Slovenian diaspora officials decorated by president
Ljubljana, 28 January - President Borut Pahor awarded state decorations on Friday to two representatives of the Slovenian minority and diaspora, who have contributed to the integration of Slovenians abroad and to cultural cooperation with Slovenians in neighbouring countries. He also decorated a police veteran who helped defend the sovereignty of Slovenia.
The first Order of Merit was presented to Franci Feltrin, a former MP and president of the Slovenian Conference within the Slovenian World Congress.
Feltrin was decorated for his achievements in uniting Slovenians abroad and for helping his compatriots return to their homeland.
He was among the founding members of Slovenia's first coalition and elected an MP in the first multi-party elections in Slovenia in 1990.
"When Feltrin came into contact with his compatriots abroad, he helped them on a personal level, sought systemic solutions for their return to the homeland, and advocated for their rights", the president's office said.
Upon receiving the award, Feltrin thanked his family and his colleagues at the Slovenian World Congress, adding that this award was also the fruit of their efforts.
The second Order of Merit was awarded to another former MP and the president of the Union of Cultural Associations in Maribor, Franci Pivec.
Pivec was rewarded for cultural cooperation with Slovenians from neighbouring countries and for his contribution to shaping the cultural identity of Maribor.
He was also elected an MP in the first Slovenian parliament, in addition to having been among the founders of the Radio Študent radio station and playing a part in the founding of the University of Maribor.
"Franci Pivec helped create the image of many cultural associations and performed non-profitable functions in the field of culture and international cooperation with Slovenians in neighbouring countries, especially Austria," the office said.
On receiving the award, Pivec said that the civil society was an integral part of his life. "I share the conviction that the civil society is one of the pillars of any society, without which there is no healthy and prosperous state."
The Order of Freedom was meanwhile given to one of the founding members of the Sever Federation of Police Veterans' Associations, Milan Klemenčič.
Klemenčič was one of the key people in the Gorenjska region during the independence processes. At the cessation of military operations, he ensured the controlled withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and its subsequent permanent withdrawal from Slovenia.
"His actions, leadership and wisdom contributed not only to the success of many operations, but also to ensuring that the lives and safety of Slovenia's civilian population were protected to the fullest extent possible," the office said.
Klemenčič thus received the award for outstanding services in defending Slovenia's independence and sovereignty. As he has passed away since the decision to honour him was taken, the decoration was presented to his wife.
The ceremony was also attended by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, who congratulated Feltrin and Pivec on receiving the high honours and thanked them for their efforts to the benefit of Slovenians abroad.