There is an old Yugoslav joke where Mujo (Bosnian equivalent of Paddy) takes a biology exam and is asked to describe butterflies. Mujo obviously knows didlly-squat about butterflies, flunks the exam and goes home to read up on his butterflies. Next week he’s back re-taking the exam, only this time he is asked to describe elephants. Mujo thinks about it long and hard, then says: “Elephants are big animals. They’re bigger than butterflies, which we divide into following species…“. This is the trick former foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel employed yesterday when he posted a statement on his current party’s website which is supposedly aimed at criticising the fact that in Slovenia no formal celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall were held.
Rupel’s video clip on Berlin Wall for his party website. Contrary to his text this is almost unproblematic
However, after skewing the history a bit (failing to mention reform communists and ZSMS – the socialist youth organisation as key players in democratic changes in Slovenia, while overstating the role of Slovene dissident groups had in that same enterprise, making up a direct link between them and the fall of Berlin Wall), Rupel changes the subject completely and goes on a rampage against the current government, specifically its prime and foreign minister. Even more specifically, he went after the Pahor-Kosor agreement. But it is noteworthy that – staying true to his enumeration style – he should first point out the fact that the new government rescinded nominations of some key ambassadors, prepared under the previous government (where Rupel last served as FM). These nominations included the posting of Slovenian ambassador to Vienna. Those with at least average memories will remember that Rupel nominated himself to the post and was promptly rejected by President Danilo Türk with whom the power of ambassadorial nominations ultimately lies.
But that’s just an appetiser. Having failed to become Ambassador to Austria, after the elections and Janša’s loss of power Rupel was – to astonishment of many – first made special advisor on general matters to the newly minted PM Borut Pahor, but was soon ditched to become “just” a senior government official on the Ministry of Foreign affairs. This made Samuel Žbogar (the new foreign minister who was Slovenian ambassador to the US while Rupel was FM) his direct superior, and yet this did not stop Rupel from taking a dirty swipe against his boss, accusing him of trying to sabotage US/EU policy on recognition of Kosovo back in 2008. The fact that the fuck-up over a leaked memo was as much Žbogar’s as it was Rupel’s apparently don’t count no more.
However, refuting claims that the US was pressuring Slovenia on Kosovo, Rupel goes on to say that Obamaland pressured Slovenia over agreement with Croatia and that Slovenia succumbed to that pressure against its best interests. This is a piece of intellectual bravado few but Rupel can cook up. There is absolutely no evidence that the US is involved in solving the dispute other than continuous Croatian claims that the US has their backs. The US was not a party to signature of the agreement and has constrained itself to sending muted positive signals on reaching the deal. But this does not prevent Rupel from going all out on supposed Slovene subjugation to the US.
Dimitrij Rupel was Slovene foreign minister for a huge chunk of the last 18 years. He was the main proponent of Slovene signature of the Villnius declaration, making this country a member of the “coalition of the willing”. If there ever was a person in this country who made sure US interests in Slovenia were looked after, it was him. He has absolutely no right to lecture others on how to run an independent foreign policy. Furthermore, if during his tenure as Foreign Minister he bought every Croatian bluff the way he bought this last one, it is no wonder that the border dispute could not be solved while he was in office.
Rupel’s antics were funny if they weren’t tragic. (Ab)Using the anniversary of bringing down the Berlin wall to attack the very government he works for is of course perfectly legitimate, but it is also bad sport and utterly pathetic. If he has a problem with the way Slovenian foreign policy works, he should resign his post immediately. But he is unlikely to do that. Years ago, when he was Slovenian ambassador to the US he publicly went head-to-head with then-FM Boris Frlec (as in: was writing articles against his boss) and in the end forced Frlec to resign, while he (again) became foreign minister. Not that he will remember it that way, of course, but as pengovsky has shown some time ago, Rupel is prone to adjusting history to the need of the moment, so it should not come as a surprise if ten years from now he claims that he personally brought down the Berlin Wall
So, if Rupel won’t resign, what is to be done? In my opinion this lashing out against a government he works for is enough to simply cut him loose. But you know what they say. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.