Playing To Lose, Cerar Goes About Saving Private Mramor

Yesterday, finance minister Dušan Mramor offered to resign over a bonuses scandal that’s been overflowing for about two weeks now. In what was a somewhat unexpected move, PM Cerar did not accept the resignation. Instead he subjected Mramor to a mere slap on the wrist and then proceeded to extol Mramor’s track record at the ministry. Although the affair involved relatively modest amounts, the public and the media were indignant and the pundits were near-unanimous that Cerar will let Mramor go. Since he didn’t, the overall sentiment is that Cerar committed political suicide and will never be re-elected again. The truth, in pengovsky’s view, is somewhat different: Cerar has long since become unelectable, most likely on Day 2 of his tenure. It just took him over a year and two pan-european structural crises to come to that conclusion. Thus in terms of his own political future he has little to lose. He can, however, make the remaining three-and-a-half years count. And for that, he needs Mrarmor more than Mramor needs him.

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Miro The Man and Dušan The Man’s Man, some time ago. (source)

The gist of the story is that Mramor, while serving as dean of the Faculty of Economics in 2008, OK’ed use of special clause in labour legislation that provided for a 24/7 standby bonus. The clause was meant to be used to augment paychecks to various branches of first responders and similar services, but in mid-2008, apparently to circumvent the havoc wrought by the across-the-board austerity at the time, the faculty came up with this clause and, well, bent over backwards to expand its interpretation to cover university professors as well. The move worked so well that it was copied by nine out of eleven faculties, members of University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Theology and Faculty of Law being the notable exceptions).

Unmitigated disaster

Now, ever since the story broke, it has been an unmitigated PR disaster for Mramor and everyone else involved. This includes Minster of Education Maja Makovec Brenčič, former SD heavyweight and incumbent dean of the Faculty of Economics Metka Tekavčič and several other public personae. Especially daft was the feeble defence mounted by the faculty, now with Tekavčič at the helm, which only reinforced the perception of entitlement on the part of the academic elite. The fact that the whole issue centered on about half a million euros across nine faculties, did little to ausage the problem. Quite to the contrary. It is a known quirk of the Slovenian voter that the more he or she can relate to a number, the more emotional their response will be.

Case in point being Mramor who, over the years, accumulated around 45k euros in “standby bonuses”. 45,000 euros is not an unreachable amount of money. It’s about three-years-worth of average Slovenian wage. To put it another way, 45k will buy you an mid-to-upper-range BMW. Which is what makes the people so mad. They have an approximate idea about how much 45k euros actually is and they base their judgements on that. To put in perspective, only about a week ago, Slovenia was forced to pay 42 million euros (almost a thousand times more) to Croatia as damages for electricity not delivered from Krško nuclear plant between 2002 and 2003, when a political decision was taken to punitively and unilaterally withhold electricity from Croatia, even though the neighbouring country owns a 50% stake in the plant. Point being that the voters will more likely and more furiously take issue with smaller amounts of money. Doubly so if the payouts are legally dubious, as they are in this case.

Now, in the end Mramor has promised to pay back the whole amount, but only after being prodded by the media and – presumably – by the PM himself. Before that he somehow came to the conclusion that he would only pay back some 3000 euros. As if we learned nothing from the case of Gregor Virant in 2011.

Do-Goodnik becomes unelectable

But enough about Mramor. What he did was wrong, regardless of the motives. And while he’s not off the hook just yet, he does get to live another day or so and in politics a week is a lifetime. What is equally interesting, however, is why Cerar bailed Mramor out in the first place and squandered what little remained of the ethical platform the SMC ran on in 2014.

First, the already mentioned fact that Cerar has, in fact, been unelectable for some time. At the very least from the onset of the refugee crisis where he alienated a substantial part of the progressive vote by raising a razor-wire fence on the border with Croatia and empowering the military to police civilians. On the other hand, he only infuriated the right-wing which – although clamouring for these measures – predictably deemed them to little, too late, when finally passed. But in all likelihood, Cerar’s political demise began soon after he began his term, when the high-flying ethical do-goodnik platform met the bleak politcal and economic reality of Slovenia. After kicking ministers out for much smaller transgressions and having seen himself and Mramor brush with a similar affair, Cerar finally realized that it was in effect he himself who was pulling the rug from under his feet. Others were just helping.

Not that there was any lack of help. During yesterday’s press conference, Cerar took a swipe at SDS and SD, more or less saying that he will not have the composition of this government being dictated to him. That the SDS is making life difficult for Cerar is hardly news. After all, they’re the opposition, even if they’re being strangely blunt about that as of late. Namely, according to one source, the party openly threatened the SMC with making their life a living hell if the largest party does not support the SDS nominee for a vacant post at the European Court of Human Rights. The SMS refused to oblige. Hell did in fact commence.

SD ante portas

But the slap across the face of the SD was much more telling. The party, although still in relative ruin after its electoral flop, was given a new lease of life by Cerar’s strategic mistake of making them coalition partners. It soon started to re-establish its economic base and soon enough found itself in a massive brawl with the SMC over the sale of Telekom Slovenije. The SD lost that particular battle but stalled the whole thing just enough to derail the sale. Then came the beheading of the bad bank where SD gained a whole new range of informal power and – not unimportant – where Mramor lost. Which sort of made him the next target. And since he was apparently vunerable in the bonuses department… well, you now know the story.

From this point of view, had Cerar accepted Mramor’s resignation, the SD would have practically owned the government. They’ve squeezed a number of consessions out of Cerar as it is. The latest one being a shamelessly brazen creation of a party fief. officially known as the State Forest Company, it centralizes forestry management and falls under the purview of – yup, you guessed it – minister of agriculture, forestry and food, headed by leader of the SD Dejan Židan. Had Cerar allowed them to go any further, he would relinquish what little control he has on the home front.

Bond…. Sovereign bond

Ditto for the foreign front. Had Cerar relieved Mramor of his duties, Slovenia would in all likelihood start raising many-an-eyebrow of various investors all over the world. Until now, these were more or less happy to buy Slovenian debt precisely because Mramor and his predecessor Čufer handled the post-bailout situation adroitly and took the country of various watch-lists in Brussels, Berlin and Washington, even though (in all honesty) the pace of reforms and privatization has been glacial, at best. Bottom line, with the to-do list still being more or less the same as it was under Bratušek tenure, Mramor is Cerar’s best insurance against the possibility that the humanitarian and political crisis (in terms of EU issues) is joined by a resurgent financial crisis, too.

Thus, by protecting finance minister Mramor, Cerar conceded that he’ll lose the next elections. ironically, to win them, he probably has to play to lose, anyhow.

6 Lessons Of Fence Erection

It took less than twelve hours for Miro Cerar‘s “temporary technical obstacles” to hit their first, well, obstacle. And, boy, did they hit it. While Miro the Man is trying to find his way through the minefield of domestic political ill-wishers, the Mid-East burning and own good intentions paving the road to hell, a familiar monster came from under the bed and bit him right in the ass: the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia.

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(source)

That erecting the fence tehnical obstacles will be anything but a walk in the park was more or less clear. But even though the government did take the precaution of notifying the Arbitration Court as well as the government in Zagreb, the latter claimed that parts of the fence crossed into its territory and threatened to remove it of its own accord. Needless to say that Croatian special police immediately appeared in the area already teeming with Slovenian police and army personnel. Which provided for some nice throwbacks to 2007 when then-PM Janez Janša sent special police units on the bank of the Mura where Croatia was up to, ironically, technical work on levees and railroads.

Only this time around it was Slovenian authorities who were putting up fence technical installations and the Croatians who are going apeshit about it. To their credit, Zagreb thusfar only issued a strong protest to the Slovenian charge d’affaires, but this is the sort of situation where things can go very wrong very quickly.

A few things need to be noted at this stage:

1) For the second time in as many months, the situation on the border between two EU member states has flared up dramatically. Weeks ago, Hungarian security services disarmed a number of Croatian policemen on a train full of refugees supposedly on Hungarian territory. So far these are isolated incidents in an altogether precarious situation. But mistakes do happen and when people are tired and/or scared, they tend to see patterns that don’t exist. They also tend to overreact. Then all hell breaks loose.

2) The pull-back-or-else tactic employed by Croatia is additionally complicated by the fact that it was that same approach that caused Slovenia to relocate its border checkpoint on the Dragonja river a few hundred metres north in 1991, thereby writing the opening chapter of the still-running border dispute.

3) Both governments, especially the one in Ljubljana should remember there are idiots aplenty on both sides of the border. Sometimes they’re even elected. And that they will inevitably try to foment trouble to advance their own agenda.

4) Speaking of fomenting trouble, it should now be clear (once again) that politics is not linear and that introducing a new variable changes the entire environment and has unpredictable consequences.

5) Which is exactly what Cerar’s opponents, both within the coalition and without, are counting on. Apart from expecting the new influx of refugees (which has yet to materialise) everyone is on the lookout for a scuffle between the two neighbouring countries. And to top it off (and as predicted) the hardcore proponents of the fence are claiming it is too little too late and that Cerar should resign immediately while the fervent among those opposing the fence are already calling Cerar a Fascist anyhow. Talk about losing friends and alienating people.

6) The Pandora’s box is now open and instead of managing one particularly demanding crisis, Cerar now has at least two more on his hands: a crisis in relations with Croatia (not that we were all that chummy to begin with) as well as a political crisis which will explode right in his face the very moment this thing with refugees will start showing signs of abating.

Howgh.

 

The Army Is A Broad Sword, Not A Scalpel

Following a surge in influx of refugees which apparently stretched Slovenian personnel and housing resources to their limits, the government of Miro Cerar came up with amendments to Defence Act granting the Slovenian army policing powers and rushed them through the parliament in a rarely used emergency legislative procedure. The move, backed by both the coalition and most of the opposition is aimed to provide relief to the overstretched police and Civil defence force. But in reality it opens a Pandora’s box of the military spilling over into the civilian sphere.

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“The army will perform its duty.” Bruce Willis/William Deveraux in The Siege (source)

Admittedly, the numbers Slovenian authorities were dealing with are staggering in terms of the country’s size and its resources. More than 20.000 refugees came to the Slovenian border via the “West Balkan route” through Croatia in the last couple of days. Quite a substantial number of them, as per Slovenian government, without any notification from their Croatian counterparts who reportedly transported the refugees somewhere in the vicinity of theborder rather than to the actual border crossings and then cut them loose, leaving them to make their way across the river, fields and marshes into Slovenia.

And since Slovenia, trying to be European to a fault, insists on an orderly processing and transfer of refugees from Croatia through its several refugee centres onwards to Austria, things got tricky at the Slovenia/Croatia border, prompting the government in Ljubljana to employ the army as a policing force.

Which is a big fucking mistake.

The problem is, of course, many-fold. First, the mere fact that with this, the firewall between the civilian and the military sphere is being, albeit slightly and temporarily, torn down. Giving the army powers over the civilian population is a big no-no. Unless a state of emergency was declared and last time pengovsky checked, that wasn’t the case. Although some people act as if it were. And this is the problem number two.

A lot of what we were seeing these past few days were knee-jerk reactions to events that were and are apparently getting the better of people at the top of the food chain whose primary role is to keep things strategically in check. As if deploying the military was the only alternative to using police forces.

There’s the old adage that if a hammer is all you know how to use, everything looks like a nail. But this is not a case of trigger-happy politicos jumping the gun (literally) and launching a scenario not unlike in The Siege. No, a more proper parallel would be that of a first-time plane passengers on a very bumpy ride, already reaching for their life jackets while the flight crew is still serving drinks.

A number of those alternatives came to light as the parliament was debating the amendments to the Law on Defence. These include aid by the European frontier agency Frontex as well as bilateral help from other EU states’ police forces, most notably Austria and Germany. These options are now being considered and reportedly about to be enacted.

Problemo numero tres is the actual scope of powers granted to the military. While members of the Slovenian army apparently have some crowd control training, there is serious concern as to whether Slovenian soldiers have the (legal) knowledge and experience to execute these powers with necessary restraint and respect for human rights. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Slovenian Army are prone to human rights violations. What I’m saying is that the army – any army – was not designed with this in mind. Simple as that. And by the time enough military units are trained in the nuances of policing civilians and equipped to do that effectively, this crisis will have long passed.

Which brings us to the fourth and the biggest problem. This, too, shall pass. And after it does, we’ll be left with army units with a shitload of equipment they won’t need anymore and training that does not correspond to their basic mission. A waste of resources, if I ever saw one. But not only that. The most worrisome leftover will be the legislation itself.

Because if you think that the provision granting policing powers to the army is going to go away after this is over, you’re sorely mistaken. It is here to stay, for ever and ever. Just like increased political meddling with the public television or the fiscal rule.

And even if the government plans to repeal the provision after the crisis abates, someone should tell them they will fail to secure the necessary two-thirds majority. Because the right-wing parties which supported the provision practically without dissent (customary political bickering, gloating and we-told-you-so’s not withstanding) and who find Victor Orban a rather appealing character, were long clamouring for something like this. And now they got it, they’re not going to let go of it that easily.

There will be other governments and there will be other crises. And bringing in the army has suddenly become much easier. All that is needed now is a technical request by the government to the parliament and – poof! – the army suddenly has policing powers again.

Luckily, yesterday cooler heads prevailed and the bar for approving special powers was raised to a two-thirds rather than just a simple majority as originally proposed by the government. Also, the amended law provides a sunset clause for these powers which expire after three months if not revoked sooner. They can, however, be extended, too, pending a re-vote. Meaning that this is not really a strong safeguard against abuse.

Fear of abuse was present in the subtext of the presentation by the Chief of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Andrej Osterman, when he addressed the parliament yesterday. Namely, among other things, Osterman said Slovenian army neither wants nor has asked for policing powers, but will perform the duty as instructed.

It was Bruce Willis in the role of General William Deveraux in The Siege who said that the army is a broad sword, not a scalpel.

And yet, here we are. What could possibly go wrong?

 

The Week Schengen Again Became Just A Place In Luxembourg

“Vat is your kargo?” The German border-policeman at a check-point just hundreds of metres inland from border with Austria could have very well escaped from a high-octane H’Wood flick while his muted partner looked like he barely missed the cast of Kobra 11, die Autobahnpolizei series. It was just a few days after Germany suspended Schengen rules on its Southern border and pengovsky spent previous few hours fretting over the possibility of a lenghty Stau on the border crossing which is inclined to see bumper-to-bumper traffic on a normal day, let alone in the midst of what turned out to be a near-complete breakdown of free movement rules within the EU in the wake of the refugee crisis.

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Rear-view mirror image of German border-checkpoint

But staying true to their Teutonic reputation, the procedure took less than five minutes. It was brutally efficient. Traffic was squeezed into a single lane with the first crew visually scanning incoming vehicles, another crew pulled over those selected (such as pengovsky, unshaven, driving a white cargo van), the third team then directed us to one of several two-men teams performing the actual check, in our case the Dolph Lundgren lookalike and his Danny Devito-esque sidekick. And, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, it was all over before you can say Schengen Agreement. Polite, efficient, not painful at all (provided you’re not trafficking refugees, I presume).

And yet, there it was. An intra-EU border, manned in full force. There is a generation of young people to whom a border between, say Austria and Germany or (albeit to a lesser extent) between Slovenia and Austria is but an abstract concept. Abolition of border checks and free movement of people has, as far and reality on the ground is concerned, probably the most important factor in development of a common, transnational, European identity. That and the introduction of Euro. And we all know how well *that* particular clustefurck was handled. In fact, the Schengen cascade effect was a real-life demonstration of what would happen in case of a “controlled Grexit”. A shitstorm of biblical proportions.

The visceral Visegrad Four

But, as shocking as it was, Germany should not be riled on account of closing its border with Austria. Yes, the historical parallels are not pretty and you can be excused for thinking this is what happened just before the Anschluss (nevermind the fact that just before Anschluss refugees were running the other way and, well… brush up on your history, dammit!) Also, yes, the move primarily fucks over the refugees who have already made it all this way just to be denied overcoming the last hurdle. But no, this is not a takeover of power by Bavarian hardliners in Berlin. Still, the Schengen Agreement is on life support as of last week. But rather than Germany the Visegrad Four are to blame for the predicament.

Germany got plenty of bad press over its handling of the Greek Crisis and rightly so, even though the Fabulous Duo Tsipras/Varoufakis performed quite admirably in fucking up the situation (OT and re last night’s elections Greece: Tsipras apparently did grow up in the course of the last nine months). It was therefore a bit of a poetic justice when Berlin invoked European solidarity in handling the refugee influx but was rebuffed harshly by Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland (which, admittedly is slowly caving in) and Hungary. But what should have been an instructive “we told you so” moment for Germany turned out to be a complete and utter perversion of European ideas and ideals by member states who seem to the think European Union is an a la carte restaurant where they can pick and choose some commitments and eschew others.

Because while German move to temporarily revoke Schengen is a policy move aimed at forcing other member states to either accept the quota system for handling refugees or start actively and generously participating in the relief effort on their own, Slovak suspension of Schengen rules (followed by non-Visegrad members Austria and the Nethelands) and mulled by Czech Republic and Poland is a misguided geopolitical move aimed at preventing the stream of refugees to spill over their border. As if it is not their problem.

Refugees for domestic consumption

That several Eastern European government responded to the refugee crisis in a borderline racist manner would make a good case study for psychoanalysts. Probably somewhere along the lines of inferiority complex meeting pre-modern politics meeting tribalism garnished with a splash of endemic fascism.

And elections. Croatia, for example, stopped processing refugees within two days of the wave spilling over the Croatian-Serbian border. True, the numbers are staggering and the country was apparently ill prepared to tackle the humanitarian crisis that was clearly coming their way. Slovenia, too, was slow to pull its collective head out of its collective ass, but the way Croatian system broke down was epic. Or, rather, disastrous. And once that went South and the refugees continued to go North, the government of Zoran Milanović simply threw their hands up and stopped registering newcomers. saying the refugees should go wherever they please. Which turned out to be Austria and Germany in most cases.

While Slovenian officialdom widely criticised Croatia for more or less simply passing the bucket to Slovenia, no-one mentioned that reasons go beyond the mere inability of Croatian services to handle the influx. You see, the centre-left government of Zoran Milanović is fighting an uphill re-election battle, where he is not shy of flirting with the right-wing agenda in attempts to win the centre vote. In doing this, he will join the long-and-distingusihed line of politicos who failed doing exactly that, but hey – when you’re out of ideas, anything will do. At any rate, the last thing Milanović (who tried to bluff his way though the humanitarian nightmare by saying that in allowing free passage Croatia “forced Slovenia and Hungary to tackle the problem, too”) needs three or four months before elections are thousands of refugees from Middle East and Africa. The HDZ-led opposition would in all likelihood start accusing him of “destroying the Croatian way of life, threatening security and Christian identity”. And if that sounds a lot like Victor Orban, you’re not far off. He and Karamarko of Croatian HDZ are more or less of the same flock.

Speaking of Orban, his barb-wire politics seems to be getting some unwarranted admiration around the EU, reports FT’s Peter Spiegel. The problem with this is twofold. First, the fact that barb-wire and paramilitaries patrolling it are quite unnecessary for an effective control of Schengen border, as demonstrated by Slovenian authorities which have done more or less the same by using much softer tactics. Even the lone scuffle that escalated into a cop using pepper-spray on a group of people turned out to have been at least in part provoked by an anarchist group which gets nervous every time it sees a robocop.

The Slovenian authorities were slow to react (the National Security Council only met on Friday afternoon, when the first refugees were already arriving at the border) but the responsible services got their shit together over the weekend and started registering refugees, busing them to shelters all over the country and providing basic medical care and sustenance. Slowly, to be sure, as hundreds of people were forced to wait on the Croatian side of several border crossings (and, at the same time, on the other side of the Schengen border), but over the course of the weekend the first wave was dealt with and – most importantly – the operative command of the situation was given to the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, a higly efficient and flexible part of national security system aimed at providing disaster relief and which can be activated locally, regionally or nationally, depending on the emergency. Civil Protection usually coordinates all civilian services and voluntary organisations in any given situation and can enlist the support of the police or the army if need be. With these guys in control of the situation, chances of a fuck-up were brought down to the best possible minimum.

Random acts of kindness

And to add a bit of local colour: Twitter and Facebook trolls notwithstanding, the response to refugee influx throughout Slovenia has been fantastic. The police, while stretched to limits at certain points of border, gave their best and there was at least one heartwarming story of a family that got separated at the border but was reunited further inland, not to mention the countless individuals acts of help, be it in providing food and water for both refugees *and* the police, soft toys for children or even spontaneously picking people up and driving them to Austria, as carried out and written up by journo colleague Aleš Lednik (Slovenian only, I’m afraid)

Hauptbahnhof Graz. Yalla

Point being that the refugee crisis can be managed. Serbia has borne the brunt of it for the past few months. Parts of Italy and Greece are the main entry points for years on end. And here we have certain EU member states making a ruckus about a quota system for a few hundred thousand refugees which – had all things been equal – shouldn’t even begin to upset the normal balance of things in a union with five hundred million citizens (that’s, 500.000.000, five with eight zeroes)

In light of this, the only possible conclusion conclusion is that Orban’s fence (and other non-metal but similar policy initiatives) is a show for domestic consumption. The speed at which the fence was put up is breathtaking and reminiscent of the speed the Italian Fascist occupation regime put up barbed-wire fence around Ljubljana in 1942. And if that is the way Orban “defends” his country from a fictional enemy from without imagine what he is willing to do to keep “the enemy from within” at bay. Yes, the fence is a message. But not a message to refugees. It is a message to any Hungarian who dares challenge his authority.

And this is the real test the EU is now facing. Not migrant quotas per se, but whether the Union and its biggest players will allow small-time fascisms to proliferate while they pick and choose which parts of the European integration they adhere to and which they ignore (until next time).

Cameron ante portas

Even more importantly, the knee-jerk suspension of Schengen rules, especially if it spreads and continues for a while, will gravely harm the EU itself. What is to stop, say, David Cameron from demanding even more opt-outs and special treatments when tries to renegotiate the UK’s membership in the EU next year? And once he achieves that, what will stop other member states from following his example?

Oh, The iRonny

After less than a week as the Slovenian-appointed arbitrator at the Arbitration Tribunal, Ronny Abraham quit the post, saying he agreed to the appointment “in the hope that this would help restore confidence between the Parties and the Arbitral Tribunal and to allow the process to continue normally, with consent of the both parties” but realized this is not the case hence it is no longer appropriate for him to serve on the tribunal (this via CPA press release). Obviously, all hell broke loose this side of the Alps where only days earlier foreign minister Karl “Teflon” Erjavec lauded Abraham’s appointment as a victory for Slovene diplomacy. Sneers about victory turning into a defeat were inevitable, as were renewed calls for his resignation. The irony, of course, was not lost on anyone. Or, rather, the iRonny.

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Original picture via the ICJ

To be honest, other than driving Slovenian foreign policy from embarrassment to embarrassment, Erjavec is not really the man responsible here. I mean, sure, his bravado was unfounded as usual, but it was mostly for internal consumption rather than anything else. The man is sly enough not to have done any actual moves in this mess without express backing either of PM Cerar or the government as a whole. Indeed, Abraham was appointed by the government in an extraordinary session and – truth be told – Erjavec, for all his political prowess does not strike pengovsky as having the capacity of coming up with a heavyweight like Abraham, who currently serves as President of the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Which, incidentally, might be the clue to his resignation. Abraham stated in no unclear terms that the reason for his withdrawing is the fact that one of the parties (that be Croatia) has no intention of adhering to whatever decision the tribunal comes up with. Which is bad enough and not something you want on your resume, especially if you’re late to the party. But it could also indicates that he expect the case to land in front of ICJ some time in the future (something Croatia was hoping to achieve all along). But regardless od whether this happens or not, his message was clear: he will have nothing to do with cases where one of the parties reneges on a written and signed promise.

The arbitration, however, continues. Slovenia will again appoint an arbitrator, probably in the next two weeks (the usual suspect are already lining up in the media stream), the only difference being that the government will take much more flak over it. Both from the media (which have unreservedly echoed politicians’ cries of happiness first time around) as well as the opposition. In fact, while conspiracy theories about who’s really behind the shenanigans were initially on the back burner, they’re on full-throttle this time around. Stupid as they are.

initially, the word on the street was that the Sekolec-Drenik leak was orchestrated by either the Social Democrats (junior coalition partners) or the opposition SDS of Janez Janša. The logic of it being that the SD is a) in control of the intelligence community by virtue of having the defence portfolio and b) still pissed with PM Cerar over #Vebergate and the sale of Telekom Slovenije (which, incidentally, fell through). Or, in the case of the SDS, that the general assumption that Janša still has every fucking intelligence service penetrated with this people back from his heyday as the defence-mofo-in-chief.

Both of these theories have holes the size of Greek debt-to-GDP ratio in them. Namely: the SDS would have been a prime suspect, had it not been for the slight detail of Janša still rotting in jail at the time of the first Sekolec-Drenik convo. At that particular junction the Party was completely focused on getting the Glorious Leader from behind bars and could spare precious few resources to pull a stunt like that – and then sit on it. As for SD, the explanation is painfully simple. Right now, they can’t even tie their own shoelaces, let alone orchestrate what would in these circumstances amount to high treason and get away with it. Case closed on items One and Two

Then there’s the idea that it’s the Americans who were somehow punishing Slovenia for supposedly being too close to Russia. The largest-circulation Slovenian tabloid Slovenske novice even ran a story to that effect. Which is some of the biggest load of bullshit we’ve seen recently in this sorry excuse for a country. Because not only is the Slovenian-Russian hug-fest at the Russian Chapel on the Vršič mountain pass an annual event dating back a whole lotta years (cue Led Zeppelin), the incessant belief that this sorry excuse for a country is a battlefield for proxy wars between superpowers is, well, delusional at best. Damir Lucić in Rijeka-based Novi List took apart the Croatian aspect of this particular argument quite well (Croatian only). Basically, his argument goes along the lines that the Croatian notion of US being in Croatia’s corner on this one is weird (to put it mildly) in the context of US oil company pulling out of oil exploration/exploitation off the Croatian coast, citing border disputes of all things (this time with Montenegro where one of the richest oil fields is tought to be located).

Pengovsky’s favourite (not in the least because it was concocted by moi personally) is that it was the Austrians which picked up the Sekolec-Drenik international call (spying on international calls is perfectly legal, both are foreign nationals and Sekolec lives in Vienna), somehow delivered the goods to Croatia on account of them being the Austrians neighbour’s neighbour (one usually gets along better with those than one’s immediate neighbours) and rocked the boat a bit. On the other hand, Slovenia could have some dirt on Croatia, courtesy of the Dutch, of all people. Which would account for PM Cerar’s appointing his Dutch counterpart Rutte to cast a vote in Slovenia’s name during the last round of the Greek clusterfuck in Brussels (Cerar puzzled a lot of people with that move and took a lot of flak over it).

Had the above really been the case, it would have been one for the textbooks, but unfortunately is has about the same amount of relevance as any other conspiracy theory on this particular issue. Absolutely none. The Austrians even went on the record saying the expect the countries to stick to the agreement (this, admittedly, via the Slovene Press Agency).

Anyways. No matter how you look at it, this is simply yet another case of Hanlon’s Razor, i.e. attributing malice where stupidity suffices. And boy, there is a lot of stupid floating around in this debate.