Slovenia unable to break with troubled past.
For many years, Slovenia used to present itself as the country “on the sunny side of the Alps” – a characterization that did not exhaust its attractions or potential. The small former Yugoslav republic, that became a parliamentary democracy in 1990, and reached independence in 1991, gave the impression of a success story. In a rather unique cohabitation and simultaneous confrontation with Post-Communist parties and personalities, a series of Slovenian Center-Right and Center-Left democratic coalitions managed to join NATO and the EU in 2004, assumed the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2005, entered the Euro zone and the Schengen system in 2007. In the first semester of 2008, a coalition of Slovenian Democrats, Christian Democrats, People’s Party and the Pensioners’ Party steered the Presidency of the EU.
Now, observers and students of Slovenia may be struck by occasional – to quote from Agatha Christie – “evil under the sun”. I am referring to a tendency of rehabilitation of, or rather return to, old times and a break with the politics of cooperation and inclusiveness that had been characteristic of the last two decades. “Evil” may exist in the eyes of the beholder, but some clouds have indeed obscured the Slovenian sun:
1. In September 2008, after four years of respectful economic results and generally efficient Conservative Government led by Janez Janša, the tight election results opened the way to an entirely different Government. The new Prime Minister (Borut Pahor) put together an ideologically coherent coalition of Social Democrats and three smaller satellite-parties inspired by a combination of Leftist and Liberal programs. The rhetoric and the policies of Mr. Pahor’s coalition resembled the concepts that had been abandoned in Slovenia in 1990. Some Pre-Democratic figures, including Milan Kučan who was President of Slovenia in the nineties and who had been President of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in the eighties, returned to the political stage. 2. Unfortunately, the year 2009 was not an anti-climax just because of the exclusive style of the new Government, but also due to the economic crisis. The combination of the crisis, the privileges extended to the friends of the Government and slow and ineffective economic policies almost doubled the number of the unemployed.
3. In November 2009, on the eve of a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the democratic changes, the current President of Slovenia, Danilo Türk, awarded Mr. Tomaž Ertl, former Chief of secret Communist police with a national acknowledgement. Danilo Türk used to be Slovenian Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, where in 1998 he promoted Slovenian membership in the anti-nuclear and anti-NATO organization New Agenda Coalition. The Prime Minister of the time, Janez Drnovšek who was in favour of a NATO membership for Slovenia, personally cancelled Mr. Türk’s operation.
4. At the end of January 2010, one of the papers closest to the Government published a petition advocating elimination of the Slovenian army and suggesting withdrawal of Slovenia from NATO. The petition was signed by prominent – mostly Left-oriented – politicians, journalists and intellectuals, including some heads of state institutions.
5. At the end of February 2010, former President Milan Kučan visited the Koper branch of the coalition party Zares (Slovenian for Really or Truly) and advised on the political direction of the coalition. The highlight of his speech was the statement about NATO: “Today,” said Kučan, “I would oppose the entry of Slovenia into NATO. Once (e.g. in 2004 when Slovenia joined it) NATO was a defence alliance that protected the member states against eventual aggression, but today, it is an association intervening all over the world, changing states and the world situation…”
6. On March 2, 2010, the Slovenian Parliament debated the proposal of the opposition to impeach President Türk for honouring the head of the former Communist Secret Police with a medal originally intended for achievements contributing to freedom and prosperity of Slovenia. The President’s speech may have been one of the most remarkable ideological moments of the present regime. In it, the President defined the impeachment initiative as legally unfounded, and even advocated national reconciliation and forgiveness for the persons affiliated with the Communist past, while the opposition presented new materials concerning the participation of the Secret Police in terrorist activities supposedly helping the Slovenian minority in the neighbouring Austria in 1979.
7. At the end of the debate, the President – who in 1979 was a member of the Communist nomenclature and theoretically responsible also for the Slovenian emigration and the Slovenian minority in Austria, since he was the chairman of the Socialist Union Commission for minorities – was asked ten relevant (and unpleasant) questions. The opposition party SDS asked him:
• What was the President’s information about the terrorist activities of the Slovenian Secret Police in Austria between 1975 and 1979?
• What were the reactions of the Slovenian minority to the terrorist attack in Velikovec (Austria) in 1979?
• What did the President know about the background of the attack in Velikovec, and how did he react in regard to the consequences?
• Who was responsible for the political directions of the Slovenian Secret Police activities in Austria, and whether he himself was involved in this?
• Whether the President has collaborated in the operation of exchange of Slovenian and Austrian prisoners that followed the terrorist attack?
• How long has he known the head of the Secret Police whom he decorated in 2009?
• When did they meet?
• Whether and in what way have they collaborated?
• What does the decorated person know about the President’s activities connected with the Slovenian minority in Austria?
• How does he comment the claim by the purged Liberal Communist Prime Minister (1967-1972) Stane Kavčič – that the terrorist attack in Velikovec was not just an operation of the Secret Police, but a decision of the leading politicians of the time?
The President has, so far, avoided answering the ten questions. All the events were taking place in an electrically charged atmosphere of workers’ protests, parliamentary debates on the new law allowing adoption of children to homosexual couples and new discoveries regarding perverted morality and politics of influential networks connecting the Government, the Coalition parties and the oligarchs. The main question, however, remains: what has happened in 1990? Was that a break with the Communist tradition or could it be interpreted as its momentary crisis that has been overcome, so the new leaders could pick up where their comrades paused twenty years ago?
Dr. Dimitrij Rupel
March 7, 2010