Notes On Slovenian Recognition of Palestine (Part 2)

Remember the excitement that followed the announcement of imminent Slovenian recognition of Palestine? Well, guess what…

Slovenian ministry of foreign affairs (source)

Turns out Newton’s Third Law applies to diplomacy as well. Foreign minister Karl Erjavec made a big splash about it, declaring that the time is right, that Slovenia will press on with this regardless of support (or lack thereof) within the EU and that it’s about time this country shows it can craft and independent foreign policy. Only a week later his foot is dangerously close to meeting his mouth.

The whole issue, seemingly coming out of the blue, struck a chord with the voters, with 49 percent supporting recognition of Palestine and only 21 percent opposing the move. But life comes at you fast and what seemed to be done deal, approved at the highest levels of the government (with the exception of president Pahor who stuck to his trademark “definite maybe” approach) started unravelling the moment it hit its first obstacle.

Namely, the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee went about debating the issue, the first of many steps needed to formally issue such a proclamation. It turned out that there was nothing for the committee to vote on as the government has – despite all the public statements on the matter – failed to formally adopt a position on the issue and submit it to the committee for debate.

This did not go unnoticed by parliament boss and SMC No. 2 man Milan Brglez (who just happens to be a renowned international relations scholar) who sharply criticised both the committee leadership and the government for making a clusterfuck of the issue. Okay, so Brglez didn’t use the word clusterfuck, but you get the idea. He also took a pot-shot at president Pahor, basically saying that the Prez supported recognition of Palestine in 2013 when the move was not even remotely possible but is back-pedalling now when it actually could be done.

Be that as it may, the point may well be moot as the government in fact failed to adopt a position in last week’s cabinet session. Instead, the executive branch asked its own departments to “re-evaluate the effects of Slovenian recognition of Palestine” and report back by 12 February, according to Večer daily.

While this suggests that recognition of Palestine is not yet off the table it does betray the shambolic nature of the process. As suggested by instructions to “re-evaluate them”, government ministries have once already evaluated effects recognising Palestine would have on Slovenia and submitted their reports in a timely manner. But now they’re being asked to do it again, according to the Večer story above, because most ministries responded that they would need more time to do so diligently. Which either suggests that a) there are potentially serious downsides to Slovenian recognition of Palestine or b) the government isn’t taking its own initiative seriously.

It was obvious from the get-go that the announcement itself would set certain things in motion that could not be easily stopped. One of those things was Israeli ambassador descending upon Ljubljana, making his case (such as it is) against recognition of Palestine in no unclear terms. He also skilfully mentioned the fact that “should Slovenia pick sides, there will be no role for her in the Mid-East peace process”. Not that Muddy Hollows plays any sort of role in that process but if there’s one thing politicians of modern age are afraid of it is “not being in the committee“. ¸

No matter how you look at it, this is fast becoming a train-wreck. Either the government had indeed planned to recognise Palestine and is now getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty of actually doing so with an ever increasing number of stakeholders weighing in or the government didn’t actually have a plan and was just after the PR effect with elections only months away. While the former seems plausible the latter seems more probable, especially since it was Karl Erjavec jumping the gun this time around.

So much for a more independent foreign policy…

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.