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President Pahor awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Lisbon – Doctor Honoris Causa – for his efforts for reconciliation and the common European project

Lisbon, 15. 2. 2022 | press release

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is on an official visit to Portugal at the invitation of the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

President Pahor began the second day of his official visit by visiting the Institute of Social and Political Sciences (ISCSP), where he was awarded an honorary doctorate at a special ceremony by the University of Lisbon – Doctor Honoris Causa – for his efforts for reconciliation and the common European project.

President Pahor awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Lisbon – Doctor Honoris Causa – for his efforts for reconciliation and the common European project
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

In his address, President Pahor expressed his gratitude for the great honour of receiving this high award. He emphasised that the European project is based on reconciliation. "There would be no European project without reconciliation between the opposing military forces of the Second World War, without reconciliation between neighbours," President Pahor said.

He stressed the importance of the European Union’s foundations, its values and principles that are – or should be – our binding agent. President Pahor believes that reconciliation is an important building block of our common European home. "A united Europe enjoys peace and prosperity due to reconciliation and constant nurturing of the sense of belonging," stressed President Pahor, adding that he firmly believes that deepening and strengthening European integration will continue, regardless of its ups and downs.

"The power of reconciliation lies in its moral dimension," he stressed, as it is not just about establishing legal, political, economic and social frameworks for cooperation. "All this is important, of course, but all the more so if it stems from solid moral foundations," he said. As an example, President Pahor mentioned the Elysée Treaty, which was concluded between France and Germany almost 60 years ago and which, symbolically and actually, provided the European integration with a moral basis.

He then described what he said was one of the most emotional moments of his political career, when in July 2020 he stood hand in hand with Italian President Mattarella at two memorial sites important to Slovenians and Italians in Basovizza near Trieste. He said that that handshake combined everything he believed in: peace, reconciliation, harmony, friendship, good neighbourly relations, dialogue, cooperation and a joint European spirit.

President Pahor concluded his address with the words of Sophocles' Antigone, which, shining through more than 2,000 years of human civilisation and culture, should guide us today and in the future: "I was born to join in love, not hate – that is my nature."

President Pahor awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Lisbon – Doctor Honoris Causa – for his efforts for reconciliation and the common European project
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Honorary doctorates from the University of Lisbon have also been awarded to Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, a politician and former president of the Republic of Cabo Verde, José Manuel Durão Barroso, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Portuguese Republic, former Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic and former President of the European Commission, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, an activist for the independence of East Timor and the first President of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, and Guilherme Valdemar Pereira de Oliveira Martins, a politician, former Minister of Finance and former Minister of Education of the Portuguese Republic.

President Pahor and President de Sousa then had a meeting with students of international relations at the Institute of Social and Political Sciences (ISCSP) to discuss the European future. The presidents this way made their contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe.

President Pahor and President de Sousa discussed with the students the role of the European Union in our common future and the importance of dialogue in all current situations in the world. They focused particularly on the role of Slovenia in the Western Balkans, and the Slovenian President presented his view of the current situation in the region and the importance of the Brdo–Brijuni Process initiative. The students were also interested to know what motivated the two presidents to choose a political career and what advice they would give them based on their own experience.

The participants at today’s ceremony for the awarding of the honorary doctorate were also addressed by Prof. Hector Roman, the Vice-Rector of the University of Lisbon, who presented the rationale for awarding the honorary doctorate. He began by outlining the long political career of the Slovenian President, highlighting his efforts towards reconciliation and dialogue and his continued commitment to fundamental European values.

The official visit will conclude in the late afternoon with a luncheon in honour of President de Sousa hosted by President Pahor.

Common position of Portugal and Slovenia: Support for diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis and the EU devoting appropriate attention to the management of relations in the Western Balkans
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Address of the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor:

Vice-Rector of the University of Lisbon, President of the Institute of Social and Political Sciences
Dear President and my friend Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
Professors, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an immense honour for me to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Lisbon from your hands.

The University of Lisbon and its Institute of Social and Political Sciences are highly respected institutions with a long tradition.

They contribute significantly to the common European scientific area as well as beyond.
I am honoured to receive an honorary doctorate for efforts for reconciliation and the joint European project.
The European project is based on reconciliation. There would be no European project without reconciliation between the opposing military forces of the Second World War, without reconciliation between neighbours.

In all discussions about the future of the EU, it is crucial to be aware of the EU's foundations, its values and principles that are – or should be, our glue agent.

Reconciliation does not free us from the obligation to know history and to remember.
It remains an important building block of our common European home.
United Europe enjoys peace and prosperity due to reconciliation and constant nurturing of its sense of belonging.

I firmly believe that deepening and strengthening of European integration will continue, regardless of its ups and downs.

This is the only way for the EU to become more efficient internally, and more influential externally, in the global arena.
When speaking about European integration, I do not speak about a melting pot.

I speak about deepening of integration with full respect to differences of cultural, national and other identities.

This is the basic difference between United States of Europe and United States of America.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
After the end of the Great War in 1918, two options opened up for Europe and the world.
The first was to ensure a strong moral, legal, political, economic and social structure that would enable peace, security and development.
And then there was the other option.

That Europe and the rest of the world would find themselves in a Second World War.

Despite the establishment of the League of Nations, this is what happened.

Other attempts to secure peace also failed, and in particular nothing was done at the most demanding level: the moral one.

No reconciliation, no forgiveness, just the feeling of guilt.

This was the fertile soil that nurtured totalitarian and autocratic regimes.

Above all it enabled a rise in hatred, racism and nationalism within nations and among them that was unprecedented in history.

It was a prelude to the Second World War, a tragic time when humanity reached its moral nadir.

After the end of the Second World War, there were again two options - the option of moral, legal, political and economic reconstruction, or the option of history repeating itself all over again.
The manner in which Europe responded to this challenge was without precedent in history.
Despite, or perhaps because of the tragic consequences of the war, it opted for reconciliation.

Ladies and gentlemen.

The power of reconciliation lies in its moral dimension.
It is not just about establishing legal, political, economic and social frameworks for cooperation.
All this is important, of course, but all the more so if it stems from solid moral foundations.
For example, almost 60 years ago, on 22 January 1963, the so-called Élysée Treaty was concluded between France and Germany.
Symbolically and actually, it provided the European integration with a moral basis.

Ladies and gentlemen.

The essence of reconciliation is coexistence, inspiring what unites us and not emphasising what separates us.
Reconciliation is not the arithmetic mean between two truths.

Within a nation or between nations it is based on truth. On the eternal search for truth.
Reconciliation cannot and does not want to change the past.

It inspires everything that allows us to live in a more beautiful, better, more just and common future.

Reconciliation does not relativise historical responsibility.
It does not deny guilt and injustice.

It invites everyone to empathise with the pain of others.

Reconciliation instructs us not to deepen the pain that stems from our past, neither within a nation nor between nations.

It guides us to renounce, on the basis of historical experience, everything that breeds hatred and exclusion.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Reconciliation is a journey that must never end. If it does, tragedy and pain begin.
Portugal and Slovenia each had their own experience with dictatorship and the transition to democracy.

Today, both countries are members of the European Union.

European project is based on the responsibility to inspire what unites and not to strengthen what divides.

We must be aware that this is the path that never ends and we must never succumb to the temptations of what has caused so much human misery within a nation or among nations throughout history.
First and foremost, forgiveness and reconciliation are deep intimate impulses.

None of us must feel affected in our most personal or national feelings.

This is what makes a nation or the European Union and the international community more humane and more mature.

Ladies and gentlemen.

The moment that I consider the strongest in my political career, which spans over more than 30 years, is the moment when I stood hand in hand with Italian President Mattarella in front of the monument to the victims of Italian Fascism and the memorial to the victims of the post-war killings in Basovica near Trieste.

For me, our handshake was the most emotional moment in my entire political career.
It combined everything I believe in: peace, reconciliation, harmony, friendship, good neighbourly relations, dialogue, cooperation and a joint European spirit.

Excellencies. Before reconciliation and parallel to it, there are dialogue and tolerance.

Dialogue consists of three dimensions:

a) A presentation of one’s own views
b) Respectful criticism of another's views
c) A willingness to reconcile views

All three are important for our peaceful and harmonious social development.

This is true both in our domestic political situation and in international relations.
Differences in political and ideological views are not a problem.

The problem is if willingness for confronting and coordinating them in a tolerant and inclusive manner is being lost.

Let me conclude by saying: After more than 2,000 years of human civilization and culture, the words from Antigone shall guide us today and in the future: “I was born to join in love, not hate - that is my nature.”
Thank you for the honour and thank you for your attention.