Speech on the occasion of the International Day of Peace
Cerje, 22.9.2012 | speech
Speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, at the All-Slovenian Meeting for Peace on the occasion of the International Day of Peace
Cerje, 22 September 2012
Dear representatives of veterans’ and patriotic organisations,
dear organisers of the All-Slovenian Meeting for Peace,
dear participants of the Veterans’ Walk for Peace,
As in past years, we have gathered here today to join in the global activities to observe the International Day of Peace, which are taking place all over the world at this time. This year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in his message on the International Day of Peace that this day – the International Day of Peace – gives us a chance to reflect on the unconscionable toll – moral, physical and material – wrought by war and the costs that will also have to be borne by future generations. Our generation still carries the scars of the two World Wars, which is one of the reasons we continuously strive for peace. However, we must not delude ourselves: human beings unfortunately all too quickly turn to a path of violence and war. It is therefore right that the World Veterans’ Federation, along with veterans’ organisations around the world, including in Slovenia, organise and participate in the global “Walk for Peace” and thus contribute to the cultivation and maintenance of peace. We have to be aware that the century that is behind us, the 20th century, was not a period of respect for the value of peace. Many people suffered terribly in the great wars of the bloody past century, particularly in these parts of the world. Therefore it is right that Slovenia also has its “Walk of Peace from the Alps to the Adriatic” to remind us of our history, which was hard and bloody, but also heroic and valued. Let it never be forgotten!
Let this place and this magnificent monument on the edge of the Karst plateau, which offers us a view of the Slovenian sea and our Mount Triglav, strengthen our determination to promote peace and justice. However, even while admiring this beauty and these symbols, we cannot avoid the thought of the slaughter of the great war, the First World War, which was possibly the worst mistake in human history. And although after the war the world made a solemn commitment to defend peace, it was soon struck with another catastrophe. The Second World War once again caused harm and suffering to countless people. It was a bottomless pit of violence, destruction and death. Industrialised death reached its largest proportions in the Holocaust against Jews and in other acts of genocide, to which the Slovenian nation was also exposed, and that is why the resistance was so urgent and so very important. The end of war exerted its unique power in the necessity to change the world and thoroughly transform the international legal order.
At the end of the 20th century, the Slovenian nation again faced the dangers of war. Here, in Primorska, the war for Slovenia’s independence started “a day earlier” than elsewhere in Slovenia, and it also ended in Primorska, in the city of Koper.
Peace is not something we can take for granted. We have to strive for it continuously. Peace requires a careful management of economic and social development, social equality and justice, at both the national and the international level, skilful diplomacy for preventing and solving conflicts, but above all, it requires a strong moral obligation. Human rights, the rule of law, political stability and democracy, and human safety are the key factors of the international peace and security today.
The international community has developed sound mechanisms for ensuring security, such as the UN, OSCE and NATO, which have helped reduce significantly the number of armed conflicts between countries in recent times. However, today’s threats to international peace and security are different from those in past decades and centuries and are indeed global in nature. They arise from phenomena such as terrorism, international organised crime, ethnic tensions and social disintegration. Conventional military conflicts between the regular armies of states are being replaced by conflicts of low intensity that are fought by irregular armed groups whose targets are mostly civilians.
A question arises as to whether these conflicts can be resolved by means of available security mechanisms. Can these mechanisms be adjusted to the new challenges or do new mechanisms have to be developed? A part of the answer must certainly be sought in closer cooperation between organisations and in a cooperative approach to security. However, the complexity of this task today considerably exceeds the range of cooperation of international mechanisms to defend peace. For the defence of peace we thus need additional capabilities and such instruments for the guidance of international cooperation as will have a positive influence on the most vulnerable development and social issues in areas where peace and stability are not secured.
One such area today is the broader area of the Middle East. The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and other countries remind us that regimes founded on terror, the systematic violation of human rights and flagrant violations of the rule of law cannot endure. A desire for freedom, respect and fundamental human dignity is inherent in all people. The events in the Arab world are part of the global trend towards democratisation, which has transformed Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and South-East Asia in the past decades. These long-term and painful processes are now also underway in the Arab world. They require the establishment of legitimate, democratic and efficient institutions which enable a more just economic, social and political development.
How should we in Europe understand these events in our Arab neighbourhood and what can we do to preserve international peace? Europe could not foresee the events in our southern neighbourhood, nor can we foresee all new developments now. Opinions to the effect that the “Arab Spring” is being followed by an “Arab Winter” are superficial and show both a lack of knowledge about the region and a basic misunderstanding of transition processes. These take decades and not months and require patience and a respectful attitude.
Arab countries need our help, but at the same time they distrust our intentions. We have to build trust, and this can be done only by respecting their choices. We have to talk with their elected representatives. We have to preserve a high level of cooperation with both their governments and the civilian society while respecting their sovereignty and political culture. Assistance which does not take into account the peoples’ authentic needs may trigger a negative response. And nor should we neglect the economic aspect. Without an economic boost in these countries, growth will not follow demographic trends, which will lead in turn to social unrest. Europe has to open up its market to agricultural products from southern Mediterranean countries and introduce trade preferences.
At the same time, we must condemn violence and repression, as witnessed presently in Syria. We must support efforts for stabilisation; in the case of Syria, this means the efforts of the Arab League and the United Nations and their special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi. His challenging diplomatic mission is the only hope we have. The situation in Syria is immeasurably cruel and may seem unsolvable. It is having a negative impact on security and stability in the whole region. The escalation of violence is the result of a lack of unity in the international community. Although external factors are influencing the development of the situation, the final decision about the fate of their country is in the hands of Syrians. The recalcitrance of both the regime and the opposition, and the belief that victory can only consist in the total defeat of the other side, is hindering the seeking of a solution by means of dialogue and compromise. A military solution is not a good solution; what needs to be reached is a political solution. This is the only way to achieve peace, stability and the peaceful coexistence of the numerous religious and ethnic groups in Syria.
Recent events in the Arab world have made the need to settle the Israeli–Palestinian conflict even more pressing. The further stagnation of the negotiating process, accompanied by negative developments in the area, can only lead to further destabilisation of the already fragile regional situation. The time left to find a viable solution of two states – Israel and Palestine – which is the only way in which to bring peace and stability, is fast running out. The international community, which previously at least attempted to maintain hope in the restoration of the peace process in the framework of the Middle Eastern Four, appears to have suspended even these endeavours. The level of trust between the Israeli and Palestinian sides is now zero. While the Palestinian government is working fast at establishing the institutions of a future Palestinian state, the Israeli government is working equally fast on establishing Jewish settlements on the West Bank. In such conditions, it is unrealistic to expect any results from direct negotiations. What we need is strong international involvement and a strong intermediary. The latter must restore the negotiations on the basis of internationally recognised principles of dispute settlement. The European Union has an important position in these efforts.
Europe and the world must understand the importance of the Palestinian issue for the general situation in the Arab world. The resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would contribute to a different perception of the West in the eyes of the Arab public. The historical memory of the colonial experience, a patronising and underestimating attitude and support to dictator-ruled regimes, as well as inadequate commitment to resolving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, intercultural differences and a lack of understanding of these differences, have caused a deep gap.
It is precisely during such times that the world has witnessed another example of deep misunderstandings caused by an unreasonable and generally condemnable short film, misunderstandings which do not contribute to the consolidation of international peace and security. The numerous massive and often violent protests by Muslims all over the globe seen in the last weeks show that a long way remains before we overcome these misunderstandings. Europe and the Western world have every reason to insist on the values of human rights, including the freedom of speech. They also have, however, the duty and responsibility to clearly reject offensive forms of expression which strengthen prejudice against Islam and the Islamic world. This, too, is a contribution to the creation of conditions for lasting international peace.
Ladies and gentlemen,
we understand today, more than ever before, how many different activities are necessary for strengthening international peace. Let this monument at Cerje constitute another point of our gathering and strengthening our commitment to peace.