Ombudsman calls for tolerance
The newly appointed Ombudsman for Human Rights, Matjaž Hanžek, made his first public statement this week, calling for tolerance. The statement was in response to acts of vandalism earlier in the week in Koper, where bilingual Slovene/Italian signage was vandalized.
Hanžek regretted that this had to be his first public statement, but stressed that citizens of Slovene nationality are the majority and therefore bear most of the responsibility for the good of all of the inhabitants of the state.
The Črnomelj Institute for Education and the Italian NGO Nova Frontiera Alisei held a two-day international conference on education and the Roma last weekend in Črnomelj. Groups from around Slovenia, Italy, Macedonia and Romania participated.
Conference participants all agreed that the key to full integration of Roma is education. Mladen Tancer, an expert from Maribor, told the conference that Slovenia has done much to give Roma access to education, but much remains to be done.
Doctor Dilbera Kamberovska, the head of the Macedonian Union of Roma Women, said that Slovenia must take steps similar to those of Macedonia, which have empowered the Roma to take charge of their own social integration. She agreed that education was the most important thing, saying: "When the Roma are educated, things will change very quickly."
The 1991 census showed 2282 Roma and 2840 declaring Romany their mother tongue in Slovenia. Social services and local municipalities, however, put the number at somewhere between 6500 and 7000. Most live in Prekmurje, near the border with Hungary, and in Bela Krajina, on the border with Croatia.
Made in Slovenia
The daily Dnevnik published a pessimistic appraisal of Slovene goods on the international market on Monday, under the title "Made in Slovenia." The article states that apart from the old Yugoslav market, where Slovenia made its name long ago, Slovene businesses abroad are having trouble competing due to the lack of brand-name recognition and the country's lack of a reputation abroad.
The article states that items stamped "Made in Slovenia" could even hurt the product on the international market, given the international public's general ignorance of the country.
According to research conducted by the Kline & Kline agency, 82 per cent of Slovenes prefer to buy domestic goods because of quality. However, even though Slovene goods are generally of similar quality to Western European products, the article points out that consumers are also attracted to the symbolic value of name brands, which Slovene goods lack.
The younger generation is more attracted to internationally prominent names, which could pose a threat to most domestic goods.
However, Slovene goods remain attractive on the former Yugoslav market. Kline & Kline research shows 80 per cent of Serbs would buy Slovene goods based on familiar brand names and the country's reputation. Also, recently-opened Mercator stores in Bosnia and Croatia have been highly successful since Slovenia made its name in those places long ago.
And in other news...
- On 26 February, the governor of Russia's Moscow Region, Boris Gromov, led a delegation on a three-day official visit to Ljubljana. Gromov met with various politicians and business people, including Ljubljana mayor Viktorija Potočnik, with whom he signed a Protocol on Friendship and Cooperation between the Moscow Region and Ljubljana. Last May, Potočnik visited Moscow mayor Jurij Lužkov and signed a similar agreement.
- The controversy that ended on 1 February with the resignations of several opposition MPs from leadership positions in subsidiary parliamentary bodies of parliament seemingly ended this week. The parties announced this week that they view the new Law on Parliamentary Procedure as a workable compromise. The law gives opposition parties more rights in oversight bodies, and the opposition maintains that had it been passed earlier, the whole controversy could have been avoided. It is still uncertain when the opposition MPs will be able to reclaim their leadership functions, but it could happen as early as next week.
- As of 1 March, local authorities began issuing Slovenia's new passport. The new passport is entirely the product of domestic designers and producers, and fully complies with EU standards. The prior passport had become a sought-after item on the black market, and so the new document includes more comprehensive security features. The Ministry of Internal Affairs predicts as many as 500,000 new passports will be issued this year, with 700,000 more being issued next year. The old passport will be valid until August of 2002.
Brian J Požun, 5 March 2001
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