New government slow in forming
Even though the results of the 15 October elections were released weeks ago, there is still no firm coalition agreement which will determine the composition of the government. The party that took the highest percentage of the vote, the Liberal Democrats (LDS) has been in talks with the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) and the SLS+SKD People's Party, though nothing substantial has come of it as yet.
The LDS did sign agreements with DeSUS and the Slovene Youth Party (SMS), under which the two small parties will support LDS initiatives in forming a government. The LDS has 34 seats, DeSUS and the SMS each have four. Together with the two seats held by national minorities, the parties would hold 44 of the 90 seats in Parliament, which could be enough to form a government without the participation of the other parties.
The first session of Parliament in two weeks took place on Friday, not on Tuesday as expected. At the session, the members of Parliament elected ZLSD leader Borut Pahor to the post of Speaker of Parliament. Pahor has been a member of Parliament four times and was a candidate for the post of foreign minister in 1996.
Budget problems in Maribor
Maribor Mayor Boris Sovič held a press conference this week to discuss the city's budget for next year. The budget was prepared on time, but the national government failed to provide the administrative framework for municipal budgets. Parliament was supposed to approve certain budgetary documents this spring but failed to do so, because the governing coalition collapsed.
The budget will be reviewed by the city council beginning on 23 November. For 2001, the planned budget amounts to USD 72.465 million, a good USD 5 million more than last year. However, there is a chance that Maribor will lose more than USD 2 million if Parliament does not pass the draft law on financing municipalities before the end of the year. If this happens, the budget will have to be rebalanced at the beginning of next year.
No progress on dividing Yugoslavia's assets
No progress was made this week in resolving the questions surrounding the division of the assets of the former Yugoslavia. Dr Miran Mejak, who had led the Slovene negotiating team for the past eight years, and Dr Drago Marolt, who has been leading the team since July, spoke to the daily Dnevnik this week. Marolt said that the issue could be resolved quickly, but most likely will not be.
The negotiations may be complicated if Croatia and Bosnia decide to seek greater shares as part of their war reparations. However, Belgrade has yet to name its representatives in the negotiations, which must be the first step.
Interpreting a fractured history
The teaching of history in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia was explored at a three-day workshop in Ljubljana this week. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire, the results of which will be compiled and analyzed to determine how each country teaches recent history to its children. The event was organized by the Ljubljana University Humanities Faculty and the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe.
Vera Katz, a representative from Bosnia-Hercegovina, told the conference that the Bosnian school system is still very divided along ethnic lines. Each group teaches the history of its nation, and there is no common language among them.
Dubravka Stojanović and Srđan Rajhović of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRJ) told the conference that the standard textbook the FRJ uses was prepared by the same author who has been preparing the country's textbooks for the past ten years. Younger historians have little chance of participating in this process; so, fresh ideas are few.
They also stressed the peculiar situation of the education system in the FRJ, where unofficial schools operate parallel to official ones and do not adhere to the standard curriculum. This is a problem particularly in Kosovo.
Minority rights in Croatia and Italy
Croatia passed changes to its Constitution this week; however, the Slovene minority was not satisfied. The preamble to the Croatian Constitution includes a listing of the country's national minorities; changes made to the Constitution in December 1997 saw the Slovene and Bosnian minorities erased from this list. This was done for political reasons; the Italian minority is much smaller than the Slovene one but remained in the Constitution. As part of the changes made this week, the Slovenes and Bosnians wanted to be once again included on the list.
The minorities explicitly named in the Constitution's preamble are the Serbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Austrians, Ukrainians and Rusyns (Ruthenians). According to the 1991 census, 22,000 Slovenes live in Croatia. Yet, the government refused to reintroduce the Slovene minority onto the list, even though President Mesić and Prime Minister Račan had both promised this during visits to Slovenia this year.
The government officially said that the list in the Constitution is incomplete, and all persons are guaranteed full rights as citizens of Croatia. 22o groups are accorded protection as national minorities under this year's Law on Minorities, among them the Slovenes.
President Mesić also commented this week that if the Slovenes want to be named a national minority in Croatia's Constitution, the Croats should be accorded the same right in Slovenia. At present, Slovenia only recognizes two national minorities, the Italians and Hungarians. Slovenia will likely not push this issue, as it has been much more concerned with Slovene minorities in Italy, Austria and Hungary than in Croatia or elsewhere.
In Italy, the Law on the Global Protection of the Slovene Minority remains stuck in the Senate in Rome. This week, the agenda for the coming weeks was decided, but the law was omitted. On 20 November, the Senate will begin debating the budget, and it is expected that this will take at least until 15 December, leaving little time before the Christmas and New Year holidays to debate the minority bill.
The Trst (Trieste) daily Primorski Dnevnik expressed rare optimism, stating that the law could be put before the Senate even during the budgetary proceedings, and that it seems likely the law will be passed before the end of the year. However, the common view is that it will not be passed before the year is up.
Friday 10 November was the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Osim Agreement between Italy and Yugoslavia. The agreement finally resolved issue of the border between the two countries and contained provisions for economic cooperation. At a commemoration this week, President Kučan hailed the agreement as being the foundation of Ljubljana's generally cordial relations with Rome.
Among the duties of Italy as part of the agreement, however, was the legal protection of the Slovene minority. 25 years later, this has still not been accomplished. It was hoped that the Law on the Global Protection of the Slovene Minority in Italy would have been passed in time for the anniversary, but it was not.
And in other news...
- The American Embassy in Ljubljana reported that it had issued 65 absentee ballots for Tuesday's United States presidential election. Only 20 were returned, but some voters may have sent the completed ballots directly to the US.
- Floods and landslides hit Slovenia early this week due to heavy rain. At least one person died. As of yet, no estimates of the financial toll of damages have been released.
- A roundtable entitled "Slovenia On the Way to the European Union" was held this week in Maribor. Speakers included Slovenia's chief negotiator in Brussels, Dr Janez Potočnik. The event was the second of its kind this year and attracted more than 150 students, professors and others.
- Slovenes from Austrian Carinthia announced plans this week to open promotional centers for the national minority in Vienna and Brussels. Leaders believe these centers will attract investments and will allow the minority to better inform the world about the conditions of the community.
- One of the longest-running disputes between Slovenia and Croatia is coming to an close, as two Slovenes were finally convicted of spying this week. The two were given a one-year suspended sentence with three years parole and a five-year ban from Croatian territory. Together with their van and espionage equipment, the two were captured two years ago. Litigation is continuing in Slovenia, which may produce a harsher sentence.
- The Hugo Boss prize for achievement in contemporary art was awarded to Slovene artist Marjetica Potrč on Friday in New York. The biennial award was established in 1996 by New York's Guggenheim Museum. The USD 50,000 prize is provided by German designer Hugo Boss.
Brian J Požun, 11 November 2000
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