Opposition threat still stands
Last week, the two largest opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), threatened to pull their people out of Parliament's subsidiary bodies if they were not accorded a majority in two important oversight bodies within Parliament before 25 January. The controversy hinges on whether the Slovene Youth Party (SMS) is to be considered part of the opposition or not.
The SMS has not signed a formal coalition agreement, and so the coalition partners count SMS as part of the opposition. However, it has signed an agreement of cooperation with the coalition, so the SDS and NSi maintain that it cannot be properly considered part of the opposition either.
The Committee for Elections, Appointments and Administrative Questions (KVIAZ) met on 22 January and discussed the question for almost two hours without coming to any agreement.
Borut Pahor, chairman of Parliament, told Slovene press agency STA that the announcement of the two opposition parties can be seen as an ultimatum, but ultimatums are unacceptable and no way for Parliament to operate.
Duty-free shops to remain open
On Thursday, Parliament decided to extend the deadline for the closure of duty-free shops on the borders with Italy and Austria from 31 March to 31 May 2001. The official reason is that there was not enough time to pass the draft law on stores at border crossings. However, the fact that there has been tremendous resistance to the plan certainly played a role.
The shops must be closed in order for Slovenia to complete the negotiating chapters on the taxation and customs union with the European Union. Initially, Slovenia told the EU it would have the shops closed by 1 July 1998, and ever since, the deadline has been extended.
The government would like to have the shops closed as soon as possible, but leaders from the border regions are pushing to have the shops stay open right up to the day that Slovenia joins the EU. The closure of the duty-free shops promises to increase unemployment in areas where unemployment is already well above the national average, and to reduce tourism revenues in the border areas.
No official Croat minority
On Thursday, the chairman of the Sabor (the Croatian parliament), Zlatko Tomić, became the latest Croatian politician to call for official recognition of the Croat minority in Slovenia. Chairman of Parliament Borut Pahor became the latest Slovene politician to announce that such a move is impossible at present.
Last year, Croatia recognized its Slovene minority in its Law on Minorities, and ever since has been calling for Slovenia to do the same, in the spirit of reciprocity.
Currently, Slovenia recognizes two national minorities—Italians and Hungarians. Both are considered essentially indigenous to their land and live in compact settlements. Other minority groups in Slovenia, including the Croats, are scattered around the country and mostly arrived as industrial migrants throughout the last century.
Brian J Požun, 26 January 2001
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