Ljubljana related

12 Sep 2021, 08:13 AM

STA, 11 September 2021 - The main ceremony remembering the return of the western Primorska region to the homeland was held in Idrija, west of Ljubljana, on Saturday. The event also marked 74 years since the implementation of the Paris Peace Treaty under which Primorska was reunited with Slovenia after being under Italian rule since the end of WWI.

The keynote speaker at the ceremony ahead of the 15 September holiday was a young scientist from Idrija who lives in the US, Nina Leskovec.

Idrija Mayor Tomaž Vencelj said it was important this year's ceremony was held in Idrija, which has been an important part of Primorska for half a century and made the region richer with its natural beauty, heritage and successful economy.

The cultural programme in Idrija's central square presented the life and work of Črtomir Šinkovec (1914-1983), a partisan, poet, journalist and editor from Vojsko pri Idriji, and concluded with Primorska Rising, the region's informal anthem.

President Borut Pahor told the press after the show that this song was what connected the region's people in rebellion, and connected them in standing up to occupying forces in WWII.

"Perhaps other people in Slovenia find it difficult to understand that almost all people of Primorska perceive the red star differently. At the time it was a symbol of resistance. After the war crimes did occur under it, but this symbol of resistance cannot be taken away from the people of Primorska," he said.

The president said it was necessary to live together in harmony and understand each other. "I think there is enough space for everyone to live together, but this era being what it is, we have to make an effort."

While all Slovenian people were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War One, the western region of Primorska became part of Italy after the war.

The Paris peace conference ended in 1919 with no solution to the border issue between Italy and the newly-emerged Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovens, Yugoslavia's predecessor.

Then, under the 1920 Rapallo Treaty, Italy got what is roughly referred to as Primorska, including the cities of Trieste and Gorizia, Vipava and Soča Valleys, Kras, Istria and parts of the Notranjska region.

The area remained under Italy, or under Nazi Germany after its 1943 capitulation, until the end of WWII, when Istria and Trieste were occupied by Yugoslav Partisans, while the western part of Primorska was taken by the allies.

The allies made the Partisans retreat in June 1945, dividing the area into two zones, one under the allied command and the other under the Yugoslav military administration.

The 1947 Paris Peace Treaty brought a compromise, giving Yugoslavia a large part of the areas it wanted to have under its administration, including around Gorizia and Trieste.

As a result, the majority of Primorska people were brought under Yugoslavia after suffering under Fascism for more than 20 years and then briefly under Nazi Germany.

Nevertheless, an estimated 140,000 Slovenians remained outside Yugoslavia's borders, as the peace treaty gave Italy Gorizia, Resia, Benečija and Val Canale.

Day of Return of Primorska to the Motherland, evoking the implementation of the Paris Peace Treaty, has been celebrated since 2005, being introduced under the Janez Janša government, although not as a work-free day.

02 Aug 2021, 17:18 PM

STA, 2 August 2021 - A memorial ceremony was held in Sinagoga Maribor on Monday to mark Roma Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of the genocide committed against the Roma in WWII. "This should be spoken about so that such things do not repeat," Amanda Fetahi of the Maribor Roma community said on the occasion.

Today's traditional event, called The Night When Violins Went Silent (Noč, ko so violine obmolknile), was hosted by the Sinagoga Maribor centre of Jewish culture and the Association Epeka with jurist Vera Klopčič talking about the recently adopted definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination by member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The definition stipulates that ceremonies remembering the victims of the Holocaust also mention the victims of Porajmos, the attempt at ethnic cleansing and genocide against Europe's Romani people by the Nazis in WWII.

"The remembrance of the Roma genocide had been pushed aside for a long time, kept silent in the activities for remembering the Holocaust. This definition obliges countries to include remembrance of the victims of the Romani genocide in awareness-raising activities," said Klopčič.

She stressed that these activities were of key importance for eliminating prejudices, collective intolerance and hatred towards the Roma and, consequently, equal inclusion of the Roma in the broader community. "It is important that this is talked about and that it is noted where such phenomena can lead to."

Association Epeka president Štefan Simončič said that the most burning problem was the unemployment rate among the Roma, which according to unofficial data in the Maribor area exceeds 90%. The association is thus mulling a lawsuit against the state over the inability to eliminate this problem.

"It is unheard of that 20 years after a huge amount of EU funds was invested in employment of the Roma, the employment rate is so low," he said, adding that the main reason for the lack of progress was "institutional discrimination. The Roma are being blamed, while the money is gone."

The Romani genocide will also be remembered on Friday in Murska Sobota and in Petanjci, where a tree will be planted in the Remembrance and Friendship Park to mark the 50th anniversary of the first international congress of the Roma.

This will be followed by a round table debate in Murska Sobota about the situation and expectations of the Roma in Europe and laying of a wreath at the memorial plaque remembering the Roma victims of WWII.

The international community has been marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August, with the day being chosen because on the night to 3 August 1944, almost 3,000 Roma, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed at Auschwitz.

A total of 21,000 are believed to be killed at Auschwitz, coming from 14 European countries. The Roma were also being exterminated in other Nazi camps, with the most recent estimates putting the total number of victims between 1939 and 1945 at at least half a million.

07 Jul 2021, 15:20 PM

STA, 7 July 2021 - Thirty years to the day, the Brijuni [sometimes written Brioni] Declaration was adopted, ending hostilities between Yugoslav and Slovenian forces in the ten-day independence war and suspending Slovenia's independence activities for three months. It was the first international agreement between Slovenia and the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC).

Following diplomatic efforts that began after the outbreak of independence war in Slovenia, the declaration was signed on the Brijuni Islands in Croatia on 7 July 1991 after 15 hours of negotiations. The agreement was endorsed by the Slovenian Assembly on 10 July.

The parties to the declaration were the representatives of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, the Yugoslav federal authorities and the trio representing the EEC, made up of the foreign ministers of Luxembourg, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The representatives from Slovenia were the president of the Slovenian presidency Milan Kučan, Prime Minister Lojze Peterle, Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, the Slovenian representative in the Yugoslav Presidency Janez Drnovšek, and the Speaker of the Slovenian Assembly, France Bučar.

The Yugoslav delegation featured Prime Minister Ante Marković, Interior Minister Petar Gračanin, Foreign Minister Budimir Lončar, Deputy Defence Minister Stane Brovet and other members of the Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Croatia was represented by President Franjo Tuđman.

In the declaration, the parties agreed that in order to resolve the situation peacefully, several principles must be strictly respected, including that only the peoples of Yugoslavia can decide their own future, and that negotiations should start immediately, and no later than 1 August 1991.

The European Community pledged to offer assistance in finding peaceful and lasting solutions, provided that all obligations are strictly respected.

In an annex to the declaration, it was agreed that Slovenian police would control Slovenian border crossings in accordance with Yugoslav federal regulations.

The parties agreed on the unblocking of all units and facilities of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), the unconditional withdrawal of JNA troops to barracks, the removal of all road barricades, the return of all JNA assets and equipment, and the deactivation of all Slovenian Territorial Defence units.

The Brijuni Declaration did not fully satisfy any of the parties involved in the Yugoslav crisis. For Slovenia, the most contentious provision was the three-month suspension of independence activities, which was seen by some as a temporary renunciation of independence, the unblocking of JNA barracks, and the return of JNA assets and equipment.

The declaration was met with mixed reactions in the country - some considered it necessary to stop the war at all cost, while others felt that the Slovenian delegation at Brijuni gave up what had been gained with the Declaration of Independence and during the ten-day war.

But even though Slovenia committed to a three-month suspension of the independence process, the process was actually accelerated.

The Yugoslav leadership realised that it would not be able to stop Slovenian independence and decided to withdraw its troops from Slovenia within three months on 18 July 1991. The last JNA troops left the port of Koper on 25 October.

Later that summer, on 27 August 1991, the EEC set up an arbitration commission to resolve legal issues related to the break-up of Yugoslavia. The commission's conclusions paved the way for the international recognition of Slovenia.

As historian Božo Repe pointed out for the STA in April, the Brijuni Declaration was the first international document that recognised Slovenia as an international subject. With it, Slovenia passed the maturity test in entering international relations and saved itself from war, he said.

Prime Minister Janez Janša also spoke about the declaration and the negotiations in Brijuni when he presented the priorities of the Slovenian EU presidency to the European Parliament on Tuesday.

He said that the Brijuni negotiations had restored Slovenia's hope in Europe, which had been striving to preserve Yugoslavia until the start of the war in Slovenia.

29 Jun 2021, 11:17 AM

STA, 29 June 2021 - It is exactly 20 years on Tuesday since an agreement was signed by the countries successors to Yugoslavia to divide the obligations and property of the former common state. The office of the high representative for succession has told the STA that Slovenia is constantly striving for active resolution of open issues.

The agreement, mediated by the international community, was signed on 29 June 2001 in Vienna by the foreign ministers of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (legal successor is Serbia) and Macedonia (now North Macedonia).

Ten years after the break-up of Yugoslavia, it was the first succession agreement, and a peace treaty of sorts, as it was the first agreement to be signed by all five successors. It entered into force three years later, when it was ratified by Croatia as the last country to do so in June 2004.

The agreement regulates division of movable and immovable property of the former Yugoslavia, consular and diplomatic representations, financial issues, archives, social security, pensions, private property and acquired rights.

The shares obtained by Slovenia in various fields reach from 14% to 16.39%, and constant talks and negotiations are taking place in relation to the implementation of the agreement both between the successors and with third countries.

On the occasion of the anniversary, the office of the high representative for succession Miha Pogačnik said that Slovenia and its authorised representatives were constantly striving for active resolution of open succession issues.

These are unresolved issues from the past, whose closure would contribute to reconciliation and improvement of regional cooperation, it said.

Slovenia has already received the bulk of the financial property of the former Yugoslavia it is entitled to in the forms of cash, gold and other precious metals, foreign currency deposits in foreign commercial banks and securities.

This property obtained by Slovenia is estimated at a total of EUR 220 million, and does not include the Triglav patrol boat that was acquired in 2011 as part of a clearing debt from Russia.

Slovenia has also obtained 83% of the former diplomatic and consular offices of the former Yugoslavia it is entitled to - in Washington, Rome, Milan, Klagenfurt, Brasilia, Morocco, Mali, Tanzania and Guyana.

The country got around US$3.5 million from the sale of a residence in New York and the embassies in Tokyo and Bonn that the successor countries have sold together. The procedures to sell the building of the former embassy in Bern and the permanent representation in New York are under way.

Slovenia has so far also taken over around 230 works of art by Slovenian artists that were located in diplomatic and consular representations around the world.

It has also assumed more than 100 original copies of international treaties signed by the former Yugoslavia that relate exclusively to the territory of present-day Slovenia, and documentation related to borders with Italy, Austria and Hungary.

The office of the high representative for succession also noted that Slovenia is the initiator of a project to digitalise the joint archival material of the former Yugoslavia that would enable all successors to access copies.

At the last meeting of the high representatives in November 2019 in Zagreb, all successors endorsed the proposal from Slovenia that funds for the project are obtained also from international financial resources.

The office also emphasised as an important achievement the start of talks with Serbia about the succession to cultural heritage items located in institutions of Serbia and that, in accordance with the agreement, belong to Slovenia.

24 Jun 2021, 12:55 PM

STA, 23 June 2021 - The celebrations of the 30 years of Slovenia's sovereignty and independence will culminate with the main national ceremony on Statehood Day on Friday, 25 June, in memory of the day in 1991 when the Slovenian parliament passed several key documents for the country to leave the former Yugoslavia and become fully independent.

The high-profile ceremony will be held on Friday evening in Republic Square in Ljubljana, the same spot where the country's independence was ceremoniously declared on 26 June 1991.

The 9pm ceremony will also be an occasion to celebrate the start of Slovenia's EU presidency due on 1 July, so several senior foreign officials are expected to attend it.

Details of the ceremony have not yet been revealed, not even the main speaker, who is usually one of the senior-most politicians.

However, Statehood Day ceremonies are usually introduced with a firing cannon salute from Ljubljana Castle followed by a cultural programme and the main speech.

The Government Communication Office (UKOM) said this year Slovenia will be celebrated with songs, dances and recitals.

Despite coronavirus restrictions, a number of Slovenian and foreign politicians will attend the ceremony, but the list of foreign guests is still being finalised.

Representatives of all veteran organisations have also been invited. Independence War veterans confirmed their attendance and so has the head of the WWII veteran organisation, Marijan Križman.

Opposition leaders will meanwhile be largely absent. Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) and Luka Mesec (Left) will not attend, Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) new leader Ljubo Jasnič has not received the invitation and the SNS's Zmago Jelinčič will address a smaller Statehood Day event in Radenci.

Mesec will meanwhile go to an alternative 7pm event in Prešeren Square, which will be organised by groups attending Friday evening anti-government protests.

Before the state ceremony, the upper and lower chambers of parliament will meet for their festive sessions and an exhibition on Slovenia's 30 years by photographer Srdjan Živulović will open at the Parliament House.

The Slovenian Armed Forces guard of honour will be lined up at the entrance to Presidential Palace, which will be open to members of the public, who will be addressed by President Borut Pahor.

Following a democratisation drive in Slovenia and a deteriorating economic and national situation in the multi-ethnic Yugoslavia in the 1980s, the Slovenian assembly passed the key documents governing Slovenia's independence on 25 June 1991: the Basic Charter on Sovereignty and Independence, the constitutional law on to implement the charter, and the Declaration on Independence.

As the new legislation was passed, the then president of the assembly, France Bučar, said: "Long live sovereign and independent Slovenia!", to which the delegates, or MPs, stood up and applauded.

The Basic Charter says Slovenia is a sovereign and independent nation which assumes all rights and duties that were transferred onto the former Yugoslavia.

The Declaration on Independence set down a future course for the newly independent state - kind of a country Slovenia wants to be, with which institutions it intends to integrate or what relations it wants to have with former Yugoslav republics.

Independence was declared at a public event in Republic Square on 26 June 1991, when the flag of the Republic of Slovenia replaced the flag of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in front of the parliament.

However, the festivities were short-lived as Yugoslav army tanks headed from barracks in Slovenia and Croatia to Slovenia's borders with Italy, Austria and Hungary, triggering a ten-day war of independence.

Following a ceasefire based on the 7 July 1991 Brijuni Declaration, brokered by the EU's predecessor, and a subsequent three-month independence process moratorium Slovenia had to agree to, the last Yugoslav soldiers left Slovenia in October of the same year as the Yugoslav authorities realised Slovenia could no longer be persuaded to stay in Yugoslavia.

06 Jun 2021, 09:21 AM

STA, 5 June 2021 - Retired Ljubljana Archbishop Anton Stres addressed the annual memorial and mass for victims of post-WWII reprisal killings in the Kočevski Rog woods on Saturday, noting that that reconciliation was yet to be reached in Slovenia.

The conditions for that include revealing truth about the post-war executions and condemning those who have committed the acts and forgiveness by those from the other side, he added at the ceremony at the Pod Krenom grave site.

Stres said that reconciliation could not be reached with a single act, such as the reconciliation ceremony 31 years ago, when the first public ceremony for the victims of the post-war reprisal killings was held after several decades.

It is a process that has several steps, and the first step is, according to him, unconditional commitment to truth.

"Calls could be heard that history needs to remain as written and told in the time of the rule of those who perpetrated the killings. But truth cannot be locked down, and it is impossible to prescribe it, because it tells a story on its own."

Another step, according to Stres, is the right that the people who are lying in the chasms of Kočevski Rog and their relatives are still waiting for.

"As long as no one is sentenced for these crimes and the vow of silence is so effective, with those who know many things not being allowed or not daring to talk, our country will not be what it should be," Stres said.

The third step towards reconciliation is forgiveness, which is the only way out "so that we start living a new life and look forward".

"To forgive means not to sweep things under the rug and say that a crime is not a crime. To forgive means letting go of any revengefulness and look forward, and not backwards," Stres said.

He assessed that there was not enough compassion in Slovenia for all post-war mass graves to be properly marked, and that after 76 years all victims could get a grave appropriate to their "inalienable human dignity".

According to him, the blame is also on various political groups that fail to make the necessary steps, "because they do not want to lose a certain number of voters or are cemented in past ideologies of hatred and false propaganda."

The ceremony organised by the New Slovenian Covenant association was also attended by Prime Minister Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša and several ministers, including Defence Minister Matej Tonin.

Tonin, the president of the coalition New Slovenia party, said in a statement that histories of nations were very different and sometimes very painful.

"But it nevertheless needs to be accepted as it is - realistic and without sugar-coating. Wounds of the past need to be healed, and the dead need to be shown the basic civilisational respect by giving them proper burial," he added.

27 Apr 2021, 10:31 AM

STA, 27 April 2021 - Slovenia observes Resistance Day (Dan upora proti okupatorju) on Tuesday, remembering the day 80 years ago when the Liberation Front, an organisation that spearheaded armed resistance against the occupying forces in WWII, was established. Several events will be held, including a national ceremony with Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek delivering the key-note.

The ceremony will be held on Mala Gora, a hill near Ribnica in the south where the first armed clash on Slovenian soil took place after the occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The event will be attended by senior officials, including President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Janša.

Pahor will also address Slovenian citizens together with Marijan Križman, the head of the WWII Veterans' Association.

He will open the Presidential Palace to the public as was the case before the pandemic, yet in a limited scope, only for the association's representatives.

Pahor and Križman will also lay a wreath at the memorial to the Liberation Front in front of Vidmar's Villa, the house under Rožnik hill where the organisation was founded.

On the eve of the holiday, the German Embassy unveiled a memorial plaque in the villa, which Germany bought in 2016 and turned it into a residence of its ambassador.

Pahor said this symbolic gesture bore great significance for the future because it is based on the spirit of reconciliation ingrained into "our common European homeland".

The holiday was also marked by the WWII Veterans Association last evening, with Križman saying 80 years after the Liberation Front had been established, the times called for "liberating the Slovenian nation once again" as he criticised the government for curtailing fundamental rights under the pretext of containing the epidemic.

For Slovenians, World War II started on 6 April 1941, when Germany attacked Yugoslavia. The Anti-Imperialist Front, as the Liberation Front was initially known, was formed 20 days later, on 26 April 1941. The fact that its establishment is marked on 27 April is due to a minor historical error.

The Liberation Front was founded at the home of the intellectual Josip Vidmar (1895-1992) by representatives of the Communist Party of Slovenia, the Sokoli gymnastic society, the Christian Socialists and a group of intellectuals.

Photos of Slovenia near the end of WW2

27 Apr 2021, 10:15 AM

STA, 26 April - President Borut Pahor and German Ambassador to Slovenia Natalie Kauther have unveiled a memorial plaque marking the 80th anniversary of the Liberation Front and the resistance of Slovenians against Fascism. The plaque was unveiled on Monday, the eve of Resistance Day at the house where the resistance organisation was founded.

Kauther took the opportunity to apologise on behalf of Germany for the horrors committed during WWII, while Pahor stressed the significance of the gesture for the future.

The Liberation Front was founded on 26 April 1941 at Vidmar's Villa, which is named after its former owner Josip Vidmar (1895-1992), a co-founder of the Liberation Front. Germany bought it in 2016 and turned it into a residence of the German ambassador.

Kauther said the German Embassy felt "great responsibility to treat the house and its history with due care and preserve the memory of what happened here 80 years ago".

She expressed "my gratitude that we Germans were again accepted into the community of nations after all the suffering and atrocities our country caused to many people".

"To be able to cultivate deep friendship with those who used to be our worst enemies and to work together for a better, more just world, is for us a really big gift," the ambassador said in her speech in the Slovenian language.

Pahor thanked the ambassador for the gesture of setting up the memorial plaque together with the Slovenian Museum of Contemporary History.

He said this was "a symbolic act" by Germany that also bore great significance for the future. "It's about the spirit on which our common European homeland is based. Not on forgetting, but on remembering yet sometimes also forgiving to the benefit of coexistence."

Pahor would like Slovenian citizens "to be proud of the resistance" during WWII and understand this too enabled the survival of the Slovenian nation and the foundation of Slovenia.

He urged Slovenians to celebrate Resistance Day "with joy and pride and to remember the roots of the Partisan resistance, without which there would be no national liberation".

06 Dec 2020, 12:44 PM

STA, 6 December 2020 - Three decades after Slovenia's parties reached a joint agreement on an independence referendum in which an overwhelming majority opted for independence, the country's first president Milan Kučan says unity cannot be taken be taken for granted, explaining why it is elusive now.

 "Independence was a clear, understandable project. If there's no such project, appeals for unity are but a political cliche and an excuse for political impotence," Kučan told the STA in an interview.

What made unity over independence and its success possible were in his view four elements, which he believes could also be useful to politicians today.

"The most important one is that it could have never been a project of one part the citizenry against the other. If it were, the project, the plebiscite including, would never have succeed," he says.

"Nor was independence a romantic realisation of the nation's millennium dream, but the result of a series of thorough rethinks and decisions in the given historical circumstances, culminating in the political and economic crisis in Yugoslavia and the spread of nationalism."

Another key aspect was the legitimacy and lawfulness of independence through the passage of constitutional laws and the plebiscite law, and the "painful" debate on what quorum should be sought in the plebiscite helped overcome distrust.

At the time, the opposition parties, largely represented by groups that evolved from the former Communist party and other associations that existed under the former regime, believed a majority of all eligible voters should vote in favour in order for the referendum to succeed. This solution was adopted.

The fourth major aspect, according to Kučan, is that independence was a project of a country rather than a party.

"This is not to say that I underestimate the fact that the project matured within the DEMOS coalition, based on the concept of the Slovenian national programme that was more or less set down in volume 57 of Nova Revija," he said in a reference to the January 1987 issue of the literary journal.

Kučan never doubted the referendum on 23 December 1990 would succeed (on a turnout of 93%, 95% voted in favour of independence). "People were willing to accept the independence concept as long as politicians told them plain truth."

However, unity began to unravel soon after the country declared independence on 25 June 1991, which Kučan believes is because the awareness of the need for shared responsibility for the country was lost and the interests of a party, group and bloc have prevailed.

"The moment citizens realise we are being treated like fools, when the epidemic is being used as a cover for the pursuit of ideological and political interests and resorting to repressive apparatuses, trust in politics is gone. (...)"

"What has the government's dealing with the statistics office, media, museums and police got to do with the epidemic," he wondered.

Considering the suspension of financing of the STA "it may appear as if the government was running out of time and was in a hurry to subjugate all subsystems and institutions, while in fact it is how the largest ruling party has always operated and how it has understood democracy".

He finds it less understanding that the Democratic Party (SDS) is being uncritically supported by other coalition parties in "its ambitions and its dismantling of the principles of democracy and its institutions".

Apart from the coronavirus epidemic, other projects too call for unity, including electoral reform, the course of Slovenia's foreign policy, and the need to form a comprehensive concept of a green country.

Despite much effort that has been invested in the electoral reform, decreed by the Constitutional Court, including by President Borut Pahor, Kučan believes parties have embarked on the project in ill faith.

"Each party has calculated what would suit it best, even though the most suitable solution would be to abolish electoral districts and adopt a system that we have for elections to the European Parliament," involving a preferential vote.

Kučan is of the opinion that Slovenia's foreign policy is moving away from the guidelines passed by parliament with writings by Prime Minister Janez Janša and Foreign Minister Anže Logar, which were not the positions of the government.

He believes it will take quite a while for Slovenia to restore the "trust of the external world". "The uncertainty about Slovenia's international position and interests and its tarnished reputation in the world will also tarnish the authority of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU."

"We're aspiring for friendship with those we shouldn't be friends with and have nothing in common with. Hearing arguments that us who used to live in the East have a different understanding of democracy and the rule of law than long-established democracies, it feels as if we are making fools out of ourselves," he said.

He believes Slovenia should have a balanced relationship with the superpowers - the US, Russia and China, and in the future he would like to see the country at the core of a successful EU as a major world player.

06 Dec 2020, 12:29 PM

STA, 6 December 2020 - As Slovenia is about to mark the 30th anniversary of a referendum in which people nearly unanimously voted for independence, Lojze Peterle, the then prime minister, says the nation should focus on what unites it, while it will have to put WWII and post-war history behind if it ever wants to achieve understanding and progress.

Looking back on independence and the plebiscite, Peterle finds it crucial that DEMOS, the coalition of parties forming the first democratic opposition, won the first multi-party election in April 1990. "Had DEMOS not won at the time, there would have been no plebiscite," he told the STA in an interview.

Another key move was that his government started forming Slovenia's own armed forces as soon as it assumed office. "With the first line-up a week ahead of the plebiscite, we showed people that we have a real force to protect our determination for a free Slovenian state."

While the decision for the independence referendum was taken by the DEMOS leadership in the night between 9 and 10 November 1990, DEMOS invited the opposition to join in the effort and an agreement to that effect was signed 30 years ago, to the day.

"The result was that the law that formed the basis for the plebiscite was passed with no one voting against. The agreement sent out a strong message to the people of unity in Slovenian politics."

While he never doubted the result of the plebiscite, Peterle had not expected such a convincing outcome, with 88.5% of all eligible voters or 95% of those who cast their ballots voting in favour.

Such an outcome was important both "internally, because it prevented greater divisions, and externally because it gave the government the needed legitimacy in talks with Belgrade. The world had to acknowledge that too."

Peterle does not think a similar cross-party agreement is needed now as Slovenia is battling the coronavirus epidemic: "We have a democratically elected government that has the mandate, responsibility and the needed majority in parliament to implement its policies. There's no need for national consensus for every thing."

However, he says it is against national interests that "the opposition should be pressuring for one thing only at these difficult times - for change of power at all cost - especially given the fact that the previous government resigned".

"And now, for 30 years really, keeping all of Slovenia busy with allergy against Janez Janša, which has come as far as violent riots, it cannot be a statesman-like response to this government's work."

Still, he does believe politics should try to near positions on some points, such as overcoming divisions stemming from the past, which should be done with truthfulness and justice.

"There's not a single political meeting that wouldn't end with a debate on World War II and revolution, even though hardly anyone from that time is still alive.

"This is because we haven't processed and overcome it. Once we'll have to let bygones be bygones and head on. As long as we keep watching each other through the WWII and revolution gun pointers, there'll be no peace or progress."

He believes one of Slovenia's problems is a lack of structural change similar to other former Communist countries. "We formally introduced democracy, but in fact many things go on the old way (...)

"It's not just the right which finds that the rule of law doesn't work the best way. I'm even more worried about a lack of respect for the dignity of others and those who are different."

Touching on electoral reform, Peterle says the best way would be to redraw electoral districts: "If we abolish them, big urban centres and established faces from TV screens get most benefit.

"The existing system with electoral districts has made it possible for people to enter politics whom we didn't know as big politicians but whom people trusted to represent them. This quality of the electoral system should be preserved."

Peterle would also like to see more consensus in politics on foreign policy "rather than having the situation when one government goes to Washington, and the other to Moscow".

He does not think there is any major dilemma as to whether Slovenia should look to the Visegrad Group or to the core Europe.

"We're part of the core Europe as part of Central Europe with specific political, historical and cultural experiences and thus a different sensitivity, which means we see some things, including values, a little bit differently than they see them in Brussels.

"This is why I believe Brussels should work more on understanding why Central Europe is a little bit different. More dialogue is what's needed."

Slovenia can support that dialogue with creative proposals, which is why he welcomes PM Janša's letter to European leaders in reference to the rule of law and recovery aid.

"The letter doesn't boost the blockade but is aspiring to removing the blockade with a sensitivity for realpolitik. This is also how Angela Merkel understood it."

He believes tensions in Slovenia are largely a matter of money "when you hit a monopoly, a formal or informal structure that has roots in undemocratic times, everything is wrong.

"We introduced democracy to make change possible, so that corruption doesn't become entrenched. You don't solve things by calling them ideological, untouchable," he says.

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