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Kiska calls for active citizenship in inaugural speech

“I DO fear such discontent that grows into deep disappointment, helplessness, resignation and indifference towards the things happening around us,” recently inaugurated President Andrej Kiska said in his first presidential speech, as he called on Slovak citizens to become engaged in community life.

“I DO fear such discontent that grows into deep disappointment, helplessness, resignation and indifference towards the things happening around us,” recently inaugurated President Andrej Kiska said in his first presidential speech, as he called on Slovak citizens to become engaged in community life.

Kiska, who was elected Slovakia’s president on March 29, officially took up his office on June 15 when he swore the presidential oath during the ceremonial session of the Slovak Parliament, which took place in the main hall of the Slovak Philharmonic. As he took over from his predecessor Ivan Gašparovič, whose term expired exactly at noon of June 15, Kiska outlined his presidency in his inaugural speech, stressing active citizenship and good relations between the constitutional officials.

Emphasising that he wants to be the president of all citizens, particularly those who need help, Kiska demonstrated this claim in his inauguration programme by inviting homeless people, senior citizens and young people raised in orphanages as guests to the ceremonial lunch in the presidential garden. The inauguration programme also included an ecumenical mass and a walk through the centre of Bratislava to greet the crowds and shake hands with his supporters, as well as laying wreaths at the memorial to the victims of the Communist regime near Devín Castle.

Calling for active citizenship

Avoiding direct criticism, Kiska noted in his speech that many Slovak citizens are discontented with the state and the direction that the country is taking nowadays.

“I talk about the loss of interest. I talk about disappointment and indifference towards what we call the public space, the public life,” Kiska said.

It is often the case in Slovakia that people only care about a nice environment and good relations within their homes, Kiska remarked, saying that engagement and interest should not end behind the door of one’s flat or house, but should extend “to the street, to the village, to the town, when visiting an office or a hospital”.

Slovakia is somehow lacking big aims and challenges that all citizens can be enthusiastic about, according to Kiska.

“In their daily life many people in Slovakia too often feel that it is almost heroic to do something that should be completely normal,” Kiska said. “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.”

As president, Kiska said he wants to encourage people who are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Slovakia, those who have not resigned and who still believe in decency and morals, calling them “the heroes of our normal days and the heroes of our normal life”.

Especially those who have been luckier than others should feel it as their moral duty to care for the society they live in, by helping others and being publicly engaged, said Kiska, who has a history as a philanthropist.

Impartial and friendly with the government

Kiska stressed in his speech that he was a candidate of neither the government nor the opposition and that he is resolved to remain impartial and non-partisan as a president too.

“A president who will stand up for all people regardless of their political beliefs or nationality,” Kiska said in his speech.

Kiska assured the cabinet and parliament that he would support them with all their projects that could help the citizens of Slovakia, and that within his powers he will “support all good ideas and solutions regardless of which political side they come from”.

He expressed his wish to be a good partner for discussion and for searching for solutions for the government.

“I think 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,” Kiska said, adding that he will attempt to maintain good relations with the government, parliament and the political parties.

Security situation mentioned

Kiska, who as president has significant powers in foreign policy, mentioned Slovakia’s EU and NATO membership as the pillars of the country’s safety and prosperity, noting that Slovakia’s upcoming 2016 EU presidency will be an opportunity to explain to the citizens that the EU is fundamental to maintaining peace in Europe.

Kiska devoted part of his speech to security issues too, in light of the Ukraine crisis, which “has disturbed us, [showing] that an armed conflict can break out closer to our borders than we had been willing to admit quite recently”.

“Slovakia cannot rely on others to guarantee our security without us fulfilling our commitments,” Kiska said, adding that Slovakia should stick with its commitments and not try to soften them. “It is not right…. And it is not safe for our homeland.”

Analysts: a conciliatory speech

Kiska’s speech was conciliatory and universally forthcoming, political analyst Miroslav Kusý told the TASR newswire. It only insinuated some critical opinions of the government, but overall, “it was conciliatory and cultivated, such as these ceremonial moments should be”, Kusý told TASR.

Analyst Ján Baránek observed that the speech reflected the views of the ordinary public, and confirmed the difference between a president who is a career politician and a president who comes from the public and “common practice”.

“This president, from the experience of life and business, has a different worldview from a president-politician,” said Baránek in an interview with TASR, who then went on to criticise Kiska for not presenting his programme in clear terms.

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