Trieste shifting closer to Slovenia
Even though the fate of Trieste (Trst) was finally decided in 1954 and the city fell into Italian hands, Slovenes never forgot about their former metropolis. The city, which at the end of the First World War had the largest urban Slovene population in the world, today is home to a small, but vocal, minority of Slovenes.
Slovenia has always been a staunch supporter of that minority, putting pressure on the Italian government to finally pass a law protecting it. The law is expected to come to a final vote in the coming days, and should it be passed, the Slovene minority in Trieste just might be in for a renaissance.
On 31 January, Trieste International Container Terminal (TICT), a company in which the Slovene port of Koper holds the largest share at 49 percent, was awarded with concession for the seventh pier of the port of Trieste. The Slovene press heralded the "occupation" of the seventh pier as the first substantial step in towards co-operation between the ports of Trieste and Koper, since a new life has now been given to several infrastructure projects between the two ports that thus far have existed only on paper.
Trieste mayor Riccardo Illy visited Koper mayor Dino Pucer this week to discuss these projects, the biggest being a rail link between the two cities that would form part of a larger line running from Venice and Milan to Ljubljana and beyond. The two also discussed plans to create a Euroregion on the Italian, Slovene and Croatian borders, the historic region of Istria, which would increase Italian Slovenes' contact with the mother country and would do much to help in the preservation and promotion of their minority identity.
Opposition steps down
A controversy that has been going on for almost two months ended this week with the resignations of several MPs of the two largest opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) from leadership positions in subsidiary parliamentary bodies.
The resignations were handed in at the conclusion of a session of the Committee for Elections, Appointments and Administrative Questions (KVIAZ), on 1 February. KVIAZ rejected the demands of the SDS and NSi to have majorities in two major subsidiary bodies of parliament.
Members of the SDS and NSi sent out press releases assuring the public that they will continue on as MPs and as members of parliamentary subsidiary bodies, however, they will no longer hold any leadership positions within parliament, its subsidiary bodies or any parliamentary delegations abroad.
Resignations were turned in by the president of the Oversight Commission of the Work of Security and Information Services, the president of the Committee on Defence, the vice-president of KVIAZ, the vice-president of the Committee on Internal Policies as well as by Dr Miha Brejc, one of three vice-presidents of parliament (all SDS members). The president of the Commission for Appeals (NSi member) also resigned.
"Today we have hit the bottom of our political culture—it is impossible to fall any further," Brejc told national wire service STA. In the daily Večer, Brejc was quoted as saying: "This method of working is understandable, given that a fictional democracy was developed here for 50 years and has continued on even today."
Replacements for the departing opposition leaders have not been named, though Večer received unofficial word that Brejc's position would be filled by either Zmago Jelinčič or Sašo Peče, both of the opposition Slovene Nationalist Party (SNS).
"We must remember our history, even our blood"
The highest-level official Russian delegation ever visited Ljubljana this week, led by Gennadyj Seleznjov, president of the Russian Duma. Seleznjov and his group met with President Kučan, Prime Minister Drnovšek, Ljubljana mayor Viktorija Potočnik, President of the National Assembly Borut Pahor and others.
In his meeting with Pahor, Seleznjov was unenthusiastic about Slovenia's bid for membership in NATO, which did not surprise Pahor: "Because of the official position of Moscow towards NATO expansion, we do not expect support for Slovene inclusion in NATO from our [Russian] friends, all we expect is understanding."
There was much discussion of politics and foreign policy, and economic co-operation between Russia and Slovenia was also high on the agenda. Russia is among Slovenia's top ten trading partners.
Seleznjov also called for closer Russian-Slovene relations. After meeting with Pahor, he told the press: "We must remember our history, even our blood," referring to the countries' post-Second World War Eastern-Bloc history and Slavic roots. Seleznjov also thanked Slovenia for continuing the tradition of the annual Russian-Slovene meeting at the Russian Orthodox church in Vršič.
After Prague, Ljubljana?
Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVS) advisory board last week re-elected Janez Čadež general director of the national television station. Čadež still has to be formally approved by parliament.
The move has elicited a sharp outcry from Slovenia's media community. The Syndicate of Journalists of RTVS began advising the advisory board more than 18 months ago about wrongdoings conducted during Čadež's last term as general director.
Petr Kopecky of Czech TV and Rajko Geric of RTVS on Thursday 1 February debated the similarities and differences between the situations in their countries, pointing out a striking paradox: whereas in the Czech Republic journalists were trying to restrict the influence of politicians on the workings of the station, journalists in Slovenia are pinning their last hopes on politicians: that parliament will respect the journalists' misgivings and refuse to approve Čadež's appointment.
US supports Slovene Civil Society
This week, seven Slovene NGOs were awarded US Democracy Commission Grants for projects to aid in the development of civil society in Slovenia and Southeastern Europe.
The winners are the Society of Slovene Writers, independent radio station Radio Študent, the Slovene Judicial Society, the Economic Assembly of Slovenia, the Center for the Study of Educational Strategies, the economic association Podjetnost and the Primorska-based NGO Rjeta.
US ambassador to Slovenia Nancy Ely-Raphael told the press that she would like to see Slovenia develop its own institutions further and to serve as a mentor for other states in the region. More than 40 NGOs competed for the grants that are valued at up to USD 22,000.
The tenth anniversary of the Union of Roma of Slovenia, the country's major Roma organization will be celebrated on 23 February in Murska Sobota.
The Union was formed as the Communist Party stepped back and allowed the political space in Slovenia to open up. The 1991 census showed 2293 Roma, and 2847 declaring Romany their mother tongue, although an accurate count of the number of Roma in Slovenia is impossible. Social services and local municipalities put the number at somewhere between 6500 and 7000. Most live in Prekmurje, near the border with Hungary.
The organization has undertaken numerous publishing and theatrical initiatives, including the magazine Romano Them (Romany News), Romano Kedijpe (Romany Almanac) and a collection of Romany plays called Ratfalu Paunji (Bloody Water).
And in other news...
Leader of the Slovene Nationalist Party (SNS), Zmago Jelinčič, visited Havana, Cuba, this week for a conference on globalization and development. Jelinčič met with Cuban officials to discuss Slovene-Cuban ties and the case of the two Czech citizens being held currently in Cuba.
Members of the Student Organizations of the Universities of Ljubljana and Maribor, the Youth Council of Slovenia, the Student Council of Ljubljana Student Housing Residents and the Student Council of Ljubljana University met last Friday to discuss the recent appointment of Slovene Youth Party (SMS) leader Dominik S Černjak to head the Agency for Youth Affairs.
On the recommendation of President Kučan, parliament approved three nominees for the post of judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg: Arne Mavčič, head of the legal information center of the Constitutional Court (55:19); law professor Anton Perenič (64:11); and the current judge, Boštjan Zupančič (60:17). After the final selection by a parliamentary group of the Council of Europe, the successful candidate will take on a six-year mandate, to begin on 1 October.
Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek and Finance Minister Tone Rop attended the World Economic Forum this week in Davos, Switzerland. Drnovšek held meetings with, among others, Yugoslav president Vojislav Koštunica and Croatian president Stipe Mesic. The Slovene delegation also participated in a discussion on renewal and stability in the Balkans.
The City of Ljubljana is to establish the Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana urban region, holding a 51 percent share in it. The Agency's establishment represents a major step forward in the government's controversial plan to establish a regional level of government.
Brian J Požun, 2 February 2001
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