Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons



Another kartel down the tubes

Since yesterday, Wednesday the 25th of November, the death bell is tolling over the Vlaamse Progressieven (Flemish Progressives) party and its kartel with the socialists of SP-a. The party is on the verge of collapse as a result of their last party chairman, Bettina Geysen, stepping down because she is under investigation for misuse of funds when she was net manager at the national television station VRT. Ironically, she had to step away from this televisional garden, because she was in a relationship with VRT head honcho Aimé Van Hecke, raising suspicion of subjectivity. It seems everywhere she goes, Bettina raises suspicion and causes controversy and division. However, in both cases she maintains the accusations were and are unfounded. Nevertheless, she felt she should immediately step down. *In the voice of previewman Don LaFontaine* In a time, when Belgian politicians refuse to step down until proven guitly, one has to wonder why she retreated so hastily…

Vlaamse Progressieven who?

The obvious question you’re asking yourselves now is “Who the fuck are the Vlaamse Progressieven? Did we miss something in your previous posts, ARF?” Not quite.

See, when explaining to you the political landscape in all its fragmented ugliness, I failed to mention that socialist party SP-a had a kartel partner, which once upon a time was called Spirit and even before that, came to life as a ?project’ called ID 21 (Idea, ehm, 21) within the uneasy confines of de Flemish Nationalist party of yore, de Volksunie (People’s Union). Much like Vl. Pro today, the VU was split in half ideologically by the turn of the century, split between the idealists of project leader and long time party chairman Bert Anciaux, who wanted a more progressive kind of nationalism, and the ?old school’ nationalists, spearheaded by Geert Bourgeois and, ultimately, Bart De Wever. When the rift within VU was too great to keep the party going, it split into the by now well known NV-A of Bourgeois and De Wever on the one hand and ID21 on the other. Soon after the split, ID changed its name into Spirit, an equally uninspiring name for a party made up of possibly well meaning idealists, but with no political relevance or program, even if they thought they did have merit.

The person to blame here, is Bert Anciaux. A man with the burning ambition and idealistic passion of an overgrown boy scout, a lot of emotional capabilities, but alas, no political weight to speak of. Much unlike his father Vic, who helped the former VU to greater heights in the ?70’s. Anciaux, by now, is minister of Culture in the Flemish government for the second time (his first term was in the federal government) and his policies are as disastrous to the cultural sector as the Dubya Regime’s on the US of A. I’m all for idealism, but since being a musician means that the cultural policy of the Flemish and federal governments are hitting close to home, I can say I have absolutely no love for this man and wished he wouldn’t have gone beyond being a boy scout leader.
Clearly, Anciaux is a perfect example of the political dynastic succession. He inherited a sound party, managed to break it up in less than 10 years and then started a party that had no future, unless… they allied themselves with a bigger party. And as such, the alliance SP-a/Spirit was born.

The problem with Spirit being the weak brother of the alliance were manyfold : to political observers as well as anyone with half a brain, Sp-a entered into this alliance in the knowledge they would be the bigger party and would make, in essence, Spirit’s contribution null and void. Despite how they packaged it, all they really needed, were the votes that Anciaux and some of his party members could bring them, in order to win elections. Spirit, or rather Anciaux, would in turn be placated with a ministerial post and so it happened. SP-a managed to win two federal and one regional elections, the Spiritists (as they were called by the media; a rare example of well used irony and/or sarcasm) got their ministerial posts and faded into public oblivion, with the exception of their new party chairman at the time, Geert Lambert, who got more air time and copy than Anciaux, not for his political skills, but because the man wore thick lime green rimmed spectacles (I feel ?glasses’ would be too euphemistic a word to use in this case) and was so morbidly obese, his body threatened to attract its own satellite planet. Lambert now has a gastric band and looks a lot healthier, but the glasses stayed. He himself didn’t stick around as party chairman and in 2007, Spirit chose a new one, which was outsider Bettina Geysen, whom, as mentioned, was on the lookout for a new project after having been pressured to leave our national media giant with the Slovene botanically challenged acronym.

Geert Lambert, pre- gastric band

Bettina’s first year was equally unspectacular, compared with the other years in which Spirit was absolutely invisible to the masses (possibly obscured by the immense shadows cast by Anciaux’ ego and Lambert’s physique). In order to put Spirit back on the map, she, having been well versed in this field due to her media experience, pulled a couple of marketing stunts, one of which – see pic above – was to appear dressed in a hijab (for those Islamicly challenged : a muslim headdress). She then proceeded to change Spirit’s name “as no one really remembered what it stood for”. She, and the party hot shots, chose the very unimpressive ?Vlaamse Progressieven’, in order to distinguish themselves from their socialist kartel partner.
They further wanted to distinguish themselves from SP-a, by ?speaking out more individually on the issues at hand’ and calling themselves ?left win liberals’. Sadly, only 0.6% of the Belgian – and largely Flemish – populace was interested in what Vl. Pro had to say and the party that never actually was one struggled immensely to keep its head above water in the run-up to next year’s regional elections, until Bettina resigned because of that investigation, of which she claims all charges are unfounded, but still resigned ?for the good of the party’. All the while, SP-a looked on silently, waiting to move in for the kill.

And the outcome is…

The outcome, my dear Slovene readers, is that The Party That Never Was, never will be the party which it set out to become. Last night, 68% of the party voted against being absorbed into SP-a. The absorption was Anciaux’s stance, Lambert wants to move on alone, still believing their ?left wing liberal’ policies have merit. Others came out in public, saying everyone should look each other deep in the other one’s eyes and call it a day. Sadly, political power, no matter how faint, is addictive and so Vl. Pro faces the daunting task of surviving the electional threshold of 5% next year. Lambert said they would still want to work with SP-a, but on their own terms.
Not surprisingly, SP-a chairman Caroline Gennez – the politica with the most sexy voice of all of Belgium’s politicae – stated that Vl. Pro should wake up and smell the coffee. After which Bert Anciaux and other prominents who have a stake in the Flemish government announced today, that they would keep working with SP-a, therefor directly opposing their own party’s last night’s decision. Once again, Bert Anciaux is leading the undoing of a party, but this time, it’s a party that sprang forth from his own idealism and never really got beyond that stage…


It’s Not Personal. It’s Strictly Business

The Prez slammed the final nail in Dimitrij Rupel’s ambassadorial ambitions’ coffin om Tuesday. While giving an interview on state radio, he said that “people who represent this country, must enjoy the country’s complete confidence, which includes the confidence of the President of the Repulic. (…) When these nominations were made, I was not given complete and benevolent infomation, and that’s why there’s no trust on my part

I guess there’s no turning back now… People whom Dimitrij Rupel used to boss around hold key posts now and his carrer depends on them. Make that past tense. Because unless President Türk and Prime Minister Pahor come to some sort of a weird agreement, Rupel’s carreer is over. Ende. Schluss. Finito. Fin. Vege.

But hey! It’s strictly business 😉

EDIT@1630 hrs: Talk about putting a foot in my mouth. Today PM Borut Pahor named Dimitrij Rupel as his special envoy for foreign relations. I’m beyond speechles. Why, Borut?

A Letter To Prime Minister Borut Pahor

Igor Lukšič, Borut Pahor and Gregor Golobič. Photo by Aleš Černivec/Delo (source)

Dear Prime Minister!

I hope you will forgive me for writing this a couple of days late. You know how it is: things to see and people to do. I must admit that I’ve enjoyed your address to the parliament Friday last, when the MPs voted on your Cabinet. You seemed bold and resolute in tackling the economic crisis and the impending recession head-on. You outlined ten points of your platform, which – I assume – is a summary of the coalition agreement.

I was most pleased to hear that you intend to use the crisis to develop the propulsive sector of Slovene economy and that you do not intend to waste scarce financial resources to support companies with no future, while re-educating the laid-off workers and equipping them for jobs generating a higher added value. You also said that you will increase tax breaks for low-income taxpayers, so that people earning the minimum wage will be totally exempt from paying taxes. A lot of families will need that break in the coming months. You also announced that your government will stimulate reinvesting capital gains and better regulate the financial market. In this respect you promised to fully support the Competition Protection Office and prevent any interference in its work, even in open cases like those of Laško Brewery and Mercator. You said the same about Attorney General, being fully aware that she is a close political ally of your predecessor Janez Janša.

Economic woes aside, your determination to shift the focus of the decision-making process to the parliament is a badly needed change in political culture this country needed. Indeed, throughout your speech you used conditional phrases such as “if today you confirm this government”, although you knew very well that you will win the vote. I applaude you for giving the parliament at least that much credit. Afterall, you were President of the Parliament from 2000 to 2004 and know how to go about these things. You even said that you will subject regulation acts passed by the government to parliamentary debate.

And last but not least, you promised to set an example for the challenging times ahead and waived the customary 100 days of honeymoon each government enjoys while it sets in and also promised to pay for representation costs in Slovenia (lunches, clothes, other services) out of your own pocket.

Big words, sahib.

But then again, you were always big on words. Admittedly, you recognised that at the time you yourself lack specific economic knowledge to tackle the crisis, but will rely on your all-star team instead. However, you should bear in mind that you were not elected to snow us with big words, but because you flat out promised to do a much better job than Janez Janša. Even more – you echoed people’s worries about the economy, while Janša refused to admit that there is a crisis approaching, and this too got you elected. What I am trying to say is, that you will have to deliver regardless of the crisis. You will not be able to feign ignorance four years from now and say “I didn’t know it was going to be that bad”. You knew, we all knew. Except Janša. But that’s why you’ll be the one answering during Q&A sessions of the Parliament.

Secondly. I’m sorry to say that, but somethimes you do take things too far. Yes, the dialogue. Yes, the parliamentary debate. Yes, on bringing the opposition on-board as well. Yes, the constant re-examination of one’s own basic positions. Yes, on looking at an issue from different angles. Yes, on taking time to decide. We’re rather similar in this respect, you and I. But at the end of the day it is you who has to take the decision and sometimes you’re limited to taking an educated guess. It’s called having cojones and you’ve already proven once that you have them. From now on, this is a daily task. This includes your proposal to subject regulation acts to parliamentary debate. There is no need to do that. Even if some sort of legal mumbo-jumbo is produced to give you cover to do so, this is a complete waste of time. If you even as much as attempt to pin the responsibility for wrong decisions on the opposition, it will create an air of distrust within the electorate which did not elect you with what one might call a landslide majority. But I’m sure there’s no need to remind you of that.

Actually, what got you elected was a record turnout in the city of Ljubljana, where mayor Zoran Janković campaigned hard for The Trio. He said that he will support those parties which will give back the 57 milion euros the state took from Ljubljana when it changed the law on financing municipalities. You yourself did not exactly promise to give back the money, but recognised that Ljubljana was unjustly deprived of it. You would do well to pay that political debt as soon as possible, because you do not want an angry mayor and his citizens on your case. You might contemplate curbing mayor Janković’s political ambitions, which as we all know are quite high, but I strongly urge you not to antagonise him. Janez Janša did just that when he removed him as the head of Mercator and look what happened. You won the elections. Catch my drift?

Oh, and that thing about your paying the representation costs yourself. Nice PR, but it won’t last past new year. Was it really necesary to put that in your keynote speech?

Dear Prime Minister!

Yours is a difficult task. And although after four years of paranoid proto-fascism your government is being viewed sympathetically by me and others like me, this does not mean that you have been issued a carte blanche to do as you please, or to do not as you please (which seems to be often the case with you). This includes your seemingly irrational affection with Dimitrij Rupel, whom you seem keen to dispatch as an ambassador to Austria. You may well think that the old Serbian adage “ili u zatvor ili za ambasadora” is a cunning way to get rid of Rupel, but I would like to remind you of the fact that while he was ambassador ot the US, Rupel engaged in a full-blown war of words with then-foregin minister Boris Frlec, to whom he was subordinated. In the end Rupel prevailed. Not to mention the fact that the current President of the Republic Danilo Türk (whom you nominated and supported in the 2007 campaigin) is vehemently opposed to name an ambassador who – as a minister – nominated himself to the post. And the fact that The Prez, in an unusualy direct statement, said that he simply does not trust Rupel. Do you really want to burden yourself, your new foreign minister Samuel Žbogar and the Slovene public with more of Rupel’s antics? I realise that you will want to have a hand in shaping the foreign policy, but you don’t have to fight for that privilege. It comes with your job. My humble advice, however is that you learn from historic evidence and act accordingly. People and things will not change simply because you’re the top dog now.

Prime Minister!

We seem to share a passion and respect for Winston Churchill and his speeches. The old bastard had a rare gift of foresight and although he was a political opportunist on a par with Karl Erjavec (anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of political ingenuity to re-rat), he knew long before anyone else that things were going down the drain. There are striking similarities between the global situation in 1930 and today. Churchill realised where a protracted economic crisis, a series of small- and medium-sized conflicts and a rise of populist leaders in impoverished and isolated countried lead. He had the foresight, but only because he embraced the past and learned from it.

I suggest you do the same. Had you already done that, you’d have known that Churchill drank brandy instead of whiskey.

Your truly,


More Lessons On Driving From Ljubljana To Celovec

The picture is symbolic. Plowing services were scarse yesterday (source)

When driving from Ljubljana to Celovec, take the following into account

Lesson No. 1: Do not go via Korensko sedlo. Ever

Lesson No. 2: The above does not necesarily mean that you have to go via Ljubelj moutain pass.

Lesson No. 3: Lesson No. 2 applies especially in case of heavy snow. In which case use Karavanke tunnel

Lesson No. 4: There are still good people on this Earth. However, a certain subcontractor of ÖAMTC is not one of them. While he did tow me & my ride back to the Slovenian side of the border, he charged me almost 30 percent above what the operator said over the phone.

But hey… all is well that ends well. Noone was hurt and the plane took off with a full complement of passangers.

P.S.: We’ll get more political soon. There’s lots to tell…