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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, 03 JAN 1996 20:52:38 GMT

    "Frozen" denationalization

    COUNTS, FORESTS, PARTISANS

    Ljubljana, December 30, 1995

    In the next three years, as the Slovene parliament decided not long ago, all denationalization procedures will be "frozen", as well as returning forests and land to their former owners, but all earlier requests for denationalization in this field will be revised. The parliament neither could nor dared reach a different decision, because, mildly speaking, absurdities have appeared in this field. Denationalization is one one of the most important aspects of transition and it implies correction of damage inflicted by the regime on its people in the sphere of ownership, as well as a radical change of ownership structure in the society in general. That is why transition is an exceptionally much exploited word in the newly established democracies. Had he been alive, Krleza would have said - exceptionally prostituted word.

    What has happened to make the parliament "suspend" the Law on Denationalization for three following years? There is more than enough examples?

    The Law on Denationalization which referred to returning of the land, forests, houses, factories, to their former owners whose property was nationalized after the Second World War, was adopted at the time of the first (and the last) Demos Government. As it proved, nine tenths of Slovene forests and land would have been returned either to the Church or former counts and their families who have lived in Slovenia at the time of the Habsurg monarchy or had their estates in it.

    For instance, Count Thurn owned more than 6000 hectars of forests and pastures in Prekomurje (Slovenia), as his grandson who lives in Austria claims. Inheritors of Count Atems family claim that forests of Pohorje belong to them. Inheritors of yet another family of counts demand that the town of Otocec with surrounding fields and forests be returned to them, and the Church demands that all forests it was deprived of after the war be returned to it. The Law on Denationalization as written and adopted at the time Demos was in power, made it all possible. Its wording was such that everyone could have interpreted it as they pleased and got anything they demanded, if they had a smart enough lawyer.

    In fact, transition in Slovenia started to turn not into transformation of the system in Slovenia from "Bolshevism" into capitalism, but into complete refeudalization of Slovenia, due to this really stupidly written Law. What is even more interesting is that for adoption of such a badly formulated Law, former Demos's parties, Peterle's Christian Democrats in the first place, are nowadays accusing Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party, although they themselves were the most numerous parliamentary party at the time (now they are the second greatest and a member of the Government coalition) and deserve all the merit for adoption of such a law. Therefore, the grandson of Count Thurn who demands that his grandfather's forests be returned to him has every right to do so. Marjet Sostaric, a journalist of the daily "Delo", cites the example of a conversation he had with a retired forester who was in charge of the Prekomurje forests from the end of the war until his retirement and who told him that he would be crazy not to demand that this wealth enriched in the course of five decades be returned to him pursuant to such a foolish law. The same can be said for the Counts Atems. They would get forests right next to the state border, which is considered to be of a strategic significance in all normal states. If implementation of this Law had not been suspended, noone should have been surprised if some day the owner banned the state to take all defensive action, because the principle of respecting private property would have been violated by it.

    The writer Peter Bozic could not resist writing that "the worst of all is that a group of old men has in this way usurped certain social privileges", such as the right to interpret and adopt laws, that "the criteria for compensation of damage are nihilistic and cynical, with no trace of ethics or morality, legally illegitimate...".

    Peter Bozic claims that this attempt to compensate damage has in fact turned into inflicting new ones, since the Law on Denationalization lacks sublegal enactments which should necessarily prescribe evaluation to what extent someone's property nationalized fifty years ago has increased and how much has been invested in it, because the very fact that it has survived during the past half a century certifies that someone's labour and resources were invested in it and the previous owner should acknowledge that to those he is now taking it back from, or more precisely snatching it away from.

    The Law prescribes that persons who were Yugoslav citizens in 1947 have the right to have their property returned to them. Former counts were not, but all at once they began producing all kinds of evidence about their Slovene citizenship. How could they have acquired this citizenship, many deputies in the parliament asked. Citizenship is issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and it is one of the ministries competent for implementation of denationalization. No answer has arrived yet, although numerous deputies claimed that it was made possible because the Minister of internal affairs was a member of Peterle's Christian Democratic Party, and so was the Minister of agriculture and forestry, Joze Osterc whose Ministry is also in charge of the process of denationalization. Persons who were paid the value of their nationalized property by the former Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia have no right to denationalization. Journalists of "Delo" revealed that numerous owners were paid large sums of money for the property they had been deprived of, but that evidence about it has remained in archives in Belgrade. Journalists also revealed that according to London Memorandum, old owners must demand compensation for the property taken away from them from the states whose citizenship they have. The Thurns should, therefore, demand it from Austria.

    It is similar with the return of Church forests. Is the Church in Slovenia - Slovene, or as Church juris prudence claims, Roman or Vatican? Therefore, property of the Church is not Slovene, but somebody else's.

    That is why it was not witty, but more an expression of bitterness caused by the developments, when deputy Zmago Jelincic declared that he would "agree to have the forests returned to the counts and the Church, but together with the partisans in them".

    Zoran ODIC