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.

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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.


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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

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.

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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

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Jagshemash!


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! 🙂