Slovenian EU Presidency Stumbles In Its First Weeks



As most of you, highly intelligent regulars to this puny blog know, the tiny Alpine country that goes by the name of Slovenia is currently chairing the EU (cue applause). Which is all fine and dandy. The more cynical amongst us (yours trully included) went “OK, let’s just hope we don’t fuck up big time“.

But, so far so good. The EU is still there, despite the fact that every multinational entity Slovenia has ever been a part of disintegrated in bloodshed.

That is not to say, however, that our beloved leadership is not working hard at raising as many eyebrows as possible – even an occasional voice…

It all started even before New Year’s takeover, when the Eternal Foreign Minister held a briefing for foreign representatives, where he was expected to outline Slovene priorities during the presidency. Instead he embarked upon sharing his version of the state of media freedom, specifically, he slammed the “petition 571” as being nothing more than a load of bollocks (not in those exact words, of course). His line of thought is detailed here.

Only ten days later, Rupel’s boss caused quite a stir in Lisbon and – somewhat surprisingly – in Sarajevo, when he said during the inaugural press conference that a) Portugal should take the whole of EU into consideration if and when voting on the referedum on the Lisbon treaty and b) that Bosnia is a bigger problem than Kosovo. More here(*).

It did not stop there, however… Later that same day it transpired that the Government Communications Office compiled a press kit about media freedom in Slovenia. This particular press kit included a document entitled Situation Regarding Media Freedom in Slovenia, which terribly skewes statements by journalists usually highly critical of this government and makes them appear as approving of the way things are. The whole thing did not go unnoticed by foreign press(*)

And it is not as if this presidency is short on problems, you know… Dubya is comming into town in mid-March when Janša and Rupel (two of his most faithful disciples) will have to press him on climate change.

Errrrr…. Mr. Bush…. I really hate to ask, you see, but, ummm… how do I say this…. our friends in the EU sort of, kindda, want to know and I really don’t know why we must be the one to say it, but…. ummmmm…. errr….. whatareyourgoingtodoaboutgreenhousegases? There, I said it!.

And there will be the aftermath of yet another derailment of the Mid-East peace process to deal with and on top of that Kosovo looks up to us to help them in achieving independence. Stat!(*)

This government has already proved its talent for shooting itself in the foot on the home terrain. It’s consistency of doing so in the international terrain is breathtakingly appaling.

P.S.: All links marked with (*) were kindly provided by Adriaan. Thanks! 🙂

Business Smells Blood

It’s a mistake once sang Men At Work and it is quite possible that Janez Janša was whistling up that particular tune when he admited some weeks ago that it was a mistake to sell Mercator, the largest retail chain in Slovenia to Laško brewery and Istrabenz.


It has now become clear that in a meeting in late August 2005 Janez Janša agreed to sell Mercator to Istrabenz, headed by Janša’s wartime buddy and former best friend Igor Bavčar, to Laško Brewery, headed by Boško Šrot and to KD Group, headed by Matjaž Gantar, then a member of Janša’s Strategic Economic Council (SECO), concocting up flat-tax ideas.

The deal was that KD Group, Istrabenz and Laško would buy shares of Mercator owned by both state funds (KAD and SOD) – 25% if total number if shares at their current price. This of course meant that the government didn’t make any extra money out of if. Remember, we are talking about the biggest retail chain the country. The bidding price should be way above market price. But that was the government end of the deal. There were rewards for the three companies as well. Laško got a hold of the largest distributor of its products, Matjaž Gantar was (and still is) to buy a strong bank and Igor Bavčar sort of got the go ahead for MBO of Istrabenz. By buying Mercator, however, the three companies also got a substantial ownership of Delo newspaper, Janša’s ultimate goal of this chess game. Soon, KD Group sold its shares of Mercator to Laško. Istrabenz did it some time later and Laško announced a formal takeover of the paper. But – it named Janša’s people to the paper’s supervisory board and not members of Laško management as it would seem appropriate. Laško thus gave Delo to Janša. Or so it seemed

Fast forward a year and a half and Janša gets stabbed in the back by Andrijana Starina Kosem, his hench-woman in the world of economy. Soon after that Laško (being now the sole owner of Delo) replaces Janša’s Board members at Delo and replaces them with its own people, naming Andrijana Starina Kosem president of the supervisory board. In the mean time Zoran Janković got elected as mayor of Ljubljana and is fast becoming a politial force to be reckoned with. Matjaž Gantar didn’t get the bank that was promised to him and quit SECO and joined LDS’s team of economic experts and Igor Bavčar and Janša became foes at least for the time being as Istrabenz sold it’s Mercator shares, enabling Laško to control the company and by extention own Delo completely. Shortly before that, in an attempt at keeping his job, Danilo Slivnik, CEO of Delo (an ardent Janša supporter whose assuming the position was part of the deal) fired the criminally incompetent Editor-in-Chief Peter Jančič and replaced him with Janez Markeš, Editor-in-Chief of a centre-right magazine Mag (acquired by Delo some years ago via political pressure as well). But of course Slivnik did not keep his job and Delo as a whole embarked on a path much more critical to the government than before – one must note that after the August 2005 deal Delo was purged of its more popular journalists and became very pro-government. Politicaly, this thing culminated for the first time with the vote of confidence to Janša’s government, which the PM abused for a massive reckoning with the media.

But it did not end there… In the dwindling days of 2007 Boško Šrot (who turned out to be a member of Pahor’s Social Democrats but left the party soon after the disclosure) gave an interview to his Delo, where he blatantly attacked the Prime Minister of meddling with the media but claimed that it was Zoran Janković who wanted to deal with Janša in the first place and that he (Šrot) was defending himself anyway he could. Zoran Janković replied early in 2008 (Tuesday last) and said that Boško Šrot is a liar and that he (Janković) never offered to deal with Janša.

Personally, I think the whole thing was pretty well summarised by ervinator in this post when he summarised statements by Jaković, Šrot and Starina Kosem as all of them saying that everything in this story is true except their allegend mischiefs.

Which brings us to the following question: what was Janša thinking? In hindsight it becomes paintfully obvious that he wanted Delo so badly that was willing to do almost anything to get it. And since the state couldn’t actually buy the newspaper, he had others (Laško, Istrabenz and KD Group) buy it for him. But he (that is, the government) didn’t own it. And so as Laško saw that it could achieve other goals with Delo (say, for example, support the opposition and make it eternally grateful, or perhaps take care of Andrijana Starina Kosem who was instrumental in Laško becoming as powerful as it is), it flipped Janša the bird and left him gaping. So the answer to the question “what was Janša thinking” is obviously “not much”.

But then there is the business angle to it. While controlling Delo and Mercator is a political question to Janša (and – quite possibly – Borut Pahor), it is also a business question to Šrot, Bavčar, Janković, Gantar and Starina Kosem. Of the five Bavčar is on weakest footing as he is basically a politician, whereas the other four are business people more or less politically active. And so one can be almost positive that the current accusations and counter-accusations are a negotiating tactic aimed at achieving the best possible starting positions for the period when Janša’s rule will end. Business smells political blood and Janša is at the moment gushing at the veins.

At the moment a powerful part of Slovene economy and the Mayor of Ljubljana are holding the front against PM Janša, while Matjaž Gantar and Igor Bavčar are awfully quiet. The former because he is about to start his own bank (not being able to buy one) and the latter because he is kept in check by attempted takeover by state-owned Petrol oil company. This all comes handy to the opposition which doesn’t really want to come off as unpatriotic by attacking the government during EU presidency.

But if this enterprise is succesful (i.e.: Janša is voted out of office) Janković and Šrot will present a hefty bill, not easily swallowed by the new government.

Eating With the Presidents

The Prez, Prince of Darkness and C3PO held a reception for journalists and editors yesterday. They more or less do it every year and the turnout is huge – you know, free eats and drinks… But there was an eerie moment when apparently all three of them knew who I was and where do I come from… 😕

There was the usual plethora of high profile cocksuckers as well as us, mortal journalists. Speeches are a must – this year, they were quite telling. And people still wonder why most journalists stopped giving breaks to this government long ago…

Video quality is problematic at best – it was shot from a distance with a mobile phone

The food was good, though 🙂


Barbara Türk, wife of the newly sworn-in president Danilo Türk said in a recent interview that she looks up to the wife of the current US president, Barbara Bush. Whoops! Barbs, Dubya’s woman is called Laura, wheras Barbara is her mother-in-law.

Danilo & Barbara Türk voting in the second round of presidential elections

Barbs, the Slovene first lady, further went to say that she likes Barbarba (well, Laura) Bush for the strength of her character and the fact that she cured Dubya of alcocholism. Double whoops! I so wouldn’t like to see the scene in a couple of months, when George and Laura will come back to Slovenia, Barbs and Laura meeting for the first time, and while they would be having tea in the presidential library (do we even have one?), Barbs – with a sombre and compassionate voice – asks Laura “So, was it difficult, then? The alcochol thing, I mean…

Truth be told, Slovene first ladies (both of them) are known for a public gaffe or two. But with Slovenia presiding over the EU, Barbs should brought up to speed posthaste…

Nationalists In Disaray – Or Are They Faking It?

The parliamentary group of Slovene National Party has split yesterday in what was a most unexpected beginning to the 2008 political season. The party, which – contrary to expectations – won six seats in the parliament in 2004 elections is what I like to call a post-modern party: its political platform is a patchwork of different policies and ideologies, many of which are in direct contradiction with one another (like combining reverence for the Partisan movement with proto-facistic ideology), but – somewhat suprprisingly – this has not damaged the party’s appeal to those voters who for one reason on another decide not to vote for any of the mainstream parties.

Sašo Peče and Zmago Jelinčič (photo by The Firm™)

SNS has seen its heyday in 1992, when it got as much as ten parliamentary seats (then too, its caucus split, but for different reasons), but 2004 was a fruitful year as well. Party second-in-command Sašo Peče was named Vice-President of the Parliament, the highest office ever held by a member of SNS. But yesterday the party was plunged into dissaray, as half of its six-member parliamentary caucus – led by Peče – announced that they were forming a parliamentary group of their own.

As hours went by, the official story of why’s and for’s changed rapidly. Originally it was understood that Peče was gravely insulted at an SNS party (apparently he was called by his diminutive name “Saško” by a party faithful. Peče seems to react badly to this). But as hours progressed, reasons became more and more serious. Or so they would have us believe. Party president and head of the caucus Zmago Jelinčič claimed that a referendum on Croatian entry to the EU was at the gist of things (SNS is known for its hard-line anti Croatian stance), whereas Peče claimed that Jelinčič danced to the tune of PM Janez Janša and has sold out the party for his personal interests. Furthermore, the number of defectors was originally higher, but during the course of yesterday morning Bogdan Barovič had a change of heart and announced that he will not be joining the rebel group, citing family reasons!!! The story went on and by yesterday evening, Jelinčič offered another theory: that the Slovene People’s Party (SLS) was behind it, trying to dismantle the SNS from within.

Now, had this been any other party, yesterday would mean massive political earthquake. But this is SNS – the party which always somehow made it, even if it meant swithching from nationalistic rhetoric to condmening NATO airstrikes against Serbia and siding openly with Serbs. You see, if had to describe Zmago Jelinčič with a single word, it would be survival. He will go to impossible lenghts to secure another term, perform ludicrous rhetorical stunts, do almost anything just to make life difficult for the larger parties which at some point will need his votes. It is also rumoured (but never proven) that he is more than willing to do a piece of dirty work for any party (say, propose an unpopular referendum) – for a price. But at the same time he is probably one of the more able political analysts out there, being able to predict outcome of events well in advance, highly intelligent, and he speaks near-perfect English 🙂

In any case, the shit that is brewing for the past couple of days smells more of a double-crossing than of anything else. Particularly telling is Barovič’s flip-flopping. The way things stand now, SNS’s causus has split into two groups of three MPs, which just happens to be the mininum number of MPs for a political group to be entitled to all the parliamentary spoils, such as their own seceretaries, monies and – TV time during election campaing. And had Barovič remained with the rebels, SNS proper would have only two MPs and would lose its status. So it was vital that Barovič or anyone else of the rebels remains with Jelinčič.

Now, I may be wrong, but having seen some of Jelinčič’s improbable stunts first hand (at one point he proposed a change in election law which would actually work against him – just to tease everyone else and send them asking “why?”) I wouldn’t put it past him if he has already made a calculation regarding the 2008 elections and saw that he needs to do something. Anything.

Elections this autumn will probably drive most of the electorate in the arms of the strongest parties, which would obviously mean a great deal of trouble for Jelinčič & Co. If he, however, somehow managed to double his media and political presence, he just might make it yet again. And so I strongly suspect that Zmago Jelinčič and Sašo Peče are putting on one hell of a show and for two reasons: Firstly, like in Black Jack, they split their bets. They will spend most of the next eight months attacking each other and everyone else, which will mean plenty of media coverage – in fact, twice as much as if they stayed in the same boat. But the other reason is simple. They just wanted to stir the pot a bit more. Jelinčič usually doesn’t give a shit about fuck about anything and this applies to his latest “marital row” as well. It is just a carefuly orchestrated show aimed at ensuring the continous political survival of SNS’s six MPs – in whatewer name, shape of form this may take place.

P.S.: As you can see, small changes to this blog are already happening. A couple of bookmarking icons and a new category will do for starters 🙂