Address by the Prime Minister of Slovenia Miro Cerar on the occasion of the Statehood Day of the Republic of Slovenia
Excellences and other distinguished guests,
Dear Friends of Slovenia,
I am delighted to address you here in Brussels, the Capital of the European Union, at the occasion of the Slovenian Statehood Day. On Sunday, Slovenia is celebrating its’ 26th birthday, still being young and vibrant but also more experienced and prepared for the life ahead.
This year is also marked with 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations of my country with the Kingdom of Belgium as well as most of the countries you are coming from. At this point, I would like to thank you all for your friendship and cooperation.
Since its independence, my country has travelled a long path. And quite an impressive one, I dare to say. We evolved into a democratic society that has developed into a stable welfare state. On its sovereign path, Slovenia has established itself as a responsible and reliable member of international community. A partner that advocates the importance of the rule of law and international institutions, understands the meaning of solidarity and takes on its share of the burden when needed.
We remain proud to be a member of the European Union and NATO. I am stating that as a leader of a country with strong experience with challenges the Union is facing lately. First, we were hit by the financial and economic crisis. For a strongly export driven economy as ours, this was a huge blow.
Just as we started to recover again, the large-scale migration crisis swept throughout Europe, definitely not sparing Slovenia, a country of 2 million people hosting more than half a million desperate migrants in 5 months.
But with a lot of effort as well as help especially from fellow Member States, we managed to overcome those challenges. We are still deeply grateful for all the assistance in manpower and equipment given in times of historic migrant inflow. And this is why we will never stop being solidary to others when they will need our assistance.
Today, Slovenia is in a good shape. Due to a disciplined fiscal policy combined with structural measures, we are out of the crisis. Back on track, some would say. We are experiencing solid 3% GDP growth, falling unemployment rates as well as positive statistics in trade, services and tourism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With all this, Slovenia truly understands the situation in Europe. Moreover, we are convinced that in this challenging world, only together we can be safer and stronger. That progress can be made only if we work together constructively and to the benefit of us all. We even embedded this notion into our national anthem, saying “God's blessing on all nations… Who long to see, that all men free, no more shall foes, but neighbours be!”
The challenges I have mentioned are on the agenda of the European Council meeting tomorrow, where we will discuss the future of the Union in all its aspects, from security and migration to competitiveness and climate action. Based on our deliberations so far, I believe we can and should look with confidence into the future – our common European future.
Of course, many challenges remain. Even more serious international ones are growing. They are more complex and even more frequent. Next to irregular migration flows we are increasingly faced with terrorism, armed conflicts, humanitarian crises, environmental problems and natural disasters.
In this respect, we need to improve our security and enhance capabilities of our defence. We also need to provide sufficient responsibility and solidarity in the area of migration. We need to deepen our Single market and strengthen the Economic and monetary union to make our economies more competitive and resilient. And we need to preserve the four freedoms and other advantages of Schengen area. At this point I want to say it loud and clear that borders within Schengen should not become a long term modus operandi. Unless we keep the free flow of goods, people and services, the EU will hardly be able to step outside of this spiral of threatening disintegration.
Focusing on our internal consolidation, we should not forget about the EU perspective of the Western Balkans. Together, we need to strive for stability and prosperity of this region. Also by positive examples. Next week the Arbitration tribunal will render its final award regarding the longstanding open border issue between the two EU member states, Slovenia and Croatia. This is important also for the Western Balkans region. I sincerely believe that constructive implementation of arbitration award can offer a good example for solving open issues throughout the region.
Honourable guests, Slovenia is willing and able to cooperate in order to make the Union stronger and to make the world a better place to live.
Last year there were many opportunities to look at our Union profoundly, to look at ourselves basically. Let me use this opportunity to remind us again that we are not only a union of common interests but foremost a union of common values. That every progress we do should have its human face. That freedom, democracy, rule of law, human rights and solidarity are those that make our European Union strong and the place to live in.
Let us all through our own endeavours bring the spirit of these values back to life and translate them into a fresh and dynamic agenda for the future of the EU that serves us all, but mostly our youth. This is also the path towards a confident EU that can make a difference in the world. Let’s be ambitious about it.
For the end, allow me to say a few words in Slovenian.
Vsem vam, dragi Slovenci, ki dnevno zastopate interese naše države tu v Bruslju ali v Luksemburgu, se toplo zahvaljujem za vaše vztrajno delo v dobro naše države in Evrope nasploh. Hvala tudi vašim partnerjem, ki vas pri tem podpirajo in razumejo, zakaj se iz pisarne največkrat vračate v poznih urah. Iskrene čestitke ob dnevu državnosti.
Foto: Nebojša Tejić/STA