Come Fly With Me

Michael Buble on renting a government jet

As PM Borut Pahor is trying to find his way out of the PR-minefield he wandered into by picking Dimitrij the Eternal as his aide (all the while reasuring everyone that everything is under control), The Prez inadvertantly sat on a firecracker of his own. Namely, it emerged that his office spent close to € 90.000 renting a jet for a two day trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina in mid-October. His office issued the statement saying that was the asking price and that there was little that could be done about it, considering the high level of the visit and the fact that the protocol demands that the President visit government of both entities as well as the federal government.

This week The Prez shot over to Checz Republic which is due to take over EU presidency on 1 January and spent additional € 30.000 on jet-rent, while the media compared that to € 15.000 PM Borut Pahor spent on his two day trip to Brussels. As a result, the Office of the President in a somewhat unprecedented move asked the Court of Audit to go over the procedure of rent-a-jet and the Office’s expenses in this matter. Apparently The Prez doesn’t want to be perceived as lavishly spending in the face of the recession.

Honestly, 120 k€ in a week seems a bit too much, but the last president who flew lightweight to Bosnia was Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski who was killed in a plane crash due to pilot error, bad equipment and even worse weather.

In the other hand, how come the PM spent € 15.000 on rent-a-jet when national carrier Adria Airways, operates a busy route from Ljubljana to Brussels, six times a day, seven days a week? If the PM wanted to set an example, he could have traveled business class on the 6.45 from Ljubljana International and still make the EU summit in plenty of time. Tickets start as low as € 700 on a weekday, even lower if you make it a weekend.

But I have the feeling that all this was actually leaked intentionally, with the sole aim of prepairing the public for the return of the attrociously expensive Falcon 2000EX which the Slovenian government under PM Tone Rop bought in 2003 with the deal being more or less negotiated in the fading moments of Janez Drnovšek’s premiership. At the time it was largely perceived as a misuse of public funds by an already over-pampered government.

Five years later, the government spending some 150 k€ in two months for air fares is perhaps betting that the public might look a little more favourably on the government having its own jet airplane instead of wasting more taxpayers’ money. Not that the plane doesn’t need maintaineance, but it could at least have its own callsign. Red Bull One?

Rupel Revival Rises Resignation

Dimitrij Rupel as PM Pahor‘s personal adviser has sparked his first resignation. Slavko Ziherl of LDS, State Secretary for Health resigned Friday, citing Rupel’s nomination as a reason.

Slavko Ziherl to Dimitrij Rupel: “This government ain’t big enough for the both of us!” (source)

Ziherl said that he cannot be in the same government with Rupel whom he dubbed the most problematic and the most expemplary member of Janez Janša’s cabinet. Ziher’s party president Katarina Kresal said she completely understands Ziherl’s decision and will not dispute it, while Ziherl himself shot from relative anonymity to popularity – he got all the votes in a radio popularity contest on Monday.

However, it is entirely possible that Ziherl only used Rupel’s nomination as an excuse to quit a job he didn’t even start (he was due to take office on 15 December) and wasn’t crazy about in the first place. Slavko Ziherl is LDS vice president, Ljubljana city councilor, director of Ljubljana psychiatric hospital and one of nation’s foremost authorities in the field. He has his work cut out for him as it is, especially since trouble seems to be brewing in LDS of Ljubljana yet again (more on that as details emerge).

Whatever Ziherl’s motives, it is now paintfully obvious that the new Prime Minister lost this particular PR battle. Actually, it was a text-book definition of shooting oneself in the foot. Want proof? In less then ten days more than 14.000 people joined one particular Facebook group. How’s that for a public outcry?

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

N.B.: this is the final post in the series by dr. Arf. To say that the series enriched this blog would be a gross understatement. The great Michael M. once compared yours truly with the Slovenian Wikipedia. However my knowledge of things past and present is puny compared to that of Dr. Arf and if I had any respect for the man and his wisdom I’d hide in a corner every time he enters the room. However, as a bodacious and irresponcible agent provocateur that I am (again, as described by the man who gave us, I (with the help of commentators and fellow bloggers) lured dr. Arf into writing this series and I can only begin to thank him for taking us on this journey.

It began on June 26th 2007. It’s been fun, at times even emotional and hardcore almost to the point of calling the whole thing off, but in the end everything worked out well. Thanks, man! And I hope you’ll treat us to some more of your writing in the near future. And I ain’t talking about comments. Capisce? :mrgreen:



This Is The End

Since I’ve finally come to the end of this guest series (do I hear a sigh of relief there?), I’m just going to round up various news items and close off with a final assessment before bidding farewell. I would like to extend my eternal gratitude to Pengovsky, who himself is a blogger extraordinaire (once again proven by recent posts about Zoki and the Open Letter To Borut Pahor, to name but a few stand-out examples, not to mention his weekly FF and – not so weekly 😉 – MMM posts) for giving me this opportunity to blog…

Various news items

– Last Monday, the 24th, the VRT and VTM news desks received a DVD, containing an admonition by Men Whose Face Were Wrapped In Towels, forcibly waving arms and pointing fingers upward (and using their left hand, which is apparently an insult in their culture), but with their message in subtitles and instead of the audio version, an a capella song, which seems to be a hit among the Youtube crowd, whose main concern in half the comments seems to be where they can download this cool tune (I happen to agree it is a cool tune, although the lyrics may be less favourable to an anti-religious Pagan like me) and the fact that somewhere in the song, with a bit of good will and a dirty mind, one can hear ?dikke vagina’ (Flemish/Dutch for ?fat vagina) being sung repetitively. Our national security agency confiscated the DVD’s to determine whether or not this message is a joke, compiled from downloaded internet sources (which isn’t that unlikely), or a genuine threat of terrorist attacks in Belgium, due to our involvement in Afghanistan (for which we have War Monger par excellence and minister of defence Pieter De Crem to thank). You can watch the footage in question here. Subtitles are in Dutch, and I can’t be arsed to translate this kind of terrorist religious tripe, whether it’s serious or not. The gist of it is : “Get out of Afghanistan or we’ll bomb you, you western pigs who cling onto life and impurity when we love purity and death etc.” blah blah blah… Still, that tune is cool.


– Coming back to the Vl. Pro débâcle, last night, after writing the blog post about it, I watched Bert Anciaux (pictured above; the grey haired chappy) being interviewed in the news magazine Ter Zake (?On the Case’, a rather bad translation, I admit, because it could also mean ?But Seriously’ but that doesn’t sound too, eh, serious) by the Hottest News Journalist This Side Of The Language Border, Annelies Beck (rather unflattering yet sufficiently illustrating pic above, to the left of the unflattering grey haired chappy). Dear old Bert behaved perfectly the way I predicted. With a pained scowl on his face, like he had a spikey rod permantely inserted up his rectum, he proceeded to explain that he wanted to retain his ministerial post at all cost ?because he wanted to actively change something’ and not be sidelined. In other words : our self appointed idealist, who started ID21/Spirit/Vl.Pro out of idealism, used this idealism to justify his impending move – of course not confirming it just yet – to SP-a. Bert, above all else, wants to be in the thick of the power circles. To ?do something’. He didn’t say what, though. So when the chips are down, he jumps ship. What an idealist. Not that it’s surprising, though. I recall him when still being chairman of VU, being very disappointed in national politics (because he couldn’t ?do something) and moving on to try to get elected at the European level because, and I quote, he was ?sick of national politics’. But when the CVP (predecessor to CD&V that was permanently in power with various coalition partners for over 50 years, as I explained a few posts back) surprisingly lost the elections, Anciaux insisted his party’s elected officials step aside to enable him to return to the national politics he so despised. Yes, because he could ?do something. That’s when he became minister of Culture for the very first time and as predicted, it was a disaster. So if nothing else, Bert Anciaux is at least consistent, just as I wrote a few hours prior to his interview with that scrumptious Annelies Beck.


– Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht (VLD, pic with spouse Mireille) is in all sorts of trouble : not only is he being named in a bank stock scandal (his wife sold Fortis stocks just a few hours before this bank was sold to NBP Paribas as a direct result of the Credit Crunch, which implies he could have passed on this – secret – info, as it was the government who negotiated the deal), he’s also personan non grata in the Democratic Republic of Congo, because he very diplomatically, called their government corrupt. Unsurprisingly, he’s not welcome in the DRC anymore. Not that anyone would want to go there, with sadly yet another genocide happening as we speak…


– The Case Of The Three Francophone Mayors of the villages in the B-H-V region drags on and on. Flemish Interior ministers Marino Keulen (VLD) refused to appoint them for the second time in succession, prompting another outburst of outrage out of the francophone parties, who predictably threatened to blow up the federal negotiations concerning the state reform, even though these appointments were not an issue on the negotiating table, as they are, in effect a regional issue. To recap the problem : these are francophone mayors who refuse to implement and adhere to Flemish regional law concerning the Flemish towns they were elected in by the francophone majority living there. The francophone parties would like to usurp these Flemish territories into the mainly francophone Brussels region, which, of course, is a serious bone of contention over here in the north.

And there you have it…


All that isn’t well doesn’t end well and Belgium, by and large, isn’t well. Credit crunches, recessions, banks in trouble, the country still on the verge of a split and politics as usual.
I just hope I’ve managed to give a bit more insight into this enigma of a country, even if it didn’t manage to clear up anything, but rather scratch your head in bewilderment even more than before…


Mosque Without A Minaret Or Yet Another Idiotism By Certain Blockeahds

As you know, the city of Ljubljana is one of the few (if not only) European capital with a substantial Muslim community and without a mosque. Curiously enough, this is not a result of some post-9/11 anti-Muslim pogrom, but rather a result of thirty years of systematically blocking Ljubljana Muslims to express their faith in a manner they wish.

Site of the future mosque on Paroma and Kuriliniška streets in Ljubljana (source)

Naturally in socialism religion was not exactly encouraged, but in a predominantly Catholic enviroment the Communist party tolerated the Church as long as it toed the line. Not so for Muslims (mostly Bosnian and Kosovo Muslims) who came to Slovenia in mid 60s as the economic expansion of the republic began. Things were not getting any better after 1990, when the Catholic church made a comeback, whereas other religions maintained status quo. For Orthodox Chistians and Protestants that meant that they could continue in their churches as long as they toed the line and recognised the unofficial priviliged status of the Catholic Church, wheras the Muslims were still left without a mosque.

All this changed in 2005, when then-mayor Danica Simšič decided to correct the decade-old wrong and pushed its fragile coalition to allocate a piece of land on the outskirts of Ljubljana for a future mosque which was to be funded and built by the Slovenian Muslim Community. (slightly OT: this was one of the highlights of otherwise disastrous Simšič mayorship).

Enter Mihael Jarc (the blockhead), the sole councilor of the List For Clean Drinking Water (go figure!), who was elected to city council by some wierd coincidence and has done about as much for clean drinking water in Ljubljana as Pamela Andersson has done for the Icelandic fishing industry. Next to nothing. However, Mr. Jarc did take it upon himself to defend Ljubljana from the Muslims whom he saw as a reincarnation of 16th century Turks and their invasion of the Balkans and the Central Europe. He became a firebrand preacher against construction of the mosque, blabbering about how the Muslims (if they have to be here) should be confined to their places of prayes or embrace the local culture and went on to say that “the enemy of the cross is the enemy of Slovenes”. He even made it to the BBC! Mihael Jarc and his nationalistic and religious bigotous fundamentalism struck a worryingly resounding chord with a number of Ljubljanchans which allowed him to collect some 11.000 signatures which called for a referendum on construction of the mosque.

At which point mayor Danica Simšič entered a short-but-glorious period of her otherwise hopelessly beleagured mayorship. She fought back and refused to call a referendum. The question nearly drove appart the already fragile centre-left coalition (which ultimate failed for other reasons), but the mayor stood firm despite protest (she was publicly called a bitch among other things) and populist onslaught which included Jarc reading from the Bible at 2 A.M. during his debate in an extremely long session of the City Council. Mayor Simšič asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the referendum beforehand and after a lengthy deliberation it found that although the question for technically about whether the land should be sold to the Muslim community (not a word about the mosque) it was ultimately aimed at preventing a religious group from practising its faith and was therefore unconstitutional.

Thus political obstacles to building the mosque were cleared after thirty-odd years. Or were they? Between 2005 and today the location of the future mosque was changed. It was – in my opinion correctly – moved from the outskirts of Ljubljana close to the city centre. The idea originally came from the legendary city councilor and fellow blogger Miha Jazbinšek (Green Party) and was adopted by mayor Zoran Janković after he replaced Danica Simšič. And almost two years after Janković took office some 10.000 sq metres of land in the vicinity of Ljubljana Railway station were sold to Muslim community for 4.5 million euros. If it were up to me I’d give the land away for free as mayor Simšič intended, but mayor Janković insisted that under the new administration no piece of land will be give awas for free to anyone.

Last week the city council passed a decree which allows for actual construction of the mosque and sets the height of the object at 12 metres metres maximum and the height of the minaret at 40 metres maximum. At which point the blockhead Jarc re-emerged and now wants the mosque to be built without the minaret saying that minaret makes the whole building too high. Of course Jarc conveniently forgets that there are skyscrapers (existing or planned) in the vicinty which dwarf the height of the minaret by a large margin. But most of all, demanding a mosque without a minaret is like demanding a catholic church without a tower. A minaret is an integral part of any mosque and preventing Muslims from building one in (in my opinion) even more insulting than preventing them from building a mosque in the first place.

Since he (Allah be praised!) has almost no power in the city council and is repeatedly misusing those he does have (during his rhetorical escapades his microphone is often cut off by mayor Janković for abusive language), Mihael Jarc is playing referendum games yet again. This time around he want so call the referendum on the minaret issue. Days ago he collected 100 signatures on his referendum petition thus obliging mayor Janković to declare a 40-60 day period in which Jarc must collect signatures of 5% of Ljubljana electorate (some 11.000 signatures) for referendum to be called.

While mayor Janković has more or less publicly stated that he will try to prevent the reherendum and even ask the constitutional court to judge on the constitutionality of the referendum question, it is entirely possible that this time around Jarc will get a referendum he so badly craves, because technically he is disputing the wording of the decree and not the construction of the mosque itself.

Hopefully, however, the Constitutional Court will show as much wisdom as the last time around and will see through Jarc’s little charade.