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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

    SUN, 27 JUN 1999 18:29:58 GMT

    Clinton's Visit to Slovenia

    "What Shall We Bomb Today?"

    >From the highest sources news leaked that as part of his European tour, Clinton would not visit just Ljubljana and Skopje in order to reap his harvest because of the operation in Serbia, but that the main destination was - Kosovo?

    AIM Ljubljana, 21 June, 1999

    For several weeks already, Slovenia is shaken by specific fever. We could call it Clintonmania. A few days before the arrival of American president Bill Clinton for an official visit to Ljubljana, the whole Slovenia seemed to be seized by frenzy. Preparations were quickly drawn to an end: the castle on the hill near Kranj where Clinton and his retinue are expected to spend a night and which is nationalised and never returned property of Karadjordjevic family, has been reconstructed. There were rumours that it was done without a call for tenders, however, who made a profit on it is for the moment beside the point. The media are full of panegyrics to Bill, his saxophone and his family. On the eve of his arrival, downtown (practically half of) Ljubljana was blocked.

    At the Kongres square where Clinton will give his speech (many have addressed the people from that same place in their own time, from Home-Guard general Rupnik to Tito who declared liberation of Slovenia from that place in May 1945), cars were removed, and a huge platform was erected on tha parking lot. Entrances into surrounding shops were "decorated" by new iron bars and the central building of the philharmonic orchestra was sealed with planks and together with them painted yellow to improve the looks of the crumbling front. Only one entrance is accessible, and American security officers dart from it every now and then. This is where the press centre has been accommodated for about 150 privileged American journalists. The other journalistic rabble will watch the happening from around the corner, on monitors, from Cankar's Home which is about 200 metres away.

    American security service left nothing to chance nor to their Slovenian colleagues. They searched the elite facilities on the hill near Kranj and marked them with "Security 1" which means that no bombs were found in them. Bur that was not all - they also searched for "bugs". Local commentators are angry with Slovenian police because it allowed Clinton's security officers act as if it had not existed, or as if they had come to some problematic, newly established state of the third world. Such security measures were not taken even when the Pope was coming. No less than 1000 American secret agents are taking care that Bill Clinton feels safe and well, and they are for quite some time already driving around Slovenia in their large vehicles or "disguised" as tourists nosing about Ljubljana and its surroundings. Slovenia has assigned its 2000 policemen to contribute to the event. Details about their cooperation with the American colleagues were specified a month ago in Ljubljana by head of FBI Louis B. Freeh. And in order to prevent Clinton's Lincoln (impenetrable for absolutely everything) from bumping too much on the road to the platform on Kongres square, the ancient cobbles in Wolf's street were covered by a new layer of tarmac.

    Other details about the visit of Bill Clinton to Slovenia were kept secret. We were learning them as they happened. Everything that was possible to learn was that the president of the USA would arrive in the afternoon on 21 June. At this moment, it is certain that he has landed, a little later than expected by the hosts, at Brnik airport, guarded as a fortress by snipers and other members of special units, while the Slovenian air-space is closed. But the hosts are not the most important ones in this whole event anyway.

    It is interesting that even the exact date was kept secret for a long time, and the people were kept in sweet suspense; until finally it was not confirmed that immediately after the end of the meeting of G-8 in Cologne Clinton would stop by Ljubljana on his way to Macedonia. He is accompanied by his wife Hillary, secretary of state Madeleine Albright and advisor for national security (and creator of the strategy of air-raids against FRY) Sandy Berger. Live coverage of "landing of the president's airplane Airforce 1" has just begun, the speeches and everything else will follow on POP and other television stations. There will be official meals and receptions by the president of Slovenia Milan Kucan and prime minister Janez Drnovcek. The program on Kongres square in Ljubljana will begin on Monday, after 17.00 h. First, a few music bands will play (Big Band, Kreslin with Beltinski band, Avseniki), then Clinton will address the gathered masses of a couple thousand people (they expected about fifty thousand to whom American officials have in the past few days distributed free passes for entrance to the enclosed space at Kongres square). Then a gala dinner will follow for about 120 guests, prominent persons from Slovenian economic and cultural life. The climax of the visit is the meeting of Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic with the president of the USA (after dinner), the former having arrived to Ljubljana from Podgorica especially for the event.

    Since Clinton's stay in Slovenia is limited to about 24 hours (arrival on 21 June at 14.30, departure on 22 June by noon) some of the planned items on the time table have already been cancelled! For example, Hillary Clinton will not discuss "the position of women nowadays" with Slovenian women at the round table in Cankar's Home, nor will Bill after all manage to spend the night at the just redecorated Tito's apartment on the somewhat distant hill near Kranj, where both the silver and the gold reception room were awaiting him... Lack of time is the reason why he will spend the night at the "royal suite" of Union Hotel downtown. Details about the visit can also be found on Internet, at the address - http://www.uvi.si/clinton/

    As Bill Clinton is coming at a politically highly sensitive moment and "immediately after the intervention against FRY had ended and a couple of hours after withdrawal of the Army of Yugoslavia from Kosovo had been completed", measures of security are, mildly speaking, unprecedented; Clinton's speech can also be listened toand watched live only by those who have got hold of passes; carrying posters, placards, and even knapsacks are strictly banned ("in order to prevent provocations"). The police has profoundly combed through all locations in the vicinity of which American president will move. All sewage pipes, apartments and attics were checked and marked in a certain radius from the place where American president will stop. Slovenian police accompanied by American agents also checked all the tenants "in the range" of Clinton's itinerary; the emntioned Slovenian-American police patrols asked the tenants to closely cooperate with them.

    What does this visit mean for Slovenia? Primarily, as stated by state secretary in Slovenian foreign ministry Ernest Petric, it is a sign of "high level of mutual relations", although it is not just a "working" but also a "friendly" visit. It is no secret that Slovenia, as Milan Kucan announced in his letter to the president of the USA, would like to be the organiser of a "Balkan conference" which would end the wars in the Balkans. The only thing that is not clear is whether this conference would be held with or without Serbs.

    In the context of the latest Yugoslav crisis, many Slovenian politicians believe that the American president is coming at the right moment and to the right country - more than ten years ago Slovenia was the first that challenged Serbia by rallys and gatherings from which warnings were issued against consequences of repression in Kosovo, it was the first to practice the right to self-determination, it has decided to approach Europe, it is tireless in the attempts to be received in NATO, etc. That is why Slovenia nowadays sees itself as a model, as the guiding star for all the other former brotherly republics, more precisely as "the example which should be followed by all the unstable states of south-eastern Europe" (POP TV, 21 June, 1999). Slovenia has, therefore, been chosen for the first and only visit of the Clinton couple at this moment, as an "example" of a good, model pupil from the territory of former Yugoslavia. The other, equally promising example is arriving from the embrace of FRY, and it is, of course, Milo Djukanovic who will meet Bill Clinton late in the evening (but not in private because the witness will be president Kucan).

    In short, the visit of the American president will not bring some abundant economic or any other assistance to Slovenia, as those who live "on the verge of social prosperity" hope. The visit is, therefore, intended to stress the educational role. That is why it is no wonder that Ljubljana was chosen for the first public appearance of president Clinton after the end of the Kosovo crisis. After stopping in Ljubljana Clinton is continuing to Macedonia and - as it leaked from certain diplomatic circles - to Kosovo where he might give a blessing to his troops and accept the gratitude of Kosovars, and amend the celebration spoiled by Russian entrance into the province. Finally, with it he would personify the victory of the "allies" and give a signal that Kosovo is not under jurisdiction of Yugoslav authorities any more. The visit to Kosovo has not been confirmed yet for security reasons, but it would in any case be a logic, triumphant move of the American president who has managed to improve his moral image thanks to the war for Kosovo.

    The disposition of the public confirmed that Clinton would be welcomed in Ljubljana by overjoyed masses. The event was somwhat spoiled by rain. More precisely by showers of rain. Two days before landing of Airforce 1, the editorial of the Saturday supplement of Delo daily was cheering: "Long live Bill!". There is no doubt that in Slovenia Clinton is by far more popular and better guarded than either Kucan or Drnovsek, and he is certainly the most beloved foreign statesman. Although there are those who are reminded by the scenes of the warm-hearted welcome of the most powerful man of our time (immediately after the "victory" of NATO in Kosovo) of similar scenes from the past when the Slovenes were not in the least less cordially welcoming world politicians of the time. Some of them, for example Franz Joseph visited Ljubljana, and some of them, less known, visited even Maribor.

    It is also certain, though, that at least every fifth inhabitant of Slovenia is not enthusiastic about Clinton's visit. Memories of destruction of civilian targets in Serbia are still fresh; there are many in Slovenia - regardless of disagreement between official Ljubljana and Belgrade in the past years - who have many family and friendly relations with citizens of the country which is the symbol of evil for the USA and their allies. Come what may, Slovenian municipal services are very busy washing off the streets of Ljubljana anti-American graffitti which spring up during the night like mushrooms after rain: "The pervert is coming", "Clinton, you son of a b...", "Serbovorous- Monicapress"... The biggest one written on the concrete embankment by the Ljubljanica river below Filip's castle (close to Tromostovje downtown Ljubljana) lasted just as long as was needed for the passers-by to memorise it: "Clinton, I am waiting for you!", signed: "Gavrilo Princip" (the assassin of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo which started the First World War). On the day of the arrival, instead of this graffitto a banner above city library appeared near the closely watched platform. It read: "What Shall We Bomb Today?"

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)