[Marxism] Slovenian democracy?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 13 11:13:28 MST 2006

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), June 22, 1999

 From this pro-Western country that broke from Slobodan Milosevic's grip, 
President Bill Clinton urged Serbs on Monday to "reject the murderous rule" 
of the Yugoslav president and follow Slovenia into democracy.

In a drenching rain, thousands of Slovenes cheered Clinton on the first 
visit by an American president to this small nation, wedged between the 
Alps and the Adriatic coast. A patchwork sea of umbrellas covered Congress 
Square during the president's speech.

Clinton did not mince words about Milosevic during a day that stretched 
from diplomatic talks in Germany to dinner in a 16th-century castle once 
used as a summer home by Josip Broz Tito, the late communist leader of 

The president pledged that no U.S. money -- "not a bit, not a penny" -- 
would be given to help Milosevic rebuild bridges and roads destroyed in 
Yugoslavia by 78 days of NATO airstrikes.

"I can't wait for the day," Clinton said, when a democratic leader replaces 
Milosevic, who has been charged by a U.N. tribunal with war crimes in Kosovo.

Just five days shy of the anniversary of Slovenia's declaration of 
independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Clinton recalled that Milosevic 
dispatched troops to the republic eight years ago to prevent its secession.

"But you resisted," he said. "You secured your freedom. And you proclaimed: 
It will never be the same again.



NY Times, November 13, 2006
Ambrus Journal
Hounding of Gypsies Contradicts Slovenia’s Image

AMBRUS, Slovenia, Nov. 6 — Half a mile short of this picturesque village in 
central Slovenia, two brick houses and a cluster of sheds lie empty. A 
baby’s stroller sits abandoned outside, and chickens and geese race about, 
apparently unfed, all evidence of a rapid departure by the family that 
lived here until just over a week ago.

The Strojans, an extended family of 31 Gypsies, 14 of them children, fled 
the property on Oct. 28, after it was surrounded by a mob from Ambrus and 
nearby villages, threatening to kill them and demanding their eviction. 
While the police kept the crowd back, Slovenian government officials 
negotiated the family’s removal to a former army barracks about 30 miles away.

The scene is at odds with an image of Slovenia as the most advanced and 
wealthiest of the 10 Eastern European states that joined the European Union 
two years ago. Slovenia prides itself as being free of the ethnic tensions 
that dominate the rest of Yugoslavia, from which Slovenia broke free in 
1991 after a 10-day conflict. Since then Gypsies, also known as Roma, have 
been the victims of sporadic assaults, including a grenade attack last year 
in which two women, a mother and her 21-year-old daughter, were killed.

While none of the Strojans were seriously hurt in the incident here, rights 
groups say the government’s role in the forced removal of the family makes 
it one of the most serious such incidents in Europe in a decade. And now 
other municipalities are calling for the removal of Gypsies.

Ambrus seems an unlikely place for such discord. Renovated houses are 
surrounded by lush fields and well-kept woodland. New cars are parked in 
driveways, symbols of wealth that make Slovenia the envy of the rest of the 

But a dispute over an illegal occupation of land by some members of the 
family two years ago began to sour relations, said Alojz Sinkovec, the 
village president, and then villagers suspected the family of dumping trash 
in a nearby stream. The police eventually exonerated the family. Matters 
worsened in mid-October when a man living with the Strojans fought with a 
villager, who fell into a coma.

Soon afterward police officers advised the Strojans to leave, the family 
said. “They told us people are gathering and that we should get in our cars 
and leave,” said Mirko Strojan, sitting in the former army barracks that 
has become his temporary home. For five days, the family sought refuge in 
the woods, living under tarpaulins and receiving food from a Romany 
community. Then they tried to go home. The police told them that a crowd 
was gathering in Ambrus, Mr. Strojan said. This time, riot police officers 
surrounded the houses, and several hundred villagers gathered, local 
journalists said.

“People were coming on foot through the woods, they were shouting, ‘Kill 
the Gypsies, kill the Gypsies!’ ” said Miha Strojan, Mr. Strojan’s brother. 
He said he remembered someone shouting, “We’ll string you up on a cross!” 
Photographs that Borut Peterlin, a local photographer, took of the crowd 
show both menace and boisterous spirits, with people laughing.

At 6 p.m., Interior Minister Dragutin Mate arrived to mediate. Mr. Mate 
said he proposed that the Strojans leave and that the government find them 
new houses within three weeks. “I gave them the proposal; both sides agreed 
with it,” he said in an interview.

He said the Strojans would not be allowed to return because their houses 
had been built without permission, although the family has lived in them 
since the 1960s.

Witnesses said the family had no choice but to leave. “There was no 
negotiation, the minister had taken his decision before he arrived,” said 
Zarko Grm, a representative of the Romany community in Novo Mesto, east of 
Ambrus, who took part in the talks.

When Mr. Mate told the people in the crowd of the agreement, they cheered, 
television images showed.

“They were singing the national anthem and other songs,” Mr. Peterlin said. 
“There were also shouts of, ‘Gypsies raus!’ ” he said, echoing a taunt used 
by the Nazi’s during the deportation of Jews and Gypsies during the Holocaust.

The European Roma Rights Center criticized the government for setting a 
dangerous precedent. “Were it to become permanent, this is an extremely 
worrying event,” said Claude Cahn, the group’s program director, who called 
the move a serious breach of basic civil rights.

But the government has defended the move. “I think the standard of living 
is far better in Postojna,” said Milan Zver, Slovenia’s education minister, 
who is also in charge of a government committee responsible for the 
Gypsies. “They are probably better off than they would be in Ambrus,” he 
said an interview on Pop TV, a private station.

And now, an initiative has been started to remove the community of more 
than 600 Gypsies from the outskirts of Novo Mesto.

According to Slovenia’s ombudsman for human rights, Matjaz Hanzek, the 
government and public reaction illustrate a deep-rooted prejudice that 
permeates Slovenian society. “They really don’t understand they are using 
discriminatory speech,” he said in an interview. “Our neighbors are 
watching this very closely. If this can happen here in the European Union, 
then nationalist groups in countries like Serbia and Croatia will know they 
can get away with the same.”

Mr. Hanzek has in turn been accused by Janez Jansa, Slovenia’s prime 
minister, of “denigrating Slovenia’s name” by raising the issue with the 
Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner.



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