Zagreb Summit begins
The Western Balkan Summit began on Friday 24 November in Zagreb. All 15 European Union (EU) member states are participating, along with representatives from Croatia, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Macedonia and Albania. Initially not on the guest list, a late invitation was sent and Slovene Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle will also attend. All other participating countries are sending heads of state or heads of government.
Slovenia has decided to participate as part of its goals of EU and NATO membership, as well as to help promote regional stability. The formal reason for Slovenia not being invited from the start was that the other successor states to the former Yugoslavia, together with Albania, have no firm relationship with the EU. Slovenia has already been an associate member for several years.
The Slovene delegation also decided to attend so as to be able to participate in any moves made during the summit towards the resolution of the problem of dividing the assets of the former Yugoslavia.
The big news from Friday's session was Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović's speech calling for recognition of a Montenegrin state.
The summit was initially conceived by French President Jacques Chirac this May as a meeting of heads of state of the successors to the former Yugoslavia. It would have been the first meeting of its kind, but an informal meeting in September, on the occasion of the UN's Millennium Summit, and other contacts since seem to have negated the necessity for such meeting. The focus was then shifted onto the possibility of EU membership for the Western Balkan countries.
More than 1000 journalists are in Zagreb to cover the summit, along with 5000 police officers and an expected 10,000 protesters.
Yugoslavia and Slovenia establish diplomatic relations
It was announced this week that Slovenia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have formally established diplomatic relations for the first time since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Belgrade attempted to recognize Slovenia in 1992, but Slovenia refused, protesting Belgrade's position that it was the sole legal successor to the former federal state.
The new Yugoslav regime's position that it is one of five legal successors to the old Yugoslavia has also breathed new life into the moribund talks on the division of the assets of former Yugoslavia, which restarted this week after a more than two-year halt.
Macedonia and Bosnia and Hercegovina, however, launched challenges to the methodology behind the distribution of Yugoslav assets this week, saying that the comparatively richer states, Slovenia and Croatia, will get an unfairly large share. Macedonia and BiH would prefer that the division be done according to GNP and population. The plan will be discussed in two weeks at a meeting of the heads of national banks of the Yugoslav successor states, in Belgrade.
Thursday was the municipal holiday of the city of Maribor, marking the 82nd anniversary of the victory of Slovene General Rudolf Maister over the Austrians on 23 November 1918. The victory secured the territory of Maribor for the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Yugoslavia.
A ceremony was held Thursday which featured a speech by Maribor mayor Boris Sovič, stressing the importance of Maister's feat for both Maribor and Slovenia. Sovič also laid a wreath at the base of a prominent statue of Maister.
A man-on-the-street poll conducted by the Maribor daily Večer, however, discovered that while everyone noticed the unusually large quantity of city and national flags around town, few actually knew what the occasion was. Of the six people asked, only one knew the reason for the holiday, and a second made a lucky guess.
NSK in Croatia
The Museum of Contemporary History in Zagreb opened an exhibit of the work of the Slovene art collective IRWIN, part of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) movement. The exhibit, called "Privitization of Time," is IRWIN's first exhibit in Croatia in more than ten years. IRWIN projects from the past five years form the core of the show.
The show's opening was marked by a project IRWIN dubbed the "NSK Army Zagreb," for which the group enlisted members of the Croatian army to raise the flag of the NSK State in Time in front of the museum. The State in Time is a pseudo-state with its own symbols and passports that exist only on paper. It was created by the NSK after the fall of Yugoslavia in 1991.
Similar "projects" were undertaken in Tirana in 1998 and earlier this year in Prague, both of which involved members of the respective country's army.
Slavicists meet in Slovenia
The International Commission for the Composing of the "Slavic Linguistic Atlas" met this week in Slovenia. The Commission meets annually, each time in a different country. 27 experts participated from every Slavic country except Bulgaria, which pulled out of the project last year for political reasons.
The Commission was established in 1958 in Moscow to map the nuances among the various Slavic languages. It has published three major works, an atlas of wild-animal terminology, one of domestic-animal terminology and a third, of plant terminology. The Commission also publishes a "Methods and Research" collection semi-annually.
The Slovene language is of particular interest to the Slavicists. With just under two million speakers, Slovene nevertheless has 25 dialects: 18 in Slovenia proper, three each in Italy and Austria and one more in Hungary.
And in other news...
- Early Monday morning, a group of drunken men shot into the Defense Ministry building, breaking two windows. No one was injured. Four men have been taken into custody in connection with the incident.
- The first two books published in Slovene are once again in Slovenia. As part of an exhibit to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the printing of the first two books in Slovene, Primož Trubar's Katekizm (Catechism) and Abecednik (Primer), the National Library of Austria agreed to loan the only two original copies in existence to the National Library of Slovenia. The exhibition was opened on Thursday by President Kučan.
- The Architectural Days festival is taking place from Friday to Sunday. This is the 18th annual festival, which includes lectures as well as a major exhibition at the Obalna Galerija, a photographic exhibition and an exhibit of student projects from the Architectural Faculty of the University of Ljubljana.
Brian J Požun, 24 November 2000
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