MON, 30 OCT 1995 21:30:00 GMT
Referendum to Amend the Law on Citizenship
Ljubljana, October 28, 1995
Slovenian chauvinists refuse to give up on various attempts to throw out, or indirectly force members of nations and ethnic groups from the former Yugoslav space who live and work in Slovenia to leave. After quite a long lull, in October, three deputies in the Slovenian parliament who are well known for their extreme nationalistic stances, used the possibility given to deputies to initiate a procedure by collecting 40 thousand signatures in order to organize a referendum concerning amendment of Article 40 of the Law on Citizenship. Namely, pursuant to this Article, at the very beginning of its existence, the Slovenian state enabled all members of nations and ethnic groups from all regions of the former SFRY who had had permanent residence in Slovenia at the moment of the Slovenian plebiscite for independence (in December 1991) to get Slovenian citizenship automatically. The extreme Rightists now wished to revise this decision, but the Parliament interrupted collection of signature by forwarding their demand to the Constitutional Court on October 27.
It had all, actually, begun back on September 1, 1994, when two deputies of the Slovenian parliament, Saso Lap (President of the Slovenian National Rightists - SND) and independent deputy Marjan Poljsak, sent a draft law to the Parliament which would deprive of citizenship all those citizens who had got it pursuant to the mentioned Article 40 of the Slovenian Law on Citizenship. Their argument was that at the time this Law was adopted, the Slovenian state had been too lenient in offering citizenship. The draft of the two deputies was rejected with a large majority of votes, and now just as it seemed that Slovenian neo-fascists had decided to rest, the action of collecting signature was initiated.
The Parliament Stops the Extremists
Even if the initiators had managed to collect 40 thousand signatures (which is not likely), and even if the referendum had been organized, and "succeeded", 163 thousand people would have been left without their citizenship. For a state of slightly less than two million inhabitants, this is an enormous figure. This would have also meant depriving these people who had lived in Slovenia for years of a fundamental human right. As many as 30 per cent of these people were born in Slovenia, and the others have lived here for decades. The proposal of the three deputies caused much resistance in the parliament itself. Its Vice-Chairman, Dr Lev Kreft, immediately addressed a letter to the Constitutional Court requiring an assessment of the initiative. The Constitutional Court answered that it could be done only if the Parliament requested it, so 39 deputies initiated convening of an extraordinary session of the Parliament where a large majority of the deputies decided to request the Constitutional Court to initiate proceedings concerning the issue of the referendum, which formally and legally interrupted collecting of signatures. A large majority of the deputies warned that the initiative was a violation of constitutional principles and fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Black Uniforms and Boots
The true father of the idea on revision of the Law on Citizenship is Saso Lap, known for being the founder of the para-police unit called "Hawks". He planned to "introduce order" with it all around Slovenia, but his activity was banned, so he mostly uses his men dressed in black as his personal bodyguards, and as choreography at his rare public appearances with a low attendance rate. With this initiative about the referendum (similar ones were so far in history organized only in Nazi Germany and Vichy France), according to his words, he was expressing the wishes of more than 60 per cent of Slovenes who were in favour of depriving the target goup of citizenship. "The street is more radical than we in the Paliament are", Lap claims. That this is not true is illustrated by various newspaper polls which offer a completely different picture. Majority of the Slovenes are against such a revision of the Law, and among other, they are quite well aware of all the consequences such a referendum would have had even if it had proven a failure. According to a poll of the journal Republika, 63 per cent of the pollees declared that collecting of signatures for the referendum had negative effects on interethnic relations in Slovenia. Lap is aware of that too. But, in a completely different way. Namely, he declared in the journal Mladina that he was tolerant to non-Slovenes. "To be honest, they are afraid of me, because I am always accompanied by my Hawks, and Heaven forbid anyone who dared tried anything, because he would be punished for it three times as bad. I am convinced that their false respect is in fact their fear they express in threats by phone, in letters and otherwise. On my way home in the evening, I see that they would like to attack me, but dare not. They will have to pluck up courage sometime. Sooner or later, they will have to get organized!"
These words are the true essence of Lap's proposal. The real objective of collecting signatures was not to amend an article of the Law on Citizenship, because he is well aware that majority of Slovenes would not agree to anything of the kind. His real objective was to humiliate and enrage represenative of other nations to such an extent that they would make an unreasonable move which would then serve as a pretext to him and the likes of him as an argument for assaults against these, so far mostly very peace-loving and loyal inhabitants, that is citizens of Slovenia.
Janja Klasinc, AIM