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Speech of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, at the main ceremony commemorating Statehood Day and the 25th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence

Ljubljana, 24. 6. 2016 | press release, speech

Speech of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, at the main ceremony commemorating Statehood Day and the 25th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence
24. junij 2016

Dear President of the Republic of Croatia and our friend, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović,
dear President of the Republic of Austria and friend, Heinz Fischer,
dear President of the Republic of Italy and friend, Sergio Mattarella,
and dear President of the Federal Republic of Germany and friend, Joachim Gauck.

other esteemed guests,
Your Excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen,
dear fellow Slovenians at home and around the world,
dear Citizens,

Slovenia, our homeland, is celebrating today. We are celebrating our silver jubilee, a quarter of a century of Slovenia's independence. We admire the national unity that contributed to the establishment of our own country. Slovenia became an independent country because this was our desire at the time. The people’s will was incredibly powerful. This was possible due to the power of national unity, so we have good reason to be filled with feelings of pride and confidence today, tonight, on the eve of this national holiday. It is because we know that we can make it. We know that we can make it. Therefore, we look into the future not with fear, but with hope.

Slovenians appreciate the national unity that happened a quarter of a century ago. We have not always been so unified in our history. Three quarters of a century ago, during World War II, our nation was divided, and some of our wounds are still healing today. While fighting for our independence, we understood that this could not happen again. We knew how to live with our differences; we strengthened what we had in common, and that is why we succeeded.

Unity, my dear Citizens, was not created over night. It was a wonderful result of dialogue, cooperation, and trust. On this difficult path, we finally realised that the time had come to establish our own country. This was the only right decision at the time. Therefore, we finally made decisions together. We made a decision together at the referendum; we made a decision together on an evening just like this one twenty-five years ago, when we declared our country’s independence; we fought together to defend our country from aggression, and we made efforts together to achieve international recognition.

I would like to say this again – the beauty of becoming independent lay in the fact that this process included everyone; no one was excluded. Let us remember this. This is significant, and it is also true for our future challenges.

We will be able to use all the monumental social changes, ladies and gentlemen, to our common benefit if we work together and no one is excluded. This is a most valuable realisation, which must serve as our guiding principle in the future.

We have our own country today; we are included in the most integrated part of the European Union and the Western world. We were in the right place at the right time. There is no reason for us to regret the decision that we made then and all subsequent decisions, including our membership of the European Union and the NATO Alliance or joining the Euro Zone and the Schengen Area, as these decisions led us to where we are now. This does not mean that we are satisfied with everything, of course not, not at all; but what we have created, what we have created together, enables us to take a tight hold on the reins of our own future.

And now is the time to hold these reins even tighter and make an even more decisive turn. Due to the conditions in Slovenia and abroad, the European Union, our wider homeland, has found itself in trouble. It cannot stay in its present state. Essentially, there are only two ways. Either to return to nationalist policies and the downfall of the Union. The downfall of the European Union, which meant peace, progress, safety, and still means basic welfare. Or there is another way: to strengthen its integration and to experience a renaissance of this European idea.

Let us not forget that Slovenians have always seen the Slovenian national idea in close connection with the European idea, and now, Slovenia and other nations and countries – and I can say this metaphorically today – have found themselves in a position where they have to open a new chapter of our common European future in a more committed and courageous way. This sounds less likely and more demanding. For a president to state such a view might not be appropriate at a ceremony, but today is not a normal time and this is not a normal celebration. I believe that you have the right to hear my personal view, because this is what I will put my efforts into in the future. The strengthening of the European Union is vital for us. I believe that the European Union will either be a federal union in the future or it will not exist, and our vital interest, the interest of the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia, of our country, of our homeland, is that we remain in this process, in the most integrated part of the European Union, and that, ultimately, we make a decision at a referendum in favour of such a federal Europe. I believe that this sounds like something very distant, very visionary, but I believe that this is the only way to fight the defeated spirit that we will witness in the coming weeks and months, also due to recent events, and the only real way to have the will, the power, and the conviction to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to open a new chapter for ourselves, for nations that are our friends, for all those who see a future with peace, safety, and happy prospects for our children in a common Europe.

Tonight, we are celebrating the first 25 years of Slovenian statehood, and we are planning for the next 25 years. We are celebrating with due pride, looking back, and as I have already said, with a courageous glance ahead.

We cannot fully predict the future, nor does it entirely depend on us. However, it is entirely a matter of our will to strengthen those things that we have in common and to live with differences that are insurmountable. National unity is not necessary all the time; it is not necessary for every issue. There are issues that are less important and concerning which the differences among us will remain, and they will be respected. However, with regard to the unity that will be required in our future, sooner or later, only cooperation can serve as the guiding principle. I would like to take this opportunity this evening to appeal to all of you. Perhaps other things are out of our hands, but this decision to cooperate is wholly in ours. I would like to invite you not to let this opportunity slip away if you wish the best for our homeland.
The realisation that cooperation is necessary, and not exclusion, has kept us together as a nation and enabled us to establish our own country. This confidence has allowed us to become a member of the European family of nations and countries. This family is now once again being tested to see if it can keep us together and make us even stronger.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

It will not be easy. But it will be pleasant. It will be pleasant because we will create something that even our children and grandchildren will be able to accept as a peaceful, safe, and happy home. We have experience. We have the will. We have a vision. There are no problems or issues that we would not be able to solve if we work together and if we are sufficiently connected. We need dialogue, cooperation, and trust. Among ourselves and with other nations. Trust me, ultimately we will succeed again.

Dear citizens, I would like to sincerely congratulate you on the occasion of this national holiday.

Good luck, Slovenia, our homeland; good luck, Europe.

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, at the main ceremony commemorating Statehood Day and the 25th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence
Photo: STA