Are there white privileges in Slovenia?

EU-Slovenian coming to terms with the past


Analysis by Werner Sauer

The "community of values" EU not only overlooked its own questionable role in the time Slovenia became a state, but also shows little interest in bringing up unadjusted legacy issues from this time.

In the destruction of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the European Community at the time, and especially Germany, which played a pioneering role, provided active support. The support and recognition of the two independent republics, Slovenia and Croatia, sealed the end of the South Slav Federal Republic - and the last hopes of being able to part with each other amicably or to reorganize their cooperation. Since then, a cloak of silence has covered this disastrous European Balkan policy of the late 1980s and early 1990s. A public reappraisal of this first attack in the name of “Western values” on the integrity of a sovereign state protected by international law after the end of the Cold War has hardly taken place until today.

Against this background, two and a half years ago it was only rated as a continuation of a “correct” European policy that Slovenia was granted membership of the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004 as the first of the Yugoslav successor states. This was considered to be the issue of a “secondary school leaving certificate” in matters of European values, because the EU is known to be based “on the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law”. Compliance is a prerequisite for membership. None of the EU institutions dealing with the application for membership at the time saw a serious problem with the admission of Slovenia.
The evidently very flexible “community of values”, the EU, generously overlooked not only its own questionable role during the time when Slovenia became a state. Nor did she show any interest in bringing up the unadjusted legacy of Slovenia from this period. For the Slovenian elite this was a signal that they could continue their own policy of repression and concealment as they see fit. In concrete terms, this meant proceeding unmolested against "nest polluters" and ignoring the objections of domestic human rights groups. Little of this has so far been noticed abroad, as the media public in the country itself is so uniformed that it reminds the Slovenian writer Marusa Krese "of Stalinist times".

The Slovenian Helsinki Committee (Helsinki Monitor for Slovenia, HMS) and in particular its chairperson, Neva Miklavcic-Predan, are severely affected by the pace of the Slovenian elite. The committee's activities have two main focuses: the “Holmec affair” - a suspected war crime committed by Slovenian forces in the so-called liberation war against the Yugoslav People's Army (JVA) - and the “wiped out” - the citizens of Slovenia with Yugoslav states who were buffeted in February 1992 -, but not belonging to the Slovenian republic.

The incident at the Holmec border post across from Bleiburg / Pliberk took place on June 28, 1991, three days after Slovenia's unilateral declaration of independence. There, prison recruits did their military service. They had been stationed there for three months or more, so in no conceivable sense of the word aggressors sent from Belgrade. On that day, the prison troops were attacked by Slovenian forces. ORFRecordings document the incident: A group of prison soldiers came out of the border post building, three of them, two Serbs, Zoran Jesic (19) and Goran Maletic (18), and the Croat Antonio Simunovic (19), hold up a sheet as a sign of surrender. Then the three unarmed collapse in the Slovenian fire. Simunovic wrote in his last letter to his parents that they had not been able to get out of the border post for three months, trusting them fearfully that their unit was a “death train”, according to the Croatian newspaper Nacional (11.4.06).

The Holmec affair came late through an article in the newspaper Slovenske novice from 12/28/98 and by the transmitter POP TV, who died on January 16, 1999 ORFFilm showed to the Slovenian public what caused a storm of indignation. The HMS filed a complaint against unknown persons on suspicion of a war crime committed at Holmec, but only received the answer that the case had already been "put on record" in 1991. According to media reports, the Slovenian public prosecutor's office reiterated in April 2006 that investigations had already shown in 1991 that there was “no suspicion that crimes had been committed at Holmec”; In 1999 a new study "confirmed this result".
The affair became even more explosive when former Slovenian President Milan Kucan appeared before the Hague Tribunal on May 21, 2003 as a witness for the prosecution in the trial against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Under cross-examination, Milosevic confronted his old party comrade with Holmec using HMS documents. In distress, Kucan denied the execution of prisoners of war - the responsible authorities had investigated everything. "Helsinki Monitor was also involved," he claimed, contrary to the facts. Kucan concluded his remarks about Holmec with a remarkably confused sentence: "I claimed that these soldiers were not killed and executed as prisoners of war, but unfortunately, they were executed."

Retaliation for Milosevic's availability of HMS material against Kucan was not long in coming. In June 2003, a “Holmec Committee” from the “Association of Veterans of the Slovenian War of Independence” filed a defamation report against Neva Miklavcic, supplementing the report with the declaration that the ex-president was to be protected in connection with his testimony in The Hague . On November 9, 2004, she was charged with the criminal offense of defamation, for which she was threatened with a prison sentence of up to two years.
In a letter to the Slovenian Minister of Justice on August 23, 2005, the Executive Director of the Helsinki International Federation, Aaron Rhodes, protested that the prosecution of defamation was "a violation of the principle of freedom of expression" and that the prosecution of defamation also contradicted Prison sentences "according to the standards of the European Court of Human Rights". However, it was not Rhodes' protest, but the prosecution's lack of evidence, which is why Neva Miklavcic was acquitted in the first instance in May 2006.

In the meantime, in accordance with a dismissal proposal made to the HMS by the chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal, Carla del Ponte, suspected crimes of the order of magnitude of Holmec had to be dealt with regionally, the Serbian public prosecutor responsible for war crimes by and against Serbs in the former Yugoslavia had an investigation into the Holmec case initiated. For this reason, Neva Miklavcic traveled to Belgrade in April 2006, where she met the Londoner Independent gave an interview, whereupon the newspaper published an article about Holmec under the title “Slovenia closes, war crime case despite TV evidence of killings” (April 11, 2006). At a Holmec memorial ceremony on June 28, 2006, Prime Minister Janez Jansa demanded “measures” by the state organs against Neva Miklavcic for their “absurd and pathological lies about war crimes at Holmec” - with which he was deficient demonstrated awareness of the rule of law. But perhaps he was also driven by fears that an investigation into Holmec would also lead to questions about the authority of the Slovenian Defense Minister at the time, Janez Jansa. Jansa's appeal was followed by new acts: In July, the HMS chairwoman received a summons for questioning because of a new offense: insulting the Republic of Slovenia (because of the IndependentInterviews). And in August, the public prosecutor appealed against her first-instance acquittal in the defamation process.

A case of attempted bribery of civil servants is pending against Neva Miklavcic: In a telephone conversation, she offered a civil servant a bribe to gain citizenship from a Roma family. She denies this, as the only "evidence" of the prosecution existed only the allegation of that officer. For the HMS this is just another attempt at criminalization - in this case the point is that the HMS (like other Slovenian NGOs as well) campaigns for the restitution of the rights of Slovenia's “erased” people.

In the wake of the Slovenian declaration of independence, the Citizenship Act stipulated that persons of Yugoslav citizenship with normal residence in Slovenia but other “republic citizenship” could apply for Slovenian citizenship within six months, i.e. until the end of 1991. There are a number of reasons why those affected might have failed to make such an application at the time, starting with the simple ignorance of the consequences. But they overtook them without delay after Slovenia had received international recognition: at the end of February 1992, thousands and thousands who had not submitted an application or had not obtained the citizenship of Slovenia for other reasons were deleted from the registers of residents. They lost their right of residence, work permits, unemployment, health and pension insurance, in short: their bourgeois existence. This comprehensive act of disenfranchisement (the HMS speaks of an "administrative ethnic cleansing") was carried out in secret and without notice to the persons concerned. The commonly quoted number of "erased" is 18,000. The HMS considers it to be far too deep and speaks of at least 83,000 people, citing documents from the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior.

It happened in gross disregard of its own principles that the EU did not make a solution to this problem a conditio sine qua non for the accession of Slovenia and did not demand that it should first implement the relevant decisions of its own constitutional court as a constitutional state: twice, in 1999 and 2003 , namely the "extinction" has already been declared unconstitutional. But the ignorance of the EU bureaucrats is hardly surprising, as it stands in the long tradition of a selective perception of the events and problems in the Balkans.
Between 1995 and 2005, the HMS submitted nine projects to the European Commission on the deleted and problematic segments of the Slovenian legal system. Not a single one was approved. The last time the HMS made a petition against the rejection in November 2005, which remained unanswered a year later. Originally, the HMS employees may have had illusions about EU foreign policy. If so, then they were expelled from them by one of the EU officials residing in Ljubljana during the accession negotiations: According to Neva Miklavcic, he told them that the EU was “an economic, not a human rights community”.

Slovenia will hold the EU Presidency in the first half of 2008. With regard to the question of the "erased", the former Slovenian constitutional judge Matevz Krivic describes it as the "greatest disgrace for Slovenia as an alleged constitutional state ... that the country should take over the presidency of the EU in 2008 with such a government that is hostile to human rights" (interview in signal, Winter 2005/06). But Brussels and Ljubljana will ensure that the celebrations at the beginning of 2008 are not disturbed by such voices. In all likelihood, the European public will again be offered the routine EU blower of words about noble principles that have evidently long since mutated into paper tigers.