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Slovenia celebrates Sovereignty Day

Vrhnika, 25 October - Slovenia celebrates Sovereignty Day, a national holiday commemorating the day when the last Yugoslav People's Army soldiers left the country's soil in 1991 in one of the key events in the process of Slovenia's independence. In their messages on the occasion, the country's top officials evoked the nation's courage, resolve and unity of the time.

Ljubljana
Slovenian independence war veterans.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

Prime Minister Janez Janša, who served as the defence minister at the time of historic events, recalled the spirit of the time, the courage and unity. "History teaches us that nothing is impossible if we stand united as a nation."

"The courage, wise decisions and the Slovenian nation's unity and connectedness through a shared idea allowed us, despite political differences and adversity by some, to win an independent country that generations before us had but dreamed about," said Janša in his written message.

Today's holiday should be a reminder of how unity on a common goal can keep Slovenians strong as a nation, Janša wrote, calling for fostering an awareness that together the nation can defeat what appears to be invincible and achieve what seemed unimaginable only a day ago.

He said that Slovenia's sovereignty and the momentous events almost 30 years ago should not be taken for granted.

"Slovenia did not have allies to lean on in the War of Independence (...) We could only rely on ourselves - our knowledge, abilities, and our resolve to have our homeland. At the same time we also hoped for a little bit of God's blessing," said Janša.

Praising the emerging Slovenian Armed Forces, the Slovenian police and patriots, for defeating the Communist Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), and lauded the courage and bravery displayed at the time.

"It is with deep respect that we watch the footage of hour compatriots from the Vipava Valley and elsewhere taking on JNA tanks with naked fists," he said, adding that it took not just civic courage but also wisdom to defeat what at the time was considered the world's tenth most powerful army.

What made the effort even more noble and honourable was that the Slovenians attended to the wounded JNA soldiers on a non-discriminatory basis and did not take revenge on the aggressor soldiers "not even when they were departing with bowed heads", nor did the war result in a massive flight of refugees.

"This made our goal, the realisation of the Slovenian nation's plebiscite decision in favour of an independent and sovereign country even brighter and nobler. It will remain written down in history for ever as proof of the maturity of the Slovenian nation and the courage of its soldiers," said Janša.

Similarly, Parliamentary Speaker Zorčič remembered the courage and the commitment to the same goals and values displayed at the time, but he also called on the nation to demonstrate the same resolve, confidence, understanding, solidarity and unity in taking on the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the Slovenians were being weakened in their fight against the unprecedented pandemic "not just by its underrating, but also by our disunity over the measures against it" and the creation of false impression by some that those measures were aimed at suppressing democracy.

"Today, we are fighting a new, invisible enemy that we will not surrender to. The uneasiness of masks will not move into our hearts. It is time that like 29 years ago we proved again our ability to be strong, confident, understanding and sympathetic," the speaker said in his message.

The public holiday, which is not a work-free day, was declared by the National Assembly in 2015 in remembrance of the day in 1991 when the last remaining Yugoslav Army soldiers departed from the port of Koper aboard a ship.

The withdrawal is considered one of the final steps in the independence efforts, coming after Slovenia declared independence on 26 June, whereupon the Ten-Day War broke out when the Yugoslav Army launched attacks from its barracks on 27 June.

The armed conflict was followed by talks which resulted in Slovenia agreeing to a three-month moratorium on independence implementation as part of what is known as the Brijuni Declaration.

As the moratorium was about to expire, Yugoslavia's authorities realised it would be impossible to keep Slovenia in the federation. Preparations thus started for the army's withdrawal from Slovenian territory.

The stated purpose of the holiday is to stress and emphasise the importance of Slovenia's sovereignty and to strengthen the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

There was no formal ceremony this year but President Borut Pahor address the people alongside the military commander of the Territorial Defence during the independence war, Janez Slapar, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Robert Glavaš.

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© STA, 2020