Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you all for coming to these beautiful premises, to this modest celebration of Christmas and New Year. These are the days when we wish one another a brighter future in our personal and family life. These words of congratulations are repeated all over. For, in spite of all differences, we are, after all, ordinary people desirous, first of all, of good health, peace, security, and prosperity.
This remarkable place is where works of art reside permanently or temporarily. Through them, art in its original way testifies to contemporary history and contemporary moment of the world in which we live. This place of imagination, creativity, and most incredible ideas is well acquainted with visions. It knows to look through into the future. This is a good place for sending Season’s greetings.
The greetings and messages sent from this place today will not be primarily political ones. These are the last Season’s greetings in this tenure and wish them to emit community, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Invited and welcome here are all, from the government and the opposition, believers and non-believers, invited here are my associates and my opponents. I wish to speak about universal and human values, such as the holidays that we are heading for.
The Christmas and New Year’s time contains symbolism of a transition – into the better, into the new; a new life; a new beginning. These days time and again inspire faith in the future, inspire optimism, this “magic spice” without which there is no change for the better. When we listen to Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” or just a simple and magic tune “Narodi nam se kralj nebeski” (Heavenly King is Born to Us), when we look at paintings by great masters, such as Michelangelo, Giotto, maybe The Nativity by the great El Greco, whether we are believers or not, we feel something, we feel that thread which should, through its goodness and love, connect each and every human being.
This is what we wish for Croatia in the following year: to be better than the previous one, we wish economic recovery, prosperity and development, a boom of entrepreneurship, new investments, new jobs especially for young people, restoring trust in the institutions, further reduction of corruption, security and stability, social security and a decent living for all, even higher standards of human rights and an environmentally more conscious, greener Croatia.
A great poet, Paul Valery, speaking about the possibilities of human spirit once said: “Spirit endowed us with the understanding of time, of the past and the future. Thanks to this, we can look ahead, imagine the possible, and transcend the moment. Thanks to this, a man can deviate from himself and put oneself in the position of another.”
The days ahead of us are an opportunity to revive those universal social values which the crisis always pushes to the margin and which concern every individual. They especially concern relations to others.
These are the values that are common to all religious and humanist traditions. In the first place, I think of the value of distinguishing good from evil, of solidarity, justice, empathy, compassion, decency, and the art of conversation.
I think of responsibility – towards oneself, the family, the environment, the nation and the people.
Let us revive these values in ourselves!
Let us revive them for our sake but also for the sake of an increasing number of our fellow citizens who fall victim to the crisis. For the sake of all who lost their jobs, and whose competences are seemingly no longer needed. For the sake of those whose factories, workshops, or jobs disappeared and who, in the best years of their lives, are deprived of the opportunity to earn for their families.
For the sake of pensioners. They are the wisdom of the society. They are the very soul of everything we have built thus far.
For the sake of the poor. Poverty today has different faces. The crisis gave rise to a phenomenon of new poverty that affects young unemployed people, people with skills, families with children. The crisis gave rise to children’s poverty which has long-term immeasurable consequences.
The crisis particularly affected the reproductive part of the population, the generation of citizens who are the basis for the survival of the Croatian society. Women and men in their youth or middle age who are without employment, or are employed but earn too little to be able to raise a family with the number of children they would really want. The same problem is often faced by employed citizens who have material but not social conditions for a family and children, since the corporate system forces them to work “from morning till evening”.
Christmas is a family holiday. Regardless of the form the family may have at these times, it remains the basic unit on which each society, including Croatian, is built. For this reason, the family, as stipulated in the Croatian Constitution, “shall enjoy special protection of the state”.
We must not forget this.
The protracted economic crisis that Croatia has been facing is accompanied by a crisis of social values and thereby a crisis of democracy. If they cannot see the future, people easily turn to the past. In such times, the dangers of exclusion, hatred, intolerance, and radicalism remain latent. The twentieth century with its two World Wars was the most tragic school for Europeans and the world at large, in particular for Croatia. The aggression against Croatia tragically marked the end of the 20th century.
The wounds from these wars, in particular the Second World War and the Homeland War, heal only with difficulty.
These wounds hurt generations. Reconciliation and forgiveness, as well as a just punishment for crimes, help the wounds to heal.
Historical and war injustices that happened in this area, many of which were never redressed, their culprits and criminals never punished, were repeated during the Homeland War as well. Many missing persons have never been found, many crimes still remain unpunished. All this extends the line of evil to this day. For this reason, we should continue our efforts on accounting for all the missing, for paying tribute to all victims, and for ensuring all persons who suffer because of the war to have a decent living and all butchers to be brought to justice.
We are the guardians of memories of the hardships of all people who perished in the Homeland War, all disabled, all killed, all affected. Our mothers and fathers keep similar memories of the Second World War. Both today and tomorrow, we keep and shall keep our memory as a shield against evil in the future. Memory as a bridge, not a sword. For, evil must never be an excuse for a new evil.
While creating the Croatian state at the heroic time of the Homeland War, thanks to our defenders, a potential of values was created for building the future. Let the best from our history be a positive incentive for the future!
Let us have more confidence in one another, regardless of differences that exist. Let us build, rather than unbuild. When we talk, let benevolence and mutual respect be our starting point. When we compete, let quality, seriousness, and conscience be our criteria. Let us do this for the future, since our Homeland deserves it!
Croatia is a country of long and rich history. Our history is counted in centuries. For centuries have Croats withstood many ordeals. In spite of all the difficulties, we have always moved on.
Today, we are a full member of the European community of nations. We must move on.
A metaphor used by Pope Francis in his recent speech in the European Parliament stays on my mind: about “an elderly and haggard Europe” which should not stay this way. Our Croatia exists for centuries but it is not elderly. And we shall not allow it to get elderly and decrepit.
Let us all together make our Homeland strong and successful!
Let us have a merry Christmas and let the New Year 2015 bring us much joy and success!