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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

    WED, 29 APR 1998 21:45:22 GMT

    The Mystery of A Secret Agreement

    Back at the time of the embargo on arms trade, the Slovenian government signed a secret agreement with Israel in order to supply itself with military equipment

    AIM Ljubljana, 21 April, 1998

    The constitutional complaint lodged about ten days ago against prime minister Janez Drnovsek by thirteen deputies of the Social Democratic Party of Janez Jansa, as the ruling LDS hopes, most probably will not win support of the needed parliamentary majority; however, if calculations of political analysts are wrong, the complaint might cost Drnovsek his post.

    Contrary to the customary institution of "interpelation" which is applied against a minister, and about which the parliament decides (consequently), in case of a constitutional complaint, the parrliament assumes the role of a prosecutor against a member of the government who must defend himself in front of the constitutional court. Stability of Drnovsek's position depends on demands of the opposition for the constitutional court of Slovenia to examine compliance with the constitution of a special secret agreement signed by Slovenia with Israel in 1995 and which served as the immediate cause for the constitutional complaint. That is the reason why the opposition is asking for Drnovsek's head and that the government assumes responsibility, while members of the administration are excusing themeslves by saying that they had no idea that the agreement was signed, and that only former minister of defence Jelko Kacin and the then head of the intelligence service Miklavcic could assume a part of the responsibility for signing of the agreement (without the parliamentary procedure prescribed by law). The whole affair came out in the open at the moment when (by now already former) minister of defence Tit Turnsek tried to protect his back in the scandal of "the straying Slovenian intelligence officers in Croatia" by relieving the head of the military intelligence service Joze Secnik of duty. But, Secnik was not naive either and immediately - violating all possible laws on keeping military secrets, all under the pretext that he was doing it for high moral reasons - pulled out the incriminated secret agreement from the archives and sent a photo-copy to the chairman of the assembly Janez Podobnik who is close to him being from the same party. Podobnik distributed Secnik's letter in unmarked envelopes (with no sign that it was "classified", or "top secret" and similar) to members of parliament, who then gave it to the journalists and made the affair public.

    To be perfectly honest, there is nothing special about this agreement: it is a routine agreement between two secret services which pledged their word that they would not give data they learn about each other to third countries, that they would help each other and similar... Therefore, the only thing that is controversial is the procedure, since pursuant the Slovenian constitution not a single civil servant is entitled to sign international agreements without the consent of the parliament. Slovenian government is more practical concerning the matter: according to its opinion, it was just "a technical, operational document" signed by two services. "Is there such a thing as a public agreement signed by secret services?" demanded former minister of defence Jelko Kacin, in his discussion about the problem which had emerged during his mandate. Kacin (at the moment at the post of the chairman of the parliamentary committee for international cooperation) believes that the then head of the military intelligence service Miklavcic - who had by appointment of Kacin travelled to Tel Aviv and signed the agreement with the minister's knowledge - pursuant Article 32 of the Slovenian Law on Defence was free to sign the now incriminated agreement.

    It soon turned out that Kacin's reasoning was not quite correct. The mentioned Article 32 of the Law establishes that the task of the military intelligence service is "to prevent threatening the security", that is, to prevent leaking of "data on development or production of arms or military equipment", which does not authorize the head of the intelligence service to sign interstate contracts backed by the government. There are other examples which speak in favour of this. For instance, Slovenia has signed a similar agreement on security in 1996 with the USA, and then duly published it in the Official Gazette. In any case, thanks to a long debate in the media, there is no mystery any more about what has actually happened, especially because the whole affair also has its "Yugoslav dimension", since the agreement was signed at the time Slovenia was under embargo for import of arms. Paragraph three of Resolution 713 adopted by UN Security Council on 25 October 1991 orders all member states "pursuant Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, with the intention to establish peace and stability in Yugoslavia, to introduce without delay a general and full embargo on export of arms and military equipment to Yugoslavia, until the moment Security Council decides otherwise". The quoted ban of the Security Council referred to all the newly-founded states on the territory of former Yugoslavia, Slovenia inclusive. In spite of this, Slovenia illegally imported and exported arms. The then minister of defence, Janez Jansa, openly admitted at the time that "Slovenia still must import ammunition and equipment needed for the compulsory military training, since it has no production facilities of its own". (It is interesting that it did not bother Jansa at all to brag about violation of the embargo at the time when he was minister of defence; nowadays, when he is not in power any more, he is "as a matter of principle" using the same business, for getting even with his political opponents).

    The result of similar arrangements is also the latest news from Paris from where the Liberian ambassador sent a letter to the Slovenian government, demanding payment of ten million US dollars. Liberia fouunded its demand on gas-masks and other military equipment imported to Slovenia via the port of Kopar in the beginning of dissolution of SFRY by Nikolas Oman, Slovenian citizen and later honorary consul of Liberia seated in a castle near Bled. If Slovenia refuses to pay the demanded sum of money (in the meantime a warrant for the arrest of Oman was issued and then withdrawn on suspicion that he was involved in illegal international trade with forged money and strategic materials), Liberia is threatening to make public documents heavily indicting Slovenian politicians for prohibitted arms trade...

    All that import - but especially export of armament to the warring Yugoslav republics - from the very beginning has kicked up a great deal of dust. That is why Drnovsek's government resorted to a secret manoeuvre for import of arms from Israel, hoping that in this way it would avoid both attacks of the press, and of the opposition for violating the embargo. And for three years the deputies and the public were deprived of information about the beginning of the arms trade with Israel. It is no secret why Israel was chosen to be the main supplier of the Slovenian army: only Israel was ready to actually violate the embargo and sell Slovenia the desired types of arms. It is true that many other states have also promised Ljubljana their military equipment, but everything remained only on the verbal level.

    The just nominated head of the general staff of the Slovenian army, the then major in the reserve forces and nowadays colonel (in the past few years officers were quickly promoted in Slovenia) Iztok Podbregar paid a visit to Israeli corporations ELBIT and IAI in 1993. Negotiations were successful, and the only inconvenience was that Israel conditioned the business deal by a signature of an agreement between the two secret services of the two states; since it was impossible for the Slovenian government to pass such an agreement in the regular procedure - Israel could not do that either, if it wanted to avoid public violation of the Security Council embargo - it was decided that the head of the intelligence service should sign it, although he did not have the necessary authorization for it.

    It is true that concerning this matter Kacin's Ministry of defence contacted the government office for legislature, but having unformally found out what the regular procedure should be like - gave up on the official way. And then Israeli arms started arriving to Slovenia. In this way Ljubljana purchased howitzers, mortars, communication systems and patrol boats... A part of these goods were officially presented on a big parade in December 1995, just a few days after signing of the Dayton accords and abolishment of the embargo.

    The latest party commotion revealed not only the agreement, but also everything that was illegal about it. Now the opposition leaders are competing in proving how contrary the whole affair was to the constitution, the law on foreign trade (which demands ratification of international contracts by the parliament in order to make them valid), but also with the achieved standards of international law. Secret diplomacy is considered to be unacceptable ever since the beginning of the 20th century when Woodrow Wilson declared that in the future there would be only "public agreements reached in public negotiations", and that there would be "no special international agreements of any kind", because "diplomacy would act in the open and under control of the public". The previous practice of European states contributed to this - ever since Louis XIV who was the first to establish the system of secret diplomacy called "Le Secret du Louis" all the way to secret agreements of western forces, and the secret annexes to the agreement between Ribbentrop and Milotov which divided Ukraine and the occupied Baltic states.

    The latest Slovenian scandal has another "Yugo" component. It refers to the political life in former SFRY. Then the Slovenian oppositionists and media sharply criticised the existence of secret agreements and the secret Official Gazette in which some of the documents were signed by the then president of the presidency of SFRY Janez Drnovsek. Nowadays, Drnovsek has a signature of a secret agreement on his hands again, this time in independent Slovenia. And since the government is actually responsible for all the decisions, the only way for prime minister Drnovsek to survive is to lay all the blame on his subordinates.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM)