11. Juni 2010
A communicative effort as a referendum may fail or divide a nation - this is not a problem, but just normal in a democracy. To discuss regularly the differences is a very modern, peaceful and effective way of integrating modern communities or nations
The result of referendum is very narrow (51,5:48,5). Why such sharp division on such important issue as the frontier with Croatia is?
Also very important issues might be evaluated and seen in different ways. I am not surprised by this division: Many citizens are not used that in such issues you can never get everything you want, you need to accept compromises. National interests always divided nations: Because nationalists are not ready to share own interests with others and in most European countries nationalists have today a lot of wind in their sails. And thirdly you had opposition leaders who did not live up with the culture of direct democracy: This culture means that you judge a referendum question not on the principle where the government is in favor, I as a oppositions member am automatically against. In a direct democracy every issue is judged from its substance and not from its source; that is why a minister or a government my even loose a referendum, when they accept the result as the will of the people. I am very happy that the opposition leaders did not prevail and this question has not be answered by the government and the Prime Minister.
Ernest Renan said that existing of the nations is every days plebiscite. Also for so divided nation?
I think Renan’s quote expresses the old days and a European political reality which is not anymore ours - A referendum is always an attempt of a mutual understanding on a basic issue. This communicative effort may fail or divide a nation - this is not a problem, but just normal in a democracy. The nation may even like to stay together in spite of all differences, because direct democracy allows all citizens to discuss regularly it's differences. This is a very modern, peaceful and effective way of integrating modern communities or nations who are modern because they are always diverse today.
Turn-out was very low (42 %) for such important issue. What was wrong?
42 % participation in a difficult issue is not very low or very bad. Many people might not have understood the problem or the question (or were indifferent or neutral or did not want to answer the question – “it’s not my business” – the typesetter) - this is often and a rational reason not to participate. If this is really a reason why many Slovenians did not participate then this is a indication that the parties, civil society organizations and the media who all would explain, convince and mobilized the citizen did not work in a satisfying way or were not able to fulfill their duties in a satisfying way. In Switzerland this is today also the case. Direct Democracy needs a infrastructure in which you have to invest if you like to have good participations.
The people doesn't trust politicians anymore?
This is a problem in many democracies today indeed. But the citizens should trust the process, not specially the politicians. But when they don’t trust the politicians they should participate in referendums, because there democracy is not reduced on the representative side of democracy, where the politicians dominate. More accurate is probably the hypothesis that many citizens do not believe anymore in the power of democracy, because they see and feel how weak this power is when it should limit the consequences of economic and financial wrong doings and market failures. But again, in the conflict of interest with Croatia no other power could decide then the power of the nation and that’s why it would have been wrong not to participate in the referendum because you are disappointed how weak democracy today is vis-à-vis the global market forces.
The referendum as it seemed was not about the frontier but it was very fierce battle between government and opposition. Opposition was very irresponsible.
I share this impression as I already mentioned above. In a direct democracy you may always disagree; but this should happen on the ground of the subject and the substance which is put to the referendum and not because the government is in favor. The indirect, representative part of democracy has in this sense another logic that the direct democratic /(referendum) part and the opposition seems to me caught and imprisoned by the parliamentary logic and uses the same method and mindset also in direct democracy, where it has no place. In a direct democracy the soul is the public debate and discourse; when you can’t convince each other with arguments you disagree; but this has to be based on substantive arguments and not on the question, do you belong to the government or the opposition. Otherwise the two great and so needed advantages of direct democracy, that it integrates a society and contributes to the collective social learning can’t be achieved.
For the conflict you always need two partners. Croatia was also wrong. You cannot enter EU without solved borders. Croatia has a lot to do because he has problems with the frontiers also with Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.
Membership in the EU always means to overcome nationalistic positions and to be ready to overcome historic errors and negative attitudes. Boarder conflicts can only be solved in compromises. The Slovenian referendum illustrates that one solid compromise was possible and acceptable for both sides. Croatia should feel encouraged by this experience to elaborate other compromises with other neighbors too. In doing so it shows it's maturity to join the EU - a maturity the majority of the Swiss do not have yet.
How important was this vote for future EU enlargement in Balkans? Do you think there was any pressure from Washington and Brussels? EU conference in Sarajevo was very disappointing. Some diplomats admitted off the record that Berlin decided that enlargement is over. Is it really? This referendum in Slovenia is now a positive sign for other Balkan countries.
The EU integration process is never over. When somebody argues the converse he or she shows that he or she misunderstands the essence of the EU at all. One of the causes of the wars in the 20.century was because people felt excluded and have been excluded. The openness of the European Process is one of it's reasons why he is so successful and created so much and such a long lasting peace in Europe. We have to show this and convince our citizens that Europe is still a open process and has to stay open. Politicians should never be just followers of fashion or the majorities of today. Politicians have to be able to understand the history and have to have the courage to convince the citizens of positions they are convinced that they are right and just and not adapt their convictions to the temporary moods of the time. Closing the EU doors to the countries in the Balkans would be a enormous error and would contribute to duplicate the errors Europeans and Balkan Politicians made between 1870 and 1995. I hope we do learn from these mistakes and we do not repeat them.