Slovenia can expect the full support of Austria in its bid for European Union accession. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner met her Slovene counterpart, Dimitrij Rupel, in Ljubljana on Wednesday. Waldner assured Rupel that Austria would support Slovenia's bid primarily for economic reasons, but also for historical and cultural ones. Austria engages in trade with Slovenia at about the same level as with Switzerland and has been the major investor in Slovenia since Slovene independence.
In her comments, Waldner also mentioned the favorable treatment of national minorities in Austria, particularly the treatment accorded to the Slovene minority in Austria's Carinthia province. She expressed the hope that German speakers in Slovenia would be extended appropriate protection and would not be discriminated against in the process of privatization and the return of property seized after World War II.
A flurry of controversy was kicked up when Waldner commented that Austria has never demanded the closure of the nuclear power plant at Krško (JEK). This followed demands made by Austria's Green Party last week that the JEK be closed as soon as possible. Carinthian Governor Jörg Haider harshly criticized Waldner's comments, accusing her of betraying her country. Waldner responded to the criticism by stating that the government of Austria sits in Vienna, not Klagenfurt (Celovec).
Slovenia pledged USD 5.2 million at the donors' conference for the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe last week. The majority of those funds are ear-marked for Bosnia-Hercegovina (40 percent), the remaining funds will go to Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania. Major contributors at the donors' conference included the World Bank and the European Union as well as the governments of the United States, the Netherlands, Norway and Japan.
By the end of the year there will be about 1,000,000 mobile phone users in Slovenia (approximately 50 percent of the population), according to recently released projections. This will place Slovenia right behind the Scandinavian countries in mobile phone use. Thanks to heavy competition and promotional bonuses, the per-minute cost of a mobile phone call is rapidly nearing, and is often even less than, that of a call from a standard phone.
With 32,720 visitors in the final quarter of 1999, Postojna Caverns topped the list of most visited attractions in Slovenia, according to official data released this week. However, this figure represents a 26 percent decrease over 1998. Other top attractions included Bled Castle, the Regional Museum at Ptuj and the Lipica horse farm. Overall, 177,355 people visited historical sites and other sites of interest in Slovenia in the last quarter of 1999 with foreigners making up 34 percent of that figure.
The City Council of Ljubljana has begun preparing an ordinance on the regulation of boats on the Ljubljanica River, based on the landmark Law on Waters, which is now awaiting ratification by Parliament. The recently named head of Ljubljana's Department of Urbanism, Igor Jurančič, hopes to introduce tourist boats on an eight kilometer stretch of the capital's river. This plan got a vote of support in a recent study by the Hydro-Economic Institute, which showed that the river could be made navigable with minimal difficulty. Jurančič has stated that funding for the plan does not exist in this year's budget, but the plan, nevertheless, is under serious consideration.
On 2 April, the Zlate Peteline (Golden Rooster) awards for Slovene music were presented at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana. Tinkara Kovač received awards for performer of the year and best pop album, for her album Košček (Scrap). Album of the year, debut of the year and best rock album all went to the band Siddharta.
Awards were also given this week at the third Festival of Slovene Film at Portorož. The major winner was Damjan Kozolet for Porno Film, which received four awards. The short film Hop, Skip & Jump received three awards and was named the best overall.
Synthesis, an annual festival of new music, took place in the Macedonian capital Skopje, between 2 April and 7 April. Slovene choreographer Matjaž Farič presented his new music and dance project called Terminal. Spotted among the crowd was the new Slovene ambassador to Macedonia, Mitja Štrukel. The six-year old festival takes an international approach in presenting current trends in music, multimedia and experimental projects.
Brian Požun, 7 April 2000