On Wednesday Slovene parliament formed a committee which is to investigate suspicions of corruption in actions of minister of science, technology and higher education Gregor Golobič. Championed by opposition SDS, this committee is a direct result of the Ultra Affair, where Golobič shot himself in the knee by omitting from his public statements a 7% ownership of company Ultra. Although it subsequently transpired that he had reported his share to the anticorruption commission (an independent agency), all hell broke loose, especially after allegations surfaced that Ultra got 21 million euros in unsecured loans. Although Ultra divulged information proving otherwise (6 milion euros in loans, with proper collateral), the media and political rampage had started, with Golobič being styled as a tycoon (a Slovenian version of an oligarch).
We will be seeing more of Golobič in this particular setting (source: 24ur.com/POPTV)
Winston Churchill once famously said that if you want to bury something, you should form a committee. In this case, however, the purpose of the committee seems to be exactly the opposite: to prolong this Ultra/Golobič business beyond any reasonable limits. OK, so you could say that the whole thing has become so muddled with disinformation, omissions and outright lies that it warrants a parliamentary inquiry. After all, the man is a government minister and should be as such subject to more public scrutiny than the rest of us mortals. To be sure, when scribing for the only Sunday rag this side of the Alps, pengovsky submitted that parliament should debate the business at hand and that it should be Zares, Golobič’s party which should start the debate in the form of interpelation of their own minister. Thus would both Golobič as well his opponents be given a chance to confront their views (to cross the swords, if you will) and get it over with.
However, opposition leader Janez Janša ruled out the possibility of interpelation quite early in the game. Somewhat surprisingly, he was quite candid about his motives when he said that interpelation of Gregor Golobič woud have achieved nothing, since the coalition would surely have supported their minister and the work and debates of the opposition would have been in vain. When considering this rare outburst of generous truthfulness by Janez Janša, one should keep in mind that it took place shortly after minister of interior Katarina Kresal survived her own interpelation and vote of confidence, which could have left Janša a bit dejected. On the other hand, it was only months before the wedding and he could have been focusing on other thin….err…. people 😈
Be that as it may, the fact remains that JJ’s imitation of Frank and Ernest clearly showed that the newly minted Mr. Bačovnik is not interested in debating or clearing up the Ultra affair, but only in removing Gregor Golobič from power, which basically confirms the original thesis, that the committee called for by SDS serves one purpose and one purpose only: to keep the Ultra affair artificially alive long after its echoes would have died down of their own accord. Namely: this particular committee (call it Golobič Committee) will exist for the duration of this parliament, which means that its findings (insofar as there will be any) will be published just before 2012 parliamentary election campaign will begin. No points for guessing what the opening salvo by SDS will look like.
Being called before a parliamentary investigative committee can be an gruesome ordeal, especially, if you are the subject of an investigation, which Gregor Golobič is. Incidentally, this is the first time such a committee was formed to investigate a specific person rather than an event or a series of events involving one or more public officials. Thus a sort of taboo was broken and the opposition will no doubt do its damnest to make it their worth while and make life extremely unpleasant for minister Golobič. My favourite prime minister is a great source of applicable quotes, as PM Borut Pahor so often reminds us. Among other things Winston also said that if you should find yourself in hell, keep going. Which is precisely what minister Golobič will have to do for the next four years. One would think that being a party president is punishment enough but apparently that was not the end. It wasn’t even the beginning of an end, but it was merely an end of a beginning (sorry, I couldn’t resist :)).
So what Gregor Golobič can do is to attend every single hearing, provide every single piece of information and answer all questions at length, no matter how stupid, inflammatory and biased they might be. And trust me, since the committee will most likely be stuffed with opposition heavyweights, the whole thing might from time to time easily look a bit a trial by the Spanish Inquisition. Odds are that more details about his ownership in Ultra will emerge, which will be interpreted in the most sinister way possible. It is also entirely probable that his own party will start questioning Golobič and his ability to lead. Not that Zares has much to choose from in terms of leaders (in this respect they’re like any other Slovenian party) but that has never stopped short-sighted egoists from trying to claim their twenty pieces of silver.
I will be thoroughly surprised if Branko Grims (Janša’s chief attack dog and Goebbels wannabe) will not be a member of the committee and even more thoroughly surprised if he will not repeat over and over that a) Ultra took out 21 million euros of unsecured loans, b) that Golobič’s share of Ultra is worth some 5 million euros and c) that this makes Golobič a tycoon. The fact that none of the above is true bear little or no relevance to Grims who (to add insult to injury) is partly related to Golobič (their wives are cousins, apparently) and who will no doubt ignore every evidence refuting claims of the opposition, driving home the message of a corrupt and incompetent left government, personified in this case by that horrible übertycoon Golobič.
BTW: in case you’re interested, based of publicly available information one can conclude the following: a) Ultra claims to have taken out 6 million euros worth of loans with propper collaterals and has provided data to corroborate. b) Golobič’s share of Ultra is worth (according to a rough estimate based of their 2008 report) either 180.000 euros (7% of company capital) or 1,8 million euros (7% of total company assets), depending on how you estimate a company’s value and c) while there is no textbook definition of a tycoon in Slovene political terminology (making the term applicable according to daily needs, predominantly those of Janša’s SDS) it was generally accepted that Slovenian tycoons have attempted to buy out state owned (or partly state owned) companies they ran. The buy out would usually take place in the form of an MBO which was financed by unusually generous loans from several banks, at least some of which are state owned too. That is how Janez Janša while he was Prime Minister helped transform Boško Šrot and Igor Bavčar from more or less successful managers into full-fledged tycoons (Slovenian style), leaving it to the current government to clean up the mess. Gregor Golobič, on the other hand, does not fit the above description, as 1) he has no direct role in running Ultra, 2) the comapny is not nor was never state owned.
While media and (by extension) the public will suck up every detail about the alleged millions, the whole story probably still has to do with Golobič bringing the Directorate of Communication under his control. Pengovsky maintains that was probably one of the few sound moves this government did so far, but Golobič is bound to take some serious flak for it, especially since the opposition will maintain that he did it to ease access to government money to Ultra. The problem is that there is no way Golobič can prove in advance that he didn’t do it for precisely that reason. He can of course give his word that this is not the case, but at the moment that isn’t saying much, given the fact that he has a credibility problem.
Pengovsky already wrote that had Golobič really had sinister motives, he’d have left the Directorate where it was: within the ministry of commerce, headed by his party colleague Matej Lahovnik. Moving the Directorate only brought unnecessary attention to it, which is something he and Ultra would have wanted to avoid if they really had sinister motives. So, rationally speaking, the very fact that Golobič moved the Directorate under his control indicates that he did it for all the right reasons. Naturally, the opposition and most of the media will probably not see it that way, which means that minister of science will have to weather that one out and hope that the message will somehow get through. It would help, of course, if Ultra indeed doesn’t do business with Golobič’s ministry, although legally there is nothing that can prevent it from applying for tenders. A company becomes illegible for doing business with the government only when a public official owns 20% share or higher. Gregor Golobič, as noted above, owns about 7% of Ultra.
So, while minister Golobič was less than candid when (not) revealing his ownership of Ultra, the opposition is preparing to drag him through the mud for the next three and a half years, not seeking the truth, but rather seeking to neutralise Golobič politically. It is quite possible, though, that they bit off more than they can chew. Golobič is not your average Slovenian political twat who doesn’t know his ass-hole from his ear-hole, but a highly intelligent individual, who is capable of tearing his opponents to pieces rhetorically. He is also capable of making members of the committee nervous and make them look like bunch of buffoons. And while he runs the risk of being overwhelmed by sheer volume of stupidity which is bound to emerge during the lifetime of this committee (pengovsky often warns about stupid people in large groups), I can hardly wait for remakes of “mortadella” exchanges.
For the uninitiated: in early nineties, when the newly minted democratic coalition ran the country, it tried to find people responsible for arresting Janez Janša in 1988. Specifically, it tried to pin the blame on then-President Milan Kučan and Stane Dolanc. In 1988 Kučan was head of the Communist Party in Slovenia, while Dolanc (A Slovenian Party heavyweight) was federal interior minister in Belgrade. The two conversed often, and the committee was for some reason interested in one particular debate, trying to establish a link between Kučan and Janša’s arrest via Dolanc. When asked about it, Kučan calmly replied that he and Dolanc were talking about how to slice a prosciutto, while Dolanc said that Kučan was wrong and that they talked about how to cut up mortadella: in slices or in cubes. The answers completely baffled and humiliated members of the committee, who until that time failed to realise that they were barking up the wrong tree.
We’ll see if the political right wing learned anything from their previous failures. Maybe they’ll finally be able to come up with a half-decent investigative committee. Or maybe, they’ll stick to what they know and prove once again that the harder they try, the dumber they look. How will we know? Simple: If the opposition will again try to use the famous quote by Slavoj Žižek against Gregor Golobič. Years ago this world-famous Slovene philosopher said of Golobič (they’re great friends, btw) that he sees him as Slovene Stalin. While it was more than obvious that it was meant as a joke, Janša and the entire opposition failed to get it and interpreted it literally. That’s how dumb they can be.