Last Saturday, on 3 May, the Slovenian community in NSW remembered the 10th anniversary of Slovenia joining the European Union in St. Raphael's Slovenian Mission in Merrylands. Due to non-attendance of diplomatic staff from the Embassy in Canberra, Mr Alfred Breznik, retired Honorary Consul General was the guest speaker invited to mark the occasion. Among other things, he said:
"Today we are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Slovenia joining the European Union. It was actually on the 1st of May 2004, when the fifth and biggest EU enlargement happened. It saw an accession of eight countries from Central and Eastern Europe – which were: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as two Mediterranean countries – Cyprus and Malta.
For Slovenia this was a historic moment indeed. Our people’s centuries long dream was finally fulfilled. By then, 13 years after achieving independence, that is self rule – a nationhood, we also became part of a larger European family with population of some 500 million – for which almost 90% of Slovenians voted at the referendum in 2003. At the time other very important milestones were also achieved for our nation - Membership of NATO, which provided a guaranty for security for our nation; adopting EURO currency, which meant common currency with 17 other European nations; joining the Schengen border regime, which meant open border with neighbouring countries – Austria, Italy and Hungary. And, the highlight was undoubtedly Slovenia’s presidency of the European Council, for which numerous commendations were received.
In the early years of its membership of the EU Slovenia was considered as one of the best, an exemplary member. However, the world wide economic crisis affected Slovenia badly. It has by now dropped to the bottom level of the EU member states which require or will require external financial help. The economic crisis also caused a political crisis, with three governments in the last three years and it appears that we may witness another change of government in the not so distant future. As we’ve seen in the past decades, Slovenians exhibit resilience, with motivation and with initiative will always overcome adversity."