A Passionate Relationship With Politics

Emotions, even sadness, always seemed to me as something completely separate from politics. Until the moment we were invited by Argentine President Carlos Menem to his house, for lunch. The President’s residence consisted of big complex of buildings, playgrounds and airports, fully fenced with brick wall, in the middle of Buenos Aires. The house where we had lunch was probably the smallest in the area, completely disproportionate to others, but obviously he felt good in it. He talked about various matters related to economic conditions in South America and, with a lot of sympathy, about Slovenia. However, he was absentminded. I was sitting almost opposite him and the sadness was not only visible in his eyes, but one could almost feel it. We travelled back to Ljubljana the next day. In the plane, I was writing small notes on that short visit, until President Dr. Janez Drnovšek surprised me with a small remark on Menem’s sorrow and mourning for the deceased child. And he immediately continued with his silence. As if he wanted to point out a new relation between the classical quote of the philosopher Wittgenstein, whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent, which later becomes an accurate calculation on when and how to talk in politics. That was the first time I had found out that sorrow, rebellion and passion are an integral part of the politics, that you cannot understand all the decisions without them.

I still associate a rebellion in politics with two almost completely separate events. The first one from the second half of the eighties, probably unrepeatable time, when it seemed that everything became allowed in politics. I shared my office with Janez Janša, the then already anathematized and politically controversial chairman of the People’s Defence Committee. Nevertheless, and my memory is related to this, he outlined the contents of the calls for regular meetings of his committee on a piece of paper every Monday morning. It was already clear that it was not recommendable to respond to his calls or participate at those meetings, but he nonetheless convened them.
The second event is from the night we celebrated the proclamation of independence by Slovenia. Early in the morning, actually shortly after midnight, I talked with Janša. I was in my office, on the fourth floor of the national television and him, already the minister of defence, in the office in the centre of Ljubljana. We have information that the tanks had left the barracks in Vrhnika, he told me. It was a rebellion.
Many years later, I noticed the political rebellion in Drnovšek. Perhaps it was even resentment or anger. He knew that the country had to regulate relations with the Catholic Church before full membership in the European Union. In a close circle, he began to prepare a plan of the necessary agreement with the Holy See. In a confidential atmosphere, we met with the then Ljubljana Archbishop and Metropolitan Dr Rode and also with members of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference. Everything remained hidden from the public and also the leadership of the party led by Drnovšek.
Until the moment the story was published by daily Dnevnik. This was followed by a large meeting with the leadership of the party that did not end really well. After the meeting, I drank coffee with the President, in that small room of the castle Brdo, which looks more like a waiting room than a buffet, decorated with stuffed hunting trophies and always dark. I heard for the first time that he had decided that he would leave the then ruling party and immediately establish a completely new one. It would be led by him and Silva Bauman, his loyal associate from Belgrade days.

However, it would not be just a political rebellion. It was a passion. Not frequently present political characteristic when it comes to Drnovšek. He had a meeting with Bianca Jagger, a charming former spouse of Mick Jagger, in a New York hotel “Waldorf Astoria”. Bianca promoted Slovenia with a certain kind of sympathy in her American, business and political circles. They also discussed this. Then the president began to look at me more and more frequently and smile at me a little bit mysteriously. I figured out it was time to leave them alone. It was a passion.
Drnovšek’s joy was different. In fact, I saw it, his joy, immediately after the end of successfully completed dialogues with former Croatian Prime Minister Dr. Nikica Valentić, on outstanding issues between Slovenia and Croatia. We drove from Opatija, in the Croatian protocol boat, for lunch to a nearby Cres. To Valun. He was joyful because he was confident that the work was completed successfully. Unfortunately, it resulted later that it was not so. Valentić had to resign, not because of attempts to solve the border and other issues with Slovenia, but also because of the principle of solving them, a principle which could later be applied for the resolution of outstanding border issues with all the other Croatian neighbours too, with the necessary modifications. I watched Valentić when the emissary of president Dr. Franjo Tuđman informed him to forget the agreement with Slovenia, since he would be suspended in the coming days.
The key characteristic of a good politician is a good estimate of the conditions within which he/she proposes individual decisions.
At the time in the eve of Slovenia’s independence, one of those decisions was Milan Kučan’s decision on Slovenia’s resolute insisting on Slovenia’s right to adopt constitutional amendments. The Belgrade session was convened urgently and with a single purpose, to discipline Slovenian leadership and make them withdraw the amendment. Anything was possible that Belgrade afternoon and that evening when Slobodan Milošević in fact already took power. Except withdrawal. Everything that followed later in Yugoslavia, including Slovenian leaving of the Congress of Yugoslav Communist Party, was only expected and less significant consequence. The key decision was made that night.
The Slovenian parliament adopted the constitutional changes a day later.

Before entering the European Union, Slovenia had to resolve the complicated dispute with neighbouring Italy, which was largely related to the question of returning of land and property after the war to the evicted residents of Italian nationality. However, everything was only becoming more and more complicated. One morning, Drnovšek (actually his secretary Jana Pogačnik) suddenly convened a session, in a voice whose tone meant disallowance of any objection. He informed us that we would travel to Rome in a few hours, where we would land at the military airport, due to the secrecy of meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli, and her cousin, someone from the family Windischgretz, would take us to her apartment in Rome.
It is still not quite clear to me who was the mediator in the preparation of this meeting. We went there. Drnovšek repeated – now is the time. Now we have to find a solution. If we don’t find it, all further opportunities will only be worse and less acceptable for Slovenia.
Agnelli explained the contents of the Italian requests. It was basically the return of small, large and very large properties to old Rapallo borders. After a good hour, the conversation ended in cold conclusion that such requests would not and could not be accepted by any Slovenian government. On the way from the minister’s apartment, using the stairs, he told me that we would not get the solution in Rome, and that we would try in Madrid. I never asked him later whether the decision on a Madrid meeting with Spanish foreign minister was made before his departure for Rome, at the meeting with Agnelli or on those beautiful stone stairs of a Roman villa. It was certainly a good political judgment. Drnovšek had excellent relations with the authorities in Madrid. Among other things, because he spoke good Spanish and because we had a good and influential ambassador in this country, Franco Juri. And an excellent honorary consul Villa Rasso in Barcelona. During one of his visits to Barcelona, he brought, for dinner with Drnovšek, all, literally all influential owners of the Catalan capital. Spain was a state lobbyist of Slovenian entry into the European Union. Anyway, a formula of the Spanish compromise was found, as a political tool that would allow the withdrawal of Italian reservation and the Slovenian membership in the European Union. The conditions under which the proposal was promoted were simply evaluated. Much like later in Rome, at a meeting with new Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. We also had a great ambassador in Italy, unfortunately deceased Marko Kosin. The success of the meeting was decided by a single argument which Drnovšek used in the best and only moment. He said, not to the prime minister, but the banker Prodi, that Slovenia regularly paid funds allocated to a special account in Luxembourg, which were intended for settlement of optants’ property. Prodi concluded that, therefore, they should take the money, because Slovenia belongs to the Union anyway. This was followed by a small scandal. One of the senior officials, participants in the meeting, stood up, and hastily ran along the long table to his prime minister, and was about to start yelling at him that taking the Slovenian money was a straight treason. The problem was resolved, also because of good political estimate of when and how.
The later head of the Slovenian government, Anton Rop, managed to solve the issue with the funding of the Slovenian minority in Italy in the same Roman palace exactly due to this type of good judgment. There were attempts during the entire legislative procedure, but without success in terms of our minority. The head of the Italian government was Silvio Berlusconi. Our embassy was able to get an appointment with him the last night on the eve of the vote on the budget in the Italian parliament.
Berlusconi met Rop and associates late in the evening. It was already clear that the visit was going to be successful after the greeting. Antonio, Antonio, Berlusconi almost sang his name. And he immediately asked what the problems were and what the suggested solutions were.
We shall solve it tomorrow, he said. And added that he probably still had not eaten anything either and then proposed to the secretary to order pizzas and drink from his favourite pizza restaurant so that Antonio would not go hungry from Rome. The budget of the Slovenian minority in Italy was resolved.

A good political decision is always associated with a third characteristic of a successful politician, and that is a sense of responsibility.

That was the reason for the letters the president of the Serbian government Dr Zoran Đinđić wrote to European leaders and the US president only a few months before his assassination. In fact, he asked them to start discussions on the status of Kosovo. At the beginning of 2003, it was still a diplomatically non-discussed subject, for, allegedly, the issues of so-called standards in the province were to be regulated first, and only later the question of its status. Đinđić knew, despite strong opposition both in Serbia and among the recipients of his letter, that it was simply not politically responsible to wait and come to a situation, as he said, to wake up one morning and hear the news that Kosovo is independent. It was more a coincidence than anything else that I was able, after one of the New Year’s receptions, prepared by the President Đinđić that year, to speak with him exactly about that. He used the term of political responsibility during that conversation.

Similar to so many years later, when, after winning the election, Borut Pahor took over the Slovenian government. I was in his office when he explained that it was necessary to find a solution to the border dispute with Croatia. It is now our responsibility, my and my government’s responsibility, he explained.

Drnovšek expanded a sense of responsibility to the whole world as a president of the country. He radicalized it in his own way and in accordance with it exceeded the boundaries of the state and solutions, even the general issues, including the tragedy in Darfur.

When I write about passion and responsibility, and capability of good judgment, I also speak about the memory of the original function of persons who already formed the subject of politician in the distant past, through the polis. The one who thinks and acts for the common good, for the common welfare and for once famous phrase of Boris Vian: what interests me is not the happiness of all men, but the happiness of each man.