President urges action to boost country's resilience in address to parliament
President Nataša Pirc Musar set out the challenges awaiting Slovenia in her first address to the National Assembly on 13 December, calling for action to enhance the country's competitiveness and resilience and warning against internal divisions. To do that, Slovenia needs a reliable and responsible government and parliament, she said.
In what is only the third such address by a president since Slovenia's independence, Pirc Musar identified healthcare reform as the most pressing challenge, arguing the public healthcare system should be its starting point and foundation of reform.
"Only with a well-functioning public healthcare system will we stop silent privatisation and the system will work for the benefit of patients, not individual interest or professional groups," she said, adding that the time was running out.
Social pact to boost productivity
Pirc Musar also sees higher value added per employee and encouraging greater labour force participation as the conditions for any reform.
"This is why I call for a social pact in which our society will recognise that increasing prosperity and increasing value added are connected and interdependent," she said.
Companies should not focus on profit alone, and taxes are not and should not be seen as something negative, she said, but added that taxes "must be predictable in the long term" and that instability of the regulatory environment deters investment.
Another key challenge is adapting to climate change. Pirc Musar recalled last year's fires in the Kras region and this year's floods, praising the government for responding quickly in cooperation with the opposition.
She urged for cooperation to continue in further post-flood reconstruction efforts, saying that people must not get the impression that the state is reacting too slowly.
Slovenia tops the EU in terms of annual climate change-related damage per capita, and the country is warming faster than the average, so "looking away is not an option, adapting to climate change is a matter of survival".
Decision needed on nuclear energy
Pirc Musar also mentioned the green transition and advocated for environmental justice, and called for an inclusive debate at the national level on investments in energy, including nuclear energy, which is already present in Slovenia.
She was critical that consideration on new investments in nuclear is still at a very early stage. "This is not good because we might not be able to ensure new sources of energy on time once old ones have to be given up."
If a new nuclear reactor is to be built, the procedure to select the contractor and construction itself will have to be subjected to transparent supervision, which should not involve interests of individual political parties, she said.
In such a project, which will be one of the most expensive in the country's history, the authorities will have to "prove that they work for the people". This would be a test of whether Slovenia is "ours" rather than a victim of state capture.
Appeal for end to bloodshed
Pirc Musar advocated for Slovenia to be incorporated in global development and technologies, while warning of pitfalls, including the spread of misinformation, and again noted the importance for the country to have food sovereignty.
She said some recent events had shown "how little human life can be worth", mentioning the war in Ukraine, Hamas's terror against Israeli civilians and Israel's intervention in Gaza, where dead civilians are no longer just "collateral" damage.
"The most important thing at this moment is that this bloodshed stops and for Gaza to be provided with immediate humanitarian aid," Pirc Musar said.
The president noted the importance of Slovenia's membership in the UN as the embodiment of multilateralism, and especially in the EU and NATO, which represent the foundation of Slovenia's economic development and security.
Call for EU enlargement
The EU needs to continue with integration and enlargement, but without coercion, she said, and called for a reform that could facilitate political decision-making, including by expanding the option of a qualified majority, including in foreign policy.
The president, who also serves as the commander-in-chief of the Slovenian Armed Forces, said it was time for Slovenia to show credibility over commitments to NATO, calling for the purchase of equipment that could be used both for military and civilian purposes.
Pirc Musar is happy with good relations with neighbouring countries, while she criticised issues concerning minorities being abused for daily politics, which she said goes to show a lack of understanding of minority issues at home and abroad.
She also underscored the importance of the Western Balkans for Slovenia. The region needs a new impetus in promoting reconciliation, cooperation, mutual respect and identification with the joint European values.
Leaving no one behind
Pirc Musar is convinced that Slovenia's path is a path of integration among developed countries based on democratic values, with a stable and friendly regional environment, where everyone is afforded at least basic conditions for a dignified life.
"There is and there should be no room for elitism that leaves the sick, the poor, the old and the helpless aside," the president said, adding that Slovenia's is a path of peace, non-violence and tolerance.
Slovenia is only starting to deal with the issue of migration, and a lot of work still needs to be done. In no way should this issue be "abused for populist purposes in order to score cheap political points".
When the stock of the government's and parliament's work is eventually taken, not only efficiency, but also whether the state and society are in a better shape and whether the fundamental values have been preserved will be important, she said.
"This is how the question of whether politics worked for the state or the state worked for politics will be answered," the president concluded.