Despite being legit it substance, and an unlikely coup by the Slovenian intelligence services, it comes as a surprise to exactly nobody that the current iteration of the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia is being milked for campaign purposes.
And yet, PM Marjan Šarec saw it fit to throw a bit of euroscepticism in the mix during yesterday’s Brext-themed European Council and lament “the lukewarm response by the Commission to Croatian transgressions”. All this only three weeks after he cold-heartedly cancelled his address at the European Parliament because “it wasn’t worth it“. Lukewarm, you say? Funny.
Early on some people (pengovsky included) saw Šarec and his one-cold-motherfucker attitude as channelling his inner Janez Drnovšek. The late former PM and president had mastered the art of thinking twice before saying nothing” to near-perfection. And it seemed at first that Šarec was aiming to imitate Drnovšek not only during his career on stage but in politics as well.
No doubt the snide remarks against the Commission will win him some support back in Muddy Hollows, rehashing the time-tested approach of framing the issue as tiny Slovenia against the big, bad Croatia which in turn is tacitly supported by the EU (because the latter didn’t immediately leap to Slovenia’s defence, guns blazing).
The problem here is that the frame is wrong and misleading and ultimately harmful to Slovenia’s national interest.
In fact what has happened was, for all intents and purposes a not-insignificant feat by Slovenian spooks. Not only have they had payback for the humiliation suffered back in 2015 when Slovenian diplomats were caught red-handed at their shenanigans with the Arbitration Tribunal, SOVA (and whoever else was behind this carefully planned leak) managed to add insult to injury as well.
Namely, days ago privately-owned POP TV announced a story that would confirm a long-held suspicion that it was Croatian spooks who eavesdropped on Slovenian diplomats back then. At the time Croatian government strenuously denied the claim, citing media reports of a source from a third country.
However, as a result of this announcement Ivan Tolj, a lobbyist close to the government in Zagreb pleaded with an international businessman who purportedly had connections at POP TV to prevent the story from running.
The fun part is, that this Croatian lobbyist’s communication was leaked to POP TV as well, thus in effect having Croatia itself confirming the original story.
Because why else would the government in Zagreb want to kill a story it otherwise says is not true?
That no one will say just how exactly SOVA obtained the recording and that POP TV claims it came from a “foreign intelligence source” are just icing on the cake.
Bottom line here is that the Slovenian government could amplify this in a plethora of different ways.
It could have, for example, banged the drum of media freedom. Decrying attempts at silencing a media outlet would play well on the European stage alongside the well-documented and much-ridiculed Hungarian attempts at silencing Mladina weekly for its less-than-flattering cover featuring Viktor Orban.
(On that note: Yo, Viktor: Mladina has had entire generations of journos brought up on threats of censorship by a much fiercer regime. They eat thin-skinned autocrats like you for breakfast.)
True, the statement by the National Security Council did make a feeble attempt in that direction but nothing beyond that.
Slovenian government could just as well continue to build the case it has against Croatia over the final arbitration award, and frame the Croatian transgression as a part of long-term concerted efforts to impose a new reality in the Bay of Piran, including derailing and reneging on the arbitration process as well as repeated incursions by Croatian maritime police inside Slovenian waters.
True, the statement by the foreign ministry did make a feeble attempt in that direction but nothing beyond that.
What Slovenian government should not have done, but the PM went ahead and did it anyway, was to start sulking publicly and throwing temper-tantrums worthy of a spoiled brat, effectively saying that no-one likes us, that the European Commission is not doing its job (as if an spook-fight between member states is somehow within its purview) and that we’ll show them, you’ll see..
While pleasant for low-information voters and contrarian enough for pundits to salivate over, this kind of rhetoric is counter-productive, undiplomatic and only adds to the destructive narrative in the EU.
Case in point Šarec’s ill-advised comment on Brexit, where rather than sticking to boilerplate phrases he was “being a bit provocative because I said that somebody decided to commit suicide and now we are all saving him but he doesn’t want to be saved. So by drowning, he takes us all down. That’s what I said and that’s how I see the situation“.
Obviously, it took only a split second for the No-Deal camp to use this against Theresa May, the EU and Šarec himself, in a particularly unflattering manner.
Next time, prime minister, just stick to the fucking script.
At some point, quite late in his stint as PM, Miro Cerar realised that for the sake of his country he need friends in Europe. That is why he started palling around with prime ministers of the Benelux countries who, as luck would have it, all came from the ALDE family.
Marjan Šarec, whose LMŠ is an ALDE member as well, will sooner or later come to the same conclusion. But not yet, apparently.