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Address by Prime Minister Dr Robert Golob on the 20th anniversary of Slovenia's EU membership

Twenty years have passed since Slovenia became a member of the European Union. The significant enlargement on May 1, 2004, was the result of our longstanding desire for positive change and the determination to become part of an advanced Europe. It was a historic event that solidified our commitment to the values of modern European democracy: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. We aspired to a society characterized by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, and solidarity. These values remain cherished today.

Through membership, Slovenia gained the right to co-decide on European legislation, policies, and the co-creation of the future of the old continent. Soon after, in 2007, Slovenia became the first among the new members to adopt the euro as the common European currency and joined the Schengen Area. This made us part of the most interconnected part of Europe. Furthermore, with our presidencies of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2008 and the second half of 2021, we demonstrated that, as a nation, we can be a trustworthy partner within the European family.

Our journey to Europe demanded significant changes, adaptations, responsibilities, and active engagement. However, it was an investment that pays off at every step. For instance, regarding security and stability—both of which are increasingly under threat in our surroundings and worldwide. This is evident in the democratic environment and the values that define us. We can move, do business, study, or work anywhere across Europe freely. Every European has the right to be treated equally when it comes to employment, social security, and taxation in another member state. Slovenian businesses can participate in the single market with their products and services. Phone and internet services, as well as payment cards, can be used within the Union without additional costs.

And perhaps most importantly, with membership, Slovene became an official language of the European Union. This provides us, as a small nation, the opportunity to promote and preserve our culture and language. Moreover, Slovenia has over 10 billion euros available in the European budget for the period from 2021 to 2027, along with funds from the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, which we aim to wisely invest in Slovenia's development. Let's admit it—all the mentioned advantages may seem self-evident to us today, but even citizens of some developed countries in the world envy them.

Membership in the European Union is, of course, not just a bundle of benefits but also imposes responsibilities. Especially the safeguarding of hard-won rights, values, and freedoms. The responsibility for proactive and constructive participation in shaping a shared future.

Let's not forget that European states united primarily because of the historical experiences of the old continent. It was a need for the security, stability, and prosperity of citizens. Today, we realize that in an increasingly unstable world of rapid changes, we can only be stronger if we stand together. The horrifying aggression of Russia on Ukraine, the suffering of civilians in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world remind us of the importance of peace, solidarity, and unity. This is particularly evident to the countries aspiring to join the twenty-seven. Slovenia, on their European path, particularly supports the countries of the nearby Western Balkans, whose stability and progress are in our common interest.

In two decades of Slovenia's membership in the European family, the world has noticeably changed. Slovenia has changed with it. However, these changes only reinforce the realization that Slovenia's entry into the European Union 20 years ago was the right and best possible decision for the well-being of Slovenian citizens. Slovenia continues to be an active and constructive partner within the European family, deeply committed to the prosperity and future of our continent.