Rijeka – President Borut Pahor addressed a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia in Rijeka on Tuesday, noting the importance of the friendly relations between the countries and calling for the fastest possible entry of Croatia in the eurozone and the Schengen Area.
“Above all, we are neighbours, two nations that have never been at war, which is a rarity in the European Union, two nations that understand each other without interpreters, two nations that respect each other,” Pahor said as the keynote speaker.
“It is the responsibility of us all, and in particular of those who govern the countries to always, and especially in these difficult times, make sure to nurture the good neighbourly relations and friendship,” he added at the ceremony in the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Coast.
Pahor noted that he would like to see Croatia enter the Schengen Area and adopt the euro soon, so that a range of bilateral relations would be strengthened, including by resolving the border issue that had burdened these relations for a long time.
“We have to do everything in our power so that we understand each other as friends, as neighbours,” the Slovenian president said, adding that Slovenian associations in Croatia were also important for good bilateral relations.
Stressing that these associations were a bridge between nations and countries, Pahor said that “this is especially important at a time when crises keep reminding us of the importance of good neighbourhood and cross-border connectivity.
The president thanked Barbara Riman, the president of the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia, for the “committed work for the Slovenian community in Croatia” and “invaluable contribution to the preservation of Slovenian culture and language.”
Riman was also commended for the “committed work for all-round development of Slovenians in Croatia and coexistence between the neighbouring nations and countries”.
She said that Slovenian associations in Croatia represented the core of Slovenianness and that they played an important role in the preservation of Slovenian language and culture.
“We have wonderful individuals who … make members of the Slovenian community feel at home. We are doing our best to preserve the language, culture and history of our ancestors and to follow the events in our homeland,” Riman said.
The ceremony was also attended by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, Rijeka Mayor Marko Filipović, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County Prefect Zlatko Komadina and Melita Mulić, the Croatian president’s adviser for human rights and civil society.
Croatian President Zoran Milanović was scheduled to attend the ceremony and hold bilateral talks with Pahor, but he excused himself, citing unplanned obligations in Zagreb. Pahor said Milanović had “credibly explained” why he could not come.
The Croatian attendees agreed that Croatia and Slovenia are linked by common history, traditional alliance and interests, and that they will become even closer after Croatia joins the Schengen Area and the eurozone.
“Croatia’s imminent entry into the Schengen Area marks the end of European integration process and will bring us even closer,” said Komadina, while Filipović added that this would also “erase the wire fence on the border that divides us.”
Founded in 1992 at the initiative of then Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Matija Malešič, the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia represents all Slovenian associations in Croatia in relations with Slovenia and Croatia.
At the time, only three Slovenian associations were active – in Zagreb, Rijeka and Karlovac, while today there are 16. The union was based in Rijeka until 1996 and then moved to Zagreb.