Slovenia responds to death of Pope John Paul II
The death of Pope John Paul II on 3 April has attracted much attention around the world, Slovenia included. The government has declared Friday, 9 April, the official day of mourning, and has urged its citizens to pay their respects by observing a three-minute silence. Flags have been set at half mast since the pope’s death and will remain such until the funeral on Friday.
Both President Janez Drnovšek, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel will attend the pope’s funeral at the Vatican. The Slovene Roman Catholic Church will be sending Ljubljana Archbishop and Slovene Metropolitan Alojz Uran, Maribor Bishop Franc Kramberger and Koper Bishop Metod Pirih [SN / 04.04.05 / Govt Declares Day of Mourning for Friday].
Klien and Chomsky receive honorary doctorates
Nobel Prize economics laureate Lawrence R. Klein and linguistics professor and American dissident Noam Chomsky were each presented with honorary doctorates from the University of Ljubljana on 29 March.
Klein’s doctorate was awarded for “his contributions to science and the education of professors of the University of Ljubljana” [SN / 29.03.05 / Economist Klein Receives Honorary Doctorate of University of Ljubljana].
Chomsky, however, drew much more attention, thanks to a lecture lambasting US foreign policy entitled “Force, Law and the Prospects of Survival” which he delivered at Cankarjev dom Tuesday afternoon. The university conferred his doctorate in recognition of his linguistic work [SN / 29.03.05 / Chomsky Launches Barrage against US Foreign Policy].
Roma boycott Dolenjska school
Some 86 Roma students in the village of Bršljin near Novo Mesto began a boycott of school as they were about to be segregated from non-Roma students. This is the culmination of a month’s worth of troubles between Roma and non-Roma in the school, after non-Roma parents complained their children were being bullied by Roma children. The Ministry of Education resolved to segregate the students, a move widely considered to be controversial [BBC / 04.04.05 / Roma in Slovenia school boycott].
On Friday, a number of traditional and nontraditional minority groups joined forces to stage a protest in downtown Ljubljana, on Prešeren Square. Among the groups were the so-called Izbrisani, or the "Erased," a group of people who resided in Slovenia but who were officially residents of other Yugoslav republics and whose citizenship was stripped soon after Slovene independence. Also present were representatives of the Roma community, gays and lesbians, the handicapped, students, feminists and others. The demonstration was organized to draw attention to the high level of intolerance the groups feel within Slovene society [Delo / 01.04.05 / Vstran z navidezno strpnostjo!].
60th anniversary of liberated Prekmurje
On Sunday, residents of Slovenia’s northeastern region of Prekmurje marked the 60th anniversary of their liberation from fascism during World War II. Prekmurje was the first region of Slovenia to be liberated after Germany, Hungary and Italy carved up the territory when the Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell early in the war.
The central festivities were held in Murska Sobota, where mayor Anton Stihec and Russia’s ambassador to Slovenia, Mihail Vanin, addressed the crowd on Victory Square (Trg zmage). The ambassadors of Ukraine and Bulgaria also attended, as did representatives of the UK and several Slovene politicians.
Prekmurje was occupied by Nazi Germany initially, but Hungary took over in April 1941. It was not until the winter of 1944 that local residents were able to successfully form a resistance force, the Liberation Front. In January 1945, they also organized a force of paramilitary Partizans. It was these Partizans, together with the Red Army of the Soviet Union, who finally liberated Prekmurje [Delo / 03.04.05 / Prekmurje obeležilo 60. obletnico osvoboditve, SN / 03.04.05 / Prekmurje Celebrates 60th Anniversary of WWII Liberation].
Soccer melee in Celje worries Germany
The 26 March violence in Celje that erupted among German fans after a Germany-Slovenia soccer game has had repercussions felt far beyond Slovenia. Germany itself is slated to host the 2006 World Cup next year, and after Saturday’s events in Celje organizers are now reviewing their security plans for that event.
Last weekend, German fans vandalized the stadium and downtown Celje and also had a number of run ins with the police and Slovene fans. According to the Associated Press, this was the "worst violence from German hooligans since the 2000 European Championship." A total of 65 people were arrested, mostly Germans [AP / 31.03.05 / Germans review security measures after Slovenia violence].
Slovenia celebrates 1st anniversary in Nato
On 29 March 2004, Slovenia became a full-fledged member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato). Just one year later, the country still views its membership as a foreign policy success story, and is proud of its countrymen who now work for the organization, and of its nearly 300 soldiers who are involved in Nato operations around the world.
Speaking on the occasion of the anniversary, Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel said, “Our membership is already being used in ways beneficial to the national interest, which is also intertwined with the interest in strengthening Euro-Atlantic and global security.”
However, according to Delo, Sociologist and political analyst Gorazd Kovačič remains unconvinced of the benefits of Nato membership to Slovenia. “The Slovene state apparatus does not have enough staff to be able to make use of the various tenders and offers for economic cooperation. The security situation has not changed, since Nato is a military organization and Slovenia needs security which is not based primarily on the military but more so on other social actors” [Delo / 29.03.05 / Prva obletnica vstopa Slovenije v Nato].
110th Anniversary of Ljubljana Earthquake
Easter Sunday was notable for one more reason: it was the 110th anniversary of the 1895 earthquake that destroyed Ljubljana. That year, Easter fell on 14 April, and the 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck at 20:17. Shocks were felt as far away as Vienna, Split and Florence.
At that time, Ljubljana was home to some 31,000 people, and was made up of around 1400 buildings; few people were killed, but about 10 percent of the buildings were damaged. Large-scale demolition followed, and the post-earthquake period saw a wide expansion of the city [Delo / 27.03.05 / Ob 110. obletnici ljubljanskega potresa].
Slovenia celebrates Easter
Easter was celebrated across most of Slovenia on 27 March with a wide range of traditions. Central to most families’ celebrations, however, was the traditional Easter dinner of ham, horseradish, eggs, bread and potica [ICE / 25.03.05 / Slovenia’s diverse Easter celebrations].
One of the most striking features of Slovene Easter is the traditional Easter eggs, called "pisanice," "rumenice," "remenke" or "pirhi," depending on where and in what manner they are made. A gallery of some of this year’s best eggs can be found here.
No renovation yet for Ljubljana eyesore
At long last, work is currently underway in Ljubljana on the façade of the Nama department store, after two of the glass panels fell to the street in the middle of last year. And a bit further up Slovenska cesta, work is about to start on another problematic building, this one at Tavčarjeva 1.
The building houses the Borova shoe store on its ground floor, which is owned by Croat investors. The Borova corporation has approved funds to renovate the building, the facade of which is already starting to crumble. Though they are prepared to put forward some 30 percent of the cost of renovating the entire building, the building’s owner refuses to begin work. Maria Ann Kostelecky Lah, a Slovene-American, owns the building, and is trying to get the City of Ljubljana to subsidize part of the renovation.
The building was returned to Lah after having been confiscated by the Socialist authorities after World War II. However, like many others who have received property back from the government, she cannot afford to conduct the much-needed renovations herself, according to Žurnal [Žurnal / 18.03.05 / Prenova starih pročelj].
Slovene tokaj wine now “točaj”
Since Hungary has registered the name “tokaj” with the European Union (EU) as a trademark of its wine producers, Slovene winemakers are no longer permitted to call their wines tokaj. The Brdo Consortium of winemakers has decided that instead its tokaj wine will now be called “točaj.”
Hungarian producers are currently the only ones permitted to market wine called “tokaj” within the EU, with the exception of Italy, which successfully negotiated a grace period lasting through 31 March 2007. The Brdo Consortium is currently applying for trademark status for “točaj” [Delo / 25.03.05 / Novo ime tokaj je točaj].
A similar fate befell cviček wine even within Slovenia, since the Dolenjska region managed to trademark that name within the EU. Cviček is also made in the Posavje region just across the Sava from Dolenjska, and winegrowers there must now sell it as “Sremiško-Bizeljske” wine.
Honeymoon over for new government
Sunday, 13 March, marked the one-hundredth day since the Janez Janša government took office on 3 December 2004. This government is Slovenia’s first conservative-led government since independence in 1991, with the exception of a brief six-month period in 2000. So far, the public approves of the government: approval rates have ranged from 59 to 61 percent. Slovenia News has published an extensive overview of the government’s activities in the past three months, and its plans for the future: A Hundred Days Since the Appointment of the New Government.
Croatia not quite ready for the EU
Croatia received word this week that the European Union is not quite ready to start membership negotiations, though a number of countries – including Slovenia – are backing Croatia’s bid. The 10 March meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives decided that Croatia has not made sufficient reforms and is not fully cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and therefore the time is not right for negotiations on Croatian membership in the EU to begin.
Among EU members, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia have come out in favor of Croatian membership, while the United Kingdom is at the head of those countries which believe Croatia needs more time.
Meanwhile, the head of Italy’s Veneto region announced that his region will move to secede from Italy if the EU does not begin accession negotiations with Croatia soon. Giancarlo Galana, the region’s head, strongly supports Croatian membership on the basis of the long historic links between Veneto and Croatia [Mladina / 15.03.05 / Odcep Veneta zaradi Hrvaške].
EU foreign ministers will meet again on 15 March, and all must agree that Croatia is ready if negotiations are to begin on 17 March, as was previously planned [SN / 10.03.05 / Slovenia Backs Start of Croatia's EU Talks, No EU-Wide Consensus].
Another new (sports) daily on the way
Delo has announced it will launch a new sports daily called Zmaga! (Victory!) this autumn. According to Finance, the oversight board of Delo has approved the project and a trial issue has already been printed. The new paper will be produced principally by Delo’s current sports reporters, and sports reporting within Delo itself will be lessened to help the new paper along. The market already has one sports daily, Ekipa, which launched in the early 1990s [Finance / 25.02.05 / Zmaga! prehiteva Čas].
To sem jaz update: Miro wins!
The reality television show To sem jaz, which brought together contestants from around the former Yugoslavia, ended with a Slovene contestant Miro Todososki taking home the grand prize. Miro won some 20,000 euro in cash, a mobile telephone, a trip, a watch and an exclusive contract with Prvi TV that includes the recording of five songs and two music videos.
In second place, the Albanian Admir won a trip, a mobile phone, a wristwatch and a Matiz car. Croatia’s Josipa, who came in third, won a scooter, a mobile phone, a watch and a contract to record a song and to shoot a music video in Egypt.
Bosnia’s Mirela came in fourth, followed by Macedonia’s Dragi and Macedonia’s Jana. Each won a scooter, mobile phone, a trip and a wristwatch [Index.hr / 28.02.05 / "To sam ja": Pobjednik Slovenac Miro, Zadranka Josipa treća].
As the show was ending, the Bosnian-based Media Plan Institute published an extensive study about To sem jaz which delves into the controversy the show created within Macedonia. Because of lewd conduct and coarse speech, the show received several notices from Macedonia’s media watchdog Broadcast Council, and seems to have violated the Broadcast Law in a number of ways [Media Online / 23.02.05 / This is me: ‘Toa sum jas – To sam ja – To sem jaz’].
Previous To sem jaz updates:
15.11.04 Reality TV show to join former Yugoslavs
13.12.04 Slovenes not interested, Bosnians threaten to sue
13.12.04 Sex, live
13.12.04 Two contestants expelled
16.12.04 Official website a hit
30.12.04 Crazy in love...
30.12.04 Christmas in Skopje
30.12.04 Four to be voted out on 4 January
05.01.05 “Balkan Mix”
05.01.05 Just two voted off
20.01.05 Slovene Miro on the rocks
20.01.05 Two girls replaced…temporarily
20.01.05 Again no vote, while show might be sued
26.01.05 Yugonostalgia goes too far!
28.01.05 Two more voted off