„It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you here today. At the beginning of the New Year that marks a happy 25th anniversary of the independence of Slovakia. And several other anniversaries which have formed our path to a modern, democratic and successful country.
Whether we speak of Czechoslovakia founded hundred years ago, which brought us democracy, respect for human rights and until then unprecedented development and prosperity. But also tragic events of 1938 and 1948 which threw us to the hands of totalitarian regimes. Or those of 1968 and 1988 when the genuine will of our people to live in a free and just society was crushed by a brutal force.
All these historic events are important for our perception and sense of right and wrong, for our choice of values and principles and for our ambition to always strive for freedom and democracy. Keeping our collective memory alive is an integral part of our success. And it is our duty to never forgetHundred years since the First World War is the living reminder of the atrocities humans are capable of. We should always have in mind not to repeat the same mistakes again. And there is truly no better defense against a selfish pursue of interests among nations than resolutely and decisively sticking to the existing rules for international peace and security.
I would like to highlight one more important anniversary, the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seventy years ago. The milestone of the international protection of human rights.
I am glad that Slovakia is perceived as a responsible member of the international community. Respect for international norms and principles is very dear to us. We shall continue to contribute to a peaceful coexistence of nations. And we shall remain engaged in solving global challenges, such as protection of human rights, migration, climate change, and in all efforts helping every human being to live in peace and dignity.
I am proud that Slovakia enjoys good relations with the countries you represent. And I can confirm that we will always seek to achieve such relations with any country in the world, built on mutual respect, dialogue and understanding. We all know that success always comes from a hard work. But no one succeeds just by himself. So the 25th anniversary of Slovakia is a fine opportunity to express our gratitude to all our friends around the world and especially to our close partners and allies in the EU and NATO and to our neighbours in the Central Europe.
Let me now share some remarks on the situation in Europe and in the world.
I am convinced that the European Union enters 2018 stronger and ready to move on. Looking back at 2017 fills me with this optimism. I had the honour to address the European Parliament in November. Among other things, I pointed out there — and I will gladly repeat it today — that the EU is not a sinking ship as those who would like to see us fail have hoped.
Several national elections in the EU member states have shown that we can cope with the wave of populism, nationalism and extremism threatening our European project. However, we cannot take things for granted and we have to work together to address issues of common interest as efficiently as possible.
In the EU today we can feel a new energy, more dedication and leadership to foster our common project. Whether we speak about Eurozone, Schengen, or security and defence cooperation. Slovakia is determined to keep up with these efforts, because they will make our union stronger and more safe. But let me say it again. Here in Slovakia we strongly believe that the EU needs to remain open for new members. I especially have in mind our friends in the Western Balkans. I take this opportunity to highlight again the Declaration which I signed last October together with the Speaker of our Parliament and Prime Minister. We expressed our clear commitment to our membership in the European Union and NATO as the strategic pillars of our prosperity, stability and security.
This declaration has clearly stated that we see no alternative to further European integration and we are even ready to join those who are more ambitious than others, certainly without compromising our precious European unity. From the security point of view, we declared that NATO remains the basis for keeping our country safe and our commitments must be met.
The continuation of the conflict in the Eastern Ukraine, illegal annexation of Crimea are major obstacles for stability and security in Europe. There cannot be any doubt that respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity has been a cornerstone of peace in Europe since the Second World War. Their breach cannot be overlooked, tolerated or forgotten.
I want to express my sympathy and best wishes to our Moldovan, Georgian and Ukrainian friends, undergoing difficult reforms while defending their sovereignty and independence. Slovakia will continue in helping them change their lives for the better. They must be given a chance to join our European family too.
on the global scale, the world has seen some good news, such as the elimination of ISIL in Syria and Iraq. We need to make sure that Syria becomes a safe place where people can find their home again, free from terror of radicals or its own cruel regime.
However, too many senseless violent conflicts, such as in Yemen and other places, are still under way. We see millions of people suffering and forced to see refuge in safer parts of the world. And I will always stress that it is our moral obligation to help those who escape wars and violence. There is no excuse for falling short of this basic principle of humanity. Let me recall what His Holiness, Pope Francis said in his New Year´s address: Please, let us not extinguish the hope in the hearts of refugees; let us not suffocate their hopes for peace!"
For the first time since the end of the Cold War, we face the worst threat of nuclear conflict. And last year, we have seen how things could easily go out of control and potentially cause enormous and irreparable damage. When an exchange of threats or other irresponsible behaviour precedes a serious crisis management, sustained and united international pressure and diplomacy, we can all become victims of a sudden miscalculation.
In few weeks, the Republic of Korea will host Winter Olympics. Olympic Games are since their origin a symbol of peace. It is the time when nations and people put their conflicts aside. Considering a tense situation in the region, there could hardly be a better place to confirm this old tradition. I am very much looking forward to attending the games too and hopefully see there a pair of figure-skaters from North Korea with their message of peace.
We live the most prosperous times in the world ever. But we still have to do our best to bring prosperity, justice and human dignity to every corner of our planet.
I believe that the only good way is through mutual respect, understanding and dedication of all leaders to make the lives of people better. I believe it is also through our common effort to fight intolerance, xenophobia and all forms of extremism and hatred.
Let me wish to all your countries, to you personally and your families a very happy and prosperous New Year. And please pass my best wishes to your respective heads of state.
May the 25th Anniversary of Slovakia present good opportunities for further friendly cooperation among our nations. Thank you.“