Tomorrow: Live Webcast of Prešeren Recital

Some of you may already know about the Prešeren recital which is due to take place tomorrow at noon on Prešeren square in Ljubljana. With it the Slovene Association of Dramatic Artists celebrates the Culture Day, the day when France Prešeren, the greatest Slovenian poet died in 1849.

Pengovsky is shamelessly promoting the recital 🙂

On that note: it seems that the reason for celebrating his death rather than his birth is entirely coincidental. Culture Day was first marked during WWII as a form of protest. For various reasons it couldn’t have been held on 3 December (Prešeren’s birthday) and it was postponed until 8 February. The day stuck as Culture Day ever since. It is also a holiday – not that it makes much difference this year, does it 😈

At any rate – just as in the past, The Firm™ is co-organiser, and just as in previous years, we’ll be broadcasting the event in cable network, webcasting it on our websites (classic and mobile), as well as making it available on demand (previous events available here).

Schedule permitting I’ll post an embedded stream tomorrow, but as a backup, here is the link to the Prešen webcast, which will be live from about 11.50. For those of you who are constantly on the move, there will also be a mobile webcast on

If you’re in the neighbourhood tomorrow, drop by Prešeren sqare, but if you can’t make it, take a quick peek on your computer or mobile phone.

Cviklaža (eng: Cviklature; polit., n., a brainwashing technique in Slovene politics)

Milan M. Cvikl shot to Slovenian political prominence with the Patria affair. He served at various government posts, most notably as State Secretary to Finance Minister Tone Rop during 1996-2000 government of Janez Drnovšek, where the two created a budget every year by employing a brain-washing process known as “Cviklature”, which – so it is said – was not unlike a very sophisticated interrogation/torture technique. Usually a minister (say, a minister of health) would be called to some remote government building, locked up in a room with both Rop and Cvikl, and the two would proceed to explain to the unfortunate minister why his budgetary requests are totally inappropriate, irresponsible and follow wrong goals altogether. Apparently Cvikl came down so hard that Tone Rop, whose communications skills are on a par with a hungover pit-bull on a bad day, was considered the one with a soft touch. Nobody is willing to say exactly what was going on in there, but ministers would invariably emerge back into daylight with a completely different budget proposal which they would defend tooth-and-nail.

Milan M. Cvikl (source)

After Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, Tone Rop (now PM) made Cvikl his minister of European Affairs, as the previous minister Janez Potočnik became European Commissioner for Science and technology. Cvikl didn’t exactly excel at his job, in fact he was seen a bean-counter way out of his depth. But he got enough exposure to get elected as MP on LDS ballot in 2004, when Janez Janša took over as PM. When Janša’s government proposed its first budget, it fell on Cvikl to discuss it during plenary session of the parliament. He did so in a four hour speech, tackling every possible aspect of the budget, tearing it to bits. Even though the budget was passed, MPs were hurting. For most of them it was their first experience of Cviklature, which turned out to be a combination of a loud, nervous and slightly nasal high-pitched voice, incredible stamina and anal retentiveness.

But Cvikl (by then already a member of Social Democrats) really made a name for himself during Partia affair where he chaired the parliament investigative committee and was once again able to employ Cviklature on people whom he called for hearings. He was doing it for three years and was apparently making a lot of people in Janša’s government (as well as the man himself) very nervous, since Janša’s coalition employed a trick by calling his as a witness in front of another investigative committee, effectively removing him form chair of Patria committee.

(on that note: It seems that the Patria investigation is stalled as Finnish investigators have problems tracing money from Austria to Slovenia)

In 2008 elections Cvikl didn’t make it into parliament. Despite his media exposure he wasn’t very popular, which is not at all surprising since he always appears to be in attack mode. He made some tabloid headlines in 2007 as he divorced his wife of god-knows-how-many-years and shacked up with Jerca Legan, a PR specialist who in the past advised CEO of Sistemska tehnika, company which lost the arms deal to Patria. Nevertheless, Cvikl remained in high politics as the new PM Borut Pahor made him secretary general of the government, a very powerful position overseeing the functioning of the entire government.

And it is in this new function (which he so far seems to enjoy) that Cvikl is becoming the centre of a new scandal. News broke (no doubt leaked by himself or his staff) that there was one photocopier too many in the governmental building and that people emplyed by the previous government copied sensitive documents and that the whereabouts of some of these documents are unknown. Cvikl’s predecessor Božo Predalič denies any wrongdoing, but Cvikl is not the one to let go of a piece of meat he just sunk his teeth into. Not that the whole thing will necessarily amount to much.

Just to that I give you a heads-up. :mrgreen:

Policija trenira strogoću… again…

There’s one outstanding debt to settle. More than a week ago news broke of police bringing writer Goran Vojnović in for questioning. Due to shitload of work and other excuses, pengovsky failed to write it up, but some ten days ago Patrick brought it up in comments. Even more to the point, St. Luka has an excellent post on this, unfortunatelly in Slovenian 🙂

Cover of Vojnović’s book

Goran Vojnović is a writer, a columnist and author of a critically acclaimed and somewhat successful book “Čefurji raus!” about difficulties young people of ex-Yugoslav descent face in Slovenia. The book is a work of fiction and its main character Marko is a “čefur” (a derogatory term used by Slovenians for people from former Yugoslav republics), who – beside having trouble of fitting in, facing racism and other social issues – also has a problem with the police, which he refers to by a plethora of other derogatory terms. Pigs, tit-heads, bacon, coppers, scum… it was all there (well, Slovenian equivalents of those phrases, actually). Apparently the book was so succesful that someone in the Association of Police Officers actually read it and was insulted by all the colourful language and promptly filed criminal charges against Vojnović.

Needless to say that this came as a shock. There were already cases of police officers suing writers for libel in work of fiction (which is a contradiction in terms, but hey…), but after some curious legal decisions in favour of the plaintiffs/police officers, where judges proved that they too suffer from a lack of imagination, it was up to the Supreme Court to set the record straight and strike down rulings in favour of the suing police officers. But never before in Slovenia were criminal charges filed against an author for writing a book.

A mild shitstorm ensued, especially since it transpired that the charges were acted upon by Matjaž Šinkovec, who shortly after became Acting Director General of Slovene Police. At that point the new interior minister Katarina Kresal, who appointed Šinkovec, stepped in and denounced actions by the police. Humiliated, Šinkovec stopped the investigation and offered to resign. He also apologised for his poor judgement, whereupon minister Kresal refused his resignation.

So, all is well that ends well? Not exactly. OK, so the Slovenian police (or at least part of it) lacks imagination and a sense of humour. Too bad. But the problem arises when the only organisation which can legally use force against a citizen starts using these powers to curb freedom of speech,thought and artistic expression. Sure, file a libel suit against a writer for writing a work of fiction. Make a fool of yourself. But treating a work of fiction as a criminal offence is dangerous.

Šinkovec got away with a slap on the wrist. Lucky for him. I think that from now on cops should be made to read at least two works of fiction per year as a part of their training. It’ll do wonders, I’m sure.

P.S.: regarding the title of the post (I’ve used it before): it refers to a legendary children song Milicija trenira strogoću (Police Trains for Toughness) written by Goran Bregović, which – performed by a kid – can be understood as a nod to the cops until you realise that it is actually a snub. Yugoslav cops never got it.

Hostage Situation

Last Thursday Slovenian parliament was due to vote on ratification of Croatian and Albanian NATO membership. Not EU membership, but NATO. Slovenian constitution requires that the parliament ratifies such treaties with a two-thirds majority of MPs present, a rather smart proviso which requires at least some sort of political consensus on such questions. This proviso was put in place especially for Slovenian accession to both EU and NATO in 2004, but has – logically – remained in place ever since. There were some initial hold-ups with this particular ratification process, as the more rabid element of SLS (which in this case stands for Sacred Land of Slovenia) demanded to check if Croatia didn’t by any chance join NATO based on the same maps which Slovenia disputes in the Croatian EU bid. It didn’t and especially since Janez Janša‘s SDS declared to vote in favour of the ratification, things looked bright and sunny for Croatia at least in this department.

What’s 1 plus 1, punk!?

Or so it seemed. Preceding the ratification vote was a vote on Annual Account for 2007 budget, which was drawn up and fully executed by the previous government, led by Janez Janša (due to elections in September, the 2008 budget was – in it’s last month – executed by the new government of Borut Pahor). Now, according to 2007 Annual Account, prepared by Janša’s government, the budget boasted a surplus. Even back then pengovsky wondered how was that possible. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one. After the Court of Audit poured over that particular budget and found that instead of a surplus, Janša’s government created a deficit. Due to Court’s misgivings (which in essence said that Janša’s government cooked up the numbers), and possibly out of malice as well, the coalition MPs rejected the Annual Account until it was amended in accordance with the Court’s findings.

As a result, The Quartet MPs voted to reject the Annual Account, after which all hell broke loose. SDS MPs went apeshit and called an obstruction by leaving the chamber, saying that until the parliament approves the Annual Account in present form, they will not take part in any vote whatsoever. Including the vote on Croatian NATO membership. They of course fully realised that without their vote there is no ratification. Shortly after, on a crisis meeting, the Quartet buckled and send the Annual Account back to the parliament in its original form, without Court of Audit’s amendments.

In all fairness and slightly OT, two things should be said: One, that such creative accounting techniques were employed before as well, always to Court’s dismay. And two, that the Court issued a qualification for 2007 Annual Account, meaning that it gave it a passing mark, but only barely, with instructions how to rectify all the mistakes. But it must also be said that this was the first time when creative accounting was used to display a surplus (to be spent), whereas every other time the numbers were cooked to lower the deficit (to be repaid). In other words, before 2007 the government was minimising its outstanding debt, whereas in 2007 it was creating imaginary money.

Back to the matter at hand. Janez Janša fucked The Quartet by withdrawing support for a key foreign-relations vote just when Slovenia desperately needs to come off as a credible country which does indeed have a beef with Croatia, but will not act irresponsibly when matter of international security are on the table. Remember, that was the same Janez Janša who held the EU presidency only seven months ago and who ran the government as little as two months ago. But now he seems to be concerned only with protecting his record and public image. Last time around he sued people who said that he didn’t do an exactly brilliant job. Since suing the Republic of Slovenia would probably be a bit too much even for him, he rather took his buddy Croatian PM Ivo Sanader a hostage and is now blackmailing the coalition into approving the obviously imaginary surplus.

If I cooked up the numbers in The Firm™, I’d have the Tax Admin all over me in an instant, carrying a hefty fine and possibly jail time. If former PM cooks up the numbers, he gets to hold a press conference and say that the Court of Audit doesn’t know its maths.

And since in politics 1 plus 1 does not necessarily equal 2, the Parliament will any day now vote on and approve the 2007 Annual Account which states that a) Slovenia sported a surplus on 31 December 2007 and b) that the Court of Audit does not know its maths. As a side efect, however, PM Pahor’s idealistic notions of bi-partisanship in Slovene politics took a serious beating. Whether this constitutes a reality check or just a “minor setback” however remains to be seen.