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February 11 2014

Prisoners Lists Stir Informbiro Memories in Former Yugoslav Republics

The recent publishing of lists of prisoners of Goli Otok, victims of communist purges in Yugoslavia from 1949 to 1956, has reignited dormant debates and opened some old wounds, across all the former Yugoslav republics.

Goli Otok is a Croatian island that was used as a prison camp during the so-called “Informbiro era” – the post-World War II breakdown between the communist leaderships of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. For many Yugoslavs, “Tito's historical ‘No!’ to Stalin” was a source of pride, especially because it solidified their country's role as an intermediary between the Western and Eastern Bloc. The purges that were part of the clash officially included persecution of alleged “pro-Soviet communists”. According to the victims and dissidents of the time, this was often just an excuse by the country's power-mongers to get rid of anyone they disliked for any reason and, thus, people of many other political affiliations were sent to the notorious camp.

Prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

Abandoned prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

During the last two months of 2013, Croatian portal Novi Plamen (New Flame) published two lists compiled by UDBA (Yugoslav State Security Service) from the State Archive of Croatia – the list of the 413 people [hr] who died in the camps, and the list of all 16,101 prisoners [hr] who had served sentences there. The second link spread widely through social networks and then through news portals in all six former Yugoslav republics.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment... Published by Novi Plamen.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment… Published by Novi Plamen.

Slovenian right-wing blogger Pavel noted [si] that the publishing of the lists coincided with the recent December 9, 2013, death of Jovo Kapičić [sr], who had allegedly been the man in charge of Goli Otok. In an August 2013 interview, Kapičić, a Serb, claimed [sr] that the Serbs had made up the majority of prisoners at the camp.

Twitter user ‏@flusteredcooler from Montenegro commented on this issue as well and, while people from all of the former Yugoslav republics often claim that their nationals made up the majority of those sentenced to serve time at Goli Otok, he noticed:

Legend says that most of the population of Goli Otok consisted of Montenegrins? The lists show that it was Yugoslavia in a nutshell [representing everybody]

A senior Macedonian blogger, among the oldest members of the local blogosphere, and a World War II anti-fascist resistance veteran, Buv (“Owl”), posted an announcement [mk] by the Association of former Goli Otok prisoners, advising caution in relation to the lists and offering first-hand consultations to all interested parties:

Темата за “голооточаните“.“информбировците“затвореници што ја издржувале казната во логорот Голи Оток е дел од пошироката историска тема за конфликтот меѓу СССР и СФРЈ.Не може да се зборува за казнениците на Голи Оток,без да се разгледуваат во комлесот на историските збиднувања.

Независно од тоа колку биле свесни/идејно свесни/за својот однос кон конкретните настани,учесниците во збиднувањата,што подоцна се нашле на Голи Оток,се учесници во еден политички судир кој има исклучително историско значење,за нив,за нивната земја,за пошироките светски движења.

Ова отклонување го направивме за да обрниме внимание на оние лесно искажани карактеристики што се даваат по повод на објавените списоци за голооточаните/информбировците/ и во други прилики.Без да се има во вид поширокиот контекст на случувањата,може паушално да се кажува се и сешто.Важноста на историската проблематика бара сериозен пристап.

Здружението Голи Оток,меѓу другото,ја има и таа задача да ја објасни,документира,да ја покаже историската вистина за настаните во кои независно од нивната волја се нашле и овие страдалници,што така строго ги казнила историјата.

The topic of the “inhabitants of Goli Otok,” the “Informbiro prisoners” is part of a larger historical topic about the conflict between the [USSR] and the [SFRY]. One cannot talk about the Goli Otok prisoners without taking into account the complexity of historical events.

Regardless of how much they were aware or ideologically involved in these concrete events, the participants who were detained on Goli Otok were engulfed in a political clash with exceptional historical importance, for them personally, for their country and the wider world movement.

We publish this notice to draw attention to the reactions that have been published with great ease after the lists of prisoners were exposed, as well at other occasions. Without taking into consideration the wider context of events, anyone can say anything without arguments. The importance of the historical issues requires a very serious approach.

The Goli Otok Association has the mission to explain, document and disclose the historical truth about the events which unwittingly encompassed these sufferers, who were so severely punished by history.

Informbiro activities left deep trauma in the collective former Yugoslav memory, parts of which were artistically expressed through popular cult movies like When Father Was Away on Business (1985) by then young Bosnian/Serbian director Emir Kusturica, and Happy New Year '49 (1986) by Macedonian director Stole Popov.

January 20 2014

European Citizens Call for the Protection of Media Pluralism

For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and 'like' the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

Website: MediaInitiative.eu. For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and ‘like’ the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

“European institutions should safeguard the right to free, independent and pluralistic information”. The quote, from the Media Initiative website, summarizes the main idea behind a pan-European campaign that aims at urging the European Commission to draft a Directive to protect Media Pluralism and Press Freedom.

The Media Initiative is running a European Citizens’ Initiative - a tool of participatory democracy “which allows civil society coalitions to collect online and offline one million signatures in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a proposal forming the base of an EU Directive, initiating a legislative process”. The petition is available in 15 languages and can be signed online:

Protecting media pluralism through partial harmonization of national rules on media ownership and transparency, conflicts of interest with political office and independence of media supervisory bodies.

A short video presents the campaign:

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 23 2013

DIY Galaksija Computer, Bedrock of Serbia's IT Industry, Turns 30

Voja Antonić and his colleague Jova Regasek putting together the Galaksija prototype in 1983. Public domain.

Voja Antonić and his colleague Jova Regasek putting together the Galaksija prototype in 1983. Public domain.

The Galaksija (Galaxy) computer, created by inventor and author Voja Antonić in 1983 with detailed instructions for anyone to put together a personal computer with standard parts, is nothing less than legendary in the former Yugoslavia. The DIY home computer may not have matched the quality or high-tech readiness of most brand name computing machines of the time, but it inspired a country and a generation to plunge deeper and farther into the IT industry that was just beginning to develop worldwide.

As legend would have it, in the summer of 1983, a young journalist with a flare for all things tech and scientific, Voja Antonić, was vacationing in Montenegro. At the time, importing computers and such machinery into Yugoslavia was close to impossible for the average citizen due to complicated customs laws and licenses. Such technology didn't come cheap in the 1980s either. A standard PC in 1983 cost about an average Yugoslav worker's monthly salary, which was among the highest in Europe at the time.

Cover of the January 1984 edition of

Cover of the January 1984 edition of “Računari u vašoj kući” magazine. Public domain.

Antonić plunged into some summer reading on the Montenegrin coast that year about a new brand-name computer that had just been released on the global market. As he looked at the schematic, he realized that most of the parts of standard PCs had become readily available at most hardware stores throughout the country. Within months, the young Antonić had put together a schematic for anyone who wanted to build a do-it-yourself computer. He then contacted a few manufacturers of such parts and partnered with them to create DIY packages with all the necessary parts that any ordinary consumer could order for and put together at home.

Initially, the team involved believed they could sell as much as several hundred of the Galaksija kits, a number they thought to be highly optimistic but possible. Antonić knew he would also have to publish the schematic in a place where wider audiences could see it, for those who didn't want to order the ready to build Galaksija kit, but would rather purchase the parts on their own. He teamed up with Dejan Ristanović, who was barely 20 years old at the time and putting together a magazine about the latest in PC technology, “Računari u vašoj kući” (“Computers in Your Home”). Together, Ristanović and Antonić released the full diagram and instructions for the Galaksija personal computer in the first January 1984 edition of the magazine, published in December of 1983. Within a year or so, over 8,000 Galaksija kits were sold in Yugoslavia, while the number of those who purchased parts on their own and used the schematic to build their custom Galaksija were never recorded. That same year, Galaksija computers were introduced into elementary schools throughout the country. The year was 1984.

A tech revolution was incited. Ristanović, Antonić and their team also used radio and television to promote the Galaksija and everything computer-related, teaching average users how to customize both their hardware and tweak code here and there. The video below is one of  Antonić's countless popular television appearances in which he sat down to explain some gaming basics to Galaksija and other PC users:

Thirty years later, Antonić is a world-renowned inventor, speaker and writer, while Ristanović is the editor-in-chief of one of the country's most popular geek magazines, PC Press, and co-founder of one of the first Internet providers in Serbia. Today, Serbia is known among those in the IT industry as a place of great potential and well-rounded developers and innovators, despite the recent decades of political, social and economic troubles. In a recent post, Eurogamer.net elaborated on how the Galaksija revolutionized the use of personal computers on several levels. Radio DJ Zoran Modli came upon the idea at the time to distribute software for the Galaksija and other similar machines – through the radio ether. As the Eurogamer.net article explains:

Like the ZX Spectrum and other computers of the time, programs were loaded onto the Galaksija from an audiocassette recorder. This gave Jova Regasek, the editor of Računari, an idea for a bold experiment. He got in touch with Zoran Modli, who hosted the show Ventilator 202 on Radio Belgrade. Modli's show was a mix of local bands and contemporary chart music, but he also had an interest in computers, and Regasek's idea was to broadcast the sound of a computer program that listeners could tape and then load up on their home machines. In effect, this was wireless downloading long before the days of wi-fi.

In the year of Galaksija's 30th anniversary, every school in Serbia is equipped with computers for students, the Internet penetration rate was close to 65 percent in 2012, and visitors are often surprised to find that wifi is readily available almost anywhere in every city and town in the country. Over one-third of the country's adult population uses the Internet daily, and the statistics are just as or more impressive for Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, with Bosnia-Herzegovina lagging somewhat. With much to make up for after the turmoil of the last two decades and the global IT industry developing rapidly, the region has yet to catch up with some other high-tech markets. With the Galaxy to mark its past, many are confident that the region has a bright future ahead.

October 28 2013

Serbia: Jovanka Broz, Widow of Tito, Dies Isolated and Forgotten

She was a revolutionary, a commended war veteran, a style icon and first lady to the leader of the only socialist country in the world that refused to be a Soviet satellite. Jovanka Broz (nee Budisavljević), widow of Marshall Josip Broz Tito, passed away in Belgrade [en] on October 20, 2013. On Saturday, October 23, Jovanka Broz was honored with a state funeral in Serbia's capital and buried in the mausoleum known as “The House of Flowers” [en] next to her husband, a full 33 years after his death.

President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, President Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon overlooking arrival ceremony on the South Lawn from the South Balcony of the White House; photo form the  White House Photo Office Collection, public domain.

President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, President Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon overlooking arrival ceremony on the South Lawn from the South Balcony of the White House; photo form the White House Photo Office Collection, public domain.

Jovanka Broz spent a lifetime being loved, hated, praised and criticized by many. Few and far apart are those who had no opinion of her at all. Born into a family of humble means in Lika (Croatia), she joined the revolutionary partisan forces at the age of 17 and soon became one of Tito's secretaries. Their whirlwind romance began sometime during the Second World War and they were married in 1952, when she was 28 and Tito 60.

Although 30 years her powerful husband's junior, Jovanka was decisive, opinionated and had tremendous influence over her husband at times. Those who met her through diplomatic and political circles claim that she was a highly intelligent woman of elegant poise. There were also those in Yugoslavia and, more recently Serbia, who criticized her spending habits, along with her husband's, who was a well-known hedonist of expensive taste. The video below shows Tito and Jovanka Broz at the height of his power in 1971, during a state visit to US President Richard Nixon.

Jovanka enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle while she was first lady of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, but lived the last 30 years of her life as a recluse in Belgrade in poverty, never inheriting any part of her late husband's estate or receiving much from the state. Reports began emerging in 2005 on blogs and later in media about the conditions in which the former first lady was living in – with no heat, a leaking roof, doors that wouldn't lock, in an old house in the once high-end Belgrade neighborhood of Dedinje that was, essentially, falling apart. Since her death, the blog Bašta Balkana quoted [sr] one of these reports from 2005, when they visited Jovanka, describing the poor state of the house she was living in and a conversation with Jovanka's sister, Nada. The reporter asked:

- Živi li vaša sestra ovde potpuno sama i bez grejanja?! Kako je moguće da se nadležni godinama oglušuju da joj stvore elementarne uslove za život?!

- U ovoj ledari, moja sestra živi sama i to godinama traje – odgovara Nada. – Ponekad ostane i bez struje, nekad se prekinu telefonske veze, plafon prokišnjava. Ali nije samo ona ugrožena. Njenu sudbinu dele i njene komšije. I oni su danima bez grejanja.

- Does your sister really live here all alone and without heating?! How is it possible that the [institutions] responsible for this are ignoring to provide basic living conditions for her?!

- In this icebox, my sister lives alone and it has been like this for years – Nada responds. – Sometimes she is left without electricity too, sometimes the telephone lines go out, the ceiling leaks. But she is not the only one at risk. Her neighbors share this fate with her. They are also left without heating for days.

The government then reacted fairly quickly after these reports and some assistance and reparations were provided for Jovanka and her neighbors occasionally over the next few years. Jovanka remained as far from the the public eye as she could, although media interest had been raised. In the months prior to her death, knowing that her health was rapidly declining, the former first lady of Yugoslavia decided to publish her memoirs, as recorder by author Žarko Jokanović. The book, titled “My Life, My Truth”, was released just three weeks before she died [sr] and is being sold at newsstands at the price of 449 dinars (4 euro or 5.50 US dollars).

Blogger David Bailey, a British expat living in the Balkans, quoted what Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić said at Jovanka Broz's state funeral on Saturday, wondering whether the PM's words were hollow or heartfelt:

The absence of a religious funeral service was the wish of Jovanka and her family.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic led the tributes at the funeral ceremony, saying: “Today marks the departure of the last icon of the former Yugoslavia.” He said it was time to admit that the treatment she received after the death of her husband was a “sin”.

On social networks these days, there is no majority opinion on who or what Jovanka Broz was. Some say she was “an icon” [photos], “a heroine”, others call her “a leech” and “a fake”, while a few simply lament the country's disregard for its own history and its neglect of Jovanka Broz in recent decades. There are very few in-betweens and no particular hashtags to follow, but people are visibly talking about her passing which, in many ways, gives closure to an era that ended 30 years ago. Whatever their opinion or political affiliation, many social media users posted “Bella Ciao”, an Italian song often sung by the partisans of Italy and Yugoslavia before and during WWII, made popular by Giovanna Dafinni in the early 60′s and often tied to Jovanka Broz. Tetka, a popular Serbian portal, wrote in a post titled “Bella Ciao – The Song That Saw Jovanka Broz Off”:

A možda nam je ovim taktovima na svom poslednjem ispraćaju poslala poruku o ujedinjenju, ideji koja je sve nas na prostorima bivše zemlje razjedinila do krvavih ratova jer ova pesma u Italiji i jeste postala popularna kao pesma u kojoj je ujedinjena jedna ideja.[...]

Koliko je ova pesma popularna i danas kao himna pobune, dočaraće vam podatak da su ove godine u Turskoj, buneći se zbog planova da se na mestu poslednjih “zelenih pluća grada” u Istanbulu grad tržni centar, mladi koji su protestovali protov ove odluke premijera Erdogana pevali ovu pesmu.[...]

Jovanke Broz srpska javnost se setila tek kada je dospela u bolnicu i to onda kada više nije sama mogla da donosi odluke. Dok je mogla, odbijala je lečenje kao da je jedva čekala da ode sa ovog sveta, iz društva koje ju je stavilo u izlolaciju i zaboravilo je.

Or perhaps in her last farewell she sent us a message about uniting through these beats, an idea that divided all of us on the territory of this former country through bloody wars, because this song became popular in Italy as the song that unites one idea.[...]

A fact from this year from Turkey will demonstrate the popularity of this song as a revolutionary anthem, where young protesters, rising up against the building of a shopping center in the place of the last “green lungs of the city”, sang this song as they protested this decision by Prime Minister Erdogan.[...]

The Serbian public only remembered Jovanka Broz when she ended up in hospital and even this was when she could no longer make her own decisions. While she could, she refused treatment, as if she could hardly wait to leave this world, this society that put her in isolation and forgot her.

August 08 2013

Slovenia: The Old New Touristic Gem of the Balkans

Slovenia is becoming an ever more popular destination in recent years due to the numerous attractive vacation features it has, in particular for citizens of Europe. Slovenia's idea to focus on and develop health tourism is a flourishing success and this small country now has dozens of natural spas and health resorts.

Using it's geographic advantages in terms of location and climate, Slovenia's development plan has created 15 of the most modern health resorts under the tagline “Through Nature to Health”. This spa tourism campaign has given Slovenia a rising number of visitors who are fans of the green Mediterranean coast.

One of Slovenia's man natural wonders - Skocjan Caves; used under Creative Commons license.

One of Slovenia's man natural wonders – Skocjan Caves; used under Creative Commons license.

The Slovenian coastline is only 46.6 kilometers long, while the coastal towns of Piran, Izila and Kopar draw tourists with their original medieval structures and feel. Social media sites are loaded this summer with warm greetings by users from around Europe and the world during their vacations in Slovenia, who seem most impressed by the country's natural wonders. A Facebook page for caving enthusiasts shares photos by tourists of the amazing Skocjan caves. Another Facebook page, dedicated to summer in Slovenia, shares users’ photos of summer activities such as rafting.

Kayaking lessons in Soča Valley; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

Kayaking lessons in Soča Valley; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

Soča Valley offers many activities and adventures; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

Soča Valley offers many activities and adventures; photo courtesy of Soča Rafting, used with permission.

The most popular destination, however, seems to be the city of Bled:

Alastair Mavor, a Nottingham University History student from London, says this about Bled:

Another Twitter user, a media professional and speaker native to Slovenia, @LenjaFPapp says:

A visitor from Austria @StephDo_ posts as picturesque photo of Bled Lake:

Slovenian lakes still attract the most attention from visitors, but Slovenia seems intent on drawing tourists’ attention to other sites and activities that the country has to offer and ABC News calls it vacationing in the heart of Europe.

July 30 2013

Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia and Brazil on Winning Streak at Girls’ U18 Volleyball World Championship

As the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) blog reports, the Serbian, Turkish, Slovenian and Brazilian under-18 girls’ national volleyball teams showed outstanding results on the weekend of July 27-28, some with a perfect win-loss ratio. Full stats and results are available and regularly updated on the Federation's website.

(more…)

July 08 2013

Slovenian Start-Ups Raise Venture Capital on Kickstarter

Four Slovenian tech start-up companies have exceeded their initial funding expectations and managed to accumulate a total of some 400 thousand U.S. dollars in funding on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarted over the last year. Slovenia, a Eu country with a large and growing unemployment rate, has a growing ICT industry and many young entrepreneurs seem to be finding solutions to economic hardship in innovation and seeking funding from abroad while retaining their companies and development centers at home. Inventures.eu covers the success of these start-ups on Kickstarter in more detail:

It took less than five hours for Lumu to raise its initial goal of 20.000 dollars and the campaign still has a few days to go, until 12 July. The project has amassed more than 200.000 dollars in funding and the number keeps rising…

All 50 parts needed to make one Lumu are made locally in Ljubljana. To keep Lumu affordable, the team needs to make electronics in bulk quantities. They also plan on extending the features of the Lumu app. So far, more than 2.000 backers have pledged between 1 and 570 dollars. The 79-dollar rewards have already sold out but for a 99 dollars pledge you can get a Lumu pack by October.

July 03 2013

Eastern Europeans to Boost UK IT Industry

As of January 1, 2014, the UK labour movement restrictions placed several years ago to prevent migrants from Romania and Bulgaria from moving permanently and seeking employment in the UK will be lifted. Some predict large migrations of workers from these two countries, among the poorest in the European Union, while others say that migrations will be so small they will barely be felt and many emphasize the fact that Romania has a growing, innovative IT industry that will also benefit the British IT industry. Other Eastern European countries have also helped boost the UK's thriving IT industry in the recent past, such as Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and more. The Independent covers several sides of the developing story, with quotes from Eastern European immigrant IT entrepreneurs in the UK:

(more…)

February 07 2013

“Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement”

Black Sea News publishes Natalya Belitser's paper [en] – “Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement” – written for the international conference on “frozen conflicts” in Europe, which was held in September 2012 in Bled, Slovenia (via Andrei Klimenko).

January 24 2013

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:

The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.

January 20 2013

02mydafsoup-01

[...]

In 2009, the global eco­nomic crisis began to affect Slov­e­nia not only due to shrink­ing European exports, but also because of mis­guided policies taken dur­ing the years of eco­nomic expan­sion (most dur­ing Janez Janša’s first man­date). In 2009, the Slov­e­nian eco­nomy shrunk by 8% and the over­heated con­struc­tion sec­tor dis­in­teg­rated. The Slov­e­nian eco­nomy entered a second reces­sion in the last quarter. Pro­test­ers blame this new reces­sion not only on the auto­cratic, neo­lib­eral, cor­rupt and incom­pet­ent policies of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, but on a recent suc­ces­sion of cor­rupt self-​serving gov­ern­ments. This is why pro­test­ers have recently deman­ded the replace­ment of the entire polit­ical elite.

The gov­ern­ment has respon­ded with arrog­ance to the raised voices of its own cit­izens. The ostens­ibly rep­res­ent­at­ive gov­ern­ment has con­sist­ently refused to enter into dia­logue with pro­test­ers and had instead dis­cred­ited and ridiculed their legit­im­ate demands. This shame­ful response has only helped the protest move­ment to grow. The gov­ern­ment has also respon­ded to the protests by clos­ing down the centre of the cap­ital city of Ljubljana, by using riot police, horses, armoured vehicles, water can­nons, anti­riot fences and heli­copters in what can only be char­ac­ter­ized as a gross over­re­ac­tion to the largely peace­ful gath­er­ings of Slov­e­nian cit­izens. The police has imprisoned large num­ber of young­sters, mis­streat­ing them, hold­ing them host­ages, black­mail­ing their parants to stop protest­ing, if they want to see their kids lib­er­ated. Prime Min­is­ter Janez Janša has described the pro­test­ers as “extrem­ist left zom­bies” and char­ac­ter­ized them as rad­ical “neo-​socialists” in an effort to bal­ance out the actual pres­ence of neo-​Nazis (pos­sibly organ­ised by the rul­ing gov­ern­ment itself in an effort to dis­credit the protests at the begin­ning of the move­ment). Again this insult­ing gov­ern­ment response has back­fired, draw­ing more and more angry cit­izens into the streets.

[...]

Slovenians Demand Radical Change | Critical Legal Thinking 2013-01-15
02mydafsoup-01
[...]

The protests were triggered by an appar­ently insig­ni­fic­ant and mar­ginal issue in local polit­ics. In Mari­bor, the second largest city of Slov­e­nia, the city mayor com­mit­ted a private com­pany to install cam­eras across the city, in order to con­trol the traffic and pen­al­ize the viol­a­tions of speed lim­its. The main prob­lem was that the pen­al­ties would be paid to the same private com­pany. This then added fuel to the already foun­ded accus­a­tions of cor­rup­tion in the city coun­cil and not­ably in the mayor’s office. The occa­sional protests cul­min­ated in what became known as the “Mari­bor upris­ing”, where, for the first time in the short his­tory of Slov­e­nian inde­pend­ency, the police used excess­ive viol­ence, water can­nons, heli­copters etc. The com­bin­a­tion of local issues and cyn­ical polit­ical reac­tions from the gov­ern­ing parties lead to the situ­ation in which a vast major­ity could recog­nize their own dis­sat­is­fac­tion and frus­tra­tion with the gov­ern­ing polit­ics, and more broadly with the prob­lem­atic polit­ical tra­di­tion in Slov­e­nia. The ini­ti­at­ives for protests spread across the coun­try and the major­ity of organ­ising was con­duc­ted through the social networks.

[...]
The People Returns: A footnote to protests in Slovenia | Critical Legal Thinking 2013-01-16

December 08 2012

Slovenia: “Second Republic (Again)”

Sleeping With Pengovsky explains the current political situation in Slovenia (more - here and here):

[…] [PM Janez Janša] already controls the parliament. He controls the economy. And as of last Sunday, he also controls the president of the republic. […]

The only unknown in this scenario are protests. The political class, even down to “middle managers” is shit-scared and they honestly don’t know how things will turn out. I don’t think anyone does. […]

December 05 2012

“The Slovenian Uprising”

Sleeping With Pengovsky comments on Slovenia's presidential election (GV text is here) and on the protest movement - “which appears to be totally decentralised and operating via Facebook”:

[…] At the moment protests in Slovenia are directed against many different targets. Mayor Kangler, Mayor Janković, prime minister Janša, interior minister Gorenak, the failed industrial and construction tycoons, the banksters, even the president-elect Pahor already found his way to the “Gotof je” (He’s Done With) posters. But there is a common message to these protests. The people realised they’ve been robbed of their own country. And they’ve come to take it back. […]

(more…)

December 04 2012

Slovenia's New President Elected Amidst Anti-Corruption Protests

The second round of the 2012 presidential election in Slovenia, in which the former Slovenian PM Borut Pahor defeated the incumbent president Danilo Türk, took place on Dec. 2, amidst ongoing mass protests.

On EurActiv.com, Marko Bucik examined the election campaigns of Pahor and Türk - and commented on the current situation in Slovenia:

[…] Pahor will start his mandate among very tense social and political circumstances. In the past week, numerous mass protests have spread across Slovenia expressing genuine feelings of disappointment and anger about the precarious situation in which Slovenia finds itself merely 21 years after gaining independence.

With the number of those unemployed persistently above 11% and with Slovenia's GDP projected to contract by 2% in 2012 and a further 1.4% in 2013, little optimism is left. The frustrations with the current economic hardship have been further strengthened by perceptions of corruption among the ruling elites, their insensitivity to the population's fears and their inability to cope with the crisis.

[…]

None of the presidential candidates convincingly responded to the social unrest and expression of disaffection that will probably only grow over the coming months. […]

The official results of the election look like this:

(A Wikipedia entry screenshot.)

On Facebook, Blaž Babič presented a somewhat different picture:

For the fellow readers from abroad. New president of Slovenia Mr. Pahor (”Barbie”) won with the votes of 27,7% of the electorate.

The minority of 13,4% wanted to reelect former president Türk.

Those figures are so low because the electorate is fed up with false choices - only 42% did bother to cast a vote at all.

Conclusion - over 72,3% of the electorate did not elect the new president who ran the campaign under the slogan “Together!”.

Babič added:

14.546 ballots were “invalid”. That's 2% of all votes cast.

Majority of them had two ex-post-commy candidates stricken out and option 3. Gotof Si (you're finished) added.

“Gotof si!” is also the last fashion motto of the protest against the corrupt elite.

A screenshot of the Facebook page [sl] of the “Gotof je” protest: “A community for a new Slovenia. Enough of corruption, nepotism, clientelism! WE ARE SLOVENIA”

Dr. Filomena commented on the recent rallies:

[…] Right now, protests are being held in various places around the country, aimed against politics in general, against politicians who have been unable to steer the country clear of the continuously deepening crisis. The protests are spontaneous and no politician or political party dares claim them as their own. They do, however, try to pin them onto others, much to the disgust of the protesters. […]

Ljubljana, Slovenia: Protesters give flowers to the police during a peaceful protest that later turned violent. Photo by Nina Blaž, copyright © Demotix (30/11/2012).

Piran Café shared a photo report from the Nov. 30 rally in the capital city of Ljubljana, which ended in violence:

[…] Upwards of 10,000 people gathered in Ljubljana yesterday, one of seven Slovenian cities where hastily organized demonstrations took place to protest what’s perceived as widespread fraud and corruption, austerity measures, and the economic reform policies of the center-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Here in the capital, the demonstration began at 4 pm in Kongresni Trg, or Congress Square, before moving a couple hours later towards Trg Republike, or Republic Square, near Parliament. Protesters were loud and at times blunt, but peaceful. Police stationed near Parliament were relaxed –certainly much more than they were on Tuesday – some of them exchanging banter and conversation with demonstrators. Many were wearing carnations given to them by protesters whose chants included, ‘higher salaries for police’.

I left at about 6:30; an hour later the mood shifted dramatically. Provocateurs, described by many on the scene as well organized and numbering perhaps four to five dozen, began throwing bottles, rocks, bricks and fireworks. Under the spotlight of a helicopter, police soon responded with tear gas. When the rock-throwing idiots were eventually forced from Republic Square and back towards Congress Square, the water cannon was brought in. At night’s end, 33 were arrested and 18 treated for injuries at local hospitals. […]

Water cannons were used against the protesters during the Nov. 30 protest in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo by Luka Dakskobler, copyright © Demotix (30/11/2012).

Another photo report from the Nov. 30 Ljubljana rally was posted on Suncan's Daily Photo:

[…] And then a gang of some 50 (they say) covered up bastards rushed into the crowd and started throwing everything (and yes, they came well prepared) they had in their pockets at the police and the crowd. As someone I know very well (and who I totally believe would not be making up this) described: A guy was standing close to me, and he said into the phone. ‘Ok, it is all ready. Come in now' And then a gang of what she described as highly organised covered up people rushed into the crowd, just a few meters away from me. And that was when all hell broke loose.

So, my honest opinion is: No it wasn't the protesters fault. No, it wasn't the police's fault (I know it sounds weird coming from under the fingers of somebody who does not believe in any repressive government bodies). It was the fault of a few dozen highly organised mercenaries (I have no idea what to call them, but from the description of their actions I do have a feeling that they were paid for this action, so I will use the word mercenary.) As far as I am concerned the main question is: Who paid them?

August 13 2012

Russia: “The True Blasphemy” - Slavoj Žižek on Pussy Riot

Russian collective “What to do?” published an essay by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who considers Pussy Riot “conceptual artists in the noblest sense of the word: artists who embody an Idea,” and fight against the cynicism of power-mongers who strive to return Russia to the tsarist level characterized by Leon Trotsky (1905) as “a vicious combination of the Asian knout [whip] and the European stock market.” The text has been translated into various languages [en, ru - middle of page, it, sr, sr, mk, gr] and reprinted by bloggers and progressive portals throughout Europe.

March 29 2012

March 14 2012

Europe: Will ACTA Treaty Pass After Protests?

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

As of the end of the month of February 2012, the mobilization efforts of Internet users against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [en] were still going strong. In fact, they may have begun to bear fruit.

By including infringements against the author's rights in its scope, this international treaty, which addresses intellectual property rights, also affects Internet content.

The ratification debates which were placed on the European Parliament's agenda on February 29, were put on hold in expectation of the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The issue of the treaty's conformity with European Community law was brought before the court on 22 February by the European Commission.

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Taurillon, the “magazine of young Europeans -France” describes “Europe's about-face on ACTA“:

Si l’avis est négatif, l’ACTA n’a plus aucune chance en Europe. Mais en cas d’avis positif, le recours à la CJUE représente le double avantage de redonner au traité une certaine crédibilité, et de repousser son adoption à une époque suffisamment lointaine pour que la polémique se soit tassée et que l’opinion publique regarde ailleurs.

If the opinion is negative, ACTA no longer stands a chance in Europe. However, if there is a positive opinion, appealing to the ECJ would mean a double advantage by giving the treaty a certain credibility, and also pushing back implementation to a time that is far enough away when public debate has settled down and the public's attention is focused elsewhere.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson for la Quadrature du Net urges on the European deputies:

Les eurodéputés doivent résister à la stratégie de la Commission européenne, qui cherche à gagner du temps et à transformer le débat en une simple discussion juridique, et pour cela continuer à travailler au rejet d’ACTA. ACTA vise à imposer une tendance pour une politique globale du droit d’auteur qui est toxique pour l’Internet libre et pour les libertés. Le Parlement européen est le dernier rempart : il doit agir et adopter une position claire et forte, faute de quoi il laissera le champ libre à la Commission pour imposer une répression inacceptable.

The Eurodeputies must resist the European Commission's strategy of attempting to gain time and turning the debate into a simple legal discussion, thereby continuing to work towards ACTA's rejection. ACTA aims to impose a tendency for a global policy of author's rights that is toxic for the free Internet and for freedom. The European Parliament is the last line of defense: it must act and adopt a firm and clear position, otherwise it will leave the field wide open for the commission to impose an unacceptable repression.

For trucbuntu, there is no question of remaining passive while waiting for the Court to adjudicate:

Les citoyens de toute l’Europe peuvent contacter leurs représentants dans les commissions Commerce International (INTA) et Industrie (ITRE), qui se réunissent cette semaine pour discuter d’ACTA, et leur demander de continuer à travailler au sein de leur commission pour le rejet d’ACTA.

Citizens of all of Europe were able to contact their representatives in the International Trade (INTA) and Industry (ITRE) Committees, who met on February 29 to discuss ACTA. Many citizens requested their representatives to reject the proposal.

The website of the European Parliament explains the procedure and the issues of the treaty [en] that are under scrutiny, and has published ‘What you should know about ACTA‘ [en], a page of questions and answers. The ACTA workshop of the European Parliament has been the object of a storify [en] made by the Parliamentary services (link via Global Voices contributor Asteris Masouras [en]).

The organization AVAAZ submitted a petition to the European Parliament on 29 February with 2.4 million signatures against ACTA. The petition is still open:

Nous sommes vraiment proches de la victoire — notre pétition forte de 2,4 millions de signatures a ébranlé les responsables politiques partout en Europe et stoppé les censeurs. La Commission européenne est à présent en position de faiblesse et espère que la Cour de justice donnera son feu vert au traité ACTA en lui soumettant une question juridique très limitée qui recevra certainement une réponse positive.Mais si nous faisons résonner nos voix aujourd'hui, nous pouvons faire en sorte que la Cour examine tous les impacts légaux du traité ACTA et publie un avis qui fera toute la lumière sur cette attaque contre nos droits qu'est ACTA.

We are really close to victory — our petition, with 2.4 million signatures has shaken up those politicians in charge throughout Europe and stopped their censors. The European Commission is currently in a position of weakness and is hoping the Court of justice will green light the ACTA treaty by bringing before the court a very limited legal question, that will without doubt receive a positive response. But if we make our voices heard today, we will be able to get the court to examine all the legal implications of ACTA and publish an opinion that will bring to light the real attack against our rights that is ACTA.
No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Anti-ACTA parties continue to  strengthen their resources. New protests were set for 10 March, and torrentnews gives a list, with this appeal:

La liste n’est pas exhaustive, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour la compléter ;)

si certains se sentent l’âme d’un reporter- photographe en herbe, nous recherchons également des personnes pour faire un petit article photo du déroulement de la manif, rien de bien compliqué, comme fait ici pour Nice, Marseille,Bordeaux et Strasbourg.

The list is not exhaustive, do not hesitate to contact us to complete it ;)

If any individuals see themselves as budding photojournalists we are also looking for people to do a small photo story on how the protest unfolds, nothing too complicated, as it happens in Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg.

For details on the elements of the debate, see also these linked articles from the Tribune on February 29, and Myeurop, on March 3. On Global Voices, see the laws SOPA/PIPA that set a precedent in the USA, here [en] and here [en]. Since the beginning of the protests, ACTA seems to have lost a lot of political momentum.

The title of this post is inspired by the end of the article “La liberté sur Internet : le filtrage de la discorde” which was published by the Institute of Research and Legal and Information studies and Communication (I.R.E.D.I.C.). It puts into perspective Internet blocking and debates the adoption of ACTA.

The original article in French was published on March 4. For background on the ACTA proposal, more articles can be found here [en].

January 08 2012

CEE: “Spotted by Locals”

Spotted by Locals: Experience cities like a local features a few dozen locations, including CEE cities of Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubljana, Prague, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Zagreb. A random sample post from Zagreb, Croatia: Hrelić Flea Market – The Aleph of Zagreb; from Bucharest, Romania: The Haunted House – Armenian Neighbourhood; from Sofia, Bulgaria: Nissim – A True Old-School Bookstore.

December 06 2011

Macedonia: Is Skopje Really the Most Polluted City in the World?

Unlike the authorities, social media users are reacting to the empirical information about high levels of pollution in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.

As part of the reforms for joining the EU, Macedonia is required to start measuring and improving its environmental indicators. The EU progress report for 2011 [pdf] stated diplomatically by basically repeating the 2010 report [pdf] (indicating stagnation or reversal instead of real progress):

Some progress can be reported in the area of air quality. Transposition of the acquis continued with adoption of some implementing legislation. Three more Protocols to the CLRTAP were ratified. Some progress was made in developing the system of air quality monitoring. The administrative capacity remains insufficient at central and local levels. Preparations in this field are moderately advanced.

For a decade, key environment stats have been missing from the EU progress reports, since they were not supplied by the Macedonian government. (Click to enlarge the screenshot)

During the last two and a half weeks, an air quality measuring station “Skopje Breathing”, which was installed in the busy city center to publish its data online in real time, has provided a new dimension for citizens and some journalists from Skopje.

The portal PlusInfo.mk started covering this issue in detail, and is also providing real-time numbers for the amount of sharing via social media. The article [mk] from Friday, Dec. 3, compared the “shocking” level of pollution with the WHO air pollution database:

According to the World Health Organization data [from September], the most polluted city in the world is Ahvaz in Iran with 372 micrograms of PM10 dust per cubic meter. At this time the City of Skopje website “Skopje Breething” says that the prevalence of this type of dust is 433 micrograms per cubic meter.

The WHO limit for PM10 is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

This article received over 1,432 Facebook shares and at least 19 tweets, leading to over 22,185 readings by the time of closing of this post. Other articles on this topic also received significant social media attention, especially the one on the temporary unannounced shut-down of the measuring and reporting system for six hours the day after. Other media [mk] also continue to follow the measurements, which on Dec. 4 were 488,99 micrograms per cubic meter. The governmental bodies in charge of environmental protection either kept silent or offered the usual excuses - not within their competence, will investigate, etc.

While comparing the current (daily) measures with the WHO annual averages is questionable from the viewpoint of methodology, no official expert has provided retractions or scientific explanation about the comparison and the actual pollution. The annual mean PM10 for Skopje is 80 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the WHO database. The current metrics show a somewhat lower level than the “world record,” which nevertheless remains dangerously high.

A screenshot of 'Skopje breathing' for Monday, Dec 5. Translation: ‘Current level: 276. Health level: Very unhealthy. Precaution measures: Children and adults, and people with pulmonary diseases and asthma should remain indoors. All others, esp. children, must avoid exposure and open air.'

Tumblr user Stamatovski responded by creating a new postcard for Skopje [mk], which also received quite a few reposts and re-tweets.

'Greetings from Skopje' - postcard design by Kosta Stamatovski. Reprinted with the author's permission.

Stamatovski wrote [mk]:

Alright everybody, after “the postcard” incited so much interest - which I did not expect - let me remind you that we are all responsible for what it represents!

Also, this is nothing new, nor is it going to change in a couple of days! Let us all stop driving in our cars alone, let's not use our cars to go even to our kitchen, let us not insist on parking 3 millimeters from our destinations, and generally let's all become more aware of the environment.

And let us all wish for some snow ASAP. :)

On the other hand, Dejan Spaseski criticized [mk] the excessive reactions to the news about the pollution via his Personal Development blog:

For a long time, everybody has known about air quality in Skopje. The only difference is that now we have a higher awareness. We also have a way to click and receive the current information immediately. This has made a huge difference.

[…]

My personal philosophy is that you have to do everything step by step, according to the interest effect principle… Everything needs time, it is enough to start doing something to change the current situation. This is a great start for me and we are moving in the right direction.

Some of the [social media] reactions made me laugh… Most of the initial comments were accusations that this is a result of the constant building and rebuilding in Skopje, new high-rises, cutting of the [Vodno] forest, building of Porta Vlae and Kapishtec apartment blocks, to the point that we don't need Skopje 2014. Most of the people complained that the Central Government or the Skopje Mayor haven't done a thing about this in years.

Some people claimed that they wouldn't get outside until the fog lifts, until the air quality returns to the limits of world standards - like in the big metropolises. If they sit at home, would they breathe cleaner air, or just feel better? Others said they wouldn't go out until Skopje is no longer the first in pollution. I cannot fathom why they feel relieved if there's another, more polluted city? Maybe the feeling that they are not victim number 1 but victim number 2 worldwide?

[…]

People rebel about pollution, but they all like to come and live in Skopje. I am very revolted by those who constantly keep saying they can hardly wait for Friday so they could leave towards their birthplace, or have a weekend in [Ohrid] or [Krushevo]. To get away from the stench. So why are they [coming back on Monday]?

It is not loyal to spit on the city we live in. The city that has offered us existence. In return, think about how you can help improve it. Now that you know about air pollution, ride a bus instead of driving your car. It would be cheaper and less damaging to the environment…

It is naturally easier to spit and blame. It makes things easier. Instead, try to act and think differently…

[…]

To bring the city into such a state, it took several decades. It would take as much time to repair the situation.

While the apologetic attitude towards the responsible authorities received counter-criticism [mk] on Ping.mk, Twitter user Gjorgji Taskovski responded to a far more concrete aspect of the text:

Why do the people who want to “get away” from Skopje over the weekend revolt you? I'll use a personal example: I have two kids, born 2005 (male) and 2006 (female). They prosper, except that the boy has runny nose all the time. Every season we made allergy tests with no results. The responsible physician, who is also a friend, advised us to move to the Radishani [a suburb on the slopes of a nearby mountain]. And now you say I should be ashamed to run away from Skopje over the weekend (even though I was born here). [For the sake of my children] I will run, what do I care! My wife is from [Kriva Palanka] and her parents returned to the village of their birth a year ago… When the kids are there, the change is amazing: no running nose, they eat [like wolves]…

I agree that pollution [in Skopje] has been high for years. Solution: the same as [Ljubljana]. Restrictions on moving into the city from other towns, relocation of jobs by relocating factories, possibilities for studies outside of Skopje and, above all, a developed rail network. Anyone who has lived in Germany or England or anywhere else in Europe would grasp the importance of this [Macedonian railways are infamous for their inefficiency and low mileage]. Removal of older trucks from Skopje is another super option - they are used in construction business, but that's not my problem. And above all, we have to admit that we live in a city with catastrophic urban planning, which spreads only longitudinally [along the Vardar river], and that building of new sports terrains, Vero supermarkets, cinemas etc. are not the only precondition for high quality of life. […] I say “Big deal!” to organizing swarm festivals, the great night life, or the [awesome Zoo]. Try to raise kids in this city, you'll change the way you think.

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