Monday, February 23, 2009

Slovenia Risks Becoming Just Another Bump In The Road

"Each year hundreds of thousands of Europeans flock to the coast of Croatia for their summer vacations. Many of them choose to drive, happily speeding from their home cities to their destination along Europe's modern superhighways.

Except for one 60-kilometer stretch that runs through Slovenia. There, motorists encounter a tiny, narrow, old roadway, and they never know if it will take them one hour or three to drive it. Either way, they have plenty of time to wonder why no one has bothered to improve this god-forsaken stretch.

The story goes back to 1969, and a Yugoslavian political scandal dubbed the "Road Affair." Yugoslavia applied for and received an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan for highways. But Slovenian officials were unhappy when their share of the largess turned out to be smaller than they expected. They tried to divert attention from the fact that they had failed to submit the proper documentation.

In the intervening decades, Slovenia has had several opportunities to improve the highway from Austria to the Croatian border, but officials always refused. Germany and Austria both expressed interest in the project, but Slovenia lobbied instead for a road to take vacationers to the Slovenian coast. In 1993, Croatia offered to improve the 60-kilometer stretch, but again Ljubljana refused.

In 1989-90, Yugoslavia and Italy agreed on a project to construct a railway from Trieste to the Croatian resort of Rijeka. But after gaining independence in 1991, Slovenia backed out of the deal.

Two decades later, the railroad is still a dream and the road through Slovenia to Croatia remains a nightmare. Now, Slovenia is a member of the European Union and money for a new highway would seem within grasp. But last year, Ljubljana started a new Road Affair when they began charging the outrageous amount of 35 euros ($45) for drivers wishing to pass through the country into Croatia. The same old, hated road -- but now with a 35-euro price tag. The EU protested, and Slovenia decided to rescind the fee -- beginning next year. In the meantime, drivers will just gnash their teeth and the millions of euros will keep rolling in."

Source: Radio Free Europe

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NATO in Fear of Possible Slovenian Referendum

"NATO fears that Slovenia will not manage to ratify the protocols for accession of Croatia and Albania to the alliance by the April NATO summit or US President Barack Obama's first visit to Europe, especially if there is a referendum.

Everybody expects a new, fresh wind from the new US president, but the question looms if the wind will be stopped or slowed by a 'no' from a member state to the accession of two new countries, Jelusic said after meeting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

De Hoop Scheffer was concerned by the latest developments regarding Slovenia's ratification of Croatia's and Albania's NATO accession protocols, in particular last week's delay of the vote on the ratification in the National Assembly."

Source: STA