Formal Dinner Hosted by the President of Slovenia

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Formal Dinner Hosted by His Excellency Dr. Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia

Brdo Castle, Slovenia, Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There is talk in Canada of a Slovenian miracle.

By miracle, people mean the extraordinary path that Slovenia has followed since it declared independence on June 25, 1991, and was officially recognized by Canada in January 1992.

My fellow Canadians are not only alluding to the remarkable ingenuity Slovenians have demonstrated over the past 18 years.

They are also referring to the strength of your identity, which has allowed you to preserve your uniqueness throughout history.   

Slovenia reflects the many faces of Europe, yet it is unique: that is no doubt one of the reasons it was the first new member of the European Union to assume the presidency. 

And, Excellency, it is precisely because of this miracle—to use the expression again—that I have the privilege and honour of being here today. 

Because this official visit, which has been a dream for us for so long and which I am undertaking today as governor general of Canada, is a celebration of both your tremendous achievements and the warm relationship shared by our two countries.

Close to 36 000 Canadians of Slovenian heritage are helping to build today’s Canada and, I believe, add a fraternal dimension to our relationship.

In addition to our growing trade relationship, we have had bilateral relationships in other key areas since 1992.

For example, Slovenia supported the Ottawa convention on the elimination of anti-personnel landmines.

Moreover, Canada contributed to Slovenia’s International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance.

Co-operation between Slovenian and Canadian forces has also strengthened since you became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Slovenian troops were deployed alongside Canadian forces in Afghanistan in 2003, and the work they have accomplished together is impressive.

This co-operation is a decisive step toward what you, Excellency, justly called, in a speech at Columbia University in New York, the “afghanisation of security.”

As commander-in-chief, I am proud that Slovenian soldiers were the first non-Canadian recipients of the Canadian General Campaign Star in February 2006.

Of course, Excellency, the world in which we live today is, as you said, “polycentric,” and the wish you made in your inauguration speech to make solidarity the most fundamental of values is incredibly relevant. 

This conviction, which I wholeheartedly share, is also the conviction of our compatriots, especially the young people I speak to wherever I go; they are always telling me that solidarity is a responsibility.

That is certainly worth repeating, particularly as we prepare to mark the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10. In its preamble, it states that the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Canada is proud to have played a role in drafting and adopting this declaration through the work of Professor John Humphrey.

Although the world has changed since 1948 and democracy has made enormous strides, there are still too many women, men and children whose most basic rights are abused on a daily basis and who face the most appalling contempt.

We must make every effort to promote respect for human rights and reinforce the role of the institutions that support them.  

I know how important this is to you, Excellency, and I want you to know that the woman who stands before you—a woman who, as a child in Haiti, was witness to one of the most repressive and bloody regimes of the last century—this woman also knows what it is like to have her dignity reduced to nothingness.

It is a responsibility that neither Slovenia nor Canada takes lightly.

Just as “the names that the sun gives itself are not enough,” as one of Slovenia’s poets, Tomaž Šalamun, once wrote, there is no limit to the amount of energy we must expend to ensure that we wake up each day to a world governed by human solidarity.

It is therefore with the certainty of being among friends and in your company, Excellency, in a spirit of understanding, that I and the Canadian delegates accompanying me resolutely head out to meet your fellow Slovenians.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with you, Excellency, and with both the Prime Minister and President of the National Assembly.

The members of the Canadian delegation and I are looking forward to talking to Slovenians and hearing the aspirations and concerns that we share in our increasingly open and complex world, from enforcing international justice to building peace in the world, from promoting the diverse and unique ways in which we express ourselves to the ways in which we are working to help our young people to ensure that they can participate fully in our society.

It is also in a spirit of solidarity that we are preparing to host the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in February and March 2010.

And we are counting on you, our Slovenian friends, to make this extraordinary encounter a celebration of the joys of winter, sport excellence and fellowship. 

Rest assured, Excellency, that throughout our visit, we will be sure to appreciate all of the beauty of your country, a country overflowing in natural wonders that extend from the Julian Alps to the shores of the Adriatic Sea. 

I already know that I will be able to tell Canadians that they were right: I saw a miracle in Europe, and it is called Slovenia.

Thank you very much, Excellency, for the warm welcome you have shown us and for hosting this dinner in our honour.

May the friendship between Slovenians and Canadians continue to grow and may it show the world our faith in a better future.