Parties scramble for support as campaign begins
As the election campaign is getting underway, parliamentary parties are not only looking to advertise their politics to attract voters, but are also reaching out to non-parliamentary parties to increase their chances in the upcoming elections scheduled for 15 October. The Ministry of Internal Affairs currently lists 33 officially registered parties. The six parties currently in parliament are the SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party, the Liberal Democrats (LDS), the Social Democrats (SDS), the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the Pensioners' Party (DEMOS) and the Slovene Nationalist Party (SNS), along with Bajuk's newly registered New Slovenia (NSi).
Several small parties have joined forces as the coalition Za Boljšo Slovenijo (For a Better Slovenia) to increase their influence on the election. Za Boljšo Slovenijo is being led by Vitomir Gros of the Social-Liberal Party and also includes the Slovene Nationals, the Party of Regional Equality and the Styrian Regional Party. The Greens and the Independent List for Maribor have also expressed interest in cooperating with the coalition.
On 24 August, representatives of Za Boljšo Slovenijo met with representatives of the SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party and released a joint statement calling for close cooperation in the elections. The move may have been prompted by the fact that even though the SLS+SKD will compete in the elections as the incumbent party, any advantage they may have gained has been lost by the manner in which they have conducted themselves while in power.
Participating in the elections for the first time is the Youth Party of Slovenia, formed earlier this year. Led by Anton Nonar, the party plans to compete in virtually all of the electoral regions. The party wants to work with projects geared towards young people which will produce "visible results."
Cultural-Information Center to open in Podgorica
The news that Štefan Cigoj, an under-secretary of the Foreign Ministry, has been appointed to head the new Slovene Culture-Information Center in Montenegro was praised in the 28 August issue of the Montenegrin daily Pobjeda. The newspaper heralded Cigoj, a professional diplomat, as a "connoisseur" of conditions in South Eastern Europe. The center will open on 1 September in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica.
The UK, the US and France have already opened cultural-information centers in Podgorica, while Russia and Germany are planning to follow suit in the near future. Several countries, including Croatia, Italy, Greece, Russia, the UK, France and Austria have consulates in Podgorica, and Slovenia, Macedonia, Romania and China are planning to open diplomatic offices there.
For their part, Montenegro has opened diplomatic missions in Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Washington, New York, Brussels, London, Paris and Rome, and has plans for missions in Moscow, Berlin, Zagreb and Skopje.
As relations with Hungary improve...
The 29 August edition of RFE/RL Balkan Report mentioned an interview in a Budapest weekly with Slovene Ambassador to Hungary Ida Močivnik in which she gave an overall positive assessment to Slovene-Hungarian relations. Ties are improving, but have been hampered by the severe lack of contact during the Communist period which was so drastic that no rail links or even roads were ever built across the short Hungarian-Slovene border. Railroad tracks are only now being laid and may be ready as early as this year, but an international highway will not be completed until 2006.
The small Hungarian community in Slovenia is concentrated near the border around the town of Lendava, while seven Slovene villages exist across the border in Hungary.
The national holiday of Hungary was 21 August and the occasion was commemorated in Slovenia with the unveiling of a statue of Hungarian Saint-King Stephen I (969-1083) in Lendava. The statue is the work of Lendava native Ferenc Kiralyj. Representatives of the Slovene government, the Hungarian government and the director of the Slovene Office for National Minorities, among other guests, participated in the event.
Will relations with Austria deteriorate?
Comments published this week in Austria by the Austrian Foreign Minister threatened to harm Slovene-Austrian relations, sending the Slovene government on the defensive. The Minister, a member of the far-right Freedom Party, was quoted as saying that Slovenia and the Czech Republic should not be allowed to enter the European Union (EU) unless they rescind anti-German discriminatory decrees made at the end of World War II. The comments were in direct contradiction to the official position of the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
The decrees in question are the Yugoslav AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council of Natonal Liberation of Yugoslavia) declarations and the Czechoslovak Beneš Decrees. President Kučan believes the AVNOJ declarations form part of the continuity of Slovene statehood and are thereby of the utmost importance. They helped legitimize the post-war order in Yugoslavia and the annexation of several territories after the war, including the Slovene Primorska region.
The decrees also established a State Commission to investigate the crimes of the occupying forces and collaborators. One year after the declarations, a resolution was passed stripping all persons of German nationality of their citizenship and confiscating their possessions.
At President Kučan's request, Prime Minister Bajuk issued a statement on the government's position concerning the AVNOJ Declarations. The government has taken the position that bi-lateral questions should not have any bearing on Slovenia's bid for EU membership. Oddly, the government's statement mentions the declarations only once, and concerns itself mostly with Slovene-Austrian relations.
Maribor: Europark opens
With over 28,000 quadric meters of sales floor, Maribor's newly opened Europark is now the largest shopping center in the entire country. It is home to 63 specialized shops, restaurants with combined seating for over 400 people, a doctor's office and a bank. It was financed by foreign investment amounting to over SIT 10.9 billion (approximately USD 55 million). Construction took less than two years.
Mayor Boris Sovič spoke at the grand opening, expressing high hopes for Europark and the rebirth of Maribor's business potential which he said it lost during its decline as an industrial center in the 1980s. Overall, however, Europark has been met with mixed reviews.
A man-on-the-street poll taken by the daily Večer showed a gamut of opinions. Of the five randomly polled, two said they would go when the hype had died down, two said they wanted to be among the first to see what Europark had to offer, and the fifth said he was completely disinterested, adding that for the most part he believed most people were going not to shop but for the spectacle. He also voiced a common concern in the city, that while the shopping center will employ more than 700 people, it is located on the edge of town and may well have disastrous effects on downtown merchants.
Brian J Požun, 4 September 2000
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