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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

    THU, 10 JUL 1997 19:45:43 GMT

    NATO without Slovenia

    TAX ON PROVINCIALISM

    Internal political games and fear of any form of integration with former Yugoslav republics may cost Slovenia dearly in its attempt to attain its strategic goal - joining of Euro-Atlantic associations

    AIM Ljubljana, 27 June, 1997

    After Clinton's declaration that in the forst round, the NATO would be enlarged by only three new members (Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary), Slovenia was practically panic-stricken. Slovenia had, obviously, firmly counted on its membership in the NATO, because it had had promises in this sense for a long time. Slovenia was visited by various American and European politicians, NATO generals, units of the NATO which cooperated with the units of Slovenian army in drills as part of the Partnership for Peace which Slovenia has become a member of a couple of years back. But, despite praise and promises, Ljubljana hears from Washington that there will be no deal. At least for the time being. But, this is not all. At the same time, signals have started arriving from Brussels that it might happen that Slovenia will not be in the first group of those who will join the European Union either. All this was reason for analyses of causes for this on all levels.

    The Slovenians and their politicians are surprised by such developments, primarily because their country is, according to all data and analyses, the best developed or in the least ranking second according to certain criteria among all the candidates for joining Euro-Atlantic associations. According to the comparative table of the domestic gross product of the EU members (source: Federal Trust 1996), Slovenia ranks the first with 50 per cent, ahead of the Czech Republic with 42 per cent, and all the others, among whom Romania is last with 16 per cent of the European average. According to that table, Slovenia ranks higher than Greece and Portugal, and it is just slightly below Spain (55%). It has a firm currency, inflation is below 10 per cent, it is a stable country in which democratic processes have been initiated a long time ago and are well-established. And finally - as part of former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has never belonged to the eastern block. According to all the criteria it should be the first to join the NATO and the EU. Why has not it succeeded then?

    Of course, there are reasons for it which have no direct connections with responsibility of the Slovenian state. And these are combinations in the heads of leaders of the great powers, that is, of the most powerful states in the world. Small Slovenia simply is not significant enough for them. But the area of the Slovenian territory is not the reason of its (in)significance. The main reason and the disadvantage of the young Slovenian state is primarily that it does not know what it wants, that is, that some do know, and the others are against it only because it is something the former want. Slovenia has not managed to reconcile on the foreign political level its internal political differences and that is why it is unable to transparently express its national interest, which is the firmest possible connection with the EU and the world. This is confirmed by all the public opinion investigations according to which more than 60 per cent of the Slovenians are in favour of joining the EU even without any campaign. But wishes are one thing, and the reality something completely different.

    Lack of experience of the young state did its part, too. In the period before dissolution of Yugoslavia, Slovenian authorities began with intense anti-Yugoslav propaganda, for which it was not at all difficult to take root. Having accomplished their main aim - independent state, creators of that state mostly settled down, but passions of many newly-emerged politicians have not settled down, nor of some of those who have not remained in power. These still persist with such policy in which there is no place for any form of cooperation with the former "brethren". Rightists in Slovenian policy, among whom the most prominent are Jansa (president of the Social Democratic Party), Peterle (president of Christian Democrats) and Podobnik (president of the Slovenian National Party) all the time intentionally neglected and underestimated normalization of relations with former Yugoslav republics. The only exception are Jansa's good contacts with the Croatian ruling party, the HDZ, but not with Croatia as a whole. It should also be stressed that all three of them have been strongly against any form of normalization, even of cultural or economic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

    As the prime minister and president of Liberal Democrats, Janez Drnovsek was slightly more liberal in doing it, but Slovenian politicians on the whole pretended that developments "in the south" did not concern them at all. These developments, however, greatly concerned the whole world, so that the EU and the USA recognized in this trend of Slovenian policy provincialism which was utterly unacceptable for them (Slovenian ambassador in the USA, Dr Ernest Petric, kept warning about it in vain). Slovenian authorities got so frightened of the American South European Cooperation Initiative (SECI) that it is questionable whether Slovenia would have joined if it had not been for the letter in which American President Clinton directly suggested it. Everybody simply had expected the former best developed Yugoslav republic to actively participate in resolution of the Balkan crisis. This participation did come, but too late.

    The other aspect of Slovenian provincialism which can in no way be attributed to the politicians alone, is fear for one's country. Modern Europe might not be able to understand this, but Slovenian history explains this great concern for preservation of its territory. In the past six years, since it has become an independent state, Slovenia is for the first time in its history sovereign on its territory. That is why immediately after gaining independence, it incorporated in its Constitution a special article (Article 68) which bans sale of Slovenian land and other realestate to foreigners. What has been done then, completely blocks Slovenia's joining Europe now, since one of the preconditions of the European Union to begin negotiations with Slovenia is amendment of this article of the Constitution. If there had been no parliamentarian elections in November last year, this issue would probably have been resolved a long time ago. But all political parties - from those which were in power then to those which are in power now, and the opposition ones - were more concerned about their election results than the change of that part of the constitution, which is unreasonable because all modern states protect their territories of possible sale to foreigners with special laws, and not by constitutional bans. Nowadays, when the EU is about to decide which states it will negotiate with first on their joining the union, Slovenia is in a hurry. Prime minister Drnovsek who is criticised the most for allegedly being slow in doing it by the very same ones who had forced his to be "slow" by their blocking the process of decision-making concerning these issues, announced that he would submit his resignation if the parliament failed to adopt constitution amendments by 15 July. Should this really happen, Slovenia might face a serious crisis.

    Janja Klasinc

    AIM