Eurothings Slovenly But Syrizaously Going South

Since Greece and the rest of the Euro zone gave each other the finger the other day, a few things need to be said before things go syrizaously wrong in this neck of the woods. What was expected to be the day of another euro-compromise, brokered in the wee hours of the morning, the whole thing fell apart, seemingly with Greece and its new government on one side and he rest of the Eurozone on the other.

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But in reality, what we have here is not a game of playing chicken, with Greece and the Eurozone counting on each other to blink first. Rather, what we are witnessing is a Mexican stand-off of gigantic proportions where almost every member of the Eurozone is holding a gun to the head of most other members and at the same time virtually all Eurozone governments are held at gunpoint by their electorate, something they’ve only themselves to blame. Namely, by bailing out German and French banks with their taxpayers’ money and now trying to make the Greeks foot the bill, they’ve found themselves in exact opposite of Greek Syriza: while Tsipras and Varoufakis promised to end the vicious cycle of more cuts for more money, leading to less growth which creates the need for even more cuts and the need for even more money (and so on ad nauseam), the governments of Germany, The Netherlands and even Slovenia (to name but a few) are under increasing pressure to make sure the taxpayers get their money back.

Thus, a clustefuck of gigantic proportions was created, where legitimate positions of all governments involved preclude one another and are starting to resemble the old joke about an irresistible force and the immovable object. There rarely was a greater need for the (black) art of the European compromise.

The position of Slovenian government is especially interesting in this case. Apparently, finance minister Dušan Mramor more or lees told his Greek colleague Yanis to go Varoufakimself with his ideas of increasing public sector employment and expenditure while everyone else – including Slovenia – is slashing costs to make ends meet. Not that the ends are anywhere near each other – Slovenia will have to raise 1.5 billion, 15% of the budget, in loans in 2015 alone.

Reassuring Mramor

Mramor was apparently indignant over the fact that in per capita terms Slovenia is among the most exposed member states in the Greece omnishambles but was having no say in the matter as Tsipras and Varoufakis were negotiating with the big boys (and girl) only. As if Mramor way trying primarily to reassure himself by lashing out at Greece rather than trying to find some middle ground or even support Greece in its, well, “need for more time“.

But reassuring himself or the Slovenian taxpayer Mramor is not. It is more than obvious that most (if not all) money loaned to Greece will never get repaid and that Franci Križanič, FinMin in the Borut Pahor government (2008-2011) was talking bullshit when he said Slovenia will make money with the loan.

Mramor’s going after Greece suspiciously coincides with feces coming dangerously close to a mechanical air ventilator in the case of 3-billion-heavy bailout of Slovenian banks in late 2013.

Junior bonds extinction

Namely, accusations were made by Tadej Kotnik (curiously, a biophisycist and vicedean of faculty of Electrical Engineering) that recapitalisation of the banks and especially the accompanying extinction of subordinated bank bonds (in effect, complete nationalisation of Slovenian banks) was illegal, pre-arranged and non-transparent. But the gist of it, it seems, lies in the allegation that the Bank of Slovenia (this country’s central bank, aptly shortened to BS) back-dated a key measure to cover up the fact that eradication of junior bonds was agreed-upon in advance with the European Commission and was not some sort of a last-ditch measure to save the banks.

Now, Kotnik, a private individual and a member of the Association of Small Shareholders, apparently invested heavily in subordinates and thus lost quite a substantial amount of money. He also challenged the bond extinction at the Constitutional Court but the court deferred to the European Court of Justice as the bailout measures were coordinated with the European Commission and under EU law directly.

Anyhoo, the thing is that the Bank of Slovenia, specifically Governor Boštjan Jazbec fucked up their initial response, hiding behind legal clauses and non-disclosure of financial information, thus giving credence to Kotnik’s accusations which are, it seems, mostly based on one or two sources within the BS.

obviously all hell broke loose, with MPs screaming for a parliamentary investigation, various political parties scrambling for cheap political points and Jazbec, after a press conference was finally held, fucking up further with a seriously distorted view of (non)accountability of the institution he heads and the office he holds.

Namely, Jazbec, after explaining that everything is OK and within the bounds of the law and that two wildly different appraisals of the state of the largest bank NLB are not all that unexpected decided to explain the matter further to… the government. As if it wasn’t the parliament who appointed him to the position and as if it wasn’t the parliament who represents the sovereign of this country, the people. Or, as they are more commonly known these days, the taxpayers.

While the government of course needs to be in the loop, Jazbec would do well to address the parliament first, since it was the people’s euros he spent on propping up the banks. But as things stand now, he is making one small(ish) mistake after the other and if he doesn’t stop digging soon, he may find himself in a hole too deep to climb out of. Especially since political parties are scrambling to put a daylight betweeen them and anything that might make them look responsible for the disastrous state of the banking sector. Which is why the Social Democrats are all of a sudden deeply worried about the situation. As if it wasn’t them who ran the financial portfolio in the ill-fated Pahor government (when things started going south for real) and who were junior partners in the Bratušek government which engineered the bailout. Almost the same goes for the SDS, which led the government during the pre-2008 spending spree and which performed a couple of smaller recapitalisations of the NLB (couple a hundred million a pop) and is now screaming bloody murder and demanding a parliamentary investigation.

The sad reality

The reality, of course, is much more prosaic. After Greece and Cyprus, Slovenia was to be next in line for the Troika Treatment. And since the political mantra in the Eurozone at the time was that individual stakeholders, not just the state as such must bear the cost of the bailout, it was more or less obvious that erasing junior debt was unavoidable. Even more. If there is one point where Tadej Kotnik is correct is that the whole process was most likely pre-arranged and coordinated with Brussels. You see, at the time Slovenia for all intents and purposes was under administration, with the European Commission pouring over every aspect of economic and/or fiscal policy, confirming some, rejecting others. And so it seems plausible that the bailout of the banks, the extent and the mechanics of it were approved by the EC before they were enacted by the Bratušek-Čufer-Jazbec trio. That the Commission formally approved the measures taken fairly soon thereafter only goes to strengthen the point.

The above seems to suggest that the problem was not so much in the execution of the bailout but in the definition of the problem. You see, at the time the fate of Slovenia was in the hands of a budget specialist (Bratušek), a higher-level bank manager (Čufer) and a macroeconomist (Jazbec). None of them were in office for a particularly long time, while the country as such was held at gunpoint, not to mention the political turmoil on the home front. For them to understand that the problem was one of policy concept and not (only) of numbers would demand an extraordinary insight. Even more – even if they had the insight (it seems plausible that at least some people advising them did manage a wider outlook), it remains doubtful if they had the room to manoeuver.

Which, not surprisingly, brings us back to the current Greco-German spat. Unlike the Slovenian government of Alenka Bratušek, the new Greek PM Tsipras and his FinMin Varoufakis fully understand the problem is political, even ideological. But they, too, have precious little wiggle room. Because just like Syriza is acting on a mandate by the people, so, too, are the Germans and the rest of the Eurozone. At some point they will have to explain to their voters why they used their money to prop up mostly German and French banks, overexposed in Greece. I’m sure it seemed a good idea at the time and in the panic that gripped the EU when Greece all but defaulted, the last thing anyone wanted was a bank run. But to bailout its banks, the Eurozone took out an even bigger loan with their voters and not being entirely candid on what the money was being spent on.

Extend and pretend

With this in mind, it is not only Greece that is – in the words of Yanis Varoufakis – resembling a drug addict. The (rest of the) Eurozone, too, is asking their voters trust and understanding they may not be ready to give anymore. Which makes the ruling centrist(ish) parties in Europe nervous which, by extent, leads to some uneasy moments of disturbing clarity, such as German FinMin Schäuble apparently saying the Tsipras government is acting irresponsibly. Patronising, even smacking of colonialism. But in reality most likely nothing more than a show of frustration at the realisation that even if the new Greek government does decide to play ball and continue with the established sparprogram, the game is more or less up and “extend and pretend” is from now on a two-way street.

And that no one knows how long the voters are going to continue buying it.

 

Brussels Bruises For Bulc And Bratušek

As pengovsky writes this, Jean-Claude Juncker (yes, he of selfie-with-a-convict fame) concluded his meeting with Violeta Bulc, Slovenia’s second entry for the post of the European Commissioner later today. Thus a sordid saga of backstabbing, ruthless power-play, misoginy and blatant incompetence continues, reportedly with Bulc being nominated for the transport portfolio.

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JCJ with Frau Komisaar vol. 1 and vol. 2 (photo credit: @NatashaBertraud)

Pengovsky sadly didn’t have the time to cover the first instalment of this particular tour-de-clustefuck as he was too busy covering Ljubljana local elections for The Firm™ and has yet to write it up for this blog as well (Janković won, in case you didn’t know). But you all know the final outcome: Alenka Bratušek, Slovenian former MP in the end withdrew her nomination after a humiliating 113-12 vote rejecting her appointment as Commission VP for Energy Union.

Bratušek debacle

Now, what happened to Bratušek was about as brutal as can get and in all honesty her being singled out as the lone reject of the Juncker Commission is unfair at very least. From the moment the former prime minister was appointed as one of three possible nominees from Slovenia a chain of events was set in motion that – combined with her (admittedly) very much lacking performance during the committee hearing – could only end in a disaster.

You see, the main sticking point of Bratušek nomination in Slovenia (as presented by her political rivals and happily carried by numerous newsmedia) was not her lack of expertise, but rather the fashion in which she was nominated, her supposed singing of communist songs at an event last year and her potential paycheck (the latter two being typically Slovenian issues). The fact that she knew about as much about the emerging Energy Union as the next guy came a distant fourth.

While some criticism was well deserved, Bratušek was subject to daily, no, hourly abuse that was blatantly misoginous in nature and was not unlike all the shit thrown at her during her year-long reign as this country’s PM, from the length and pattern of her skirt, colour of her shoes, the dress she wore when she met the pope to rampant speculation whom was she sleeping with to get where she was. And yes, at one point Jucker was mentioned as her bed-trophy. Despicable doesn’t even being to cover what Bratušek was subjected to. Thus the character assassination that commenced immediately after Juncker picked her from the list containing Tanja Fajon (Slovenian MEP for S&D) and Karl Erjavec (foreign minister and leader of the pensioners’ party DeSUS).

Adding to that was the anti-graft commission (KPK) which took issue with her (self-)nomination process and the fact that Bratušek handled that part of the equation pretty badly, giving the appearance that he was avoiding a quick closure of the case by first waiting until the last possible day to pick up the registered mail, then letting her attorney deal with it and in the end even picking a new attorney. Pengovsky is still dumbfounded as to why she didn’t tackle the issue head-on, especially as the KPK found her actions amounted only to a conflict of interest and not a full-blown corruption (while we’re on the issue: in formulating the case against Bratušek, KPK created an infinite loop and more or less emasculated itself. More on that soon)

And then there was the horse-trading in the European Parliament where no-one even bothered to hide that it was going on over Bratušek’s back. The EPP and the S&D struck a deal to rub each others’ backs regardless of their respective nominees inappropriateness for selected portfolios, perhaps with a few cosmetic adjustments. This left Bratušek (an ALDE nominee) as the odd one out and boy did they let her have it.

But, at the end of the day, it was her under-prepairedness that made every other piece of her downfall-puzzle to fall into place. A blunder here, a blunder there, her signature lackluster and repetitive performance, sub-par use of euro-speak (where the fuck were phrases like “fully acknowledging the sovereignty of member states we will strive to create a fair, transparent and effective single market, blah, blah, subsidiarity, blah, blah, competition, blah, blah, and so on) and – finally – the fact that the Energy Union still but a figment of European imagination, this horse was not only out of the race, but was lying by the race track, panting, being kicked, screamed at and reduced to sun-dust.

The only one who on the surface at least played a fair game was Jean-Claude Juncker, who stood by his nominee and had his PR people maintain there were no changes to the Commissioners’ roster until Bratušek withdrew herself. Whether Jucnker really stood by her, helped Bratušek reach that decision or was only happy to see EPP and S&D do his bidding, we’ll never know. But at the very least, the next EU top dog kept his composure and class, which can not be said for anyone else involved in this story.

This goes for Slovenian PM Miro Cerar as well. The ruckus he raised when outgoing Bratušek government (acting well within its authority) put forward its list of nominees, was epic. He later came about but only after he was told by Juncker personally that it was he (Juncker) who is putting together the Commission, not Cerar or any other PM. And when Bratušek came tumbling down, it was up to Cerar to come up with a nominee.

Enter Bulc

The newly minted PM all of a sudden found his spine and flat-out rejected demands by EPP and S&D to appoint Tanja Fajon as the new Slovenian nominee, going with Violeta Bulc, his government’s VP for development instead. And almost immediately the whole wheel of disqualifications-ad-nauseam started turning yet again. To be sure, Bulc nomination carries a few gems, as well. Mostly, these have to do with more-than-eyebrow-raising entry of her being an alumnus of Shamanic Academy in Scotland and her statements about “syntropy”. But on the other hand, Bulc has had a successful career as a businesswoman, both in IT as well as a consultant. Her main drawback, however, are not crackpot theories about space and time. After all, how many MEP believe in the existence of a super-natural being which will ultimately judge our lives on this Earth? Or, how many of them are anti-vaxxers? (I’m shooting at random here).

Her main drawback is her lack of experience in a senior governmental position. Which – unless Bulc gave a stellar performance tonight during here tete-a-tete with Jucnker – means that a Commissioner from Slovenia will not be appointed Commission VP. Serves us right, I guess. At any rate, this wasn’t a “Slovenian” job Bulc is now aiming at, it is a Bulc job, formerly a Bratušek job, both of them got to have a shot at because they’re Slovenian. But I guess this still is a lesson we need to learn as a nation. There seems to be an unhealthy notion prevailing that we should do everything possible to prevent any of our compatriots from making it outside Slovenian borders. And if he/she makes it despite everything, we collectively expect this individual to disperse the goodies of his/her position among the rest of us. Just because.

But as far as lessons go, the biggest one was served not to Bratušek nor to Bulc but to Miro Cerar. For if there never was more poetic a justice served when the new Cerar government had to rush their decision on the new nominee and did so in a correspondence session, the very same way Bratušek rushed her outgoing government’s approval for Juncker’s original roster and drew some serious flak over it. Indeed, questions were raised as to legality of the issue. Bogus questions, but still. At the time they added to the fog-of-war surrounding Bratušek nomination.

And you can expect the same pattern to repeat again in the next few days. Even though the whole thing is not about Violeta Bulc, Alenka Bratušek or even Slovenia as a whole. What we have here is a power-play between the Juncker Commission and the European Parliament where the latter is looking to draw first blood (which it did) and keep the upcoming Commission in check for the duration of the five-year term. On the other hand, new new Commission boss has more than enough experience to know that in the curious menage-a-trios of EU top institutions he must subjugate the parliament early on lest he be spending more time fighting off rabid parliamentarians than actually making policy.

Which means that the Bulc hearing in the EP will quite possibly be just as bruising as Bratušek hearing was. Juncker did not go along with his own conservative EPP and socialist S&D suggestions-cum-blackmail about Tanja Fajon, nor did Slovenian PM Cerar. And with the credibility of any Commissioner candidate from Slovenia being question to begin with (and highly likely to go south from there), Juncker and now Bulc are fighting an unexpectedly steep uphill battle. Of course, say the EPP and S&D, if Commission President-elect were to nominate Tanja Fajon, or perhaps, former EPP MEP Romana Jordan, then all of his remaining problems could simply just.. go away. Get it?

In this respect (the inevitable portfolio reshuffle notwitstanding) Slovenian nominees were nothing more than collateral damage in a high-level, high-stakes game of political poker. And yet, a good portion of this country was weighing in as though Juncker was waiting for their opinion before he made his next move. In reality, however, it was just a freak-show at the outer edge of the circus, where they keep the ugly people.

    Troika Democracy And The EPP

    Although there’s shit going on daily that would warrant a well aimed rant in its general direction (as always in this sorry little excuse for a country), pengovsky has a month-old axe to grind. Not surprisingly, this connects to more recent events, including the European People’s Party trying to meddle with the judicial process and demanding Janez Janša be exempt from whatever fallout (political or otherwise) there may be from the Patria Affair. But parallel to the Passion of Ivan – and very much caused by it – for the past two months or so, the political right is producing a steady stream of calls for the Troika to descend upon Slovenia as soon as possible.

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    A masterpiece by Matej Avbelj, PhD (source)

    Now, that Slovenia is in economic omnishambles is hardly news anymore. But just as they have done for years, part of the political class is still refusing to recognise the reality and is playing hide-and-seek regardless of the cost. You see, back in 2008, when crisis loomed large on the horizon Janez Janša in the last days of his 2004-2008 government famously said that “only an aspirin is needed while the left-wing wants to prescribe an antibiotic to the Slovene economy”.

    Well, five years later Slovene economy is in the middle of open-heart surgery while Janez Janša, since conviced of corruption (appeal pending) is saying that we’d all be better off if we just let the Troika handle things from now on. This, of course, has precious little to do with the economy (of which Janša still doesn’t understand didly squat) but rather with that elusive thingie called election victory.

    Namely, it goes without saying that Slovenia’s formal appeal for a full bailout would most likely mean yet another early elections, which Janša might actually have a chance of winning (more on the current public sentiment some other time). But to do so, he’d have to paint the current government as a) incompetent and b) illegitimate. In this enterprise he is helped by a plethora of people of various intellectual prowess, not in the least by Matej Avbelj PhD, dean of a small Faculty for State and European Studies which – contrary to its name – mostly offers courses in public administration. A month or so ago Avbelj published a column on a law-oriented portal titled “Troika as a Catalyst for Democracy” (Google translate here).

    In the text, Avbelj basically argues (from a supposedly academic point of view) that Slovenia is a state, captured by special interest and dark powers and that elections don’t really count for anything. “Anything” in this case of course translates to “Janša in power”. Because even when Janša was in power and Slovenia witnessed an unprecedented blitz against the media, economy and other sectors, thus paving the way for many a folly we witnessed in the past ten years, the man still claimed Slovenia is run by communists and if he couldn’t find them it just meant he wasn’t looking hard enough. Thus, even when Janša is/was in power, there’s an ongoing conspiracy against him, preventing him from doing the good things.

    Well, the reality is there is no conspiracy. Whatever Janša was doing in power wasn’t good on the whole, but he was good at doing it. Sure, this can be said for a couple of other administrations as well, but the difference is that Janša was and still is motivated mostly by perpetuating and increasing his power, politically and otherwise. In this, he often resorted to abusing democratic instruments and occasionally tinkered with undemocratic ones, claiming to have “protected democracy” all along. This goes for calling for Troika as well.

    Avbelj, in his texts, assists Janša in this enterprise. The Troika may be many things. but is not a tool of or for democracy. It is comprised of representatives of institutions whose democratic potential ranges from “miniscule” to “none”. The European Commission is a body agreed upon by the EU member states and although approved by the European Parliament, it is hardly subject to a serious checks-and-balances mechanism. The ECB is a monetary, not a representative institution. The IMF doubly so.

    Secondly, the way the Troika operates is anything but consensual. In its purest form – as witnessed in Greece time and time again – it is a Godfather-type ensemble which simply dictates terms (how does one say “we’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse” in German?) And even if Slovenia were subject to Troika-light, things would still be a couple of orders of magnitude uglier than they are now.

    One of the effects being that it wouldn’t matter a pair of fetid dingo’s kidney who is in power. Even today Slovenia is reportedly (and those reports have not been denied) under daily scrutiny from EC experts (again: unelected!) and right now to a large extend ours is only a pretend economic and political sovereignty. But if the Troika is hell, then Slovenia is purgatory at the moment. We can still hope to get out. With the Troika in the house, not so much.

    And so, the logical conclusion is that Janez Janša will stop at nothing to regain power, even if only as a puppet leader with no autonomy whatsoever. Such is the lust – or rather – the need for power. Because Janša as PM stands a much lesser chance of having a verdict against him being upheld than citizen Janša does. This, at least, is the subtext of yesterday’s resolution by the EPP on Slovenia which among other things states that Janša should not be excluded from the political process until final verdict is passed.

    In reality, the political star of Janez Janša is fading fast. It is, however, very worrying that a generation of intelectuals has been bread that will happily continue politics done Janša’s way. The only difference being that with him it was a survival tactic, whereas they’ve objectified it into a legitimate political tactic.

    EDIT: only minutes ago Janša suggested the government “avoid the Troika by requesting a bank bailout”. QED as far as I’m concerned.

     

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    President Pahor As Commandant Lassard

    It seems that the only gauge of the state of the, errr, state these days is the yield on Slovenian bonds on international markets. Whenever it starts nearing seven percent, media and the political right-wing go apeshit and start blaring big fat headlines about impending doom. And whenever it starts dropping, the left-wing goes talk-to-the-hand-cause-the-face-ain’t-listening-biatch. But fact of the matter is that the yield on various Slovenian bonds is going up and down like a cork in the water. And that ain’t good.

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    Borut Pahor, Eric Lassard and their, well, fishes (source and source respectively)

    Which is part of the reason government of Alenka Bratušek is on a charm offensive these past few days. With limited success, might I add. AB went on CNN the other day and apparently she didn’t do a particularly good job. That seems to be the prevalent opinion of the commentariat, anyways. Truth be told, PM’s performance was somewhat lacking, both in substance and in style. While she was mostly ridiculed on account of her thick accent, the problem was that she repeated the same old mantras of Slovenia not needing outside help in dealing with our problems. While that may be true (indeed, the OECD report released this week suggest so, as does an otherwise gloom report by the European Commission), Bratušek failed to shock & awe.

    You talkin’ to me?

    But it is important to remember Bratušek wasn’t taking to the home crowd. In fact, she wasn’t really talking to Richard Quest either. For what it was worth, she was talking to foreign investors. At the very least, to moneymen buying Slovenian debt. And from what pengovsky hears from abroad, she did an OK job. And just to put things in perspective, while the local economic honchos were reportedly impressed with the way the new finance minister handled the OECD, the non-natives (a.k.a. the real world) were apparently left unfazed, to put it mildly. (full disclosure: pengovsky is quoted in the linked article). On the other hand, The government did manage to sell some 900 million of debt today (after failing to sell 100 million days earlier) and won a little breathing room to put together what everyone is waiting for: an actual plan.

    In that respect it is somewhat ironic that Bratušek is continuing with the basic outline set up by Janša’s administration, meaning bad bank and state sovereign holding company, augmented by further cuts in the public sector. Moreover, parliament is apparently close on enshrining the fiscal rule in the constitution, the very thing which sent both left and right to the barricades a year ago. And that’s now, when the reasoning behind austerity was completely and utterly debunked. On account of an Excel error, mind you!

    Where is Janša hiding?

    Speaking of Janez Janša, he went below radar, more or less. (Self)demoted to being a mere party president, forfeiting his MP seat as well as ex-PM benefits, he is running around courtesy of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, giving lectures on human rights. Last week it was Iceland, next month it will be Berlin. Strange animal, this institute, mind you. Apparently, they take on interns to send spam. Also, their website bears strangely close resemblance to English pages of both SDS and Janez Janša. Or is that the other way around?

    At any rate, Janša is apparently up for re-election as Party leader and with less than a month to go, he has yet to officially announce his bid. While former minister of infrastructure Zvonko Černač already said Janša is running, the man himself remains mum. And for a reason, pengovsky imagines. Sentences were passed in the Austrian branch of the Patria Affair and the court in Vienna concluded bribes were paid in that particular arms deal. Initially it was reported the Austrian judge said in her ruling that without a doubt Slovenian politicians were bribed. SDS went full throttle against this line of reporting, issuing a steady stream of denials, either directly or via friendly press. Be that as it may, Janša has a lot to worry about in that department.

    The downfall of Žiga Turk

    Speaking of SDS-friendly press, former minister of education, science, sports and culture Žiga Turk quit all party functions (but, it seems, not the party itself) citing an increasing gulf between his own convictions and party directives. Which was quite a bombshell, since Turk was widely perceived as the austerity hawk who went about dismantling as much of public sector within his purview as possible. He was also seen as the second most prominent man in the SDS, right after Janša. Maybe he became too strong and that was part of the reason that Party-friendly press tore him apart and practically labelled him a traitor to the cause.

    This is not the first time Janša brought down a would-be political heir when the latter became too strong. Something similar happened to Milan Zver who was removed to Brussels as MEP soon after he started showing signs of independence. That’s the way Janša operates. He picks men (politically) lesser than himself, builds them up and then brings them down at the very moment they could have made a difference in the Party. This is also an indication that Janša is by no means leaving politics. At best, he went underground hoping to be missed. His only gamble is that he will stay underground for so long that the political landscape will have changed to the point of making him obsolete.

    Commandant Lassard

    Speaking of being obsolete, President Borut Pahor is increasingly starting to look like Commandant Eric Lassard of the Police Academy series. Namely, last week his office tweeted about Pahor keeping a goldfish in his office. Yes. In the midst of the crisis, when the country is just a panic-attack away from a bankruptcy and the troika descending, the president is busy fooling around with a goldfish. And drawing criticism from animal welfare organisations to boot, since at first he was keeping the poor thing in a bowl of unfiltered water. His office has installed a proper aquarium since then.

    OK, so Pahor did partake in the charm offensive, visiting France today and going to Germany next week. Which is yet another proof of the fact that the prez and the reality are further and further apart. The “Franco-German train” he so vigorously promoted while he was the prime minister and was clamouring for Slovenia to get on-board, apparently still exists in his mind. But only in his mind. Which is bad enough. What’s worse is that Pahor is visiting France first, giving precedence to “mon amiFrancois Hollande, brother socialist who didn’t support Pahor in last year’s presidential campaign, despite Borut claiming otherwise (Slovene only).

    Thus President Pahor snubbed Angela Merkel who (despite not being a particular favourite of pengovsky) still runs the country which just happens to be Slovenia’s largest export partner. Instead he went to see this guy who snubbed him. Looking for some tough love, are we? Anyhow, that’s just diplomatic gaffes. For all his experience in foreign relations, Pahor apparently is no stranger to them.

    More worrying is the fact that the president – if his website and Twitter account are anything to go by – to date failed to make any kind of statement on the bombing of Boston Marathon, let alone offer condolences to victim’s families. It was up to Foreign minister Erjavec to save the face of this country.

     

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