Easter was celebrated in churches throughout Slovenia last weekend. Archbishop Franc Rode led the Easter services in the capital, Bishop Franc Kramberger in Maribor's cathedral of St John the Baptist and Bishop Metod Pirih in Koper's cathedral of the Dormition. At the Vatican, the pope delivered his Easter missive in 60 languages, among them Slovene.
Czech President Václav Havel met with President Kučan in Ljubljana this week. During the two-day visit, the two presidents spoke about NATO expansion, the situation in both countries and in Southeastern Europe and the reaction of the European Union to Austria's governing coalition. Havel stated that he would like NATO's next summit, in 2002, to be held in Prague as a gesture to prospective members of Central and Eastern Europe. After the visit, both Havel and Kučan were to go to the annual meeting of the heads of Central European countries being held this year in the Hungarian town of Székesfehérvár.
Bruce Jackson, head of the American Committee for NATO Expansion, made a two-day visit to Ljubljana this week. Jackson met with President Kučan, acting Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, and others. Meeting with Jackson, Rudolf Petan of the Committee for Defense stressed that Slovenia expects entry into NATO in the second round of expansion. Jackson stated publicly that Slovenia was omitted from the first round, among other reasons, because it was not sufficiently recognized abroad and that the American public remains skeptical about the Balkans. The second round of NATO expansion is expected in 2002.
The Prime Minister candidate of the Social Democrat Party and the new SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party, Andrej Bajuk, failed again to gain the approval of parliament. This time, the vote was 43 for, 10 against. Bajuk was also unable to win approval in the first round. President Milan Kučan, acting Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek and most other parties continue to speak out in favor of early elections rather than approving a new Prime Minister.
This week, Parliament failed for the fourth time to pass a proposed law which would introduce a two-round majority electoral system. The final vote was 45 for and 20 against. An amendment which would have re-drawn electoral regions was added to the proposed election law, causing problems. Public outcry over the proposed reorganization of the electoral regions has been tremendous. Only 79 of the 90 deputies were present at the vote.
Results released this week of the monthly poll conducted by the daily newspaper Dnevnik showed a remarkably high approval rating for acting Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek. Respondents gave Drnovšek a 70 percent approval rating, while only giving a 45 percent approval rating to the government as a whole. Drnovšek's Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) also fared well. When asked which party is most capable of successfully leading economic policies, EU accession, assurance of social protection and solving unemployment, the highest rating went to the LDS. Of his eight years as Prime Minister, Drnovšek's lowest approval rating came in the summer of 1998 when it hit 50 percent.
The deluge of tourists over the Easter holiday highlighted numerous problems. The daily newspaper Delo reported that infrastructure is severely lacking throughout Slovenia, and especially in the resort town of Portorož which receives about one third of Slovenia's tourists. Roads, parking lots, garages, walking, bicycle paths and swimming pools are not up to standards and hinder the country from fulfilling its potential as a tourist magnet. Also, visas and boating licenses are too expensive as compared to neighboring Italy and Croatia.
The Ministry of Health sent a letter of protest to the Slovene Advertising Assembly this week criticizing their selection for advertisement of the year. The award went to Laško Brewery. The Ministry questioned the ethics behind awarding an advertisement for alcohol when alcoholism is a major social problem. Slovenia's annual per capita alcohol consumption is higher than most European countries. The Advertising Assembly pointed out that Laško Brewery's advert was in full compliance with the appropriate laws.
The head of the administration of the Slovene corporation Mercator, Zoran Jankovič, reiterated this week that Belgrade remains a very interesting market and part of the corporation's future plans. However, Jankovič also said that Mercator is not interested in Montenegro at the present time, as its status within Yugoslavia is not clearly defined. Also, logistically it would be necessary to have a branch in Sarajevo before Podgorica, in the same way that a branch in Belgrade will enable Mercator to begin considering Skopje.
Two Maribor banks presented plans for introducing electronic banking at a recent conference. Nova Kreditna Banka plans to operate through Bank@Net while Probanka will operate through Proklik. The two-day conference held in Prague was entitled "A Strategy for Successful Electronic Banking in Central and Eastern Europe."
Slovene internet usage is estimated at 100,000 out of a total population of about two million. Zoran Thaler, director of Eon, an enterprise which works with internet security issues, gave this figure at a round table on internet usage in Slovenia organized last week by Klub Socius. Thaler believes internet usage is so low because of the cost and because the public does not yet see the value of the internet.
At the same roundtable, the DZS representative, Metod Cigler, offered his company's experience with the internet. DZS started with a homepage and then began offering things for sale over the internet. In the first three months of 2000, 180 books have been sold. But for now, cash-on-delivery and money orders are the only way to handle billing and payment as Slovenia is not yet ready for on-line transactions.
The Third International Student Debate Tournament is being held in Ljubljana from 25 to 30 April. Seventy students from eleven countries are participating. The tournament is being held under the aegis of the Institute for Cultural Dialogue's Za in Proti (For and Against) program, which is an association of 25 secondary schools and four student debate teams from all over Slovenia. The topic of the tournament is the expansion process and work of the European Union.
On 27 April, Slovenia celebrated the "Day of the Uprising against the Occupiers." The state holiday marks a major uprising against the Nazi occupation of Slovenia during the Second World War. The day was celebrated with an event at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana.
Ecologists issued warnings this week against the May Day tradition of Kresovanje, when bonfires will be lit all across Slovenia. The Slovene Ecological Movement, a non-governmental organization, issued a warning about environmental safety issues connected to the bonfires. The organization called on all organizers of Kresovanje events to respect environmental laws and regulations and to ensure that the bonfires did not hold any environmentally dangerous materials in their composition.
A number of Slovene writers will be touring Brazil from 27 April to 10 May. Among the participants will be Tomaž Šalamun and Andrej Blatnik. The writers will visit four cities: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Salvador. The tour is sponsored by the Center for Slovene Literature and various Brazilian institutions.
Brian Požun, 28 April 2000