Thirty years ago, Slovenians decided that they wanted to live in their own, independent state, the Republic of Slovenia. We firmly believed that it would be nicer and better for us than it was in former Yugoslavia. We never regretted this decision, which we also expressed in the plebiscite. However, we expected more from those who led the country in the key moments of its formation, development and subsequent democratization.
We wanted to embark on the path of an independent and democratic state, which we made very clear in the plebiscite. But this was only the first step on the road to an independent state. Independent Slovenia did not emerge spontaneously. The will of the people, expressed in the plebiscite, had to be put into practice. The experience of other countries has shown that the road to democracy is long and arduous. When you already think you are at the finish line, it turns out that this is just an intermediary step. But there is no going back. There is only the way forward. I am sure these words are read by individuals who, like me, have never regretted this decision. Those of us who had dreams as well as the courage and determination to make those dreams come true would make the same decision today.
It is time for change for the better
This year is an important year for Slovenia. Not only is the world and Slovenia still facing a crisis we do not recollect, with the start of the government of Janez Janša, Slovenia is finally facing important structural changes, which we have been waiting for many years. The previous governments, which had the reins in their hands for almost the entire period of Slovenian independence, talked a lot, but did not do much. Many of the challenges we should have faced years ago have been pushed aside. Today, change is needed. Some adjustment will be required, but building on shaky foundations is difficult and sometimes dangerous.
The consequences of the ignorance of the past years are most felt by those Slovenians who were so looking forward to live in a free, friendly Slovenia: pensioners who had worked hard for many years to earn a decent pension but were eventually defrauded; workers struggling to understand the bureaucratized system of wages and social security contributions; young families who strive for the development of the Slovenian nation, but encounter many obstacles in their independence; students who, after years of study, do not get a suitable job for their education and therefore often go abroad; young people who feel that their voice is not heard.
Thirty years of avoiding urgent change was enough. Slovenia will bravely and successfully face the coming economic and social crisis, emerge victorious and embark on the path of a social and just country that is a part of the European Union and be seen by other members as an example of a young, successful country that has managed to shake off the shackles of the past and can breathe freely.
The EU needs statesmen with a vision
Today, Europe needs what Slovenia had at a time when it was becoming a state. We should not feel that we are only facing problems at home. Europe also faces many challenges, as do other Member States. Some have endured the health crisis much worse than we have and will be facing the consequences for a longer period of time. European institutions predict a rapid recovery for Slovenia. When we set out on a common path, Slovenians opened many doors for themselves and received various forms of help and incentives, also in the current crisis. Can you imagine finding ourselves completely alone in this crisis?
But perhaps Europe today would need exactly what Slovenia had at the time when it was becoming a state. People who were brave and united when it came to deciding on the most important issues, and statesmen with a vision who also knew how to make people’s wishes come true.
This year will also be remembered for Slovenia’s re-presidency of the Council of the European Union. We passed the first presidency with distinction and I sincerely believe that we will do the same this time. There will be a lot of talk during our presidency about the future of the European Union. The debate comes at the right time. We find ourselves at a crossroads and people need to have a chance to say where they want to go. What do they expect from European and national leaders?
In the European Union, we are united in all our diversity, and we all count equally. During the crisis, the selfishness of some countries was shown, but in moments of crisis, this human side is also shown. Of course, every government wants to do everything in its power to help its people as much as possible. And yet – no individual, no country in Europe is worth more than another and we all deserve equal treatment. After the first complications, we managed to come together and face the crisis as a community. And so it must be in the future.
Let’s be optimistic about the future
As a member of the European Community, Slovenia can achieve a lot. The measures of the current government will enable us, with the help of European funds, to recover quickly from the crises that have and will affect all parts of our society. But let’s stay optimistic when we think about the future. Changes await us; we may find some of them difficult, but after 30 years, it is finally time for them to happen.