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Parliament of New South Wales
Speech by Alfred Brežnik, 21st June 2007

The Hon. John Aquilina, MP, Leader of the House, representing the Premier of NSW, The Hon. Morris Iemma, MP;
The Hon. Peter Primrose, MLC, President of the Legislative Council;
The Hon. George Torbay, MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly;
The Hon. David Clarke, MLC;
Mr Paul Pearce, MP, Member for Coogee;
Mr Michael Dayley, MP, Member for Maroubra;
Mr Stephan Deady, State Director, Department of Foreign Affaires and Trade;
Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian, Chairman – Community Relations Commission;
The Hon. John Murray, Former Speaker of the Legisl. Assembly & Mrs Murray;
The Hon. Deirdre Grusovin;
The Hon. Bryan Vaugham;
Mr Gregor Kozovinc, Chargé D’Affaires of the Slovenian Embassy and
Mrs Božena Forstnarič, II secretary of the Slovenian Embassy;
Mr John Azarias, Partner - Deloitte Touche Tomatsu;
Fr Valerijan Jenko, OFM, OAM, Head of the St. Raphael’s Slovene Mission in Merrylands;
Fr. Ciril Božič, OFM, Head of the Sts. Cyril & Methodius Slovene Mission in Melbourne (Thank you Father for coming all the way from Melbourne for this function);
Mr Russell Grove, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly;
Ms Irene Veksler, Program Manager SBS Radio;
Ms Joanna Pisani, Dean of the Consular Corps & Consul General for Malta;
Mr Paul Wehnam, Hon. Secretary General of the Consular Corps & Mrs Wenham;
Colleagues of the Consular Corps, representatives of the Slovenian Organisations, distinguished guests – my dear friends.
Welcome all and thank you for joining us to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the independent state of Slovenia.

On your invitations is also mentioned 15 years of our Consulate in Sydney. I thought to mark this occasion as well, as it coincides with the main event we are celebrating today. I know that in comparison with Switzerland, which a couple of years ago celebrated the 150th anniversary of their Consulate in Sydney, it is not such a long time but our country became independent only 16 years ago. As mentioned on previous occasions, Australia was the first overseas country to recognize Slovenia’s independence, on the 12th of January 1992 - the establishing of the Consulate in Sydney was a kind of thank you gesture for this recognition and to have some representation here in Australia as soon as possible. I Hope that this Consulate will also one day celebrate it’s 150th anniversary.

But the real reason for today’s event is to celebrate the birth of a new nation 16 years ago – the independent and democratic state, the Republic of Slovenia. The actual date is the 25th of June, but I thought to bring it forward, as on that date I will be attending the independence celebrations in Ljubljana. It’s about time that I do that, since I haven’t had the chance in all the past years. (Don’t you agree? I know you do). Even this is not quite correct. I actually was present at an independence celebration in Slovenia, the first one, that is when Slovenia was only one day old. What an exciting time this was. During the noisy, but happy celebration in the big hall of culture and entertainment in Ljubljana. We could hardly hear or take notice of the Yugoslav military planes trying to scare the population on the ground as we celebrated this historical event. But we soon found out what those maneuvers meant. They were the prologue to something much more serious - the ten day war that soon followed. The aggressor realizing that this quickly organized and poorly armed territorial defense force can’t be totally ignored; that it won’t give in easily and that they had the full support of the population. Also concerned about the international reaction, should they consider a full scale assault - these were some of the reasons which saved Slovenia from total destruction at the time. Fortunately for Slovenia, they decided for a temporary cease-fire or time buying tactics, I suppose. But, these tactics misfired. It actually brought the ‘Ten day war’ to an end. The internationalization of the conflict and after some three months of negotiations, on October 1, 1991, the actual sovereignty was established.

The past 16 years were for the newly established state challenging indeed. The first and most important challenge was to democratize the state institutions and to change the mentality of, not only the bureaucrats, but also the general population. Not an easy task, considering the 50 years of indoctrination. Then the change from state controlled economy to a free enterprise one; de-nationalization of the properties and privatization of state enterprises, and so on. Slovenia managed all these successfully and efficiently. Not only was Slovenia successful at home, she was also successful in the international arena. Slovenia proved that a small nation can be a valuable member and contributor to the world’s wellbeing. During this short space of time Slovenia has successfully presided the United Nation’s Security Council and in 2005 Slovenia Chaired the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation). And, has a few weeks ago successfully completed the one year chairmanship of the Human Networking Security, where Slovenia devoted particular attention to three priorities: the roll of networking within the newly established Human Rights Council, promotion of intercultural dialogue and prevention of violence against children in different aspects - to mention but a few. Slovenia’s participation in international peacekeeping missions is also significant.

The three year membership of the EU has been a series of success stories, beneficial to both Slovenia as well as the EU. Among the new EU members Slovenia’s Gross domestic product is among the highest, measured at purchasing power parity, reaching some 85% of the EU average. The 2006 GDP per capita, at 5.2% growth rate, was 14,811 EUR or some 24,000 AUD, which in the 1st quarter 2007 grew by another 7.2%. I won’t bore you with more of these statistics. But it is a proof what a small nation can achieve, given an opportunity and freedom to do so. The changeover to the EURO in January of this year was swift and smooth. Despite some minimal price increases which occurred mainly in restaurants, bars and coffee shops, consumers’ fear about significant price increases were unjustified and the overall inflation remained stable. Cyprus and other nations that are planning to convert their currency are coming to Slovenia to learn from her experience.

But the greatest challenge yet will be the Presidency of the EU, which will take place in January 2008, after Portugal, which starts it’s six month term on the 1st of July this year. An enormous task and a great experience indeed. Preparations are going well and according to plan. During her term of Presidency, Slovenia will continue with the 18 month program planned together by the troika nations; Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, but will particularly concentrate on four themes:

- The Constitution and institutional reforms; -
- Enlargement of the Union, particularly of the Western Balkans;
- Energy, e.i. stability and sustainability of energy recourses, further liberalization of the market and transparent energy regulation within the EU; and
- Intercultural Dialogue (2008 is the European year of the Intercultural Dialogue).

What about relations with Australia? EU-Australian relations will of course depend on the inherited agenda and actual state-of-play in the beginning of the 2008. 2008 will be the year of renewal of the Joint EU - AUS Declaration. The Ministerial meeting with Australia is planned to take place in Slovenia. This of course will be an opportunity to further enhance the bilateral relation between RS and AUS as well.

Slovenia will also become a member of the Schenegen area in December 2007, which means that Slovenia’s integration into the EU will thus be complete.

And a final plug for Slovenia’s tourism. In Slovenia, as in the whole Europe, now is the high tourist season. Last year Slovenia had a 25% increase in tourist visits - Ljubljana alone had a 35% increase. Don’t delay your visit. Air-tickets are hard to get. Should you consider a visit to Slovenia and/or Europe, Ms Stephanie Savage from Beyond Slovenia, who is here today, will be more than happy to help. Stephanie put up your hand – she has some great tours.

Thank you all for your attention – enjoy the rest of the function.

Alfred Brežnik 70 let – Častni generalni konzul RS v Sydneyju - Bivši ataše Slovenske olimpijske in paraolimpijske reprezentance Sydney 2000 – Nosilec visokega državnega odlikovanja Srebrni častni znak svobode Republike Slovenije, in še veliko, veliko več ..
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Mediji Slovenija, Slovenci po svetu - svetAlfred Brežnik 70 let – Častni generalni konzul RS v Sydneyju - Bivši ataše Slovenske olimpijske in paraolimpijske reprezentance Sydney 2000 – Nosilec visokega državnega odlikovanja Srebrni častni znak svobode Republike Slovenije, in še veliko, veliko več ..