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Speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, on Civil Protection Day 2013

Brdo pri Kranju, 1. 3. 2013 | press release, speech

Dear members of the Civil Protection Service,
Fire fighters,
Mountain and cave rescuers,
Rescue dog handlers,
Members of other rescue services,
Police officers,
Soldiers, Distinguished Guests,

Slovenia is under the constant threat of various kinds of disasters. We must know how to live with these threats and be prepared for them.

It is perhaps not possible to be prepared for every kind of disaster. However, it is crucial that we have in place an organised, tested and effective system for disaster management and relief. The Civil Protection Service is that system.

We are proud of this wide network of professional and voluntary rescue services and operative forces, which (when necessary) are aided by the Slovenian army and police. Present here today, are representatives of 70 000 volunteers and professionals. Your mission is noble and deserves the wider appreciation of society.

After a disaster, when things return to a relatively normal state, we tend to forget too quickly all those who have acted unselfishly, risking their health or even lives, to help the victims. We forget or are not even aware of the fact that a great deal of effort has to be devoted; even one's free time, personal life and personal finances must be sacrificed for training in order to be prepared.

A strong will, moral fibre and courage are needed to be ready to help others in moments when most people strive to protect their own lives. You set the example of a humane society based on solidarity.

I am aware that austerity measures did not leave out the protection and disaster relief system and consequently the Civil Protection Service units. Although the National Assembly has adopted strategic documents regarding this field and the system has undertaken improvements, some projects will not be realised within the required period. This presents some risk. With your characteristic ingenuity, you can reduce this risk to a certain level. However, this cannot go on indefinitely. Disasters, natural or caused by people, do not care about austerity measures.

The previous year did not spare us and will be, like 1990, 2007 and 2010, remembered for catastrophic floods.

Floods were not the only things that were repeated; the reactions of people were also repeated. When meteorologists and hydrologists issued their first warnings of flooding, only a few were aware that they were actually in danger. Not enough people took the warnings seriously and prepared for the flood, protected their belongings, or evacuated their homes in time. Floods caused enormous material damage, but fortunately no lives were lost. This is also due to the timely and appropriate responses of all protection, rescue and relief forces.

A hot air balloon accident occurred, one like we have never experienced before, with severe and tragic consequences. The accident required a coordinated intervention of police, fire fighters, rescuers, various medical institutions and members of the protection, rescue and relief forces, as well as the army. We can see that the cooperation of services and units on site was excellent.

We must not forget the wildfires in August, which were fought by more than 2 300 fire fighters, 11 helicopters of the Slovenian Army and a helicopter and a plane of the Italian Civil Protection Service, showing an impressive level of international cooperation and solidarity.

Through such disasters, nature continuously reminds us how unpredictable and untameable it is but, most of all, that it is much stronger than us. And in our small country it shows its strength in many different ways. Often we add to its destructive power with our unwise actions.

The Civil Protection Service has lost its commander of almost a quarter of the century, Miran Bogataj. Without him, the protection and disaster relief system and Civil Protection Service would not be what they are, and it would be right for his role to be remembered. I therefore propose that you find an appropriate way to remind current and future rescuers of him and his contribution to safer life for the people of our nation.

Ladies and gentlemen, Slovenian fire fighters, mountain and cave rescuers, divers, members of the Civil Protection Service, handlers of rescue dogs, members of other rescue services, police officers and soldiers, we can be proud of your work and success in protecting and saving lives and property under these difficult conditions. I know that citizens expect it of you and of all of us. And I know that you will, with all your knowledge, skills and equipment available, provide general safety to the greatest extent possible, despite the difficulties and problems we are facing. However, we are not unrestricted in this, and our capacities are not infinite. Our citizens, our public and of course all of us who run this country must know and be aware of that.

Dear Rescuers, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your humane work, your efforts, time and readiness to make our lives safer and thus better. I offer you my congratulations on Civil Protection Day. I particularly congratulate the recipients of awards and wish you an enjoyable and pleasant day.
Speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, on Civil Protection Day 2013