Prime Minister Janez Janša as keynote speaker at the main state ceremony marking Independence and Unity Day
Today, Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the commemorative session of the National Assembly and the main state ceremony marking Independence and Unity Day, which is celebrated on 26 December. He attended the main state ceremony at Cankarjev Dom as the keynote speaker, together with his wife Urška Bačovnik Janša.
Below is a transcript of the address delivered by Prime Minister Janez Janša at the main state ceremony marking Independence and Unity Day. Check against delivery.
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
The holiday season is here. However, we seem to be in the midst of an extraordinary crisis that allows for nothing but running in circles, with no way out and no solutions. After three decades, have we really become a remote valley of tears, conflict and strife? Or has this self-image largely been imposed on us by superficial domestic public-opinion shapers? A self-image that exploits some deep-seated patterns of inferiority that have been imposed on us as a nation from various capitals of multinational states under whose command Slovenians have been over the past centuries? We believed that this false second-rate perception of Slovenians was finally done with three decades ago, but unfortunately we still have to deal with it. As if we have forgotten the underlying message of the plebiscite: if we want to be recognised by others, we must first recognise ourselves!
All this raises the logical question: do others also see us today as a heap of misery and a valley of tears?
On the occasion of Independence and Unity Day, we remember a time when, for the only time in our history as a nation, we bravely took control of our own destiny. In a plebiscite, unanimously, in the most democratic way known to modern civilisation. And then successfully fulfilled it against all odds.
Slovenian independence was an innovation, it was something special. As far as we know, no other nation in history has gained independence, defended itself against aggression and stood on its own feet in exactly the same way as we did. Gaining our independence in a plebiscite as a fundamental, central political act and successfully defending the new state was unique, original, special, never before done in a similar way. As Dr Jože Pučnik predicted in Poljče, it came as a great surprise, especially in its final implementation, and was therefore successful despite the extremely unfavourable balance of forces that was stacked against us. Both within the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in Europe and across the world. Nobody believed in our success, but we pulled through and succeeded. We knew that we had to recognise ourselves first and that others would follow.
We pulled through and time proved us right. We perform better than any country that emerged from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Slovenia is now one of the ten safest countries in the world and safety is a fundamental human good. We are the seventh greenest and ninth most sustainable country in the world. Lonely Planet ranked Slovenia fifth among the most recommended tourist destinations to visit in 2022. In 2020, Slovenia was ranked eighth in the world based on the parental protection and pre-school care indicator. Furthermore, Slovenia ranks tenth on the UNICEF child well-being index.
Since 2004, we can also compare ourselves with partners within the European Union. This year, Slovenia was the EU's top performer in sport per capita. This came as a surprise to many people, and we are extremely proud of our athletes. Slovenia ranks in the top three EU countries in terms of the share of students in the population aged 20-24. Since gaining our independence, we have become a more egalitarian society than we were under the one-party regime. We rank second in the EU in terms of income equality. Moreover, Slovenia has the third lowest risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU. In 2020, the risk of child poverty and social exclusion in Slovenia was 12%, and while any percentage is too much, this is the lowest in the EU. The EU average is 24%.
Slovenia has the fourth lowest share of households in the EU that cannot afford to heat their home. Slovenia also has the seventh lowest gender employment gap. Slovenia leads the EU in integrating people into active employment schemes. Slovenia also has the largest proportion of working mothers in the EU. This figure shows, through a crude statistic, who in Slovenia bears the brunt of everyday life and works two jobs at the same time. Primarily working mothers. Their extra, significantly under-valued work allows us to be among the best in Europe in terms of many other social indicators.
Slovenia has the second lowest infant mortality rate in the EU. Despite that, at the time of the epidemic last year, it ranked seventh among EU member states in terms of people's satisfaction with the quality of healthcare. We spend the fourth highest share of GDP on healthcare and social protection, after Germany, France and Belgium.
Slovenia ranks fifth in government expenditure on cultural services, with the amount far above the EU average. This year, for the first time since 1992, we spent more than 2% of GDP on culture.
Slovenia has the highest share of Natura 2000 sites in the EU, i.e. 38%, with the EU average being 18%. Slovenia is placed second in the EU in terms of the recycling rate of municipal waste. With regard to forest cover, Slovenia ranks third among European countries and fourth among all the countries in the northern hemisphere.
This year, despite the ongoing pandemic, we have made up for last year's drop in economic growth in record time. The employment rate is even higher than before the pandemic. In fact, the current employment rate is the highest in Slovenia’s history. There are over two hundred thousand people who have jobs, with nearly twenty thousand more people in employment than before the crisis. The average gross salary and the average pensions are higher in real terms than before the epidemic. Since December 2019, household savings in banks have increased by three and a half billion euros and corporate savings have increased by almost two billion euros.
We have maintained and even improved our full potential during the pandemic, while borrowing a fifth less than the EU average.
In terms of integrating digital technologies businesses, Slovenia has jumped from 15th to 8th place in the EU since last year.
Despite all these good indicators, Slovenians do not feel entirely free, nor are we among the happiest and most content people. We rank 33rd in the world freedom index, and 26th in the world happiness index – we have moved up seven places in the last year. Slovenia ranks between 35th and 40th in the global innovation and competitiveness indices. However, progress has been too slow in some areas where we have a strong competitive advantage, apart from our beautiful nature and geostrategic location. And these are areas where we have all the means to do better. We are capable of doing more, much more.
We have become independent through innovation. Never in our history have we ever owed anything to anyone. Not to our neighbours, nor to Europe or the world. Everything we have achieved, we achieved on our own. Different successes came at different costs. The more we were united and innovative, the less was the cost.
Today we know this. We were able to do it then and we know that we can do it today. Not only do we know this, we continue to prove it. That is why we do not have any feelings of inferiority towards other nations in the EU or across the world.
We also know that the world is moving much faster today than it was three decades ago. We are able to get much more accurate information on what is happening around us, in our neighbourhood and elsewhere in the world, much earlier than before. A disproportionately larger amount of information and knowledge is becoming more accessible to a disproportionately greater number of individuals by the day.
This century, which is already well under way, will be a time of different dynamics than the ones we are used to.
Science shows that in our known universe, which is proved to be expanding, there are now between two and ten thousand billion galaxies. One of these galaxies is the Milky Way, which includes our planet Earth and our solar system. Along with at least another hundred billion stars or solar systems and at least that many planets. It takes hundreds of thousands of years for light to travel from one edge of our galaxy to the other. For comparison, it takes two seconds for light to travel from Earth to the Moon. Around seven per cent of stars are thought to be similar to our Sun, and billions of planets to our Earth. The space for humanity is virtually infinite, and now is the time when humankind’s achievements can make it possible to reach neighbouring solar systems. And even further.
Now is also the time when we will see whether humanity is first able to come together to preserve the living conditions of our beautiful planet, to eradicate hunger and to pool knowledge before looking to the stars. Literally.
In fact, at the moment, this is the only identifiable possible common goal for humanity in the foreseeable future. A common goal that may, but need not, unite the human race in a common desire for the common good in spite of all the differences. This is quite possibly the only alternative to new radical divisions in the world, an all-out hybrid warfare, an arms race in outer space and the renewed and tangible threat of nuclear conflict.
This will prove to be a test for both world politics and world science in the near future. A test for every country and nation on the planet. And for us Slovenians, too. Each one of us can and must join in these efforts. Throughout history, we have proved what we are capable of. We have proved this through innovation as well.
The author of the theory which enabled the first person to set foot on the Moon was our fellow countryman Herman Potočnik Noordung. The law that describes the power radiated from a black body in terms of its temperature was discovered by Jožef Stefan. Engineer Franc Rode invented the first handheld calculator. The gyro-guidance system of the spaceship, which sent the first American astronaut to space in 1962, was developed by France Puhek. Anton Mavretič contributed to the development of the plasma spectrometer for the Voyager projects. It is still used in instruments measuring plasma in the solar wind in space. Janez Repar invented ethylene-propylene rubber, facilitating space exploration for spacecraft. Measuring devices of Slovenian origin are used in most spacecraft today. John Hrastar was the driving force behind weather and reconnaissance satellites and is the recipient of NASA's highest civilian award. Marija Strojnik developed a system that is currently used in nearly all satellites forming the GPS network. An innovation of a Slovenian company led to a reduction in the time required to exploit the data from satellite pictures. Maruša Bradač participated in the conception of the new James Webb NASA telescope. A Slovenian company is developing air domes to be used as storage areas in space. Another Slovenian company works with NASA in the development of an experimental electric aircraft. Slovenian scientists also participated in the project that resulted in the groundbreaking first image of a black hole in 2019. As an international expert of space technology, former student of the high school in Kranj Dušan Petrač is a part of NASA's Solar System Ambassadors programme. Slovenian satellites are orbiting around Earth. And the list goes on.
We know what the challenge was thirty years ago, and we know what it is today. But we are also aware that all the science, brainpower and prosperity are of no use if there are not enough people. Therefore, tackling demographic issues is one of Slovenia's and the EU's highest priorities. More joy of life and more children. Without Slovenians, the Slovenian language and Slovenian culture a country may exist, but that country would not be Slovenia. We should therefore never forget that with the plebiscite we made a choice FOR an independent SLOVENIA.
At the same time, we should not forget that many Hungarians, Italians and people of other nationalities voted FOR an independent Slovenia and that we have built Slovenia as a home for everyone throughout the thirty years of our independence.
Some decades ago, Franc Jeza wrote, "We can find solace in the fact that, across Slovenia, there are many ordinary, unknown people who remain the true unknown fighters of freedom and national consciousness also in a political sense and who will, as if by a miracle, sprout up – like flowers in the spring, even though the winter might make it seem as if everything were lifeless beneath the snow – and play a crucial role ..."
With such statements, Jeza was labelled a dreamer even by his friends, but he was proven to be a visionary, as his predictions unfolded during the Slovenian Spring and in the pivotal 1990. As if by a miracle, unknown fighters of freedom sprouted up and we could recount tens of thousands of stories similar to ones we have seen in the video before.
Big challenges and ordeals lie ahead. Hopefully not, but they could be even bigger than those of decades ago. Therefore, we should remember the words of Franc Jeza and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
Let us rise up to the challenges of our time. Slovenia needs ordinary people. Without exclusions. It need great people. Not only remarkable, but truly great people. So, find a hero of freedom in your heart. Find it in your soul. Find it in the depths of your country. And, as if by a miracle, something remarkable can sprout up in each and every one of us – like flowers in the spring, even though the winter might make it seem as if everything were lifeless beneath the snow – and play a crucial role.
Have a blessed and merry Christmas! I wish you a proud celebration of our bravest, most crucial and best decision. Stay healthy, joyful and courageous in the new year. God bless Slovenia."
At the ceremonial session of the National Assembly, students of the Ljubljana Conservatory of Music and Ballet and the Adora string quartet performed as part of the cultural programme, while a video entitled "30 Years of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia", which was made by the National Assembly in collaboration with primary school pupils in the competition commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, was also screened. The following primary schools participated in the "30 Years of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia" video project: the Olga Meglič Primary School – Ptuj, the Drago Bajc Primary School – Vipava, the Solkan Primary School and the Oplotnica Primary School of the Pohorje Battalion.
The main focus of the state ceremony at Cankarjev Dom was the presentation of the cultural heritage of the eight Slovenian regions: Gorenjska, Prekmurje, Koroška, Dolenjska, Bela krajina, Primorska, Štajerska and Notranjska, in the form of eight confessional writing texts – poetry written by Slovenian authors who have a deep connection to individual regions – as well as in the form of music and dance. The screenwriter of the state ceremony at Cankarjev Dom was Igor Pirkovič with Roman Končar as stage director and Patrik Greblo as the musical director. The cultural programme of the state ceremony also featured a performance by Omar Naber and a screening of a film on the 1990 plebiscite.