The country spent the week putting the finishing touches on its preparations for Saturday's United States-Russia summit. The site of the summit was announced late in the week, and as expected Brdo pri Kranju has been chosen. The primary reason is its out-of-the-way location, which facilitates security.
United States President George Bush is expected to arrive first, at 12:15 CET, followed 45 minutes later by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Slovene President Milan Kučan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek will meet both dignitaries at Ljubljana's Brnik airport, and then will hold bilateral talks at Brdo. Bush and Putin will then hold their own talks, followed by a press conference and a reception. By 19:00 CET, both will have left the country.
The press coverage promises to be massive. Dnevnik reports that as of Friday, more than 1100 journalists had been given accreditation. Of those, 150 are from the US and 100 from Russia.
To accommodate them, Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom is hosting a press center with 250 workstations and 150 computers with internet access. A further 100 telephone lines will be available to enable internet access for portable computers. A special intranet has also been established for the press.
Security measures remain classified, but will be presented to the public upon the completion of the summit.
The primary security concern is the number of protesters expected, though no real trouble is expected. The major demonstrations are expected to be those of the Urad za Intervencije (See Alexei Monroe's Office Politics), which plans a march through the center of Ljubljana and protest bonfires at the city's Metelkova complex and at other sites.
Their demonstrations will technically be illegal, since the authorities in Ljubljana refused them a permit. However, UZI also staged its February demonstration in support of refugees without a permit and that went off without incident.
Several thousand are expected to participate, including delegations from Italy, Croatia and elsewhere. However, early reports seem to indicate that the number of foreigners will be at a minimum. A group from Belgium has already been denied admittance to the country by border guards, and this seems to be part of a larger trend to restrict the number of protesters coming from abroad.
In an interesting footnote, Delo reported on Friday that both Amnesty International and Umanotera were refused permits by the City of Ljubljana to set up information booths during the summit. The notification came only on Wednesday, coincidentally (or not) the deadline for permit applications, thereby denying them the possibility of finding alternate locations.
Amnesty hoped to draw attention to the human rights records of the US and Russia, while Umanotera planned to draw attention to environmental concerns such as the Kyoto Protocol.
Students take to the streets
UZI started its weekend protests early, joining the student demonstrations that ran in Ljubljana and Maribor from Tuesday to Thursday. The students have a long list of complaints and demands, but the basic issue stems from the poor response of the government to the explosion of the number of students in the past decade.
Among the most important issues at hand is a proposed increase in the cost of university education and elimination of the tax-free status of student income and financial aid. Further, demonstrators tried to muster support for a proposal to create a credit system to finance education. They are also demanding an increase in the amount and quantity of stipends coupled with the establishment of conditions to ensure long-term capacity.
As the number of students more than doubled from 1991 to 2001, the number of stipends rose only by a quarter.
Also on the agenda was the need for more housing at more affordable prices, as current estimates show that upwards of 4000 new housing units are needed.
The process of accession to the European Union was also mentioned during the demonstrations. Students are demanding measures to protect their position after entry into the EU in the long term and more participation of students in the process of EU accession in the immediate term.
Saturday: D-Day for artificial insemination
The week of protests began on Tuesday with student demonstrations and continued on Saturday with demonstrations during the summit, but they will end on Sunday with an equally important issue: the referendum on giving single women access to artificial insemination treatments.
On 19 April, parliament passed changes to the Infertility Treatment Act adopted last July by Andrej Bajuk's government in order to give single women access to artificial insemination, bringing the country back in line with the 1977 Law on Health-Related Measures to Realize the Right to Freedom of Choice in Childbirth, adopted while Slovenia was still part of Yugoslavia, which allowed single women access.
Due to the outrage of conservative parties, the matter will be decided once and for all in Sunday's referendum. A "for" vote indicates support for the amendments, while an "against" vote indicates opposition to allowing single women to be artificially inseminated.
A poll published on Saturday in Dnevnik indicates that 54 percent of eligible voters will participate, with an additional 9.7 percent undecided. However, taking into account the turnout rates of past referenda, a rate of only 30 to 40 percent is actually predicted.
Agreement with Croatia
Fortunately, the news that the outstanding question of the Krško nuclear power plant (JEK) was seemingly resolved on Saturday did not stir up any further protests. At a meeting in Rijeka, Prime Minister Drnovšek and his Croatian counterpart Ivica Račan set the date of 20 July to initial a bilateral agreement which would solve the problem.
Under the terms of the agreement, Slovenia and Croatia will become co-owners, each with a 50 percent stake as of 1 January 2002. Electricity is to be provided to Croatia from the plant no later than 1 July 2002. The supply line to Croatia was shut off in 1998, after Ljubljana tried to demand payment for the electricity Zagreb received the previous year. Zagreb insisted that it was a co-owner of JEK and as such was not liable for payments.
And in other news...
- This week saw the 12th annual commemoration of the Kocevski Rog massacre near Novo Mesto. The massacre took place in October 1945, when a group of prisoners of war opposed to the communist take-over were returned to Yugoslavia. The exact number executed by Tito's partisans is unclear, though estimates range from a conservative 8,000 to a questionably high 30,000. More than 4000 attended the event, including most major figures of Slovenia's conservative parties.
- Beginning 15 June, regular train service was restored between Slovenia and Bosnia and Hercegovina. Rail service within Bosnia was eliminated during the war in the 1990s, and only now is it slowly returning to life. For the time being, a direct route from Ljubljana to Banja Luka and Doboj will run on Fridays, returning on Sundays. Trains will run daily from Ljubljana to Sarajevo, making a connection in Zagreb.
- The 24 International Graphic Biennial opened this week at sites throughout Ljubljana. Among the highlights is a solo exhibit by the winner of the 1999 Biennial, Richard Hamilton. The first show of the work of Andy Warhol in Slovenia is also on the schedule of the Biennial. The show was prepared by the Andy Warhol Museum of Pittsburgh, United States.
- The Zlate Peteline music awards were presented on 13 June in Koper. Among the winners in the 19 categories were Nuša Derenda (who represented Slovenia at the recent Eurosong competition) for record of the year, and Shayam for best rock album. The band Siddharta won for performer of the year, and Tabu for best debut.
Brian J Požun, 15 June 2001
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