Inaugural address of President Andrej Kiska, 15. 6. 2014

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Your Excellency President Gašparovič,
Your Excellency President Schuster,
Mr President of the National Council,
Mr Prime Minister,
Madam President of the Constitutional Court,
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Members of the Government of the Slovak Republic,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Fellow Citizens,

The oath of office I have just taken and the strong mandate received from the voters create a commitment that I will keep in mind every single day of my term.

I perceive this commitment as even more important also because I will be the first Slovak president without a history of political or party affiliation. And this independent position is what people expect me to maintain. Because of strong emotions that accompanied the presidential election campaign, especially its final part, let me repeat today: I was a candidate of neither the government nor the opposition. And this is also a president I will be – impartial and non-partisan. A president who will stand up for people. A president who will stand up for all people regardless of their political beliefs or nationality.

I want to thank all my fellow citizens who cast their votes for me. I will be grateful for any help and support, but also for critical comments on my work. I also express my deep respect for those who voted for my opponent, the prime minister. All those who came to the polls demonstrated that they are not indifferent to the fate of our country.

As president, I will honour my duties towards all citizens of the Slovak Republic, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and the separation of powers.

I believe there are such challenges ahead of Slovakia, and every day brings to our citizens such problems, that in politics and among the politicians there should be no place for personal wars or hostility. As president, I will strive to apply this premise to my relations with the government, parliament, and political parties.

I want to assure the government and parliament that I will give my support and offer my partnership to you whenever we can help people in Slovakia by joint effort. And, within my possibilities and the limits of presidential powers, I will support all good ideas and solutions regardless of which political side they come from.

I am confident that also in cases where or opinions would differ, you will find in me a good partner for discussion and for searching for solutions. That in every situation we will remember that all elected and appointed public posts, from those at the top to those at the level of towns and communities, have one thing in common: all their holders must perform their duties to ensure that the state fulfils its obligations and commitments towards its citizens. We should all be allies of citizens so that they do not perceive the state as their adversary which they have to fight to assert their rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Fellow Citizens,
We should all be worried about how many people are unsatisfied nowadays with the situation in Slovakia and with the direction the country is taking. Today, and from this place, I have no intention to level criticism against anybody. I am just referring to the way many people perceive our everyday reality. And I understand those feelings because for many years I have been meeting people whose life stories are often marked by distress and hardship.

Despite this, or perhaps because of this: I want to be a president who will be able to encourage people and make them feel there is someone to lean on.

When I talk about dissatisfaction, I am not worried about civil discontent, which is natural, and which motivates people. I fear such discontent that grows into deep disappointment, helplessness, resignation and even indifference towards the things happening in our country and beyond. I talk about the loss of interest. I talk about disappointment and indifference towards what we call the public space, the public life.

Most people would not tolerate stealing at their home. They care about keeping their house in order, about insults not be used and lies not be told at their home, about not being indifferent, about good relations at home. At home, behind the door of our flat or house, we know that we all must play our part to achieve it. But engagement, interest and good relations should not end behind the door of our home, of our private life. They should extend to the street, to the village, to the town, when visiting an office or a hospital.

Also in our private lives, within our families and at home, we face difficult situations and disappointments. But we go forward, driven by mutual trust and determination to overcome such obstacles together. In spite of our failings and the mistakes we all make.

I am convinced that such trust and resolve are also needed in the public life. We need a common understanding that, while there may be problems and nothing is perfect, we know why we are pursuing this road. Although we do not expect miracles, we see that it makes sense to be engaged. It makes sense to try to change the things.

Unfortunately, I do not think that most people in Slovakia believe that –accepting that our elected representatives may make occasional mistakes – we are, in general, on the right track. It seems as we are lacking big aims and challenges that could inspire us as a country, a nation, a society.

And in their daily life many people in Slovakia too often feel that it is almost heroic to do something that should be completely normal. Such as not offering a bribe. Such as standing up against injustice or unlawfulness. Such as standing up for the weak. Helping others. Being tolerant towards one’s environment. Or to engage in one’s village, or town. And in many cases it is really heroic to live decently, or to at least survive somehow.

According to the statistics, Slovakia has never been better off, on the average. In the material meaning of the term, average person has never had it so good. Never in our history have we been freer and more secure as a state. Yet, most people in Slovakia are not convinced that we are heading in the right direction, nor do they feel they also are part of the success.

All too often we hear that morals and decency have disappeared in our country. That the public space has become dominated by selfishness, nepotism, political affiliation, strong elbows, cynicism.

But when such beliefs start to prevail in society, when trust is lost – then the country will lose its momentum and we will hardly be able to garner  the will and energy to overcome the obstacles. Young people will be leaving, our state will stagnate and its ability to see and address the problems of its citizens will weaken.

Nevertheless, I am deeply convinced that we can and should do more. That is also the reason I ran for this office – because I believe that we are able to overcome indifference, gather the necessary energy, and most importantly – that it is our duty to do it.

This is why I, as president, will encourage people who are dissatisfied with the state of affairs. Those who have not resigned, who stick to their ideals, who still believe in decency and morals, who help, contribute – or want to contribute – to extending the good feeling beyond the doorstep of their private lives. They are the heroes of our normal days and the heroes of our normal life.

There are enough such people in Slovakia, but they should feel more support. They should not feel to be on the edge. And what we perceive as heroism should be a normal pattern of behaviour of our children, our families, friends, acquaintances, but also complete strangers.

As president, I want to spend sufficient time all around Slovakia, in all the regions, to encourage such kind of people and their activities, to help them within the limits of my possibilities, and to bring their personal courage and contribution to the attention of all of us.

I will promote and, within the limits of my powers, support those projects and ideas that have the potential to boost Slovakia’s competitiveness. Keeping pace with the today’s world requires both courage and vision.

I will call especially on those who have been luckier in their lives than others. I will appeal to moral duty of successful people to care for the society they live in. By helping others, supporting projects, and being publicly engaged. I want to encourage all those who consider entering the public life in order to personally contribute to even greater changes, and I want to appeal on them not to get discouraged, to keep on fighting – one day, they can become presidents. You can believe me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Fellow Citizens,
I became president as a non-politician. I realise that the tasks ahead of me will be new for me.

I realise that my opinions, my actions, my every word will be critically scrutinised, and I am assuming my tasks and my office with due humility. Although my background does not include a politician’s career, I have experience in other areas and I want to put it to your service, dear fellow citizens.

For years, I have listened to people and tried to ask the right questions when I wanted to find solution to a problem, solution that would be both effective and feasible, be it in business or in charity.

As president, I will ask questions on behalf of citizens, in my own name, in the name of really addressing the problems. I am convinced that this is an important obligation and role of the president: to listen to people and to ask questions on their behalf. To ask questions, seek honest answers and encourage solutions.

I will ask such questions of members of the government, members of parliament, institutions and authorities responsible for the justice system. For education of our children. For providing care to the sick, the elderly, the disabled. And for those who, because of life adversities, face distress and are putting up a brave struggle, but who need our help.

I will ask such questions of those who are responsible for order and security. And, of course, of those who are responsible for generating jobs, employment, and creating adequate conditions for those who actually create jobs; I will also ask them on behalf of job-seekers or people afraid of losing their job. I will ask such questions and request the feedback on the results.

Naturally, right solutions are not always readily identifiable. We may not always be able to quickly resolve everything. We may not have the necessary strength, possibilities, or resources. But we will always have the responsibility to ask if there is anything more we can do. Indeed, these questions are sometimes difficult, uncomfortable, and we will not always be happy with the answers.

Yet, I will keep asking until I get the answers. And I will give a helping hand to anyone who wants to find solutions, who is committed to reaching the results. So that we together increase confidence in the state, constitutional institutions and authorities also in this manner.

Dear guests, dear fellow citizens,
The recent financial crisis has shown, and not only to us, that the road to prosperity is neither guaranteed nor automatic. And the events in Ukraine made us worried that an armed conflict can break out closer to our borders than we had been willing to admit quite recently. Security issues are again on the top of Europe’s agenda.

All of a sudden, the rules and concepts which until recently we thought would be here to stay and apply automatically, are no longer valid. But we also observe that particular interests of individual countries permeate joint commitments and agreements in the European Union.

I stand ready to promote the interests of Slovakia in cooperation with the government, the prime minister, the foreign minister and the entire Slovak diplomacy in continuity with the efforts of the previous governments since 1998. I will continue in the tradition of my predecessors who, whenever any doubts or misunderstanding arose for reasons of domestic policy, always acted as steadfast supporters of Euro-Atlantic cooperation, including President Gašparovič during the last ten years.

In two years, Slovakia will hold the presidency of the European Union. I will support the government in the effort to ensure good preparations of Slovakia for the presidency, and I will discourage any attempt at using this task of ours as a subject of internal political struggle.

The Slovak presidency and its preparations will be an opportunity to discuss in more depth the fact that our membership of the European Union is not just about funds, regulation of light bulbs, or even a threat to our sovereignty. The European Union has a deeper meaning. It is, above all, a project of peace in Europe, a project of cooperation and cohesion of the nations in this region which had been the hotbed of two world wars. The project that enables its members to build and strengthen democratic institutions, open economies and the rule of law.

Our ancestors, our grandfathers, and until recently not even our parents, could imagine that there will be a time when Slovakia takes the helm of such Europe. Let us be proud that we participate in this project. And let’s be pragmatic. But let us also help to safeguard the principles and the values on which the European Union was founded. Because everything that weakens the project of the European Union, weakens also us – and it is primarily egoism under the guise of pragmatism that is in direct conflict with the basic meaning of the united Europe.

And then there is our security. People in Slovakia, unlike other neighbours of Ukraine, perhaps do not feel an equally deep and immediate concern about the developments behind our eastern border.
However, as president, I must take my share of responsibility for responding to them, because defence and security of citizens is the fundamental task of the state.

Also in this area I will have the ambition to formulate questions and to open the themes which – it seems to me – have not always been spoken about loud enough. Slovakia cannot rely on others to guarantee our security without us fulfilling our commitments. We must do what we can afford to do, but we must not soften our commitments. It is not right, it is not forward looking. And it is not safe for our homeland.

Geographically, Slovakia is situated both on the borders of the European Union and of the North Atlantic Alliance. I am, however, convinced that it is in our vital interest, in the interest of our security and prosperity, that Slovakia is not relegated to their edge.

Dear Guests, Dear Fellow Citizens,
We face many challenges, but we have all it takes to come to grips with them with dignity.

Slovakia is a small country. But it is a beautiful country with hard-working, capable and talented people. We therefore need not be afraid of challenges – just the opposite, they may help us go forward. They can help us make Slovakia a country we all want.

A country
where every citizen has the right to decent life,
where people condemn corruption just as they condemn stealing,
from which young people will not want to leave but, on the contrary, which will attract educated and talented people,
a country which is economically prosperous and socially just,
a country where decency and morals are not just words, but a true value of society.

Such Slovakia I want to help.

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