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Interview given to TVS for broadcast Studio City

Ljubljana, 03/07/2007  |  interview


The interview with the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr. Janez Drnovšek for the TVS broadcast Studio City was conducted by Marcel Štefančič jr.
Published on: 5th March 2007


Marcel Štefančič: Mr President, concerning tensions between Slovenia and Croatia, you recently stated: "I still believe that both governments must begin serious dialogue without the sort of uneasiness that leads nowhere. It is essential that the governments sit down and start seriously finding solutions to unresolved issues; if they don't, we only pass from one incident to the other, from one strained situation to another." Do you think that this recipe for the resolution of relations between Slovenia and Croatia could also work in the settling of relations between you and Prime Minister Janša?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Dialogue is always good, always better than confrontation; however, sincerity is a prerequisite for dialogue, as is the readiness to listen and not only to talk.

Štefančič: It seems that Andrej Rant is the latest issue that has come between the two of you. Will you insist on Andrej Rant as the candidate for Governor of the Bank of Slovenia?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Andrej Rant is a good candidate, and I shall certainly insist on his candidature until the end of the process.

Štefančič: If he is rejected, will you propose another candidate, the third in a row, or not?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I hope that he is approved. I think that this would be the only proper and logical result. If he should happen not to be, I shall nominate a new candidate, one who is equally independent and professional. I shall not lower my criteria, even if they expect me to.

Štefančič: The coalition is said to have its own candidate. What is the probability that you would propose their candidate?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I think it is not logical for me to propose the coalition's candidate. Whatever for? If the President of the Republic is the proponent in accordance with the law, he must choose candidates at his own discretion. I find somewhat controversial the demand that I should consult with leaders of deputy groups and then propose the candidate most likely to draw a majority. I cannot see why precisely at this specific point the president of the country should abandon his capacity – which otherwise is not intertwined with internal politics – and start pursuing internal political matters, creating coalitions, negotiating with parties and so on. This is not true at any other point, and I think that, in the spirit of the Constitution and the governing law, it is not up to the president to create coalitions; the president should be trusted, a priori, to select the best candidate, and approval by the parliament should be a mere formality, or perhaps a safeguard for contingencies.

Štefančič: Don’t you think that this disrespects the function of the presidency?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: It seems so, quite often, in the conduct of certain politicians and their disrespectful language. This is not about me personally; it is about the function of the presidency, which, as a rule, is respected everywhere in the world.

Štefančič: Do you think that the government is trying to subordinate the function of the presidency, which means you?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I have already said this several times, since I have also been following these developments from this point of view; if I don’t propose what they find suitable and then they try to enforce it by applying pressure, this is exactly what I call it.

Štefančič: Do you have the feeling that the government is trying to subordinate the Bank of Slovenia?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Any attempt at diminishing the independence of the governor of the Bank of Slovenia, at his being suitable for the governing coalition or government could mean the subordination of the Bank of Slovenia.

Štefančič: Could this destabilise Slovenia in any way?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: It would bring in some elements which are not the most democratic and not in the spirit of our Constitution. It would certainly mean the beginning or continuation of adverse trends in our country.

Štefančič: In your view, what would destabilise Slovenia more – being without a governor of the Bank of Slovenia for some time, or being subordinated by the government?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Neither is good for the country. A fact which is bad for the country is that, on several occasions, the National Assembly has rejected the proposals of the president of the country involving distinguished and very reasonable candidates. If there is no governor of the Bank of Slovenia for some time, this only intensifies negative feeling or points to a crisis, which is not good at all. It does not reflect well on Slovenia, either at home or abroad.

Štefančič: When you said that Slovenia was headed towards an institutional crisis, everyone thought you meant the Bank of Slovenia. What else did you have in mind when you said that?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Disrespect of the institution of the presidency, the attempt at subordinating this institution, as well as the attempt at subordinating the Bank of Slovenia, already points to an institutional crisis.

Štefančič: Are we then in the middle of an institutional crisis?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I don't want to engage in a game of semantics. I think I have said enough.

Štefančič: Is this why you say that the government is hindering nation-building at the moment?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I have given certain warnings that have been understood as criticism. But I think that it was my duty to do so. And there is still time for the government to heed them and, in fact, prove me wrong.

Štefančič: Whenever you have disagreed with the government this has indeed led to a straining of relations. Are you of the opinion that Slovenia’s President should be a kind of counterweight or corrective measure to the activities of the country's government?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: No, I am not. It is not my intention to be a priori in opposition. However, if I feel that things have taken a wrong turn at a certain moment, it is my duty to say so. If I don’t, then I myself become part of this adversity; I would also have to take responsibility for not having said anything when there was still a chance to do so.

Štefančič: It seems, however, that at this moment you are a much stronger counterweight to the government in political terms than the opposition?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: No, this is not the best way to put it. The role of opposition should be in the hands of the parliamentary opposition, which should be loud enough and powerful enough to prevent excesses in the country.

Štefančič: The presidential elections are drawing nearer. I am going to pose a hypothetical question to you, not about whether you will be running for president. If a candidate proposed by the SDS becomes the president of Slovenia, a person who agrees with the government on every issue, would this signify an institutional crisis in Slovenia? In other words, what kind of institutional crisis would be in store for us in such a case?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, you yourself know what we think or what the world thinks of countries in which all institutions are subordinate to a single person and what we call these countries.

Štefančič: But we already had a very similar situation when you were the prime minister. Tone Rop was, at the time when he was prime minister, a member of the same party that you had been in before… Were we in for an institutional crisis then?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, I think that we were not acting in a very coordinated way.

Štefančič: I recall Athens, for example…

Dr Janez Drnovšek: … The same political affiliation does not necessarily mean an a priori shared opinion on all issues. It is important that the person discharging the office of president of a country or other institution act according to the tenets of the office and constitutional duty, independently, and not based on any other principle.

Štefančič: On the one hand, you are saying that we are looking at an institutional crisis; but aren't you, as it were, exacerbating the situation? Does this mean that you nevertheless see something good in this institutional crisis? Do you find that an institutional crisis in Slovenia would come in handy at this moment and could be cathartic and therapeutic?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Crises can sometimes have this effect – in fact, quite frequently. Sometimes they are needed to make people think, to bring things to a stop and regain some perspective. People may not admit it when it is actually happening, but it still shifts something in their heads and makes them behave differently in the future.

Štefančič: What specifically do you think could change if an institutional crisis occurred?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I am not thinking along these lines. I am just pointing to certain phenomena which, in my opinion, are not good. I have no other intention. I shall be pleased if the Government and Prime Minister take my remarks into consideration. I do not want a crisis for its own sake, far from it. I only want things to be in proper order for the country to operate normally.

Štefančič: Do you thing that such a crisis could deepen public distrust of independent institutions, democracy and democratic processes? It seems that people have lost their confidence in Slovenia – this is evident from the sabotage they have been committing lately.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I, too, think that there is less confidence, that people don’t trust politics and politicians very much any more. This is a rather serious problem, not only in Slovenia but also elsewhere, in a number of Western democracies. The crisis of confidence is substantial – politicians and political parties have no credibility – and this should make them think seriously.

Štefančič: Prime Minister Janša nevertheless says that the rules of the game should be changed. There have even been hints that legislation related to the appointment of the governor should be amended. The government recently issued an overview of systems applied abroad. This may be a sign that something is afoot, for instance a change in the system of appointing constitutional judges. There is even talk of abolishing the Office of the Former President.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: All these are signs showing that the warnings have not been properly understood. It is a bad tendency if the undermining of the independence of institutions continues, if attempts to gain control of all levers of power in the country continue. This will not at all be in the spirit of a democratic country and of the standards we set ourselves when we founded this state.

Štefančič: Should Slovenia’s president have more powers in the field of the armed forces, particularly now when Slovenia has become, proportionally, the second largest exporter of armed forces, obviously changing from the small country that dreamed of being a demilitarised zone into a military country?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, this is also one of the problems of this office. The president of a country is the Supreme Commander of its armed forces, but has no powers in time of peace. The least I would expect as president, regardless of whether it is written down somewhere or not, is to be consulted in these important matters… and not having to find out from newspapers that we are sending to Kosovo the largest ever unit to date.

Štefančič: Don’t you think that we are now more secure than before because we have so many soldiers?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I think it is good to participate in international peacekeeping operations. Whenever peace is involved, it is right that Slovenia should make its contribution in proportion to our size and ability, and we have stuck to this to date. Except for this latest case involving a very large and very sudden jump in the number of Slovenian troops in international operations.

Štefančič: In addition, one wonders if our soldiers are truly seen as peacekeeping forces in the areas to which they have been deployed?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: This is always a question. Here, however, we have to act, first of all, at our own discretion and then in line with the decisions of the United Nations when this organisation decides to engage in peacekeeping operations. It is also true, however, that some situations now are very complex in areas where troops are participating, and the possibility of escalation is considerable. And, indeed, the decision-makers should have taken this into account.

Štefančič: Why is the content of your writing to President Napolitano such a secret?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: It is not a secret.

Štefančič: Can you tell me what you have written?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I was of the opinion that it might not have been effective to get involved in the public brawl, as it were, between the Italians and Croats in the same way.

Štefančič: Would there be time now to meet in person?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I have written what needed to be written, and I have pointed out to President Napolitano that, in my view, his statements had not been appropriate.

Štefančič: Do you think that Janez Janša has read any of your books?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I don’t know.

Štefančič: Have you read any of his?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: To be frank, I haven't.

Štefančič: How do your books sell abroad? Apparently they are bestsellers.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: At least in Croatia, yes.

Štefančič: I hear that you have changed your first book Thoughts on Life and Awareness for the English market in order to make it more pointed than the Slovene version. What is it that you intend to communicate more to foreign countries than Slovenia?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: The English edition is in preparation, and it is true that I have changed it somewhat compared to the Slovene version, because I have fine-tuned some of my reflections in the meanwhile, as it were. I may have gained some additional experience as an author. I therefore think that this edition – which is now being prepared in English, as well as the edition in Slovene, which has changed accordingly – will be quite interesting.

Štefančič: Do you think that you are more widely read abroad than Drago Jančar?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I don’t know. I haven’t looked into the statistics. In any event, it is not my intention to establish myself as an author. I want to raise awareness among people.

Štefančič: I am asking you this because on one of the presidential pre-election talks shows – I think it was five years ago – you answered the question of who was the most widely read Slovenian author abroad with the answer Drago Jančar, although we know that it was not true. The most widely read Slovenian author at that time, as well as now, was Slavoj Žižek.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I am not aware of that. At the time I probably thought that it was Drago Jančar. I don’t have this information and am not interested in it. I don’t know why I should be.

Štefančič: OK. If you are not running for president, who will you endorse?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, all in good time. Let’s not jump the gun.

Štefančič: OK, although the audience of Studio City would appreciate it very much if you confided in them.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I am sure they would. I am also sure they will understand if I don’t address this at the moment.

Štefančič: Thank you very much, Mr President.
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