…Brothers! Our spring is rising from the ground,
Clear as a gale, strong as a wave:
It has descended on our homes,
Dispelled the darkness, brought out the sun,
The sun – the day of King Matjaž.
(Rudolf Maister Vojanov, Onward)
Dear Citizens, Fellow Slovenians,
This year marks several glorious milestones in the history of the Slovenian nation. Among those we are remembering and celebrating is the withdrawal of the aggressor Yugoslav People’s Army from Slovenian territory following our victory in the war for Slovenia.
25 October 1991 was a beautiful sunny day or, as poet and general Rudolf Maister would say, “the day of King Matjaž”. We were sitting in a helicopter, flying over the motorway near Postojna, watching the last lines of YPA soldiers retreating towards the Port of Koper. A magnificent day on which our dreams and the dreams of many generations before us came true and our victory in the war for Slovenia was finally confirmed. We successfully negotiated the withdrawal of the Yugoslav People’s Army, forcing them, against all expectations, to leave behind half a billion US dollars of equipment we desperately needed.
They said that they left naked and barefoot. But it was us who had been naked and barefoot only a few months before. Belgrade continuously threatened the new Slovenian government, taking away its defence powers, disarming the territorial defence, sending Slovenian conscripts to faraway lands and creating a state of emergency through the activities of the army and intelligence services. Nevertheless, we prevailed because we believed in our cause, in the goals that we set ourselves as a nation. Armed with infinitely worse weapons, we put up a heroic resistance and turned the situation in our favour in a matter of days – mostly due to successfully seizing large amounts of weaponry from YPA warehouses. And we managed to keep it that way until the aggressor’s withdrawal from Slovenia.
On 25 October 1991, we became a free, independent and sovereign state, without a foreign army on our territory. This was a privilege not granted to all countries in Europe at the time. In military terms, we became strong and, as a result, secure. We were able to defend every inch of Slovenian soil if necessary. Having a well-equipped and well-trained army is a necessary condition for sovereignty, but this does not suffice. It takes much more than just that; above all it requires the ability to stand together and show that you belong to a community. And we had that. So thank you all for the day that we achieved our dreams: the members of the Territorial Defence, members of the Manoeuvre Structure of National Defence, members of the internal affairs, civil protection and administrative authorities, the companies and citizens who contributed their technical means for the needs of defence, the media, the firefighters’ and hunters’ associations, the political authorities at all levels, and our fellow Slovenians abroad. I would also like to pay a special tribute to all those who gave their lives in the war for Slovenia.
This was a time when our common goals, solidarity, unity, common values were at the forefront. Only in such a social context are historical achievements, such as driving a foreign army out of the Slovenian territory, possible. May these experiences continue to serve as an example to us and make us proud.
Today, Slovenia is in a much different situation than it was on 25 October 1991. It is a member of the EU and NATO and current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, helping shape major development processes in the Alliance, but also seeking solutions to the growing problems and uncertainties, including in the area of security and defence. We will have to contribute more to the common security umbrella, as well as increase our own resilience to be able to defend ourselves – as we were able to do three decades ago! We rose to the challenge of the times then, and there is no reason why we should not today, when we have the greater capacity to do so.
Today is the day we celebrate an event that brings us together. Let an independent and sovereign Slovenia remain a safe and friendly home for all who love it! God bless Slovenia.