Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
1 June 2010 - Signing Ceremony of the Accession Agreement on Slovenia’s Accession to the OECD, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to be here with you to celebrate together a major achievement: the formalisation of Slovenia accession to the OECD.
When you adopted the euro in 2007, you chose to engrave your one euro coins with “STATI INU OBSTATI” (“Stand and withstand”), words borrowed from Primož Trubar. In the current stormy climate, these words could not be more relevant and we hope that they will guide us in this historic moment.
Indeed, your accession to the OECD comes at a time when standing and withstanding together is becoming increasingly important. The economic and financial crisis has underlined the need for economies to stick together and define co-ordinated policy responses to restore growth and confidence. This is the essence of the OECD and the role for which it was created.
Our Organisation strives for a stronger, cleaner and fairer world economy. To fulfil this mandate, we need to become more plural, more global, more inclusive. Slovenia’s accession is an important step in our quest to become a hub of dialogue on global issues. Its role as a bridge between East and West will be a great contribution to multilateral dialogue and mutual understanding. And balance in these complex times is strength.
There are many fields in which the OECD will benefit from Slovenia’s experience and perspective. Slovenia’s public governance policies can serve as a model to all. Its drive in promoting sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation is a source of inspiration. Its infrastructure policy, driven by its quest to become a transport hub, will surely contribute with innovative solutions.
But the question that many of you may have is: what will Slovenia gain from entering the OECD?
Slovenia will now have access to cutting edge policy advice in a wide range of strategic areas for its development; it will be able to compare its policies with international best practices and measure their progress with the most advanced calibration tools; and it will be able to influence the redesign of the global governance architecture.
Many of you know the OECD and the value of its work. But for those of you who are still not familiar with our work, let me give you a few examples of how the OECD operates as an international “standard setter” and as a “club of best practices”.
Consider, for example, the recent decision by the G20 to put an end to banking secrecy as a tool for international tax evasion. As the global standard-setter in this field, the OECD provided all the elements needed to reach this crucial political decision. Many governments can now increase their access to previously hidden resources. This will help to ensure that all are paying their fair share, will increase equity and will, of course, help budgets in times of mounting deficits.
The OECD is also the leading voice in the battle against international corruption, with policy tools like its Anti-Bribery Convention. Signed by 38 countries, the Convention has sparked investigations into more than 250 cases. During the past ten years, about 150 companies have been sanctioned for committing foreign bribery and related offenses in host countries.
We were also the first international organisation to develop standardised comparative performance indicators of national education systems. Our PISA report, which now encompasses over 70 countries, has advanced the agenda for quality education throughout the world and has become the benchmark for policy making and reform in a crucial field to reduce disparities, promote innovation and green growth.
There are many other examples of OECD studies or rules that have formed the basis for change and better policy decisions in a wide range of areas: agriculture, health, labour, governance, investment, science and technology, to name but a few. Slovenia now has access to all this know-how.
Hundreds of highly skilled policy experts are now at your service. As I have told other OECD leaders and policy-makers: you must think of the OECD as an extension of your own capabilities. We are here to help you design, implement and measure the changes that you need in order to make the most of globalisation, to promote a job-rich recovery and build long-term sustainable development.
As you may have witnessed, the OECD accession process has already triggered important changes. Over the past two years, Slovenia has made a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of its economic, social and environmental policies, practices and institutions, and has taken significant steps to improve policies and frameworks in a number of areas.
At the beginning of the accession process, Slovenia already compared well with OECD Members in many fields, including investment and fiscal affairs. Our 2009 Review of Labour Market and Social Policies revealed that income distribution in Slovenia was more equal than in most OECD countries. Due to its status as an EU Member, many of its legislation and policies were already in conformity with a number of OECD standards.
In those areas where further progress was needed, Slovenia has reacted rapidly to the recommendations of OECD Committees. Only a few weeks ago, Slovenia adopted key legislation to improve its corporate governance framework for state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In the investment field, Slovenia agreed to extend measures of liberalisation to all OECD Members in a number of key areas. The recommendations of the Working Group on Bribery have also translated into concrete decisions.
The accession process has been a catalyst for reform. But this is just the beginning. From now on we will be in a position to co-operate even more closely and we must keep the momentum going. Remember that old Slovenian proverb that reads: “Pray for a good harvest, but keep on hoeing”.
For example, in the field of consolidation and exit strategies, we will support the government as it implements its announced measures and will be ready to help it put in place complementary measures which could include: performance budgeting, a ceiling for medium-term public spending growth or a rule to reduce public expenditure as a share of GDP.
We will present the government with the options, with the “pros” and “cons”, and with the experience of what worked and what did not in other countries. The same goes for structural reforms of the labour market, the business environment, and the education system which are essential to Slovenia’s long-term prosperity.
To conclude, let me take this opportunity to thank the key people who drove the successful completion of this process through their outstanding political leadership: the President of Slovenia, Danilo Turk; the Prime Minister, Borut Pahor; the Minister of Development and European Affairs, Mitja Gaspari; and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Žbogar.
At a technical level, let me extend these thanks to the accession co-ordinator from the Ministry of Development and European Affairs, Irena Rostan and her team, as well as all the ministries which worked on the OECD accession reviews. And at the Embassy in Paris: the bilateral Ambassador, Janez Sumrada and Third Secretary, Petra Kezman.
Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let’s make the most of this crisis together. It is time to identify and promote new sources of growth, time to pursue new ideas for innovation, to develop a new agenda for jobs, take steps to reduce inequalities and promote new green growth strategies. The OECD is honoured to embark on this endeavour with Slovenia as a new partner and a new member of the family.
“STATI INU OBSTATI”.
Thank you very much.