• all articles of same date
  • all latest articles
  • search all articles

    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, 20 NOV 1997 22:37:12 GMT

    Slovenia and German Minority

    Government of Carinthia Affects Policy of Vienna

    AIM Ljubljana, 9 November, 1997

    Since it has become independent, Slovenia has spent much effort and diplomatic ammunition on bilateral problems with its neighbours. Ever since it is not part of a once bigger and influential state, it is increasingly exposed to pressure and various forms of extortion which were encouraged by proclamation of independence. So far, Ljubljana had (traditionally) the hardest time reaching agreements with Zagreb and Rome, while communication with Budapest and Vienna appeared to be quite friendly. But, as it turned out, just seemed. This first became evident on the example of Austria with which Slovenia so far had the least misunderstandings until the notorious leader of Carinthia Haimadinst (at the time the local leader) Jorg Haider started in 1990 to blow up the flames from the spark underneath the fifty-year old ashes.

    What is it all about? The question of the so-called Old Austrians, that is the "German-speaking minority" in Slovenia (primarily in Styria and the surroundings of Kocevje) was shyly put during the entire postwar period by the Austrian public, and it has acquired a more official form after Slovenia had become independent, when the Austrian demands became more expressed and sharper. The issue escalated in the form of the memorandum, or resolution of the (Austrian) Corinthia regional government which conditions support of Vienna to Slovenia's joining the European Union by its recognition of Old Austrian minority on its territory and (primarily) by returning of their property confiscated after the Second World War.

    At the latest census of the population, a little over 1,500 Slovenian citizens stated German as their mother tongue, but that is far from being enough for recognition of the status of a minority. In 1910, 67,000 Germans lived on the territory of Slovenia, and this figure decreased down to 28,075 by 1941. After the war an enormous majority of them opted for their (losers') compatriots, so that by 1953 there have remained just slightly over 1,800 of them. Based on data from different historical annals, it is possible to conclude that they did not live in firm communities which could confirm the thesis of an autochtonous origin of these people in Slovenia. It is a fact that the German, or rather the so-called Old Austrian community, but not minority, had existed on the territory of Slovenia - more than 6,000 citizens of German origin lived only in Maribor and in the vicinity of Kocevje - but after the Second World War they either voluntarily or forcible emigrated. Even the former Lower Styrian Germans admitted afterwards that the German community did not exist in the region any more. The Old Austrian minority went home, and now, after 50 years, is is knocking again on the door it has firmly closed itself on its way out. According to the words of the Maribor Museum of the National Liberation Struggle, Dr Marjan Znidaric, the demand for nullification of the state legal provisions of the law on denationalization was pure nonsense, because majority of members of the former German community had already received reparations from Austria and Germany. The demand for reparation of the confiscated property of former German-speaking inhabitants of Slovenia is also nonsensical, because it was the duty of Austria and it has met it. Among the applicants were Kocevje Germans although, before emigrating, they had sold their property to the Italian real estate company Emona. That is how 97 per cent of Kocevje Germans who opted for "their" party after the war, actually received double reparations for their property - first from Italian Emona, and then from their country. For the sake of refreshing the historical memory, it should be mentioned that the Austrians have collaborated with the Germans in the banishment of 45 thousand Slovenians from the region around the rivers Sava and Sutla, northern Dolenjska and Zasavlje, in the banishment of 10 thousand Slovenians to Croatia and Bosnia, and 7,500 Slovenians to Serbia, and finally they collaborated with the Germans in sending almost 20 thousand Slovenians to Nazi concentration camps. Less than one third of the banished survived, and they have never received any war reparations. Everything said reveals the crazy logic according to which the victim should pay reparations to its evil-doers!!!

    In 1944, Yugoslav authorities passed a law on banishment, denial of the right to proterty and refusal to grant civil rights to majority of members of the German minority. This was at the time in accordance with the unanimous decision of the allies on collective German guilt and collective punishment. In the Austrian state contract signed on 15 May 1955 in Vienna, it was explicitly said that Yugoslavia need not pay any reparations for confiscated property of Austrian citizens, but that this was the obligation of Austria. Banishment and other repressive measures against the Germans in Slovenia, in fact, affected just a minor number of people, because a large majority of them had left the region by their own free will, that is escaped from the victors. It is also characteristic that Austrian state administration have not even mentioned this question until the SFRY dissolved, and it has suddenly (after Slovenia had become independent) become a question of interstate relations. Reasons for this timing are more than evident and they are very important for understanding the problem in general.

    While the Carinthian provincial government is with dubious success manipulating historical facts, the federal government in Vienna is much more skilful and envelopes its demands in the concern for the future, social equality and cultural survival of "their" minority in Slovenia. How big that concern is is nicely illustrated by the (well guarded) datum from the circles close to the Austrian Embassy in Ljubljana. The draft Austrian budget for next year contains the item amounting to 20 million schillings (slightly more than 2.5 million German marks) for "culture" and other needs of Old Austrians in Slovenia !!! In view of the facts that Austrian export to Slovenia is more than twice higher than its import from it and that this small state ranks fourth among all foreign investors in Slovenia, not even a random observer can avoid the impression that this after all, might be a carefully planned campaign, so that fear that this is the result of a wish to germanize this territory seems quite justified from this aspect.

    It is Slovenia's turn to make a move. The Slovenian party has so far quite successfully removed such Austrian aspirations, but they are becoming increasingly dangerous and they are gaining in significance primarily because Slovenia is nowadays in a very delicate phase of joining the European Union. Indeed, Slovenian diplomacy is clear on this question. Foreign minister Boris Frlec declared: "I do not know anything about the German-speaking minority in Slovenia which we could - with the best will in the world - classify under the term of a minority. But I do know that there are several German-speaking inhabitants of Slovenia who live in all the parts of Slovenia. The 1991 census has shown how many of them there actually are. But I really don't know that a German minority exists!" These declarations did not make Carinthian nationalists very happy, so they even demanded that the Slovenian foreign minister apologize for his statement. The provocation that followed was the invitation of the Carinthian leader Zernatt to the Slovenian ambassador in Austria, Katja Boh, to participate at the symposium on the so-called "Old Austrian minority" in Slovenia. The lady ambassador excused herself by "other urgent obligations" and at the same time attended a cultural performance of the Slovenian minority in Austria which took place just about a hundred odd metres from the seat of the Carinthian governmentin Celovec (Klagenfurt).

    Perhaps Vienna has waited with its demands this long in order to see the effects of the Roman blackmail of Ljubljana. Although between the Italian and Austrian example the differences are significant and substantial, numerous similarities can also be found. Primarily in the sphere of property demands which are the result of the aggressive war and in which main roles (along with Germany) were played by these two states. They also have in common - which is even more important - the sceptical attitude to legal and historical legitimacy of the existence of Slovenia (let us remember only the complication concerning legitimacy of the Osim agreement). The framework of this appetite of the Slovenia's western neighbour is badly concealed spreading of its influence on the territory of Sloveian, and on the other (Northern) side, Austrian demands can be understood as an attempt of Germanization of this territory. This would transform Slovenia into a testing ground where two influences would clash since they exclude each other.

    Matilda Kojic i J.K.