Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Slovenian diplomat quits after report of US meddling in EU presidency

"The Slovenian foreign ministry announced the resignation of a top Slovenian diplomat Tuesday who press reports claimed had taken orders from the United States about Slovenia's EU presidency.

The Foreign Ministry announced on its website that political director Mitja Drobnic had resigned and would be replaced by state secretary Matjaz Sinkovec during Slovenia's six-month term as EU president.

Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel 'has accepted the resignation of political director Mitja Drobnic', the ministry said in a statement.

The resignation comes after a report in the daily newspaper Dnevnik last week which said that Slovenia had been taking orders from the US.

According to the newspaper, which quoted an internal foreign ministry report, Drobnic had met in December with US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, who allegedly suggested to the Slovenian side what their priorities should be during the EU presidency.

Fried encouraged Slovenia to be among the first to recognise the independence of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, the newspaper claimed."

Slovenian Press Freedom

"The director of the International Press Institute, Johann Fritz, warned in an official statement that 'business contacts and stock ownership should not be used by the government to influence independent media into publishing positive articles.'

But Grah, the Vienna correspondent for Delo, said there are now only two papers -- Dnevnik and Mladina -- that are not subject to state influence. Those news outlets are suffering from a lack of advertising, however. Big companies have pulled their ads from the critical newspapers, costing them a significant portion of their revenues.

In order to answer the critics, the Ministry of Culture funded a study at the University of Ljubljana, on press freedom. The researchers found that the reporting in Slovenian papers was even-handed, but sociologist Matej Makarovic, who conducted the research, found that the government and other political parties had tried to influence it."

Source: Deutsche Welle

Slovenian parliament ratifies Lisbon Treaty

"The document, which was endorsed in a 74-to-6 vote, is to ensure efficient operation of the enlarged European Union and strengthen its role in the world, the Slovenian news agency STA reported.

The endorsement has already been welcomed by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who told the MPs earlier on Tuesday that all 27 EU countries needed to ratify the treaty in order for it to enter into force.

Jansa said the treaty included the majority of the contents but not the form of its ill-fated precursor, the constitutional treaty, which was rejected at referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

One of the basic points of the new document is increasing the role of deciding by a qualified majority on the back of consensus-based decision making.

The treaty also omits a direct reference to constitutionality, which caused fear among the French and Dutch that the EU was changing into a super state. No article of the treaty also mentions EU symbols, such as its flag or national anthem."

Source: Xinhua

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Slovenia's debut EU presidency marred by row over press freedom

"Two journalists who launched a petition at the end of last year accusing the government of political meddling, which was signed by 571 Slovenian journalists, said yesterday that they still want an independent inquiry. Their campaign has been backed by the International Press Institute (IPI) and the European Federation of Journalists, which said in a statement: 'Slovenia has failed the first test of leadership in Europe by failing to show that it is prepared to deal openly and honestly with serious questions over its own record on dealing with media and journalism.'

'There is continuing pressure on journalists,' said Matej Surc, a radio journalist who initiated the petition along with his newspaper colleague Blaz Zgaga.

In addition to direct censorship – the newspaper Vecer has pinned censored articles on an office wall known as the 'bunker' – the government of the centre-right Prime Minister, Janez Jansa, is accused of indirectly influencing the media through exploiting business relationships with companies that have financial holdings in media interests."


Thursday, January 10, 2008

European Commission pledges support to Slovenian presidency priorities

"European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstroem said on Tuesday the commission 'fully supports Slovenia's presidency priorities' during its term at the helm of the 27-nation bloc in the first half of the year.

Wallstroem made her statement at Brdo pri Kranju in suburban Ljubljana, where a meeting was being held between the European Commission and the rotating EU presidency Slovenian government.

Wallstroem, who led the visiting delegation in the absence of commission President Jose Manuel Barroso who is ill with the flu, said the goal for 2008 was to have a 'Europe of results.'

In a joint press conference with Wallstroem, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said the 'substantive talks' examined the key issues facing the Slovenian presidency, including the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the energy-climate talks, implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, the Western Balkans and intercultural dialogue.

'Today excellent cooperation has been established between the Slovenian government and the European Commission,' Jansa said after the first session of meetings.

According to Jansa, Slovenia's presidency will tailor its activities in order to provide for the smooth ratification of the recently-signed EU reform treaty, a key goal of the presidency. He said the goal was to have the document in force by Jan. 1, 2009."

Source: Xinhua

Bosnian MPs Slam Slovenia PM's remarks

"Bosnian politicians have criticised Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa's comments that Bosnia and Herzegovina poses a bigger threat to regional stability in the Balkans, than Kosovo.

The ruling Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, SDA, said Jansa's comments were unacceptable, ambiguous and required explanation, Bosnian media reported on Wednesday.

Slovenia currently holds the rotating European Union presidency and Prime Minister Jansa was hosting EU officials when he made the controversial remarks on Monday..

'Bosnia and Herzegovina is a more serious problem for the stability of the western Balkans', the Slovenian Premier told delegates at talks just outside the capital Ljubljana.

'For Kosovo it's clear what will happen, it's more a question of how to do it', Jansa said, hinting that the province's ethnic Albanian majority will inevitably gain independence from Serbia.

'For Bosnia the question is: are the Dayton agreements working? First we have to see if the Dayton agreement works.' He added that in the long term, 'it's not possible to have a state that cannot rule itself and needs international governors.'

The SDA claimed Jansa's arguments were reckless."


Monday, January 7, 2008

Cracks Appear in Slovenia's Model Facade

"The Slovenians began expressing their frustrations in late November, when around 70,000 people took to the streets in Ljubljana -- a massive demonstration for such a small country. In what was the largest rally since the Slovenians proclaimed their independence, trade unions, students and pensioners protested against the rising cost of living and demanded more social justice.

Slovenia's inflation rate of 5.7 percent -- the highest in the euro zone -- does give rise for concern. In early November, EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Policy Joaquín Almunia even felt the need to issue a public warning to Slovenia, a model economy until then. An inflation rate higher than 3 percent, Almunia said, sends 'a bad signal' to the countries next in line for Euro-zone membership."

Source: Business Week

EU warns Zagreb over Adriatic fishing restrictions

"The European Union has warned Croatia it will damage its chances of joining the EU by setting up a protected fishing zone in the Adriatic Sea aimed at EU members Italy and Slovenia.

Croatia is involved in maritime border issues with Slovenia and alleges that Italian fishermen have taken Croatian sea fishing stocks, Croatian media reported.

Slovenia, which took over the six-month rotating EU presidency Tuesday from Portugal, said Croatia's unilateral proclamationof the protected fishing zone violated the sovereignty of Slovenia."

Source: AKI

Slovenia Takes Over EU Presidency

“Slovenia took over on Tuesday from Portugal the six-month EU's rotating presidency, expected to be dominated by the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the Kosovo issue, among others.

‘The agenda on the table is highly diverse. The main focus will be on the Lisbon Strategy, energy and climate change, the Western Balkans, the ratification of the new treaty and intercultural dialogues,’ Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in his welcome address on the presidency's website. …” [Xinhua (01/01)/Factiva]

AP notes that “…There are worries that Kosovo independence could trigger new violence in the Balkans and European governments expect Slovenia …to use its past ties to help reach a solution. …Slovenia also is expected to push for other former Yugoslav countries to join the EU.
…” [The Associated Press (01/01)/Factiva]"

Source: World Bank News & Broadcast