Slovenia: Independence celebrations marred by political dispute


On 25 June 1991, the Slovenian Assembly passed the Basic Constitutional Charter and the Declaration of Independence, declaring Slovenia an independent country. The passage of the charter followed a plebiscite in December in 1990 when 88% of all voters opted for a sovereign and independent country, which would no longer be part of Yugoslavia. To honour the events of the 25th of June each year a traditional ceremony marking Slovenia's independence is organized. But this year's main ceremony was marred by the absence of both President Janez Drnovsek and Former President Milan Kucan.

To mark the 16th anniversary of independence, Ljubljana hosted a central ceremony with Prime Minister Janez Jansa as the keynote speaker, which was an unusual step, as in previous years the speech was held by the current president. For the first time since the country's independence the main ceremony took place without the current and former Presidents of Slovenia. This was not the first open conflict between Prime minister Janez Jansa and President Janez Drnovsek. President Drnovsek said he decided to boycott the event because of the country's current state of mind.

" I voiced interest to speak at the ceremony but it was not accepted.I did not want to cause conflict around this matter as I cannot force anyone. However, I do not find it appropriate to take on the role of an extra at the ceremony and listen to the speech of someone with whom I totally disagree".

The president of the ceremony committee and state secretary at the prime minister's office, Aleksander Zorn, disagrees with President Drnovsek's explanation for not attending the ceremony. Zorn stated that at an earlier stage the ceremony committee was informed that President Janez Drnovsek did not wish to be the keynote speaker on this or any other national ceremony again and so the Ceremony Committee was forced to look for an alternative keynote speaker, according to Zorn:

"Mr. Drnovsek will have to accept the fact that he changed his mind too late, Mr. Drnovsek has to accept the fact that he was wanted as speaker at the ceremony and he was not rejected or not accepted."

In his keynote speech Prime Minister Janez Jansa pointed out that Slovenia had experienced rapid development in the past year that it is in good shape and that it has strengthened its international position. President Drnovsek's view on the current situation in Slovenia couldn't differ more. He criticises that a lot of pressure is being put on people working in the public sector and claims political preferences of loyalty to a certain individual are more important than knowledge. Drnovsek believes that these are already concepts pointing to some kind of return to totalitarian practices. Explaining his absence from the ceremony former President Milan Kucan said he did not wish to attend an event where the president of the country was not welcome or allowed to speak. If the celebrations only focus on the achievements and neglects the problems, and if people are dissatisfied with the level of democracy, then clearly something is wrong, Kucan said.