Marjan Podobnik, the shit-monger from Slovene-Croatian border yesterday filed for a referendum on Croatian (and Albanian) NATO membership. In this he was assisted by a marginal and non-parliamentary Party of Slovene Nation. Together they collected 2500 signatures which – if filed correctly – require the president of the parliament to declare a 35-day period during which the proponents of referendum must collect 40.000 verified signatures. The thing is that this period ends a day after the NATO summit where Croatia and Albania were to be welcomed into the alliance

Marjan Podobnik and his Blut-und-Boden friends (source)

The history of Podobnik Bros., Joško Joras, Slovene People’s Party and the Croatian border was well covered on this blog and I will not go over it again. Time and again attempts to solve the border dispute have been sabotaged either by political or para-political forces on both sides of the border.

This time, however, a sort-of-consesus seems to have been reached in top echelons of Slovene politics, that Slovenia would block Croatian EU entry until Zagreb revokes maps which set the border in the middle of Bay of Piran and possibly solve the border dispute altogether. The consensus was held hostage for a few days by former PM Janez Janša who wanted an imaginary budget surplus to be confirmed, but in the end the decision to ratify Croatian entry into NATO was confirmed by 75 out of 90 MPs.

The point Pahor’s government was trying to make is that Slovenia does have a problem with Croatian EU entry border-wise, but that this has nothing to do with Croatian NATO entry. Namely – if Croatia had managed to sneak maps defining the borders into EU negotiation process, then these maps would become part of the common European legislation, basically legalising two decades-long series of Croatian unilateral actions in this field. Croatia thought it could fuck Slovenia but instead Slovenia fucked Croatia.

NATO, however, does not have common legislation. It does have common standards (sort of) but no common legislation. Therefore even if Croatia presented faked maps, it would have little to no effect on Slovene negotiating position. Slovenia would therefore show that it knows to pick its fights and that it can distinguish between a bilateral disagreement and international security.

Hell, even Janez Janša and his SDS were on-board, albeit at a price.

And then an unruly mob of nationalistic wannabes marches in with 2500 signatures and sabotages what was probably the best attempt since Drnovšek-Račan agreement at solving a long-running dispute.

If you ask me, this is tantamount to high treason.

Friendly Fire

Last Monday Slovene Parliament again voted on the 2007 Annual Account, which – as you will remember – was confirmed in its original form regardless of the fact that the Court of Audit found that the Account wrongly presents a budgetary surplus rather than a deficit which Janša’s government created really. However. Since the former PM started sulking and threatened to boycott all votes until the Account is passed in the original form, the current government bit the bullet and quickly gave in. The reason? It needed Janša’s votes to ratify Croatian entry into NATO.

The Two Amigos

The speed at which Borut Pahor‘s government swallowed its pride astonished many. One minute there they were, tearing apart Janez Janša‘s handling of public finances and using creative accounting techniques, whereas the next minute they were told they’ll have to support it for the greater good. You can imagine it didn’t go down well with them. In fact, some people went positively apeshit. Understandably so. The memory of Dimitrij Rupel being resurrected from the political oblivion is still very much fresh, as are attempts of cuddling with the opposition in some sort of partnership, as if running the coalition was not difficult enough. And now this. Somewhat surprisingly though, the most fiery piece of criticism came from a somewhat unexpected direction. Slavko Ziherl, the man who resigned over Rupel wrote an open letter to PM Borut Pahor (pengovsky goes: “sounds familiar?“) where, among other things, he wrote:

Why do I write this? Because I want to benevolently warn you of the current political situation, which you – partly because of your good will – don’t see for what it really is. Because I want you to be my and our prime minister at least until 2012. Because I’m afraid that you will not last until then because you are paving the way for Janez Janša to regain power.

…and goes on to add…

They say that a mature person doesn’t feel the need to please everyone. It is enough for one to be respected by those close to him/her. It is especially important for a person in a leading position to be aware of that. Among Slovenian leaders you are the most important one at this moment. Had you realised this you’d have shown your maturity and political wisdon. Had you realised that. But as things stand, you produce exactly the opposite effect by looking for consensus with Janez Janša and at the same time neglecting your coalition partners. You are the laughing stock for Janša and his lot, you’re publicly making a fool of yourself, all the while losing support of us, who are your political companions and who share common liberal and human values.
Proof of this is Janša blackmailing you with the 2007 Annual Account.

Ouch. Very ouch. This was probably the most scorching attack from within on a Prime Minister in the history of independent Slovenia. And – truth be said – a lot of what is written (I’ve only quoted a couple of sentences) is true. Especially Pahor’s obsession with bi-partisanship and compromise, which often does leave us wondering just who the hell won the elections really.

However. As is usual in such cases, the letter says just as much about the person who wrote it. And in my opinion the letter shows a level of political naiveté usually seen only in the Peoples’ Party (SLS). Yes, Pahor was way too cosy with Janša. Yes, he is a bit to eager in trying to come across as a generally likeable guy. But he didn’t become the PM just because of that. Apparently, when push comes to a shove he is able to distinguish between long-term political objectives and petty politicking, a distinction which seems to be lost on Ziherl.

Namely: by giving in to Janša’s demands over Annual Account, Pahor took the issue off the table before it grew into a serious political problem. Moreover, he secured ratification of Croatian NATO entry, which was vital if Slovenia is to maintain a status of a credible partner in the border dispute, effectively saying “yes, we have a beef with Croatia, but we won’t let it endanger international security”. Sure, Janša scored a late goal in that particular game and Pahor has only himself to blame, but instead of being dumbfounded he quickly adapted to the new situation, weighed the odds and decided that losing face in Slovenia is preferable to losing face internationally.

The new PM, seems to have learned his lesson, however. He answered Ziherl’s open letter/blog entry with an open letter/website post of his own.

Don’t get me wrong. Political unity at any price is a funny illusion. Almost a dangerous one. According to their different mandates, people in a democratic society have different roles and responsibilities. My readiness to consult and even cooperate with political rivals never has nor ever will circumvent relevant institutions or roles we hold within these institutions. Afterall, we’ve had experience with this. So far, we’ve had four opposition/coalition agreements and none of them ever destabilised our legal and political system. They have, however, contributed to easier attainment of great goals. Goals we might not have reached had there not been for such cooperation.

..and adds

Your letter is critical of me. My position requires me to accept criticism as an everyday occurrence. I do not expect congratulations. My work in politics has always been and remains to be the belief that what I do, I do for common good

A lot of naivete there as well, one might say. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that what we are seeing is a carefully crafted image of a seemingly bi-partisan PM, who is actually rather ruthless in achieving his political goals which may or may not be those of his coalition. Be that as it may, one wonders why did Ziherl write the letter in the first place. It’s not as if we learned anything new. Furthermore, since Ziherl resigned his post and quit the government because of Rupel, he already said that he will have nothing to do with Pahor’s cabinet. Pahor noted the objection and moved on, appearing somewhat arrogant. But now, it is Ziherl who comes across as a slightly spoiled brat who will do anything to get attention.


Unless the true target of this letter is not Borut Pahor. Ziherl appears to have gone rouge rogue and wrote the letter without consulting the party. Which is all fine and dandy, had it not been for the small matter of him being LDS vice-president. Which automatically gives his letter an air of an official party line. Which LDS president Katarina Kresal was quick to deny, saying that the party has no position on the issue. Which in turn means, that she is having difficulties controling party’s top echelon. And again, we are faced with two most likely explanations. Either Ziherl is so politically naive that he is not aware of consequences of his actions, or this is a part of a plot to remove Katarina Kresal as LDS president. Could it be that she has outlived her usefulness?

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to the Croatia NATO vote? The threat of a referendum still exists. Even more, the National Council (the sort-of-but-not-entirely second chamber) is threatening to veto the ratification, which would require yet another vote by the MPs, again needing a two-thirds majority. And after that, the SLS is threatening to call a referendum, unless the parliament passes a motion saying that Slovenia does not recognise any and all Croatian legislation which violates Slovenian sovereignty. Pengovsky will, however, debate the idiocy of these ideas if and when they become a reality.

We Are The Champions! (Not)

In light of today’s friendly between Belgium and Slovenia in Genk, dr. Arf prepared another guest post which I’m more than happy to publish. Not in the least because I’m having trouble keeping with the regular pace of posting (which I think is pretty obvious). Things will improve, however, as things are heating up yet again within the coalition. More on that tomorrow, as well as the fate of Croatian NATO membership bid.

And now for something completely different

Twenty-two guys chasing a single ball and selling enormous quantities of beer in the process 😈

(If you are a football enthusiast with no sense of humor (although, in my opinion the one automatically confirms the other), please look away now)

The nation known as Belgium, as you all know after having read my ?Belgium Explained To Slovenes’ guest posts, is fractured to the point of breaking up, but it – or rather, the football adoring sheep that populate it and they are many – comes together whenever the national team is playing. And why? To see them lose and have the national coach explain that it a) was undeserved, b) the ref was unfair, c) they didn’t do all too bad in spite of the loss. Or, in a more positive scenario, have him declare a draw to be a major victory for the team (“We’re doing better”; “team spirit is great” etc…). Anyhoo, I vowed to never, ever watch an entire football match while being conscious and sound of mind for the rest of my life, just like I’m doing everything in my power (up to putting fingers in my ears whenever an unsuspecting or foolhardy DJ is torturing me with a song of theirs) to avoid being subjected to music by The B*****s. But the latter is an altogether different story, best served in a bar along with several helpings of certain alcoholic beverages…

So why this hatred and utter disdain for football? Because football, my dear readers, ruined my childhood. It permeated through every aspect of my childhood in a negative way. Friendships were forged and/or lost on the high school playground, depending on which team you favoured. If you had none, had two left feet to boot and a lot of book knowledge, you were a nerd in the making and hence not deemed worthy to run with the alpha males in the making. I was lucky enough to have only one left foot (the right one apparently was good for kicking round, blown up pig skin in whatever direction it needed to go very accurately, even though I’m born a left hander and footer), and survival instinct compelled me to join in supporting the biggest team in Belgium (Anderlecht, nothing has changed since, even though they try their best to fuck up, I am told). But I was also bookish and smart. And my real sports were cycling and tennis. Not the most wowing sports in those days – save for one Eddy Merckx who was cycling in the Autumn of his career by then but was and still remains the greatest cyclist of all time (sorry, Tadej Valjavec 😉 ) and Björn Borg being the Swede everyone knew as the Eddy Merckx of tennis.

Football also ruined any hope of family respectability. Whenever there was football on TV, my granddad commandeered the thing and we had to sit in silence while he and his sons gazed at the black and white screen. And this was usually at the time when my favourite music programs were on. This did not help my growing antipathy towards what I considered to be one of the most boring sports of all (besides golf and curling). Even watching grass grow, I felt and still feel, is more interesting than this sport. Or what to think about having to sit through all the match results of all leagues being read over national radio (yes, ALL of the eight leagues, 18 matches each) while having Sunday dinner. It made the most boring day of the week even infinitely more boring. I think that’s when I became suicidal, which only passed after having been abstinent of this overblown and overhyped game for at least a decade.

Because that’s what it is : an overblown and overhyped game, with twenty overpaid sissies – who manage to roll over and act out certain death when being slightly touched by an opponent and then call this ?strategy’ – running after a ball and two trying to catch it when it’s shot towards them. There is a scene in a Simpsons episode (stemming from when the WC ?soccer’ was played in the USA, if I recall correctly) where the sheer boredom of watching this is perfectly illustrated. Art imitating life. I love it. But then, one single Simpsons episode displays more intelligence and excitement than the entire Champion’s League season.

“Why”, I can hear you think, “am I reading this here?” Simple : Belgium is playing Slovenia tonight, which compels me to break my vow, if for nothing else than to support the team of the country I feel more at home at than my own. And I hope I will derive no small amount of satisfaction when the Slovene team kicks Belgium’s team’s ass into oblivion. Please do, ?tis only just…

Live From Prešeren Square

Ana Hribar and Klemen Slakonja taking their hats off in front of Prešeren during last year’s event.

As promised yesterday, here is the link for the webcast. I didn’t actually embed the webcast into the blog. I figured if you can be bothered to take a peek at the recital, you might as well do it on The Firm™’s site.

The webcast begins at about 11.50 CET and will probably last 90 minutes. The link will take you to a new page, where you must click on the “play” button.

Hope you like. If you’re feeling frisky, you can also check out the mobile webcast by pointing your mobile phone to

EDIT: It went great. The rain made the whole think even more difficult than it already was, but in the end everything worked perfectly. Some 1500 people attended and braved the weather for a full hour. On demand video will be available here in a day or so.