Government crisis finally comes to a close
By a vote of 46 to 44, Parliament finally approved the government of Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk this past Thursday, ending a crisis that had dragged on for two months. Bajuk's proposed ministers failed to gain approval last week, and he submitted the same list this week.
Bajuk's government will be in power until this fall's scheduled general election. Bajuk represents the newly formed SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party. Of the 17 ministers approved, six (including Bajuk) are from that party, five more are from the Social Democrat Party and the remaining five are independents.
Among the new ministers are two prominent names: Lojze Peterle will serve as Foreign Minister and Janez Jansa will be the Minister of Defense. Both were ministers in the first democratically elected Slovene government in 1990.
Meanwhile, the SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party and the Social Democrat Party have formed a coalition called Coalition Slovenija.
Rajhenburg Castle in Brestanica, near Krško, hosted a commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the end of the Second World War last Sunday.Six thousand people attended, including president Milan Kučan, Krško mayor Franc Bogović, several ministers and other prominent guests.
Addressing the crowd, Vladislav Deržić, head of the Society of Slovene Exiles, which organized the commemoration, lamented the fact that victims of the concentration camp housed in Rajhenburg Castle during the Second World War have never been compensated. Legislation that would allot reparations to survivors is still pending in parliament, but there has been little action on the matter of late.
President Kučan said he was pleased with the number of young people in attendance, whom he hopes will carry on the tradition of the Society of Slovene Exiles.
Kučan said that the Nazis abused the Slovenes and other Slavs solely on the basis of their race. Nazi racist beliefs held Slavs to be a lower race, although they did not send Slavs to death camps, but rather preferred to work them to death in forced-labor camps. During the war, 45,000 Slovenes were sent to Germany to work in forced-labor camps, while others were sent to camps in Italy and other parts of what was then Yugoslavia. Of the total 115,000 Slovene forced laborers, only about 5000 are still alive.
Kučan said that there have been numerous attempts to approve the reparations, but that nothing could be done at present due to the governmental crisis that was only resolved five days after the ceremony. He added that voters should lay responsibility for the crisis and its consequences on the parties that caused it, and should remember the issue in the upcoming fall elections.
Meanwhile, the German news magazine Der Speigel reported this week that there are serious problems concerning a German draft law on war reparations. According to the law, Slovene citizens who were held in German forced-labor camps will be eligible for restitution from the German government. Der Speigel reported that the amount to be allotted is now DEM 540 million, considerably less than the predicted DEM 800 million.
The money is to be divided among an estimated 61,000 survivors of camps from all over Europe.
Kučan meets with Mesić and others
The Zagreb Museum of Art opened the exhibit Jože Plečnik: Architecture for a New Democracy this week. The opening festivities featured Croatian President Stipe Mesić and Slovene President Milan Kučan. Czech President Václav Havel was due to attend, but could not due to health concerns.
The show has already toured Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, New York, Brussels and Ljubljana, and will travel to Barcelona after it in Zagreb on 30 June.
Mesić and Kučan took the opportunity to discuss the idea of a conference of heads of state of all of the successor states to the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, proposed to Mesić by French President Jacques Chirac. The two agreed that should the conference take place, it should promote Macedonian and Bosnian efforts toward European integration and discuss the future of Montenegro.
Both decided that it should be of a general European nature, with the participation of other European heads of state. They also suggested that the conference should take up two themes: the historical reasons for instability in the Balkans and the perception of the Balkan states in Europe.
Two major drug busts
At a press conference on 5 June, the Ljubljana Police Department announced that it had confiscated 5500 tablets of the drug ecstasy. Earlier, on 25 May, Ljubljana police arrested a 29 year old Croatian citizen in conjunction with the drug bust, and they are still searching for a 20 year old Bosnian citizen also implicated in the crime.
Estimates place the street-value of the haul at DEM 25,000, representing the largest quantity of the drug that the police department had ever confiscated.
Meanwhile, Macedonian citizen Turk Islami Sezar was sentenced in Ljubljana to a five-year prison term for the attempted sale of 500 grams of heroin. Sezar had just been released from a two-and-a-half-year prison term for the same crime. Two citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were also implicated.
Statistics released this week by the government show Slovenia's population has increased by 1182 over the course of the past three months. At the end of December 1999, Slovenia's total population was 1,987,755. The largest jump in population occurred in the second quarter of 1999 due to three factors: the influx of refugees from Kosovo and Metohija, an increase in foreigners and legislation regulating the status of citizens of countries of the former Yugoslavia. Natural population growth remains very low.
A group of fourteen military advisors to United Nations peacekeeping missions visited the army barracks at Bohinjska Bela this week. They were shown training facilities and familiarized with Slovene cooperation with, and participation in, international peacekeeping efforts. The visit lasted two days and was part of a tour that also took the military advisors to Russia, Georgia and Turkey. From Slovenia, they were to continue on to Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo.
Aleš Debeljak's book Temno Nebo Amerike (America's Dark Sky) was published in Czech translation this week. The book, issued by the Brno publisher Host, was translated by Martina and Pavel Šaradin and appeared last year in the Slovak language. It is now the second of Debeljak's works to appear in both Czech and Slovak translations.
Slovene film distributors Fivia and Fun are running a promotional campaign with the department store Mercator across Slovenia this month.Based on the success of two recent Slovene films that featured virtually unknown actors, V Leru (Idle Running) and Jebiga (Fuck It), the distributors have launched a contest to take place at Mercator locations around the country. First prize is an appearance in Jebiga director Miha Hočevar's new film.
Brian J Požun, 12 June 2000