Crisis at RTV Slovenija
Three weeks ago, the advisory board of Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVS) re-elected Janez Čadež as general director of the national television station, with 13 of 25 votes. Čadež still has to be formally approved by the parliament, which should occur some time after 20 February. In the meantime, unions and syndicates across the country are leading a public debate over what course parliament should take.
The Syndicate of Journalists of RTVS is leading the campaign to compel parliament to take charge of the situation, investigate further and ultimately refuse to approve Čadež's appointment. It feels that as an investigation is currently being conducted by a court of audit into alleged financial wrongdoings in Čadež's previous term, it is improper for him to be re-elected to another.
The Syndicate maintains that he has done nothing to improve working conditions at RTVS, and has complained that he stresses sports and entertainment programming over news and information.
A number of other unions and syndicates have voiced support for the Syndicate of Journalists of RTVS. Among them are the nationally prominent Union of Free Syndicates of Slovenia, the journalists' union of the Delo publishing house and even the Police Syndicate of the Podravja region.
However, the unions and syndicates do not have a united front. This week, the executive committee of the Syndicate of Radio Workers, the membership of which includes the technical staff of RTVS, gave a statement supporting Čadež and the RTVS advisory board.
A spokesman for the radio employees' syndicate said that Čadež was elected by a legitimate and democratically elected advisory board and that all candidates for the position had had equal opportunities. The Syndicate also called on parliament to respect existing legislation rather than political interests in debating Čadež's fate.
Interestingly, while Čadež's opponents are fiercely against his appointment, they have not given their support to any other candidate. Marjan Rekar had been Čadež's primary competition in the vote. Presumably he still is, though no official statement has been given by the various syndicates and unions.
In an interview with the weekly newsmagazine Mladina, Čadež said that he had been condemned by the journalists to be the "sacrificial lamb" for whatever financial improprieties may or may not have gone on. Čadež said that he had no direct involvement in any of the incidents under investigation and that he had a clear conscience.
Čadež also stressed the accomplishments of his first term in the interview. Among other things, more parking had been provided for workers, the broadcasting network was upgraded and teams were established in the regional centers of Maribor and Koper.
At a meeting two weeks ago, representatives of Czech TV, where a similar dispute flared up at the end of December 2000, and RTVS debated the similarities and differences between the situations in their respective countries. The most striking point that emerged from the debate was that while in the Czech Republic, journalists tried to restrict the influence of politicians on the workings of the station, journalists in Slovenia are calling for politicians to intervene to halt Čadež's appointment.
The situation in Slovenia for now is not as dramatic as in the Czech Republic. Parliament can still oppose the appointment, distinguishing the Slovene case even more from its Czech counterpart. But if this does not happen, protests similar to those in Prague could still erupt in Ljubljana. However, as much as Czech civil society has diminished in recent years, Slovene civil society has diminished even more, and it is unclear whether the public would take up the cause.
Due to budgetary problems, the census scheduled to begin on 31 March has been deferred until next year. This is the first year since 1961 that the census will not be carried out as planned.
It is expected that the 2001 (now 2002) census will cost about SIT (Slovenian tolar) 2.5 billion (USD 10.8 million), and some 12,000 workers will be needed.
Development in northern Primorska
The Northern Primorska Network of Regional Development Agencies in Idria met this week to approve an employment program and a budget for regional development activities for the period 2002-2006. Mayors and delegations from 19 towns in the area took part.
The budget for the period amounts to some SIT 16 billion (USD 69 million), which is to be amassed by the towns involved.
Maribor: crime is down
Maribor Mayor Boris Sovič and the director of Maribor's police administration, Milan Čuš, gave a press conference this week, in which they announced that the final statistics from 2000 show crime has fallen dramatically in Maribor since the previous year.
3787 crimes were committed in the city of Maribor in 2000—a 15 percent drop from 1999. The national average rose by 9.3 percent between 1999 and 2000.
Crimes committed by minors in Maribor decreased by almost 60 percent between 1999 and 2000.
EU membership will help regions
The head of the EU's PHARE program in Slovenia, Gianluca Grippa, addressed a conference called "Podravja's Economy and the European Union's Regional Policies" this week in Podravja's main city, Maribor.
The EU puts about one-third of its annual budget into regional development. Maribor and its Podravja region already benefit from regional development funds provided through PHARE but stand to gain even more when Slovenia enters the EU and is integrated into the Union's regular budget.
Maribor Mayor Boris Sovič also addressed the conference but was not nearly as upbeat. He took the opportunity to criticize Slovenia's lack of a functioning regional structure and express his dissatisfaction with the country's regional policy.
He stressed that Maribor and Podravja are particularly in need of effective regional development policies, as the region's economy is quite depressed, and unemployment is consistently above the national average.
Brian J Požun, 9 February 2001
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