Official address by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, at the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Pohorje Battalion’s last battle
Osankarica, 5. 1. 2013 | speech
Recently, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize. There is probably no better opportunity for half a billion Europeans, including we Slovenians, to remember that peace is not something we can take for granted.
Since the end of the Second World War, the old continent has enjoyed so many decades of peace, security, stability and prosperity that the younger generations in particular take all these fundamental values and facts as the natural state of things. This is a dangerous illusion which was demonstrated by the terrible Balkan tragedy that also touched upon us for a short time in the middle of the 1990s.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
The Nobel Peace Prize won by the European Union is in fact a proper reminder to all of us that peace and stability, particularly in these times of crisis, depend on our very sincere endeavours to keep and maintain them. History is full of evidence that in certain more adverse circumstances hostilities easily flare up from small intolerances only to finally end in tears, suffering and infinite sadness of the people.
I am not saying this because I consider that war is inevitable after a longer cycle of peace, but rather to invite you all at this sacred place to do everything in our power to make this peace last.
We must stand firm in support of mutual respect, inter-human and international understanding; we should condemn the inflaming of ideological passions and political radicalisms of all kinds. If we do this soon enough and convincingly enough, we shall be a powerful stronghold of peace and tolerant society. Only in such a society will each of us feel safe regardless of his or her worldview, lifestyle or other distinctions.
These are times when we have to be particularly mindful of this. People in distress, particularly those who feel that they have nothing more to lose, are easy prey to hate speech and mutual instigation. It is our fundamental historical responsibility to resolve all major problems that Slovenians and Europeans are faced with in the spirit of genuine dialogue through a tolerant respect for those who are of a different mind, and by consolidating all that which is common to us.
Politicians in particular, but indeed all of us who participate in public dialogue, must refrain with discipline from making any statement that could be understood as insulting, intolerant or even hostile by any member of society. This is our most elementary obligation in tending to the desperately needed atmosphere of tolerance, freedom and mutual respect.
Yesterday I was visited by two distinguished diplomats, the German and French Ambassadors to Slovenia. They asked me to deliver a speech of honour at the concert marking the 50th anniversary of the German–French treaty of friendship to be celebrated in the Ljubljana Philharmonic Hall at the end of January. I accepted this role of honour with great pleasure as it gives us all a new opportunity to remember how the reconciliation between these two nations, immersed in bloody war twice in a single century, set the foundations for a wider cooperation of European nations and countries, not the least for our Slovenian nation and state.
I am saying this to strengthen our determination and courage to continue our way forward in building Slovenia as a democratic, rule-of-law and social state, and one which requires greater-than-usual political unity in these extremely aggravated circumstances. I am saying this also to strengthen our determination and courage to stay committed to the European idea, which is our sole guarantee for lasting peace, security and the possibility of a common solution to this severe crisis, and for the welfare of the people.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
I am saying this at the sacred place where 70 years ago almost all combatants of the Pohorje Battalion perished fighting in the Pohorje snow, among them also Alfonz Šarh and his three sons aged 13, 15 and 17. How many of us who have gathered here have children of this age today?
The Šarh family, together with the other courageous combatants of the Pohorje Battalion, bravely and honourably sacrificed their lives for a good and sacred aim, the freedom of their beloved homeland. Nobody knows what amount of intolerable suffering was caused by their heroic death to their loved ones. This suffering is so great and strong that nothing can erase it from the sadness of the soul, not even forgiveness.
But our common collective memory of the tragedy of wars where so many horrendous crimes and wrongs are committed, where so many innocent people suffer and where the flames of new hostilities are lighted can stimulate our actions and commitment to peace, tolerance, friendship and harmony. We cannot change the things that happened in the past, but we can influence the course of things in the future. This is our immediate responsibility.
Not only can we choose, but indeed we have to make our choice. In Slovenia and Europe alike we have to gather strength for a greater political unity. More political harmony in Slovenia will give more courage and stimulus to all those of us who believe that together we can achieve any greatness imaginable. More political unity in Europe will ensure more successful actions in the times of crisis and prevent the danger of distrust infecting the European idea and the growth of new nationalisms.
On behalf of us all, I want to send a loud message to the brave and famous combatants of the Pohorje Battalion all the way to the place of their greater rest and peace that their sacrifice was not in vain, that we are and desire to remain the proud heirs of their fight for the good, the just and the free, and that by our actions we will never allow, as far as each of us is concerned, new victims to fall for these same aims and values. Never again will there be war.