Entropa (Hitting Too Close To Home)

As you probably know by now, the Czech presidency of the EU is blushing and fuming with anger ever since it transpired that artistic instalation Entropa was not a collaborative effort by 27 artistist from 27 member states and that it does not exactly extol the virtues of being one big happy European family.

Slovenia, the birthplace of tourism

In fact, the entire instalation was made by David Černý and two associates and rather than singing the song of European happiness, it cinycally takes it apart, selects and exaggerates a particular – mostly well chosen – national stereotype. On top of that, all the sculptures are put in a plastic frame often found in scale kit models, suggesting that Europe is a product rather than an idea. And to top it all there’s the name: Entropa, combination of Europe and entropy.

It could be brushed off as yet another prank by the enfant terrible of the Czech art world. But apparently it hit too close to home for some people. The following is taken from the relevant Wikipedia entry:

* Austria, a known opponent of atomic energy, is a green field dominted by nuclear power plant cooling towers
* Belgium is presented as a half-full box of half-eaten Praline chocolates
* Bulgaria is depicted by a series of connected “Turkish” squat toilets
* Cyprus is jigsawed (cut) in half
* The Czech Republic’s own piece is an LED display, which will flash controversial quotations by Czech President Václav Klaus after the sculpture’s activation
* Denmark is a face depicted in Lego bricks, reminiscent of the cartoon controversy
* Estonia is presented with a hammer and sickle-styled power tools, the country has considered a ban on Communist symbols
* Finland is depicted as a wooden floor and an [apparently drunk] male with a rifle, imagining various animals
* France is draped in a “GR?VE!” (“STRIKE!”) banner
* Germany is a series of interlocking autobahns, described as “somewhat resembling a swastika”, though that is not universally accepted. Upon activation, the cars are supposed to start moving.
* Greece is depicted as a forest that is entirely burned
* Hungary features an Atomium made of its common agricultural products melons and Hungarian sausages, based on a floor of peppers
* Ireland is depicted as a brown bog with bagpipes protruding from Northern Ireland; upon activation, the bagpipes are expected to play music every five minutes
* Italy is depicted as a football pitch with the players holding balls in the “strategic position”
* Latvia is shown as covered with mountains, in contrast to its actual flat landscape
* Lithuanian soldiers are depicted urinating on Russia
* Luxembourg is displayed as a gold nugget with “For Sale” tag
* Malta is a tiny island with its prehistoric dwarf elephant as its only decoration
* The Netherlands has disappeared under the sea with only a several minarets still visible; upon activation, this piece is supposed to emit the singing of muezzins
* Poland has a piece with priests erecting the rainbow flag of the Gay rights movement, in the style of the U.S. soldiers raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima.
* Portugal is shown as a wooden cutting board with three pieces of meat in the shape of its former colonies of Brazil, Angola, and Mozambique
* Romania is a Dracula-style theme park
* Slovakia is depicted as a Hungarian sausage (or a human body tighten by Hungarian tricolour)
* Slovenia is shown as a rock engraved with the words first tourists came here 1213
* Spain is covered entirely in concrete, with a concrete mixer situated near the Basque country
* Sweden does not have an outline, but is represented as large Ikea-style self-assembly furniture, containing Gripen fighter planes
* The United Kingdom, known for its Euroscepticism and relative isolation from the Continent, is “included” as missing piece (an empty space) at the top-left of the work

Personally, I think this is a lovely provocation, not unlike what Slovenian designers did with The Youth Relay twenty years ago. It says more about the object of the mockery (in this case member states) as it does of the object of the art. In case of Slovenia it takes apart this country’s totally unfounded conviction that it is the centre of the world and that all great things somehow started here. Even tourism, for crying out loud! So in the instalation the rock that is Slovenia states that “the first tourists came here in 1213”. Gotta love it! (Full text of descriptions can be found here)

But in this particular case the fool in the room turned out to be the Czech presidency which (not unlike Slovenian presidency a year ago) was trying to come across as more European than Europe itself. Thus, the point of Entropa has been proven by the very people who aimed to discredit it. The fact that Černý made up 26 other artists, their biographies and even accompanying texts, only further shows that the European idea is artificial at least in part. That in itself if not necesarily bad as it does help to be reminded of that every once in a while. Just so we don’t get carried away.

The Luck Of The Irish

Despite being cautiously pro-European (mostly for geopolitical reasons, but that the way things are), I must say I’m kind of glad the Irish voted against the Lisbon treaty. The European Union has around half a billion citizens, and yet a mere 800.000 votes brought the Lisbon treaty to a grinding halt. And while one may argue that this is a case of a minority imposing its will on the majority, I think it atcually shows that democracy in the EU – for all its failings – is alive and well.

Ireland votes NO (source)

Think about it. The way things stand now, the EU is still nothing more than a association of nation states (although a very closely bound one). Member states have not relinquished its their sovereignity, but have opted to excercise it via a common political entity which goes by the name of the EU. However, this does not – should not – preclude the right of every member state to excercise its sovereignity in full as it sees fit. And if the Irish constitution calls for a referendum of any and all matters of international association, then so be it.

Furthermore, the initial statemets of a number of European politicians – including the man who happens to be my prime minister – show that Irish “no” was a much needed reality-check which hopefully burst the bubble of “planned democracy” the EU and indeed most member states are infested with. It is one thing to know the result of a political proces in advance due to predictability of political players and factors, it is however quite another to devise ways and means which only keep the illusion of the decision-making process as being democratic, where in reality there is only one “acceptable” decision.

Most European leaders, shocked by the fact that the Celtic Tiger gave them the finger, said that “they expect the ratification process to go forward“. Janez Janša (presiding over the EU for 14 more days and counting) even said that the Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen will “explain the reasons for this outcome“.

Waddafuckyoumean go forward and will explain??? As far as I know the Irish government stated beforehand that there will be no re-run on the referendum, so the “no” is final. There’s nothing to go forward to and nothing to explain. Secondly: True, none of them forgot to add that the democratic decisions must be respected, but… There shouldn’t be any “buts” here. Are EU leaders trying to say that there are referendums that count and referendums that don’t? When France and The Netherladns rejected the European Constitution, everybody went “That’s it! Game over!” and now when Ireland said no, they’re trying to pretend it didn’t happen?

I realize that a lot of work has been put into the Lisbon treaty and I’m convinced that it is a good treaty and that it would benefit both the EU and member states including Ireland. It would also allow expansion of EU to include Balkan states and finally Turkey (both of which are a must). There are, however, no shortcuts. If this treaty went down badly in Ireland, imagine what the result of such a referendum would be in France or the UK, or any other “old” member state, whose people have long ago fallen out of love with the EU. Even worse, imagine that the Irish are somehow coerced into ratifying the treaty, which is followed by quick accession of Balkan states into the EU in the next ten years. How on Earth will you explain to the people that Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina must become members if you can’t even properly explain why a simple treaty is a good thing?

The rejection of the Lisbon treaty by Ireland is the best thing that could have happened to the EU at this moment. Not because it slowed the process of enlargment (that’s bad), but because it showed that a lot must be done on the home front as well. Perhaps starting to rebuild trust between the citizens of existing member states and their elected officials might be a good way to go about it. Once that is achieved, a lot more faith will be put into politicians’ abilities to tackle “big issues” as well.

Slovenia once was a member of a multinational super-state. As time progressed it was coerced more and more into decisions it didn’t want to take. And then one day it walked out. Perhaps unbeknownst to them, the EU leaders are making the very same mistake Yugoslav leaders did some 25+ years ago. Back then noone really believed that anyone would leave the federation. And today noone really belives anyone will leave the Union. History, however, has a nasty tendency to repeat itself at the hands of those who forget it.

Laura Non C’e

Today’s post is not strictly politics, but as it relates to yesterday’s pit stop by George, Jr. I hope you’ll forgive me. The lighter side of presidential summits can sometimes be quite intreaguing and almost funny. In absense of any real news, the government PR people have released the summit menu, for guys and gals alike. Therefore you can sleep in peace knowing that George, Janez and Jose yesterday had Istrian proscutto with green asparagi and was able to wash it down with a glass of Rebula white wine, but…. C’mon, people! George is a reformed alcocholic! He shouldn’t be allowed within 50 feet of a bottle! Ferfuckssake! What were you thinking! George and wine make for a bad time :mrgreen:

The Prez and The Other Prez put their glasses on to read the fine print of the first Slovene Bible (photo: BOBO)

But at least the presents were chosen a bit more carefully. JJ gave the man a state-of-the-art mountain bike which go for a nifty 4k euros a piece which will surely come in handy when George will be doing circles at his Crawford ranch. And when he’s not herding cows, giving speeches or whatever it is former presidents with a ranch do, he’ll be able to contemplate reading a facsimile of the first Holy Bible in Slovene language printed in 1584 by Slovenian protestant intelectual Jurij Dalmatin, which – in all honesty – is quite a beautiful present. It would, however, be even more appropriate if the man were presented with a fascimile of Catechism or Abecedarium by Primož Trubar, the first and second book in Slovene language ever (1550s), especially because Slovenia celebrated 500 years since Trubar’s birth only a day earlier. Wouldn’t that be something? You just threw a big party for the first ever book in your language and the Big Kahuna misses the show by a couple of hours, but you are still able to present him with a copy of your object of celebration. Apparently not all the dogs are barking at the Protocol of the Republic of Slovenia.

But OK, enough bitching and smartassing about it. The guy and his woman were here, they talked the talk and walked the walk. And how did the whole thing look like at street level? Here’s Laura Bush’s motorcade in downtown Ljubljana as shot by yours truly yesterday morning. With a bit of a musical background, naturally 🙂

Dubya’s In Town

George W. landed at Ljubljana Int’l hours ago for the EU-US summit which is by a curious twist of fate hosted by Slovenia. From a political point of this is actually a non-event, which happens at more or less regular intervals. This is emphasised by the fact that George a lame-duck by now as most of the free world as well as the remains of the axis of evil are looking all the way to November to see whether it’ll be a maverick or a brother running the show.

Air Force One lands at Ljubljana Int’l (source)

As noted yesterday, though, Dubya in Slovenia means some great photo-ops, not to mention a possible bump in the polls for the ruling clicque (and I use the term in the most pejorative way possible). The protocol of the event is rather complicated, though. Officially, Dubya is attending the EU-US summit, which means that he will be hosted by the current President of the European Council who in this case doubles as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia. Janez Janša, naturally 🙂 However, George Jr. will be co-hosted by Jose Manuel Barosso, the President of the European Commission who doesn’t double at all 😉 Additionally, however, as the event will be taking place in Slovenia, our Prez insisted on meeting with the other Prez and this wish was dully granted. It must be noted that the powers of the US president are in effect those of Slovenian President and Prime Minsiter combined (now you know what Janša is after :)), therefore only a meeting with both the Prez and the PM creates a balance between both delegations. Add to this the loitering Barosso, to whom Janša is superior in terms of protocol during the presidency and you’ve got yourself an all-aces poker hand.

All fine and and dandy so far? A bit complicated, but not all that much, no? No. Unfortunatelly, things got sour with the presidential biotches. A small cat-fight erupted between the PM’s and the President’s cabinets as to which babe will host Laura Bush. Will it be the President’s wife or the Prime Minister’s fiancee? Or perhaps just Ms. Barosso? For a while it seemed that Doc Urška prevailed, but Laura showed up a day early and did some sighseeing on her own, without Janša’s babe holding her hand and today, as the official progamme start, Laura will be hosted by all three ladies.

But don’t get overexcited… Yes, some lucky tourist might have caught a glimpse of Laura having a look into the Franciscan church in downtown Ljubljana, but in reality such summits are about as interesting and glamorous as a cold cow turd on a bad hair day. Believe me, I’ve seen it first hand.

I covered the Bush-Putin meeting in Slovenia in 2001 and I can tell you that covering the US President (especially this president, I would imagine) is shit. If you’re not exactly a member of the White House Press Corp, you cannot even come close to the guy let alone ask him for a statement. The journalistic flock is kept somewhere in the back, major networks do get their own (pre-approved) space, whereas photographers and cameramen are put on a podium which is naturally too small and once Air Force One starts its descent (somewhere above München, probably) you cannot leave the podium. Which is fucked, because you’ll naturally have to take a leak at that precise moment. And as you try to go to give your Johnson a good handsake, darkness falls upon you and looking up you realize that you’ve bumped into a 7-foot tall Secret Service agent who immediately shows you back to your place. Your bladder goes apeshit, while you scratch your back thinking “Wait a minute… I live here. Not you…”. But – naturally – it is of no avail.

And then it happens. The Thief in Chief comes out of his 747, waves, strolls down the steps, inspects the guard of honour, jumps into his rocket-launcher-proof limo and whizzes off. If you’re lucky, you can also attend a joint statement, where you are naturally not allowed to ask questions, but only dully report what was said.

And as he flies away into oblivion, you are left with a huge ammount of useless recordings, because you will end up using the only coherent and meaningful sentence he made in the joint statement, which was the original idea anyway. And then everyone will ask why all the media report the same.

Unless of course they get an exclusive with the man, like POP TV did the other day. In this case you can exclusively watch Bush give only one usable sentence in the interview. Truth be said, the questions weren’t much better either, but the interview was in English

Niko ne sme da vas bije*

According to the latest reports, Kosovo will declare independence from Serbia on February 17th, and as we know from a leaked document, the United States, which strongly favour an independent Kosovo have been pressuring (or strongly indicating their desire, whichever you preffer) Slovenia to be among the first countries to recognize an independent Kosovo. This has sparked a heated debate in Slovenia, which has as of late concentrated mostly on who is to blame on the leak rather than should Slovenia actually recognize Kosovo, slthough the latter is a much more important question.


While some prominent politicians (incluing Former President Milan Kučan) and some highly-respectable bloggers think otherwise, I’m covinced there are scores of reasons for immediate recognition of Kosovo. As odd as it may seem, Slovenia and Kosovo share a common link in recent history (apart for the fact that they’ve both been a part of Yugoslavia). Personally, I think that for a plethora of reasons it is Slovenia’s – shall we be dramatic – duty to recognise an independent Kosovo as soon as the province declares independence.

As all nations, Kosovars too have a right to self-determination and their drive for an independent Kosovo is far from recent. Still as a part of Yugoslavia, Kosovo demaded an “upgrade” from a status od an autonomous region withih Serbia to a full-fledged republic. This did not happen, although the cry “Kosovo Republjik!” was getting louder and louder. And while the Yugoslav constitution of 1974 did not recognize Kosovo as a state within Yugoslavia (the six republics were treated as sovereing states, a fact that helped Slovenia greatly in getting legal ground for independence in 1991), it gave the region all the attributes of a republic.

It had its own administration, judiciary, assembly, police, League of Communists, eductational system, media – and perhaps most importnatly: it has equal representation in all federal organs as the republics – including the eight-member Presidency, comprised of representatives of the six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia) and two autonomous regions (Vojvodina and Kosovo). The 1974 Yugoslav constitution gave republics and regions as much independence as they could get without actually breaking up Yugoslavia – and it definitely gave Kosovars about as much independence as they could get for the next 34 years.

As Yugoslavia began experiencing a deadly mix of severe economic troubles, a grid-locked political system, a power-hungry Yugoslav National Army which was about to perform a coup d’etat and a drive by Serbia’s leadership (predominantly Slobodan Milošević) to solve problems by redrawing borders in favour of Serbia, the country that was once a powerful player began to disintegrate into sun dust.

A part of disintegration were also constitutional changes of 1988 which almost completely reversed the constitution of 1974 and – althtough illegal – stripped Kosovo of its autonomy, transfering all decisions about the future of the region from Priština back to Belgrade. And this is where paths of Slovenia and Kosovo intersect for a brief moment in history.

In Kosovo, the stripping of autonomy and subsequent replacing of region’s Kosovar leadership prompted miners in the mining town of Stari Trg to declare a hunger-strike until the autonomy is restored. The strike ended without meeting miner’s demands (naturally), but not before a meeting was held in Slovenia by both the emerging opposition and the ruling communist party supporting the miners, which sent shockwaves throught Belgrade, because Slovenia and Kosovo were suddenly on the same wavelenght – a seemingly impossible event until then.

But the fate of Kosovo was sealed much before that. In 1987 as the region grew restless and Serbs, being a minority in the region, but an overwhelming majority in Greater Serbia (Serbia plus both regions) often clashed with Kosovars – mostly with words, but sometimes with fists. And on one such occasion, Slobodan Milošević, then still Serbia’s second-in-command was witness to such a fight as Serbs in Kosovo gathered en masse and the predominantly-Kosovar police, fearing a riot, started using batons. Milošević ran out to see what was going on and he used a phrase which transformed him from a colourless aparatchik to a nationalist leader.

Niko ne sme da vas bije!” (noone is allowed to beat you), he said to the demonstrating Serbs, who were already throwing rocks as the police and the mob (correctly, as it turned out) understood that as a green light for a rampage. A rampage that went on until 1999 – the year that Milošević lost his fourth war in Yugoslavia, this time beaten by NATO forces. The phrase became the gist of Milošević’s political creed – that Serbs are somehow superior to all other Yugoslav nations and have the right to live in Great Serbia – a country which spans to wherever in Yugoslavia Serbs live.

Thus Milošević started the breakup of Yugoslavia in Kosovo and it is only right and fitting that the process come full circle and ends where it started twenty-one years ago. Slovenia declared independence only four years after that fateful phrase and the memory of every political power in the world (including the EU and the US) trying to block our way to independece one way or another is still very much alive.

Not so much out of solidarity or heeding to a US dictate, but out of the fact that Kosovo has similiar legal grounds for independence and that Serbia lost it by waging war against its people (just as it did in Slovenia), I think that Slovenia must recognize Kosovo as soon as it declares independence. I think it is only fair that Slovena uses the same arguments when deciding on this as it did when arguing its own case for independence seventeen years ago.

I recognize the fact that times change and that today Slovenia has a growing economic interest in Serbia and that the US is probably favouring independent Kosovo out of economic reasons (and that Russia is probably opposing it for precisely the same reasons) and that an independent Kosovo could be viewed by other independence movements across the world as a model for their cause, but it would be extremely unhealthy if the process of Yugoslav breakup is not completely finished. And that includes the fact that two of the most wanted war criminals, Radovan Karadžić and general Ratko Mladić, both responsible for Serbian atroccities in Bosnian war are still at large.

The EU (including Slovenian government) is in danger of short-circuting the process by giving Serbia a partnership agreement before the two are brought before the Hague tribunal. Should this happen, the Serbs will skate clean yet again, which will both undermine the seriousness of the Hague tribunal and the belief in human rights which the EU supposedly holds so dear. This would also send a disatrous message to other candidate states, especially Croatia and Turkey, possibly stopping the expansion completely and preventing the EU from becoming a global player also in geopolitical terms.

In short: Slovenia should recognize Kosovo as soon as the region declares independece and refrain from signign any treaty until Karadžić and Mladić are in the Hague – or at least until proof given that they will find themselves there in an extremely short period of time. This is vital both for completion of the conclusion of the Yugoslav breakup and the continuation of EU expansion.

*special mention (Serbian only): http://arhiva.mojblog.co.yu/p-niko-ne-sme-da-vas-bije/16777.html