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Inauguration Speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Danilo Türk

Ljubljana, 22.12.2007  |  speech

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Dear Members of the National Assembly,
Distinguished guests,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great honour to take oath as President of the Republic of Slovenia at today's ceremony. Today, before witnesses, namely the members of the National Assembly and other participants at this ceremony, I assume my official duties as President of the Republic of Slovenia. To these responsibilities I intend to devote my best efforts for the benefit of all people in Slovenia and our community as a whole.

Click to enlargePresidential responsibilities were conferred on me as a result of general elections which reflected the will of the citizens of Slovenia. I take office with a deep sense of responsibility for and commitment to all the inhabitants of our country. I shall do my very best to justify the trust articulated in the elections.

I am aware that people expect a president to listen attentively to their opinions and to make an effort to understand their problems. Understanding people means above all understanding those that are weaker. I shall do my best to hear and understand their voice. But understanding people also means helping to find solutions to their problems. To that end, I shall strive for constructive, consistent and balanced co-operation with the Government and the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. My endeavours will also focus on integration and reconciliation, as well as on the inner balance and composure required in order to ensure progress.

I would first, however, like to take advantage of today's ceremony to thank – on my own behalf, on behalf of the State of Slovenia and on behalf of all Slovenian citizens – the outgoing President, Dr Janez Drnovšek for his statesmanship and key contribution to the success and reputation of our country.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am assuming the office of President of the Republic at a time when Slovenia has already been accepted as a successful country and a responsible member of the international community and will be assuming the six-month Presidency of the EU Council in just a few days’ time. Alongside its political and practical implications, this Presidency will have a symbolic meaning which can only be understood in the proper historic context.

For most of its history the Slovenian nation managed to survive within wider political systems. The same is true of our position today, in this period of our membership of the European Union. Yet, the situation today is entirely different and substantially better than it has been in the past. Now we have our own sovereign state and every reason to be proud of it. Only a century ago, things were completely different. The Slovenian nation was one of those subjugated nations which achieved full cultural awareness only in the 19th century , meaning that they became essentially cultural nations. In those times, the Slovenians were more of a national minority, especially since our ancestors did not have the opportunity to live in a single administrative unit. Indeed the majority of Slovenian people lived separated from the Slovenian ethnic home territory, which was the Kranjska Province.

Click to enlargeThe development of the Slovenian nation from a cultural to a political nation is of critical importance, a process which has been ongoing throughout the 20th century but which has still not entirely run its course. This development has brought us successes and standstills, times of heroism and times of severe violations of human rights. The fundamental aim throughout this development was the struggle for the urgently required integration of Slovenian territory. In this struggle we had our heroes: General Maister and his combatants for the Northern Border, the TIGR movement and its fight against fascism and, in particular, the fighters of the National Liberation Struggle during World War II, who liberated our homeland from the yoke of the foreign occupation and secured the restitution of most of the territory of the Primorska Region to the original homeland, Slovenia. In this way, we achieved the establishment of an integrated territory which, several decades later, has facilitated the constitution of an independent and internationally recognised Slovenia. From this heroic history we can draw the self-confidence we need today.

Through its National Liberation Struggle against Nazism and Fascism, the Slovenian nation secured for itself yet another important asset: it emerged as the shaper of its own historic destiny with its own place within the great alliance of the United Nations, which is to say, among the nations which co-created the current world order. We have every right to say that, in the political and substantive sense, although not the legal or formal sense, the Slovenian nation was among the founders of the United Nations. From this historic circumstance we should also draw our self-confidence, which provides the basis for our operating within the contemporary global and European arena.

Click to enlargeHowever, the era immediately after the end of World War II also brought some tragic events and serious crimes, such as the mass liquidations of defeated forces. The World War II, so to say, pushed the world out of its moral hinges. The mass violations of human rights which occurred in the run-up to the war, as well as during and after the war itself, should continue to serve as a lasting warning, imposing the urgent obligation on us to safeguard human rights today and in the future.

In the former common Yugoslav state, in which the majority of Slovenes for the most part lived in a time of transformation from a cultural to a political nation, human rights were often violated. The suffering of people, who experienced unjust, long-term sentences, or who even lost their lives, remains a permanent part of our historical memory. Wherever possible, such injustices should be redressed. However, the achievements of that time should also be understood. During that period, our nation finally accomplished the transition into a political nation and eventually, towards the end of the 1980s, proved its ability to protect the human rights of all the people living on its territory.

The plebiscite on independence and its result reflected the will of a Slovenian people demanding sovereignty and statehood as a fundamental guarantee of the human rights of the individual and of the development of our community, as well as being a prerequisite for our incorporation into the European and world forum. In 1991, with resolute unity and established efficiency, we also proved that we were capable of fully asserting our right to self-determination. This experience has been another boost to our present-day self-confidence.

Having thus earned our sovereignty and statehood, we were in the end able to constitute a political nation with its own state. From that time on, we must bear full responsibility for ensuring the rule of law and respect for human rights, as well as providing for sustainable development, which, in the long run, will guarantee us the continued improvement of our welfare. Maybe it is true that we have missed several opportunities in our history. However, the time we live in is enabling us to disengage from our historic heritage as latecomers and to join the most progressive, successful and tolerant countries in the world.

But why do we know that this goal, although achievable, is never granted for good?

First, we have achieved a lot since gaining our own state. We can be proud of the road we walked since gaining independence up to the present, having a state with successful economy and enjoying an international reputation and trust. All these we need to continually consolidate and cultivate. In this way, we will best protect and develop our identity and culture.

It is a well-known fact that culture is the oldest subject matter of human history. This applies to humanity as a whole as well as to individual nations and civilisations. It is all the more true of Slovenia and our nation. In our history, it was indeed culture, and written culture in particular, which created the nation's awareness of itself and its ability to transition from early forms of economic and political development to more developed forms oriented towards the future.

The situation today is much the same. By joining the European Union and other institutions of European associations, new possibilities for multifaceted development have opened up for Slovenia. These require increasingly intensive communication with our environment and represent new opportunities. Under these new circumstances and in the new environment, we will have to safeguard our identity and ensure that our language and culture are fostered, our history respected, and our future thereby assured. Success depends on ourselves alone: although the European Union is a friendly environment, it can neither provide nor guarantee our identity. We have to take care of both these aspects ourselves. It will therefore be vitally important to develop our country as a culturally rich community, i.e. as a land of culture in the broadest meaning of the word. Slovenia will continue to make progress provided that it shows itself to be a country which enables multi-faceted cultural existence. We must care for the cultural nature of our everyday life, a cultured landscape, the development of physical culture and sports, for a better level of culture in our political life and, of course, for the development of arts and sciences as the most precious elements of our shared culture. Only in this way we can make progress.

All of these also require certain material investments, including support for top scientists, artists and athletes. However, such investments are not especially large nor the most significant. The key issue is the development of our consciousness, which must not be satisfied with what has been achieved or confine itself to material welfare, but must strive for constant improvement of the quality of human interrelations, respect for and careful use of our language, and preservation of all those values which ensured our national development up to now and which will continue to do so in future. The most fundamental of these values is social solidarity and the desire to establish equality and feasible opportunities for all, irrespective of race, religion or any personal circumstance, such as disability.

The ethics of responsibility, taking pride in previous achievements and patriotism are among the most important values of this kind. Against this background, we build solid foundations for co-operation between the state and organisations of civil society, including churches, among which the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally had an important role in Slovenia. Christian ideals and universal human ethics are among the elements which enrich our culture and development, and the whole package of civil and social activities contributes to our striving for a cultural society in which welfare will be understood not only as a material but also as a spiritual category.

These basic ideas on development are not ours alone. In various shapes and forms, they can be found in many nations throughout the world. It is also quite clear that in Europe and in many other parts of the world, such development is possible only under conditions of guaranteed security and respect for the rule of law. They both provide the framework required for social development. However, the stability of this framework needs to be constantly taken care of.

Like culture, security should in today’s conditions also be understood in the appropriate context. We have to understand that the modern person and our continued development both require guaranteed security, and that includes legal and social security, the protection of privacy and trust in an effective state apparatus capable of ensuring the respect of privacy and the protection of human rights.

Throughout our development, we have seen major progress in these areas too. However, we should not be satisfied with what has been achieved. For citizens, the road to justice is often too long. The implementation of court decisions is not always satisfactory. There is one case where a judgment of the Constitutional Court affecting a large number of people living on Slovenian territory has remained pending implementation for several years. More must also be done for the rights of children and for the prevention of violence in society.

It is a requirement of the rule of law and a constitutional state that the independence and authority of the judiciary be respected and that said judiciary be ensured appropriate conditions for performing its duties. At the beginning of 2008, we will face an important test: the election of four new Constitutional Court judges. I intend to prepare proposals to facilitate the necessary consultations and, I hope, ensure a successful outcome of the process. This will enable a broad review of the requirements of the Constitutional Court at the earliest possible opportunity and, where necessary, should enable additional solutions to be found.

When striving to honour human rights, proper attention should also be paid to economic, social and cultural rights. It is good that the unemployment rate in Slovenia has been decreasing, since this helps to enhance people’s well-being and to enable their right to work. We should, however, seek to attain the best possible employment security. Too many young people are forced to take fixed-term employment, which does not facilitate the planning of family life or a vision of one’s own future. Of course the flexibility of the labour market needs to be ensured, but if we want progress for everybody, the burdens of flexibility have to be balanced. Equal opportunities should continue to be the most important guiding principle both in employment policy and in other areas such as education and health care. Careful consideration is needed in these areas to ensure that new solutions required by the growth are properly thought out and supported by expert arguments and that the positive elements of the existing systems are preserved. Due account should also be taken of the age structure of the Slovenian population, which forces us to pay great attention to the adequacy of our health care system.

All aspects of the protection of human rights and the rule of law contribute to underpinning human safety and human dignity. These are also the chief guarantees of the quality of development that is needed today. At the same time we also need a defence system qualified for the tasks imposed on Slovenia by its security needs and the international commitments it has accepted. Our defence forces have important tasks within international peace-keeping operations in which Slovenia is perfectly justified in participating. We need, however, to consider past experience and future priorities thoroughly. At the same time we should be careful to ensure that the Slovenian defence forces enjoy the due respect and moral support of society as a whole, this being indispensable for them to carry out their duties successfully. From the Slovenian army I expect professional, lawful and ethical conduct in all situations, when carrying out tasks at home and abroad, in their dealings with the civilian population and in their mutual dealings within the armed forces.

The development of our defence forces has over past years brought many changes. It is understandable that this dynamic development has opened up new questions that require careful consideration and sound solutions. As the supreme commander of the defence forces, in line with the competence accorded by the constitution and legislation of Slovenia, I intend to carefully monitor the development and difficulties of the military, the state of combat readiness, professional qualifications and procurement issues. Attaining the standards that are needed for cooperation in the operative and command activities of NATO ranks among the most urgent priorities. Resolving the material situation of the soldiers and officers of the Slovenian Army is one of the pressing issues of today, one that will have to be carefully monitored in the future too. Upgrading the defence system, assuring the necessary harmonisation of our constitutional and legislative systems and defining tasks and systemic solutions for the deployment of armed forces in the event of natural disasters and similar emergencies are among the tasks to which I shall devote my attention continually throughout the my term of office.

While the assurance of security and the rule of law constitute the solid framework which gives society the opportunity to develop, the nature of our development depends on the success of our economy, the quality of our social activities and public administration and the ability to reconcile economic and ecological needs. In these respects we have already attained a great deal, but great and important tasks still lie ahead.

Only conditions of sustainable development can guarantee genuine human safety. Sustainable development must be expressed as sustained economic growth based on the highest possible added value. This is the only way of catching up with more developed countries. We have to take care of our natural environment in the long term and perform any necessary rehabilitation where long-lasting harmful consequences were inflicted in the past. We have to understand that looking after the environment is to be seen not just as an expense but also as a necessity and an economic opportunity. Developing science and technology will enable to benefit from this opportunity. The tasks and opportunities involved are on the global scale. In Slovenia, too, we have to consider the importance of recognising the new opportunities afforded by the development of environment-friendly business, that has already engaged thousands of companies worldwide; sooner or later these companies will be able to enjoy the rewards of seizing these opportunities.

As President, I intend to participate actively in these endeavours by encouraging discussions and research, engaging public opinion, enhancing international contacts and more.
The opinion that Slovenia should invest a larger share of its national product in research and development and build on previous achievements has been increasingly gaining ground. Innovation must be supported: scientific parks such as the one recently opened in Ljubljana, and those being created in other parts of Slovenia, follow the successful model known abroad and will provide important support for this development. I shall work towards promoting excellence in the scientific field, towards attracting excellent foreign experts and encouraging their involvement in Slovenian projects.

Strengthening the technological and development-oriented capacity of our economy is also an important aspect of economic competitiveness. We need a competitive economic structure, based on export demand as the main factor of economic growth. Entrepreneurship and willingness to accept risk will have to be increased as well. The citizens of Slovenia are not generally known for their willingness to take risk, and this is hindering the development of entrepreneurship. I will support the ongoing trend of reducing the share of state ownership in companies and such regulation of the labour market as will ensure both greater flexibility and social security. The flexibility and social security demanded by the labour market are of key importance and as legitimate goals are not mutually contradictory. In Slovenia we already have examples of internationally successful companies that have attained these two goals on the basis of well-thought out competitive placement. The more such companies there are, the easier it will be to attain both goals. As President, I shall strive to ensure that the positive results of successful companies are recognised as widely as possible by society. I am convinced, furthermore, that with a view to reconciling these two goals, further development of the labour-employer relations that include modern forms of industrial democracy and participation in the management of companies should be promoted. Good solutions in this field are also of the utmost importance for the successful coordination of pay policies and for the social security of workers.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the National Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our development priorities require a thoughtful foreign policy which can contribute significantly to international conditions for successful development. Actually, the nature of the foreign policy we need can be summed up in a single word – sovereignty. In Slovenia, we need to foster awareness of the fact that, within the European Union as well as within other associations, Slovenia is a sovereign State and that it is precisely for this reason that we have to act in such a way as to make sure that Slovenia is actually – and not simply in formal terms – sovereign. For this to be achieved, we must act with self-confidence, that is to say, with competence, knowledge, considered opinions and responsible action. We need to take a position on an ever-increasing number of international issues. During the Presidency of the EU, we will have to take stances on all the issues dealt with in the world arena by the EU – one of the global players. Thanks to our successful work in the UN Security Council and during the presidency of the OSCE, we are by no means lacking in experience. It has been proved that a country of our size and flexibility may play a constructive role that benefits the entire international community.

Foreign policy is an expression of the internal maturity of a society, and it is a means for linking up all the values and achievements of our society with a view to earning respect for Slovenia throughout the world. In foreign policy, as in other fields, nothing is guaranteed once and for all. Making progress in terms of building up esteem and respect for a country requires serious effort. Equally serious efforts must be sustained in order to keep the respect which has been earned. As President of the Republic, I intend to participate in shaping and implementing foreign-policy decisions, all in compliance with our legal system and in the best interests of our country. I shall work towards strengthening credibility and respect for international law, and for the Republic of Slovenia to adopt principled and thoughtful positions on all important international issues.

It goes without saying that in the first half of 2008, Slovenia will devote all the necessary energy to its Presidency of the EU and a unified European stand on all the important issues, including, among others, Kosovo and Middle East. With respect to those issues, the role of the EU as a political player of major importance for resolving crises in Europe and its neighbourhood should be reinforced. Furthermore, the EU has important tasks in the construction of the international arrangements and institutional systems needed for better global governance. Slovenia will have to pay appropriate attention to these issues as well.

At the same time, foreign policy will need to be developed at all other levels too. Bilateral relations with other countries are one important level. In this context, it is the neighbouring countries, with which we share a long common history and strong joint interests that are of primary importance. Settled and stable relations with our neighbours are a key strategic interest of our country. We wish to develop these relations further on the basis of mutual respect, trust and comprehensive co-operation and on the basis of respect for international law. In these relations, the principle of territorial integrity is of fundamental importance. We are engaged in developing rich networks of co-operation in political, business, education, cultural, sports and other fields. It is another way in which we are contributing towards reinforcing stability in this part of Europe and developing security and business structures.

Bilateral relations with other countries in the world should be further developed too, both with major powers, with which Slovenia has already established good and mutually beneficial relations, and with others. For Slovenia, opportunities are opening up at the international level for broader cooperation and active involvement, allowing it to contribute to intercultural dialogue in the world. We currently see the globalised world as an area of increasingly intense competition but it also offers increased opportunities. Now is the time to thoroughly reconsider our position in the world, both in terms of the need to strengthen our competitiveness and in terms of our involvement in the dialogue between cultures and civilisations. The vision of the peaceable world which we hold dear in Slovenia requires both.

Previously in the past, and more recently as an independent state within the UN, Slovenia has managed to find its own position and an active role of its own. We are part of the globalised world, and that means that global problems are also our problems. By achieving independence we also laid down the conditions for playing an active role in the world. There is no reason to repeat the errors of individuals from previous generations of Slovenes who thought that international issues were “too big” for us. History has taught us that such views inevitably lead to the status of an object whose position in international relations is determined by others. Today, there is no great risk that such errors would be committed. We should, however, be aware of our negative past experiences in order to walk even more determinedly on the path of our development and participate in the international community with the energy of a self-confident, sovereign nation.

It is against this background that we can ask ourselves what Slovenia will be like in five years’ time, or at the end of my term of office. In my mind's eye I see Slovenia as an example of successful development in this post-industrial era. I see Slovenia as the homeland of successful, educated and cultured people. I hope for a country where the culture of living and living in harmony is an honoured principle and solidarity between people a widely cherished value. I believe in a Slovenia respected in the world. I envisage that, over the next five years, we will travel a long way along the path towards earning this kind of respect.

This vision requires some optimism and awareness of the advantages that history bestowed upon us. We live at a meeting point between major European cultures and we have experience of living in multi-national communities. This makes us even more aware of the value of using our sovereignty responsibly. Let us become a focal point for new ideas and intercultural dialogue. Let us set the example in terms of respect for difference and integration of differences to produce a higher quality. Let us inspire innovativeness, creativity and enterprise in all areas. Let us be open-minded – politically, economically and intellectually. Ours is a time of multiple opportunities. Let us take advantage of them!

Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you once again for your attention, for your trust and support. Allow me to express my best wishes to all of you, I hope you have enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s holidays and that the new year brings you peace, health, kindness and success.

Thank you.
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