US Ambassador interviewed in Večer
Katja Šeruga interviewed outgoing US Ambassador to Slovenia Johnny Young in the 27 August issue of Večer. As of 17 September, his three-year mandate expires, and he will be replaced by Thomas Bolling Robertson. Young intends to retire upon his return to the US.
Asked about Slovenia's position on the war in Iraq, Young told Seruga: “Slovenia made it clear that it is not a part of the Coalition of the Willing. We were disappointed, and we do not hide that. We hoped that you would join us, but we respect your decision. In the wider context, in the war against terrorism, we are cooperating wonderfully and it should stay this way, since this is the only way we can engage these provocations of the new world. Iraq of course is still not a finished story, and we now want to establish peace and stability there and Slovenia is trying to play a role in that.”
Seruga points out that the second contingent of Slovene soldiers has recently left for Afghanistan, and she asked Young if the US expects more. Young responds, “The more that you do, the better off you will be.”
Moving on to one of the big problems between the US and Slovenia, Seruga asks, “What would you say about the decision of the Slovene Supreme Court which supported Krka and not the US company Merck? You have strongly defended the interest of American pharmaceutical companies in the past” [more at: Krka press release / 17.08.04 / End of dispute between Krka and Merck].
Young’s response: “The Supreme Court’s decision did not surprise me. My goal was very simple: for Slovenia to comply with what must be done in order to enter the EU. The country passed a law on the protection of intellectual property, and the influence of the domestic pharmaceutical industry was shown when parliament decided to limit the legislation. And my goal was to return to the previous situation. In the end, everything ended well and the Slovene pharmaceutical industry did not lose any money. Quite the opposite, it earned some money in the US [more on US pressure on the Slovene pharmaceutical industry: SB / 02.02.02 / Pfizer intends to appeal. SBW / 21.01.02 / Parliament Adopts Amendments to the Pharmaceuticals Act].
Seruga also asks Young about his reaction to a composite photo of him published in Mladina, which juxtaposed his face on the body of a grotesquely well-endowed man wearing only a star-spangled condom. [see: SB / 02.02.02 / Mladina's international incident].
He responded, “I think that if an American magazine had done the same thing, it would not be done with such distaste and racism. The fact is that some magazine publishes a caricature of me does not bother me, but if it is racist, then it bothers me very much.”
* The full interview, “Razočaran, da nismo v koaliciji voljnih,” can be found on the Večer website.
* Report of Young’s arrival in Slovenia: SB / 19.10.01 / New American ambassador takes post].
* Another interview with Young by Wes Eichenwald: LL / 01.02 / Ljubljana Life Interview: U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia, Mr. Johnny Young].
* US pressure on Slovenia to sign a bilateral treaty exempting US citizens from the International Criminal Court (which did not come up in the Večer article) can be found at: SB / 20.06.03 / US exerts pressure, Slovenia stands strong and at SN / 10.06.03 / Ljubljana to Follow EU Lead on ICC].
Tourism problems in Kranjska Gora
Lucija Bošnik had two articles in the daily Finance on 23 August which focused on tourism problems in the popular ski resort town of Kranjska Gora.
The first, Juriš na Vršič ravno ne gane Kranjske Gore (The race to Vršič does not affect Kranjska Gora), discussed the cycle race Ascent up Vršič that will be held on 4 September, and how it could help to promote tourism in and around Kranjska Gora. Every year, around 3000 people attend the “Juriš na Vršič” race, while 800 to 1200 participate in it.
Though Kranjska Gora is not far from Vršič in northwestern Slovenia, few participants or spectators end up spending much time in the town at all, preferring smaller villages in the area. This year, race organizers would like to see that change, but the Kranjska Gora officials do not seem to be making much of an effort.
The title of the second article, Kranjska Gora med Kekci, Bedanci in Pehtami (Kranjska Gora among Kekec, Bedanec and Pehta), refers to beloved characters from a children’s book. It also mentions the Ascent up Vršič race, but focuses more broadly on the problems Kranjska Gora is having with its tourism.
Aside from the lack of interest in the race, Bošnik also points out that Kranjska Gora is the only tourist center in Slovenia which is not highlighted on the website of Easyjet. One explanation the local tourism authorities offer is that Kranjska Gora has no hotels with a rating of less than four stars, and so they are seeking a more elite sort of guest than either the race or a budget airline like Easyjet provides. On the other hand, establishments in Kranjska Gora such as Hit casino have a vested interest in promotion of the area by tourism authorities.
The biggest problem Bošnik uncovers is a lack of communication among hoteliers, bar owners and restaurateurs, local authorities and other major players in town.
Bushisms via Barbados
A 22 August article in Barbados's Daily Nation about Jacob Weisberg's books “Bushisms” and “More Bushisms” includes the following gem:
“The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned first-hand from your foreign minister who came to Texas.” (To a Slovak journalist, June, 1999. Bush’s meeting was with Janez Drnovsek, prime minister of Slovenia!)
Pod Zvezdami Celjanov, 28 August
Celje’s seventh annual medieval festival, Pod Zvezdami Celjanov, will be held on Saturday, 28 August. A group made up primarily of volunteers will return Celje’s Stari Grad castle to the 15th century though costumes, music, games and other events. Last year’s event drew more than 2000 people, and organizers are expecting even more this time around. Special guests include the band Remdih from the Czech Republic, which will perform music from the early 15th century.
The festival will also feature a Medieval Market, with gifts and demonstrations of traditional crafts, and a medieval pub called Pri Volovski Glavi, which will serve medieval food and drink (the menu can be found here, but only in Slovene).
Organizers are providing a free bus between the city center to Stari Grad. Tickets will cost SIT 1000 (€ 4.16) for adults and SIT 300 (€ 1.25) for children under 15 [Večer / 20.08.04 / Od srednjeveške glasbe in tržnice do viteške maše].
See also SB / 17.08.04 / 22 August: 10th Annual Erazmov Viteški Turnir and “Reliving the Past” in Ljubljana Life for more on summer medieval festivals in Slovenia.
Wallpaper Navigator shines the spotlight on Ljubljana
The second issue of Wallpaper Navigator, published this month, features Ljubljana and nine other of the “World’s Most Exciting Cities.” The LJ article was written by Birna Helgadottir and features numerous photos by David Willen.
“Known to most tourists as 'where?',” the article begins, “Ljubljana is one of Europe's best-kept secrets - a pint-size Prague or pocket Paris, tucked away at the top of the Adriatic.” Over the next ten pages, LJ’s best sights to see, nightlife hot spots, hotels and gift items are displayed.
Wallpaper recommends visits to Jože Plečnik's Žale cemetary and National Library, as well as the Nebotičnik. Architecture lovers are also directed to Edvard Ravnikar's Trg Republike, Cankarjev Dom and Ferantov Vrt; Edvard Mihevc's Metalka building (which reference's New York's Seagram Building); Vinko Glanz's National Assembly building; and Sadar Vuga's Chamber of Commerce, the first major architectural project to be built by the new generation of Slovene architects dubbed the “Sixpack Generation.”
Nightlife suggestions are centered on the city center: Mestni Trg’s Fraga (15), Minimal (4) and Cafe Galerija (5); Stari Trg’s Romeo (6); Prešerenov Trg’s Pločnik; Trubarjeva’s Salon (23), and a handful of others: Susimama (Wolfova 12), Chocobar Angel (Tavcarjeva 2), AS (Čopova 5a), Cafe Union (Nayorjeva 2), Global (Tomšičeva 2), the Pen Klub (Tomšičeva 12), Pri Vitežu (Breg 20) and Zvezda (Wolfova 14). The city’s best hotels are listed as Domina Grand Media, Grand Union, Celica Hostel, Mons and Slon.
Finding souvenirs of Slovenia is never easy, but here we find nearly a dozen suggestions. The most attention is paid to glass by Tanja Pak’s Steklarska Nova featured at Galerija Marjan Lovsin (Breg 8). Also featured are glasses and letter openers from Darila Rokus (Gosposvetska 2), clothes from Oktober (Kersnikova 1), antiques from Carniola Antiques (Trubarjeva 9), Hiše magazine, shoes from Lenora Mark (Kersnikova 1), Movia wine from Vinoteka Movia (Mestni Trg 4), chairs by Niko Kralj from Kubus Interier (Vegova 2) and handbags from Marjeta Groselj (Tavcarjeva 4).
Don’t miss the cover, which features the Nebotičnik together with important buildings from the other nine cities featured in the issue, including the Sydney Opera House, Hagia Sofia and the Golden Gate Bridge. Aside from LJ, Sydney, Istanbul and San Francisco, the issue also presents highlights of Antwerp, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Mumbai and Tokyo.
A “Cost of Living Index” is provided for each city. For LJ, the cost of a one-way taxi between the city center and the airport is € 33, a daily newspaper costs € 0.70, a bottle of Moet and Chandon NV is € 36, a cappuccino at a good café is € 0.85, a popular CD is € 16 and a pack of Marlboro Lights is € 2.
TOL: Pre-Election Bonanza
Election season is heating up, and on 19 August Transitions On Line published an excellent briefing on the issues written by Aleš Gaube of the daily Dnevnik called Slovenia: Pre-Election Bonanza. Like many other journalists, Gaube predicts that the LDS – which essentially has held power nonstop since independence in 1991 – is facing an uphill battle and likely will not emerge victorious in the 3 October parliamentary elections.
Among the evidence upon which such claims are based is the poor showing of the LDS in the 13 June European Parliament elections. Gaube cites an 8 August RTVS poll which showed the LDS receiving 11.4 percent of the vote if the election were to be held the following week. The SDS would have been in second with 10 percent, followed by the NSi at 6.5 and the ZLSD at 4.7.
However, Gaube also goes into depth on the strange behavior of the opposition parties, mainly the SDS and NSi. They have filed an interpellation motion against the entire government while they have no intention of calling for a vote of confidence, which is the normal follow-up to such a motion. They have also protested various appointments, such as that of Janez Potočnik to the post of European Commissioner. And they have also accused the largest cellular phone operator Mobitel of bugging its customers.
This article is required reading for anyone interested in following domestic politics in Slovenia.
Festival of Slovene Film coming in November to LJ
The Festival of Slovene Film (FSF) will be held in Ljubljana at Cankarjev Dom from 6 to 10 November. The festival was supposed to be held in Celje, but due to poor conditions in the city’s theatres as well as scheduling conflicts which would not have left enough hotel rooms available, that plan was scratched (See: SB / 29.07.04 / Film festival leaves Celje after just one year).
One special event during this year’s FSF will be a round table discussion on the status of the Festival of Slovene Film and its future, in which experts and the festival’s organizers will participate.
The winning film at the FSF Film will open the 15th annual Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe), which will take place from 10 to 24 November. More details will be available in September, after the agreement between the FSF and Cankarjev Dom is signed [STA / 19.08.04 / 7. festival slovenskega filma bo novembra v Cankarjevem domu, Večer / 21.08.04 / Iz Celja v Ljubljano].
Law on Public Use of Slovene enters into force
The Law on Public Use of Slovene that was passed on 15 July entered into force on 20 August. The law mandates the use of the Slovene language in public places and in public administration, with the only exceptions being in areas with multiethnic characters, principally the multiethnic Slovene and Italian areas on the coast and the multiethnic Slovene and Hungarian areas in the northeast, as well as in instances where another language must be used due to international agreements.
Enforcement of the law will be charged to an inspection service, which will have the ability to issue fines to individuals or corporations for violations [STA / 20.08.04 / V veljavo stopa zakon o javni rabi slovenščine].