SAT, 10 SEP 1994 00:41:19 GMT
AIm, LJubljana, September 8, 1994.
Being a stranger in SLovenia
Two and a half years have passed since the first weekend in April 1992 when in the course of only one night 50 buses arrived to Ljubljana carrying weeping and horrified desperate people from the towns and villages of north-eastern Bosnia, wherefrom the non-Serbian population had dispersed, fleeing in fear before whetted knives and base slaughtering instincts. In a single second, the days of horrors experienced there turned into a deeply moving night in Ljubljana, on the city bus station and the spacious square in front of the cultural and sports center Tivoli, where the buses had arrived. That was a night of surprises, misgivings, compassion, collective tragedy, unpredictable situations, warm words of the hosts, sparkling hope...
Very few of them believed that they had left behind a war that would last for years and have the darkest score in the history of these parts. The then "temporariness" has remained unchanged to date for almost all those who came on the first refugee buses. And not only for them. Buses after buses came. Trains after trains.
Huge sums were spent on securing illegal entry into Slovenia. Many did not succeed. In late 1992 the official figure of exiles and refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina who had found shelter in Slovenia reached 70 thousand. Later on, 40 thousand were mentioned. Now, official sources state that there are thirty thousand officially registered refugees and 4 - 5 thousand of those who, on different grounds, more or less illegally, reside in Slovenia. The head of the Foreign Passport Division in the Secretariat of Internal Affairs of Ljubljana, Marjan Kompara, claims that there are no precise data on the number of B&H nationals who have acquired right to a work or business visa, i.e. a temporary residence visa.
According to their information, about 12 thousand people from all parts of the former Yugoslavia regulated their status in Ljubljana during the past year, and it is estimated that the majority of them are nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Four months after the first wave of refugees arrived, on August 8, 1992 Slovenia was the first European country to close its borders to the homeless from B&H. The ban is still in force for all B&H citizens, except those with written documents strongly proving their reasons for entering Slovenia, such as business contacts, medical treatment, transit, etc. - although a regime of mutual free entry was and still is in force between the two countries.
In theory, therefore, it is possible to enter Slovenia with an ID card, because in formal and legal terms, this country has not introduced a visa regime for B&H nationals, although, as we learn unofficially, such a request had been sent from Sarajevo. But, in practice this country can today be entered only with the approval of the competent ministry or at one's own risk by committing a criminal act, i.e. illegally crossing the broder. Marjan Kompara claims that since February 25, 1992 all aliens enjoy equal treatment under the Slovenian Law on Aliens, Law on Citizenship and the Law on the Employment of Aliens.
Non-Slovenians are not at home in Slovenia any longer
Up to February 25, 1992 Slovenia had special "discounts" for citizens from the former republics of the SFRY. Under Article 40 of the Law on Citizenship, about 170 thousand citizens of the former Yugoslavia got Slovenian citizenship in that period. Under the Law on the Employment of Aliens, all those who had worked for ten and more years in Slovenia, acquired the right to a permanent work permit (but not to a guaranteed job), naturally if they met the other legal requirements (no criminal record,that they had not as active members of the former YPA taken part in the aggression against Slovenia, that they had the necessary education and skills, etc). After February 25, 1992 there was no leniency towards anyone just because that someone had lived for 45 years in the same state with the Slovenians.
All non-Slovenian nationals, wherever from, were no longer at home in Ljubljana. A Sarajevan is as much a stranger at Tromostovje in Ljubljana as on Piccadilly Square in London. Because in the beginning they felt at home there, there was much difficulty precisely with people from B&H who, more than most others, considered the former Yugoslavia their true homeland. Now, that is is thing of the past.
Marjan Kompara reiterated several times during the talk that all Slovenia's laws after the secession and its Constitution were in full conformity with the European democratic tradition and legislation, particularly with the German and Austrian 35-year experience with similar problems. That is why Slovenia is the only former Yugoslav republic that has been admitted to the Council of Europe as a full-fledged member. According to Marjan Kompara the restricted, i.e. stricter regime for the entry of B&H nationals into Slovenia is a result of general European policy vis-a-vis citizens from war zones. But, that notwithstanding, Slovenia is "softer" towards Bosnians than any other European country, thinks Kompara and reminds that nationals of Serbia and Montenegro from the so-called FRY cannot enter Slovenia without a special entry visa issued in the nearest diplomatic-consular representation office of Slovenia.
Despite all the entry restrictions caused by the war, B&H nationals are coming to Slovenia in increasing numbers. The Square of Franc Presern in old Ljubljana is now what the Square of Ban Jelacic in Zagreb used to be. The restaurant "Pod kestenom" has replaced the Zagreb City Restaurant. An interesting migration process is evolving: the number of refugees is decreasing and of business and "business" people increasing.
Apart from their unquestionable cooperativeness, the Slovenian authorities have evidently found their interest in this. It is unofficially claimed that since the beginning of the war, Slovenia exported goods in the value of about DM 26 million to B&H. The main (re)sellers of Slovenian, most often imported consumer goods in the Slovenian commodity market are newly-established or wholesale dealers and an occasional director of well known B&H enterprises manufacturing final products. To enter Slovenia B&H nationals must have an written invitation for an official visit from someone in the state. Everything else is a matter of routine. To be quite honest, data show that the number of abuses of such a method of entry is negligible.
Coming to Slovenia in order to stay as a refugee is not attractive, and the acquisition of the status of a legal foreigner on account of a business visa is additionally complicated by the regulation of the Slovenian Government on the compulsory investment of about DM 14 thousand for the establishment of a private enterprise, while it is almost impossible to get a work visa, because of the 120 thousand unemployed Slovenians. In this way, the ambitions have been dampened of those foreigners who intended to legalize themselves by registering a "firm". There is a series of other legal finesses for "cleansing" potential immigrants from the so-called risk countries of the former Yugoslavia. "This primarily refers to B&H, because it is the only one at war. The nationals of neighbouring Croatia have a somewhat more favourable status, Macedonian citizens are not potential "clients", the so called FRY is not recognized internationally and enjoys special treatment and the documents of different para-states, such as the Republic of Srpska, Serbian Krajina, Herzeg-Bosnia and, until recently Western Bosnia - are not valid for Slovenia, so that we do not accept them. For us a B&H national is only a person with a B&H passport with lilies. The red passport with six torches and an SFRY coat-of-arms on its covers has not been valid since December 31, 1993 except in Serbia and Montenegro, and was put ad acta by Macedonia in October", said Marjan Kompara.
Status, not a right
Irrespective of the initial reasons for entering Slovenia, a foreigner who spent ten years in this country, of which the last five uninterruptedly, is eligible to apply for citizenship. By submitting such an application, the applicant does not even slightly improve his previous position of a foreigner, because, according to Slovenian regulations "citizenship is a status and not a right".
- In principle, no right in any country is acquired automatically because everything prescribed may and may not be...The procedure is especially delicate in the case of citizenship, stated Kompara, because, as he said, it was the conclusion of a special permanent mutual relationship between a state and a foreign person. At the basis of that relationship is interest and not patriotism and love for one's homeland. If these interests coincide, the outcome is most frequently positive, because Slovenia has only 24 thousand sqm of territory and only about 2 million inhabitants. When considering citizenship applications, the Slovenian authorities proceed from the fundamental international principle: naturalizaton by blood (ius sanguinis) and by territory (ius solis).
Marjan Kompara "translated" these principles for AIM as: "who you were sired by" and "where you were born". He says that misunderstandings most often arise in interpreting these legal provisions. The vast majority of the people applying for foreign citizenship, consider it automatic according to their place of birth, while actually only a possibility and by no means a right is in question. Most countries stick to the principle "who sired you". That means that the children are nationals of the country whose citizenship their parents have.
There is an illustrating example of a woman of Slovenian nationality and her Montenegrin husband , whose daughters are Slovenians (because the mother wanted that), and the son is a Montenegrin (because the father wanted that). And the whole family has been living in Ljubljana for decades and all the children were born in Ljubljana. To get Slovenian citizenship, one must have written proof on the renouncement of previous citizenship or confirmation that such renouncement shall be issued if the applicant is granted the new citizenship. This is a newly adopted measure aimed against dual citizenship, with which Slovenia has a bad experience in Istria and with naturalized former Yugoslavs who, according to some estimates "have not cooperated sufficiently with the Slovenian state".
A fundamental principle in deciding on the granting of citizenship is the national interest of Slovenia, naturally if all the requirements prescribed by the Law on Citizenship have also been met. Marjan Kompara believes that a change of citizensship does not automatically constitute a non-patriotic act. That is one of the legal ways of existing in a foreign country, "although some countries treat the change of citizenship as a dishonourable act".
- I personally think that citizenship should not be treated as a shirt. But, there are always special reasons why people decide to emigrate and renounce their previous citizenship.
Unofficial data show that currently about 5 thousand foreigners are waiting for the decision of the Slovenian authorities on granting them citizenship. It is ill-advised to forecast the outcome, but the meaning of the provisions related to the "free assessment of national interest" should be clear to everyone. In addition, all new Slovenian citizens have not sufficiently integrated into the Slovenian social fabric. Marjan Kompara gives many examples from everyday life, from the street, restaurants and cafes, from official counters, etc.".
There are too many different Toms, Dicks and Harrys and some taxi drivers from God-forsaken places in Bosnia who arbitrarily set public traffic regulations, by spitting in the faces of other drivers if they dare warn them about speeding. Slovenia cannot allow itself to go back 50 years, when signs reading "do not spit on the floor" or "do not swear in public" were posted in public places. With such behaviour, Slovenia neither wishes nor can join the society of European countries and peoples. And that is, presumably, the aim of all the other states of the former Yugoslavia too", concluded Kompara.