Address on the occasion of Slovenian Statehood Day
Ljubljana, 22.6.2012 | speech
Official speech by Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, at the state ceremony celebrating Slovenian Statehood Day
Ljubljana, 22 June 2012
Esteemed Citizens of the Republic of Slovenia,
fellow Slovenians around the world,
I am glad that so many of us have gathered again – here at the ceremony – and at home, in front of the television or the radio. This is as it should be. A country is a shared concern and a shared fate. Today’s ceremony is a moment for us to share our appreciation, and an opportunity to reflect together.
Among us tonight are the participants in the war for Slovenia and the relatives and descendants of those who by giving their lives made the supreme sacrifice for their homeland. We have to be particularly grateful to them for the gained independence.
We are also grateful for the numerous contributions of civil society, its organisations, movements and leaders, who laid the intellectual and political foundations for our independence. We are grateful to all those who led the country after independence to new levels of development and new qualities in our lives.
Today’s occasion is not merely a celebration. It is also an opportunity to look around and within and to ask: what do we want? What are we capable of? And what are we prepared to do to make our expectations come true?
It has been twenty years since we joined the world as an equal among equals. The world has accepted us. The sovereign Republic of Slovenia became a full member of the United Nations and, a few weeks later, we were already participating in a world conference on the ecological fate of the planet. Entering the international community offered us new opportunities and brought new responsibilities. We must be particularly aware of this today - twenty years later. The world is changing, and every one is looking for new solutions. Let us take a brief look into the recent past and at the demanding present in order to find the best possible solutions for our future.
During the formation of Slovenia, we experienced the final decline of the Communist system and its outdated ideology, the end of the Cold War, and the beginning of a new, better and increasingly interconnected world. That was good, as it opened up new perspectives on both human and our common freedom. There was optimism in the air, and we said: ‘All is possible if only we want it.’
But it soon became clear that a contrary idea had prevailed: ‘We want all that is possible.’ The optimism after the Cold War continued into a period of unbridled greed, financial trickery and, in Slovenia, into the arrogation of former public and national property. The past decade has been marked by the irresponsible management of companies and the state, and excessive and reckless corporate borrowing. A great deal of transitional waste has accumulated: blind greed for wealth and power, irresponsible borrowing, injustice and corruption, uncivilised behaviour and party-political games. Lacking was strategic thinking about development.
However, today’s crisis is not ours alone. In recent years, the excess of greed created the conditions for a new global financial crisis, which the European Union was also unable to avoid - and now, we are all seeking a way out together. Old solutions are no longer useful, and we are still seeking new ones. Analogies with trains, which would include some and exclude others, have already proven fictitious. All Europeans are in the crisis together and we can only overcome it together. The path forward does not lead through the crumbling of Europe. On the contrary, Europe will overcome the crisis only if it finds sound common solutions and a common path forward. We need economic growth and development. We need strong joint projects which will give hope and offer a future for the citizens of Europe, and which will be sound enough to convince global financial markets. We need to strengthen the legitimacy of decision-making in the European Union, so that the citizens of Europe are able to identify with its decisions. The European Parliament must become a common home of democracy and the European Commission a true warranty of efficient governance in which we can all believe. Today, we need more Europe, not less.
The resolution of any crisis requires, in particular, the end of illusions and turning to oneself. We must all ask ourselves what are we capable of, and what we must do differently or better. Our joint European fate does not permit us any self-indulgence. It is still true that we must first put our own house in order. Foreign indebtedness does not justify the debts of our companies and banks. A breakdown of the construction industry in another country does not justify our failures in the construction industry, and it especially does not justify the shameful treatment of workers from failed construction companies. The ideological extremism which is present in various parts of the world, and in also our neighbourhood, is not and must not be an excuse for a fervent continuation of our cultural conflicts.
Let us understand and respect our own past. We should not reject what has won us respect in the world. We have a rich patriotic tradition dating back to the time of General Maister and the struggle for the northern border. The people of the Primorska region fought Fascism already in the 1920s. Thanks to the soldiers who fought in the National Liberation War, our nation was one of the members of the victorious alliance in the Second World War. At the end of the 20th century, we were able to join forces and achieve an independent Slovenia.
In all this we can take pride. Thus the division between those who fought during the Second World War for our freedom and those who nurture the memory of our renowned past, including the Independence War in 1991, is irresponsible, and needlessly divides us again. Here, at this symbolic square, where in 1989 the poet Tone Pavček read the May Declaration, is the place where all the generations of veterans and patriotic organisations must stand with their symbols. As our distinguished poet Oton Župančič wrote: “One homeland is given to each of us…”
Let us consider this and try to understand today’s moment and today’s problems as much as possible. Let us be clear. To describe all problems of today as a general moral crisis of European civilisation, or of our society, or as a general crisis of values, is senseless. The ancient thinkers were right: morals follow social conditions, not vice versa. Those who describe current conditions as a general moral crisis of our society are mistaken. They do not or will not see the creative, honest and cultured people who represent the majority in our country. They do not see our altruistic volunteers who on a daily basis help their fellow people in need, sickness or isolation. They do not see all that is positive, all that already exists in our intergenerational cooperation. They do not see all the other examples of noble solidarity. They do not see the great intellectual potential of our people.
Let us think - carefully and honestly - about what are we like and where our true potential lies. I am certain that in Slovenia we are capable of intelligent and sober solutions to overcome the current economic, social and political crisis. Let us respect ourselves and find in this the power to shift to a new level and ensure us the respect of others. If you do not respect yourself and your own achievements, you cannot expect to be respected by others.
Let us be just to ourselves and to others. Let us trust in our own abilities and recognise the good qualities in others. Today, we must nurture all types of justice with particular care - legal, social and international. We expect diligent and consistent work from our judicial system. Justice must be sought in the legal system, not in media stories and political campaigns. It can be provided only by an independent justice system. Justice offered with a strong hand makes a poor basis for the future. Let us reject all types of totalitarianism, and not only its historically recognised and outdated forms. These are dead. Today, we must keep a watchful eye on the new forms which are reflected in hatred of foreigners and any form of diversity. The patterns we can observe in our neighbourhood and elsewhere in Europe must not be granted the right of domicile in Slovenia. We must also reject all, even more subtle attempts to monopolise power and the enticing temptations of authoritarianism.
Where do we go forward? In particular, let us give opportunities to the younger generation, which is heavily burdened with insecurities and expectations. Let us understand the young and offer them space for creativity. If we want a better future, let us invest in the young. We must enable their quality education today in order to really ensure sustainable and long-term development. Let us trust in youth, so that they can jump where there are no bridges yet. But to take a jump, they need support in the form of trust, favourable family conditions, quality education and especially employment opportunities and better job security. Therefore, let us seriously consider whether various ideas on reducing investment in education and science and on the reorganisation of funds for educational purposes are truly appropriate and beneficial. We cannot afford to make mistakes on this strategic question.
Esteemed Citizens of the Republic of Slovenia,
in the present times, it is not enough to know what we want, but also how to get there. Throughout history and in difficult conditions, our people have proven many times that they were able to express spiritual nobility in all its forms - from Christian love to enthusiasm of the post WWII war reconstruction, and the all-inclusive effort to create an independent Republic of Slovenia. Our solidarity has proven itself at every vital moment. Let us rely on this important tradition, which is also our most important social and political value. Let us reject vulgar theorisations that solidarity is a drag on development or that it is only about the restructuring of capital. Solidarity is a bond which connects us as individuals into a society, and which links the past with the future. When we demonstrate solidarity with the young, we show solidarity with ourselves, because these young people will take care of us when we are old. And when we show solidarity with our parents, we only return what we have been given in youth. We can also develop solidarity on the political level. During the recent negotiations between the Government and trade unions on financial issues, the dialogue and agreement were already tested as a means for taking important decisions which concern us all and must thus be based on consensus. We have achieved the first successes. Let us consider this experience and try to develop it into new virtues in our politics - more cultured, less factional and more open to the need for social cohesion and solidarity.
While we have not come very far, we are certainly not at the beginning. Empty slogans on interconnectedness must be replaced by genuine social solidarity and the capacity for real dialogue and for the achievement of sound agreements and good results. We need willingness and knowledge. And both are possible, if only we want them.
Esteemed Citizens, dear fellow Slovenians around the world,
although many people in these difficult times have little reason to celebrate, we all have the right to an occasion at which we can enjoy ourselves. After the celebration, let a new day dawn on Slovenia and an opportunity that it will ‘learn if she’s survived these troubled times’, as our great poet France Prešeren puts it.
Long live Slovenia!