Dear Professor Mohamed Yousri Heshim, President of Heliopolis University,
Dear Ambassador Christian Berger, head of the EU Delegation in Cairo,
Distinguished guests, Excellencies,
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to be here again, in the lovely gardens of the Heliopolis University. This time I have only one bee in my bonnet: to celebrate the hand-over of a traditional Slovenian bee house into the capable and loving hands of the Heliopolis University team and its partner SEKEM.
Since my early childhood, I have been aware of the importance of the bees and having homemade honey. I remember how much I envied the girl sitting next to me in primary school who lived out of town in a home with a small bee house in the garden. I learned that the bees not only produced honey that I loved, but also enabled all kinds of plants to flourish. And I learned that a bee house, consisting of a number of beehives is also called an “apiary.”
As in other places in Europe, beekeeping in Slovenia goes back to the Middle Ages. Slovenia actually has its own bee, Apis mellifera Carnica, a gentle and dilligent bee that has been exported in hundreds of thousand swarms since mid-19th century all over Europe.
And, it took a Slovenian beekeeper to establish a systematic approach to the craft of beekeeping. His name is Anton Janša, born on 20 May 1734, and he is regarded as the 18th Century pioneer of modern apiculture. He brought the science and technology of beekeeping to a new level and new beehive technologies introduced by him are still used today.
It was also around his time that a specific folk art developed on small family farms in Slovenia, namely painting the wooden front panels of beehives. On these panels, folk artists depicted motifs from fables, tales, mythology, history of the Bible and serious and humorous scenes from everyday life, as well as landscape images. I understand that besides presenting beautiful images to us, different colours help bees find their home easier and prevent them from entering the neighbouring beehive by mistake.
Preservation of bees, and other pollinators, has been an important policy priority for Slovenia for quite some time. Joint efforts by the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all working diligently, like bees, resulted in an important initiative aimed at the preservation of bees.
A number of years ago Slovenia decided to promote beekeeping globally by proposing that the United Nations General Assembly proclaims a World Bee Day. We proposed that it should be held on May 20, Anton Janša’s birthday. May I thank profoundly Egypt to support the initiative that was in turn adopted by United Nations Member States and has been celebrated globally since 2018.
The intention of the World Bee Day is to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators, of how they contribute to our sustainable development. It is very easy now to use all the buzzwords of the moment when talking about bees: sustainability, biodiversity, natural, organic, green and environmental.
However, the key word is pollination. It is the fundamental process needed for the survival of our ecosystems, one, which makes food production possible. Nearly 90 per cent of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75 percent of the world’s food crops and 35 percent of global agricultural land. For us there should be no question like To bee or not to bee.
Therefore, allow me to point out that bees are increasingly endangered. In Europe, extinction threatens nearly 10 % of all bee species, the number of other pollinators worldwide is also in decline and the resulting course of events is sometimes referred to as the “pollination crisis”. So, concrete action is needed. Although World Bee Day is certainly an achievement of Slovenian diplomacy, it brings about responsibilities. Raising awareness about the vital importance of saving the bees must reach every individual. We must do more than just talk – we must undertake concrete activities to increase care for bees and promote the development of beekeeping – everywhere, including in developing countries.
Our everyday lunch depends largely on bees and other pollinators, even though it is easy to forget it when everything comes pre-packaged off supermarket shelves. Bees and other pollinators are priceless when it comes to ensuring global food security, and at the same time, they provide jobs and income for farmers. Beekeeping can be an alternative and nature friendly source of income for small, family farms all over the world.
In decorating the bee house, which I am on behalf of Slovenia today handing over to the Heliopolis University, Slovenian artists tried to re-create the idea of depicting traditional landscape motifs, this time Egyptian. I do hope they were successful and that the imagery will be pleasing — not only to the bees that I hope will someday populate it — but also to their beekeepers and students who will come here and learn about the bees and their importance to humanity, and, I am sure, learn some crucial lessons for life.
Today’s event is only one of many cultural activities the Slovenian Embassy in Cairo is organizing under the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of this year. At the same time, it offers us an excellent opportunity to mark again the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Slovenia.
Finally, allow me to thank profoundly our host, Heliopolis University, for their invaluable assistance in the organization of tonight’s event. I look forward very much to our continuous fruitful cooperation.