In a surprise move, defence minister Aleš Hojs (NSi) on Thursday dissolved the contract on purchase of Patria APCs, giving the Patria Affair yet another twist. On the surface the whole thing was declared to have been mutually agreed with both sides calling it even. Slovenia gets 30 out of 135 planned APCs while Patria gets 74 out of planned 278 million euro. But in reality, the whole thing is a mop-up operation which no doubt is overseen by PM Janez Janša.
You see, Janša giveth and Janša taketh away. While it is true that anyone can rat but only the ingenious few can re-rat, our illustrious PM definitely does not count among them. Janša and his band of merry men had to remove foot out of their mouth on more than one occasion lately. Like with the kindergarten-freebie his government instituted in the good old days but was among the first benefits to be thrown under the bus when the going got tough.
But the Patria thingie is one of definitive moments of modern Slovenian politics. For the first time a dodgy arms deal was prosecuted and for the first time a senior politician is prosecuted for it. Also, for the first time a senior politician was appointed to a top post in the country while prosecuted.
The irony of the situation could not be more pronounced. It was Janša government 1.0 which signed the contract and it is Janša government 2.0 which is dissolving it. The only difference is that the person who actually signed the now-defunct contract (Karl Erjavec of DeSUS) got promoted from defence to foreign minister. In fact one can not shake the feeling that Janša’s main purpose is to clean up after his 2004-2008 power-orgy. As far as the case against him is concerned, this doesn’t change a whole lot. I’m sure some bright soul will try to trump up some sort of legal mumbo-jumbo saying that since the contract is no more, so should the case against Janša be. But in reality the Prime Minister still stands accused of corruption in from of a criminal court.
Politically, however, things are even more funny. Ljubica Jelušič (SD), defence minister in Pahor’s government (the one between both Janša’s tenures, to refresh your memory), said that annulling the contract was a good idea. However, while in office, she was adamant about not annulling the contract, which puts her in a rather awkward position and somehow makes Janša look like a person who can make decisions as opposed to Borut Pahor, who, well, couldn’t.
And this is the crux of the matter. It was Janša and his government who OKd a deal that was fishy from the start and where handsome bribes were allegedly paid. The deal had and anti-corruption clause built-in and PM Pahor had both grounds and ample time to either sue for annulment of reach settlement with Patria. Apparently, it wasn’t that hard.
Truth be told, not everyone is happy about it. Especially NATO is apparently cross with us now, because Slovenia gave a commitment to form a mid-size armoured brigade some time soon. This will not happen now. And it was probably this why then-PM Pahor couldn’t bring himself to kill the deal. His incessant need to be liked by everybody and his brother once again worked against him. The deal was stalled as it was and it was clear that it will not be going anywhere but while Slovenia had the brigade at least on paper, Pahor got the attaboy treatment in Brussels. Which is fine and dandy. The problem is that he probably knew back then this country wasn’t going to deliver. But he chose to dodge the issue rather than tackle it. Which is probably why he’s running for president now (but more on that some other day).
Janša on the other hand cares jack shit about such things. He killed the deal as soon as he got the chance, making his domestic position a little bit more stronger. Which seems to have been his modus operandi ever since he came to power seven months ago. Mostly by trying to keep coalition partners in line with various doomsday scenarios. Even if it means losing whatever credibility this country has left with foreign investors.