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Prime Minister Janez Janša in Okrešelj: this government supports everything that brings us together as a nation

  • Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)

At the site of the old Frischauf Lodge at Okrešelj, a foundation stone was laid today for a new lodge. With a design based on local, natural materials, the basic construction work is scheduled for completion this year to make the building ready for winter, with completion of the new lodge expected by 2022. The ceremonial laying of the foundation stone was attended by Prime Minister Janez Janša, who also gave a speech.

The prime minister’s speech is given in full below; this is not the authorised version.

To the presidents of the Alpine Association of Slovenia, the Federation of Mountaineering Clubs, and the local Celje mountaineering society, Ms Mayor, my esteemed colleagues from the government and the National Assembly and, most of all, all mountain lovers.

There are very few opportunities such as today’s, when a foundation stone is being laid for something new in such a beautiful environment. You might be looking at me, but I am looking at the scenery behind us. I think it is rather more attractive. And so it was last October, when I was last here with Mr Žuntar, before the lodge burned down. When I heard the news, I was genuinely moved, picturing that extremely beautiful autumn day, part of which was spent here. Fortunately it was not long before a little sunlight shone into this sorrowful picture, when you launched your campaign to build a new lodge. And now we see the fantastic plans for the new building. I believe that very soon that new building will be standing here, bringing pleasure not only to more than 25,000 visitors, like last year, which is a huge number, and a boon to tourism as the economics minister said earlier, but also in a broader sense. Particularly in these times, when we are adapting to certain new situations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, destinations of this type for excursions and holidays gain added importance. Clearly it will still be some time that it is significantly safer to gather outside, as we are doing here today, while taking certain vital measures, than it is to visit certain other traditional destinations that were busier in former times, particularly inside spaces. This investment is doubly justified from this perspective.

Last year, still as the opposition, we submitted the PZS’s amendment for the funding needed to build the lodge, and our parliament enjoyed a rare moment of total unity. The amendment was supported by all deputies. This does not happen very often. The voting shows that Slovenia’s mountains and upland plains, and everything connected with the Alpine environment, are something deep in our hearts, part of our national identity, and, based on all of this, something that brings us together. This government supports everything that brings us together as a nation, and so in the future we will work to secure any funding that might be missing from the plans you have already presented. Here there are several possibilities. One of them you have already mentioned. The next two years will see us try to overcome the consequences of the spring wave of the pandemic, and certain extra EU funding will be available.

As we saw from the figures presented, the main burden lies on mountain lovers. Therefore particular gratitude must go to those members of the Alpine Association of Slovenia who contributed their euros to build the lodge, those who organised this at the AAS and Celje mountaineering society, and the army, who helped with helicopter transportation, while special thanks go to those who oversee the whole thing, because if there is no organisation, no-one to hold it all in their hands, all the goodwill and willingness to help would never be enough.

Right now we are standing in a delightful spot, and it is no wonder that the first lodge was built here more than 150 years ago, and was later renovated and upgraded. I believe it is right for the tradition of caring for this beautiful piece of Slovenian identity and Slovenian mountaineering to be continued.

Thank you all for coming today, even though this is a slightly unusual hour and an unusual time for laying a foundation stone. As it is, we are living in a time when not everything is as it was last year, and we have to adapt.

To all those operationally involved in this investment, I wish you as few complications as possible, and all the goodwill and courage in the world. I pledge our support when this is necessary and welcome, and to all of us I wish many enjoyable visits over the coming weeks, months and years, whether it be here, or anywhere else in Slovenia’s wonderful upland world. Thank you.