The daily newspaper Dnevnik published the results of a public-opinion poll this week that show Prime Minister Bajuk's government has significantly less public support than its predecessor. Only 20.9 percent of respondents support the policies of the current government, and 56.6 percent do not. Interestingly, only 67.8 percent of SDS members and 66 percent of SLS+SKD members voiced support for Bajuk; these are the two parties that compose the coalition that brought Bajuk to power. Virtually no support outside of those two parties was shown for the current Prime Minister and his government.
The poll shows much more positive attitudes towards former Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek. When asked whether they supported the former Prime Minister and his government, 71.7 percent answered that they in fact did. And shockingly, 49.1 percent of SLS+SKD members and 47.5 percent of SDS responded that they, too, supported the former Prime Minister and his government. Only rarely in his eight years in office did public support of former Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek fall below 50 percent.
Monday, 25 June, marked the ninth anniversary of Slovene independence from the Soviet Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Celebrations were held across the country, as well as at embassies, consulates and missions of the Slovene government around the world.
Slovenia in international headlines
Last Friday, Slovene Permanent Representative at the United Nations Ernest Petrič addressed an open session of the Security Council concerning the situation in the Balkans. Petrič expressed his support for Montenegro, whose representatives attended the meeting at the invitation of Slovenia.
Slovenia also endorsed the dissemination of a statement by Montenegro which announced that Belgrade is no longer in a position to speak for the republic, and that Montenegro's international representation will henceforth come exclusively from Podgorica. In his statement, Petrič also reiterated the position of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia, that the current Federal Republic of Yugoslavia can not be considered the sole legal successor of the former Soviet Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.
Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle attended the international conference "Towards a Community of Democracies" in Warsaw this week. Among the other participants were UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek.
On Tuesday, the final day, participants prepared the Warsaw Declaration, a document which concerns strengthening democratic institutions, civil society and independent media, and which affirms the commitment to multi-party elections, human rights and transparency. More than 100 countries participated in the two-day conference.
Also this week, the United States Congress unanimously passed a resolution expressing support for Slovenia's integration into European, trans-Atlantic and other international institutions, including NATO and the EU. Congress lauded Slovenia for its human rights practices, economic success and commitment to democracy. Also noted was Slovenia's work with the NATO Partnership for Peace program, support during the bombing of Yugoslavia last spring, active participation in UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world and contributions to regional stability, including its International Fund for De-Mining and Assistance to Victims of Mines.
Economic cooperation with Bosnia and Russia
Talks between Slovene Railways and the Bosnian service Railways BiH were undertaken this week. The talks concerned Slovenia's support for Bosnia's integration into European railway corridors, ways to increase profits as well as the possibilities for cooperation with Slovene businesses and the Slovene government in rebuilding the Bosnian rail system, which was destroyed in the war. Slovene Railways opened an office in Sarajevo last year.
A delegation from St. Petersburg met with the parliamentary Economics Committee in Ljubljana this week to discuss economic cooperation between Russia and Slovenia. The Russians expressed interest in involving Slovene businesses in several infrastructure projects currently being undertaken and being planned for the city of St. Petersburg. One of the major projects seeks to expand the capacities of the current port of St. Petersburg, to recoup for Russia the loss of the Soviet Union's ports in the Baltic States. A second project is the building of a highway between St. Petersburg and Helsinki, which would connect through to Moscow.
Italian minority law
On Tuesday, the Italian parliament began its debate on the Law on Global Protection of the Slovene Minority in Italy. The law is being proposed by the parties of the left-center governing coalition, but staunchly opposed by the right-wing and far-right parties. The law's opponents started the debate by disputing over 1500 points in the document, every one of which must be discussed and vote on by parliament. The list was later reduced to 400.
Right-wing Trieste MP Roberto Menia advanced most of the disputed points, giving various reasons why the law cannot be passed in its current form. Among his arguments was that the law will give Slovenes more rights than the Furlanians. He also went so far as to suggest that the Slavic minority in Furlania is not even Slovene. In the spirit of reciprocity, he also suggested that the article of the law that concerns the return of the hotel Balkan to the Slovene community be removed until Slovenia returns more than 7300 houses to Italians who were expelled from Slovene Istria after the Second World War. MPs of the governing coalition refuted all of Menia's arguments.
In the first day of discussion, parliament only succeeded in reviewing nine of the 28 articles of the law as a result of the right-wing and far-right resistance. On Wednesday, the second day of discussion, only the tenth article was discussed. This article concerns bilingual signage. MP Gualberto Niccolini of the Forward, Italy Party expressed outrage at the concept, while the law's coordinator Domenico Maselli explained that the decision on which signs would be bilingual would be made by the local authorities.
On Thursday, parliament moved on to other business, as debate on the minority law was only allotted two days. The law has been put on the agenda again for 4 July. The right-wing and far-right parties will propose an alternative formulation for part or all of the tenth article that will make it acceptable to them. Hope remains that parliament will be ready to vote on a final version of the law next Wednesday, 5 July.
Commissioner for Enlargement Gunther Verheugen commented on the situation at a session of the European Parliament Commission for Justice. The Slovene daily Delo quoted him as saying "It is very important that the Italian parliament passes appropriate legislation protecting the Slovene minority." The Italian Slovenes have been waiting for more than 25 years for this law to be passed.
Gaining approval for the law has taken an excessive amount of time, but the government in Rome upheld the Furlania-Julian regional decision to establish the Regional Institute for Slovenes in the Furlania-Julian Region. The local governing right-center coalition passed the law against the wishes of the Slovene community. The Institute was established exclusively around a Slovene organization close to the right-center coalition and does not include any other groups.
The statute of the institute establishes it as an organ to disburse government funds to the Slovene minority. In upholding the decision, the national government warned that the Institute must remain objective and fair in coordinating government funds. Until now, government funds have been distributed to the Slovene community through a special commission of the regional parliament that included Slovene members. The Slovene community feels that the special commission was in more of a position to be objective.
Brian J Požun, 1 July 2000
- Archive of Slovene news reviews
- Past CER articles on Slovenia
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page