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President Drnovšek confers the Order for Exceptional Services on Romano Prodi

Ljubljana, 03/01/2005  |  press release, speech, statement

Click to enlargeThe President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, has conferred on Prof. Romano Prodi the Order for Exceptional Services in the diplomatic and international field in recognition of his outstanding services, acts and personal contribution to the benefit of the Republic of Slovenia in its integration into the European Union and its affirmation in the international community.

At a special ceremony held in Prof. Prodi’s honour, Dr Drnovšek said:

Click to enlargeMr Prodi is our old acquaintance and friend, and I am convinced that this Order goes to the right hands. In recent years, Prof. Prodi has contributed a great deal to Slovenia's becoming an equal member of the international community and of the European Union, and was instrumental in our establishing friendly relations with the neighbouring Italy at the time when he held the office of Prime Minister. I remember our first meeting when Mr Prodi was Prime Minister of the Italian Republic and I was his counterpart in Slovenia. At that meeting we succeeding in finding a constructive solution to the dispute which had strained the relations between Slovenia and Italy for some time and was related to the optanti and certain attempts to hinder Slovenia on its path to the European Union. Together we established that the future of both Italy and Slovenia lay in Europe. We understood that it was necessary to put our past behind us, that we should not repeat the old patterns of behaviour which sometimes led to confrontation. We knew that we had to build on positive elements and turn our eyes to the future. This was our message then and it is still valid today.

Click to enlargeWhile President of the European Commission, Mr Prodi always promoted the enlargement of the EU. The European Commission was firm in its decision that the EU had to be enlarged by ten new member states. At that time this decision appeared very bold and remote. Yet, we managed to make it true – each of us through persistence, resolve and hard work. And in my eyes, what happened while Mr Prodi presided over the European Commission - the EU's enlargement to 25 members - is truly a historic achievement. Mr Prodi has always encouraged us on our European path. We have always received positive messages, together we have always turned to the future. Again, this order is an expression of acknowledgement of such mode of action. I am convinced that we will continue to cooperate in the same way also in the future. Thank you.

Click to enlargeMr Prodi thanked President Drnovšek and said that he was deeply touched by his speech and honoured by the decoration. He said he had followed Slovenia’s steps and the difficulties since it gained independence. Despite their initial concern that such a small country could not easily stand alone, he and his fellow citizens soon understood that Italy and Slovenia shared a common destiny.

Click to enlargeHe remembered that his first foreign policy task after becoming Prime Minister was to settle the problems existing between Italy and Slovenia: only on this basis could Slovenia join the European Union. In the end, Slovenia's progress was so rapid and notable that there was no doubt during the accession negotiations that Slovenia was top of the class. Mr Prodi compared his role at that time to that of a professor, explaining his strict and fair approach to all candidate countries. Still, the pace of change and progress in Slovenia was remarkable, and he stressed that it should make all Slovenes feel proud. Mr Prodi noted, however, that now that Slovenia is preparing for the Euro - which in his view is a necessary step to take - there was still a lot of work to be done, and added that Slovenia bore a great responsibility in the European Commission, where it was in charge of the research portfolio. The importance of this sector demonstrates that Slovenia has gained considerable respect and taken its place in Europe, added Mr Prodi. It is now time for Italy, Slovenia and Croatia to consolidate their cooperation in order to reinforce and boost the Adriatic Sea. Only in this way can we avoid being sidelined. Only if we stand together, said Mr Prodi, will we again become the true, future-oriented Central Europe. For that reason he committed himself to working towards bringing our countries even closer together, so that they may jointly conquer the future.

Click to enlargeBy way of conclusion, Mr Prodi again thanked Dr Drnovšek for the Order, and said it meant encouragement and moral obligation for him to continue to work in the same direction.