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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 09 OCT 1994 22:02:23 GMT

    Pressure of Italian authorities on Slovenian minority in Italy

    A STAB IN THE BACK

    In the beginning of autumn, foreign ministers of European Union are supposed to discuss the acceptance of Slovenia as an associated member of the Union. Until a couple of months ago, it all seemed to be a fait accompli and a matter of mere formality, had it not been for the new Italian authorities which started preventing it with all their might. Although warned several times by other members of the Union not to do it, the Italians are proceeding with their scenario.

    Now it has additionally sharpened its knife in an unabashed unscupulous attack on the rights of Slovenian minority. Namely, a financial law for next year is just being drafted in Italy, which prescribes abolishment of all funds allocated to the Sloveniam minority in Italy for its cultural and artistic activities. This was preceded by a sudden decision of the so-called Treasury Minister (responsible for a part of financial matters) in Rome to dissolve the Management Board of the Peasants' Bank from Gorizia, which is controlled by most successful enterepreneurs - members of the Slovenian minority in Furlania - Julian March. The Minister replaced the dissolved Board by two state commissioners and a three-member supervisory board which will manage the Bank from now on. It is interesting that even the Italian press reports that no errors or embezzlements were detected in the Bank's business operations. Its only sin is its participation in financing Slovenian firms in Italy, as well as Slovenian and Croat firms in both of the newly-established states.

    We learn from the well-informed Italian and Slovenian circles that this is not an economic, but a political move of the Italian state intended to show clearly to its small neighbouring country who is stronger and larger in this part of the world. This is happening in a period which had already, before the victory of Berlusconi's Government, been marked by a desire for such cooperation of both the states which would make the border between them a mere formality. The decision about the measures against Slovenian minority, however, ironically came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the London Agreement, when the USA, Great Britain, Italy and Ygoslavia signed the agreement on temporary arrangement of the Italian-Yugoslav border and on special rights of the Slovenian - Yugoslav at the time - minority in zone A, and those of the Italian minority in Zone B of the "late" Free Trieste Territory.

    Now, forty years after the London Memorandum, the Slovenian minority in Italy is panic-stricken. Especially elderly Slovenians who still remember the twenties which were marked by the rise of fascism, and the fascists who similarly first destroyed the economic basis of the Slovenians and then destroyed them physically. The recipe was pretty much the same as today's. At the time, the fascist regime sent auditors of Banca d'Italia to Slovenian financial institutions in order to reveal "irregularities" in their business operations. This was followed by appointment of commissioner's managements which saw to it that Slovenian banking institutions were either sold or merged with Italian banking institutions, so that they were never returned into Slovenian hands. Since there was no more money for various activities of the Slovenians, the next blow was abolishment of Slovenian schools and cultural institutions, until finally even church service in Slovenian language was abolished.

    The present cannot, of course, be compared to those times, but it is a fact that the fascists are in power in Italy again and that the methods strongly resemble those of the period 1920-1930!

    But, the Slovenians would easily resolve all their problems were it only for the fascists. They have got used to them by now! But, they have never had people from their parent country, from Slovenia, against them. And that is exactly what has happened and is happening this time. Those well-informed about these issues could learn from various sources that the denunciation about the assistance of the Gorizia Peasants' Bank to Slovenian economy on both sides of the border came - believe it or not - from Ljubljana. Allegedly, quite an extensive file about the banks, the one in Gorizia and the Trieste Credit Bank, arrived in the Foreign Ministry in Rome, describing how they finance a part of the Slovenian economy, but - as those well-informed claim - with a note that these banks are "acting contrary to the interests of the Slovenians and the Slovenian state and are engaged in dubious deals of criminal nature at the expense of Italy and Italian economy". This means that there is someone or some people in Slovenia who are so conscientious that they are seriously "concerned" about both Slovenia and Italy and who wish to warn against certain economic monsters whicg are harmful for everyone. That the banks are dealing with a profit is, of course, of no importance for them...

    Now, that it has come out in the open that someone intends to ruin their own minority for narrow, ideological or party interests, everyone seems to be wondering who that might be. The Trieste journal, Il Piccolo, expresses doubts that the material and the "instructions" could have arrived from either of three possible sources or perhaps from all three of them: one of them is the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, the second is the journal Delo, and the third are the circles around former defense Minister Jansa. Although nothing can be concluded with certainty, the reactions are very interesting. Jansa's statement is interesting because it speaks in favour of the minority, the daily Delo reports very sparingly about these events, and the reactions of the foreign Minister who resigned, Joze Peterle, is the most interesting one. Namely, at the session of the Parliamentary Committee for International Relations, the members of the Committee offered full support to the minority and demanded condemnation of the Italian act, while Minister Peterle that same morning refused even to receive the representatives of the minority, and came at the end of the session of the Committee just to state that "perhaps the Italian Central Bank may be right and that they will first ask for an official explanation". President of the Committee, Zoran Thaler, and most of the members of the Committee rejected Peterle's stance and, therefore, they separated in quite strained relations.

    The worst thing is when one finds out the hard way that one's own people can hurt one the most! This story will obviously continue.

    JANJA KLASINC,AIM