Speculation is rife about what exactly is written in the Pahor-Kosor agreement. In case you forgot, prime ministers of Slovenia and Croatia Borut Pahor and Jadranka Kosor agreed on an as-yet-undisclosed text of an “agreement of arbitrage” which is to serve as a roadmap to solve the border issue between the two countries. Since the word of the day is “silent diplomacy” the details of the agreement are kept secret. While this initially had some positive effect, it is now starting to work against the possibility of actually reaching a solution.
Borut Pahor and Jadranka Kosor. No matching clothes this time around (source)
Initially the two sides gained valuable wiggle-room keeping the lid on details of the text. This presumably allowed both governments to work out as many details as possible, without being pinned to the wall by the opposition (even within their own respective coalitions and/or parties). But since both countries claim to be parliamentary democracies, elected representatives of the people had to be included at some point. And it is only right that they should be. It’s called a system of checks and balances. However, at that particular moment the dangerous game of chess between Ljubljana and Zagreb becomes infinitely more complicated and requires playing multiple boards at once. Think 3-D chess from Star Trek.
Bear in mind that neither PM’s political position is not particularly strong. Borut Pahor is facing a rapidly disintegrating economy, ratings that going south even faster than the economy and a multitude of coalition problems which the opposition is obviously quick to take advantage of. Fact of the matter is that Slovenian politics has again turned into a myriad of under-the-belt punches and counter-punches. If the first few months of Pahor’s government were marked by punches being thrown between coalition members (think Ultra Affair and Veselinovič Standoff) the last couple of weeks are marked by heavy barrage between the government and the opposition (the sole exception being DeSUS, the pensioner’s party which is still trying to shoot itself on both knees).
The opposition (specifically, Janez Janša’s SDS) is busting the government’s ass over a series of budget rebalancing measures, failing economy, presumably ineffective measures to kick-start growth (lower the taxes! they say. Spend less!) and allegedly breaking the election promise not to start recalling CEOs and supervisors in state-own companies who were appointed by the previous government. In effect, the opposition is calling the government inept and hell-bent on keeping power at all costs, while Rome burns.
On the other hand the government (specifically, PM Boru Pahor) appears to be reeling from the blow of winning the elections and is trying to do something. As his and his government’s ratings are taking a dive, PM Pahor apparently decided to offset that by going for the holy grail (solving the border dispute with Croatia) while the opposition is suddenly facing charges of corruption. Branko Marinič, one of SDS’s MPs apparently “forgot” to pay maintenance costs for the parliament-owned flat he lives in while serving as MP. In all honesty, it doesn’t amount to much (less than 3k euros over a period of a couple of years), but it doesn’t look good due to the fact that he receives a big fat salary ever month and the fact that he is (how embarrassing) the head of parliamentary anti-corruption committee. The same Branko Marinič was accused months earlier of having someone else take a German test in his name at Kranj Faculty where he was completing his education. Although harmless in the long run, stories like these are rather inconvenient for Janez Janša and his SDS which is why the coalition is beating them over their heads with them. The real worry for Janez Janša is the Patria Affair, which apparently rattled his cage pretty hard, because he immediately launched a counter-offensive, part of which are also attempts to undermine the fragile consensus PM Pahor is trying to build around the arbitrage agreement with Jadranka Kosor.
The top chick in Croatian politics has her own set of problems at the moment, chief among them being that lingering doubt in her ability to lead – both her party (right-wing HDZ) and the country. This includes allegations that she is flirting with Pahor. Then there are added “bonuses” of rampant corruption and other yummy stuff one came to expect of a Balkan country in a transition period, not to mention the repeated lack of enthusiasm in cooperating with the Hague tribunal and you can see that once Slovenia lifted the blockade of Croatian EU negotiations the government in Zagreb lost immediate interest in solving the issue. Jadranka Kosor simply can not afford to open another battlefield on the home front. Not to mention the fact that Croatia is in the middle of a hot presidential race.
And this is where we get back to Slovenia. All of the above is a matter of public record. What is not publicly known are actual stipulations of the agreement. Both Pahor and Kosor have alluded to them broadly, with Pahor immediately starting to take flak over it. This only intensified after he had circulated the agreement amongst members of the parliamentary foreign and EU affairs committees who started leaking information about the content of the document left and right. Not the entire document, you see. Only parts of it. Naturally, those parts which serve the leaker’s particular interests.
In Slovenia most leaks were oriented into proving the document is damaging Slovenian vital interests. This prompted a series of harsh and high profile criticisms, most notably by France Bučar, former president of the parliament and “father” of Slovene constitution, who wrote that if he it were up to him he would have never signed the treaty which in effect cedes territory which is Slovenian beyond doubt. Bučar’s opinion caught a lot of interest, not only because of the man’s stature and reputation, but because he was known for not jumping the gun and often dismissing as trivial things which at the time seemed of great importance. So, his opinion carries weight.
Opinion of Marko Pavliha, an expert on maritime law, former transportation minister and a man generally thought to be supportive of the government goes along Bučar’s lines although it is much less lucid in making its point. The same goes for the opinion of Miro Cerar, the TV-savy legal expert who mostly advises the parliamentary legal service, who wrote that the agreement is hurting Slovenia and that the government played its hand extremely poorly.
On the other side of the border, however, Vesna Pusić, leader of Croatian Liberal Democrats (as well as heir presidential candidate), said that the content of the agreement was intimated to her by a source in Slovenia and that the document is a step back in protecting Croatian interests. Namely, contrary to Pahor, Kosor did not circulate the document among Croatian MPs, who – apparently resorting to their own devices – decided the agreement is hurting Croatian national interest. PM Pahor presumably tried to convince at least some of them to the contrary. Yesterday he visited Jadranka Kosor in Zagreb, but then met with his brother in leader of Croatian Social Democrats Zoran Milanović. Neither was available for comment after the meeting and this prompted even more speculation about what (if anything) Pahor achieved in Zagreb.
Which again brings us back to Slovenia, where Janez Janša said yesterday evening that lack of progress is a good thing, since Slovenian vital interests (i.e.: direct access to high seas) are not at all protected in the agreement.
They say that a country’s foreign policy is only an extension of its home policy. But in this case it is the other way around. We are witnessing a text-book information campaign, which is already bearing fruit. The leaks were carefully placed to incite negative reactions to the agreement and then sources of the leaks will quote those negative reactions as proof of the document being even worse than originally suspected.
It would be safe to assume that if the document really bordered on high treason, it would have been leaked to the media long ago by either side. So, bearing in mind that not a single person, who extensively criticises the agreement, actually saw the entire document, while those who did see it, do not venture beyond broad criticism, leads to only one conclusion. That most political parties on both sides of the border see the agreement as an inherent danger not to their respective countries’ vital interests, but to their own political agendas as they stand to lose an extremely good rallying point.