Berserkistan Navigator Slovenia Throws Fifth
Birthday Celebration

By Marja Novak

Milan Kuean LJUBLJANA, June 25 (Reuters) - Thousands of Slovenians braved cold, rainy weather on Tuesday evening to celebrate the country's fifth anniversary of independence from former Yugoslavia. The red, white and blue striped national flag decorated most buildings across the baroque capital and dancers in traditional embroidered costumes performed on a massive stage built at the heart of the city for the birthday bash.

Slovenian President Milan Kucan, addressing crowds in front of parliament, praised the country for its post-independence achievements and rapid integration into Europe. "We chose independence carefully," he told cheering citizens on Trg Republike, or Republic Square. "The path we chose was honorable and right." "We did not hurt anyone, did not deprive anyone of their rights, but were not understood by everyone," he said.

Slovenia's declaration of independence on June 25, 1991, precipitated a short war with the former Yugoslav army in which 64 people died. In the weeks before the former Yugoslavia began tearing itself apart in 1991, some Western countries had urged the breakaway republics to remain in the federation.

Slovenia will spend an estimated half a million dollars on extensive celebrations to mark the day when the first democratically-elected Slovenian parliament declared its independence. Organisers slaved for over a week to build the stage for the series of shows scheduled in the centre of Ljubljana.

The celebrations, which will include performances of the Ljubljana Philharmonic Orchestra and several Slovenian pop groups, will culminate at midnight with a spectacular fireworks display from the capital's medieval castle. President Kucan said Slovenia could continue its drive for closer ties to Europe while staying true to its heritage.

"We ask ourselves whether we can retain our national identity with European economic, political and security ties. We will, if we are able to...reach an (internal) agreement on our future," Kucan said.

Slovenia became an associate member of the European Union two weeks ago after years of negotiations in which Slovenia agreed to enable foreign real estate ownership within four years from enforcing the association agreement. The country moved even closer to the West on Tuesday when it became an associate member of the EU's fledgling defence wing, the Western European Union (WEU).

Earlier on Tuesday the Slovenian parliamentary president Jozef Skolc told a special anniversary session the country could be proud of its achievements. "Five years ago today we simply did not exist on any map in the world. Set this simple fact against everything that Slovenia signifies today and you will not be immodest if you say that this path of ours has been brilliant," Skolc said.

Slovenia, the only ex-Yugoslav republic to qualify for closer ties with the EU, is the richest of Europe's former communist countries with $9,352 GDP per capita. But despite its relative prosperity, an opinion poll showed on Monday that up to 39 percent of Slovenians believe they are worse off now in economic terms than they were before 1991.

To learn more...
Berserkistan, June 25 · Slovenians Believe Leaving Yugoslavia Was Positive Change
Berserkistan, June 25 · Slovenia to Change Property Laws
Berserkistan, June 24 · Unemployment Dampens Slovenia’s Independence Day

Slovenia at a Glance
Ljubljana Visit Slovenia’s Capital
Milan Kuean Biography of Slovenia’s President
Slovenia Weekly Government Public Relations & Media Office
SloWWWenia Guide to Virtual Slovenia

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