Intimidating A Journo, Secret Service Admits More Than It Wants To

Years ago, while pengovsky was doing a stint at a small privately owned press agency, a funny thing happened. The owner, an old-school journo, had good contacts in the Balkans and was approached by one of the many media emerging in post-Milošević Serbia on the issue of human trafficking in Slovenia. The man did some preliminary research, arranged interviews, provided support, stuff like that. He’s a nice guy, although cranky at times. But then, all of a sudden, interviews were being cancelled. Government officials remembered they’ve urgent stuff to do, press officers started stalling and out of a three-days-worth of field work he was left with one NGO, still willing to talk to them.

Anuška Delić of Delo newspaper. SOVA has a thing for her.

After the interview, with the Serbs already on their way back home, the offices of his press agency were burglarized. This was in a complex where CCTV surveillance was in operation 24/7 and where security guards make rounds as well. But that night, outdoor lightning suddenly went and the camera which could have caught the perps in plain view was malfunctioning. In a three-office business, loaded with technology, the only thing they took was the owner’s laptop and just ransacked the place. A person was arrested for the theft but he later wrote a letter to my boss saying he was just a scape-goat since he did burglarize a couple of other places that night. To this day the owner of the press agency says the incident reeks af a spook job, a “shot across the bow” by SOVA, Slovenian secret service, aimed at frightening him into playing nice and stop asking the wrong kinds of questions.

The case of Anuška Delić

Fast forward ten years and Anuška Delić, a Delo journalist is under investigation for allegedly publishing classified material. Charges were brought against her by none other than SOVA, the prosecution apparently agreed and wrote up an indictment and filed it with the court where it lay for almost a year. But now for the fun part: Delić was writing about Neo-Nazis in Slovenian Army and am alleged connection between Slovenian branch of Blood & Honour and Slovene Democratic Party of Janez Janša which. Published in 2011, just prior parliamentary elections, her series of articles sent shock waves through the political arena.

Now, Slovenian Neo-Nazis are a curious bunch. Pengovsky still likes to tell a story (supposedly true) from their sorry beginnings when they applied for membership of the international Blood & Honour organisation in London but were refused on account of Untermensch status of Slavic peoples in general. Well, times have changed and although beaten into submission by punkers during 1999 anti-Haider protest in Ljubljana, they’ve regrouped enough to star afresh. This time much more organised. In fact, by some accounts they were so organised that the only thing that prevented them from starting to make trouble in the open was the fall of Borut Pahor’s government in 2011. And it was at that time allegations of connections between Neo-Nazis, Slovenian Army and SDS emerged, sending Delić to do the thing she does.

Shameless plug: At that time Pengovsky also wrote a column on SDS drawing parallels between their own ideology and Neo Nazi mantra “you’ve got law on your side, we’ve got justice on ours”.

A pattern

Anyhoo, after some political wrangling Janez Janša took power in 2012 and (logically) replaced head of SOVA, the latter files charges against Delić fairly soon. This of course is nothing but a politically motivated intimidation of the most repulsive sort. But most importantly, it re-establishes a pattern of abuse power.

Namely, SOVA legaly does not have the authority to go after Slovenian citizens and must leave any such case to the CrimPolice. Curiously enough, in 2000, during Andrej Bajuk government where Janez Janša served as defence minister, Blaž Zgaga of Večer daily and later of Patria Affair fame, was given a similar treatment for leaking military secrets (cooperation between US and Slovenian military intelligence). While his appartement was searched by the police, personnel from military intelligence reportedly took active part in the investigation which should not have been the case, since military services can only busy themselves with military personel. Point being that every so often in Slovenia journos are subject to various (semi)clandestine services throwing the book at them – or worse.

OSCE gets interested

But what of Anuška Delić? Pengovsky and Nataša Briški did a podcast with her for where she explained how things went down. The podcast is in Slovenian, but here’s a decent interview she gave to Lawyer Herald in English. There’s been enough commotion internationally for the OSCE to start asking questions.

Now, on one hand this reeks of attempts at curtailing media freedom. Demanding that a journo reveal his/her sources is just wrong. But on the other hand, this is more of a psychological warfare than anything else. Despite what the SDS will have you think this still is a democracy. Journalists don’t disappear, they aren’t beaten up by masked thugs and save an occasional threat they can pretty much do their job. Indeed, the main threat to media oversight in Slovenia is not state control or threats of physical violence but journalists’ social security. Much easier to have a “cooperative” journo if he or she finds it hard to put bread on the table. But I digress…

SOVA admits more than it wants to

At the end of the day, the whole thing is hugely embarrassing both for SOVA (which went from a respectable service to a joke, mostly by abusing it for political needs of Janez Janša and the SDS – that included blowing a cover of its safe house in Ljubljana and derailing a joint SOVA-BND operation) as well as for the state in general. Which is probably why the indictment was put in a bottom drawer and almost forgotten until now. Because if it was thrown out, all hell would break loose about judiciary being infested with “left-wing fascists” or some other derivative of SDS propaganda. But if the case went forward it would constitute an implicit admission that reporting of Anuška Delić was spot on and that the documents she used, regardless of their nature, do indeed prove a link exists (or did exist at the time) between Slovenian army, the SDS and the Neo-Nazi element.


President’s Anti-Graft Appointment: Gross Negligence And Pitiful Ignorance

Following December resignation-in-protest of Goran Klemenčič, Rok Praprotnik and Liljana Selinšek On Friday President Borut Pahor appointed new three-member leadership of the anti-graft commission. The KPK is to be headed by Boris Štefanec (president), Jurij Ferme and Darko Stare (vice-presidents). Or is it? Namely, after it transpired Štefanec rescinded his membership in Positive Slovenia only a day earlier, all hell broke loose, mainly to the tune of Štefanec being inherently compromised whenever the KPK would be looking into dealings of prominent PS members.

President Pahor signing the appointments (source)

Now, no-one really know where Štefanec came from. He is reportedly practising corporate law in Murska Sobota and not being particularly visible at it. The word on the street also is that he applied at different times for a judicial and notary positions but didn’t make the cut in any of the cases. And yet, he was deemed fit to head the commission which sent shock-waves through Slovenian politics in the past few years and was a thorn in many-a-politician’s side for quite a while.

Knee-jerk reactions all over the place

Štefanec’s average CV combined with his recent PS membership culminated in calls from both sides of the aisle as well as from a plethora of media outlets for his immediate resignation. However, Štefanec is not the real problem . What we have here is a knee-jerk reactions by various players, all advocating the same measure (resignation) albeit for different reasons.

While some (mostly media) are demanding Štefanec step down because he does not meet the high standards they’ve (we’ve?) come to expect of the anti-graft people, most of the political elite is interested in precisely that: diluting the standard expected of the anti-graft commission as much as possible. Easily achieved by shooting down the new head of KPK even before he assumes his new role. It was Karl Erjavec of DeSUS who said if Štefanec does not resign it will be the end of the anti-graft commission. But the reality is that if he resigns, it will be the end of the commission as well. At least temporarily. Which is why it is utterly perverse for the political elite to judge whether the new KPK head is appropriate for the job or not.

It’s all being run by UDBA!

In this almost unison cry of political righteousness, three positions require special attention. Positive Slovenia made a bit of a fool of themselves as they said they had no idea Štefanec was their member but since he apparently isn’t any-more, they don’t see a problem. Which is a kind of a double whammy for them, since they a) inadvertently confirmed PS membership can inhibit proper execution of a public office and b) they basically said they don’t have a clue what’s going on in the party on rank-and-file level.

On the other hand, Pavle Gantar of Zares said Štefanec should indeed step aside toute-de-suite, not because the political elite doesn’t trust him, but because President Pahor made it very clear he was simply going through the motions as he said he’d have made a different choice had he the opportunity to do so. Which is basically a vote of no confidence from day one by the very person who made the appointment. Therefore Štefance, writes Gantar, should resign to protect his own integrity.

Finally, the SDS. They oppose the new anti-graft commission appointments because it’s being run by UDBA.

Complete lack of judgement

Anyways, back to reality: a lot of people who shouldn’t have passed judgement, did. But the person who should have been doing the judging, however, failed to do his job. Štefanec was appointed by President Pahor and it is with him where the responsibility for the current situation lies. That the outgoing KPK leadership is to be succeeded by apparently dysfunctional replacement is either a conspiracy or outright ineptitude.

The conspiracy theory is pretty straightforward: Štefanec, by sheer virtue of his PS membership, would be seen as undermining authority of the anti-graft commission, thereby exculpating Zoran Janković, the original PS guy. In fact, this is the subtext of the furious reactions of the last few days. But there’s a catch. Since Janković is more or less in the trajectory of the same fan-induced-faecal-mayhem as Janez Janša, easing pressure on Jay-Z automatically means easing pressure on Ivan as well. And who did Janša support in 2012 presidential elections? Yup, you guessed it: incumbent president Pahor.

But odds are, there is no conspiracy. Only gross negligence and pitiful ignorance. Namely, Pahor said he wasn’t aware of peculiarities of Štefanec’s case. That he “didn’t know”. Apparently, he was made aware of them just prior to signing the appointment, but hey, by then it might have been too late. The thing is that Pahor started shifting the blame from the very moment he made the appointment. He said he followed recommendation of the ad-hoc selection committee and that he wished he had more choice. Which is pure bullshit. He could have made no choice, stressing that no candidate meets the necessary criteria. But no, he rather resorted to a combination of negligence and ignorance, two elements upon which he built his entire political career.

A pattern emerges

Because this is not the first time something like this had happened. Way back in 2003 when he was still president of the parliament, the MPs approved what was then known as “technical law” on the Erased. The SDS-led opposition filed a motion for a referendum and the parliament voted to petition the constitutional court to stop the referendum, but – missed the deadline. President of the Parliament Pahor put the blame squarely on parliamentary services, never recognising that it was his responsibility as the most senior representative of the legislative body to see the thing through. Not to mention the fact that he had a political obligation to do so as the ruling LDS-led coalition of which he was a part of fought the referendum tooth-and-nail. But Pahor felt no long-lasting effects for this and got elected PM in 2008.

Similarly in summer 2012, just prior to official start of presidential election campaign, he said he didn’t know the financial and economic crisis would be that bad and that people around him are responsible for the fact that his 2008 – 2011 government almost completely overlooked the troubles in the banking sector. Without batting an eyelid the blame squarely to his finance minister Franci Križanič, while he himself sailed to a whooping victory in November that same year, becoming president of the country.

And now, with all these impressive entries in his CV and impressive fuck-ups under his belt, he does it again. It’s not his fault. It couldn’t be, for he didn’t know, he says. And yet, apparently he did know. He just couldn’t be bothered to take the responsibility for a decision befitting the office he holds.

EDIT @ 1530hrs In an interview for Murska Sobota-based Štefanec said he has no intention of resigning. Funnily enough, minutes ago both VPs did just that. Resign. President Pahor now has a problem the size of Texas.




Pro-Moscow Post-Communists Running EU And NATO, Apparently

To say that Slovenian government was caught off-guard by the Ukraine crisis is an understatement. It has, in fact, provided ample proof that for a while now Slovenian top-level diplomacy is running on empty, moving only on inertia of past successes, relatively able (but limited in scope and reach) middle magament and occasional strokes of luck.

Janez Janša addressing the EPP Dublin Summit (source)

While Karl Erjavec and his simpleton-diplomacy were taken apart on this blog already, the man is by no means alone in this enterprise.

Roman Jakič and the Sochi controversy

The embattled defence minister Roman Jakič found himself in a middle of a controversy at the beginning of all of this when he travelled to Sochi as head of the Slovenian Paralympic team. Namely, Jakič’s son Gal Jakič is the only Slovenian contestant in Winter Paralympics and Roman Jakič spends inhumane amounts of time and energy to be there for his kid who became disabled some years ago through no fault of his own and help him partake in various sporting events. For that, Roman Jakič deserves all the praise in this world.

The problem of course arises when the super-dad happens to be a defence minister of a country whose official position is that Ukraine’s territorial integrity was violated by the very country which is hosting the Paralympic games. A visiting defence minister in whatever capacity he may be, just might send the wrong signal. To his credit, Jakič (who is under criminal investigation for his role in the Stožice project and is getting a lot of political flak over it) tried very hard to show that the office he holds has nothing to do with his being in Sochi. He even took annual leave and (apparently) paid the cost of the trip out of his own pocket. But senior public officials do not hold office from nine to five. A defence minister is a defence minister 24/7 and neither rain not sleet nor snow can change that. So, technically, Slovenia, a NATO member, has a senior government official present in Russia. Go figure.

Erjavec strikes again

But the woes of Roman Jakič pale in comparison with Erjavec digging an ever deeper hole for himself. Thursday last, while sparring with Dimitrij Rupel on national television (and trumping him in the process), he tried to spin his “Slovenia should mediate between EU and Russia” fuck-up. Admittedly, he did a half-decent job although no-one really believed him. But hey, he tried (for the record, he used the old they-only-published-a-part-of-my-statement gambit). OK, so he overdid it when he told the audience that US Secretary of State John Kerry told him his initiative was “subtle”. Really? Was Karl’s sarcasm detector off-line or what?

Be that as it may, all that was water under the bridge when Erjavec, foreign minister of a NATO and EU member, managed to say that Slovenia supports territorial integrity of Ukraine and conceded in the same sentence that Crimea will in all likelihood become part of Russia. Get it?

I mean, even though Erjavec most likely told what everyone else was thinking, a EU foreign minister simply does not say things like that. Such statements show Russians they’ve achieved what they wanted, namely to create a “new reality on the ground” and that the West is intimately apparently pondering telling Ukrainians to simply go along with it. This translates into EU a) not giving a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about borders in general, opening up a plethora of highly unwelcome scenarios all across the continent, most likely in the Balkans and b) apparently forgot the 1938 Munich lessons.

Janša criticises Merkel

The above, however, is nothing, and I mean nothing compared to the address by Janez Janša at the EPP Summit in Dublin the other day. Namely the nominal leader of the Slovenian opposition single-handedly discovered there are “post-communist and pro-Moscow forces at the head of EU and NATO member state” and added that all of this could be avoided if only Georgia and Ukraine were admitted to NATO in 2008.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is warmongering and paranoia of the first order. Admittedly, it takes a lot of guts to go up there and tell Auntie Angela she fucked up. Because it was her who blocked NATO enlargement to include Ukraine and Georgia. And today she’s (apparently) the only foreign leader Vladimit Putin will talk to with some sort of frankness. Which makes her a pro-Moscow element. Not to mention the fact that outgoing president of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso was a Maoist in his student years. Talk about post-communists running the EU. The question therefore is, did Janša really mean what he said or is he getting just more and more desperate and is running short on enemies to throw into the fire, supplementing them with friends?

The reality (that be the thing Janša is working very hard to ignore) of course is that NATO could very well have found itself in the middle of a shooting war with Russia in August 2008 had Georgia been invited to the alliance some months before and NATO membership of Ukraine would probably only have sped up the events that are unfolding today. But what you see on the video above is vintage Janša. The only difference between that and the version we get at home are levels of cynicism (apparently beyond him in English) and occasional graphs depicting the communist conspiracy.

And post-communists, as we all know, are everywhere. Even in the EPP, apparently. One of them, a proud platoon leader of a 1977 Yugoslav military march commemorating Marshal Tito, addressed the Dublin Summit. But, admittedly, he’s not running a EU/NATO member state. Not anymore, that is.

Karl Erjavec And The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Pengovsky didn’t write up the fan-hitting-shit-storm that is Ukraine and the Russian muscle-flexing/military intervention mostly because there’s little I can tell you that transcends a Tom Clancy novel. Indeed, the situation went from bad to worse in a matter of days suggesting Moscow executed a well thought-out plan that caught the west more or less with its pants down. Come ti think of it, it sounds very much like a Tom Clancy novel.

SuperKarl to the rescue

But what I can tell you is that Ukraine today is not Bosnia. It is not even Georgia. In fact, it is not even Kosovo although one might reasonably expect Moscow to invoke some perversion of the “Kosovo argument“, i.e. “people should be free to decide in which country they want to live”. Again, the way Russian military occupied key installations in Crimea did bear some similarities to their dash for Priština airport (off-topic: singer James Blunt apparently prevented outbreak of WWIII in Kosovo in 1999). But earlier today Slovenian foreign minister Karl Erjavec stunned the international community Slovenia by suggestion this sorry little excuse for a country could act as an intermediary between Moscow and the EU, supposedly because of our good relations with the Russkies.

Now, that Russians kind of like Slovenia is more or less true. Seeing themselves as Slavic mother-nation, the Russians apparently do have a soft spot for Slovenians, the Western-most Slavic nation. But thinking this goes beyond a tap-on-the-back and yes-we’ll-come-for-vacations is just plain stupid. In fact, this coming from Karl Erjavec, the very same politician who couldn’t be bothered to find a candidate for minister of health for three months is simply preposterous.

The Ukrainian clusterfuck did not come out of the blue. As this piece by The Indepentent shows, there’s a lot of history behind it. And history is also what needs to be taken into account when reading reactions by some other European nations. Poland and Russia, for example, have so much history and bad blood between them that Warsaw must be more than just slightly edgy. A muted Polish response is, therefore, understandable. Finland, too, has historical reasons to feel nervous at the prospect of a belligerent Russia. Latvia, on the other hand, decided to call spade a spade, but mostly for the same reasons. Estonia, for example, experienced Russian wrath fairly recently and their no-nonsese position makes sense, as well.

As for Slovenia, well, our latest contribution to Russo-Slovenian relations was President Borut Pahor waving the flag at the Sochi Olympics and feeling bummed at the prospect of having to ice-skate for ten hours (he promised to do an hour for every goal Slovenian hockey players score in Sochi). He skipped the opening ceremony, though, supposedly on account of the ice-storm that hit Slovenia about that time. Point being that short of an occasional tete-a-tete, the scope of political relations with the Russian Federation is, well, lacking. Unexceptional, at best. In fact, the President has yet to comment on the situation in the Ukraine. So does the office of the Prime Minister. Even the ministry of Foreign Affairs, which admittedly has been keeping a close eye on the situation for some tine now, did not go beyond “everyone should respect territorial integrity of Ukraine” clause.

And yet, here we are, with the foreign minister thinking he can find a solution, if only people were willing to listen. In fact, what we have here is a clear demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The less you know, the more you think you’ve got thing under control. And let’s be honest, Erjavec passes as minister of foreign affairs only as long as he reads off the script. Which is what he was doing most of the time since he landed the job under the Janša 2.0 administration.

But now, he suddenly got ideas. And is making an utter fool of himself and of his country, all on account of cheap PR stunts which add to his airtime but take away what little standing this country has left internationally. What the fuck did he expect? That Obama and Merkel will rush to a conference-call with him, to coordinate their next move? And what is this shit about Ljubljana being a go-between between Brussels and Moscow? Did Slovenia leave the EU and pengovsky didn’t get the memo?

I mean, the only thing more stupid than Erjavec’s little PR stunt are attempts by local EPP outposts to paint Vlad Putin as a rabid left-winger and then draw parallels between him and Slovenian left-wing (as sorry as it is). That, too, is nothing more than the inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.