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20th anniversary of the accession of the Republic of Slovenia to the Council of Europe

Strasbourg , 

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Mr. President, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me explain to those among you who are less familiar with the lyrics of the Slovenian anthem – that the song called "A toast" – by the way includes the following words;

God's blessing on all nations,

Who long to see

That all men free

No more shall foes but neighbours be!

You will certainly agree that, if they were not in use already, these noble words could have easily served as the European anthem. Alas, the Slovenians beat us to it.

But that does not diminish my joy of having the opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the accession of the Republic of Slovenia to the Council of Europe. I am particularly looking forward to the performance of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mr Marko Letonja. This is yet further evidence to an old theory of mine – that Slovenians may be few in the world, but they know how to deploy themselves strategically.

It is of course a great pleasure to mark this occasion in the presence of Mr Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia.

Mr Pahor, as you may know, is a former Prime Minister, a former President of the Parliament, a former member of the European Parliament and a former member of the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.

You may not know, however, that he is – at least temporarily – also a former acrobat basketball player. As you may have noticed, President Pahor has a slight limp. My sources revealed that this is due to an injury he suffered recently while performing a spectacular basketball shot for the purpose of a video spot promoting the forthcoming European Championship which will take place in Slovenia. As someone who has just survived three games in the Council of Europe football tournament this weekend, I of course sympathise with the President's injury, and I am full of admiration for his performance.

If I return to the subject-matter of our gathering, I should like to make an important point.

The 20th anniversary of accession coincides with one of the most important challenges Slovenia has encountered as a member of this organisation – namely the execution of judgment in the case of so-called erased persons. A few days ago I had a visit from the Minister of Interior of Slovenia, and his assurances that the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights – which includes just compensation for the victim - will be implemented fully and within the shortest possible delays, were very much welcomed by the Committee of Ministers.

 

Paying out compensations during times of economic crisis is difficult, but nevertheless essential. Beyond the reparation to the victims, it also represents an investment in the country's democratic stability and cohesion. Repairing the injustices of the past is the best safeguard against future wrongs. It is also, symbolically, the best way to mark your accession anniversary to the organisation devoted to the respect of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

As to economic woes, I have full confidence in Slovenia's ability to get back on its feet. In this, it can seek inspiration from their President. He may have pulled a muscle, but that has not stopped him from carrying on – and going far.

Let me conclude with another stanza from the poem "A toast". It is not officially a part of the anthem, but it is nevertheless very appropriate for the occasion;

 

At last to our reunion -

To us the toast! Let it resound,

Since in this great communion

By thoughts of brotherhood we're bound

May joyful cheer

Ne'er disappear

From all good hearts now gathered here.