Push towards centralization?
Anton Kokalj, the President of the Union of Slovene Towns (ZOS), told a press conference on 26 March that the Liberal Democrat-led government wants to curtail the authority of the post of mayor, and predicted that the centralizing forces will only get stronger in the future. He called on municipal leaders to take cases involving the infringement of their rights to the Constitutional Court European institutions.
The press conference was called in response to a draft law on civil servants, which will give the central government a say in the staffing of local governments and severely limit the authority of mayors and municipal authorities.
Kokalj's statements follow Maribor mayor Boris Sovič's comments last week concerning the state budget. The share of GDP for the government's budget rose this year to 26.2 per cent from 25.2 per cent last year. However, the share for local budgets fell from 5.29 per cent to 5.12 per cent, and when external factors such as inflation are figured in, the reality is much worse. Sovič told the press that this is evidence of centralization and runs contrary to European Union policies.
Human Development Report released
Slovenia's 2000/2001 National Human Development Report was presented on 28 March in Ljubljana by the project's authors, Marta Gregorčič and recently-appointed Ombudsman Matjaž Hanžek.
For the third year running, Slovenia placed 28th out of the 174 countries rated on the Human Development Index, putting it at the top of the region. The index is based on health, education and standard of living statistics.
The biggest change over last year is the Poverty Index rating. Last year, Slovenia ranked 6, but this year it fell to 18. The sharp drop is due to the inclusion of functional illiteracy in formulating the index this year. Even still, Slovenia has the lowest levels of poverty and illiteracy in Central and Eastern Europe.
The report also compares statistics among the twelve statistical regions in the country and reveals a high degree of polarization. People in the western regions (particularly in the Goriška and Coastal-Karst regions) and the capital are generally more satisfied with their standard of living than those in the east (particularly in the Posavska, Zasavska, Pomurska and Dolenjska regions).
Further, the suicide rate in the eastern statistical regions is considerably higher than the national average, while in the west it is lower. Slovenia has a chronically high national average. At roughly 30 per 100,000 inhabitants annually, virtually matches the United Kingdom's total mortality rate by murder, suicide, accidents and all other external factors (See "Slovenia's Suicidal Tendencies," CER Vol 2, No 20).
The report also provides a statistical basis to the recent outcries against the high levels of intolerance in Slovene society. In a ranking of countries with the highest levels of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, Slovenia is placed within the first third.
The United Nations Development Programme has published human development reports since 1990; the Slovene government's Office of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (UMAR) has prepared the national human development report since 1998, when the country joined the program.
Plans announced for a fourth university
Even though the plans for Slovenia's third university, in the coastal Primorska region, are not yet finalized, the towns of Brežice, Krško and Sevnica announced their intention to lobby for the establishment of a fourth university, in the south eastern Posavlje region, this week.
Currently, Slovenia is home to two universities, at Ljubljana and Maribor, and momentum has been building since last summer towards the formal establishment of the third university, based in Koper (See "Primorska vs. Maribor," CER Vol 2, No 31).
The proposed fourth university would be based at Konstanjevec na Krki. The town would have the university's rectorate, library, research facilities and post-graduate programs. Several towns, including Krško, Novo Mesto, Sevnica and Brežice, would host the university's faculties.
However, there is not much chance the plan will go forward. As it stands, the Primorska University plan is already controversial. The two existing universities are lukewarm towards the idea, fearing a third university will take resources away from their own institutions, and others cite the European standard of one university per one million inhabitants. Slovenia already has two universities for its two million citizens.
New York becoming New Ljubljana?
New York has been awash in Slovene culture in recent weeks with events including art exhibits, theatre productions, literary readings and film. The strong showing proves that Slovene culture can fully compete with the best of the world.
The exhibit "Body and the East" was at Exit Art gallery from 20 January to 10 March, and was extended an additional week due to public demand. The exhibit was organized by the Moderna Galerija of Ljubljana. Marjetica Potrč's one-woman show at the Guggenheim is running through 29 April and has received rave reviews (See "Slovenia Storms SoHo," CER Vol 3, No 7).
Slovenia also contributed to the New York theatre scene. From 15 to 25 March, LaMaMa theatre hosted Ljubljana's Mladinska Gledališca. The company performed the show "Silence Silence Silence" to mixed reviews.
On 29 March, the Housing Works bookstore in SoHo played host to poets Aleš Debeljak and Tomaž Šalamun. The reading was sponsored by the Poetry Society of America. Slovenia's two most important living poets were joined by Andrew Zawacki, editor of Afterward: Slovenian Literature from 1945-1995.
On 8 April, Ema Kugler's short film Homo Erectus will be shown as part of the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, continuing the Slovene presence in the self-proclaimed Cultural Capital of the World.
And in other news...
- Mitja Gaspari was confirmed as Governor of the National Bank for a six-year term this week. Of 80 MPs present at the vote, 53 voted in favor, 14 (MPs of the Social Democratic and New Slovenia parties) voted against. Gaspari assumes his new position on 1 April, when the term of current governor France Arhar expires. Gaspari has pledged to lower inflation to under six percent within three years. He will also work to prepare Slovenia to join the European currency, the Euro.
- Unofficial sources predicted this week that upon the expiration of his term, current governor France Arhar will become the head of Slovenia's delegation to the negotiations on the issues of the succession of the former Yugoslavia. Miran Mesjak, who currently holds that post, refused to comment.
- On Wednesday, the Croatian Sabor (parliament) opted not to include Slovenes in the list of constitutionally protected minorities. Slovenes were stricken from the list in 1997, on the understanding that when Ljubljana extended constitutional protection to the local Croatian minority, Zagreb would do the same for its Slovenes. An MP from Croatian Istria forwarded the proposal to reintroduce Slovenes to the constitution as a gesture of good will, but the initiative failed to muster the requisite number of votes for passage.
Brian J Požun, 30 March 2001
- Archive of news reviews for Slovenia
- Archive of Brian J Požun's articles in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page