The Slovenia Times

President Türk Highlights Need for Unity in Europe in National Day Address


Addressing a crowd of hundreds gathered in Ljubljana's Congress Square, Türk stressed Europe needed economic growth and development - through strong joint projects and a strengthened legitimacy of decision-making in the European Union.

"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," Türk said, adding that today, "we need more Europe, not less".

Türk also condemned ideological divisions and called for respect of Slovenia's past stretching back to the time of General Maister and the struggle for the northern border during and after World War I.

"We should not reject what has won us respect in the world. 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," Türk said.

He also called for the rejection of all types of totalitarianism, not only its historically recognised and outdated forms.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 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," Türk stressed.

Turning to the future, the president said opportunities needed to be given to younger generations. "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."

This will require trust, favourable family conditions, quality education and especially employment opportunities and better job security, the president emphasised.

The ceremony at the 21st anniversary of statehood was attended by numerous top officials and visible 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 Ceremony to remember 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 showed that Slovenia was able to adapt and react to changes brought by the changing international situation and globalisation.

Even in the past few months, Slovenia has proven that it can "exit from the unsustainable circle of spending and can restrain give a signal to the entire world that Slovenia's financial stability is something to be counted on".

But the run-up to the ceremony had been marred by controversy surrounding the official guest list compiled by the government, which did not include flag-bearers of veteran associations from Slovenia's pre-independence period, including WWII veterans.

Following an angry response from the associations, opposition parties and even some coalition parties, parliamentary Speaker Gregor Virant invited the veterans to take part in the ceremonial session in the National Assembly, but the veterans turned down the invitation.

Virant's Citizens List (DL) joined fellow coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the People's Party (SLS) in expressing 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 sentiment from the opposition parties, DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec announced he would remind Janša that the government had promised at the outset of its term to abstain from opening ideological issues.

The debates about 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 doubts sown about Slovenia's chances of gaining independence by the current president of the WWII Veterans Association 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 - which was adopted by the Yugoslav People's Army (JLA) after WWII - represented at today's ceremony would be an insult to Slovenians who fell in the independence war under JLA gunfire.


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