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15th anniversary of the independent state of Slovenia
Parliament of New South Wales
Speech by
Honorary Consul-General Mr. Alfred Brežnik, 18th June 2006

The Hon. John Aquilina, MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, representing the Premier of NSW, The Hon. Morris Iemma, MP, and Mrs Ann Aquilina;
The Hon. Meredith Burgman, MLC, President of the Legislative Council;
The Hon. David Clarke, MLC and Mrs Clarke;
Mr Michael Daley, MP, Member for Maroubra;
The Hon. John Murray, Former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly;
The Hon. Max Willis, former President of the Legislative Council;
The Hon. Brian Vaughn; former MLC;
Mr Bojan Bertoncelj, Charge D’Affaires Slovenian Embassy;
Mr Stevan Kerkyasharian, Chairman of The Community Relations Commission;
Ms Deborah George, Deputy State Director DFAT;
Mr Michael Coutts-Trotter, Chief of Staff – Treasury;
Ms Lesley Mathews, CEO - EABC;
Fr. Valerijan Jenko, OFM, OAM and Fr. Darko Znidarsic, OFM from the St. Raphael’s Slovenian Mission, Merrylands;
Mr Les Clements, Dep. Of State and Regional Development;
Ms Olya Booyar and Ms Irene Veksler, from SBS;
Colleagues of the Consular Corps, representatives of the Slovenian Organisations, our special guests the Choir ZVEN from Slovenia, distinguished guests - friends.

We have just heard both anthems sung by the choir ZVEN and two verses of the Slovenian anthem recited by Mrs. Olga Lah.
The poet France Prešeren wrote this poem in 1844, that is some 162 years ago. In it he declares his belief in free-thinking Slovenian political awareness, promoting the idea of a United Slovenia, which was with the March 1848 revolution elevated into a national political program.

This could have been any nation’s anthem, a universal one. Many nations, unfortunately ‘…still long and work for that bright day…’. Prešern’s dream, expressing our nation’s dream finally came to fruition 15 years ago, on June 25, 1991, when the first democratically elected Slovenian parliament declared a free and independent Slovenian State. A historical event indeed, which took a millennium and many generations of determined patriotic people to achieve it; i.e. from the first independent Slavic state, called Karantania, formed by king Samo in 623 AD, through the centuries of the Habsburgs rule until the end of the First World War, and through the newly formed Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, created in 1918, later called Yugoslavia, until the Second World War, during which the Slovenian territory was again split up, among the occupiers. Then through the years of the new union within the Federal socialist republic of Yugoslavia, and which began to crumble only after Tito’s death (1980); due to the inter-national conflict and Serbian nationalism then, which eventually fragmented Yugoslavia.

In July 1990, the Slovene Assembly adopted a Declaration of the Sovereignty of the Republic of Slovenia, followed by a plebiscite with large majority voting for sovereignty of Slovenia, and the declaration of independence on 25 June 1991 followed.

All this was just too much for the communists. They sent in the Yugoslav people’s army to stop Slovenia leaving the SFRY, and thus a ten day war followed. The army realizing the determination of the Slovenian people, that they want to be free and that no price is too high to achieve that, so they left the country by October 1, 1991, when the actual sovereignty was established.

This happened 15 years ago and this is what we are celebrating today. Since then Slovenia has achieved much and is highly respected in the EU, as well as the rest of the international family of nations. It is a true parliamentary democracy. Is a member of all the major international organizations, a member of the Council of Europe since 1993, NATO and EU since 1st May 2004. In 2005 Slovenia successfully chaired the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation). The Europea Commission’s nod for Slovenia’s euro switch on 1st January 2007 is historical, while entering the Eurozone is the country’s biggest achievement since joining EU, according to the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Mr Janez Jansa. Slovenia is also expected to enter the Schengen area in October 2007.

The living standard in Slovenia has risen and according to Eurostat data the Gross domestic product measured at purchasing power parity reached 81% of the EU average in 2005.

The key challenges facing Slovenia in the coming two years are the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, and the preparations to take over the EU presidency in the first half of 2008.

As said before, Slovenia has achieved a lot in this relatively short period of self-government, but there are many challenges ahead that will require a lot of afford and determination to remain abreast in this highly competitive world.

The Australian – Slovenian relationship continues to prosper. More and more highly educated Slovenian individuals come here to further their education or expertise or seek employment. Bilateral trade grows steadily. Australian investments in Slovenia in the last year have jumped considerably. Harvey Norman is opening another three stores in Slovenia and the Australian gambling machine giant the Aristocrat has bought 50% of the Slovenian high tech Elektronček group of companies, for some A$48MIL.

There has been an increase in the number of Australian tourists who chose Slovenia as their holiday destination and has in 2005 reached over 14,000.

Therefore, I would encourage you, that on the way out you see the lovely Vesna, who will be more than happy to give you a copy of a brochure on Slovenia. Who knows it may convince you that you too should visit Slovenia on your next trip to Europe. Should you require further tourist information or brochures on Slovenia, contact me.

Thank you.

Speech by Hon. John Aquilina MP Speaker

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