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Interview with the President of the Republic for radio Triglav

Ljubljana, 02/22/2007  |  interview

The interview of the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek for slovenian radio Triglav is published below.

Published on: 22nd February 2007

Romana Purkart (journalist): Only when the last tree has been cut, only when all the rivers are poisoned, only when we have eaten the last fish, only then will mankind discover that money is not for eating, say the Indians of the Cree tribe. President Drnovšek, welcome to our studio. What do you think about that saying?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: That saying expresses very well the state of things today in the world, when mankind, for the sake of money, is literally destroying the environment, nature, his planet. And precisely that might happen that when those who did this, destroyed it, finally discover that they can do nothing with money if they cannot breath clean air, cannot drink clean water, if the world is too destroyed to bring forth any fruit and, not least, that mankind no longer has anywhere to live. Today we are no longer so very far from that moment, such recognition. I say that our generation is the one that can still effect the state of things, influence further development, which can still reverse the current trend of destroying the environment, especially the climate, and in this way save the future of mankind. I sometimes say that we should imagine how it will be, perhaps in fifty years, perhaps before, perhaps a little later, when mankind discovers that the climate is completely destroyed, that it can no longer be remedied, that time has run out, that only the agony remains. Ever more extremes of weather and natural disasters. How will they then look back on us, on the generation that could have done something, changed things, but didn't. Why? For profit, for money, because corporations want primarily to make profit, don't want to reduce gas emissions, because that would reduce profit. All the mechanisms of this world, including the political, operate in such a way that they prefer to look away than really tackle these questions.

Purkart: That is to say we have in essence a terrible burden on our shoulders, to save the world from collapse, to leave something for our descendants. What can each individual do? Is the individual alone strong enough to contribute something himself to this change?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: I think that it is precisely on the individual that we must build, on each human being. That as many people as possible must be aware of what is happening, that as many people as possible must be roused from the current pattern of life and start to work towards change, to change the way of life which is leading mankind to destruction. The more of us there are, the more certainly will we be able to achieve change. Only a critical mass of people, who are aware, can change the current ways of functioning of mankind, the present mechanisms. He can have an impact on policies, so that measures are adopted that will be sufficiently effective. The individual's awareness therefore is important, so my activities, my actions, even my book and other messages are directed at two things: at the individual, in order to raise his awareness, as well as his energy; and at the whole, at mankind, so that mankind as a whole is roused and lays different foundations of his common life, so that he is aware of his interdependence and dependence on nature, and also his responsibilities. So that profit, greed and selfishness will no longer be the main driving forces of our life on this planet.

Purkart: You have therefore been warning for some time that catastrophe is not just possible but also close. You talk about catastrophe because of climate change and in your books about catastrophes of survival. What actually is a catastrophe of survival? You mention it right at the end of your last book.

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Raising awareness is important, the awareness of people, the awareness of mankind, but I sometimes ask whether we will succeed in this, whether we will be fast enough. What will be faster – awareness or destruction of the planet, the climate? And it sometimes seems to me that perhaps we will not be successful if we look at how strong and entrenched these existing mechanisms of power, wealth actually are. But what, on the one hand, is a source of fear to mankind, on the other can also help him. Nature has begun to respond to climate change with ever greater climatic extremes and natural catastrophes and it is not difficult to imagine some greater natural catastrophe that will so shock mankind that he will finally wake up. That this will help in raising awareness, that mankind will then be aware where current patterns of activity, of behaviour are leading him. So I say that such a catastrophe, which did not destroy mankind but was serious enough to wake him up, would perhaps even mean the salvation of mankind because afterwards he would wake up and really start to behave differently. Look at what is happening now. There are catastrophes, but politicians and capital are still operating as before. New Orleans, for example. Remember the hurricane which wiped out New Orleans, how terrible a catastrophe it was then, but American politicians were not woken up at all. Everyone, not least the media, tried to forget it as quickly as possible, so that life could return as soon as possible to what it had been before the catastrophe, although the catastrophe was serious. Even bigger catastrophes will clearly be necessary and, given the way things are unfolding, it probably won't be necessary to wait long for this. However, this should already be enough, and other ones, too, since we can see what is happening all over. Every individual already senses for himself that the weather is not as it used to be, that the seasons are no longer as they were before.

Purkart: The European Union, Mr. President, despite everything, is a draught horse in changing attitudes to the environment in world politics. Negotiations are currently taking place on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Negotiations are tending towards the EU unilaterally committing itself to reducing emissions by 20% by 2020 in comparison with 1990. What about the others? We know that former vice-president Al Gore is working in the USA, but what will happen in the case of India and China? These are economies which are growing, together with all the environmental problems.

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: The European Union really is relatively better aware of climate change than most of the world. So it is right for it to go ahead, to take the initiative, to lead the way. But that is not enough. Even if the European Union adopts its own measures, which would be sufficient for it, in world terms this is not enough. If others go on polluting the atmosphere, then we will breathe the same air and our climate will be similarly disrupted as elsewhere. So the whole world must be found here, in a new agreement, in decisive action. In an agreement that goes considerably further than the Kyoto Agreement of a decade ago. They are trying now to build onto the Kyoto Agreement for the period after 2012, when it expires, but I think that it is necessary to take even more radical measures than the European Union is discussing at the moment. Every new evaluation that comes shows that the speed of climate change is constantly increasing, that processes are faster than previously thought and are increasingly likely to surprise us. In the end, there will be less time than anyone would wish, whereby we must not forget that many people depict the situation more optimistically than the reality; that behind them are corporations, capital, which even buys the silence of scientists in various ways. Al Gore talks about this. It is of course then difficult, when doubt is constantly being raised as to whether there really are such changes or not, whether such action is really necessary. Just so big business will not have to adapt, so it therefore lies. However, to go back to the world, China really does very much pollute the atmosphere. It is developing fast, there are huge numbers of people, but the Chinese say – we have only just started to develop, what about those who are already far in front of us and also have much higher levels of gas emissions already behind them? From their point of view, they are perhaps right, but if the climate is destroyed then it will effect them, too, and it must be most important to them, too. It is true that if global action is to be credible, the Americans should be set at its head. It would then be difficult for anyone, even the Chinese or the Indians or anyone else, to say no, we will not follow. At present, anyone can point the finger at the Americans that, although they are the most developed, they pollute the most, and are not adopting decisive measures, they do not wish world agreement on this. The Americans are already doing some things themselves but I think that what they are doing is certainly not enough to reduce gas emissions. It is not enough to reverse the world trend and I think that, as the strongest, the most developed country in the world, they also have the greatest responsibility and they should undertake such world »leadership«, in order for others then to follow. Unfortunately, the European Union alone is not enough, it does not have sufficient weight to draw the whole world behind it. So I think and hope that the Americans, too, will join and take this path a great deal more decisively. But this is not simple. Precisely in America, perhaps, these mechanisms of power, money, are most firmly entrenched and also have the greatest influence on politics. However, even they are beginning to be aware that it also concerns them, it is their climate, their future, that their future, too, is in doubt, and that they will have to do something more.

Purkart: The growing danger of a nuclear conflict is a major threat to the environment and life on earth. An anti-missile shield in front of the Russian's nose, on European territory in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that Moscow will respond to this American plan, but will not get involved in an arms race. Can it be said that the recently ended cold war is again dangerously approaching?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: I wouldn't talk about a cold war, because the situation is now different. At that time there were two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, which constantly competed with each other in the arms race and also both gave approximately the same amount of money for that purpose. Today, the Americans greatly deviate, they spend far more on arms than Russia or anyone else in the world. Far, far, far more. I firmly believe a very great deal too much. It is unnecessary. Where is the enemy from whom they wish to protect themselves with the shield? I think that it is mainly in the interest if the military industrial complex, the business-political conglomerate. It is an enormous amount of money, big business in the background, billions and billions of dollars. A lot of people live from this, a lot of jobs, and there is even more profit from it. This is the main motive for the »machinery« to be always running, always preparing new weapons. Which must then be tested, and so it goes on. But precisely this model of development leads nowhere. Where can it lead? Is the world any safer for it? Are the Americans safer today than they were a few years ago? With all this additional armament, and with the war on terror, to which all is subordinated. No, the world is not safer. The world today is less safe, despite all the military and police measures, the resources and so on. So I say that nobody can guarantee security with the army, with the police. As long as the world is as imbalanced as it is today, as long as there are such large social differences – on the one hand excessive wealth, too much to be of use to a person, and on the other terrible poverty. This is still the world today and we said a decade ago that we will easily exterminate poverty and hunger from the world. Rubbish! Half of humanity still live below a level that is adequate for a person, a great many people still die of hunger, or from associated illnesses. But the developed world does very little or almost nothing to change this situation. So it is not surprising that many people see no prospects. A great many young people, for instance, who live in certain parts of the world. The world to them seems unfair, so it is not hard for some extreme religious or other leader constantly to obtain ever new terrorists from the ranks of young people, who are not hard to persuade that the world is unjust, politics is unjust. It has a double standard, one for us and one for others, for their friends and in this way of course continually obtain new suicide terrorists. So I say that if the strongest and richest country in the world, together with others, were to start genuinely removing poverty in the world, it would do a great deal more for its security that it does with all the weapons, armies, new armaments, shields and so on. Because then people would begin to look at it completely differently. No longer as an arrogant superpower, but as a friendly state, which is sincerely striving to improve conditions in the world, to reduce the imbalance, injustice, hunger etc. It would then also become a great deal more difficult, if not impossible, to gain new recruits for terrorist campaigns. If a country which is a good country which wishes to help, if it were to create such a view of the world. This would be the best assurance of security for both the Americans and the Europeans and others in the developed world. No weapons will succeed in assuring it.

Purkart: If we could stay with nuclear weapons for a moment, that is to say the flashpoint in Iran. What comment have you on the demand of the Iranian President Ahmadinedjad that his country is prepared to halt the program of uranium enrichment but only if western countries will do the same?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Well, I think that the Iranian leadership is also irresponsible; that they really don't need nuclear weapons. What do they want to achieve with them? If it were to be directed in ensuring the development of their nation, their state, they could do this peacefully, regardless of what sort of religion they have or anything else. But despite everything they are set on obtaining nuclear weapons and they thus give reason also to others. Those perhaps on the other side who use a new enemy at whom to point their weapons when they then want to press the button. So it is certainly in the interest of the international community and the Iranian leadership to halt this conflict and not give cause to various hawks in the world to find an excuse for their militaristic expansion.

Purkart: Mr. President, I would now ask you to say a few words about Kosovo. Serbian President Boris Tadič, after meeting with the special envoy of the United Nations Ahtisaari, rejected the proposal on the future status of Kosova. Although Ahtisaari explicitly does not mention independence, Tadič immediately asserted that Serbia will never agree to independence for the region. You have been involved a great deal with this problem. Where do you see the solution?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: It is a difficult problem. It is difficult mainly because there is no responsible politician who can solve it, primarily on the Serbian side. I think that Ahtisaari has tried very hard with the proposal, he also went as far against the Serbian side as could go while leaving some »face saving«, so that Kosovo would in some way be actually sovereign but not completely so on a formal level. However, even this is clearly not enough for Serbian politicians; they want something that is unrealistic. It is completely unrealistic to hope to re-establish Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo. That is impossible. Serbia has no instruments for this, no possibilities. From 1999 onwards, after Milošević had tried to assert sovereignty by military and police means, and the world had reacted to this, since then there have been international forces there who look after order and peace and, at the same time, the international community shares administration of Kosovo with the Kosovans. So what is realistic and what Serbian politicians must respect, is that Serbia guarantees the genuine security of the Serbian minority in Kosovo. That it ensures their cooperation, genuinely equal cooperation in all official bodies of Kosovo and that it ensure the protection of the cultural and religious heritage of the monasteries, the churches, which represent a truly important cultural and historical treasure. Anything more than that is completely unrealistic and unachievable. However, when politicians start to play on people's feelings, to play on what was once in Kosovo, what this means for Serbia, to play on the past, great historical events and so on, and at the same time forget, or precisely in order to forget, the problems of the present and future, then such a politician is irresponsible and harmful to the nation. Unfortunately, they have had such politicians in Serbia for almost twenty years and have still not completely shaken them off. So they have lost a great deal, they have lost development, they are lagging behind, but they are still dealing in the past instead of looking at how people are living and trying to raise the standard of living. The quality of life has fallen behind and the danger in this is the same danger represented by all populist politicians, politicians that play on people's negative feelings. We hoped and thought that what happened in former Yugoslavia was serious enough and a clear enough example to all, but clearly it was not enough. Some are still living in such politics, so Ahtisaari has a hard task. Probably the only thing that will be possible will be for the international community to unify and support him; give support to his plan, including on the Security Council of the United Nations, and as such enforce it. As can be seen, Ahtisaari came to recognise that it is probably not possible to achieve agreement between the two sides.

Purkart: Could we look also at our neighbour. The Italian government resigned yesterday, because of Afghanistan. Do you believe that the resignation itself of the Italian Government can have any consequences for Slovenia, or is it so normal a matter in Italy that nobody is surprised by it?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: It is true that it often happens in Italy, or at least it did in the past. It did not during the office of the last government, but it has started early in the term of office of the new government. It is hard to say what agreement they will now reach. I do not believe that it will have any essential impact on relations with Slovenia. As far as these relations are concerned, actually the same applies as I said a little earlier about the Serbian-Kosovan problem - raising the past, playing on negative feelings. Raising injustices that happened in the past and directing attention to these is, of course, not good, for any politician, especially if in this he does not ensure that matters are balanced and close to the historical truth. It is harmful for each side merely to show things from their own perspective and forget the weak points in their own history. I think that it would be a great deal more useful if they were to highlight what they had done themselves, let's say, during the period of fascism; so that it will never again been repeated, so that it will never again go in such a direction. Such things should be exposed, rather than always pointing to others, as if others were those who were weak and we were never so weak. That is not good, it is harmful to everyone.

Purkart: Have you written to the Italian President about this?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Yes, you could say so.

Purkart: You have already mentioned the United Nations when we spoke about Kosovo. The United Nations was founded after one of the biggest crises that humanity has experienced, and it now seems that the further we come from that year, the more time passes, the smaller the role that the United Nations has in the world. Do you agree with this, or where do you see the future of the United Nations?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: The United Nations is a very important institution and it was a great step forward for mankind when the United Nations was founded after the Second World War. It is true that we are all too often faced with situations in which the UN is ineffective; when decision making is blocked, when the large countries in particular, the superpowers who sit on the Security Council and have the right of veto, cannot agree because each has its own special interests, which it protects. They protect their friends, their economic and geopolitical interests and I sometimes say that there is no-one there to protect the interests of humanity as a whole. They protect their individual interests and this is the problem of the United Nations. Because of such individual interests, they decisions are not then adopted and they are not as effective as they should be. So the UN is often too late, too slow in resolving some crisis situations, such as in Ruanda, or in former Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia & Herzegovina, or more recently in Darfur. There is always some member of the Security Council who has its own interests and then agreement is not reached, action does not occur. And here, too, we reach the point of realisation when it should be clear to all that we are interdependent in this world, interconnected and that we must defend the interests of humanity, not the interests of individual groups, even individual nations, against the interest of humanity.

Purkart: When you were Prime Minister, you were known for your pragmatism. You worked very calmly, always strictly reasonably and from positions intended to be for the best for the majority. Now reason, you say in your most recent book, must become only a tool of awareness, intuition comes to the fore. How did you succeed in this, how can this actually happen?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Each person should halt his reason a little, his thinking. Some thoughts continue to revolve in our heads, we consider something, what will happen to us, what we should do, what was and so on, in short something continues to revolve in our heads and so we are also restless. So life often passes us by, we really don't live it, because our reason, our head, is always somewhere else, not in the here and now. We do not notice the details, little things in our lives, the here and now, but we live in what will perhaps happen or what will not happen, and we are afraid, something always worries us. However, things are no better by this, by being afraid, by being worried. On the contrary, they are normally even worse. Fear or worry often leads us not to make the right move, to make the right decisions. On the other hand, if we succeed in halting this wild thinking, if we succeed in halting our reason, in emptying our heads, then we can really live here in this moment. We perceive it, its full energy, we are aware of everything, of ourselves, of the people around us, every detail. Then we actually live to the full, and marvel precisely when we succeed in this, then ideas can enter our heads, solutions which are better for us, although we are not striving towards them. What enters our heads if we succeed in emptying them, if we succeed in making contact with the moment, if we are aware of it. This is intuition, the inner voice, which starts to work then and can lead us onto better paths for us. We can adopt the best decisions in such a way.

Purkart: However, Mr. President, this world in the west is made in such a way there is almost no need for a person to think any more, everything just happens. Constant events are provided by work, at home in front of the television and a person sometimes has the feeling that it is controlled by someone else, that corporations control it. Actually, as you said previously, how can a person them withdraw into seclusion in order to make progress? Because already a Buddhist, Nietzche wrote that seclusion, whether physical or internal is what brings a rise in consciousness.

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Well, I say that it isn't necessary to be physically isolated, to go somewhere into seclusion. Perhaps it is useful to do this for a brief time, long enough to succeed in halting our present patterns of life, those that we mechanically repeat, in order to be able to get out of them. A holiday is sometimes enough for that, or perhaps a weekend, to go somewhere and get out of the daily routine, which we mechanically repeat, without thinking, without asking why we are doing this at all, whether or not it is good, or whether we should perhaps be doing something else. We must therefore find a way of getting out of this routine, from our normal patterns. Seclusion can be useful in this, but is not essential; we can succeed in other ways. Above all, we must start to be aware of this routine, of this mechanical life in which we live. When we are not really living for real, when we just repeat things, from day to day, without complete awareness, with low awareness; when in the end life passes us by, when we constantly have the feeling that we are not living for real, that there is something not right in our life. We must reinstate this awareness, and thereafter start to be aware of everything. To start to consider our current patterns, whether they are right, what they serve, whether I can live any other way. If I do this or that in such a way, then always fall into a bad mood, or melancholy, or anger or worry or fear, how to change this, how to overcome it. We must above all find a way of starting to be positive. To be always relaxed, in a good mood, not to be chased by negative thoughts, fears and worries, to shake these off. We will then live a great deal more easily, and we will also be healthier. We must live where we are, in the centre, among people. We cannot learn to live only in seclusion, because we will then not know how to live in society, where we belong. So we must learn to live in our own environment and build a wall of awareness around us. So that we do not repeat things, that we are not drawn by patterns, that other people do not draw us automatically into some pattern of activity of their own. That we are always aware of ourselves, the environment, other people and live to the full. Intuition then serves us well.

Purkart: It is very interesting is it not that many people who are on a higher level of awareness actually come from the worst crisis focalpoints in the world, from the worst poverty: India, Nepal and similar. You say in your book that tragedy or poverty can also contribute to a person having a different view of the world.

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: It is true. The modern way of life, especially in the western, developed world, is such today. In a way it is comfortable, it draws a person into a comfortable pattern. Material wellbeing is plentiful, television fills our time and somehow we then survive such a life, with low awareness. Because we live somehow mechanically, as you said before. Perhaps we don't really live, we fill life with various substitutes, with various makeshifts. We are involved in consumerism, with material well-being, and our careers interest us, and television, football, but in the end this is more vegetating than consciously living. So it is interesting that many people who live in more difficult circumstances and are faced with real experiences, raise their awareness more. They raise it on their own, also their energy, so that they are more aware of life, they know better how to value every moment of existence, to appreciate what they have and to be sensitive to others. So they are aware that people must help each other because they depend on this, they cannot otherwise survive; that people are interconnected, interdependent and that they are also connected with nature, dependent on it. Western man is lacking such awareness today, if I can say so. Life has become too alienated from other people, there is no longer a feeling of solidarity, mutual dependence, help, compassion. There is no longer a bond with nature, life has become so urbanised, so different from what it once was, so vulnerable. Mankind is ever more dependent on all the makeshifts and illusions that modern civilisation creates. He no longer knows how to live his own life and when he is faced with a real crisis at some moment, he renounces it. So we see many people in some western countries who do not know how to live on their own, who need a psychiatrist in order to be able to live. This is actually unbelievable, that a person can't live by themselves that he needs a psychiatrist for this, to advise him how to live. A person who has a great deal of money, who actually has everything but doesn't know how to live on his own. Or they have to drink alcohol or take drugs or something similar, because they do not know how otherwise to live. They do not know how to live with themselves with awareness in this world.

Purkart: Can I ask you what happened in Ambruš? We could see it, but what did you feel at the time? Were you afraid?
Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Not in the least. Absolutely not. I think that nothing actually frightens me any more, that I have succeeded in banishing this feeling entirely from, if I can put it, my repertoire. Fear is interesting, isn't it. If a person is afraid of something, then there is a much higher possibility that precisely that will happen than if he is not afraid of it. Fear somehow attracts misfortune to us and if we are afraid of something then that will really be realised a great deal sooner. As if our own negativity somehow draws negativity. Fear is a negative feeling and attracts negative energy, bad people, bad events. If we are positive, if we are not afraid, if we are positively directed and are not afraid and not worried, then good things happen to us, just come to us on the way. Good people, too, not bad but good. As if good attracts good and bad bad. Negative energy attracts the bad, and positive energy the good.

Purkart: Finally, Mr. President, it is noticeable that it is very easy recently in Slovenia to settle accounts with people by making anonymous charges against them. This has happened to you today. Could you make some comment?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: We still live in a world in which there is a great deal of negativity and a very great many people who are still very involved, caught by, full of this negativity. Such people only know how to do bad things, nothing good and somehow they cannot rid themselves of it. And then when they feel that the wider climate has perhaps become more inclined to them, such negativity comes out and they verbalise it, as in the case that you mentioned. There have been a number of such cases recently. However, this doesn't bother me at all. I think that it is important that we constantly create positive energy, that we are constantly positive, that this is the only way to change the world, also for raising awareness. If you sink to the same level as negative people, then even if you have good intentions, you will yourself remain stuck there. You will then toss negativities with them, in the mud, if I can so put it, so there is no sense in it. So I also bypass it, it doesn't interest me, it bounces off. There are much more important things in the world. Those we discussed in the first part of the broadcast. It is necessary to raise awareness. It is necessary to change the world. In the end it is necessary to save it, so that it does not collapse.

Purkart: Good luck, Mr. President, and thank you for being our guest.

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: Thank you, too.