Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sarkozy steals Slovenia’s EU limelight

"Less than 17 years since becoming an independent state, Slovenia launched its presidency of the European Union this week – and received a swift lesson in how to have its spotlight stolen.

For three years the little Alpine nation had prepared for the proud day when it would bask in the spotlight as the first country once under communist rule to have the honour of leading the 27-member EU.

But when Tuesday came, so did Nicolas Sarkozy. As the Slovenes applied themselves to the humdrum task of hosting the European Commission at a conference centre outside Ljubljana, the French president was busy dazzling the world’s media at the Elysée palace.

While the Slovenes gave a succinct summary of the EU’s policy agenda between now and June 30, Mr Sarkozy, leapfrogging over them, sketched his vision for France’s EU presidency from July 1 to December 31.

Slovenia, a country of 2m people with centuries of experience of foreign domination – including a brief spell as part of the Napoleonic empire – says its contacts with France have been constructive at all levels. It is just as well.

Slovenia’s diplomatic service is so small that, over the next six months, France will provide representation in more than 100 countries where the Slovenes have no missions.

In similar fashion, Slovenia last year helped out Portugal, its predecessor as EU president, by representing it in Macedonia and Montenegro. But Slovenia’s reliance on France is on a different scale altogether."


Monday, January 7, 2008

Slovenian journalists renew censorship claims

"Slovenian journalists urged the government Friday to create an independent commission to investigate allegations of government censorship and political pressure on the media.

Journalists Blaz Zgaga and Matej Surc said international experts should be included in the commission 'that could evaluate the situation and contribute to improving media freedom in Slovenia.'

Zgaga, a journalist with the daily Vecer, and Surc, a state television reporter, last year initiated a petition signed by 570 journalists accusing the government of censorship. The petition was sent to all EU capitals.

But three months on and just days after Slovenia took over the six-month presidency of the EU, the paid [sic] said that no measures had been taken in response to their complaints.

'Since then, the only Slovenian official to have talked to us is the Human Rights Ombudsman Zdenka Cebasek Travnik,' Zgaga told AFP."


Croatia seizes Italian boat days after fishery zone comes into force

"The Croatian navy seized an Italian fishing vessel that was 'illegally present' on Thursday (January 3rd), two days after declaring a protected fishing zone in its territorial waters.

Police spokeswomen Zeljka Radosevic said the trawler crew was fishing near a remote island in Croatian waters and not inside the new Croatian Ecological and Fisheries Protected Zone (ZERP), which extends to the middle of the Adriatic.

Radosevic said the boat was escorted to a port on the island of Vis for investigation. She added that the three crew members would appear before a judge and would probably be fined. It was not immediately clear what impact this incident would have on Croatia's ongoing dispute with Italy and Slovenia over the fishing zone, which the EU has also warned against.

Croatia held general elections in late November. Because the new government has not been formed, the zone was enacted automatically based on laws previously passed.

Diplomats have been unable to make progress on the issue due to the slow pace of forming the new coalition cabinet."


Friday, January 4, 2008

Many in Slovenia yearn for old Yugoslavia - Telegraph

"Marco Sporar, a 21-year-old business student who studies in the capital Ljubljana, said he understood why posters of Yugoslavia's founding leader and Second World War hero Marshal Josip Broz Tito are appearing again on the walls of many Slovene homes.

'I have a picture of Tito at home, my mother worships him,' he said. 'It was easier to get a job then, now everything is about money.'

Doubts remain about whether the EU will bring Balkans countries, such as Slovenia and Serbia, together or heal the wounds of past conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

'The EU is not united like Yugoslavia. Then every country, under Tito, had a voice. In the EU the biggest countries have the biggest say,' said Mr Sporar."

Source: Telegraph