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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

    FRI, 25 SEP 1998 23:34:00 GMT

    Slovenia and Kosovo

    Collective Centres Opened

    AIM Ljubljana, 18 September, 1998

    The news passed almost unnoticed - Slovenian ambassador in the OUN, Danilo Turk took away parts of the inventory of the offices of the chairman of the Security Council (around 1 September): a few paintings by famous Slovenian painters and a few pieces of cut glass from Rogaska Slatina. All that had been brought in hardly a month before, in the beginning of Slovenia's one-month mandate of the chairman of the Security Council. (At the time, this piece of news was given the attention of the media as a central event). The same pieces of cut-glass tableware and paintings will be returned to the offices of the head of the Security Council along with Mr. Turk, once again, most probably in the end of next year.

    In any case, in the past month and a half, much attention of the media (at least when Ljubljana is concerned) was devoted to chairing the Security Council, despite the fact that Slovenia's turn to do this duty came in the midst of August vacations. It was a historical moment - for the first time a representative of Slovenia took over the post of the chairman of the Security Council. Or, depending on how you choose to count, for the second time: the first man from Slovenia at the post (in the fifties, as a representative of Yugoslavia) was ambassador Ales Bebler. Slovenian newspapers, with pride, revealed that this international agency, "conducted by Sloveniag", although in the season of vacations, dealt with very important problems - the agenda included Baghdad (concerning which Slovenian diplomacy wrote statements for the press three times), and besides, the Slovenian representative suggested methods for improvement of the procedure for adoption of resolutions and presidential statements (which are usually adopted so fast that comments of non-permanent members are often not even considered). Mr Turk was satisfied with the fact that the latest proposal of Slovenia, which is also a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council was "well received". Finally, in a recapitulation of the successfulnes of this foreign political undertaking, the local press used the phrase "successfully completed task".

    Pressure of the Press

    The subject of intensive Slovenian diplomatic activity in the UN Security Council was, primarily, the crisis in Kosovo; this topic, at the proposal of Slovenia, was discussed twice, and finally on 24 August, the Presidential Statement was signed, which appealed on the warring parties to cease fire, sit down at the negotiating table (representatives of the Yugoslav government and the Liberation Army of Kosovo), and to enable undisturbed supply of aid for the refugees. Danilo Turk considers as a diplomatic success the fact that the Security Council was the only agency which "condemned Serb violence against civilians in Kosovo" in August. The Slovenian representative also expressed concern on the occasion because the European Union, OSCE and NATO passed over in silence the "violence of the authorities in Belgrade", and because the greatest misunderstanding concerning the solution of the crisis in Kosovo was expressed among members of the Contact Group, which has itself in this way become, according to the opinion of ambassador Turk, a "part of the problem".

    It is interesting that some Slovenian commentators could not agree with such an evaluation, and started criticising the too mild stand of Slovenian diplomacy. Even the "presidential statement was so generalized", writes the correspondent of Delo, "that it would have been best had it not been adopted at all", since the formulation in it satisfied "Serb diplomats in the United Nations the most". Not just journalists are dissatisfied - it turned out that stands concerning Kosovo had not been harmonised among the Slovenian political leadership either. While president of the state Milan Kucan, in an interview for AIM, expresses the opinion that independent Kosovo would be a threat for the neighbouring countries, prime minister Janez Drnovsek declares in a statement for the American Herald Tribune that the struggle of Kosovo Albanians for independence is "legitimate", although for the time being he does not expect international support to such a solution, which is the reason why a way out acceptable for "both parties" should be sought. Such a stand is supported by majority of Slovenian media whose "war correspondents" from Kosovo are reporting daily about terrorism of Serb military and police forces over Albanian civilians, as well as about "occupation of certain Albanian villages by Serb forces". Slovenian columnists are angry because of European policy which tolerates "Milosevic's ethnic cleansing", doing one shameful thing after another: "even NATO became silent after the initial threats that it would not allow new Bosnia; it pressured Tirana, ensured the Macedonians just in case, and made Milosevic give guarantees that he would square accounts only with the Liberation Army of Kosovo", wrote Damijan Slabe in Delo.

    New Tide of Refugees

    In the beginning, discussions concerning the situation in Kosovo might have been of an academic nature, until an increased number of refugees who are arriving through various channels from Kosovo (partly to be taken care of by relatives living in Slovenia) incited a more concrete debate. Contrary to refugees from Bosnia, Slovenian state administration decided not to grant refugees from Kosovo even the status of the so-called "temporary" refugees, least of all the status of real, "convention" fugitives. Besides, Slovenia still does not have the law on asylum, and the currently valid law on foreigners very briefly prescribes procedures connected with refugees. And the problem is increasing; just in the course of 1996, for example, police caught 3,877 persons who had illegally crossed the state border. This year, about six thousand people have already crossed the border in the same way, due to which Slovenian "transitional homes for foreigners" are gradually running out of free space. The home for foreigners in Ljubljana, for instance, has about 150 places, and there are already about 230 persons there (the latest figure is 223). The new-comers come from 22 states, although most of them are from FR Yugoslavia, Romania, Bangladesh, Siera Leone and Sri Lanka. If the current trend of "arrivals" continues, the authorities in charge express fear that by the end of this month the home in Ljubljana will run out of money as well.

    Lack of space has finally forced state bureaucracy to resort to opening of the unpopular refugee centres in order to accommodate fugitives from Kosovo. For the beginning, refugees were offered about fifty beds in Vidomci, and opening of other similar centres depends on the government Office for Immigration and Refugees. The local organization of the Red Cross, in cooperation with Drnovsek's administration carried out an operation of distributing food and drugs worth about 150 thousand German marks to refugees but in Albania. Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas about the same time sent to Albania 10 tons of food worth about 20 thousand marks along with about 15 tons of clothes.

    Humanitarian and solidarity actions for Albanian refugees who are far away from Slovenia inspired new polemics about the manner in which Slovenia should tackle the job with refugees who happen to come on its territory, especially because according to the analysis of the Slovenian Open Society Institute (authors: Marjeta Horvat, Igor Zagar and Jef Verscheueren) Slovenian authorities have not treated refugees with much tolerance so far. Contrary to the widespread (in Slovenia) story about Slovenian broad-mindedness and hospitality, the mentioned analysis has led to certain very dismal conclusions; for example, Slovenian executive authorities have deprived the refugees from Bosnia of the possibility of acquiring the status of refugees by applying the cunning substitute, the status of "temporary" refugees, to whom, contrary to international conventions, it limited the freedom of movement, and for school children, under the mask of "preservation of the identity of refugee children", introduced seggregation, completely separating small fugitives from Slovenian children. (Slovenians in Austrian Carinthia are fighting against this system for decades).

    To make the whole affair even more spicy from the philantropic point of view, Slovenian authories were at the same time sending to competent international organizations exaggerated figures about the received refugees. And to make thigs even worse - by order of the government, representatives of Slovenia (in order not to be classified among countries of the despised Balkan) bravely refused aid of international organizations for the refugees. Moreover, the government and its services, immediately after having refused international aid, determined that they had no more money for supporting refugee centres and were forced to shut them down! To be completely truthfull, local humanitarian organizations have not exactly shown a very high level of humaneness either; secretary general of Slovenian Red Cross organization, at the time of the fiercest conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia advocated closing of the Slovenian border without a trace of bad conscience. The end of the war was marked by the Slovenian parliament which worked on the law on deportation as Lev Kreft picturesquely described activities concerning the law on temporary refugees. Therefore, there are not just a few of those who nowadays, when humaneness is being tested again in Slovenia, assess that the same story, this time with Kosovo Albanians as the main protagonists, is ingloriously repeated again.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)