Strugguling for Unity
President Danilo Türk stressed in his keynote address at the official ceremony marking National Day, that the path forward does not lead through a crumbling Europe, but rather the contrary: “Europe will overcome the crisis only if it finds solid common solutions and a common path forward”.
Addressing the crowd gathered in Ljubljana’s Kongresni Trg, Türk stressed that Europe needs economic growth and development - through strong joint projects and strengthened decision making legitimacy in the European Union. “The European Parliament must become the common home of democracy and the European Commission a true warranty of efficient governance in which we can all believe,” Türk said, adding that today, “we need more Europe, not less”. Türk also condemned ideological divisions and called for respect of Slovenia’s past back to the time of General Maister and the struggle for the northern border during and after World War I.
Looking to the future
“We should not reject what has won us respect in the world. The division between those who fought during the Second World War for our freedom and those who nurture the memory of our distinguised past, including the Independence War in 1991, is irresponsible and needlessly divides us once again”. He also called for the rejection of all types of totalitarianism, not only its historically recognised and outdated forms.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 the hatred of foreigners and any form of diversity. We must also reject all, even more subtle attempts, to monopolise power and the enticing temptations of authoritarianism”. Looking to the future, the President said opportunities need to be given to younger generations. “If we want a better future, let us invest in the young. We must enable quality education today in order to really ensure sustainable and long-term development.”
This will require trust, favourable family conditions, quality education and particularly employment opportunities and job security, the President emphasised. The ceremony marking the 21st anniversary of statehood, was attended by numerous top officials and high profile members of society, including Prime Minister Janez Janša and former President, Milan Kučan. The evening event, which featured an honorary gun salute and a colourful cultural show featuring Slovenian folk groups, was a culmination of numerous events to mark National Day. Earlier in the day, Türk and Defence Minister, Aleš Hojs, placed wreaths at the Ljubljana Cemetary in remembrance of the victims of the Independence War. A ceremonial session of the National Assembly was also held, with Deputy Speaker, Jakob Presečnik, saying the past two decades of independence have shown that Slovenia is able to adapt and react to changes brought about by the changing international situation and globalisation. Even in recent months, Slovenia has proven that it can “exit from the unsustainable circle of spending and can restrain itself...to give a signal to the entire world that Slovenia’s financial stability is something that can be relied upon “.
Slovenian Politicians: Specialists for producing controversy around WWII
The run-up to the ceremony was however mired by controversy surrounding the official guest list compiled by the government which did not include flag-bearers of the veteran’s associations prior to Slovenia’s independence, including WWII veterans. Following an angry response from the associations, opposition parties and even some of the coalition parties, including parliamentary Speaker Gregor Virant, invited the veterans to take part in the ceremonial session in the National Assembly, the veterans however declined the invitation. Virant’s Citizens List (DL) joined fellow coalition members, the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) and the People’s Party (SLS), in expressing their opposition to the decision to omit the veterans from the guest list, shifting responsibility for the controversy to the remaining coalition partners, the Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi). Echoing the sentiments of the opposition parties, DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec announced that he would remind Janša that the government had promised at the outset of its term to abstain from opening ideological issues. The debates around the guest list continued at the ceremony itself, with Türk condemning attempts to rekindle divisions, while the host of the event, actor Jernej Kuntner, highlighted the doubts of the current President of the WWII Veterans Association, voiced at the time, of Slovenia’s chances of gaining independence as Slovenia prepared to break away from Yugoslavia. Kuntner said that president of the WWII Veterans Association, Janez Stanovnik, “had years ago labelled Slovenia’s independence efforts as a suicide attempt” and that members of the association had expressed no desire to take part in the first statehood ceremony 21 years ago. Moreover, he said that having the five-pointed Partisan star, adopted by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JLA) after WWII, represented at the ceremony would be an insult to Slovenians who fell in the Independence War from JLA gunfire.
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