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President of the Republic of Slovenia addresses participants of the International Youth Conference in a video address: "Instead of hate speech, we can choose to speak love. It depends on us. Let us try and see what happens."

Ljubljana, 5. 11. 2020 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, spoke today at the 18th International Youth Conference, which is taking place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s International Youth Conference is being held on the topic "European values for the future of the countries of South-Eastern Europe". The conference is the result of a joint effort on the part of the Kruševo Youth Alliance and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Skopje with the support of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe and under the auspices of the Federal Republic of Germany and the National Agency of North Macedonia for European Educational Programmes and Mobility.

President Pahor, in a video address, participated in the plenary session entitled "Spreading the truth against its creation" in the debate "Politics, politicians and the impact of social media on them. New drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll". He stressed the importance of exercising freedom of expression, which, in the President’s view, like all other human rights, is restricted by the same freedom of expression of others. "Therefore we must adhere to the fundamental principles of communication: respect for the dignity of others, avoiding obscene messages, hate speech, fake news and the like. This is the same or even more important during a global pandemic," the President of the Republic assured his young audience. President Pahor emphasised the importance of co-operation between young people in the Western Balkans and their counterparts in the Member States of the European Union: "Such meetings, albeit virtual, contribute significantly to a better understanding of young people in Europe," he noted.

In the conference taking place from 5 to 10 November 2020, 80 participants from the countries of South-Eastern Europe (North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey) and guests of youth organisation partners from the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Poland in the role of mentors will participate in various plenary debates. The main objective of the International Youth Conference is to support lively and dedicated youth leaders from South-Eastern Europe in their daily efforts for the European future of the region. The conference promotes European values among youth leaders and in their societies. The result will be a set of action-oriented recommendations and proposals to enforce European values that can be used by youth leaders in South-Eastern Europe.

We here publish the speech delivered by Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia:

"I warmly welcome initiatives – like your conference – that promotes cooperation among young in the Western Balkans, and with their colleagues in European Union member states.
Such gatherings – even though virtual, greatly contribute to better understanding among young people in Europe.

Couple of weeks ago I payed an official visit to the Republic of North Macedonia. The main topic of discussion with my friend and President and other politicians was enlargement of the European Union. In my speech in Sobranje I underlined how crucial it is for the European Union to start negotiations with North Macedonia without further delay. I wish, one day the whole area of Western Balkans would be part of the European Union.

You, young people in the Western Balkans, in Europe, and all around the globe, you have the right to live in peace and security. You have the right and duty to contribute to safe and peaceful world.

European Union is a security project. At the same time, European Union is our common space of values and norms.

Today, you speak about new media and social networks. You know them better than my generation does. However, I follow the development of social media with great interest. Media – be it printed, electronic, digital or in a form of social networks, have always shaped the world we live in.

At the core of every media is freedom of expression, media freedom. I am and I will always be a strong supporter of this fundamental human right.

The exercise of freedom of expression is - as any other human right, limited by the same freedom of expression of others. That is why we have to keep and preserve the sacred principles of communications – respect of dignity of other people, avoidance of indecent messages, hate speech, fake news etc. This is equally or even more important in the times of global pandemic.

It is really up to us, what kind of digital society we will have. We shape it ourselves. Instead of using hate speech we can decide to use love speech. It is up to us. Let's try and see what happens.

Social media are not responsible for populism, fake news, extremism, hate speech. We, every one of us can contribute to the better world."