Should Slovenia celebrate independence with a military parade?

29-12-2006

Fifteen years have passed since Slovenia achieved independence from the former Yugoslavia. In that time, Slovenia has been crafting a new identity, reforming its economy and political system and realigning its position in Europe. Since independence, the small Alpine country has joined NATO and the European Union, and next year should become the first new EU member to adopt the Euro.

But the question of how to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Slovenian independence has led to an unexpectedly bitter dispute. At the centre of the dispute - a planned military parade.

The first shots were fired by Janez Drnovsek, Slovenia's president, which is a ceremonial position but also the "supreme commander" of the military. Around the end of February, Drnovsek spoke out against a planned parade on the country's national day, calling it "inappropriate and unnecessary."

Slovenia's president, Janez Drnovsek:

"I believe that Slovenia does not need a military parade. Slovenia is a country that is committed to peace and peaceful solutions of conflicts where ever in the world. I think military parades are more a thing of the past, when countries exhibited their military power, when they, if I may say, rattled their weapons and thereby send messages, which were not messages of peace."

Shortly thereafter, Drnovsek was joined by other public personalities in the country, notably Ombudsman Matjaz Hanzek and the former head of the government reforms committee Mico Mrkaic. A petition was sent to the government, demanding the parade by cancelled. Some felt that the timing for a military parade was wrong in light of the fact that four Slovenian officers were recently sent to Iraq to serve as military advisers.

The government, including the Prime Minister Janez Jansa, criticized the fact that Drnovsek expressed his disapproval to the press first, instead of to the government. Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa:

"It would be somewhat unusual if the military was included in the celebration in a way that the supreme commander disagrees with. It would have sufficed if the President had sent a single notice to whomever in the government, the president of the committee, to me personally, or if he had made a phone call -- and this disagreement would not have occurred."

In the meantime, Slovenian media (notably the left-leaning magazine Mladina, which spearheaded the anti-parade movement) republished a statement written by the Prime Minister in 1985, in which he said that the more "backwards a nation, the larger the celebrations."

The question of whether there will be a parade or not is still in the air. Prime Minister Janez Jansa:

"The government has not yet reached a final decision on how the 15th anniversary of Slovenian independence is going to be celebrated."

This particular question will be solved one way or another in the next two weeks. But the questions surrounding Slovenia's identity will nevertheless remain.

29-12-2006