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Minister Zvone Černač: ''Congratulations on Statehood Day and God bless Slovenia, our beloved country.''

''Let this 30th anniversary fill us with the same enthusiasm that brought us together 30 years ago as we made our historic dream come true. I hope that, together and united, we will build our common future. For those who come after us,'' said Minister Černač in his address on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence in Pivka.

Minister Zvone Černač today attended a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence that was held in the Park of Military History Pivka. Mr Černač initially underlined: ‘’There’s undoubtedly no better place to mark the anniversary of our country than Pivka, as it was from these barracks that 30 years ago, on 26 June 1991 at 11:10 a.m., the first battle tanks of the Yugoslav People’s Army were deployed to start armed aggression on Slovenia following our declaration of independence. Their target was the western, Italian border, its hermetic closure and crushing of Slovenia’s aspirations for independence.’’ The Minister recalled that a few days later, Stane Požar was killed by the aggressor to become the first casualty of war for Slovenia in this part of the country.    

The Minister then focused on 1990, the year before the plebiscite, saying that ‘’At that time, certain individuals, mostly members of the movement against independence tried to deter people from supporting independence in various ways. Some of them frightened us by saying we’d be left without food forced to eat grass, others warned that no country would recognise our independence leaving us without support. In Primorska and in Notranjska, they threatened we’d lose so-called Italian pensions if Slovenia was to become independent.’’ Nevertheless, people decided to vote FOR an independent Slovenia. With a voter turnout of 93.2%, the overwhelming majority, i.e. 95% of voters were in favour of an independent and sovereign state. The Minister further recalled the historic words spoken with wholehearted enthusiasm by the father of Slovenian people dr. Jože Pučnik as the results of the plebiscite were announced: ‘’Yugoslavia is gone, Yugoslavia is gone. Now, it’s about Slovenia.’’

‘’Our nation was united thirty years ago. Slovenians wouldn’t let themselves get scared or discouraged. They decided the way they felt deep down inside was right. And I’m sure that, today, despite the different political views, our nation would decide the same way again if we had to vote on a strategically important issue for our country,’’ argued the Minister and then focused on the present day. ‘’ In geographical terms, Slovenia may be a small country, but we’re a great nation. Because the greatness lies in our people. Our greatness lies in the hard-working, well-educated and driven individuals who, each in their own unique way, build this country and put it on an equal footing with the best of countries.’’ The Minister stressed that Slovenians achieve outstanding results on a global scale in areas like sport, science, humanities, economy and many others. While we reached only 27% of the level of development of our neighbouring country Austria back in 1991, we’re now nearing the average EU level. ‘’We’ve become a fully-fledged member of the European Union and NATO, with the people unanimously and strongly supporting both decisions to join. During Janša’s first government we joined the Schengen Area, adopted the euro and became part of the monetary union. Slovenia enjoys an international reputation as a country that advocates for environmental and natural resource protection on the one hand and performs enviably well in terms of technological and sustainable development on the other,’’ stressed the Minister, adding that the 2021 report on the progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda ranks Slovenia 9th among 165 countries.

In his address, Minister Černač also touched on the unprecedented challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe. ‘’This past year has been extremely difficult and challenging. Countries have tackled the Covid-19 crisis in different ways. Slovenian government has managed to safeguard tens of thousands of jobs and numerous businesses thanks to the eight anti-corona packages it adopted. The assistance has been geared at mitigating the economic and social impact of the crisis. Now, Slovenia is among the countries with best prospects for the future. The employment rates have been up for four months now and the unemployment has decreased to below the pre-crisis, 2019 levels. The activities that were most hard hit during the crisis are gradually but steadily bouncing back. With increased economic activity, cash is flowing in the budget; in fact, this May’s inflow figures even surpassed the May 2019 figures,’’ stressed the Minister and added that ‘’the financial assistance came in the right hands. It came in the hands of people and businesses and not in the hands of bank tycoons. This can be seen in the forecasts. Slovenia is among top countries that saw the smallest GDP drop and belongs to the countries poised for the highest GDP growth in 2021 and 2022. This is reflected in credit ratings and our country has been borrowing at negative interest rates for quite some time now,’’ he explained.

The Minister went on to underline that the government has also strengthened financial position of municipalities: ‘’In 2020 and 2021, municipal budgets got stronger, increasing by EUR 70 million per year or EUR 140 million per two years respectively. Half a year ago, we adopted an act relieving the municipalities of costs for certain tasks they perform. The subsequent financial effect surpasses EUR 60 million. This is an important springboard for boosting municipal investments in various fields, which will speed up the development of the country as a whole.’’

The Minister also spoke about EU funding: ‘’We’ve managed to ease the crunch of providing EU funds to projects across the country in the past year. Nearly EUR 1 billion in EU funding has been approved for a multitude of different projects in one year alone. The funding available under the Recovery and Resilience Plan and the new Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 will also significantly increase the scope of grants. This is an immense opportunity for Slovenia; at the same time, it places on our shoulders an immense responsibility to make the most of this money so that no part of Slovenia remains unnoticed and no citizen is left behind.’’

‘’We’ve been making our own decisions and determining our own destiny for thirty years now. We’re part of the global community, deeply integrated in numerous international organisations and part of the European family of nations. Yet, we’re an independent, sovereign state. We know that Europe will be as strong and sovereign as its Member States are. This knowledge will guide our future course of action. Our vision is future-oriented. It spans the next 30 years and more,’’ added the Minister.

In a few days’ time Slovenia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the second time. It will preside over the Council of the EU at a time when the Union is kicking off an important discussion on our common future and ways to improve the EU where there is room for improvement with the EU citizens fully included in the debate. ‘’We’ll take an active part in this process. While the debate will not end under the Slovenian Presidency, we’ll do everything in our power to make an important and valuable contribution to strengthening a Union that should always act and decide by having concrete individuals and their expectations in mind. Authority, whatever level or form it may be, must always work in the service of people. That is the only way sovereign and successful states are built and made stronger; if integrated, these countries become even more independent and sovereign. And Slovenia wishes to join the family of most successful countries in the coming years,’’ underlined the Minister.

‘’Slovenia became a state thirty years ago. It became an independent sovereign state. A thousand-year old dream of many generations came true thirty years ago. We’ve seen much courage and many sacrifices along the way. Yet, we succeeded, standing strong and standing tall, together. We’ve been building our country for over thirty years now, each in our own way and to the best of our abilities. Let me sincerely thank each and every one of you who made a contribution to building our homeland, our Slovenia in the past 30 years. I would also like to extend my special thanks to all of you who took up arms to defend the decision of Slovenian people and to all of you who helped the country return to normalcy after the victory, including in the many devastated areas. Andrej Želodec from Dolnja Košana was one of those people, and he received the Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia. Last but not least, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who sacrificed all they had for our homeland – their life,’’ concluded the Minister.

Wrapping up his speech, the Minister hoped that ‘’the anniversary fills us with the same enthusiasm that brought us together thirty years ago as we made our historic dream come true. I hope that, together and united, we will build our common future. For those who come after us. Congratulations on Statehood Day and God bless Slovenia, our beloved country.’’