The moment of truth has finally arrived. Slovenia plays Russia tonight in the second and final leg of additional qualifiers for Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa. The first leg way played Saturday last in Moscow and Slovenia lost narrowly 2-1, after (admittedly) being the lesser team for most of the game. But all it took was a moment of confusion in the ranks of Guus Hiddink’s squad side and Slovenia’s Nejc Pečnik evened the odds with an away goal. So, tonight is the big night. It’s so big, that Dmitri and Roman will be coming. This obviously means that Danilo and Zoran won’t be far away. But perhaps most importantly: if home side wins tonight, Borut promised to polish their shoes. Each and every one of them. Now that’s something a lot of people would pay to see.
But in the end, it will all be about football. Slovenia has already qualified to Euro 2000 finals and World Cup 2002 in Japan and Korea. Facilitating this were some of the most amazing goals ever seen. Goals, which for a moment made people think that God really exists. And that she roots for Slovenia.
“David Beckham, where are you now?!” (Eurosport comentator during Slovenia v. Ukraine qualifier)
The first anniversary of Borut Pahor’s government is fast approaching and the media is appropriately teeming with analysis. Pengovsky will chip in his two eurocents later in the week, but given the interest in the post about the new family code, I think I should bring my esteemed readership up to speed on the issue.
After the code was drafted, it was submitted to public debate, which did precious little to either calm the fears of those who oppose the new law, or to let those who support it be heard. It was as if everybody just threw away their ponchos and turned out to be armed to their teeth. The opponents’ arguments remained basically the same: family is a union of a man and a woman with one or more children, having it any other way means hurting the kids. The supporters, however, claim that expanding the definition of a family (including but not limited to homosexual couples) will be beneficial to children.
Admittedly, the debate on this 266-pages-long document (font-size 11, Slovene only) was overshadowed by the debate on Pahor-Kosor agreement, which might have something to do with the fact that both camps dug in and are holding fast. But fact of the matter is that the debate went sour predictably fast and that although there seems to have been some initial goodwill on behalf on proponents of the legislation on actually hearing the other side, it dwindled before you can say “adoption by same-sex couples”.
This basically leaves the project in the hands of the coalition, which will probably have to resort to its majority in the parliament and give up hope on reaching at least partial some sort of consensus with the opposition. The latter would probably say that it would support the new code if the same-sex provision were stricken, whereupon the coalition would have probably responded by saying that those provisions are the whole point of the legislation, which would bring us back to square one.
Needless to say that the right wing parties (specifically, NSi and SLS) are threatening to call a referendum on the issue, but it is probably safe to assume, that the Constitutional Court would ban the referendum on the grounds that its result could discriminate against rights of same-sex couples, just as it did when it deliberated on the law on registering same-sex unions. Should a petition to hold a referendum be submitted, the court is widely expected to say that a majority cannot curb rights of a minority.
And a good thing too. According to Dnevnik daily, as much as 2/3 of Slovenes oppose the right of same-sex couples to adopt children. Go figure
Slovenia’s new “corporate identity”. For the time being… (source)
Some ten days ago the government chose its new logo and design. Created by Gigodesign, the design is rational, simple and technically universal. It establishes a clear and recognisable system of visual communication. It allows for easier management of public administration’s comprehensive graphic identity, saves time and optimises costs. At least, that’s what the government press release says.
pengovsky says the new design is slick, likeable and provides ample opportunity to make fun of. Case in point being the images below, which landed in my mailbox this morning via the good doctor 😈
In the past few days Slovene opposition parties, spearheaded by Slovene People’s Party (SLS) led by Radovan Žerjav were becoming ever more adamant in demanding a referendum on the Pahor Kosor agreement. They aimed to call a consecutive referendum (i.e.: after the parliament would have ratified the agreement), making its results binding. Pengovsky already noted that in order to call a consecutive referendum, SLS would have to get support of at least 30 MPs, which means that it must get Janez Janša’s SDS on board, as that party alone has 28 MPs. But although Janez Janša has been making noises of agreement, has so far not confirmed that his party would chip in its 28 signatures for a referendum bid. Probably thinking that he can have the cake and eat it, Janša is counting on SLS collecting 40.000 voters’ signatures without him and his party appearing to disregard the country’s interests. Slightly unexpectedly, however, yesterday the government of Borut Pahor struck back.
Debate on yesterday’s Odmevi programme on RTVSLO (source)
In all honesty, “struck back” might be overstating it a bit. Rather than a proper Chuck-Norris-style-roundhouse-kick in the head, the government delivered more of a half-botched pussy-punch, the sort one aims at his enemy’s plexus, but which invariably lands on their upper thigh. Or something like that. Namely, in what was apparently a Monday all-nighter, coalition parties decided to call a consultative referendum on Pahor Kosor deal. Which would be all fine and dandy, hadn’t there been one slight detail – while consecutive referendum is legally binding, a consultative referendum (as the name implies) is not.
Had all things been equal, this would have been a sound decision – get the voters’ opinion, possibly obey it, but keep the door open if a sudden opportunity to capitalise on the deal arises. However, things are not equal. Opposition was screaming for a referendum as it was and by calling it themselves, coalition members gave the impression of buckling under pressure. The reality is that the referendum move takes the wind out of opposition sails. Especially after some polls showed that a majority of votes are actually in favour of the referendum (rebuking Janša’s earlier threats about the referendum result being a foregone conclusion). However, by closing one flank, the government opened up on another and immediately drew fire on why did it sign the deal in the first place if it felt it would have to ask the people about it.
Things were not helped by the fact that the draft of the referendum question is incomprehensible to say the least. Recapping basic points of the deal, it does its best to confuse anyone who is not familiar with specific stipulations of the agreement. It is now emerging that the actual question will probably be a lot simpler, but the damage had been done. And to top it all, PM Pahor complicated everything even further, by saying that he’d been willing to withdraw the referendum bid if the opposition would withdraw its bid. So, no matter how you look at it, a lot of people will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do…
Not that everything is ticking like clockwork on the opposition side. Pengovsky’s suspicions that Janša’s SDS has not completely rejected the Pahor Kosor deal grew even stronger yesterday after watching a debate on state television, where president of SLS Radovan Žerjav went into full attack mode, while SDS’ Zvonko Černač (the Big Kahuna himself was curiously missing) somewhat unexpectedly harshly criticised the government for splitting the people into proponents and critics of the agreement, rather than striving to reach a consensus on the issue. On the other hand his criticism of the specific stipulations was much more muted. SDS’ main objection yesterday read more like “why weren’t we part of the deal” than anything else.
Which could imply that the largest opposition party is reconsidering its position on the issue, at least for the time being.
There is an old Yugoslav joke where Mujo (Bosnian equivalent of Paddy) takes a biology exam and is asked to describe butterflies. Mujo obviously knows didlly-squat about butterflies, flunks the exam and goes home to read up on his butterflies. Next week he’s back re-taking the exam, only this time he is asked to describe elephants. Mujo thinks about it long and hard, then says: “Elephants are big animals. They’re bigger than butterflies, which we divide into following species…“. This is the trick former foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel employed yesterday when he posted a statement on his current party’s website which is supposedly aimed at criticising the fact that in Slovenia no formal celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall were held.
Rupel’s video clip on Berlin Wall for his party website. Contrary to his text this is almost unproblematic
However, after skewing the history a bit (failing to mention reform communists and ZSMS – the socialist youth organisation as key players in democratic changes in Slovenia, while overstating the role of Slovene dissident groups had in that same enterprise, making up a direct link between them and the fall of Berlin Wall), Rupel changes the subject completely and goes on a rampage against the current government, specifically its prime and foreign minister. Even more specifically, he went after the Pahor-Kosor agreement. But it is noteworthy that – staying true to his enumeration style – he should first point out the fact that the new government rescinded nominations of some key ambassadors, prepared under the previous government (where Rupel last served as FM). These nominations included the posting of Slovenian ambassador to Vienna. Those with at least average memories will remember that Rupel nominated himself to the post and was promptly rejected by President Danilo Türk with whom the power of ambassadorial nominations ultimately lies.
But that’s just an appetiser. Having failed to become Ambassador to Austria, after the elections and Janša’s loss of power Rupel was – to astonishment of many – first made special advisor on general matters to the newly minted PM Borut Pahor, but was soon ditched to become “just” a senior government official on the Ministry of Foreign affairs. This made Samuel Žbogar (the new foreign minister who was Slovenian ambassador to the US while Rupel was FM) his direct superior, and yet this did not stop Rupel from taking a dirty swipe against his boss, accusing him of trying to sabotage US/EU policy on recognition of Kosovo back in 2008. The fact that the fuck-up over a leaked memo was as much Žbogar’s as it was Rupel’s apparently don’t count no more.
However, refuting claims that the US was pressuring Slovenia on Kosovo, Rupel goes on to say that Obamaland pressured Slovenia over agreement with Croatia and that Slovenia succumbed to that pressure against its best interests. This is a piece of intellectual bravado few but Rupel can cook up. There is absolutely no evidence that the US is involved in solving the dispute other than continuous Croatian claims that the US has their backs. The US was not a party to signature of the agreement and has constrained itself to sending muted positive signals on reaching the deal. But this does not prevent Rupel from going all out on supposed Slovene subjugation to the US.
Dimitrij Rupel was Slovene foreign minister for a huge chunk of the last 18 years. He was the main proponent of Slovene signature of the Villnius declaration, making this country a member of the “coalition of the willing”. If there ever was a person in this country who made sure US interests in Slovenia were looked after, it was him. He has absolutely no right to lecture others on how to run an independent foreign policy. Furthermore, if during his tenure as Foreign Minister he bought every Croatian bluff the way he bought this last one, it is no wonder that the border dispute could not be solved while he was in office.
Rupel’s antics were funny if they weren’t tragic. (Ab)Using the anniversary of bringing down the Berlin wall to attack the very government he works for is of course perfectly legitimate, but it is also bad sport and utterly pathetic. If he has a problem with the way Slovenian foreign policy works, he should resign his post immediately. But he is unlikely to do that. Years ago, when he was Slovenian ambassador to the US he publicly went head-to-head with then-FM Boris Frlec (as in: was writing articles against his boss) and in the end forced Frlec to resign, while he (again) became foreign minister. Not that he will remember it that way, of course, but as pengovsky has shown some time ago, Rupel is prone to adjusting history to the need of the moment, so it should not come as a surprise if ten years from now he claims that he personally brought down the Berlin Wall
So, if Rupel won’t resign, what is to be done? In my opinion this lashing out against a government he works for is enough to simply cut him loose. But you know what they say. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.