As you may know, I arrived in Belgrade only recently and I am glad to observe the dynamic development of truly diverse relations between Slovenia and Serbia.
In the last period, I’ve been paying special attention to developments in negotiation’s process for Serbia’s accession to the European Union, so allow me first to touch briefly on this important process for Serbia and the region. Based on my personal experiences, I can say that the road to the EU for a candidate country is never simple; it includes obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable. Great enthusiasm of the significant part of society is needed to create enough energy to overcome them. Slovenia successfully concluded its path to the EU 15 years ago; t is with pleasure that I can share with you my belief that we have gained a lot during this period as a state and as a society; benefits are even greater than it was originally expected. That is why we sincerely want Serbia to quickly and successfully advance towards the EU family and we are making efforts to support it. Our support is as visible within the EU as it is in Serbia, where numerous Slovenian experts are cooperating in the harmonisation process.
At the same time, we are encouraging the advancement of our good bilateral cooperation, particularly in the fields of economy and politics. As for economic cooperation, it has been marked by a record trade exchange recently, exceeding a billion euros by a significant margin, and by large investment dynamics in both directions. Good statistics is not preventing us from seeing untapped potential, primarily in IT sector, agriculture and knowledge transfer, where we will try to focus our attention in the future.
I can also highlight the enviable dynamics of our political cooperation, which is well reflected in regular meetings at all political levels. During the course of this year, we’ve welcomed to Serbia our President Pahor and three of our ministers, similarly there are numerous visits of Serbian officials to Ljubljana, where the National Assembly Speaker will head in a few days. For the second half of the year, we are preparing a visit of the prime minister of Slovenia to Serbia and the organisation of a fifth joint session of the two governments in Belgrade.
In the record of our bilateral relations, the field of culture occupies a special place. I’m delighted to be able to emphasise excellent cooperation with Minister Vukosavljević and his team. Our commitment to target mutually beneficial goals led to us to deal with the raft of serious issues related to succession in a way that will deepen our cultural cooperation. We are planning to prepare a joint cultural project – an exhibition of founding documents of the University of Ljubljana, which celebrates its centenary this year, and also a forum has been established for the exchange of good practises in the field of cultural heritage protection. I am very grateful to the minister for such an approach, which is a good example of the” illuminated or European approach” to resolving open issues that are not always simple.
Dear readers, allow me to point out that I have been very warmly and nicely received in Serbia, which has truly helped me to successfully adapt to my new environment over the past few months. Now I understand completely why Slovenians are happy to visit Belgrade and Serbia, where – alongside all cultural and natural sights – they can also experience the renowned Serbian hospitality. At the same time, the number of Serbian guests in Slovenia is constantly increasing; they have a special place among tourists because they know our main sights very well and they need to be offered something more; the varied Slovenian cuisine, which has evolved over the centuries under the influence of different cuisines: Italian in the west, Germanic in the north, Balkan in the south and Hungarian in the east. A special place in Slovenian gastronomy is occupied by wine, which is why we decided that this year’s reception commemorating the 28th anniversary of the statehood would include the presentation of typical representatives of nine Slovenian wine regions, at which visitors will be able to convince themselves of the diversity I just mentioned.
Also testifying to the importance of wine in Slovenian gastronomy and culture is the Slovenian national anthem itself. Entitled Zdravica [A Toast], its verses are written in the form of wine glasses. With the poem our greatest poet toasts all nations that work together with good intentions on a mutually cooperative basis. Well, here’s to the health of the Slovenian-Serbian friendship!