Corruption is not a problem—yet
This week the government reviewed the report of the Council of Europe's GRECO group concerning corruption in Slovenia. Unofficial reports say that the still-classified report did not find widespread corruption in Slovenia, but cautions that the country is in serious need of an anti-corruption program and stronger legislation. There are still many opportunities for corruption to grow, given the fact that much work remains to be done with privatization.
In response to the report, the government decided to establish a special anti-corruption bureau as well as a coordination group for the prevention of corruption. The bureau's first task is to devise an anti-corruption strategy. The coordination group is intended to facilitate the exchange of information among its members, including various ministries, the police, the Office for the Prevention of Money Laundering and the customs agency.
Reactions to the situation in Macedonia
Official Slovenia made several shows of support for their former countrymen in Macedonia this week. The most prominent was Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel's visit to Skopje, where he met with Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim and President Boris Trajkovski. Their talks centered on Macedonia's increasingly precarious situation, and bilateral cooperation between the two states.
Rupel also met with the president of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), Arben Dzaferi. The two discussed the situation of Macedonia's Albanian minority.
The Slovene foreign ministry has called on the international community, and particularly the United Nations Security Council, to act in support of Macedonia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Slovene President Milan Kučan also sent a letter of solidarity to Macedonian President Trajkovski, and urged him to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Slovenia and Macedonia have enjoyed strong relations since their independence from former Yugoslavia. Aside from close political ties, the two share important economic ties, with trade amounting to USD 206 million in 2000. According to the National Bank of Slovenia, investment in Macedonia totaled more than USD 38.5 million at the end of 1999, putting it in third place on the list of recipients of Slovene investment.
Nationalists celebrate in Slovenia...
The Slovene Nationalist Party (SNS) celebrated its ten-year anniversary this week. The party was founded on 17 March 1991 by Zmago Jelinčič. Though it has never been part of a governing coalition, the SNS has won seats in every parliamentary election since independence.
Though their presence in parliament fell from 12 seats to four in 1996, the strategy of pushing the young, telegenic Sašo Peče in front of TV cameras during the 2000 election paid off, with the party winning four seats once again even though the threshold for entering parliament was raised to four per cent of the vote.
Essentially, the party's ideology consists of glorifying the World War II era Partisans and opposing the Catholic Church. The SNS is opposed to Slovene entry into the European Union and Nato. The SNS also vocally opposed Nato's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.
...and promote conspiracy theories in Austria
The Union of Carinthian Defenders, a group of Austrian nationalists, warned that Slovenia's primary goal in seeking membership in the European Union is to wrest control of the Carinthia region from Austria. They made no mention of Carinthia's recognized Slovene minority, however they provided quotes by President Kučan and others which seem to refer to Carinthia as Slovene territory.
The warning came in the form of an unaccredited article published in the group's magazine. The daily Večer suggests that it is a reaction to the visits of Foreign Minister Rupel and Prime Minister Drnovšek to Vienna in recent weeks.
A map showing Slovene dialects, including those of Austrian Carinthia and Styria, accompanied the article to illustrate this nefarious "Greater Slovenia" conspiracy. The dialect map was presented as a political map. The Scientific Research Center of the Slovene Academy of Science and Arts owns the rights to the map, and is protesting the "abuse" of its property.
Young Architects of the Year, 2001
The Ljubljana-based architectural practice of Rok Oman, 30 years old, and Špela Videčnik, 29, is the winner of this year's BD/Corus' Young Architects of the Year award. The two are featured in the April issue of Wallpaper magazine
Oman and Videčnik established their practice in 1996, and have since won several prominent commissions, including an addition to Ljubljana's City Museum which will be completed next year.
And in other news...
- Miro Petek was released from the hospital on Monday. Petek is a correspondent for Večer who was brutally assaulted on 28 February by two unknown men in front of his home. Most suspect the motive was his reporting, though attacks on journalists are rare in the country. A special unit has been established by the local police to investigate, but nothing substantive has been found as of yet. Petek is now recovering at home, but due to the massive scale of his injuries, full recovery is expected to take several months.
- Trieste (Trst) mayor Riccardo Illy resigned last Friday in order to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Illy played a large role in fostering the good relations Italy and Slovenia have enjoyed in recent years. He is a strong supporter of Slovene accession to the European Union, seeing that as the best chance for the renewal of Trieste. It was under Illy's administration that Trieste finally accepted its Slovene minority: it was thanks in no small part to Illy's lobbying efforts that the Law on the Global Protection of the Slovene Minority in Italy was finally passed earlier this year.
- Parliament has finally accepted the proposal of several non-parliamentary parties led by the Deželna Stranka Štajerske (Styrian Regional Party) to initiate a referendum on proposed amendments to the Referendum and Popular Initiative Act. The parties have already unsuccessfully proposed the referendum several times. They now have 60 days to gather 40,000 signatures to get their referendum. The proposed amendments will raise the threshold of signatures required to enter an initiative for the collection of the 40,000 signatures needed to call a referendum from 200 to 1000. The move was prompted by the unsuccessful attempt late last year to block amendments to the Government Act by calling a referendum.
Brian J Požun, 23 March 2001
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