Italian Senate adopts
On 14 February, the Italian Senate passed the long-awaited Global Law on the Protection of the Slovene Minority in Italy. Liberal MPs refuted more than 1700 points within the document disputed by Conservatives, ending the Slovene minority's 25-year struggle for minority rights. (See: Trieste's Burden of History in CER.)
The law's major feature is that it extends protection over all Slovenes in Italy, including those in the Udine region who have never before been protected. It also allows for a budget of ITL (Italian lira) 30 billion (EUR 44 million) for the minority.
Italy's Slovene civil society institutions and officials welcomed the law. While the most common reaction was relief and thankfulness, it was invariably followed by a degree of dissatisfaction. Many Slovenes and sympathetic Italians view the law as a major step forward, but a perception remains that there is still much room for improvement.
President Kučan welcomed the news, saying "today's achievement in the Italian Senate is a great achievement for Slovenes on both sides of the border as well as for a democratic Italy-for an Italy that is open to the world and has its sights set on the future."
The now month-old dispute over the appointment of Janez Čadež to the post of general director of Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVS) continued this week. Čadež's assistant, Igor Kadunc, told the daily Večer early this week that he would leave his job if the appointment was in fact supported by parliament.
Kadunc, referring to the Čadež investigation about alleged financial wrongdoings, also said that all of the allegations of the Syndicate of Journalists of RTVS are true, and that documents exist, which if ever made public, would easily prove that the Syndicate is right.
Čadež's current mandate as general director ends on 20 February and the Advisory Board of RTVS will name a stand-in at its session on 19 February, since parliament will not have had a chance to review the appointment by that time. Standard practice would be to simply allow Čadež to continue on in the interregnum, but due to the controversy, another person will be chosen.
Late this week, the Commission on Elections, Appointments and Administrative Questions (KVIAZ), a subsidiary body of parliament, voted against supporting the appointment.
With a vote of eight to four the Commission's vote took a strange shape. The opposition parties abstained, with the exception of the Nationalists (SNS), who voted against. The governing coalition was split, however. The leading Liberal Democrats (LDS) and most of the United List of Social Democrats voted against Čadež, while the conservative SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party voted for him, along with one member of the ZLSD.
Slovenia's culture of intolerance
The United Nations has named 2001 the Year of Combating Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia, a theme that has found a particular resonance in Slovenia. NGOs, including Amnesty International, have called for better treatment of refugees in the country for years, but that would merely be a cosmetic change. The underlying problem is Slovenia's culture of intolerance.
The process of European integration and the larger process of globalization have challenged the identities of nations and states. For Slovenia, the problem is magnified by the nation's trademark xenophobia. Over the years, several surveys have been carried out and all showed the same result: xenophobia is deeply ingrained into the Slovene national character.
One of the latest, conducted on 6 February and published in Mladina this week, showed that 55.6 percent of respondents think refugees should not be allowed freedom of movement. When asked where refugees should be settled, 31.2 percent said, "in specially built buildings outside of settlements;" 27.8 percent said, "in abandoned military installations and such structures;" and 14.1 percent went so far as to say, "nowhere—they should be sent home."
While it seems the majority does think this way, there are people fighting for tolerance. On 13 February, a charity soccer match was organized in the capital under the slogan "Fighting Xenophobia with a Ball," in which a team of journalists played a team of refugees.
Also this week, the Urad za Intervencije (Office of Intervention), a non-governmental organization formed in Ljubljana last year to deal with refugee issues, staged a rally in front of the refugee home on Celovški street in Ljubljana. On 21 February, they plan a larger rally at Ljubljana's Zvezda Park. Both rallies are intended to show solidarity with the refuges. However, the Urad believes real change will only come when the government formulates more effective policies.
And in other news...
- On 15 February, the Slovene Nationalist Party (SNS) announced that it would follow the lead of the other two opposition parties (the SDS and NSi) and refuse any position of leadership within parliamentary subsidiary bodies. Late last month, SDS and NSi MPs left leadership positions in parliament in protest. No SNS members hold such positions, but it was expected that the governing coalition would give them the abandoned posts.
- Maribor grade-school student Matjaž Stubičar thought he was the butt of an early April Fool's Day joke this week, when he got an invitation from Ambassador to the United States Davorin Kračun to visit Washington, DC. Kračun's wife had visited the boy's school earlier this year and gave a presentation on the United States. She was impressed with the child's debating skills and interest in the US, and decided to sponsor a visit for the child. Tourist agency Sonček and Radio City Maribor are donating the round-trip airfare. Stubičar's dream trip will start on 10 March.
- Andrej Blatnik, one of Slovenia's most important young writers, released his fourth collection of short stories this week, called Zakon Želje (The Law of Desire). Blatnik's earlier short story collection, Menjave Kož (Skinswaps), is one of the few pieces of Slovene literature that has been translated into English. (Buy Skinswaps on Amazon.com.)
- Film students are protesting the decision of the Slovene Film Fund to cut the budget for student productions at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) by two-thirds for this year. The Film Fund says the move was caused by the high cost of international cooperation. Notwithstanding, normal funding was allotted to Slovene film production and study-abroad programs to the US and the Czech Republic. It is hoped that either the Ministry of Culture or Education could provide additional funding. In recent years, AGRFT student works have been shown at several international film festivals.
Brian J Požun, 16 February 2001
- Archive of news reviews for Slovenia
- Archive of Brian J Požun's articles in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page