficial for people's lives.

This was when the borders really began to disappear.

Today, Austria and Slovenia are neighbours, friends, partners and allies in their shared European home.

That is why today we are here together. Only by cooperating and coming together will we be able to ensure a peaceful and secure future for Slovenians, Austrians and Europeans.

I would therefore like to sincerely thank President Van der Bellen for his willingness and courage to cooperate in our efforts to ensure good neighbourliness and friendship between both nations and for an even better Europe in which we can fully realise our linguistic and cultural identities while simultaneously building a common European affiliation.

My late mother's house, where I spent my childhood and adolescence, is only a stone's throw from the Italian border.

I have always considered multiculturalism a great treasure.

It broadens the knowledge of languages and humanity.

It brings people closer together.

I imagine that people here might feel the same.

Zer ge erter her bundesprezident
liber aleksander
zer ge erte damen und heren

We live in the best of times.

We have been living in peace for more than 75 years and this period has given us an opportunity to continuously develop and progress.

We also live in one of the best worlds.

Here, where Slovenians and Austrians are at home, we live a beautiful life, we create it ourselves according to our wishes and ideas and we create it together.

This is the best Europe that can possibly exist.

A Europe that enables us to be who we truly are.

We cannot change the past, but we can change the future.

Fortune favours the brave."