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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

    TUE, 21 MAY 1996 21:18:46 GMT

    Slovenia left without its foreign minister


    AIM Ljubljana, May 19, 1996

    Just a day before the visit of Pope John Paul II, with 48 votes against, the parliament relieved the foreign minister of Slovenia, Zoran Thaler, of duty. Therefore, just a month before the fifth anniversary since its proclamation of independence, Slovenia is looking for its fourth minister of foreign affairs in a row, despite the fact that according to all polls Thaler enjoyed the support of more than a half of the citizens of Slovenia, and that just a minority (about 16 per cent) of the pollees were against him. But, internal political, or more precisely inter-party variances in this election year resulted in what may even lead Slovenia into a government crisis.

    It is interesting that Thaler was in fact removed by Christian Democrats, the only coalition partner of Liberal Democrats in the Slovenian Government. Although anyone would have expected the coalition to support its minister, it was clear for quite some time that Christian Democrats, but primarily their leaders, had never considered Thaler to be their won. Perhaps one should be reminded that Zoran Thaler took the office over from Lojze Peterle, President of Slovenian Christian Democrats, who was forced to leave the post due to his too "intimate" relations with the Italians whom he promised all kinds of things which Slovenia as a sovereign state should never have done. This shows that the decision of Christian Democrats to vote against Thaler, despite a warning by Prime Minister Dr Janez Drnovsek that this could lead to breaking of the coalition agreement, was primarily governed by personal vanity of their President Lojze Peterle.

    Quite unexpectedly, nine deputies of the Associated List of Social Democrats of Janez Kocijancic also voted against Zoran Thaler. The Associated List was until a couple of months ago the third coalition partner in Drnovsek's Government, but due to Prime Minister's decision to remove their minister of the economy Maks Tajnikar and the decision to reduce pensions, this party left the Government. Since Drnovsek was not too flustered because of that, and it became obvious that he was actually relieved, the so-called former communists took their revenge now. Removal of Thaler from the post was demanded by rightist opposition parties (Jansa's Social Democrats, Podobnik's Slovenian National Party and Lap's extreme rightist Slovenian National Right). That is how Thaler fell despite support of majority of Slovenians, due to trifling of political parties with him.

    In a discussion which preceded his removal from the post and in the text of interpellation, the rightist opposition reproached Thaler for being incapable to settle relations with the neighbouring countries and the European Union. He is also supposed to be responsible for not having removed the ambassador in Greece who had allegedly lost certain state documents, for having employed only members of his party (Liberal Democratic) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and for not having provided funds for celebration of the last year's state holiday in Slovenian embassies abroad. Thaler immediately reacted to all the accusations. Recall of the ambassador from Greece would not have been founded since the documents concerned were, first, not very important, but just a letter of thanks to a consul, and second, the letter had not been lost but stolen which the ambassador promptly informed the ministry about. There was no money for the celebration simply because the budget had not been adopted at the time, and as Thaler also reminded, the USA closed down a series of state institutions and some embassies due to unadopted budget and noone even thought of calling it was a disgrace. With equally sound arguments he rejected the accusations about his alleged incompetence in negotiations with the neighbours and the EU. "It is sufficient to read the 200-pages long last year's report about activities of the Ministry of foreign affairs. It is sufficient to remember that last year under my guidance the first barrier in the process of joining Europe was removed, and that this year the Spanish compromising solution was adopted which almost completely removed the second barrier on the road to signing of the association contract with the EU", Thaler said.

    This is all true and, therefore, sorrow and astonishment are even greater. President of the state, Milan Kucan made a statement on the occasion of Thaler's removal from the post: "I am sorry that the Paliament decided to remove Minister of foreign affairs Zoran Thaler. I am surprised that this has happened after that very same parliament in April adopted stances and conclusions concerning relations of the Republic of Slovenia with the European Union. Results of voting show that at the moment internal political and party causes are stronger than objective interests of our country. I am convinced that this act cannot make our negotiations with the European Union easier, which is according to my opinion not in the interest of our state", stressed Milan Kucan among other.

    Both President Kucan and many others noted that Prime Minister Drnovsek, who had for some time repeatedly declared that he offered full support to Minister Thaler, was not present at the session of the parliament when destiny of Zoran Thaler was discussed. Just a day before the discussion, Drnovsek had warned the coalition partners - Christian Democrats, that in case of removal of Thaler from the post he would break the coalition agreement, in other words, throw them out of the Government. This, however, did not happen after Thaler fell, but probably primarily because the very next day Pope John Paul II arrived in Slovenia for an official visit, and he enjoys the greatest support of Christian Democrats, so the Prime Minister did not wish to create an unpleasant situation. This does not mean that nothing at all will be happening in the days which will come. The council of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) will soon discuss the possibility of breaking the coalition agreement with Christian Democrats, and the group of deputies of the LDS has already decided to do so. Among other, their statement reads: "We cannot describe the hypocritical bahavior of the ruling SKD which repeatedly tried to underline its pro-European orientation. It is not only that the coalition partner is flagrantly violating the coalition agreement, which is no news, but this time, it has tried to turn the Slovenian state into its hostage. The group of deputies of the LDS assesses that it can do nothing but break the coalition agreement if it wishes to preserve its own credibility and the credibility of the state in foreign relations!" This stance was supported by President of the Council of LDS Dr Dimitrij Rupel and President of the Party and Prime Minister Dr Janez Drnovsek. What will actually happen in the next few days remains to be seen.

    Janja Klasinc, AIM