Could Debacle of the Arbitrary Agreement Cause the Fall of the Left-wing Government?

Foto: epa

Slovenia was considered to be the most economically and socially advanced country in former Yugoslavia and was the first one that decided to become independent and follow its own path without any interference from Belgrade. In the international community it soon became known as a geopolitical entity that is located in Central Europe and not the Western Balkans like the other former republics of Yugoslavia. It was also among the first to start the negotiations for the accession to the EU, and with its successful Presidency of the EU Council in 2008, it earned a considerable international reputation, which it has since lost. This is mainly the fault of Slovenian Foreign Minister Erjavec, whose undiplomatic behaviour has been detrimental to the interests of Slovenia, which was particularly clear in the case of the arbitration. Of course, as is customary in this moral government, he did not have to answer for it. The Jutranji list newspaper writes that the government elite in Ljubljana is hiding the loss from Zagreb.

While Croatia was burdened by its failed policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and problems in The Hague, Slovenia was deeply convinced that it held all the necessary cards with which to pressure Zagreb regarding the protest of the Croatian foreign currency savers against the former Ljubljana Bank and regarding the issue of the border in the Gulf of Piran. Slovenia set the clear target of not returning the money as well as obtaining as much marine territory as possible and an open access to the sea.

The issue concerning the border is a popular pre-election topic
Slovenia and Croatia have attempted to coordinate the pending issues regarding the border on several occasions, and the most promising agreement was worked out in 2001, when the then Prime Ministers of Slovenia and Croatia Janez Drnovšek and Ivica Račan signed the Drnovšek−Račan agreement, under which Slovenia would receive 80 percent of the Gulf of Piran and a guaranteed access to the open sea, while Croatia would keep the sea border with Italy. The agreement was confirmed by the National Assembly of Slovenia but not by the Croatian Parliament. Croatia’s rejection of the agreement has contributed to the continuation of political conflicts, which is one of the reasons for the popularity of the issue concerning the sea and land border in the pre-election period.

Tycoons and takeovers have started to economically weaken Slovenia
During the transition, several tycoons gained ground in Slovenia, which helped the building lobby dominate the country to a large extent and allowed them to fill their pockets at the expense of the state. And with the financial failure of the Archdiocese of Maribor, Slovenia started losing its economic primacy. It also slowly started losing political priority and attention in the eyes of the EU with regards to the resolution of the border dispute between the two countries.

Slovenian companies have been taken over, Croatian savers in the NLB bank have won the lawsuit at the ECtHR
When an agreement was signed by Jadranka Kosor and Borut Pahor in 2009 which envisaged the beginning of the arbitration procedure that would contribute to solving the border issue with the help of an arbitration court, Slovenia had to endure another series of blows due to takeovers: Atlantic Grupa bought Droga Kolinska, Agrokor acquired Mercator, and Podravka became the owner of Žito. Thus, three jewels from Slovenia’s crown fell into Croatian hands. After that Slovenia received a final blow when it lost at the European Court of Human Rights, which ordered the repayment of unpaid foreign currency savers of the former Ljubljana Bank in Croatia and the BiH amounting to $103 million.

The Minister is often described as incompetent
In this affair, the main role has been played by Karl Erjavec, the so-called eternal minister who has been taking up positions in the Ministry of Slovenia since 2004: from Minister of Defence and Environment Minister to Foreign Minister. Not only do Slovenian media describe him as incompetent, the Croatian Jutranji list reports that similar views have been expressed in circles in Brussels as well. Erjavec is the President of the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS), whose votes are always necessary for the right-wing or left-wing option to form a majority in the National Assembly of Slovenia, and its problematic nature has also been noted and criticised by the champion of the biggest opposition party Janez Janša.

The Slovenian Foreign Minister is mindlessly threatening without considering the consequences
Erjavec continues to diligently live up to the reputation that he has created amongst the public, since last week he stated that if Croatia does not respect the verdict of the arbitration court, Slovenia will start to hinder the passage of tourists to Croatia, particularly Austrians and Germans, who travel there in the largest numbers. A foreign minister of an EU Member State should not make such statements under any circumstances since this would mean endangering the free movement of people, which represents one of the fundamental freedoms of the EU and needs to be respected by all Member States including Slovenia.

N. Ž.