Ratko Mladić “Found” And Captured

The arrest of war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladić comes at an extremely crucial moment for Serbia. At a time when Croatia is apparently on the verge of having been given a fixed date for EU entry, when Chief Prosecutor at the Hague Tribunal Serge Brammertz said that Serbia has not done nearly enough to catch the two main remaining war criminals (Mladić and Goran Hadžić), at the time when the EU is considering reintroducing visas for some Balkan countries including, apparently, Serbia, it would seem that Belgrade had no choice but to take the issue of general Ratko Mladić off the table.

Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić. Both captured

Now, there’s always the possibility of pieces just falling into place. After all the United States found Osama Bin Laden after ten years not far (relatively speaking) from where he was in the first place. But this being Balkans and all, you’ll forgive me if I remain my cynical self.

Ratko Mladić was hiding under an alias Milorad Komadić in a village called Lazarevo. According to tweets by @Belgrade (editor of belgraded.com) Mladić was “found” in a village mostly inhabited by people from Mladić region of birth (a Serbian village South-East of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina) and was brazen enough to use only a modification of his real name as an alias: Milorad Komadić. You either need balls of steel or (at the very least) tacit goverment support to do something like that.

You’ll remember that basically the same thing happened with Radovan Karadžić, who (using the assumed name of Dragan Dabić) lived in Belgrade practically under everyone’s noses. Point being that both Karadžić and Mladić were trump cards Serbian government used whenever it found itself cornered by the EU. While there’s still the capture of Goran Hadžić to attend to, the EU and (most likely) the United States will quite possibly grant certain concession to Serbia on a quid-pro-quo basis.

And this is basically it. What we saw today was – in my opinion – a closure of a deal where Serbian government bargained hard and most likely got what it wanted. EU foreign minister high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton would not be in Belgrade today had there not been some sort of an agreement made. Although people tend to look down on her it is possible (and I’m only speculating here) that she had two envelopes with her: one if Serbia played ball, the other if it didn’t.

And just to put conspiracy theories to rest: The fact that European Parliament reporter for Serbia, Slovene MEP Jelko Kacin said only earlier today that Serbia will not be granted candidate status without Mladić arrest in all likelyhood is a coincidence 🙂

Anyways, Ratko Mladić is apparently on his way to The Hague where he will once again be united with Radovan Karadžić. The Duo Horribilis will stand trial for war crimes just in time for the ICTY to complete its charter. Hopefully, they will not follow their political mentor Slobodan Milošević and take their own lives, but will be tried and convicted for their crimes so that hundreds of thousands of people upon whom they brought untold horror and suffering may finally find some sort of inner peace.

May whatever god they might believe in have mercy on their souls. They will find little forgiveness on this Earth.


Enhanced by Zemanta

The Kid Who Should Be Tarred And Feathered

I know there are more important subjects to cover, critical to the future of the country finances i.e.: pension reform and the general referendum hoopla including the epic fails (or are they?) of the government ‘yes’ campaign. However, the thing that got me shouting at the TV set yesterday was not the stupidity of putting a silicon-wrecked blonde in front of the camera saying ‘no’ to the reform and hoping for a ‘yes’ result via reverse psychology.

Aleksander Spremo blocking reporter of TV Slovenia from entering offices of Piran Student Club (source)

No, what sent pengovsky on an expletives-laden rant that would make German porn-stars cringe with discomfort was one Aleksander Spremo who, apparently, yesterday last weekend tried to take over the Piran Student Club in the finest manner of muscle democracy where the toughest guy gets the most votes and if you’re not cool with that there’s a big-boned gentleman in the back who sucks at chiropractics to give you a twice-over.

According to a report by TV Slovenia (Slovene only) Spremo and a group of colleagues showed up at a meeting of the Piran Student Club and declared himself president of the club. A stand-off took place which included a police intervention, changing of locks by the municipal authorities (who apparently own offices leased by the club) and even preventing access to journalists by Spremo himself.

Now, all of the above would not merit a blogpost had it not been for one tiny detail. Aleksander Spremo, now a freshman at the Faculty of Law (!) was until recently president of High School Student’ Organisation of Slovenia and was actively involved in student protests against (now dead) law on menial work a year ago which disintegrated into pointless violence and vandalizing the parliament.

The journalist in me knows that there are always two sides to a story. But Spremo’s excuse for frivolous interpretation of democratic standards, namely that the sitting president Rebeka Mahnič “failed to complete a satisfactory number of projects” is flimsy at best and hints at a thinly veiled agenda. What that might be, is almost a no-brainer: student organisations are possibly the last source of money where accountability is a mere after-thought.

I’m not saying that everything was a-OK with Piran Student Club to date (I’ve no information on the club, much less any interest in it’s working), but the very fact that Spremo is involved is disturbing. Namely, this kid, who apparently became the stereotypical arrogant freshman law student should be, instead of trying to muscle his way into a money-pot, hiding under the biggest rock in the darkest hole possible, hoping that no-one will ever remember him, much less find him.

If all things were good and fair in this world, Aleksander Spremo should be tarred and feathered on the spot. But instead he studies law, paid for by the very same state he helped stone a year ago. And he gets to shove journalists around. That he is probably just running bag for someone else is also almost a given. I’m not saying that he hasn’t the mental capacity to cook something like this by himself, but given the fact that things escalated to the point of grown-ups intervening indicates that bigger issues are at play.

Call it a hunch, but I bet this is somehow connected with rumours of emergence of yet another political party in Slovenia. But that will have to wait. Right now I’d just like to express my utter dismay at the fact that 20-something no-goodniks like Spremo, who haven’t an ounce of responsibility and shame, still have the balls to have a go at public matters. Instead, they should be treated to a healthy dose of bitch-slapping.

There, venting session over… 😀


Enhanced by Zemanta

Family Code: Let’s Party Like It’s 1975

On Tuesday evening the parliament completed the second (crucial) reading of the new Family Code which – among other things – was meant to allow same-sex weddings and child adoptions. Pengovsky covered the issue at some lenght including the compromise solution proposed by the govenrment which watered down some of the more controversial points of the new legislation.

The bizzare vote (screenshot by @kricac, source)

As both readers of this blog know, the new code was far from unequivocally supported. Indeed, the split did not occur along the left-right fault but rather along the division between traditionalists and progressives, where the former seem to be enjoying an advantage in numbers or at the very least in audiability. To put it blunty, the political right opposes the new  legislation vigorously and with gusto, while the left is divided between progressives who try to argue their case and traditionalists who support the law with noticeable lacklustre and would be just happy if the whole thing never happened.

It was partly because of this that the government sort of backed down on same-sex marriage and adoptions. Under the compromise solution gay and lesbian couples would not be able to enter wedlock but a partnership with the same legal consequences as marriage (including inheritance, which is a noticeable difference from the current law passed by previous government of Janez Janša). Furthermore, same-sex couples would only be allowed to adopt a child if one of the partners would be the child’s biological parent.

Compromise? Think again…

Hadn’t it been for the lukewarmness on the left, compromise would be utterly unnecessary as the right-wing opposition is fighting tooth and nail to defeat the code utterly and completely. Their cause is defended by a supposed grass-roots campaign headed by former SLS member Aleš Primc, who years ago led the campaign to ban medical fertilization of single women and succeeded (a refefrendum was called and the ‘no’ campaign won). Primc, following the shiny example of the NRA is using every possible means to draw attention and present himself as the ultimate defender of life, ‘natural laws’ and all things Slovene, to the extent of recently demanding that evolution and creationism be taught in schools side by side as ‘competing theories on the origin of maniknd’.

So, what we are dealing with here is in fact not a policy disagreement, but an ideological question of – broadly speaking – permissive libertarianism versus staunch religious reactionarism. The two are obviously mutually exclusive, so it is no wonder that Primc rejected the compromise solution as a trick, allowing for same sex marriage and adoption some time later on. And, to an extent, he’s probably correct. The thing is that he and the political parties behind him (SLS, SDS and NSi) will be satisfied with nothing else than a complete withdrawal of the new Family Code and then some, if possible.

Welcome to the twilight zone

The ‘then some’ moment occured, of course. Not just with the aforementioned attempt to introduce creationism to schools. That was, pengovsky suspects, just a target of opportunity. What happened on Tuesday evening when the parliament was voting on ammendments to the Code was much more bizzare.

In what was probably a momentary loss of attentiveness  by the coalition, the parliament adopted an amendment by Janez Janša’s SDS stipulating that all unmarried couples, save those who already have a child, should register their union with the proper authorities if they want to claim benefits stemming from such a union.

For the uninitiated: Ever since 1976 civil union was instituted (the linked Wikipedia article is wrong, btw) married and unmarried heterosexual  couples in Slovenia enjoy the same benefits, mostly in terms of inheritance, social security, child care and so on. It does not matter if the couple is married or has formalised the union in some other way, if at all. The amendment overturns more than thirty-five years of established practice which was since followed by many a country all across Europe and is recognised by a plethora of other Slovene legislation.

Now, some people know of or have experienced situations where a compulsory registration of a civil union would solve or even prevent many problems such as impostors claiming to have been long-time partners of a deceased family member or similar. However, what it at stake here is the inherent right of an individual to live the way he or she chooses without being disenfranchised vis-a-vis the state. Or – if you want to look at it the other way – the state has no business prescribing the preferred form of a union between two individuals.

The amendment is a very telling representation of just how deeply ideological this debate is. On one hand we have a drive to expand the definition of a family and with it the circle of those who would benefit from that, regardless of the way, shape or form of the union, regardless of whether the union produced an offspring (biologically or otherwise) and – most importantly – regardless of the sex of people entering such union.

On the other hand we have a drive to curb the existing scope of the acceptable: an exclusively heterosexual union where the partners will be left alone and eligible for benefits only if they produce an offspring, otherwise they have to declare their union to the state. This in fact shouldn’t come as a surprise, since this is exactly what the government of Janez Janša did to homosexual couples, forcing them to “register” their union with the authorities but refusing to allow marriage. And this is the crux of it all. The right wing’s inherent drive is to reinstitute marriage of a man and a woman as the only allowed form of a union between two individuals. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how the Roman Catholic church is itching to chip in the “before God, until death do you part” as a compulsory part of a marriage ceremony.

Hold on to your hats

Luckily not all is lost. Tuesday’s fiasco seems to have happened more or less by mistake. At the very least, this is what president of the Parliament Pavle Gantar claimed in his tweet (protected, unfortunately) this morning when he said that DeSUS MPs got a bit disoriented for a moment and voted in favour of the amendment instead of against.

Parliamentary rules and procedures allow for amendments originally introduced in the second reading to be re-amended in the third (and final) reading and apparently this is what is going to happen. Mind you, things will probably not go smoothly. First of all, the Liberal Democrats of Katarina Kresal, the most ardent supporters of the new Family Code are saying that they will not support the compromise solution, but demand that the original version of the Code be passed.

While one can understand the sentiment, this will probably not be possible, because it would mean scrapping the whole second reading and most likely make the traditionalists on the left very nervous, perhaps to the point of withdrawing their support of the new legislation. And secondly, even when (and if) the Code is passed, this does not mean the end of the road. What will most likely happen is yet another referendum bid.

One tractor referendum (click if you don’t get it)

Aleš Primc said time and again that he will go all the way in trying to defeat the Code. SLS said about as much the other day when they hinted at the possibility of calling a referendum on the issue. And with this the Constitutional Court once again steps onto the stage front and centre. The coalition will most likely argue that having a referendum on human rights of minorities (in this case gays and lesbians) is unconstitutional as their rights are not subject to popular vote but inherently exist. Furthermore, the new Code does not limit existing rights to any group of citizens, but only increases the scope of population eligible for existing rights (or introduces new rights, whichever you please).

On the other hand, the right wing – with Primc as the probable primary plaintiff – will most likely argue that the the people have the right to decide what kind of a society they want to live in and that – if anything – this is exactly the issue one can and indeed must have a referendum on the issue.

The thing is that no one knows for sure what the court will decide. On one hand it seems logical that there can not be a referendum on human rights, especially rights of an defined minority within the society. However, things are not that simple. Recently, the court made it a principle to deny only those referendums which could result in a continuation of an unconstitutional state. Hence, a pre-existing and established unconstitutional situation must exist for the court to deny a referendum on a law addressing the issue. Which is sadly not the case here. This is not to say that a referendum on Family Code will be granted, but that the coalition faces yet another uphill battle and that the court’s decision – no matter the outcome – will be a landmark one, defining the issue of “acceptable” family for years or even decades to come.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Law on Mayor/MP Conflict of Interest Finally Passed. But There’s a Catch…

Well, hip hip hooray, bravo and jolly good. In what was the seventh attempt since 1993 the parliament last night finally passed a law establishing a conflict of interests between holding an office of mayor and MP at the same time. Thus a grave anomally of Slovene political system is fixed, since local and state matters are separated.

Luka Juri of Social Democrats. He too, should ask himself one question… (source)

As both readers of this blog know, Slovenia boasts an impressive two hundred and eleven municipalities. Within muninicipal jurisdiction one can find services such as primary health care, kindergartens, elementary schools, some waterway maintenance, parts of the road network, public transport, drinking water and seweage services, to name but a few. All of this is administered by two hundred and eleven mayors, municipal (or city) councils and administations, each passing its own acts and decisions. Among those two hundred and ten mayors, twenty-six enjoy a special privelege. Besides holding mayoral office they are also members of the parliament, serving as elected representatives of the entire nation.

So, you gotta ask yourself one question…

According to the constitution, each and every MP is a representative of entire nation. On the other hand, mayors are representatives of their respective municipalities and voters/residents. A conflict of interest in this case stands out like a sore thumb. Example. A zoning act is needed to allow for building of a new rail road network. But a particular municipality, through which the rail road would pass, wants to have an extension of its road system on that very spot. So, how does our illustrious mayor vote? Does he cast a vote for a much needed rail road which the country badly needs or does he vote against, because voters in his municipality want yet another road? And, ultimately, why should a mayor be in a position to hold the entire country hostage to his municipalitiy’s particular interest. You can also look from the other side. 210 mayors, all competing for various forms of state funding. But only 26 of them have direct access to the decision-making process which distributes the monies. Fair? I don’t think so.

Be that as it may, the new law now solves all that. No more wearing two hats at once, drawing from two different straws and whathaveyou. It’s time for them to ask themselves one question. What will it be, sir? Mayor or a Member of the Parliament?… Not so fast. First of all, the law will be used for the first time for 2012 parliamentary elections. So, no one will be forced to leave office on account of this law. Which is fair enough. You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. However, the parliament is not the only game in town.

Problems ahead

Municipal elections follow parliamentary elections with a two-year offset. We just had one, fairly recently. Which means that those twenty-six double-hatted representatives of the people have a good three years of their term left. And since the game is not changing only on national but on local level as well since mayors/MPs can choose which of the two positions they will serve. Thus one could argue that the new law should be implemented only in 2014, when the current term of municipal authorities ends. This makes pengovsky far from happy, but is bound to happen. Too many people stand to loose too much to let it just slide.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. The new law applies to MPs who additionally serve as mayors or deputy mayors. And therein lies the rub. Deputy mayors are in fact municipal councilmen picked by the mayor to serve as his aides. However, they retain their councilman status and – most importantly – their vote (the mayor does not have a vote in municipal council although he/she presides over council sessions).

So, the law creates a situation where one city councilman who happens to be deputy mayor can not run for MP whereas his non-deputy colleague, who otherwise has exactly the same range of powers, can freely not only run but get elected to serve in the parliament, where he can still enter a potential conflict of interest.

And now for the ultimate fuck-up

Municipalities are overseen by the government. But only the parliament has the power to establish or dissolve a municipality. Therefore it entirely possible that a city councilman who serves as an MP (a situation which is allowed by this law) gets to vote on the future of his municipality. And although the right-wing SDS and SLS stand to lose the most with this new law, the most clear case in point is actually an MP of ruling Social Democrats Luka Juri. Although not alone in this enterprise he is bending over backwards to prevent establishing the municipality of Ankaran, now part of the City of Koper, despite a decision by the Constitutional Court that all conditions for establishing the municipality have been met. He is in a clear conflict of interests but even under the new law he gets to keep his double position.

Don’t get me wrong. This law was long overdue and – again – hip hip horray, bravo and jolly good to the parliamentary majority (spearheaded by Franci Kek of Zares) for passing it. But this was only a step in the right direction, but as this will inevitably end up with the Constitutional Court, we’re not there yet…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Malo Morgen

As of Monday, DeSUS (the pensioners’ party) is officially no longer a member of Slovenia’s ruling coalition. That in itself is hardly news any more. Prime Minister Borut Pahor now runs a minority government which will have to seek more or less ad-hoc coalitions on a per-vote-basis which has in essence been the case for some time now.

PM’s “Malo Morgen” moment two weeks ago (source)

With DeSUS out of the coalition it will be interesting to see how the party and especially its leader cope with a new reality of their own making. Despite Karl Erjavec‘s exuberance (we’re bigger than Coca-Cola, he once famously said), things are not all that peachy. The party which played the king-maker twice (2004 and 2008) and which has seen a surge in public opinion polls at the end of last year, dropped as much as 50% in later months and now holds only a fraction of its former public opinion support. What’s worse, the remaining two ministers from DeSUS’ quota decided to stay on in the government, flipping a bit of a bird in Erjavec’s general direction. Combined with one of the axioms of Slovene political landscape, that the voters frown upon parties which quit a ruling coalition (i.e. are not team players), it all leads to the conclusion that DeSUS’ heyday is fast approaching an abrupt end.

This of course brings us Zares, whose leader Gregor Golobič also announced he intends to quit as minister and suggested all remaining coalition leaders (taunted by the political right as the KGB – Katarina, Gregor, Borut) quit their posts and in effect either form a new government with a fresh mandate or eventually bring about early elections. Since neither ‘K’ nor ‘B’ did not warm to the idea, ‘G’ announced his resignation effective on the eve of ‘Super Referendum Sunday’. Whether or not Gregor Golobič will be alone in that enterprise of whether he will be taking the rest of Zares ministers (interestingly, all women) with him remains to be seen. Ditto on how and if this particular departure would reflect on Zares’ poll numbers. The latter at the moment suggest that despite all the shit thrown at the party and its leader (and for some of that they’ve themselves to blame) Zares would have made the 4% threshold needed to remain in the parliament. Whether or not the trend will continue after Zares quits the government (and not necesarilly the coalition itself) is the proverbial 64,000 dollar question.

Not that any of the above seems to trouble PM Borut Pahor a whole lot. Last Saturday he threw a big pow-wow with his party’s big-wigs and told them to ‘keep their eye on the chessboard since not all is lost and they still can open up a path to both the king and the queen’. The metaphor was even more elaborate than that and pengovsky is not entirely sure everybody understood the message PM was trying to convey. In fact, it looked as if the PM himself was struggling with this particular metaphor despite being known for his poetic rhetoric.

At any rate, fact of the matter is that Borut Pahor is in much deeper shit than he is willing to admit. Some weeks ago during a regular press conference he went into a mild rant on how those who would have him replaced should first come up with a viable alternative for his position. Even more, he gave some substance to rumours that not only is the political right seeking to oust him from power but that there are elements on the political left who are looking for ways to replace him while continuing with the current coalition until elections in autumn next year.

Just who is seeking to replace Pahor and – just as important – with whom is a matter of some speculation. One of the more wild version was that President Danilo Türk was considering to switch positions, but anyone who a) is remotely aware of The Prez’s ambitions and b) recognises the realities of politics in Slovenia can immediately dismiss such speculation as ludicrous. Namely, The Prez would quite possibly rather gnaw his arm off before he’d trade places with Pahor, especially in the current situation. In fact, it is safe to say that no self-respecting politician in Slovenia would serve as Pahor’s stand-in for all the farms in Cuba.

Case in point being European Commissioner for environment Janez Potočnik, who has always been a likely candidate for the top government job. He has all the necessary qualities: he ranks high in polls, being in Brussels he is removed from the Slovene political cesspool (hence high ratings) and he has an illustrious record having operationally led Slovenia joining the EU and has been appointed EU Commissioner practically immediately afterwards He also has extensive economic background being head of the government Macroeconomic office before taking up negotiations on EU accession which in minds of the many makes him just what Slovenia needs at moment. The problem is he wouldn’t touch Slovene politics with a ten-foot-pole, or as he elegantly put it in his much publicised letter, he ‘has a job to to in Brussels first and he intends to finish it’. Which translates as ‘nothing from me before 2014 when my term ends’ by which time it is understood that Slovenia will either have made it out of this crisis or it will have gone down the drain already. In either case the current touch-and-go nervous situation will be long gone.

The other “eternal candidate” is President of the Court of Audit Igor Šoltes who is always speculated to be waiting in the wings. He to is a man of some ambition, but other than the fact that he is a nephew of a socialist icon/strongman Edvard Kardelj little was ever said why he should or should not become the prime minister. Indeed, whenever these rumours became too persistent he found occasion to deny them and is clearly not a contender. Not now, not in the near future.

The above leads to the conclusion that – if the rumours of a left-wing anti-Pahor plot are true – some people need to have their heads checked. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly the most likely candidates for such an examination come from the ranks of Pahor’s very own Social Democrats. Pengovsky understands that some relatively powerful people within the party believe that the latter would be better off with someone else in charge, that – in short – PM Pahor became a liability rather than an asset.

This line of thinking is nothing short of stupid short-sightedness. True, Social Democrats’ ratings have slumped tremendously, but if the party gets rid of Borut Pahor this late in the game it will go from really bad to disastrous. There is no one, and I mean no one within the party with enough credibility within the party to replace the PM. Some party heavyweights might think that they can protect their positions and regain clout if they install someone more likeable and cooperative as PM, but fact of the matter is that at the moment the SD needs Pahor more than he needs the SD. The PM could easily quit. In fact, pengovsky believes that he should quit his post ASAP if he wants to stay on top of the game. That he doesn’t do that can be put down to – depending on your point of view- determination, going for broke, vanity or naivetë, or a combination of all four. At any rate he made it clear that he intends to stay on, when he said that he will be replaced “malo morgen”

For the uninitiated, “malo morgen” is Serbian phrase meaning “when pigs fly”. It was widely used in the crisis leading up to the break-up of Yugoslavia, when compromise became increasingly impossible. Using “malo morgen” usually put an end to whatever debate there was, denoting that the person who used it will can simply not be persuaded to change his or her position. Thus, with PM using “malo morgen” he basically told that he will be carried out of the office legs first (politically speaking) before he quits the post of his own accord.

So, we’re back to square one. Borut Pahor now leads a minority government which technically has only 42 out of 46 needed votes. Theoretically the government can muster 46 votes needed to pass legislation by means of enlisting two out of three independent MPs and both minority MPs, but in this constelation things can get really ugly really fast, especially since one can not count on Karl Erjavec and DeSUS to support the government. They didn’t do it while they were coalition members so there’s no reason for them to start now. Given that Erjavec quite probably coordinated the timing of DeSUS bailing out of the government with opposition leader Janez Janša, PM Pahor can not really put faith in the rogue party’s promises of being “a constructive opposition”.

Pahor’s options are increasingly limited and they will be even more if and when Zares exists the government. While pengovsky does not expect them to defect over to “the dark side”, they will be one more loose piece of the puzzle the PM will have to take into consideration which is why it is entirely possible that Pahor will seek a confidence vote after the super-referendum Sunday of June 5.

Namely, public opinion polls suggest that the government will lose all three votes on June 5: on pension reform, balck market labour and access to archives. Top priority is of course the pension reform. Should this fail, the government already drafted a law on emergency measures with which it intends to cut public sector wages, pensions and welfare money in order to keep the state finances within manageable limits. Word on the street has it that PM Pahor will tie a confidence vote to passing of this measure, meaning that rejection of the law automatically means a no-confidence vote against the government which then assumes a care-taker role until a new government is elected.

Should, however, the parliament approve the law (which is by no means a given) then in a normal world this would mean renewed mandate for Pahor’s government to continue with current policies. But this being Slovenia and all, it is highly likely that the parliament – opposition included – will support the law, if only to prevent early elections and continue with an unpopular government in power to increase the opposition’s chances of winning 2012 elections.

In the coming days pengovsky will outline several possible scenarios for the benefit of the reading public as well as give you the low-down on all three referendums, so stay tuned 🙂

Enhanced by Zemanta