"Create good" - Slovenia remembers former President and PM Drnovšek

Janez Drnovšek

Janez Drnovšek, the former president and prime minister of Slovenia, died last month, after a long battle with cancer. He was 57 years old. He was many things: one of the last presidents of Yugoslavia and one of the first prime ministers of Slovenia. As Ivana Pristavec from Radio Slovenia International reports, he played a major role in shaping the modern Slovenian state.

Janez Drnovšek is widely credited with guiding Slovenia from independence into EU and NATO membership, and taking the country to prosperity.

He was a controversial president, party leader, bestselling author and activist.

He was the president of the leftwing party LDS (Liberal Democrats of Slovenia) before leaving it and founding a new party. He was also prime minister, but eventually left that post to pursue the largely ceremonial duties of president.

Professor of modern history at the University of Ljubljana D. Božo Repe says Drnovšek's reforms had a big impact on Slovenia.

"Regarding economic reforms it is clear that Drnovšek's government, generally speaking, was very successful. This was a period in which Slovenia's economy stabilized, the gross social production began to rise, Slovenia joined some major, not only political but also economic integrations."

But perhaps Drnovšek will be better remembered for the radical personal transformation he underwent in the final decade of his life.

In 2000, after eight years of rule, Drnovšek had reached a crossroads. He was diagnosed with cancer the year before and was already considering leaving poltics. In the same year, he was persuaded to resume the leadership of the LDS party. The party swept to victory in the elections with a record-breaking 36 percent. Drnovšek again formed a coalition but simultaneously started to change his way of life. He became a vegan, and became interested in Hindu and Buddhist spirituality.

Drnovšek's transformation became a great topic of debate among Slovenes. Some derided him as »new age«; others were inspired by a powerful politician who shunned materialism and preached peace.

To this end, he formed the Movement for Justice and Development, which was dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger in Darfur and around the world. His achievements in humanitarian work and compassion towards others were widely praised.

One of the members of the movement for justice and development prof. dr. Stane Pejovnik says, in his last years, Drnovšek was a man with a mission:

"I would like to mention maybe one of his activites, he was certain that poverty is one of the major issues in the world and therefor Dr. Drnovšek spent quite a lot of time in helping Darfur people. He had a clear mission explaining to the people that some things in our life on the planet Earth should be changed and that we all are responsible for the planet".

A few days before his death, Drnovšek posted some of his thoughts online, including one exhortation saying: “We must create good. That gives meaning to our lives.”