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Prime Minister Janez Janša addresses the diplomatic corps at the New Year's reception

  • Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)

Prime Minister Janša today hosted the traditional New Year's reception for diplomatic corps at Brdo pri Kranju together with the President of the Republic, Borut Pahor. Prime Minister Janša also delivered an address for the diplomats that attended the reception. The diplomatic corps at the reception were also addressed by the President of the Republic, Borut Pahor, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps, Archbishop Msgr Jean-Marie Speich.

Below is a transcript of the address delivered Prime Minister Janša at the New Year's reception for diplomatic corps. Check against delivery.

Mr President,

Apostolic Nuncio, Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps,

Your Excellencies,

Allow me to wish you a warm welcome to this New Year's diplomatic reception on behalf of the Slovenian Government. I'm very glad that this time, unlike last year, we can meet in person, while adhering to the restrictions that are still in place. This fact strengthens our confidence that even the difficult test of the pandemic will end at some point. However, the challenges it brings are still significant. Since its outbreak, shared experiences have clearly indicated that our success in tackling these challenges will depend first and foremost on our cooperation and largely also on coordinated joint action, on our mutual solidarity, on our of mutual responsibility and on our sense of community. Let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who came to our rescue one way or another last year and two years ago. Thank you sincerely for all the solidarity you have shown.

Last year, one of the Government's key activities was tackling the pandemic and its consequences. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government has designed ten packages of measures to mitigate its consequences, and these packages were then adopted by the National Assembly. In doing so, the Government was guided by the principles of proportionality, efficiency and solidarity. To do everything possible to enable the economy to function as fully as possible during the period of partial lockdown, with the aim of preserving jobs to the largest extent possible and thus still maintaining the foundations of a social state and development. Thus, before the end of the year, we managed to make up for the fall in economic growth that hit us a year earlier as a result of the pandemic. Real gross domestic product is now higher than it was before the pandemic. At the end of the year, we recorded the highest level of employment in Slovenia’s history. As a result, average wages and pensions are now higher than they were before the pandemic. Real household income per person today is 10 per cent higher than it was just before the pandemic, while gross fixed capital formation is almost seven per cent higher. The value of companies on the regulated capital markets increased by a third. With all these measures, public debt increased by less than 7.5 percentage points relative to gross domestic product, well below the average increase in government debt as a result of measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic among the most developed countries. We have thus also been successful in controlling public finances. A recent analysis by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has shown that Slovenia is the second most successful OECD country in terms of the quality of economic rebound in the context of the pandemic. The path we took was to a large extent the right one. I am pleased that this has been confirmed in a year that was particularly important for Slovenia.

Last year, which was full of trials, Slovenia celebrated the 30th anniversary of its statehood, and in the second half of the year it also held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. With regard to its foreign policy, the Government has adopted a renewed foreign policy strategy. The strategy emphasises its key values, principles, interests and priorities, thus providing clear guidelines for action while addressing key current challenges.

One of the main challenges for the Presidency of the Council of the European Union was the ongoing pandemic, its consequences and the need to act as effectively and uniformly as possible. Let me draw attention to just a few key achievements. Despite the pandemic, we managed to hold all the most important formal and informal meetings in person, so that the work of the institutions returned to normal for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic. This enabled significant progress to be achieved in adopting legislation in a number of areas, in particular the remarkable progress made in the legislative framework for the digital transition. We were also faced with unexpected events that required a rapid response and European unity. In the wake of the crisis situation in Afghanistan and along the Belarusian border, we ensured a swift and unified response from the European Union, and a unanimous condemnation of the instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees. We reached a consensus that the European Union and its Member States are determined to take concerted action to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements that we have witnessed in the past, and that the European Union will work together to ensure the security of its external borders and the respect of the entry criteria. The key objective of the Slovenian Presidency was to improve the European Union’s preparedness, responsiveness and resilience to any kind of crisis. We focused in particular on health aspects where, during this time, the European Union made significant progress in establishing a Health Union and on cyber resilience, where the revised legislative framework sets out measures for a high level of common security of network and information systems. We made every effort to enable EU Member States to recover quickly from the consequences of the pandemic. The Council of the European Union thus endorsed 22 national recovery and resilience plans, allowing for the mobilisation of important funds agreed in June 2020. We regret that the internal political situation in some EU Member States or political pressures and controversies on conditionality have slowed down decision-making in approving the remaining recovery and resilience plans.

Here I would like to thank both partners in the Trio Presidency, concluded by Slovenia: sincere thanks to Germany and Portugal for their excellent cooperation! This Trio Presidency was a model example of close cooperation, and this for the second time in Slovenia's relatively short history in the European Union. At the same time, I would like to express my thanks to France for its good cooperation during our Presidency and in our handing over the presidency and my best wishes for its success.

After celebrating the 30th anniversary of our statehood last year together with the highest representatives of neighbouring countries and the President of the European Council, this year we remember the 30th anniversary of Slovenia’s international recognition. Ten days ago, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Slovenia's recognition by the countries then forming the European Community. Since our independence, we have been rapidly developing a network of bilateral, regional and multilateral relations. Last year, too, special attention was paid to our neighbourhood relations. I am pleased that there is strong understanding, solidarity and intensive dialogue and cooperation between us in many areas. We continued to pay special attention to Central Europe, which is our natural cultural-historical and geographical environment I would like to underline Slovenia’s participation in the very important Three Seas Initiative and in the C5 informal group of five Central European countries. We are particularly pleased that Slovenia was admitted to the group of Mediterranean EU Member States last year. This will allow us to strengthen cooperation also within the second dimension of our cultural-historical and geographical identity.

The efforts of the Slovenian nation towards freedom and an independent, autonomous statehood were built upon, following the establishment of Slovenia's statehood 30 years ago and its international recognition, within the framework made possible by European integration and a strong transatlantic alliance. Both are of vital importance to Slovenia and Europe. The decision for a democratic and independent Slovenia was also a decision to return to Europe. That return – the Slovenian people have, of course, always been part of European culture and history – in the sense of returning as a free nation, which established its sovereign statehood through a completely unambiguous plebiscitary decision and successfully defended it even following the attack of the aggressor Yugoslav People's Army, coincided with the fundamental historical mission spurred by the fall of totalitarian communist regimes in Europe: to establish a Europe which is whole and free, and at peace with itself. This historical task remains unfinished and is one of the fundamental strategic issues for the future of both Europe and the European Union itself, which must be given priority. Slovenia particularly addressed this issue during its presidency of the Council of the EU. Last year's Bled Strategic Forum focused on the future of Europe, and the EU-Western Balkans summit on the EU enlargement. The Eastern Partnership summit held in December was equally significant.

This important discussion on the future of the European Union continues and is expected to reach its conclusion during the French Presidency. Allow me to take this opportunity to recall a few principles and thoughts that I find crucial for our common future: our goal should be to strengthen the European Union in which our values and the European identity as well as separate national identities are protected and can continue to flourish; the EU must become stronger on the outside and more resilient on the inside; in this context, it is also necessary to focus on maintaining and nurturing the trust and solidarity between the EU Member States, which have been damaged here and there by the various crises that have hit us in recent times; it is imperative that we build on our motto, united in diversity – the diversity stemming from historical, cultural and spiritual traditions within a single European civilisation is an asset and not an obstacle to overall progress or to greater unity in matters where such unity is needed; the discussion about the future provides a much-needed opportunity to openly discuss outstanding strategic issues, and to find common solutions that allow a way forward. The EU's resilience to the causes of recent crises must be strengthened, in particular in finance and the economy and in the security of the common external borders. Its autonomy regarding the supply of critical assets should also be strengthened. The principles of subsidiarity and proportionality must be respected to a greater extent. The EU and its institutions need to be more in touch with the situation in the EU Member States, in particular with the national parliaments. The Committee of the Regions also deserves greater support. The EU is a place of representative democracy. We need to be aware that different forms of civil society networking and cooperation within it can enrich the community, but they can never and must never replace elected bodies and authorities.

Our strategic problem is demography. If we are to solve it strategically, we must focus on young people and families. The EU's great, good and indispensable soft power, unparalleled in this world, is not enough as long as we are unable to provide people with fundamental security and basic human rights. The EU therefore needs a combination of soft and hard power.

In the context of the future of Europe I believe it particularly necessary to point out that a Europe whole, free and at peace with itself became our historic goal and shared task with the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as a normative orientation unanimously agreed upon by all the countries of this continent and their transatlantic partners. The Charter of Paris for a new Europe thus reads: "Europe whole and free is calling for a new beginning", as well as "with the ending of the division of Europe, we will strive for a new quality in our security relations while fully respecting each other's freedom of choice in that respect". One of the key tasks is to preserve and defend the legal and normative foundations of modern Europe, which brought an end to the Cold War and laid the foundations for security, stability, cooperation and prosperity on the continent, as well as the principles of respect for sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, equal security for all European countries, and their freedom of choice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government of the Republic of Slovenia took a decision to submit a candidature for the non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2024/2025 term. Slovenia has been a reliable, active, trustworthy and responsible partner since becoming a member of the United Nations, both in this and other multilateral fora. Slovenia has always been a constructive member and part of the international community. We firmly believe that we can be a good representative of the General Assembly as a whole. With the candidacy, Slovenia reaffirms its commitment to maintaining international peace and security in their broadest sense, its commitment to promoting our shared values, to international law and international cooperation. Our priorities will include promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, supporting preventive diplomacy, advocating effective multilateralism globally and regionally, resilience, respect for international law, and a rational green and digital transition.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you sincerely for your cooperation and for strengthening friendly relations between the countries you represent and Slovenia. I wish you, your families and the countries and nations you represent an abundance of health, peace and prosperity, and that the ties of friendship and cooperation binding us together become even stronger this year.