Call me Hrvoje

Slovenia is about to enter its second month of its first ever EU presidency. The next one isn’t due for another fourteen years – provided that a) the system of a rotating presidency is still in effect and b) the EU still exists 😉 And after a month of running the show (on paper at least) Slovenia is sure making a mark.

The latest in what promises to be a long and distinguished line of gaffes includes a memo of consultations between the US State Department and Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the Americans outlined their foreign policy priorities and told their Slovenian counterparts what they think should be the next moves in areas such as Kosovo, Middle East, Central Asia, greenhouse gases and the rest of the usual frontpage content of the BBC News website on any given day.

The leaked document

This document was leaked to Dnevnik daily newspaper and the story was ran on the very same day UN Secretary General Bai Ki-Moon was on an official visit. The more rabid part of the left side of Slovenian political spectrum was immediately up in arms claiming it as yes another proof of this country being nothing more than a US pet or – as Nationalist party leader Zmago Jelinčič put it: Slovenia acts as if it is the 54th US state (where he found the missing two I’ll never know :)). The story was immediately picked up by Belgrade-based Politika newspaper and presented as proof of Slovenia being biased in favour of Kosovo and hostile to Serbia.

The Foreign ministry reacted rather calmly although it couldn’t resist slamming Dnevnik and Politika and acusing them of a coordinated move designed to tarnish Slovenia’s reputation. More energy was (and still is) spent on finding the source of the leak. The search failed to yield results, but did force Mitja Drobnič, a high ranking diplomat who led the Slovene delegation to resign.

But in reality this document (published by Delo website) is nothing special, although the whole brouhaha caught the international attention (txh, Adriaan!). If this was a US dictate it was bloody well-mannered. Plenty of if’s wolud-you’s, perhaps’s, could’s should’s and so forth. It is, however, a very revealing document. It shows that Slovenia – presiding over EU, remember? – has nothing to say over Middle East, Iran or Nagorno-Karabakh. The document also clearly shows that the US views Kosovo in terms of a larger realigning in geopolitics, especially in the Balkans. The US and Russia don’t really care about Kosovo and Serbia – they do, however care about influence in this part of the world.

If the US (or NATO in general) keeps its military, economic and political presence in the Balkans, then you have a continous line of friendly states spanning from Iraq to the UK and US across the ocean. It is basically a landline to Middle Eastern oil. Whereas Russia is obviously keen on preventing that and keeping a landline to the Mediterranean where it is increasing its naval presence. All in all things become much clearer if you just check a map.

But I digress – the leaked document only comfirms what we knew all along. The real question is, whether it was right for it to have been leaked. I think not. This document was in no way compromising Slovene position in the Balkans or impairing our sovereignity. It was a behind-the-scenes exchange between senior diplomats. The content is more or less harmless, but it shows that Slovenia does not know the true meaning of foreign policy.

Case in point being our Eternal Foreign Minister, who yesterday slammed Croatia for evading a ministerial tete-a-tete for almost a year now. Rupel even went as far as to say that the diplomatic relations between the two neighbouring countries were practically severed. Which might even be true – if we exaggerate a bit. But I was always under the impression that foreign policy was more comfortable with understatments and euphemisms than blunt speech. No wonder Rupel was deemed “abbrasive” by the International Herald Tribune The Economist. On the other end of the stick, Zagreb went positively apeshit over Rupel’s statement.

Now – I’m not the one to mince words either and I think Croatia has used up all its credit long ago, but there is a time and a place for such statements. And EU presidency is neither the time nor the place. And as long as Rupel heads Slovene diplomacy, documents will be leaked and a simple border dispute will not be solved. Dimitrij Rupel is a part of the problem and not a part of the solution.

And what does the ruling coalition in this country say? According to Jožef Jerovšek, head of parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee we should all rally behind our minister and everyone who does not do so is favouring Croatia over Slovenia. Call me Hrvoje.

Slovenian EU Presidency Stumbles In Its First Weeks



As most of you, highly intelligent regulars to this puny blog know, the tiny Alpine country that goes by the name of Slovenia is currently chairing the EU (cue applause). Which is all fine and dandy. The more cynical amongst us (yours trully included) went “OK, let’s just hope we don’t fuck up big time“.

But, so far so good. The EU is still there, despite the fact that every multinational entity Slovenia has ever been a part of disintegrated in bloodshed.

That is not to say, however, that our beloved leadership is not working hard at raising as many eyebrows as possible – even an occasional voice…

It all started even before New Year’s takeover, when the Eternal Foreign Minister held a briefing for foreign representatives, where he was expected to outline Slovene priorities during the presidency. Instead he embarked upon sharing his version of the state of media freedom, specifically, he slammed the “petition 571” as being nothing more than a load of bollocks (not in those exact words, of course). His line of thought is detailed here.

Only ten days later, Rupel’s boss caused quite a stir in Lisbon and – somewhat surprisingly – in Sarajevo, when he said during the inaugural press conference that a) Portugal should take the whole of EU into consideration if and when voting on the referedum on the Lisbon treaty and b) that Bosnia is a bigger problem than Kosovo. More here(*).

It did not stop there, however… Later that same day it transpired that the Government Communications Office compiled a press kit about media freedom in Slovenia. This particular press kit included a document entitled Situation Regarding Media Freedom in Slovenia, which terribly skewes statements by journalists usually highly critical of this government and makes them appear as approving of the way things are. The whole thing did not go unnoticed by foreign press(*)

And it is not as if this presidency is short on problems, you know… Dubya is comming into town in mid-March when Janša and Rupel (two of his most faithful disciples) will have to press him on climate change.

Errrrr…. Mr. Bush…. I really hate to ask, you see, but, ummm… how do I say this…. our friends in the EU sort of, kindda, want to know and I really don’t know why we must be the one to say it, but…. ummmmm…. errr….. whatareyourgoingtodoaboutgreenhousegases? There, I said it!.

And there will be the aftermath of yet another derailment of the Mid-East peace process to deal with and on top of that Kosovo looks up to us to help them in achieving independence. Stat!(*)

This government has already proved its talent for shooting itself in the foot on the home terrain. It’s consistency of doing so in the international terrain is breathtakingly appaling.

P.S.: All links marked with (*) were kindly provided by Adriaan. Thanks! 🙂