If You Build It They Will Come*

Proposed designs of Stožice (L) and Bežigrad (R) stadiums

It is almost ten years since Slovenia caught the football fever en masse. When Slovenia qualified for EURO 2000, then-mayor of Ljubljana Vika Potočnik – carried away by the football fever – promied to build a new football staduim in Ljubljana. This promise turned out to be the first of three steps to her political demise. She made the promise in 1999 (methinks), but Ljubljana still doesn’t have a UEFA-regulation football stadium.

Four years later, Vika’s successor Danica Simšič tried in vain to find some sort of a solution to a hot-headed promise which by then became a prime political issue, not in the least because building a new stadium (or renovating the old one in Bežigrad part of Ljubljana) meant making some serious cash. Thus lobbying par excellence began, and Danica Simšič tried to accomodate everyone instead of pushing for one solution. So one week she was in favour of building a new stadium in Stožice (north outskirts of Ljubljana), but the very next week she was in favour of renovating the old one. It all depended on who got to her good ear on a particular week.

Danica’s stint as a mayor ended after four years, and by that time “Ljubljana Stadium” became a symbol of an incompetent city administration. Things even so far that some people claimed that the project itself was cursed, because everyone who touched it (on any level) more or less dug his/her own grave.

Enter current mayor Zoran Janković, who, staying true to his style promised – during election campaign – to both build a new stadium and renovate the old one. What he cleverly ommited is that he will have other people do it for him. Namely: the old stadium in Bežigrad was recently bought by Joc Pečečnik of Interblock, a self-made millionare who made his fortune by building automatic roulettes (to extreme happines of casino owners all over the world). Pečečnik already owns FC Interblock, which is not doing all that good in Slovene First League, but which will (if all goes well) have a wonderful new stadium in late 2009. The city of Ljubljana will hold a 28-percent stake in the company running the stadium, but will apparently stay out of Pečečnik’s way.

The new stadium in Stožice will be built in a similar way: The city of Ljubljana will invest real estate (worth approximately € 100 million), but the stadium and accompanying basketball hall will be built by a retail chain which will in turn be allowed to built a giant, 82.000 sq. metres shopping centre next to the sports objects which would then become city’s property. It’s kind of neat. I’ll let you build a shopping centre if you build me a stadium.

But why does Ljubljana need to stadiums? I don’t know, actually. We don’t even have a proper football club, let alone a national team worthy of its name. But everybody remembers the good old days, compiled in the video below, and hopes, that if we build it, they will come:

*apparently a misquote from Field of Dream starring Kevin Costner

Belgium Should Remain United (Or Why Flanders Is More Like Kosovo Than Like Slovenia)

Belgium divided

Thanks to dr. ARF, readers of this blog have been brought up to speed with the ongoing political and state crisis Belgium is experiencing. To put it in a (Serbian) nutshell: “Flamanci bi kao da se odcjepe, a Valonci kao nedaju” (the Flemish like want to separate, but the Walloons like don’t let them). The sentence “they like want to separate and we like don’t let them” was uttered by this disillusioned Yugoslav soldier during Slovene war of independence, and immediately became the definition of a pointless war.

And yes – the Flemsih/Walloons thing does have certain parallels with Slovenian drive for independence in late 80s/early 90s. For example: Flanders is (like Slovenia) the “economic engine” of Belgium. French speaking Walloon region in experiencing high unemployment and is in dire need of total economic restructuring. Which is not likely to happen because apparently the Belgian welfare support for unemployment amounts to €2000 per month. Not a meagre amount, even by Belgian standards. Economy played a big part in Slovenia opting for independence. Namely: Slovenia being the economic engine of Yugoslavia had to (under the slogan of brotherhood and unity funnel ludicrous amount of cash to the undeveloped regions of Yugoslavia where it disappeared rather than being spent on development projects.

Also, there was the language issue. As far as I get it, Walloons (being basically French and all) are highly unlikely to learn Flemish, whereas most people in Flanders are capable of at least basic communication in French. Again, almost the same thing happened in Slovenia/Yugoslavia, where most Slovenes spoke Serbo-Croatian (even had to learn the language in elementary school) but none of the other Yugoslav nations spoke Slovene. Therefore, I think it is obvious that certain parallels between Slovenia and Flanders exist.

However. I do firmly believe that Belgium (unlike Yugoslavia) should remain united.

Odd as it may sound, geopolitically speaking, Flanders is much more like Kosovo than like Slovenia. Both Kosovo and Flanders have a “mother-state” across the border. Economically, socially and culturally Kosovo leans towards Albania rather than Serbia, while Flanders leans towards Nethelands rather than Belgium.

“Aha!” you say, but Kosovo is about to become independent and so should Flanders, then. “Well,” I reply. It is not that easy. If Flanders declares independence, Beglium basically ceases to exist. What happens to the bi-lingual Brussels? Does it become another Luxemburg or Liechtenstein? Belgium was established by its neighbours and if it no more, that means that there are also no more guarantees to its independence, which in turn means that both Walloons and Flemish can seek protection of their “mother-state”, perhaps leaving Brussels to continue as a small enclave, a no man’s land.

Ah yes, but then there’s the small matter of some 70.000 strong German minority in Belgium. What happens if they call to their Vaterland for help? The last time that happened, all hell broke loose.

Belgium should remain united, because its dissolution could very well mean the end of Pax Europeana as we know it.

It’s Just Like The Man Said

Janša to the rescue!

I must admit that I’ve been unfairly critical of the government of Janez Janša in the past few months. I was so blinded by left-wing ideology that I failed to realize the masterplan for lightning progress of this country which was set in motion by Janša and his visionary political allies. And yet it is quite simple. It all started with anti-tobacco legislation which will undoubtedly improve the overall health of the nation. As people will get healthier in general, public health will be sustainable much longer, whereas private health insurance companies will be able to pocket even larger profits, adding to overall GDP growth.

Furthermore, Slovenia’s bars and pubs will now have to attract non-smoking crowds, and according to ministry of health, the way to do it is to start selling fresh, natural juices. And so the estimated 75 percent of non-smoking Slovenians will all of a sudden flock to bars for that shot of fresh carrot/avodaco juice with a slice of orange and sprinkled with cinnamon. But since that will not happen immediately, the government is pumping up inflation to keep people out of bars which had to increase prices of (mostly) alcoholic beverages. This is yet another step aimed at improving the nation’s health, as keeping the people dry will lead to a sharp decrease in liver chirossis and other alcohol related diseases.

This will of course lead to a sharp drop in DUI offences, cutting police work almost by half, which also means that the cops will not need all those resources. The visionary government and its fearless leader foresaw this long ago, and so they decided that Slovenian police will no longer drive expensive cars like Fords, Golfs or even Renaults, but will instead go about policing the nation in Dacias. And while there will be no more drunk drivers, there will be no more speeding either, because people will actually stop to get a better look at an unforgettable sight: A Slovene policeman in a Romanian Dacia. Truth be told, there is a health hazard connected to this: people may die of laughter.

But – moving on – we can now tell that the 15-20% increase in prices of milk and meat Slovenia is experiencing this week is actually a clever ploy by the government to make the nation adopt an entirely vegan diet (much in line with president Drnovšek’s wishes), which will sharply reduce Slovene dependency on intensive farming and promote development of bio-farming, enabling Slovenia to survive the looming energy crisis relatively unscratched.

And so Slovenes will be healthier and will live longer, which means that they will work both longer and harder, and will thus save the pension fund from bankrupcy, all of this while increasing country’s GDP and making it the beacon of the 21st century.

Just like Janša said a year and a half ago.