Ban Calls for Promotion of Lasting Stability in the Balkans
Ban pointed to his "deep connection and attachment" to Slovenia, including through his service as South Korea's concurrent ambassador for the country from Vienna in the 1990s.
"I feel Slovenia," he said in Slovenian as the reason why he keeps coming back to the country. This time he begins his tour of the former Yugoslavia here.
Ban remembered visiting Slovenia as secretary general in 2008 when he walked over the Triple Bridge crossing the Ljubljanica river in central Ljubljana. He used this as a cue to speak about three symbolic new bridges for Slovenia.
"The first is the bridge from your Yugoslav past to your European future; second the bridge connecting your neighbours in this region to their European aspirations; and third the bridge linking Slovenia and the United Nations in our global mission for peace, security, development and human rights," he said, convinced that these new 'triple bridges' will be as "monumental, lasting and impressive" as the Tromostovje.
Slovenia's position has been different from those of other countries in the former Yugoslavia from the start, being fortunate to be largely spared the most brutal experiences of war, while it had a responsibility to help others who were affected, Ban said, referring to its hosting of refugees and demining efforts.
"There are other 'mines' that could explode with pressure. We have to de-activate underlying tensions and distrust through dialogue and reconciliation," Ban said, expressing gratefulness to Slovenia for promoting these goals in the region and for lending its expertise to the countries seeking to join the EU.
The secretary general also made references to Slovenia's participation in UN peacekeeping missions in the world, involvement in mine clearing and in the Alliance of Civilisations.
He also lauded Slovenia's contribution as member of the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, as well as its advancement of women's rights.
Ban went on to praise Slovenia's effort to improve the situation of the Roma people and noted that throughout his trip he would encourage all countries to do more to root out persistent discrimination and provide the Roma people with basic rights.
"In 1991, when Slovenia gained independence, your theme was inspiring: Dare to Dream," Ban said referring to the famous quotation from the then Slovenian President Milan Kučan, and added: "Today, I would extend that to suggest that Slovenia should dare to dream for our world."
Describing Slovenia as a "small but crucially important country with a long and proud history of looking outward", Ban said that Slovenia's national anthem, "A Toast", was a call for global citizenship, a world where "'no war, no strife shall hold its sway'...a world where all people live free as neighbours".
"Together we are stronger. Here is to our partnership in the future," the secretary general concluded his address in the Slovenian to the enthusiastic applause from the auditorium.
In his introductory address, Speaker Gregor Virant noted that Slovenia's accession to the UN 20 years ago was of extraordinary importance for the young country.
The trust expressed then was an additional encouragement to the country to make its mark in the international arena and to contribute to UN efforts for peace and security and care for the environment and sustainable development. "We were given a right and an opportunity to prove ourselves in the international community."
Virant said the UN today was facing new challenges, from development of higher standards in human rights and security, promotion of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, to the efforts for a nuclear armament free world, as well as reform of the Security Council.
Ban also met President Danilo Türk, with the pair discussing the situation in Syria and calling on the UN Security Council to pass further measures to address the crisis.
According to a statement from Türk's office, the pair also touched on the questions of preventive diplomacy, human rights and tasks of the international community in the areas of environmental protection and sustainable development.