At long last, Slovenia has a new government
On Friday, Janez Drnovšek was elected Slovenia's fourth prime minister since independence. Of the 90 MPs, only 67 attended; 61 voted in favor of Drnovšek, five voted against and there was a single abstention. For political reasons, the right-wing Social Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) MPs opted not to attend the session; a formal boycott had not been announced by party leaders, however.
Drnovšek was named the prime candidate earlier this week by President Milan Kučan. In making the announcement, Kučan said that the results of last month's election showed that Drnovšek and his Liberal Democrats (LDS) had great support among the electorate, and that he was sure Drnovšek was the people's choice for the post.
Drnovšek had held that post for eight years, from 1992 until April of this year. From 1989-1990, he was the penultimate president of the former Yugoslavia, and in 1991 he negotiated the agreement that ended the war on Slovene territory.
Coalition deal finally signed
On Wednesday, exactly one month after the election, a final coalition was signed by the heads of the LDS, the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party and the pensioners' party DeSUS. Of the 15 ministries, the LDS will control nine, and the ZLSD and SLS+SKD will each control three. DeSUS, which only has four seats in parliament, was not allotted any ministries.
The Slovene Youth Party (SMS) is not a formal member of the coalition, but it signed an understanding with the LDS last week whereby it will offer support to the coalition but not participate in it.
The coalition agreement includes one interesting clause: should the Prime Minister leave his post to assume another, the coalition partners agree to maintain the coalition and its decisions, and the post of prime minister will fall to the candidate forwarded by the LDS.
Slovenia will have presidential elections in 2002, and President Kučan will be ineligible, as he is currently serving his second term. During the campaign, Drnovšek was asked repeatedly if he was interested in the position, but he invariably answered that he was concentrating on the election at hand and was not yet concerning himself with any future elections.
Analysts are fairly certain that Drnovšek will be Kučan's pick as successor, and this clause does nothing to silence that speculation.
New Law on Government
Parliament passed the long-awaited Law on Government on Friday, with 50 votes for and three against. Only 53 MPs attended the session because of the SDS/NSi boycott. The reading of the law bypassed the normal three-round debate and was passed according to the "accelerated procedure."
According to the new law, the number of ministries has been reduced to 14. The Ministries of Economic Activity, of Economic Relations and of Small Business and Tourism have been united into a single ministry. Also, the Ministries of Science and of Education and Sport have been joined. The Ministry for an Information Society has also been established and will be mandated with activity in the fields of telecommunications. The Prime Minister will also be able to appoint two Ministers without Portfolio.
The law establishes a new Strategic Council, which will act like a cabinet for the Prime Minister. Members will be appointed by the government upon the nomination of the Prime Minister.
EC hears Maribor mayor's complaints
European Commission Envoy to Slovenia Eric van der Linden met with Maribor mayor Boris Sovič this week. Sovič, head of the Assembly of Slovene Cities, has emerged in recent years as a leading opponent of the government's policies towards EU accession, because he believes the government is putting too much strain on muncipalities in order to achieve EU membership.
Van der Linden listened to Sovič make his case against the current plan to close duty-free shops, which will impact Maribor's local economy. The EC envoy said that the plan is an internal affair of Slovenia. As far as the EC is concerned, Slovenia agreed to close the shops by July 1998, and now this must be done as soon as possible. Van der Linden did say, however, that he agrees with Sovič that a more effective and comprehensive plan should be worked out.
Sovič also told the envoy that local communities want more assistance from the government in preparing to assume the new responsibilities EU accession will bring. In addition to the financial difficulties, Slovene cities find themselves more and more shut out of the accession process. Sovič would like to see local communities get more of a say in the issues that concern them.
Vojvodina delegation visits Kranj, Ljubljana
A delegation from the Vojvodina Yugoslavia capital Novi Sad visited Slovenia on Thursday and Friday of this week. The delegation, led by President of the Novi Sad Municipal Assembly Boris Novaković, met with Kranj mayor Mohor Bogatej and local government, economic, banking and media representatives to discuss the possibilities for cooperation.
The group also met with Ljubljana mayor Viktorija Potočnik and representatives of the Ljubljana City Council. The delegation was especially interested in the organization and operations of Ljubljana's local government, since the Slovene capital is closer in size to Novi Sad than most other European capitals.
On Friday, the delegation was received by President Kučan and also visited the Economic Assembly of Slovenia. The delegation came at the invitation of the Slovene company Planik, which will open a store in Novi Sad in the near future. This was the first visit by local government officials from the Vojvodina since Slovene independence in 1991.
Drug use among school children
Shocking results of a study conducted among elementary schoolchildren about drug, tobacco and alcohol use were released this week. Only 6.6 percent of the children interviewed had never used drugs, tobacco or alcohol.
Regarding illegal drugs, about 26 percent of the schoolchildren said they have used marijuana or another drug at least once. Four percent said they have used ecstasy, all before the age of 14.
Almost 21 percent said they smoke cigarettes regularly. Seven percent said they started before the age of 12.
A full two-thirds of the children said they had been drunk, with six percent saying they had gotten drunk before age 11, another six percent at age 12. Most girls had not been drunk before age 15. A full percent had been taken to the hospital as a result of alcohol use.
Three percent of the school children admitted that alcohol use had led them to sexual experimentation. Two percent said they had had unprotected sex under the influence of alcohol.
And in other news...
- Among the victims of last week's tragedy in Kaprun Austria were four Slovene citizens. The four were between the ages of 26 and 33 and were from the towns of Polskava pri Mariboru, Slovenska Bistrica and Kamnik.
- Seven film directors published an open letter on Sunday in Delo, in which they expressed great disappointment that the Society for Slovene Film has decided yet again not to enter a Slovene film in the best foreign-language film category of the US Academy Awards. The directors stressed the advances Slovene film has made in recent years and feel that the Society should be doing more to encourage these advances.
- State Secretary for Economics Boris Šuštar, his wife and two others all appeared in court this week on charges of corruption. On 8 November, Šuštar was arrested after a month-long investigation in connection with a USD 100,000 bribe.
- Campaign costs were released this week, showing that the SLS+SKD spent the most of all parties for October's election, SIT 93.8 million (approx USD 470,000). The SMS, just formed in July, spent the least, SIT 9.9 million (approx USD 50,000). The election's major victor, the LDS, spent SIT 93.69 million (approx USD 469,000). All parties that participated in the elections were required to provide account information to parliament by 14 November.
Brian J Požun, 18 November 2000
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