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The President of the Republic of Slovenia in Strasbourg: “The Council of Europe is a unique institution that nurtures the values responsible for modern Europe”

Strasbourg, 10. 6. 2013 | press release

This year marks twenty years since the Republic of Slovenia joined the Council of Europe. On this occasion, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, attended a solemn celebration of the event in Strasbourg, and tomorrow, the President will address the Members of the European Parliament at a plenary session. The President of the Republic of Slovenia also met Thorbjřrn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Dean Spielmann, the President of the European Court of Human Rights.

Founded on 5 May 1949 in London, the Council of Europe is the oldest international organisation in Europe. The fundamental goal of the Council is to create a joint democratic and legal platform in Europe, while respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Slovenia met the conditions for full membership and subsequently became a member on 14 May 1993. On 31 May 1994, the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia ratified the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which entered into force on 28 June 1994, when Slovenia deposited the instrument of ratification at the Private Office of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, has served as the Head of the Slovenian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The President first met Thorbjřrn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, with whom he discussed Slovenia’s achievements in the two decades of its membership and the challenges ahead. The discussion partners agreed that Slovenia had signed all the important conventions of the Council in the past twenty years and thus followed the fundamental goal of building a joint democratic and legal platform in Europe, while considering human rights, democracy and the rule of law. During the discussions, the President highlighted the significance of the Council for stabilisation processes and the enhancement of the rule of law in the Western Balkans, where it is a highly respected institution and may, with its moral and judicial authority, contribute to promoting constitutional reforms. At the end of the meeting, the Secretary General also mentioned the question of the erased, and expressed the hope that Slovenia would strengthen its efforts to implement the decision on the erased and pass laws as soon as possible and prepare compensation schemes. President Pahor said that the Government had already initiated suitable procedures and he believed that the question would be resolved.

In his press release, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, recalled how the Slovenian flag had been proudly raised in front of the Palace of Europe twenty years ago. At the time, Slovenia had barely acquired its sovereignty, and its rapid affiliation with the Council of Europe was proof that it is a modern democratic state and an open society founded on human rights and freedoms. As a representative of the opposition at the time, the President of the Republic of Slovenia participated at numerous hearings before the committee of the Parliamentary Assembly with Matjaž Šinkovec, then President of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee. President Pahor recalled that doubt was detectable in the questions of the members on the reasonableness and legitimacy of founding new sovereign countries in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, which for the most part had vanished due to the nationalist policy of Slobodan Milošević. “The Council of Europe was the first multilateral parliamentary institution in which Slovenia’s full status was acknowledged, which had a real and symbolic significance,” said the President.

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, later also met Dean Spielmann, the President of the European Court of Human Rights. President Spielmann first introduced the work of the Court and was happy to stress that many Slovenians work there and their contribution is highly respected. He also presented the exchange programme for young judges and attorneys who obtain valuable experience at the Court. President Spielmann highlighted that the decisions of the Court are a good foundation for further national reforms in the field of human rights, and thus countries frequently find them useful and important. The discussion partners agreed that the European Court of Human Rights is one of the fundamental EU institutions with exceptional moral integrity and influence.

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, attended a solemn celebration of the event in Strasbourg
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

A concert was organised to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s membership in the Council of Europe at the Palace of Europe later in the afternoon. The Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Slovenian conductor Marko Letonja performed at the event. The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, gave a welcome address and thanked the Council of Europe for its contribution to enforcing and protecting individual’s and collective rights, especially those of national minorities. He ensured that the Council of Europe is still very important for Slovenia. “However, it has to be acknowledged that its greatest significance came to the fore at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and during the establishment of the newly-formed democracies in the new political architecture of Europe,” said President Pahor. New countries, including Slovenia, could not expect to join the European Community quickly. “To that extent, the Council of Europe served as a historic bridge, which was in fact much more than only a route from one political shoreline to another. It was and remains a unique institution of European countries, which continues to focus on multiculturalism, tolerance, solidarity, respect for diversity, care for strengthening the joint identity and all the other values responsible for the modern Europe.” The President concluded by saying that Europe faces numerous new challenges and the Council of Europe is based on the experience that old and new challenges are more easily overcome together. “On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s membership in the Council of Europe, I thank the Council for everything it has done before and during our membership in the field of enhancing joint European values. I hope it will carry out a mission as important as the one it performed twenty years ago when it opened its door to the newly-formed democracies among which was also Slovenia.”

At the invitation of Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, President Pahor will be the keynote speaker at the plenary session of the European Parliament tomorrow.

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, will speak about his views on the situation in the European Union and its future development, particularly in the light of efforts taken to deepen integration accelerated by the financial and economic crisis in Europe and elsewhere. The European Parliament, as the only democratically elected institution in the EU, will play a special role in its efforts to ensure the democratic legitimacy of processes in the European Union. As a former member of the European Parliament and president of the National Assembly, the President of the Republic of Slovenia will pay special attention to his vision of the role of the European Parliament and national parliaments in these processes. Furthermore, the President will also present the Slovenia 2030 process which he initiated.

On this occasion, the President of the Republic of Slovenia will also meet Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament.