Prime Minister of Slovenia

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 6 October 1992

Mr President, honourable representatives, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour to present to you today the newly-formed sovereign state of Slovenia and to reconfirm and substantiate the application of Slovenia for full membership of your valuable institution. The Council of Europe has always signified to Slovenia an association of democratic states who accepted the same rules of democracy, protection of civil rights, mutual respect and civilised intercommunication. Acceptance into the Council of Europe will be, for Slovenia, the culmination of many years of effort and will provide confirmation that we have really become an equal member of the European family of democratic states.

Mr President, honourable representatives, it is one of the most unusual of life’s coincidences that I am today presenting the application and intention of Slovenia to become a member of your respected institution for the second time. However, it is probably not so much a coincidence as an expression of our great wish, our perseverance and resolute determination to achieve this aim.

I first presented our application within the framework of the former common state of Yugoslavia on 7 May 1990. When I stood as a candidate in the first free and direct elections for the Slovene member of the former Yugoslav presidency a year previously, my platform could be summed up by three points: inclusion in Europe, democracy and a market economy. The people of Slovenia supported such an orientation at that time with great enthusiasm. There was a large turnout in the elections and a high majority. At that time, we were still trying to achieve our aims within the framework of the wider state, to establish our own way of life, our own concept of democracy, our affiliation to European culture and tradition. We made a final attempt democratically to transform the former multinational state, which was largely based on a one-party system that also ensured mechanisms for keeping together this state of a few decades’ existence, although it had been created very artificially.

When, in May 1989, I departed with such a message from the people of Slovenia, to perform this demanding task in Belgrade, I was seized with an indefinable feeling of great unease. At that time, some of the coming signs of spring were already appearing in eastern and central Europe. However, the Berlin wall was still standing. The Warsaw Pact still stood firm. The entire socialist bloc was being challenged from within, although it still operated powerfully, and through intimidation. In Yugoslavia the determined voice of democracy was heard in the north-western republics, while in the south and east of the country, the picture was obscure and threatening. Militant Serbian nationalism, closely bound to the old party and military structure, threatened serious disorder in the province of Kosovo through the denial of autonomy for the Albanians. A state of emergency had already been declared and there were various violations of human rights. The then Serbian regime, with the aid of revolutionary meetings, changed the regimes in Montenegro and Vojvodina. The more and more varied movements made quite different demands to those coming from the northwest of the state.

When I arrived in Belgrade in this atmosphere, as representative of Slovenia, on the one hand I tried to implement the Slovene concepts and proposals, and on the other, to prevent the ever more threatening tragedy, the ever clearer danger of an appalling civil war. At times it seemed that we might perhaps be successful, with great effort and with the support of the international community, in which I would stress the support of the Council of Europe and of its representatives, especially Mrs Lalumière and the President of the Assembly. After great tension, we managed to lift the state of emergency in Kosovo and to free political prisoners. We attempted to establish a political dialogue between the Serbs and the Albanians. During this year, Slovenia expressed very decisively for the first time, its demand for sovereignty and a separate path if it was unable to achieve its demands and its notions of democratic life and the sovereignty of nations.

The first multi-party elections were organised in Slovenia and Croatia in the spring of 1990, despite the sabre-rattling and the ever more explicit threats of the generals. A genuine market-oriented transformation of the economy was also initiated. When I presented the application of the then Yugoslavia for membership of the Council of Europe in May 1990, I was actually implementing the Slovene demand within the existing federation. Partial democratic advance had been achieved and at that time, it appeared that democratic transformation would perhaps be successful.

You, too, honourable representatives, warmly welcomed the achievements of that time in this very Assembly. However, events did not turn out according to our optimistic expectations. The helm of state in the then presidency was taken over by Serbia. There was renewed oppression; new tensions and other ideas were enforced. Various threats were made that we could only live in such a state as was acceptable to the strongest nation. There was no positive response to our rational suggestion that some form of common life was possible within a loosened confederation. In such an atmosphere, Slovenia called a plebiscite on sovereignty and independence in December 1990. The people of Slovenia chose independence by a massive majority. We wanted to achieve it in a peaceful way, through negotiations by which we would arrange and unravel the various inter-relations from the past.

However, our offer was not taken up. When Slovenia declared independence six months after the plebiscite, on 25 June 1991, immediate military intervention in Slovenia followed. The Yugoslav Army attacked and, in our view, this was the tragic turning point in the entire development of the Yugoslav crisis. From negotiation and attempts to resolve the complex situation peacefully, we arrived at military solutions – at the use of force.

Why did it come to this? Serbian politicians, who had the critical voice in the Yugoslav army, at a particular point decided that they could achieve more by the use of force than through negotiation and democratic dialogue. They considered that they were militarily stronger, that they had the entire army at their disposal, and that they could easily establish their supremacy. They also anticipated that the international public would not react very strongly, since they were acting on behalf of territorial integrity and the preservation of the common state.

However, their military intervention in Slovenia did not achieve its aims. Slovenia successfully defended itself in the 10-day war, so the Yugoslav army experienced defeat. A truce was agreed, in which important roles were played by the European Community, Europe as a whole and the Council of Europe. I still have abiding memories of the dramatic discussions with Mrs Lalumière in the days when Slovenia was under attack and the battle still continued. Her support, and immediately thereafter the support of the entire Assembly of the Council of Europe, were great moral comfort to us, and provided us with a ray of hope that our situation would be favourably resolved. The effectiveness of the Slovene military defence, together with the intensive international diplomatic efforts, led first to a truce and then to negotiations on the complete withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Slovene territory.

By the Brioni Declaration of 7 July 1991, Slovenia agreed to a three-month moratorium on its independence; and after discussions with Belgrade, on 18 July, the Yugoslav army began to withdraw from Slovenia, with total withdrawal achieved in three months. Slovenia thus became entirely sovereign on its territory and began to demand rightful international recognition of such sovereignty. Such recognition came in January 1992, firstly from Europe, by which Europe again justified our expectations, our hopes. Other states followed suit, until 22 May of this year, when Slovenia became a full member of the organisation of the United Nations.

It had taken approximately two years to achieve this after the first multi-party parliamentary elections in Slovenia. Throughout this time, the Slovene Parliament, in which ten political parties are represented, performed its task very responsibly and effectively, in very complex and often unpredictable circumstances. The entire process of achieving independence and dissolution of the former state was conducted with strict adherence to legality, according to all the existing constitutionally envisaged procedures, with all required legal acts and time limits. Even in the most critical situation, Slovenia was not diverted from its democratic activities and decisions. A new constitution was adopted, together with a number of systemic laws which arrange every aspect of life in the newly created state. Slovenia is still faced with the process of succession. She is currently involved in this within the framework of the Geneva conference on Yugoslavia and is prepared to carry through the entire process of the division of the assets and liabilities of the former common state correctly and fairly.

A number of very important laws have been adopted, including a new electoral law which the Slovene parliament accepted recently, on the basis of which an election will be carried out by the end of this year. This will finalise the democratic transformation of all state institutions, in accordance with the new Slovene constitution. It will also establish a new structure of the parliament. The new law on denationalisation has been accepted and a new privatisation is under way and there are extensive and very detailed discussions on an all-embracing privatisation law which is intended to accelerate and bring to a conclusion the demanding process of transforming the previous model of social ownership. We are firmly convinced that we have adapted our new constitution and all its associated legislation as closely as possible to European standards and the European rules of the game.

Slovenia was always the most developed of the republics of former Yugoslavia and always the most oriented to international trade with developed states. That is reflected in the comparative openness of Slovenia to the world – above all, in the large number of international links and the familiarity of Slovene managers and professionals in general with the demands of market conditions in developed European and other states. That enables Slovenia to adapt relatively easily to the new, very demanding economic conditions. The traditional diligence of the people of Slovenia, their successful economic tradition, self-reliance and well-educated personnel will allow Slovenia a relatively fast transition from the former economic system into a developed market economy.

The difficulties will not, of course, be negligible. Slovenia lost important markets in the former Yugoslav republics practically overnight. The GDP therefore fell by 15% in a single year. If to that is added the damage from the war in Slovenia and the effects of uncertainties arising from the disintegration of the former state and the still grave crisis points in the near vicinity of Slovenia, it is abundantly clear that the Slovene economy must have performed, and must go on performing, some heroic deeds to compensate for all this.

The Slovene GDP per capita was more than 8 000 dollars a few years ago. Today, it is about 6 000 dollars, which is still comparatively high in relation to other countries in transition. We are investing great efforts in stabilising economic conditions and restructuring the economy, as the basis of new development and new economic growth.

Last October, after the expiry of the moratorium on independence, Slovenia introduced her own currency. The Slovene tolar was introduced in uneasy, turbulent conditions and began life against a background of monthly inflation of 21%. Consistent economic policies and, in this context, strict monetary policies, enabled the Slovene Government and the Central Bank of Yugoslavia gradually to reduce inflation to about 2% a month over the last three-month period, with the expectation of a further reduction. We are firmly committed to our currency being stable and convertible.

Full international convertibility has already been achieved, and its rate of exchange is formed freely by the market. Slovenia has managed, in one year, to create foreign exchange reserves of more than one thousand million dollars, having started from practically nothing, since the Slovene foreign exchange reserves remained in the Central Bank of Yugoslavia in Belgrade.

Slovenia is an active exporter and has a regular positive balance of payments. We have already largely liberalised the foreign trade regime and intend to continue the process. Slovenia is already well integrated in European markets, since two-thirds of our trade is with the European Community. We are attempting to finalise the process of inclusion in international financial institutions, above all the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Negotiations are taking place with the European Economic Community on a trade and co-operation agreement, which we expect will be concluded and ratified by the end of the year. All these processes are, in a sense, rounding off the process of Slovene independence in the economic and financial fields. The same rules of the game already apply, or will soon apply, in Slovenia, as apply throughout the developed world.

Mr President, honourable representatives, I believe that Slovenia also meets European standards in other fields. Cultural co-operation is well developed with the world, and with Europe, since Slovenia has long followed or been part of European cultural traditions.

Since the question of nationalities and minorities on the territory of former Yugoslavia is extremely complicated, it is necessary to distinguish the case of Slovenia and point out that there are no such problems there. There are Italian and Hungarian minorities in Slovenia and we are quite sure that provision for them exceeds that in many other states.

We have built the protection of human rights into all state institutions and we are prepared to accept all criteria and mechanisms which are developed by the Council of Europe in connection with the protection of individual human rights.

I should like, finally, to comment on some matters related to the former Yugoslav state. Apart from resolving the question of the succession of the former state, Slovenia is trying actively to contribute to the resolution of the crisis and an end to the war on the former Yugoslav territory. We are actively co-operating in all international endeavours to find a political solution. We are striving for and earnestly desire peace in this part of the world. We are greatly affected by the refugee situation in relation to Bosnia-Herzegovina, since there are already around 72 000 refugees in Slovenia. This is more than 3% of the Slovene population and we consider that we are at the extreme limit of our ability to accept and support the refugees who are coming from the war zones. Despite our own economic difficulties, we have invested great efforts and large material resources in solving the problem of refugees. We are absolutely convinced that the international community must share the burden of the refugees more equitably, and be involved in its resolution. Slovenia is far too small to go on participating to the same extent in the solution of these problems, especially if the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina continues and there is a new wave of refugees.

Mr President, honourable representatives, allow me in conclusion to express once more our profound conviction that Slovenia meets all the criteria for acceptance into the Council of Europe and that it is prepared to respect all its conventions. I express the deep interest, and expectations, of all the people of Slovenia finally to achieve full membership of the Council of Europe and thus to conclude the process not of the acceptance of Slovenia into Europe but of the return of Slovenia to Europe. We are returning to where we have always been in terms of our lifestyle, tradition and thinking.

I should like to end by thanking you for all the moral and political support that the people of Slovenia have received from your institution – from you, Mr President, from you, Madame Secretary General and from all representatives and members of the Council of Europe – in the process of achieving the independence of Slovenia, in the process of international recognition, and especially at the most critical moments when it helped us to escape from a most terrible civil war. I hope that such fortune will also soon attend the other states which have been created on this territory. We can then strive together for long-term peace, democracy and a full life for every individual.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Prime Minister, I would like to thank you sincerely for your statement, which was full of reason and good sense very much in the image we have of yourself and especially of your people. Your address was of great interest to the members of our Assembly.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Drnovsek has said that he is ready to answer spontaneous questions from members of the Assembly, and I thank him. I would remind you that these, like any supplementary questions, should not exceed thirty seconds. Mr König has the floor for the first question.

Mr KÖNIG (Austria)

Are you prepared to give priority to the highway project from Austria via Slovenia to Zagreb, as originally planned, to provide the necessary passage for boats, public transport and private cars?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

Slovenia is interested in construction the new highway through Slovenia to provide comfortable passage through our country. Our priority is to finish the highways from Trieste to Lendava and thence to Hungary, and from west to east. Among our priorities is the construction of the highway that you mentioned, running from Maribor to Zagreb. It will provide an important thoroughfare in that part of the world.

Our government has taken the necessary decisions, and this particular decision is the subject of scrutiny in the Slovenian parliament which, according to our laws, must give the necessary approval. Then we hope to begin construction quickly.


Mr Prime Minister, the Austrian public supported your country and Croatia when they were invaded, with both humanitarian and political aid, so we feel very sorry that, because of the postponement of this project, tensions have arisen between your country and Croatia. It is in the Austrian’s interest that our neighbours to the south should collaborate rather than fight each other over technical problems that can be paid for by tolls. I ask your government to reconsider its attitude and to stick to the project that was originally agreed to.

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

l am sure that the interests of Austria, Croatia and Slovenia will be well served by this project, and I am glad that your raised the question. I am sure that your remarks will improve that atmosphere in the Slovenian parliament so that it will proceed quickly. The government can then act and begin construction.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

Does the Prime Minister agree with Lord Owen’s statement to this Assembly on Saturday to the effect that no proposals for the independence of Kosovo can be considered as part of an overall settlement in what was Yugoslavia?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

We in Slovenia believe that the question of Kosovo is important. The crisis originated there and matters have got worse because of repression by force and by other means. We cannot wait for better times just around the comer. The crisis there may explode at any time.

This problem will have to be solved within the framework of the political endeavours to solve the Yugoslav crisis in general. The Albanians in Kosovo will have to be given the same democratic rights as are enjoyed by other national minorities in the region. The province of Kosovo will have to reestablish its autonomy, which has been taken from it. That will have to be decided democratically so that the solution is acceptable to Albanians as well as other national groups.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON

I thank the Prime Minister for his reply. Would he agree that the election that took place unofficially in Kosovo on 24 May was well conducted, and that it would be a very poor recompense for the peaceful policy followed by Dr Rogova if the option of self-determination were excluded?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

From experience we know that if we ignore the problem in Kosovo we will soon be reminded of the need to take determined political action there. I agree that we must take into consideration the democratic activities in Kosovo and bear them in mind in the framework of the conference on Yugoslavia in Geneva.

Mr HORCSIK (Hungary)

As Rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights I should like to ask the following question. Having studied human rights in your country over the past few months it seems to me that after a terrible war your country remains one of the best examples in central and eastern Europe of what is known as an eastern European Switzerland, in which different ethnic minorities live together in peace. Just after your country has become an independent European state, how will its new constitution, accepted only a few months ago, as you said, and your legislation, guarantee the rights of minorities in Slovenia? What sort of guarantees do your parliament and legislation offer minorities?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

Proper provision is made for minorities in our constitution and in all our legislation. The Italian and Hungarian minorities can participate in political decision-making at all levels, from local level to the state parliament. Every minority has one seat in parliament, regardless of the political parties that they represent. They have been given every guarantee, and no issue can be changed without their consent. Provision is also made for minorities in the education system and other state institutions, so that their languages can be safeguarded. I believe that they are satisfied with those arrangements. We do not expect any problems, or believe that there is anything left to do in our constitution or legislation in that regard.

Mr Friedrich PROBST (Austria)

Thank you, Prime Minister, for your excellent speech. We share your optimism – especially those of us from Styria, or Stajerska in your language, which has special links with Slovenia. Slovenia is to a great extent dependent on bilateral trade. However, one of the most effective ways of stopping the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is to exercise rigid sanctions against Serbia. How can Slovenia deal with that problem?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

Slovenia suffered serious economic damage immediately after the short war in my country, when we lost significant markets, and our economy has had to adapt to the new circumstances. We have, of course, observed United Nations sanctions against Serbia, and will continue to do so in future. We are trying to compensate for that economic damage by establishing new bilateral arrangements and exporting to other countries. Our exports to developed countries are improving – and Austria is certainly one of Slovenia’s major markets.

Mr Friedrich PROBST

A number of proposals have been made for ending the terrible war brought about by Serbian terrorists. How can the bloodshed be brought to an end? Solutions for ending the war include bombing certain locations, strengthening sanctions, and lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

There are no clear answers to solving the crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but we believe that international action should be more decisive. It would be extremely dangerous to accept a fait accompli. It is obvious that signals from the international community to Serbia that its aggression should stop were not clear enough. The United Nations proposal to control air space should be implemented immediately, and greater humanitarian efforts should be made, protected by United Nations forces. Slovenia has also suggested on an number of occasions that special zones should be designated in Bosnia-Herzegovina, protected by United Nations forces, in which people could continue to live and to which refugees could return. As winter approaches, we are concerned about the increasing number of refugees. The longer that it takes the international community to act decisively, the longer it will take to resolve the crisis. If the proper action had been taken six months ago, it would have been easier to reach a solution by now. It will be even more difficult to reach one in six months’ time and to expect the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina to live together in peace after all the massacres. Steps must be taken now to reinforce the initiatives that have already begun, in parallel with efforts to find a political solution.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

The Prime Minister spoke of increasing Slovenia’s political and economic co-operation with countries in western Europe. I wonder what views he has on regional initiatives in central and eastern Europe. What is the Prime Minister’s attitude towards the Vishegrad triangle?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

Slovenia is taking part in such initiatives – particularly in central Europe. Cooperation between Slovenia and central and east European countries is most important, and we are willing to participate in future initiatives. I recently met the presidents or prime ministers of the Vishegrad countries to discuss the potential for closer co-operation between those countries and Slovenia. Although we share many common problems to which solutions must be found, particularly in respect of western Europe, many opportunities exist and Slovenia is ready to exploit them.


Do you want to ask a supplementary question, Mr Iwinski?


No, but perhaps I may remark that the Polish and Slovenian languages are very similar from a linguistic point of view.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom)

I take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for the arrangements that Slovenia made for the visit to Ljubljana last month of the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries. Can the Prime Minister confirm reports that Slovenia may be prepared to alter its frontiers with its neighbour, Croatia? If so, does he agree that such changes by mutual agreement are a realistic way of solving problems, including ethnic problems?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

In Slovenia, we do not speak about a change of borders, but about the definition of borders with Croatia. The borders were, of course, very clear and very formal when Yugoslavia bordered the other neighbouring states. However, sometimes the situation with internal borders was not formerly very clear and it has now been proposed to Croatia that a special expert committee be established – and we have agreed with the Croatian Government about this – to consider all the points so that something can be decided mutually and we can prepare an expert proposal for a formal agreement on borders.

However, I repeat that there are no major issues or questions. There are just minor and more technical problems rather than political ones. However, such issues can easily be politicised, but we try to keep them calmed down and to find a rational and expert procedure.

Mr BRATINKA (Hungary)

Prime Minister, the transition from a centralised to a market economy is causing difficulties and social tensions in the countries of central and eastern Europe. What is the Slovenian experience in this respect?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia (translation)

We do have problems, as it is not easy to convert our economy, particularly as we have lost large markets in former Yugoslavia. This has also had an effect on the unemployment rate, which is currently 13% of the working population. We hope that it will not rise anymore and that the process of restructuring the economy through privatisation will speed up, particularly thanks to the new law on privatisation.

We also hope that economic growth will then help us to contain our social problems and unemployment.

We do have difficulties, but I believe that the situation is still sufficiently well balanced not to endanger the process of transition and the desired further economic growth.

Mr CARO (France) (translation)

Prime Minister, if, in the first days of the attack on Slovenia by the national Yugoslav army, Europe had called upon Yugoslavia to stop its action and threatened reprisals, do you think that this could have forestalled the military actions which have involved the whole of former Yugoslavia in a bloody war?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia (translation)

It is very difficult to answer that question. I have often wondered whether it would have been possible to stop the disaster of the current tragic events in Yugoslavia.

The whole international community endeavoured to intervene in order to check the developments of a civil war. As far as Slovenia is concerned, for a moment it might have been thought that it could accept a short-term military operation in order to stop the situation developing further. Nevertheless, I do not think that even a firmer international attitude to the Yugoslav army and the forces behind it would have prevented this development.

I think that a plan had been meticulously prepared with the army, providing for the defence of the interests of the Serbs of Greater Serbia. I do not believe that it would have been possible for the international community to prevent this development by means of political moves and diplomatic efforts. We can see now, although the international community several times attempted to act by means of diplomacy, that it was not possible to stop this military machine.


Mr Prime Minister, what do you think could or should be done by the Council of Europe about the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Mr Drnovšek, Prime Minister of Slovenia

I think that the Council of Europe has an important role and that it should continue its political efforts to find a solution to the crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina and also support all the humanitarian initiatives and activities. However, I must say that it is very difficult for any institution to say what more could be done now that the perception of the situation is quite clear and now that it is also clear that it is difficult to change the situation only by political means or declarations.

The Council of Europe should continue with its efforts. It could have a very important role in finding and establishing the new political situation in the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the whole of former Yugoslavia. The solutions for the protection of human rights and minorities will have to be found in those territories in respect of Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Albanians in Kosovo and other potential crisis areas in the region. There will still be a lot of work for the Council of Europe to do in future. It will have to try to establish a situation which can be acceptable to Europe from the point of view of democracy and the protection of human rights.


We have reached the end of the debate, and I thank the Prime Minister of Slovenia for his frankness and sincerity – already familiar to us – in replying to our colleagues’ questions.

Prime Minister, you know that you have the friendship and support of the Parliamentary Assembly in your efforts, which are certainly not easy.