Slovenes are the wealthiest in the region
The latest data from the IMF shows that Slovenes earn the highest average monthly wage of all countries in transition. The average monthly wage in Slovenia is USD 490, well above the regional average of USD 300.
Comparatively, the Czech Republic has an average wage of USD 400, Poland USD 380 and Croatia USD 370.
Public administration reform must be undertaken
The weekly Mladina published an article this week which states that the most significant legislation parliament must harmonize with EU standards when it begins its work next week concerns governance and public administration.
The new parliament will have to consider a new Law on Government which regulates the composition and work of the government. The new law should increase the accountability of the prime minister and lessen the number of ministries.
A new Law on Administration will also be put before the government. This law will regulate the composition of government organs. In its last mandate, parliament failed to pass a much-needed Law on Civil Servants. This law will come before the new parliament.
Parliament will also have to prepare a strategy towards increasing administrative capacity in preparation for Slovene accession to the EU. The strategy must ensure that all relevant government workers are able to perform the functions that will be expected of them when the country joins the Union.
Special training will be a part of the strategy, and this training is expected to be conducted by the Internal Ministry's Academy for Administration together with the Civil Service College of the UK. This is of particular importance for the estimated 200 people who will be needed to work in EU structures for the country once Slovenia enters the EU.
SMS scandal, part III
One of the biggest stories of last month's parliamentary elections was the success of the Slovene Youth Party (SMS), and one of the biggest post-election stories is the string of scandals in which the party has found itself.
Just before the election, a group called the Representatives of Critical Youth had emailed a list of indictments against the SMS to the major newspapers and political parties. Just after the election, a member of the Student Organization of the University of Maribor (ŠOUM) published an open letter in Večer criticizing the party. And late last week, ŠOUM was accused of violating its charter by financially supporting the SMS.
Representatives of ŠOUM gave a press conference on Friday where they tried to put to rest the accusations that ŠOUM had given money to the SMS. General Secretary Matevž Frangež told reporters that his organization had not given the SMS even a single tolar, and this would be clear at the end of the year when ŠOUM's budget was settled.
SMS representatives insist that the party did nothing wrong, but at the same time maintain that it is impossible for the party leadership to know everything that every member has done. The party leadership has repeatedly said that the string of scandals is politically motivated.
One positive development this week was formal talks between the SMS and the Liberal Democrats (LDS), which is the party mandated with forming Slovenia's new government. A formal coalition has not been decided yet, but the LDS has expressed interest in involving the SMS in the government's Office of Youth Affairs.
In an interview with Delo, SMS leader Dominik S Černjak said that the LDS seems particularly interested in involving the SMS with the governing coalition to capitalize on the media attention the party has garnered. Despite the numerous scandals, the media has generally portrayed the SMS favorably.
Slovenia's passport a hit on the black market
Slovenia's new passports will be introduced next month. The redesigned passport will have 25 security features, ten more than the current document. On Thursday, Dnevnik published an article highlighting the need for the new passport, since over the course of the past several years, a Slovene passport has become one of the most sought after items on the black market.
The reason being that with a Slovene passport, the holder may enter 80 countries, including the US and Canada, without a visa.
In the ten years that Slovenia has issued passports, more than 28,000 have been registered as lost, stolen or improperly prepared. By the end of October, more than 2500 passports were returned to Slovenia from foreign authorities. These were either found or confiscated. A significant number have illegally found their way into the wrong hands. The Dnevnik article states that there is a curiously high number of Albanians from Kosovo who have illegal Slovene passports.
The redesigned passports will be issued as of the first business day of the new year, 3 January 2001. Slovene passport holders can continue to use their current passport until that document expires. The switch to the new passport is expected to be completed within two years.
Ljubljana visits Vienna
A program entitled "Ljubljana Welcomes Vienna" will take place in the Austrian capital next week, from 7 to 11 November. Among the events, a tourism exhibition will take place at the Hotel Wimberger, and a week of Slovene cuisine at the restaurant Barbaro's will be presented by the Ljubljana restaurant Maxim. The events will be staged by the Slovene Tourism Board of Vienna. The week will also mark the opening of two Slovenia-related exhibits at Viennese museums: "Welcome to Ljubljana, the Heart of Slovenia" and "Masterpieces of Slovenia."
During the week, Ljubljana mayor Viktorija Potočnik will meet with her Viennese counterpart Michael Haeupl to discuss matters of joint interest.
Environment Ministers meet in the Alps
The sixth annual Alpine Conference took place this week in Switzerland. The conference hosted the Environmental Ministers of eight Alpine countries, who all signed a transit protocol to the Alpine Convention which will promote the construction of new roads through the Alps.
The Alpine Convention is an international treaty promoting sustainable development in the Alps. Austria, Germany, France, Liechtenstein, the EU and Slovenia have all ratified it. Slovenia signed the Convention in 1991.
Earlier this year, Maribor was named Alpine City of the Year for 2000, the third city in the region to hold the title. The honor is bestowed by an international initiative established to enact the Alpine Convention and its protocols.
Brian J Požun, 6 October 2000
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