President of Slovenia

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 26 January 1999

Mr President, Secretary General and honourable members. This is the second time now in the eight-year history of the Slovenian state that I have had the opportunity to speak in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The first time was one year after Slovenia became a member of the Council. On 21 September 1993 members passed a resolution on the crisis in Yugoslavia, calling upon member states of the Council of Europe to “consider the recognition of those” – Yugoslav – “republics which have declared their independence”. In this way the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was the first international organisation to acknowledge our European democratic orientation during that most difficult time of political and military clashes, and even to help us towards being recognised. Through this act the Council of Europe also proved that it is indeed the herald of the European idea of emerging from the past and into a more promising future.

I am especially honoured by this invitation, and I am very pleased to be here with you today, honourable members, for 1999 is a celebratory year for the Council of Europe. We will look back with great reverence to 5 May 1949, the day of founding of this pan-European institution and symbol of the Europe that we desire. The decision of that time, taken by ten European countries in London, has in time been confirmed as a far-sighted act towards protecting and consolidating political democracy, the rule of law, respect of human rights, protection of the common European heritage and promoting economic and social progress across the European continent in all its diversity, multiplicity and plurality.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Council of Europe will therefore be much more than a conventional cause for remembering. This is affirmed by the momentous events after 1989. The Council has grown from its initial construction and is now a construction of forty European countries, which together wish to shape a democratic, stable and secure Europe, which should be governed by peace and the rule of human rights, and through co-operation to create a new developmental impetus.

Today there exist more or less clear interests, there are recognised expectations and there exist European values which are woven into the very fabric of the European idea. Are we are now capable of linking all these together to make the transition into the European future? Was the fulfilment of what seemed so long ago in London as something removed far into the future a political vision generated from tragic human experience? In Europe we have never before had such a good prospect of doing that. Europe has never been so close to being a safe common home of all nations and countries on our continent, yet it will not be able to, attain this goal if it cannot be united in seeking answers to common questions, old and new. We are still beset with the remnants of undemocratic patterns. We still see living signs of aggressive nationalism, ideological fundamentalism and nationalist egoism, social oppression and absence of political and spiritual freedom. We should not close our eyes to these things or regard them as marginal features. I would like to remind you of certain obstacles which I believe are worthy of consideration.

The process of change in post-socialist societies has, through its intensification after 1989, for the most part rendered these societies, in their external image and institutional order, comparable to the countries which have a long democratic tradition. I can confirm this for Slovenia in all certainty. Yet the post-socialist countries have a varied past. Each one is in itself a living organism, which in its own way is responding to the changes. For this reason it is not possible to establish the level and speed of their transformation through mutual comparison, although this serves as a stimulant and can be seen as encouraging. Realistically, all we may learn is whether each in itself measures up to its citizens, whether it gives them the possibility of living in line with the standards that are valid for file Europe of today and tomorrow and to which the Council of Europe has ascribed the highest value. Such assessments will offer to each country and each nation sufficient space to create for themselves their very own modem identity, which they may, with self-confidence and responsibility, invest in the common European life, in the new Europe of diversity. For the new Europe, too, will live in diversity and division. Yet this will, I trust, be without those divisions that run counter to European values and ideas.

Post-socialist societies are experiencing difficulties in overcoming the historical gaps in their development. Changes in ownership and the market economy have brought about new social classes and new types of poverty. Social tensions and conflicts may provide fertile ground for various forms of nationalism, fundamentalism, egalitarianism, authoritarian political leadership and for advocates of elementary tribalism. In the long term, the main problem for the development of these societies does not lie in the formal adaptation of national law to that of Europe. The main problem is that European laws should not remain merely an empty and ineffective programme of norms, but should actively develop relations between societies with varying recent histories, and in that way truly integrate them into the common European society. That requires co-operation, solidarity and a mutuality of effort in the common interest.

There is not merely – or, indeed, largely – a lagging behind in the level of material development. These countries are different, because their development has run in a counter direction for half a century. That calls for some sort of modem Marshall Plan, primarily involving intellectual co-operation and solidarity between the western democracies and the postsocialist European countries as the result of common development in the common interest. We should not overlook the fact that that involves a different kind of enlargement of European institutions, because until now all the differences involved the same quality of relations and the same experience, values and developmental direction. In my judgment, this is especially important precisely in the key process of constituting the internal independence and self-regulation of all social sub-systems, from the political, economic and social to the educational, spiritual, cultural and religious. In the spirit of the post-modem democratic society we may, through that route, most reliably form new societies with a clear and modem national identity, which at the same time will form a community of equal and free citizens, who in turn will be citizens of Europe and the world.

That is probably the only path that will, by consensus, establish a break or a discontinuity with the former society — a society that was marked by an authoritarian political system that exercised a hierarchical control and stipulated in minute detail what people’s acceptable behaviour should be in all their roles in society and in their dealings with the political elite. Indeed, the ability of all social sub-systems to develop an appropriate level of autonomy and self-orientation will provide a solid support for the stability of the democratic political system, and in that way they will move beyond the heritage of the former authoritarian leadership, with its subordination of the universally controlled lives of its citizens to the interests of state.

In Europe and the new Russia, there was an expectation that the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dismantling of the Stalinist socio-political system and the emergence of new independent countries in that area would bring about, through some natural process, a progressive democratisation and a social and economic stabilisation along western European lines, which would serve as the yardstick for assessing changes. However, Russia simply cannot be measured by the same yardstick and standards, or against the same patterns as central European countries and the majority of eastern European countries. The situation cannot be explained in that way, as those patterns do not enable us to comprehend file nature of the internal reform processes, the depth of the conflicts, the interests, confrontations, structural discord and developmental contradictions. In so many ways, it is a different country, originating from a world of different values. Today, it is faced with not only the remnants of ideological differences, but the co-existence of numerous different, and now free, cultures and civilisations, of which Europe’s eastern Christianity and its influence is merely one, and by no means the only one.

Russia and its development are perhaps the key issues for the future of Europe. They require a subtle approach, including by the Council of Europe. The Council acted wisely and responsibly when it invited Russia to become a member. Indeed, the view that there could be fatal consequences for European and world peace if Russia were left outside the European processes was a sobering thought. However, that is not the only answer, and shows that there is uncertainty.

What is required is the common strength to realise the urgent need for co-operation with modern Russia during its internal transition. Russia remains a political superpower and potentially a great economic power, with great human and spiritual resources, without which there can be no new, secure, socially stable, successful and peaceful Europe. For that process, time is an enemy rather than an ally. Merely to be satisfied that the borders of Nato have been shifted a few hundred kilometres towards the east could have tragic consequences for Europe and the whole world – and for Russia.

I shall comment on the vicious circle of brutality in the Balkans. In south-eastern Europe and in parts of the Balkans, the process of Europeanisation and democratisation is stalling. I do not want to denigrate the efforts of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union, Nato and, in particular, the direct involvement of the United States of America in this crisis area, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, but we are still dealing with a vicious circle, and we are waiting helplessly for this situation to end of its own accord, but it will not. Yet again we must think, without reservation or indulgence, about the causes of the war in Croatia, against Bosnia and in Kosovo. Those wars were not caused or triggered by ethnic differences or by allegiance to different religions, as some would have us believe. For example, Serbian policy as the herald of the orthodox Christian community is being raised to the level of defender against the purported aggression of Islamic fundamentalism. Those wars were started and are being conducted by undemocratic, nationalist political elites from coexisting nations. By fanning die flames of political passions and by the use of marginal groups from the social and political underground for military killings, they have tom asunder the normal, common life in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies with long traditions of co-existence. The consistent punishing of war criminals and decisive measures to ensure respect of human rights could represent a new step forward which, in harmony with new developments, primarily with an economic impetus, could return true peace to this area and what the people knew as times of co-existence, diversity, tolerance and co-operation.

How long the path to this goal is depends chiefly on Europe. Our continent does not have a common view of the tragic events in south-eastern Europe, which is largely still living in the nineteenth century, where the nationalist idea is still the prime idea. People are confined to being subjects in the service of the nation, and the state is master of life and death. From such a view of human beings and their dignity, and from experience of being in an ethnically mixed environment, uncompromising regimes emerge that allow themselves to do anything for as long as other regimes in the same territory or in their vicinity supposedly or actually threaten members of their nation and the subjects of their rule. For that reason, they ensure that their subjects constantly feel threatened merely for having been born to parents of this or that nationality. In the name of the nation, they must foreswear their integrity and dignity, and be subordinated to the tyranny of so-called higher interests.

Thanks to the conventions of the Council of Europe at the end of this century there remains only one moral and political dictate: that of human dignity and human rights. In the Balkan heartland, regardless of the differing civil values, those rights are so cruelly violated that all of us who are members of the European civilisation at the turn of the millennium should be ashamed.

The fate of people in this part of the old continent has begun to revolve in a blood-spattered, vicious circle. This can be stopped only by decisive intervention in the name of humanity and common civilisational norms and through a common view of the future of this, perhaps the most sensitive part of Europe. Europe is duty bound to do this; it is also bound to offer hope. There are many suggestions as to how to extinguish the flames of crisis – perhaps too many for us to be able to select one key solution behind which the entire peace-loving world would stand and act decisively – including the use of force, if that is the only language understood by the nationalist military elite, who seek by force to appropriate living space for their own people to the detriment of others; an elite who speak the political language of “blood and earth”. Yet such a solution should not be built on stereotypes of good and bad or on the hypothesis that there will be eternally undemocratic regimes here. We should not overlook the differences.

There are old, as well as new, emerging divisions in Europe, and there are clear references to them. The ideas of a European homeland – and, in particular, of the EU in its most tangible form – may be pushed back to some unspecified time in the new millennium. For the countries of central and eastern Europe that are in the “waiting room” – or even for those outside it – this is the imposing reality that has negative, rather than positive, effects. In referring to European divisions, I am thinking not merely of those divisions that run along the boundaries defining member states in European associations. The European developmental dynamic is marked also by differences in development, differences between great and small nation states, differences between the stable and unstable security areas of the continent and between a Europe that is establishing common norms and revitalising them or yielding to its opponents.

A similar analysis could also be applied to the various spiritual and civilisational differences. The more frequent reference to divisions between western and eastern European Christendom – it is a European reality that Christian countries have been defenders against the Islamic civilisation – and between Semitic and anti-Semitic sections of the population, is a warning that we must prepare ourselves for life with divisions that, together, we can recognise as being in harmony with the desired aims of Europe’s future and in opposition to those things that cannot be our desired aims.

I am concerned about the emergence of a “third Europe” – if I may call it that. It is composed of certain post-socialist countries – including some that are newly emerged – which are rejecting the European democratic tradition and value system in order to preserve a somewhat modernised, but in truth old, social system and to clash with the western agents of coercion. For this reason, too, Europe needs a new developmental impetus. In this way, it could prepare itself more rapidly for life and competition in the global arena. For the sake of the world and its own stability, Europe cannot allow itself to abandon or delay its association process. Changes are needed in the European Union, yet they cannot become an argument for Europe. It will not be possible to delay the globalisation age.

Slovenia is on a new path. Honourable members, I believe that your current knowledge and impression of Slovenia is now more complete and multi-faceted. A group of deputies from the Slovenian Parliament is cooperating here, and you are conducting far-reaching communications within the institutions of the Council of Europe with the Slovenian people. In the spirit of awareness of the Council of Europe, Slovenia has built into the foundations of its statehood freedoms and rights, the dignity of the person in all his or her affiliations, and diversity in order to incline a self-confident people continually toward a common goal and a common future, together with the other nations and countries of the European continent.

I am convinced that Slovenia has changed fundamentally since its independence in 1991. It has shaped and honed its internal and external image in line with the expectations that you Assembly members invested in us when you decided to accept us as a member. We have implemented or pledged ourselves to all the key structural reforms and, in our dealings, we have relied on the central European tradition of tolerance and multi-culturalism. We have ratified the EU Association Agreement, and the appropriate procedures have been set in motion to ensure that Slovenia will become a full member of the EU following the negotiation process. We are developing productive relations with neighbouring and other countries in Europe and on other continents. Many elements of Slovenia’s external and internal transformation can be seen as an expression of a consistent developmental dynamic – perhaps slower than we would wish or slower than might be possible.

We know that every change requires a certain amount of time. With the majority of internal political forces desiring greater effectiveness in creating developmental consensus, using the professional know-how of Slovenia’s educated people and the solidarity and support of other member states of the Council of Europe, die EU and specialised international organisations, it will be possible for us to work through this time and to achieve our pledges. I remain an optimist about the outcome, and I assure the Assembly that my views are shared by the great majority of Slovenia’s citizens.

To conclude, I would like to remind you that Slovenia’s first ever representative to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Novak, died four years ago today.


Thank you, Mr Kucan. You have given us much to think about. You have also been good enough to indicate that you will be willing to answer questions, and seven members of the Assembly have signalled that they wish to take advantage of that opportunity. First, I shall call Mr Volcic.

Mr Kučan, President of Slovenia (interpretation)

asked how the vicious circle of violence could be ended, especially by whom and by what means. He also asked whether a diplomatic solution was still possible in Kosovo.

Mr Kučan, President of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that after any war there were political negotiations. He considered that a political solution was still possible in Kosovo. That would have to involve certain conditions such as an end to violence. He considered that Nato intervention would not be appropriate in the absence of a political solution.


Thank you, President Kucan. I now have two gentlemen from the former Yugoslavia who wish to ask very similar questions. I call first Mr Gligoroski.

Mr GLIGOROSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Mr President, do you think that the process of the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is completed? What is your opinion on the succession?

Mr Kučan, President of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that the dissolution of Yugoslavia had led to a conflict between the democratic and totalitarian ideologies, and to an inter-ethnic, inter-religious war. Dissolution had not ended and would not be complete until Yugoslavia was democratic. Seven years of negotiation had not brought success and he felt that arbitration was the likely next stage.

Mr DOMLJAN (Croatia)

Mr President, Slovenia is among the countries starting negotiations on full membership of the European Union. As you are a statesman who enjoys widespread respect and admiration, and not only in your own country, and as you witnessed the fall of Yugoslav communism and led your country to independence and now into the European Union, I should like to ask you two questions. First, how do you assess the future development of the European Union, especially with regard to enlargement and membership of the east European countries? Secondly, do you think that there is any danger for small countries, such as Slovenia, in joining such a huge and economically mighty organisation?

Mr Kučan, President of Slovenia (interpretation)

responded by saying that enlargement of the EU to the east was a decisive step. The countries of the EU had much in common, while the probable candidate countries had developed differently. The EU was not prepared for that step yet and candidate countries also needed to prepare.

On the prospect for smaller countries such as Slovenia he pointed out that there were already small countries in the EU and that countries needed clear-cut definitions before entry.


Again, I thank you very much, Mr Kucan, for your most thought-provoking speech. It gives us a great deal to consider. The issue on which you focused — social exclusion — is one which troubles many of our countries. None of us has been able to produce any easy solution. Certainly, the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly is, as your ambassador knows, very much involved in contemplating these very important questions.

Thank you for answering the parliamentarians’ questions.