Slovenia Marks National Day
National Day (25 June), the day when it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, was marked on Monday with a number of events. President Borut Pahor warned against wasting Slovenia's independence and stressed that Slovenians must remain the masters of their fate as he spoke at the central ceremony in Ljubljana, urging unity.
"We simply need to succeed, anything else would be a shameful betrayal," he said in Congress Square, adding that this is "our moral and civic duty to our brave and patriotic ancestors and above all to our children. We must not take these dreams away from them."
He assessed that the government, parliament and other state institutions have responded to the crisis with a move in the right direction, but too slowly and with too little determination. The crisis requires "a lot of unity, mutual respect, solidarity, confidence and bold steps," according to Pahor.
The president argued that the idea of Slovenia is based on reconciliation, while noting that this is not only about a state but about more than that - a homeland. "It is about the feeling of an authentic community that is not based on rights and duties but on a heartfelt membership of a community," he is convinced.
Before the main ceremony, National Day was also marked in parliament, with deputies meeting for a ceremonial session and Speaker Janko Veber delivering the keynote address. He said that the economic crisis had hit Slovenia hard, and that the way back would require a great deal of time, patience, reason and consensus.
Veber stressed that the idea of an independent Slovenian state, whose main goals were economic success, welfare and social equality, became true in the parliament building in 1991, when Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia.
This year's ceremony is introducing an honour guard in front of the Presidential Palace on an initiative from former Defence Minister Aleš Hojs. This special date in Slovenia's history will also be marked by the Slovenian Armed Forces and the police.
Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek addressed members of the Slovenian Armed Forces deployed in international missions via video conference, thanking them for their contribution to Slovenia's reputation in the international community. She said they were also Slovenian ambassadors and played in important role in the Slovenian foreign policy.
Earlier in the day, Pahor hosted a reception for the families of those who were killed in the 1991 war for Slovenian independence. He told them that there was enough of courage in Slovenia 22 years ago, expressing the wish for Slovenians to never lose this courage.
Traditionally, Archbishop of Ljubljana Anton Stres celebrated a Mass for the Homeland in Ljubljana's St Nicholas's Cathedral, saying in his address that the holiday is being celebrated in a discouraging and pessimistic atmosphere due to the lack of fairness, truthfulness, justice, mutual respect and cooperation.
The celebration of National Day was however not spared from controversy, as the opposition Democrats (SDS) protested against the presence of the red five-pointed star at the central National Day ceremony and in parliament. SDS officials boycotted both events and instead get together at an alternative event in Celje addressed by SDS head Janez Janša.
The SDS, under whose rule WWII veterans whose symbols include the red star were prohibited from attending the ceremony for the first time last year, argue the presence of symbols of the Yugoslav Armed Forces, an aggressor, and of the Communist regime is clearly incompliant with the Constitution.
The coalition Social Democrats (SDS) meanwhile argued that Slovenia was founded on efforts by a number of generations and movements, including on the WWII liberation struggle, and Positive Slovenia (PS) echoed the SD by criticising the "boycotting of national ceremonies because of a star that is part of our history".
MEP Lojze Peterle, who served as prime minister of Slovenia's first government, argued that polarisation brings neither clarification of facts nor catharsis, as it is only aimed at disabling the other side. According to him, the inability to overcome political divisions in the celebration of the holiday is a bad sign.