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New Year's Adress by the President Andrej Kiska, 1.1.2015
January 7, 2015
Good afternoon at this festive time, dear fellow citizens,
Some of you are probably having New Year’s lunch right now. Maybe a richer lunch for some, but perhaps more modest in certain families and parts of the country. But it is during holidays that we realise that what makes us happy and fills us with contentment is not the quantity and variety of food on our table, but the people we sit with around the table.
I would like to wish you what is most important: happiness, love in families, good health, understanding with your close ones, friends and colleagues, and humanness and harmony all around. I would like to wish you the ability and possibility, if you cherish someone, to tell them so today. So that not only today, but throughout the entire year, we are able to share our attention with those who have been less fortunate in life. Those whose biggest and maybe only expectation for the New Year is a bit of humanness and understanding in their neighborhood and society.
Most people have similar wishes on this day. Whether the past year brought us disappointment, distress or demise of our close ones, or it was a good and prosperous year, we usually wish the New Year to be at least as good, if not better than the one which has just passed. I don’t think we can go wrong if we remind ourselves today of the fact that our lives are oftentimes influenced by chances and circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes even the biggest effort does not suffice to overturn misfortune. Hence, our respect for all those who have been facing their ordeal bravely, understanding, encouragement and a helping hand should not be reserved solely for the first day of the year. Let me complement my wishes to you with a quote: “If we helped to fill at least one soul with hope, we have not lived in vain”.
We are a diverse country – a society with millions of multifarious, unique and important life stories. However, country is more than just the totality of individual life stories.
We are divided in our opinions on whether Slovakia is or is not on the right track. On the other hand, opinions no longer differ that much when it comes to expectations of most citizens, regardless of their political stances, life experience or personal situation.
Most people expect and wish to live in a country where the state is, first and foremost, on the side of those who are decent and diligent. So that those who work and can work – and they are in the majority – and those who can provide for themselves and their families, can be successful. But they need the state to be on their side.
Most people also wish to live in a state which is perceptive in social terms. Not through slogans and campaigns, but rather through targeted support for those who, due to misfortune or disease, find themselves in situations they cannot handle on their own. If many other countries – whether small or much bigger and more populous – can provide effective and targeted support, we must also be able to do the same.
I am also convinced that most of us understand that we need a state which, apart from standing on the people’s side, is well-functioning. This means, among other things, a state which is swift and flexible in encouraging useful projects and good ideas which will advance Slovakia. Slovakia is neither big enough nor rich enough to afford the luxury of neglecting innovative projects and initiatives beneficial for the whole society. Instead of having to court the attention and favour of state authorities and institutions, the active and innovative should be supported and, more importantly, actively identified.
Why I am saying this? Slovaks are known for having the ability to be resourceful and creative even under less fortunate circumstances, be they historical, societal or political. I am convinced that we still have these abilities and they manifest themselves in different ways also nowadays.
If circumstances so require, we can also be adaptive in the best sense of the word: we must often overcome obstacles which do not exist elsewhere and we are able to achieve things we would never have achieved without our ability to surmount unfavourable conditions and remain resourceful.
It is equally true that our people are able to exert the utmost effort and restraint if they know it makes sense and has purpose. Be it the provision of a good school for our children, a decent life for our families, prosperity for our business, or a project in our mind in which we trust but which is not always possible, easy and quick to implement.
Slovakia has solid foundations to build upon. On the occasion of New Year’s Day I wold like to express my respect for and encouragement to all those who use these qualities for the benefit of their families and in their work, and indeed for the benefit of the whole of Slovakia. Thanks to these qualities, our people remain creative even in difficult conditions and are also successful internationally. They are the movers and thanks to them Slovakia, apart being beautiful, is a viable and dynamic country.
We still have a lot of problems to tackle. Unjust social differences, large regional disparities and a still inequality of opportunities. I am not going to delve into the individual problems of our country today, for there are other occasions to do that.
However, what I wish to emphasise is that it is certainly not true that we do not have solutions to these problems. Some of the solutions have been successfully implemented in other counties. We have them too, but often only on paper. We are lacking consistency and, I think, also a practical approach. Here is one specific example for all, which is still fresh in our memory:
We have gradually implemented a complex rules designed to prevent the embezzlement of public funds, that is, our citizens’ money. However, the cases of unjust enrichment at the expense of patients or public coffers continue to recur despite these complex rules. As if no rules existed. And wherever I go – to schools, villages or towns – I keep hearing the same: useful things and useful projects take too long to implement because our rules are overly complicated.
This is a situation, unfortunately not a unique one, in which those who are honest and show initiative are unable to overcome the obstacles which the dishonest easily circumvent. But we must never accept such situations. Because we can manage everything else only if the honest gain the upper hand.
I wish to emphasise that we should not succumb to the arguments based on which people cannot change anything, no matter what. In the recent communal elections, people were able to put through a change even if it looked unlikely.
For example, it looked equally unlikely this time last year that significant changes would occur in our judiciary. Just like the changes in several other areas prompted by the people and public opinion.
Of course, real changes are neither easy nor quick to implement. But I will always reiterate that no fight is lost unless we give up and nothing should be taken as given unless we resign and accept it.
The year which has just begun is in fact a pre-election year. I do not want to speak about politics and political parties. Yet, this year will bring important opportunities to discuss the governance of our state, the functioning of our institutions, and also possible solutions. It will be a year in which you, the citizens, may exert effective pressure on politicians to focus their agenda on improvement. So that they show, well ahead of the election date, what they have achieved, what they want to maintain and what changes they want to introduce. And how they want to implement such changes, for example in combatting corruption.
This will give us an opportunity to listen carefully to what they have achieved, to what they say and how they see our future. You have the right to be thorough in your questions and demanding when it comes to answers. Please, do not give up on this right and, please, if I may ask you so, do not let mistrust harness you. Mistrust should not become the main sentiment with which we address the important challenges facing our country.
As president, I can promise to you that I will do what I pledged when I took my office half a year ago. And I will always repeat what you have heard from me so often: Nothing is given unless we ourselves accept it.
I cannot but mention a topic which was a source of concern for all of us last year and, sadly enough, remains a source of concern to this day.
In a neighbouring country, just beyond our eastern border, people are dying and hundreds of thousands have had to flee their homes through fear for their lives. Our opinions on various things which happened may differ. However, there are certain principles we should respect and stand for, because we live in a country which went through its own painful historical experience and, also, because we live in Europe where these principles have been important and continue to matter.
We would certainly disagree if, as happened to Czechoslovakia in the 20th century, someone raised territorial claims against our state, the Slovak Republic. Or if our territory were invaded by foreign troops. Or if someone considered Slovakia to be within their sphere of interest. Or if we were not fully sovereign in deciding our future, how we organise our state, where we want to belong, and with whom we want to cooperate.
Nobody has a manual on how to react to this new situation in Europe. What I want to say today is that we shall not allow anyone to call into question the basic principles of sovereignty, self-determination and sovereign decision-making. It is in our own interest to make sure that Slovakia contributes towards uniting Europe on this fundamental issue. In order that the European Union is able to defend these principles in this entirely new situation which none of us expected or wished to come about, a situation which is a grand test of peace, freedom and the future of Europe for many years to come.
Dear fellow citizens,
Today, we are also celebrating the formation of the independent Slovak Republic. At the end of last year, a national opinion poll surveyed the opinions of Slovaks on whether they have a reason to be proud of their country and whether they consider our independence a success.
Two thirds of those polled answered: “Yes, I am proud of our Slovakia”.
However, many of our people are asking whether we are able to open a new and interesting chapter in our story. Whether we can pluck up the energy needed to get enthusiastic about the vision for Slovakia’s future which can raise interest and respect worldwide. Whether we can find the energy to build a vision which would motivate, inspire and unite us, a vision of success which would work to the benefit of our country, including the areas which are lagging behind.
I am personally convinced that yes, we can do it. As long as we lean on the most precious asset Slovakia has: the diligent, decent, honest and inventive people.
I wish for all of us, for our Slovakia, that we will succeed.
Happy New Year 2015!