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It is not just money that unites us in the European Union

Thirty years ago, Slovenia successfully withdrew from an environment that did not bring it much good. The Yugoslav states, especially the second one, were marked by constant political instability, an unequal position of nations, dictatorship, totalitarianism and drastic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, wars and massacres, confiscation of personal property, and economic and social decline in general. The state was in no way able to function normally in either of the two forms of political systems. And not only because of the considerable political, economic and social differences − we still have these in the European Union − but mainly because the SFRY was not based on commonly recognized values that are universal and normal, such as peace, freedom, equality, democracy, tolerance, human dignity, family, private property, rule of law, freedom of religion, etc.

Instead, they created an artificial and ideologized set of values and principles such as brotherhood and equality, socialism, self-government, the working class, the national liberation struggle, revolution, social property, united labour, pluralism of self-governing interests, and so forth.  Other political and social institutions were built on this scheme, from the so-called socio-political organizations to three-headed assembly bodies, semi-market contract economies, etc. Everything that the communist government undertook simply fell apart. 30 years ago, the development of the disintegrating state had reached less than 30 percent of the development of Austria and Germany. In less than two decades, Slovenia has significantly reduced this difference to just under 80 percent. GDP growth per capita has quadrupled in 30 years. The differences in the effectiveness of the two systems are clear. But today we are finding that we should have been even more successful. Some post-communist countries had even worse transition conditions, but they still overtook us. 

30 years ago, with independence and democratization, which was a historic success for the Demos government, Slovenia introduced only the basic conditions for the beginning of a democratic transition. Slovenia needed almost a decade and a half to normalize the cultural and structural / institutional image to the point that it was given the green light to join the EU and NATO. But even today, some things are still not as they should be: for example, the areas of media pluralization, the judiciary and education. 

There will be more opportunities. The dozen billion euros that we will receive from the EU over this decade is a tremendous challenge. Slovenia has already proven that it can take rapid development steps if the authorities do not stifle it. Money for investments is a necessary condition for development, but money is not sufficient! 

In addition to the aforementioned reforms, a good future will require overcoming the crisis of values, from which the institutional crisis also springs. Nothing will settle by itself. Democrats in Slovenia not only have the task of raising democratic and cultural potential, but also of defending democracy from extremists who want to go back in history, also with the help of covid protests. Slovenia has not yet developed immunity to such deadly provocations, and until that happens, Slovenian democracy will be vulnerable. 

In short, in Slovenia, democracy was not awarded an appropriate cultural basis due to the persistence of values and behavioural patterns from the past. Moreover, today democracy is portrayed as a way of ˝westernizing˝ or imposing Western culture on others. After 30 years, the realization should prevail that without the European Union, cultural diversity − including Slovenian identity − and personal freedom, which are the greatest achievements of European civilization, are also endangered in the long run. The European Union is not a Neverland, but for normal Slovenians there is not, never has been and never will be a better alliance than this!  

Milan Zver

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