Slovenia Marks Statehood Day Amid Political Discord

By , 25 Jun 2020, 10:35 AM Politics
President Pahor speaks in a rainy Congress Square President Pahor speaks in a rainy Congress Square Twitter

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STA, 24 June 2020 - President Borut Pahor addressed a state ceremony on the eve of Statehood Day, urging acknowledging the role of democracy and dialogue in Slovenia's further development. The evening saw political divisions rise again with some boycotting the official ceremony or opting for an alternative one.

Pahor, the keynote speaker at the official ceremony in Congress Square in the capital, highlighted that the power of democracy did not merely lie in enabling diversity, but also in bridging the divides for the greater good through democratic dialogue.

During the time of independence efforts, Slovenians managed to pursue joint aims despite of their political and other divides, said the president on the eve of the holiday commemorating declaring independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991.

"I miss this democratic zeal today. I miss trust and confidence to be able to talk honestly and without insults about everything and come to agreement on many a thing."

"I do not call for political unity. I call for dialogue and cooperation," said the president, adding that Slovenia needed both in the current times.

In the wake of the corona crisis a clear vision is key and there are opportunities for innovative, sustainable solutions, he said, calling for a vision of a green and digital Slovenia to be part of the nearing Germany-Portugal-Slovenia trio EU Council presidency.

He also lauded Slovenia's dealing with the Covid-19 epidemic, saying that the country had not merely kept the death toll relatively low but also acted in line with the rule of law, thus echoing democratic values that were alive during independence efforts.

Pahor's address was followed by a cultural programme revolving around patriotic themes. Due to coronavirus restrictions, a maximum of 500 participants were allowed. Organisers have been thus forced to restrict the number of performers and participants as well as cancel the attendance of flag-bearers.

The event was attended by senior officials, including former President Milan Kučan and former Prime Minister Lojze Peterle as well as some members of the opposition.

The major opposition party LMŠ did not attend the ceremony though, nor did the Left. Both missed it due to their disagreement with the government policies and instead participated in an alternative event that was held before the official ceremony.

Earlier, Pahor held a traditional reception at Vila Podrožnik for the relatives of those who died or were injured during Slovenia's ten-day independence war. He thanked the families for their contribution to the country's independence and called for keeping the memory of the heroic actions alive.

Moreover, Pahor said that the relevant legislation should be reviewed and changes introduced to improve the status of the relatives before next year's 30th anniversary of independence.

Prior to Pahor's evening address, parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič addressed the National Assembly at a ceremonial session, urging citizens to respect Slovenia, its history and symbols and by doing that show respect for all the people who have paved the way for the country to become independent.

He stressed the importance of democratic dialogue and high-level political culture for the efforts that had led to Slovenia's independence and urged similar conduct and cooperation to tackle pressing challenges, including those caused by the corona crisis.

Zorčič moreover added that Slovenians had a country that could be envied by the majority of the world population and highlighted that having such a country was a sort of privilege but also responsibility.

Prime Minister Janez Janša went down memory lane in his Statehood Day message, reminiscing about Slovenia's independence efforts and the nation's unity at the time. He wished that people would see an independent country as a gift and opportunity for everybody.

"The power of a nation that is united is a power that is unstoppable," he wrote, adding that although the country had achieved a lot, opportunities were also missed due to divisions.

Slovenia's source of values is the times of independence efforts, he said, urging citizens to stay united and act responsibly to fight off any potential additional waves of coronavirus infections.

Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina meanwhile highlighted that Slovenia was founded on respect for human rights and basic liberties and urged striving to maintain such values.

He pointed out that a democratic society meant ensuring freedom of expression as well as the right to rally.

Celebrations of the coming holiday also included mass for homeland that was said at the Ljubljana cathedral. Koper bishop Jurij Bizjak thanked top state officials for leading the country, particularly during the Covid-19 epidemic.

He also expressed admiration and respect for the state authorities staying humble and patient when faced with "constant insults and humiliations, insinuations and suspicions, malicious allegations and speculations, lies and slander" that besmirch their reputation, "their good name to which every man has a right, and even more so excellent elects and representatives of the nation".

Bizjak highlighted the importance of the presumption of innocence and said that nobody should be exposed to media attacks until given an opportunity to defend themselves.

The mass was attended by Pahor, Janša, Zorčič and Svetina as well as Chief of the General Staff, Brigadier General Robert Glavaš, Police Commissioner Anton Travner, Supreme Court president Damijan Florjančič and a number of other top officials and diplomats as well as representatives of other religious communities.

Meanwhile, an alternative ceremony was held in Prešeren Square with several thousand people gathering before touring the streets of the capital, calling for a better world and against fascism, exclusions and restrictions on NGO and being critical of the Janša government as well as Pahor.

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