Coalition remains stable, for now
After a lengthy debate, leaders of the SLS+SKS Slovene People's Party announced this week that they will not take the party out of the governing coalition. They will, however, seek to play a greater role in the government.
SLS+SKD leaders are smarting over the decision of Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek to fire the heads of two highly influential state-run enterprises: the national postal system and the state telecommunications system, Telecom. Both positions were held by SLS+SKD members put in place by the previous government for political reasons.
The Telecom shakeup, done last month, was particularly felt by SLS+SKD leaders, who issued statements saying that it was in violation of their coalition agreement with Drnovšek's Liberal Democrats (LDS).
Having passed this hurdle, the coalition now appears to be reasonably stable. However, there are also problems between the LDS and another coalition partner, the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), which could also erupt in the coming weeks.
An LDS-led governing coalition collapsed last April, leaving the country without a government for almost three full months and nearly derailing the European Union membership bid. Should either the SLS+SKD or the ZLSD leave the current coalition, the country could easily find itself in the same position.
Slovene minority in Austria divided...
On Tuesday, a controversial agreement was reached between the Austrian authorities and the leaders of the Slovene minority. The Carinthian regional government and the two leading Slovene minority organizations, the Union of Slovene Organizations (ZSO) and the National Council of Carinthian Slovenes (NSKS), signed the agreement, which promises a continuing dialogue on open questions.
The agreement states that all open questions between the state and the minority are to be resolved within three years, during which time the minority has agreed not to send further complaints to the high courts.
Last December, Austria's Constitutional Court ruled that the government must pass a special regulation no later than 30 April 2001 on the use of Slovene as an official language in southern Carinthia (Koroška). As the government has not yet decided to honor the ruling, the agreement was sought as a temporary compromise.
Rudi Vouk, the head of the NSKS's highest body, the Assembly of National Representatives (ZNP), immediately denounced the agreement. He told the press that it clearly shows the "bankrupt policies" of both leading minority organizations. Vouk stressed that he will lobby within the NSKS to deny ratification of the agreement.
... while the Slovene minority in Hungary is doing just fine
A joint Slovene-Hungarian commission on minority questions met this week in the Hungarian town of Szentgotthárd (Monošter). The two-day meeting was the commission's sixth session. The Hungarian delegation was led by Tibor Szabó, the head of the Office of Hungarians Abroad. Magdalena Tovornik, a State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Slovene delegation.
Overall, it was agreed that both Hungarians in Slovenia and Slovenes in Hungary are faced by no particular threats and that considerable success has been achieved so far. Among the major achievements is the opening of several border crossings and the construction of first rail link between the countries, which is set to start operation on 16 May.
However, there remains much room for improvement. Slovenes in Hungary complain that several issues remain unresolved, among them the use of Slovene in religion and the lack of funding for Slovene-language programs on Radio Szentgotthárd. Hungarians in Slovenia complain that the government has yet to support the establishment of a museum and a library for the minority.
Both minority groups complain that there is a lack of textbooks in their native language, even though both enjoy the right to education in their languages. The two countries' culture ministries will establish a joint commission in the coming weeks to work towards making more textbooks available.
The commission also decided that both sides should review minority representation in parliament. Hungary, as yet, does not have representation for Slovenes in its parliament. And even though Slovenia does, there are several problems with the method of election of minority representatives.
Matjaž Rogelj indicted
Slovenia's erstwhile world champ in computer science, 22 year old Matjaž Rogelj, was formally indicted for fraud this week. Back in February, Rogelj first made headlines for winning a world championship in Rio, though days later he was back in the papers when it was discovered that no such championship existed (See Weird Science).
According to the indictment, Rogelj managed to secure more than USD 70,000 in funding from the Ministry of Education (USD 65,000), the City of Ljubljana (USD 500) and the Delo publishing house (USD 5000).
More than thirty people have been questioned in conjunction with the two-month investigation, however, Rogelj himself has refused to cooperate. He has also made no statement to the press since the beginning of the affair.
In addition to repaying the money taken from the Ministry of Education and others, Rogelj is facing a fine of more than USD 25,000 and up to eight years in prison. According to criminal suit procedures, prosecutors have the difficult task of proving that Rogelj intended to defraud from the very beginning. A second, civil suit should go much more smoothly, as prosecutors must simply prove he committed the crime.
Brian J Požun, 11 May 2001
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