PM Pahor in debate with ministers Žbogar, Lukšič and Svetlik (source: Baž Samec/Delo)
Tee-minus-eleven days and the referendum campaign is raging with full force. As pengovsky writes this, the parliament is in yet another extraordinary session, debating what opposition SDS calls “new and important circumstances” regarding the Arbitrage Agreement. What Janez Janša et al. claim is that Slovenia somehow accepted unilateral declaration Croatia passed alongside its ratification of the Agreement, saying basically that the agreement means what Croatia wants it to mean.
SDS and the rest of opponents of the agreement argue that since Croatia said both Slovenia and Croatia will have notified the Swedish presidency of its unilateral declaration, Slovenia somehow agreed to Croatian interpretation of the agreement, hence PM Borut Pahor and his government committed an act of high treason.
The problem – or rather the “problem” – is that Slovenia did no such thing. Croatia’s declaration was entirely unilateral and was in no way, shape or form a part of the Arbitrage Agreement itself. Being repeatedly told that by PM Pahor predictably did not convince the opposition. If anything it only amplified cries of treason, PM’s incompetence and sell-out of this country’s vital interests. As always, on live TV. But then came the twist.
Even before the extraordinary session started Swedish ambassador to Slovenia Inger Ultvedt said that Swedish government received no joint statement other that the fact that the Arbitrage Agreement is to be signed and its signature witnessed by Swedish PM. She added that no unilateral statement was part of the Agreement itself. That, however, apparently wasn’t enough. The opposition still went on and on and on like a the proverbial Energizer bunny until the US ambassador to Slovenia Bradley Freden said the same. He went even further, saying that Croatian declaration was unilateral in every sense of the word
An then came the flip-flop. Less than two hours after US Embassy went public, Janša’s SDS sent out a press release saying that US and Swedish statements make the entire Agreement null and void, because Croatia lied about that statement being joint, when it was actually unilateral. Since international agreements are to be executed in good faith and Croatian behaviour was anything but, the Agreement cannot be executed and is therefore dead.
Let me run that by you again: Opposition loudly claims (citing Croatian sources) that Slovenia agreed to Croatian declaration about what exactly the Agreement is all about. Slovenian government denies that and points out that Slovenia passed a similar declaration which claims exactly the opposite. It adds that both declarations mean didly-squat because the Agreement itself stipulates that no unilateral actions apply to the solution of the border issue. Opposition is not convinced and calls an extraordinary session of the parliament to discuss these “important new developments”.
As the debate commences, both Sweden and the US (the former witnessing the signature of the Agreement while the latter reportedly man-handling Croatia into accepting the deal) say that Croatian declaration is entirely unilateral and as such has no effects with regard to the Agreement. At this point one would expect the opposition to cease debating as the reason for the parliamentary session no longer exists. Wrong. Instead, they call the Agreement null and void because Croatia cheated. I’d have to say.. a sphincter says what? Exactly!
Same Old Tactics of Epic Bullshit
Croatian unilateral declaration was of course only the sorriest of excuses for the opposition (SDS, SLS and SNS) to yet again hijack parliamentary Rules and Procedures and to debate ad nauseam the finer points of epic bullshit. The debate was going over all the pros and cons time and time again, each time getting more personal and more below the belt. No wonder it didn’t stop after US and Swedish statements, because the debate was never meant to address “new and important developments” but rather just to start yet another round of verbal slaughter and see who comes out on top.
But hey, you can’t blame them, can you? These tactics worked before, not in the least in the summer of 2004 when Janez Janša and his SDS went after LDS and then PM Tone Rop, and effectively won the elections. But back then LDS and its leadership were tired, paralysed and arrogant. Janša tried again in 2007, just after Danilo Türk was elected president and then again just prior to 2008 elections which he in the end lost. But this time not only did it not work, but it positively backfired. SDS’ arguments crumbled into sun dust and the final result is that opposition remains opposed, while the government argues in favour of the Agreement. And since these are exactly the same positions as in the beginning, one could say that Janez Janša just wasted a joker.
Namely, if opponents of the Agreement were on top in the debate then we could have called the session just a waste of time. But since polls show that a majority of those who intend to vote actually support the Agreement, then yesterday’s stalemate spells disaster for Janša and good times for those who actually wish to see this thing solved in a fair way. Not only did Delo, nation largest daily poll an impressive 52 percent in favour of the Agreement and only 24 against, but even Faculty of Applicative Social Sciencies in Nova Gorica, widely regarded as leaning towards Janša and his SDS polled 36 percent in favour and 31 against.
This goes to show that SDS is rapidly failing to turn the referendum on the Arbitrage Agreement into a referendum on Pahor’s government, whose approval ratings linger in low thirties. Having people to vote more or less on merit and much less out of anger is one of Pahor’s key goals and so far he seems to be getting his point accross. Much will of course depend on the voter turnout, which is at this time projected not to go above 35 percent. Which is criminally low but totally common for Slovenian referendums. The record holder for the lowest turnout if of course sill former PM Janez Janša whose referendum on regions in 2008 failed spectacularly with a mere 11 percent turnout.
This will have to do it for today, although we haven’t covered every subject announced in the previous chapter. However, next up will be an interesting story about some people struggling not to lose face and still others struggling with MS Word