President hands out two state decorations on Statehood Day

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor conferred the Golden Order of Merit on Ludvik Toplak, a former rector of the University of Maribor, and Roberto Battelli, a former MP for the Italian minority, at a special ceremony in Presidential Palace in Ljubljana on Saturday that also marked Statehood Day.

Toplak received the state decoration for his “outstanding contribution to the democratisation and independence of Slovenia and its promotion internationally and in the academic circles.”

As the rector of the University of Maribor in 1993-2002, he clearly outlined the development of the university and help it gain reputation at home and abroad with his vision and determination, the president’s office said.

It was noted that Toplak established important international ties to became the president of the Danube Rectors’ Conference, the Alps-Adriatic Rectors’ Conference and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (EASA).

In recent decades, the law professor and former MP and diplomat has focused on activities of importance to Slovenia as an emerging country and has achieved success that is still visible today.

Battelli, meanwhile, received the decoration for his long-time work and contribution to the development of democracy in Slovenia and for his merits in connecting and preserving the Italian minority in Slovenia, the president’s office said.

He has played an “active part in the key moments of the establishment of the Slovenian state and had an indispensable role in paving the way for appropriate legal protection of ethnic minorities in the Slovenian constitution.”

It was also noted that Battelli had participated in the drafting of more than 200 legal acts that regulate the situation of members of national minorities in Slovenia.

These include changes to the act regulating special rights of the Italian and Hungarian minorities in Slovenia in education, which ensured a higher quality of education in the schools of both ethnic minorities.

As is tradition on Statehood Day, an open day was held in Presidential Palace, with a guard of honour lined up in front of the building, and an exhibition of photographs of key independence events also on display today.

The main ceremony marking 31 years since Slovenia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia was held on Friday evening, with Pahor addressing the crowd in Congress Square in Ljubljana.