Slovenia has much to offer Europe, the world and the UN, Ban says during visit
“I am confident that Slovenia is a natural partner of the United Nations, and that our ties will grow stronger and stronger in the future,” Mr. Ban said in the address delivered in the capital, Ljubljana, the first stop on a visit to all parts of the former Yugoslavia.
Recalling his previous visit to Slovenia in 2008, Mr. Ban recalled touring the Tromostovje – the three bridges that cross the Ljubljanica River and which connect the historical, medieval part of the capital with its new, modern counterpart.
“Today I would like to discuss three more bridges for Slovenia,” he said. “The first: the bridge from your Yugoslav past to your European future. Second: the bridge connecting your neighbours in this region to their European aspirations. And third: the bridge linking Slovenia and the United Nations in our global mission for peace, security, development and human rights.
“I am convinced that these new ‘triple bridges’ will be as monumental, lasting and impressive as the Tromostovje.”
Mr. Ban noted that there is much more to Slovenia’s past than its experience in recent decades. But that experience has made an indelible mark on the region.
“From the start, Slovenia had a different geopolitical situation than the other republics of the former Yugoslavia. Slovenia was fortunate to be largely spared the most brutal experiences of war. At the same time, it had a responsibility to help others who were affected,” he said. “Slovenia took up that challenge, and is still rising to it today.”
The Secretary-General pointed out that as a country of fewer than two million people, Slovenia hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees. It also sent its troops and equipment to multilateral operations, and worked with the UN to clear millions of kilometres of deadly mines left over from the conflict.
“Clearing the last remnants of war is essential to lasting stability,” he noted. “There are other ‘mines’ that could explode with pressure. We have to de-activate underlying tensions and distrust through dialogue and reconciliation. I am grateful to Slovenia for promoting these goals in this region by serving as a host to all peoples.
“You understand that ridding the region of the last remnants of war is essential to lasting stability. So, too, is ever greater integration with Europe,” said Mr. Ban.
He added that Slovenia’s deep engagement with the UN is proof of the country’s conviction. He expressed gratitude for the service of Slovenian peacekeepers, and highlighted the country’s contributions in the area of development and humanitarian aid, demining, and promoting inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding.
Mr. Ban also praised the example the country has set in the area of the advancement of women, noting that he is addressing the Parliament at a time when it has the most women present in its history, with one female for every two male Slovenian members of parliament.
Also today, the Secretary-General met with the Slovenian President, Danilo Turk, Prime Minister Janez Jansa, and the President of the National Assembly, Gregor Virant. They discussed the regional situation, including the significant transition of the countries of the former Yugoslavia from war to peace and the active and growing contribution of Slovenia and of the other countries of the region to UN efforts around the world.
The Secretary-General underscored that the UN deeply appreciates Slovenia’s commitment to the Organization, especially in times of economic challenge, according to his spokesperson. They also exchanged views on the worrying situation in Syria and the future of the UN observers there.
Mr. Ban then travelled to the Croatian capital, Zagreb, where he spoke at an event organized by the Academy for Political Development. He noted that, 20 years ago, Croatia hosted five UN peacekeeping missions, and today it sends its troops out to nine missions around the world.
He also spoke at the Andrija Stampar School of Public Health before travelling to the Croatian islands of Brijuni, where he will spend most of this weekend.
The Secretary-General’s visit to south-eastern Europe will also include stops in Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.