Did Janša Try To Plant Forged Documents In Patria Affair?

The Patria Affair had an interesting double twist this week. On Monday Delo daily ran an article claiming that Finnish investigators led by Kaj Erik Björkvist discovered that the 21 million euros, which were allegedly used to bribe a certain “J” (thought to be then-PM and current leader of the opposition Janez Janša) actually ended up not with Janša himself but with his Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) which used this money to finance their pre-election free weekly rags which were objectively reporting the events as seen by then-rulling SDS. In fact they were agit-prop papers of the worst kind. At any rate, the article by journalist Dejan Karba even quoted Björkvist confirming the money went to SDS and that a paper trail exists to prove it. Obviously all hell broke loose.

Patria APC, codenamed “Svarun” by the Slovenian Army (photo by Leon Vidic/Delo, source)

Media went into a frenzy, SDS went apeshit, denied everything and denounced Karba while Delo newspaper and its editor stood by its journalist even after (watch this) Björkvist denied giving the interview and in the end Karba said that it was actually he who gave Björkvist the incriminating documents which he allegedly got from a source within SDS.

This is where it gets interesting. Dejan Karba was a member of a huge crowd of journalists who descended on mainstream media from various politically biased news-organisations after Janez Janša won 2004 elections and set about “balancing” the media. Only weeks ago, when Janša was questioned by Björkvist, Karba (who reportedly majored in theology) managed to get a hold of a transcript of the questioning and pointed out parts which supposedly proved that there isn’t a shred of evidence against Janša. Since there are only two sources which Karba could have obtained the document from (Janša or Björkvist) there are no prizes for guessing who gave him the file. And as if that wasn’t enough, there was a short interview with Janša next to the article about the interrogation, explaining just what we were seeing (in case the message in the article didn’t get across).

So, Karba is Janša’s man. OK, no problem. Not entirely professional, but not illegal. And certainly not the only biased journalist out there. However, how can it be that only weeks later Karba becomes the centre of SDS’ vicious attacks on “unprofessional and politically motivated journalism”. Either Karba had an epiphany (pun very much intended) or this is a neat trick gone wrong, with SDS trying to do as much damage control as possible.

But to explain, we have to refresh our memories vis-a-vis an event which politically shaped Janez Janša. Depala Vas Affair. To cut a long story short, Janez Janša (back then the immensely popular and powerful defence minister) and his inner circle tried bring the fledgling Slovenian army under their complete control by discrediting other factors in civil control over armed forces, especially the nominal commander-in-chief and Janša’s arch-enemy, then-president Milan Kučan. Janša and his people tried to achieve this by planting forged documents about a coup d’etat being planned, whereupon the president would jump the gun, be exposed as acting on forged documents and be forced to resign.

Do you see where this is going? Admittedly, the following is pure speculation. But this thing with Karba has “Depala Vas Affair” written all over it. If we suppose for a moment that Karba and Janša are still on good terms, then it is entirely possible that the the documents on SDS-ran newspapers were forged in order to discredit Björkvist and that Karba brought tried to give them to the investigator, knowing quite well that they are forgeries. It was hoped that Björkvist would jump on the opportunity and build a case on those documents, which would at some point be exposed as forgeries, causing the investigation to collapse in one master stroke. Except it didn’t work.

Björkvist denied giving a statement to Karba, who later admitted that the investigator talked to him “off the record”. The fact that Karba published it anyway and named his source can only be interpreted and complete journalistic ineptitude (not impossible) or an attempt to provoke Björkvist into making a mistake. He didn’t make one and told Karba to deliver the documents to Slovenian police. Which of course Karba did not yet do.

Again, this is pure speculation. To date there is no information on whether documents Karba tried to give to Björkvist were genuine or not. But knowing Janša’ modus operandi and the fact that the investigation is apparently rattling his cage quite hard, Karba’s actions and subsequent article bear all the hallmarks of an attempted plant and/or double-cross. As the investigation centres more and more on Janša and his immediate circle, the former PM seems to react ever more instinctively, resorting to tested tricks.

Altough it should be said that the trick did not work at Depala Vas either, because Janša’s people screwed up the plant. Indeed, the only time such a deception worked was when it was used on Janša, while he was in army prison in 1988 during the JBTZ Affair. Go figure…

Political Future of Zoran Janković

Only a couple of days before Prime Minister Borut Pahor marked his first year in power, Zoran Janković marked his third anniversary as mayor of Ljubljana, starting the fourth and final year of his first term in office. This means that most of the work had been done, all that’s left is to wrap up a couple of things, mop-up and go to the ballot box. Or does it?

Zoki during a press conference (source: The Firm™)

If you last visited Ljubljana in 2005 or even before that, you should know that the city (it’s Old City, at least) is virtually unrecognisable. For better of for worse, Zoki, as Janković is popularly known, ushered a period of unprecedented construction, renovation and re-designation. pengovsky has neither the energy nor the inclination to go over every one of the twenty-two project he ran on and got elected in a landslide victory in 2006, but fact of the matter is that he changed this city more than it was changed in the previous fifteen years, both in terms of concepts as well as pure face-lifts.

But if Janković’s first term is marked by expeditious construction of many projects, most notable being the Stožice Football stadium, it is also marked (or marred, whichever you prefer) by creating a lot of resentment in various parts of Ljubljana. The pattern was always the same: the mayor announced a major development project, whereupon a vocal group within local population rose against it, citing various grievances, including but not limited to lack of parking space (most residential buildings were built with .75 parking space per household, now most households have to cars), weak infrastructure (roads, sewage, water-pipes), presumably unable to support any more people and/or buildings, general lack of taste (there are some project out there that are just fugly) as well as general distrust of the city administration, based on previous bad experiences.

Then there’s the small matter of mayor Janković having the finesse of a runaway lawnmower when it comes to projects he believes in. For better of for worse, he is the penultimate hands-on manager. He will do rounds on various building sites or renovation projects and mercilessly kick ass if necessary to get things moving. This determination has backfired on more than one occasion. When people feel that they are being pushed around and pressured, their natural reaction is to oppose and disagree. Often their arguments (some of them, at least) are valid. It’s not that he cannot be reasoned with. In fact it’s safe to say the more controversial projects were at least somewhat amended precisely because of grass-roots and opposition pressure. But Janković is highly unlikely to stop until he gets his way, which is not exactly helpful if you want to run a dialogue between two opposing sides. His self-confidence sometimes tips over into arrogance, especially when he is pursuing broader policy goals. In those cases he will brush aside almost all criticism, especially those who would halt, slow down or rethink some projects.

And finally, there’s the way he runs the city council. Beginnings were shaky to say the least. Rules and Procedures were liberally interpreted and sometimes completely ignored, but he learned his lesson since. However, he makes it painfully obvious that he would rather skip the debate and go straight to the vote, more or less knowing what the outcome will be.

While part of his (over)confidence is his ego, which at times is big indeed, a big part of his quick-draw style is mere mathematics. Namely, he (his list, to be exact) holds an absolute majority of twenty-three city councillors, dispensing with coalitions, constant horse-trading and procedural booby-traps. This is not to say that none of the above happens. It does. But much less frequently than it used to under previous mayors.

And therein lies the riddle mayor Janković has to solve in the coming weeks. He is widely believed to run for re-election. After all there are project which will be completed well after 2010 elections, most notably the car park below Central Market (another project that ran into stiff grass-roots opposition). It would, in all honesty, seem a bit like he’s bailing out on his projects if he didn’t run. On the other hand, he gets the heebee-jeebiees whenever he has to listen to ramblings of city councillors who have nothing better to do but to on and on and on and on…. like the proverbial bunny.

Although his current ratings make him virtually unbeatable on election Sunday a little less than a year from now, it seems safe to assume that The List of Zoran Janković (his councillors) would no longer hold an absolute majority in the City Council, thus forcing Janković to form some sort of a coalition, which would be much more time consuming and much less productive, neither of which is his forte.

Then, there’s a question of motivation. He ran in 2006 because Janez Janša ran him out of Mercator a year earlier. He wanted to hit back at Janša and to prove to politicos in general that he can beat them at their own game. He won on both counts, leaving little to be desired. Save, perhaps, the position of a prime minister, something he sort-of-hints on from time to time. But so far it seems that he only enjoys making top echelons of Slovene politics jumpy and insecure, slowly becoming their worst nightmare. This was true enough when Janša was in power and it is no less true now, when Borut Pahor is the top dog.

So, analytically speaking, there are four parts to the enigma that is the political future of Zoran Janković. 1) Is he motivated enough to run for re-election 2) if yes, is he willing to risk having to “suffer” in a coalition government 3) if yes, will he consider running for higher office in 2012 parliamentary elections, and 4) if yes, go to question number two.

A Letter To Prime Minister Borut Pahor (again)

PM Pahor cleaning shoes to Slovenian football squad after qualifying for 2010 World Cup (source)

Dear Prime Minister!

A year ago, almost to the day to the day, your government was sworn in. Back then I wrote you a letter which never saw the inside of your inbox, although some said that it should. Be that as it may, I hope you’ll look upon this letter with benevolence.

It will probably come as no surprise to you if I tell you that in your first year in office you didn’t exactly leave an overwhelmingly positive impression. You see, the thing is that you, your party and your coalition were elected primarily for one reason: you promised to do a better job than the other guy. Sure, you can say that the crisis hit stronger, harder and deeper than anyone expected (certainly your predecessor was oblivious to the impeding doom). But, to be honest, this doesn’t exactly cut it. You knew shit was brewing, you campaigned on shit brewing and yet when it spilled over, your government seemed to have been caught by surprise.

Seemed being the operative word here. I’m sure you will agree that keeping up appearances was and still is important to your style of premiership. However, as things took the above mentioned turn for the worse, a little more substance would come in handy. Well, fuck it. A lot more substance would come in handy. There, I said it!

You made a big show of trying to avoid the “to-victor-go-the-spoils” mentality and – achieved nothing. In fact, it backfired. You threw away incredible amounts of your newly minted political capital upon taking office by keeping Dimitrij Rupel on board. Your explanation at the time was flimsy at best, while you ditching him only months later, as well as your recent foreign policy exploits only reiterate what most of us knew all along: that Rupel is bad news all around and that he shouldn’t be touched with a ten-foot-pole. And yet you wanted to play Jesus, trying to heal political lepers, not only with Dimitrij, but also with Anže Logar, Janša’s head of Government Communication Office, offering him a job in your office upon hearing that he was being dismissed from his position.

You even made overtures to Janša’s SDS to form some sort of partnership for development, for a moment throwing a shadow of a doubt on just who exactly won the elections. It actually took Janez Janša himself to show you the fault line between coalition and opposition, with his 2007 Annual Account antics. And as if that wasn’t enough, despite you bending over backwards to prevent sacking of hundreds of people who ascended their various positions en masse via political intervention under previous government, Janša’s SDS still berated you over “politically motivated sackings”, creating the infamous sacking-counter on their website.

And as if that wasn’t enough, you forgot to keep your own flock in check. While you tried in vain to re-create, again, your own particular piece of Churchilliana (in victory – magnanimity), your people started dividing the spoils, provoking bitter inter-coalition turf wars including (but not limited to) Katarina Kresal of LDS and Gregor Golobič of Zares, resulting in the Veselinovič Standoff and, ultimately, the Ultra Affair.


It’s always easy to be smart with hindsight, but given your position and supposed political prowess you should have seen it coming a mile away. That you did not, or – even worse – that you did, but have let it happen anyway, reflects badly on your record, regardless of your subsequent attempts to contain the damage.

And without trying to put too fine a point on it, it should not go unnoticed that your actions in your own party did nothing to discourage such mentality. You pursued principle on one issue, while acting unscrupulously pragmatic in another. Specifically, you all but forced your long time political ally and unofficial party ideologue Igor Lukšič to step down as party vice-chairman, on the grounds that it is unhygienic for education minister to hold a senior party position. To be exact, you made it known that you don’t want him as your VP and when he ran anyway, you didn’t lift a finger to help him. Even more, you did not object to the fact that Patrick Vlačič, minister of transport ran for and got elected to the same position of vice-chairman.

So, minister of education is a no go, while minister of transport – no problem. What’s up with that? Trying to avoid being accused of charging education ideologically? Has it not dawned on you that you would have been accused of that regardless of what you did? You could have installed a creationist priest as minister of education and still face charges that you’re indoctrinating kids with socialist ideas

Prime Minister!

On the whole it seems that you spent most of your first year in office being haunted by ghosts. Trying to avoid being branded as a left wing anti-business twat, you were branded as an inept left wing anti-business twat with no feeling for social needs whatsoever.

When giving an interview to state television days ago, you (again) provided us with some memorable quotes, most notable of them being the one about you not having a magic wand, by a stroke of which you could make all the economic woes disappear. Fair enough. You indeed can not. But, you see, when you presented us with your team of cabinet ministers, you deliberately gave the impression of that being the best team there was at the time (with the possible exception of Karel Erjavec, but we’ll deal with that another time). And yet Zlata Ploštajner, your minister for regional development resigned after less than a year in office and was replaced by Henrik Gjerkeš, with whom you (by your own admission) spent more time debating the pronunciation of his surname than you did debating his priorities. It could be that there was little to be said, but this was another example of your utterances which did not leave a good impression.

Ditto for your lacklustre support for your finance minister Franci Križanič who admittedly seems to have a hard time coping with the responsibilities of his position, but is – in my opinion at least – far from an incompetent tit the opposition and most media try to portray him. His idea of instituting additional tax levels for highest earners was shot down mostly by coalition parties immediately after it went public, although it was (according to Križanič) supported by all coalition members. And yet, instead of backing him up you said he “works better than talks”. Hello? What kind of a support is that? May I suggest that in the future you use phrases such as “fully and unconditionally support”, “has my complete confidence” and “is performing extremely well under adverse conditions” when trying to support a member of your cabinet? Or, if you want him out of there, try stuff like “will have to decide where his allegiances lie”, “has made an error in judgement” or even “did not seek approval of the entire government”. Any of the above are bound to create a vacancy in the financial ministry

Speaking of vacancies, the number of Slovenia’s unemployed is moving dangerously close to the 100k mark. We both know that this is a bad omen, especially with the nearly 10% drop in GDP year-on-year. Whole companies are going bust and it is fair to say that your government is picking up the tab for your predecessors who kept giving away money for nothing, just to keep people employed and out of unemployment statistic records. It looks as if the moment has come when “the buck stopped” and you are here, faced with a lot of angry people, most of whom are cursing the day of your election victory. But the thing is, you made it look as if you do have the magic wand. You promised that you are prepared to tackle the crisis and you assured us that your people know how to go about their business.

While all of the above may be the case (except, as noted, the magic wand), the end result is sub-standard. And in a case where highly professional and motivated individuals fail to deliver results, it is obvious that their leader (you) has done a poor job in keeping focus and showing them the way.

This, my dear prime minister, is the core of your problems, methinks. You take great interest and spend a lot of energy on trivial matters, while the really big issues and hot potatoes you leave to others to handle. This must change. You must take charge.

Just as you took charge in solving the border dispute with Croatia. Regardless of how it was reached, the Pahor-Kosor agreement is probably the single greatest achievement of your government and of you as its head. And do not think for a moment that I do not recognise the gravity of the situation. What you have done so far verges on the impossible and I suspect that this is part of the reason for wild-eyed stories about foreign pressure which supposedly cajoled you and your opposite number in Croatia to reach an agreement. For some it is simply inconceivable that you and Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor made it almost as far as both late Prime Ministers, Janez Drnovšek and Ivica Račan. And you can be sure that disbelief will turn into bewilderment if the two of you indeed reach a solution by yourselves in the next few days or weeks, as your justice minister Aleš Zalar hinted on Twitter.

A lot is riding on this agreement and if it fails, you would probably do well to resign immediately. Having a politically crippled PM is not something this country can afford at the time.

While we’re on the subject, I’m most pleased about you restoring normal ties with Russia, specifically with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who undoubtedly remembers the snub given to him by your predecessor. Good relations with Russia are of strategic importance for this country, which is something Janez Janša will never understand.

Mr. Pahor!

Since I’ve already used the dreaded “R” word, I feel I should warn you about two items which might work against you in the coming weeks and moths and which could, in all honesty, make the prospect of your early political demise slightly more real. First, there’s the oft-announced by yet-again-scuttled institution of a conflict of interest between a mayor and an MP. As we both know a lot of mayors who also serve as MPs dreaded this provision, which would make them choose between their two functions. Your minister Irma Pavlinič Krebs even submitted a bill to that effect, but once again most mayors/MPs voted en bloc together with the opposition, defeating the bill. Luckily, under Slovenian political system they don’t drive you out of office for losing one vote, but if you fail to separate functions of a mayor and that of an MP, you can kiss goodbye (among other things) to the resurrected project of regionalisation in Slovenia, possibly even to your premiership. Mayors will not simply give away the vast powers they’ve accumulated over the years and fighting the same people on municipal as well as state level can be tiresome and can lead to a political disaster.

And finally, the new draft law on RTV Slovenia. I have yet to read it carefully and write on it, but from what I know and have read about it, the draft does not sound like a good idea. You promised a Slovene version of BBC, but what minister Majda Širca is suggesting is a far cry from it.

Prime Minister!

Unlike last year, there is little advice on how to go about your business. To be completely honest, I’d hate to be in your position these days. But fact of the matter is that you spent most of the last year making life difficult for yourself, rather than trying to invest your political capital into one or more projects and reap rewards in the election year.

Instead you – as noted above – spent your breath on trivial matters, such as your now infamous statement that you will clean out footballers’ playing shoes if they qualify to World Cup 2010 in South Africa. They qualified, your own PR service taped the cleaning process and suddenly this became the issue of the day. I agree that football itself is far from trivial, but your promise was. And yet you made it, stuck by it and got good copy for it, not in the least on the pages of the Los Angeles Times. A lot of people saw this as keeping your promise, I see it primarily as too quick a statement which came back to haunt you just because you spoke to soon.

So, my advice (insofar as I can give any) would be to quote Elvis and say: a little less conversation, a little more action please. Oh, and numbers. Gotta be good with numbers. Work on that, please…

Sincerely yours,


How Europe Got A Belgian Council President (Guest Post By Dr. Arf)

Another marvelous guest post by Dr. Arf.

So, by now all us Europeans are living in a different European entity. Because, even if some of our Head Honchos will be jittery about calling a spade a spade, we now have a European president. Woo- hoo, break out the champagne, throw huge, lavish parties with people madly dancing, drinking and fornicating in the streets into the night for a fortnight. Or should we?

Because, my fellow Europeans, we didn’t get no Obama as EU president. While there is a cautious ?yes we can’ (if we stick together) attitude, my country’s now ex- Prime Minister and your EU Prez, Herman (not Herbert, you foolish English tabloids) Van Rompuy isn’t particularly know for his talent to rally people for the cause like his American counterpart still can, even with some lost feathers near the end of his term’s first year.

The new EU Prez (source)

No, good old Herman is the greyest mouse you could possibly have for the job and expresses himself in haiku (this is the first and last time I will refer to that, and don’t expect me to write one on his behalf, thankyouverymuch). If you’ve been following the European news for the last couple of days, you will have heard several terms come back about Herman. ?Aloof’, ?boring’, ?consensus builder’ and so on… You will get my own take on Hermie, but let’s just start at the beginning, which was roughly two weeks ago. Being a Belgian native, I witnessed firsthand how this Union got its Belgian Prez.

With the election of the seat about three weeks away, there were rumours – I had to find out through the BBC’s excellent comedy panel show ?Have I Got News For You’ – about a number of people who were named as candidates : Dr. Fil’s second home native EU bobo Jacques Santer, Holland’s very own adult Harry Potter clone and PM Jan-Peter Balkenende and The Man Who Is President Of So Many Foundations And Institutions He Hardly Knows Which Ones, Only That He’s Filthy Rich Because Of It, the UK’s former Labour PM, Tony Blair.

I admit, the latter’s a rather lengthy moniker, but it is all too true. Blair even prides himself in being the spokesperson for British supermarket chain ASDA in… Palestine! Anyway, to cut a long, money grabbing story short : all of this was sufficient reason for many a EU country to veto Blair’s candidacy, no matter how much Gordon ?I think the whole UK wants to lynch me’ Brown put his foot down and backed the guy he shoehorned out of Downing St. No. 10 against all odds. (Cue Phil Collins song) Brown would eventually drop Blair’s candidacy in exchange for the EU socialists getting a British Foreign Affairs Minister in Cathernie Ashton. All’s well that ends well…

Anyway, there they were; all major candidates in a row. Oh yeah, there were some others too and almost as an afterthought, Van Rompuy’s name was mentioned as one of them. Cut to a week later and our local journos (on Flemish TV, that is, since I live in The North) came out with the news that their well informed sources within the EU Parliament had told them Hermie was a strong candidate, opposed by no one. When asked, our PM said nothing at first and a week later only that he wasn’t asked and that he didn’t intend to run. But IF asked, he would.

However, this ?no opposition’ claim wasn’t really all that true. Aside from other ?informed sources’ who contradicted that there was consensus about Van Rompuy, there was clear opposition… from the UK tabloid press. And the further in the week and the stronger the rumours about our PM’s impending leap up the political ladder, the fiercer the rumours got. The conservative Daily Telegraph, not particularly known for getting their facts straight but rather for their, eh, conservative stance at all cost, even named him ?Herbert’. All rather silly and all rather out of proportion, unless you know that almost all UK news media is siding with the Tories in the UK right now and they are already campaigning for next year’s national elections. The Tories are fierce – pointy teeth and all – Eurosceptics (anti- European more like it). Then again, political Britain just wants the EU’s benefits and none of the responsibilities and the difference between Labour and the Tories is as thick as a teen’s pubic hair.

Meanwhile, last week, when PM Van Rompuy’s candidacy rumours were getting beyond the point of ignoring, a new problem surfaced in the media : if Herman – the guy who managed to build a consensus between politicians from both North and South on a national level and got a – albeit flimsy – grip on Belgium’s economic crisis – was going to run Europe, who would be running the country? One name popped up : Mr. ?800.000 Votes Can’t Be Wrong’, Yves Leterme. And the mere mention of the man prompted francophone newspaper Le Soir to literally impose its veto on Leterme as Belgium’s PM, merely because they don’t like his style and they, or rather, editor in chief Béatrice Delvaux (who managed to utter the ?faux pas’ “I believe that Leterme” before correcting ?I’ into ?the paper’ on national TV, thereby exposing her private agenda as well as the fact she used her newspaper for it) came out, guns blazing and knives sharpened. Even the francophone politicians felt that this was a bridge too far. ?We use the media for our agenda, not the other way around’ was the message when a francophone politician said that ?Le Soir is not making policy in this country’. As it stands and as I’m writing this, a mere few hours after Van Rompuy’s acceptance speech, this issue is only now starting to become the hot potato which could land this country in another crisis, at a time it needs it the least.

One last fait divers about Hermie’s run up to the presidency : those pesky British tabloids, in their usual fashion – tits on Page3, filth and smut in the rest of the paper – ran increasingly negative stories about Van Rompuy. His sister – a very red socialist (ex- communist party PvdA) politician of her own – allegedly said he was a clown, hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, and so on. Which wasn’t true. The red nose was a campaign stunt of PvdA, and they had spoken just a week ago, she countered only hours ago on a talk show. So where did the British press get all this misinformation from? You’ll never believe it : a BELGIAN lobby firm, represented by a nephew of ex- PM and former EU Chairman hopeful Guy Verhofstadt. While Verhofstadt himself was probably not behind this vicious attack, his nephew had no qualms about feeding these stories, even when untrue, to the British public ?because that’s what the media wants to run’. Can I come out and say in no uncertain terms that such morally challenged ratbags (I’ll keep it civilised) like these should be sentenced to a life of forced labour without the possibility of parole, while being prison bitch to a 300 pound serial rapist with severe halitosis (sorry, couldn’t help myself in the end)?

So, my EU friends, now he’s been elected unanimously, what can you expect of your president, Herman Van Rompuy? Well, he IS a consensus builder, and when it’s being said that ?if he can hold a country like Belgium together, he’ll certainly be able to do the same with the 27 EU countries’, you should take that seriously, because he will do his darndest to put all the noses in the same direction. It’s also said he’s an EU nobody, politically speaking. Do NOT make the mistake to think Van Rompuy won’t know what he wants and he’ll be a harmless puppet to the likes of Angela ?I was in the sauna on the other side of the Wall’ Merkel and Nicholas ?I singlehandedly tore down the Berlin Wall’ Sarkozy. Some EU bobos will undoubtedly have felt this way when casting their votes and they will be sadly mistaken. Yes, he IS aloof and he only speaks when he feels it matters. No flamboyance there, but do not mistake him for a sock puppet.

What else? Well, he is a catholic and a conservative. Not necessarily negative treats, even though that makes him my political opposite. However, he’s also an intellectual who several times spoke out against what he calls ?direct democracy’; aka the will of the people via binding referenda. His reasoning was that constituents could not be trusted with this power, hence they needed elected representatives like him, who would decide what was best for them. This was many years ago, but it stayed with me because it incensed me to no end. If people do not know how to wield democracy, it is, in my opinion, not the task of the elected representatives to make up their minds for them, but to teach them how to wield that power effectively. Not so for Van Rompuy, and I was sorely disappointed when not a single journalist drove this issue home when he was about to take over as PM from Leterme. The fact that he was a consensus builder and didn’t really want the job took precedence over that.

In closing : no matter what his qualities may be, Herman Van Rompuy is very much a politician’s politician, and that, too, will have been a reason why he was elected by his peers (!) as EU Council president for the next two and a half years. The only hope I have for this presidency is that Herman Van Rompuy will learn as much about direct democracy as he will be teaching us about intereuropean consensus. Time will tell…

— dr. Arf