The United Nations Millennium Summit
President Milan Kučan participated in the Millennium Summit this week at the United Nations in New York. Kučan addressed the gathering on Thursday morning, though reportedly was originally scheduled for Wednesday. According to the Washington Post, Germany exchanged speaking times with Slovenia so that its Chancellor would appear on television during Central European prime-time viewing.
Kučan's speech stressed respect for human rights and warned that state sovereignty is no excuse for human rights violations within any state. Kučan mentioned by name the violations that occurred in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Kosovo as well as Srebrenica and Vukovar. Alluding to the current situation between Serbia and Montenegro, he said that: "Clear signs in South East Europe in particular, warn that tragedy could happen again."
Kučan also called for a "doctrine for humanitarian intervention which will be based on a modern interpretation of the United Nations Charter and in line with new international relations and norms, which in certain conditions give priority to the protection of human rights. My conviction about this is reinforced by my human and political experience from the Balkan tragedy and from Slovenia's participation in peacekeeping missions." The text of Kučan's speech (and all the others') is available at the United Nations website.
The President had a full schedule for the week. In conjunction with the summit, Kučan participated in a round table on globalization. He met with numerous world leaders, including the heads of state of Germany and Austria, and former Yugoslav Premier (and American citizen) Milan Panić. Kučan also signed optional protocols to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
While no official representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia participated, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović attended the summit at Slovenia's invitation. Given that Montenegro is not a Member State of the UN, Đukanović was not permitted to address the summit, however, he was able to conduct high-level talks with many world leaders including those of Germany and the United States. Kučan made an official statement comparing the situation of Montenegro today with that of Slovenia before independence and urged international support for Montenegro.
On Friday, the Croatian mission to the United Nations hosted a meeting of heads of state of all successor states to the former Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia. Đukanović also attended. The group expressed high hopes for Serbia's upcoming elections and support for Serbia's opposition groups. However, they also reiterated their call for the present Yugoslavia to give up its claim on the seat the former Yugoslavia held at the UN, and to apply for a new membership to the Organization.
AVNOJ debate continues
Comments made by the Austrian Foreign Minister continue to cause controversy. The Foreign Minister publicly stated last week that Slovenia should not be allowed membership in the EU until it repeals the AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia) declarations, which, among other things, stripped German nationals within Yugoslavia of their citizenship and property.
The comments are not in line with the official position of the Austrian government. On Thursday, the Austrian government stated that it would not demand that the AVNOJ declarations be repealed. However, Austria still had concerns connected to the denationalization process which they believe is discriminatory towards Germans.
President Kučan maintains that the AVNOJ declarations form the basis for Slovenia's legal continuity. The government, led by Prime Minister Bajuk, has taken the official position that bilateral issues have no place in the EU accession negotiations.
The controversy has been exacerbated domestically by statements made by Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle and Defense Minister Janez Janša. The two have never been fans of Kučan and are taking the position that the AVNOJ declarations have nothing to do with Slovene statehood and that they should be repealed in the interest of Slovene-Austrian relations. The statements have caused significant uproar among the other parties in parliament, who may seek disciplinary measures against the two ministers.
A public opinion poll published on Friday in the daily Dnevnik showed 67 percent of the public agree with President Kučan while only 17.3 percent disagree. The majority of those who disagree belong to right-leaning parties such as those of Peterle and Janša.
The fast track to decentralization?
Thursday saw the ceremonial first run of the new high-speed rail link between Ljubljana and Maribor. Among the guests on the first trip from the capital to the second-largest city were Ljubljana mayor Vika Potočnik, director of Slovene Railways Igor Zajec, Minister of Transportation Anton Bergauer, Minister of Tourism Janko Razgoršek and the director of Croatian Railways, Dragutin Šubak.
The train was greeted in Maribor by mayor Boris Sovič, who addressed the crowd. Alluding to Maribor's strong desire to host a national agency, Sovič declared that the train should destroy any doubt that state institutions must all be located in Ljubljana. Back in May, Maribor lost its bid to become the seat of the newly created Energy Agency.
The train will be launched to the public on 24 September. Trains will make the 116-minute trip back and forth eight times daily. The trains' highest speed is 145 km per hour, but they are run at around 120 km per hour. Measures are currently being taken that will increase the average running speed to 160 km per hour sometime next summer.
Another Olympic bid for Slovenia
Franc Kramar, mayor of the Alpine town of Bohinj, wants to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Gorenjska region where Bohinj is located unsuccessfully competed to host the 2006 Winter Olympics in a joint bid with adjoining regions of Italy and Austria. The International Olympic Committee awarded the games instead to Turin, Italy. Bohinj is home to some of Slovenia's most popular mountains for skiing. Kramar believes the bid can be financed mostly from sponsorships.
A roundtable to discuss the plan is set for 13 September in the town of Bohinjski Bistrici. Participants are scheduled to include state and local authorities. No formal bid has been filed with the International Olympic Committee to date.
Improving the state of film in Slovenia
Among the laws that must be aligned with those of the EU is the Law on the Motion Picture Fund of the Republic of Slovenia. Scheduled to come up in parliament in the coming days, the revisions to the law should open up new avenues of funding for Slovene film makers and will make it easier for foreigners to make films in Slovenia. The law in its new form will increase funds available by means of taxes similar to those of other European countries, a tax on film distribution and a tax on the public showing of films, for example. The money will go directly into the Motion Picture Fund and will be used to finance new films.
Director Andrej Košak has begun filming a new feature film at a prison in Maribor this week. The film is based on a book by prominent author Drago Jančar and will be called Zvenenje v Glavi (Ringing in the Head). The story is a mix of black humor and romance and takes place in the late 1960s. The film is expected to premier next summer. Košak's last film, Outsider, was widely shown throughout the former Yugoslavia.
Director Danis Tanovič has finished a month of filming Nikogaršnja Zemlja (No-Man's Land). Set in Bosnia in 1993, the film's plot focuses on three soldiers caught in a no-man's land between the Bosnian Muslim and Serb zones. Most of the lead roles are played by actors from the former Yugoslavia. The film is one of the largest that has included Slovene participation. It is a coo-production of France, Belgium, the UK, Italy and Slovenia. The film will premier next year, either at the festival of Slovene film at Portorož or later at the Cannes festival.
And finally, the Serbian newsmagazine NIN this week featured an interview with Slovene director Damjan Kozole. In the interview, Kozole discusses his youth in Krško, his early attempts at film making, the improving situation of film in Slovenia and even the lack of a clear definition of what it means to be "Slovene." Porno Film won the grand prize at April's Portorož festival and was highly acclaimed at several other film festivals this year, including Karlovy Vary and Sarajevo. The film is expected to make its Serbian premier in the near future.
Brian J Požun, 9 September 2000
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