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.

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.

What Did FAZ Have To Say

Due to popular demand and having been alerted to it by various distinguished bloggerettes I have no choice but to draw your attention to an article ran recently in German Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung which was summarized by state-owned Slovene Press Agency and then re-published (in full, I take it) by Silvester Šurla, the recenlty removed editor of Mag magazine. His replacement was widely seen as a backlash by Laško brewery (which owns Delo, which in turn owns Mag) againt PM Janez Janša after he attacked Laško and Delo’s journalists during the vote of confidence.

Mag’s Silverster Šurla joins the ranks of bloggers

And just to give you a bit of backrgound, so you could understand how a pro-Janša magazine (Mag) ends up being a subsidiary of a newspaper, highly critical of the government (Delo):

In early 2005, with Janša only a couple of months in power and Delo still partly owned by state funds and state companies, the paper’s CEO Tomaž Perovič made a surprise move when he bought Mag, a pro-Janša magazine which was everything but a sound investment. But apparently he thought that if he bailed out Mag financialy and made Danilo Slivnik, the magazine’s editor-in-chief his second in command, he would hold on to his job.

No such luck. Within weeks Perovič’s term ended and the Board named Slivnik the new CEO. He then picked a new editor in chief and a radical switch from centre-left to a very pro-government orientiation was made. Journalists critical of the government were replaced, articles were practically rewriten by Peter Jančič, the new editor in chief while keeping the original author’s signature, often making it appear as if the author was less critical of the government as was his/her intention, divisional editors were replaced, and so forth…

Fast forward three years and as Laško (now almost 100% owner of Delo and – by extension – Mag) parted ways with Janez Janša, the same thing happened to Mag. A new editor was enforced upon the magazine’s journalists, the orientation of the magazine is apparently changing and it’s ex-editor went into blogger’s exile.

Which brings us to the article in FAZ. Now, all I have to go with is Šurla’s post because the original is in German (not the language I’m most comfortable in), but I guess it’ll have to do. The gist of the article is that if there is indeed censorship in Slovenia then the government is not really good at it.

The article is a fine read, but it does have one problem: It analyses the situation as it is now. I’ve said on more than one occasion that the Petition 571 (claiming rampant censorship) is three years to late. There is no censorship in Slovenia today. There are only more or less futile attempts at the goverment trying to generate some popularity. There, however, was censorship. Right up to 2007.

You see, the government pretends that time began with Janša/Laško split. It didn’t. Before the split this country witnessed a direct, ruthless and immediate interventions into media content by the government, wherever it held a stake (state radio and television, Delo and Večer dailies, etc), far beyond anything any of the previous governments did. And this is the main difference. Previous governments have intervened in the media. Pressure was brought to bear and only certain journalists very privy to sensitive information. But previous government never ran the media, whereas this government did and still does to an extent.

And the proof of that can be found in the last paragraph of the article, where it says that “The end result is that a handful of oligarchs control an important part of Slovene economy and more than 90% of Slovene media market”.

If we neglect for a second that the article seems to forget that media means so much more than just newspapers, we can ask ourself one question: How did we ever get here? How can it be that a handful of people own most of Slovene media? The answer is simple: Because Janez Janša made it possible. By selling to Laško Delo’s shares owned by both state funds Janez Janša is the prime culprit for the situation in the newspaper media market we have today. With Delo he also sold Večer (mostly owned by Delo) and Mag (completely owned by Delo). Add to that Dnevnik daily and Mladina weekly which have never hidden their anti-Janša sentiment, and you can see that the prime minister has only himself to blame for the situation. There’s no use crying “Wolf!” once you let the beast out of its cage.

Oh and as far as Mag and Šurla are concerned – I strongly dissaprove of the owner imposing a new editor over the will of that media’s journalists. I would, however, like to quote the following:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.



The Near-Ultimate Conspiracy Theory (Laško ‘ma spet novo flaško)

After decades of using its traditional logo and years of sticking to the same design, Laško Brewery is changing its corporate and end-product image. Given the traditional rivarly between Štajerska-based Laško and Ljubljana-based Union (which is, however, owned by Laško), this is the local equal of Olga Kurylenko showing more tits (thanks, Adriaan! :mrgreen: )

But there’s more… As avid readers of this blog know, Laško Brewery (LJSE: PILR) and its CEO Boško Šrot are at the heart of the current political turmoil in Slovenia. Laško owns Delo newspaper and has recently had a very public split with PM Janez Janša. Given the paranoid nature JJ, I’m sure that we won’t have to wait long for him to claim that Laško’s going from this…


…to this…

It reads: “A goldhorn changes its fur, but never changes its beer. A new image for a new era”

…is yet another example of Laško’s shameless tycoon-like behavious. I expect Janša saying something along the lines of “as the rest of the country is coping with rising prices, some companies are spending profits made by underpaid workers on renewing their image

And Now For Something Completely Different…

No politics today. Decent folk like yourself need a bit of R&R here and there and pengovsky delivers! :mrgreen: If you’ve ever traveled to Croatia (the not-so-soon-to-be-member-of-EU) you must have noticed a peculiar cultural phenomenon called “a terrace band”. Such a band usually consists of one to three performers who seemingly know every song there is and if they don’t know it they’ll ask you to hum it and – voila! – they’re already doing The Beatles like John and Paul were their drinking buddies. The fact that every song will have precisely the same rhythm and will sound suspiciously similar to the previous song is of little importance, of course 😉 But now their secret is uncovered….

Yesterday = Jestedej

They write songs down phonetically, which sort of explains why they suck at foreing languages but can sing Yesterday flawlessly. Well, almost flawlessly… But for all of you native speakers out there – if you ever wondered how English sounds to people from the Balkans – take a look at the above picture. It just doesn’t get any better than this :mrgreen: