The Slovenia Times

S stands for Slovenia, Solidarity and Stability

Bled Strategic ForumOpinionPolitics
Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo
Solidarity and stability are more than just buzzwords. They are values we live by and cherish, and want to promote globally, Tanja Fajon, Slovenia's minister of foreign and European affairs, writes in her op-ed for Bled Strategic Times ahead of the Bled Strategic Forum, noting that Slovenia experienced solidarity first-hand during the recent catastrophic flooding, and that the country has always been a staunch advocate of stability.

As I write these lines, Slovenia is dealing with the devastating consequences of the worst natural disaster in the country's history. Extreme floods, caused by severe weather conditions and heavy rain, killed at least six people, cut off bridges, roads, electricity and water supplies, ruined buildings and houses, forcing tens of thousands to leave their homes. Two-thirds of the country was affected by unimaginable and unparalleled damage.

Following this unprecedented natural disaster, we saw equally unprecedented solidarity. Slovenian soldiers, police officers, representatives of the Civil Protection Service, firemen and volunteers all risked their lives in order to save the lives of others. Pictures of women and children being carried out of flooded houses, of elderly being rescued by helicopters, of daughters and sons assisting parents to clean their houses, of people helping neighbours and friends clean up their basements, of numerous ad-hoc initiatives for donating money, food and sanitary equipment appeared not only as 'the sun that always shines after a storm', but also as a glimpse of hope and reassurance that the damage will be repaired.

Solidarity has many faces and alongside the 'national solidarity' and genuine will to help, demonstrated by so many Slovenians in the past days, we also saw unselfish help and support from our neighbours, the EU and its countries, NATO as well as other countries and members of the international community. Expressed immediately and in various forms, this 'international solidarity' once again showed that 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'. All of these friends were also there last summer when the Slovenian-Italian Karst region was hit by huge wildfires, revealing that no country is immune to climate change and extreme weather and that natural disasters know no boundaries and cannot be addressed without combined efforts. Nor without solidarity.

In the past year and since the last issue of Bled Strategic Times, I have been busy travelling around the world and campaigning for our bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2024-2025. Our slogan Building Trust. Securing Future has been reflecting the areas where, in the 30 years of our existence, Slovenia has already proven to be a credible partner in international relations. With Building Trust, we are referring to respect for international law, particularly with respect to accountability, conflict prevention, transparency and the women, peace and security agenda; with Securing Future, we are focusing on climate and security, water diplomacy, food security, and children in armed conflict.

If I had to pick one common issue emphasised in my numerous discussions with representatives from around the globe, it would be security understood not simply in its most blatant, 'physical' form, but also as climate security, food security, water security etc. This explains why we have gone a step further with the title and topic of this year's Bled Strategic Forum, introducing solidarity into the equation of global security. As if we knew that solidarity, an often-overused word, would - unfortunately - be such a key factor in Slovenia these days.

Stability is another value that means a lot to us. Throughout its history, Slovenia has been a stable and reliable member of the international community. Despite a brief 10-day war on our soil following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Slovenia has emerged as a determined promoter of stability. We selflessly share our experiences on a wide range of issues in the hope of fostering stability and prosperity in our immediate neighbourhood. Our upcoming membership in the UN Security Council in the 2024-2025 term means that Slovenia holds additional responsibilities in assisting with global problem-solving through cooperation with all UN member states.

Slovenian society as a whole has matured in every respect since our successful political and economic transition that led to our integration into major international structures. Today, Slovenia is not only part of the developed world but also ranks among the most desirable countries to live in. According to the Human Development Index, which takes account of factors like life expectancy, education, and living standards, Slovenia is ranked 23rd out of 191 countries. This is a remarkable achievement, one that we are proud of.

Another fact we are proud of is gaining recognition as a problem-solver rather than a troublemaker in the international arena. For instance, we have helped address regional, European and global challenges both as an individual country and via our involvement as the chair in office of the OSCE, our two separate terms holding the EU presidency, and our membership in the UN Security Council in the late 1990s. In the latter role, we were instrumental in stabilising the Western Balkans through our engagement with Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro. Additionally, we were elected to the UN body ECOSOC last year. This gives us an opportunity to address social and economic challenges. In January 2024, when our membership in the UN Security Council commences, our responsibility for contributing to the resolution of global problems will grow exponentially. Our election to the UN Security Council is testament to the trustworthiness and reputation Slovenia has built among the UN membership. It highlights our commitment to international peace and stability, as well as the constructive approach we have cultivated over the past three decades. At a time of global divisions, our historic win with 153 votes in favour of Slovenia further adds to our success story.

Still, we remain fully committed to the continued progress of Slovenia, both domestically and internationally. Our government is determined to continue implementing the necessary reforms. In the international arena, we are resolute in maintaining Slovenia as a credible and constructive member of the international community, one that supports international law, human rights, and promotes global peace and stability. Holding a seat in the UN Security Council is the most important foreign policy project of our government's mandate. While holding such a prominent position means that we have an opportunity to address global issues, it also entails an enormous responsibility towards our citizens and all UN member states to excel in our work.

Even though our membership in the UN Security Council will be a significant focus of Slovenia's foreign policy, it is not the only issue we will be addressing. Relations with our neighbours, the Western Balkans, the Mediterranean, and Central Europe, along with EU-related affairs and a variety of other matters, will remain at the top of our agenda. Resilience, energy security, the green transition, and environmental protection, among others, will also be key priorities. Our plate is and will remain full, if not overflowing.

This being said, it is indeed concerning to witness the emergence of numerous global problems. Moreover, many existing issues remain unresolved or even seem to be resurfacing, which is equally disheartening. As an outward-looking country, Slovenia aims to share its achievements with others. While we cannot offer a one-size-fits-all formula to our partners, we are always ready to assist them in their progress. Likewise, we are open to learning from others so that Slovenia can further advance in every respect. The Bled Strategic Forum serves as a platform that embodies our two aspirations: to share our experiences, and to learn from others. Bled brings people together to engage in dialogue on a broad range of problems. It raises questions, presents new dilemmas and proposes solutions. In essence, it encapsulates our vision of Slovenia as an open-minded, progressive and generous country that goes beyond stereotypes and values continuous learning. It represents the story of Slovenia's success.

For Slovenia, solidarity and stability are more than just two words. They are concepts, values we live by and cherish, and principles we want to promote globally. S stands for Slovenia, S stands for Solidarity and S stands for Stability. Solidarity and Stability - indispensable elements and a conditio sine qua non for Global Security. I hope that this year's Bled Strategic Forum spurs inspiring debates and that the picturesque scenery of Lake Bled incites out-of-the-box thinking on solidarity and global security.

Welcome to Slovenia and welcome to Bled!

And do not forget to make a wish. It might come true - so the legend goes - if you ring the 'wishing bell' in the church tower on Bled Island at least three times.

This article was first published in Bled Strategic Times - the official gazette of the Bled Strategic Forum. The Bled Strategic Times offers an additional platform alongside the Bled Strategic Forum to voice the positions on diverse topics to political leaders, thinkers, business representatives and academics. This year's Bled Strategic Times can be read in full here.


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