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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, 30 JUN 1994 21:57:03 GMT

    Slovenia three years after


    After all that has happened in the last three years in the space of the former Yugoslavia, the day of the declaration of independence of Slovenia seems to have happened ten, and not three years ago. But, actually the Slovenian Parliament adopted the basic constitutional document, the Constitutional Law and the Declaration of Independence on June 25, 1991 whereby Slovenia became an independent and autonomous state. However, not at the same moment, as the tanks and units of the former YPA (Yugoslav People's Army) entered Slovenia the same night because of that act, after which the so called ten-day war ensued, but already half a year later it was recognized by the majority of West European countries and on May 22, 1992 the UN General Assembly in New York proclaimed it the 176th member state of the world organization. Where is Slovenia today, three years later?

    Let us first look at the internal political stage. Even before becoming independent Slovenia already was a multi party parliamentary state in which the parliament and government had the main say, while the function of the President of the state was more an honorary than a really influential one. In this Slovenia was closer to the majority of democratic systems of West Europe than its neighbour Croatia and, for example, Serbia where the Constitution gives enormous authority to Presidents. In Slovenia, for example, the President of the state has no right to convene the Parliament nor to dissolve or appoint the Government. All these functions are totally separated. If the President of the state wants to address the Parliament, he cannot decide on that on his own, but the Parliament may (but doesn't have to) approve that.

    The Slovenian Parliament is bicameral. The main chamber is the so called State Chamber, which after the last elections includes the delegates of the majority Liberal - Democratic Party of Janez Drnovsek, the Christian Democrats of Lojze Peterle, the United List of the Social Democrats of Janez Kocijancic, the Slovenian Social Democrats of Janez Jansa, the Slovenian People's Party of Marjan Podobnik, the Slovenian National Party of Zmago Jelincic and an independent deputy group. At the same time, these are the most influential Slovenian parties which have in the last year, not to mention the last three years, made a major step forward. Namely, at the beginnings of the independent state the right wing parties cooperated much more among themselves. Finally, at the first multi-party elections DEMOS won, only to fall apart at the next ones, while the Liberal Democratic Party of Janez Drnovsek won the majority of votes. This year Viktor Sakelja's Socialists, Igor Bavcar's Democrats and the Green Party of Petar Tancig joined it.

    The Government includes three coalition parties: the Liberal Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the United List of Social Democrats. A seemingly impossible combination, but it appears to be - at least for some time to come - politically quite pragmatic. Especially after Jansa's Social Democrats, who are all but what their name says and who have sided with a sort of unexplainable combination of bolshevism and the ultra rightists left the Government, while the Christian Democrats have become a quite moderate and serious right party of the center.

    For the otherwise very dull national character of the Slovenians, it is interesting that the Slovenian political scene is all but dull. Every day new scandals are revealed, Ministers are being relieved of office, the army and police are undergoing major purges, the courts are overburdened with cases, various legal and illegal intelligence services are active and competing with full force...In short, democracy is not a simple thing and during this transitional period, which will probably last for quite some time, these are normal although not pleasant and necessary things.

    Much lost, but much better at the same time too

    Economic analysts agree that economic trends cannot be simply observed as of the very day of independence, but should be analysed over the longer term. Namely, Slovenian industrial production, which in the former state was always at the very top and increasing, started decreasing already a year after Slovenia became independent. Precisely in that same 1990 it was almost 13 percent below the production levels recorded in 1986. In other words, the crisis has started and the very act of independence, which meant the severing of the hitherto close cooperation with industries in other parts of the SFRY, as well as the loss of a major part of the Yugoslav market led to its further decline. Slovenia recorded the greatest fall of industrial production last year, when it was by an additional 26% below the level recorded in 1990. But, the situation changed last year, and especially in the first half of this year, after six years of persistent decrease. Although small, still some increase was registered in relation to last year. But, the present volume of industrial production equals the one in the mid-seventies, which is a great setback.

    At the time Slovenia was leaving Yugoslavia many argued that it would collapse due to the loss of the Yugoslav market. It would be a lie to claim that the Slovenian economy does not feel (and considerably for that matter) this loss. But, it should not be forgotten that Slovenia was an exceptionally important exporter in the former state also. It retained most of these markets, but the earlier joint Yugoslav operations on these markets were much cheaper and easier. Still, before becoming independent Slovenia sold most of its produce at home. According to SDK (Social Accounting Service) data for 1990 it sold most in Slovenia itself (57.3 percent), 24.7 percent to other republics, while 17.9 percent of the goods went abroad. Due to the sanctions it stopped (at least officially) trading with Serbia and Montenegro, and similar is the situation with Bosnia and Herzegovina on account of the war, while it is still cooperating with Croatia and Macedonia, albeit with difficulties. Croatia also has problems because of the war, while Macedonia is expensive transportation-wise. Slovenia's export last year amounted to US $ 6.08 billion, which is 9% below the level a year earlier.

    It exported mostly to Germany, almost 30 percent, 12.4% to Italy, 12.1% to Croatia, while 8.7% of Slovenian exports went to France, 5% to Austria, 4.1% to Russia, 3.6 percent to the USA, only 3.3% to Macedonia, followed by Great Britain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Iran, Belgium, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, etc.

    The process of privatization is still underway in Slovenia, which together with the already mentioned difficulties rather complicates the economic situation. The collapse of unprofitable firms, those which for years barely made ends meet in the former state, the ruin of those who did not manage to find their place after losing the "Yugo market", privatization and rationalisation in many enterprises - all this resulted in a significant rise of unemployment. In Slovenia, which was used to almost full employment, the present unemployment rate of 14.5 percent is shocking. This is mostly felt in some industrial centers, such as Maribor. Something else is also interesting. In spite of such large numbers of unemployed it is impossible to find menials who would work from time to time for a lot of money. It is obvious that many, who are not regularly, i.e. permanently employed have managed to find some kind of part-time jobs.

    We could not say that the employed live badly. After independence the formal policy was to keep the salaries at DM 400, but this did not succeed and soon the wages went up so that today the average Slovenian salary amounts to over DM 700. This is naturally far less than at the time of Markovic's unrealistic exchange rate of 7 dinars for one German mark and with a 105% inflation rate. Slovenian inflation is still high, amounting to somewhat below 23%. This is still seven times more than that registered in the developed countries of West Europe. But, something else is essential in all this. Namely, the Slovenian tolar, which is now exchanged at the rate of 78 tolars for one German mark, is still holding its own. This is also the opinion of the well known Harvard professor of economy and counsellor to many Governments Mr.Jeffrey Sachs who was recently in Ljubljana. "The most urgent task before Slovenia is the ownership restructuring of the economy, debt management and the resolution of the division of assets and liabilities with the successors of the former SFRY, reduction of the current inflation to below 10 percent, while the most important thing for Slovenia is to become a member of the European Union", said Sachs.

    When will the Union open the door?

    Slovenia might be considered a diplomatically succesful young state. In three years of its existence it became a member of the OUN, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the International Monetary Fund and many other important international organizations. It is a signatory of the NATO document Partnership for Peace, it has signed a Treaty on Cooperation with the European Community , it has signed contracts on free trade with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, similar contracts are being negotiated with EFTA, all important countries of the world have their Embassies in Ljubljana, etc...

    With the vast majority of these countries Slovenia has very good relations. Lately it has been having some problems with Croatia and Italy on account of the territorial aspirations of certain circles in Italy vis-a-vis Slovenian lands, and also due to the unwillingness of predominantly of Croat, and frequently also of Slovenian politicians to finally find a common language regarding those few disputable issues concerning the borders between these two newly created states. As it seems all these problems will somehow be solved in the end. Namely, Croatia has so many other topical and much more important problems that it would be foolosh to make enemies on all sides, while Italy has already been criticized by the Americans for its stand that Slovenia should not be accepted to the membership of the European Union.

    A few days ago Reginald Bartholomew, the American Ambassador in Rome, whom we know as the one time envoy of the American President also visited Trieste, and among other things stated: "Slovenia is Europe. You should not find this out from the American Ambassador as both history and geographic maps speak of this". He emphasized the fact that the West does not end at the Italian - Slovenian border and expressed his support to the association of Euroepan states.

    Slovenia also sees this as its aim. With a stable economic and political situation it has realistic chances to be accepted into the Union around the year 2000. And that is not so far away.

    What life is made up of

    That is how the "dezela" (state in the Slovenian language) looks like three years after D Day. Those were more or less official figures. People celebrated the Day of Independence mostly outside their homes. They went to the sea, mountains, spas, and some went abroad. But mostly for a tour rather than shopping as Slovenian stores are so well stocked that there is practically no need for going abroad. Not even for special products. Both that as well as the fact that foreign currencies can be bought freely at each corner, in exchange offices, represent the two dearest "achievements" of independence to the average Slovenian. There is also another, the most essential one. Namely, that upon leaving the former Yugoslavia Slovenia has preserved peace. Although today there is practically no one who would want Slovenia to join some new, fourth Yugoslavia, interesting is the latest poll of the daily "Delo" which asked the readership how they today rank the achievements and their expectations. The answers were the following: much better - 2.7% somewhat better - 16.9% approximately the same - 32.5% somewhat worse - 33.6% much worse 12.4% I don't know - 1.9%

    Surely, these figures deserve some thought although they are much less optimistic than they were a few years ago. But, apart from all these negative aspects, Slovenia surely fared best of all the former Yugoslav republics and is closest to actually joining Europe.