13. 3. 2010 Speculum

Evil in the eye of Hercule Rüpel

Famous detective Hercule Rüpel is back in typical style, turning up at just the right time to begin an investigation into the character assassination of a famous politician Janez Jansa during what should have been the start of a relaxing holiday on the sunny side of the Alps.

Rüpel perspicaciously noticed: »For many years, Slovenia used to present itself as the country »on the sunny side of the Alps« – a characterization that did not exhaust its attractions or potential. In the first semester of 2008, a coalition of Slovenian Democrats, Christian Democrats, People’s Party and the Pensioners’ Party steered the Presidency of the EU.

Now, observers and students of Slovenia may be struck by occasional – to quote from Agatha Christie – »evil under the sun«. I am referring to a tendency of rehabilitation of, or rather return to, old times and a break with the politics of cooperation and inclusiveness that had been characteristic of the last two decades. »Evil« may exist in the eyes of the beholder, but some clouds have indeed obscured the Slovenian sun:

First evil. In the largest petition since independence, in 2007 around 20 per cent of Slovenia’s journalists were calling for more press freedom. They complained of censorship and political pressure on the media by Janez Janša’s conservative government, which accuses the protesting journalists of disseminating untruths. Some 571 of Slovenia’s 2,000 or so journalists have signed a petition accusing Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s conservative government of censorship and political pressure. The petition was initiated by Blaž Zgaga from the daily newspaper »Večer« and Matej Šurc from the Slovenian state radio. They claim that through state holdings in companies Janša’s government is having unwelcome journalists dismissed, relocated or silenced. Articles are being arbitrarily altered against the authors’ wishes and investigative journalism is becoming impossible.

At the start of Slovenia’ EU Presidency, these journalists stated in an open letter that there was censorship, harassment and prohibitions in Slovenia. They called on the government in Ljubljana to establish an independent commission to examine the alleged government censorship and political pressure on the country’s media, asserting that a committee of international experts should assess the media situation in Slovenia and ensure more freedom of the press. In Parliament in Ljubljana a committee is said to be dealing with the criticism. The petition has also been sent to the governments of all 27 EU Member States and an appeal has been made to the European Parliament to investigate the question of press freedom in Slovenia as well.

Second evil. Two weeks before parliamentary elections in 2008, Janez Jansa has been accused of corruption and taking bribes from a Finnish company which sold military equipment to Slovenian army. In what was called a »scandal of the decade«, Finnish television reported late late on Monday that Jansa took a 21 million euros bribe from the Finnish manufacturer »Patria« which had sold to Slovenia 270 million euros worth of armoured vehicles.

Jansa denied the charges as »lies and inventions,« saying they were the work of the opposition and a part of the election campaign. He threatened to sue the Finnish TV network and the author of the corruption report, Magnus Berglund. But Berglund told Slovenian media he was not afraid of being sued and said he wouldn’t apologise to Jansa. »I have reported on the facts which had been checked twice from two different sources,« he said.

The Slovenian public has been shocked by the revelations and analysts said the scandal might cost Jansa his re-election. One person appears in the Patria papers as »J«. It was Walter Wolf’s job to deliver money to »J«. Berglund said J is Janez Jansa, prime minister of Slovenia. He was the chairman of the council of ministers of the European Union for the first half of 2008. Also the prime minister’s party was a beneficiary in the Patria deal.

In other words: The Finnish state-owned Patria bribed the prime minister of Slovenia.«

Next sequel: Hercule Rüpel’s new adventures and Jackal, a symbol of Slovene terrorism and 35 years old evil under the sun.