The Erased for Dummies

02/27/2009


Have a problem? Just apply some heat and it’ll melt away. Photo by dr. Fil

Who are the infamous “erased”?  Read e.g. Pengovsky’s post here and here.

  • It is not about citizenship.
  • It is not about Yugoslav army officers.
  • It is about regular people.

I have been hearing about this issue for so long, reading the news superficially and simply agreeing that if the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia decided – twice – that human rights of a certain group of people were violated, it was so and that the situation should be rectified.

This week I finally took the time to read up on it a bit more in detail. The “erased” have been used as point-generators in national politics for the past 17 years. Most of them were not Slovenian nationals, which made them a ready target for nationalist types, but lately even the Christian People Party’s youth section set off to score political points on their backs by counting on the ignorance of the Slovenian student population. When the first erased was awarded damages in the court of law this week, the youngsters who claim to honour Christian values stated that students need money more than the erased and staged a related campaign.

It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of the truth. – John Locke

Thanks to a well-written, very informative article series in Pravna praksa (Legal Practice) magazine by Neža Kogovšek of the Peace Institute, I can share some facts:

Before declaring its independence, Slovenia was one of the six republics of the Yugoslav federation.

(Most) Yugoslav citizens held a double citizenship: that of the federation and (in most cases) that of one of the republics. In accordance with the ius sanguinis principle, children were awarded the republic citizenship of their parents regardless of their place of birth. If e.g. a child was born to two Serbs in Slovenia, it would be given (Yugoslav and) Serbian citizenship.

Many people migrated for work-related purposes within Yugoslavia, changing the location of their permanent residence to another republic while remaining in the state of their federal citizenship.

On 25 June 1991, the Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia adopted the Constitutional Act Implementing the Basic Constitutional Charter on the Independence and Sovereignty of the Republic of Slovenia, which stated in Article 13:

“Citizens of other republics who on the day of the plebiscite on the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Slovenia, 23 December 1990, were registered as permanent residents of and actually live in the Republic of Slovenia shall have, except in the cases specified in Article 16 of this Act (my note: real-estate issues), equal rights and duties as the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia until they acquire citizenship of the Republic of Slovenia under Article 40 of the Citizenship of the Republic of Slovenia Act or until the expiry of the time limits determined in Article 81 of the Aliens Act.”

On the same day, the Citizenship of the Republic of Slovenia Act entered into force, automatically awarding citizenship of the now independent state to all persons with Slovenian “republic citizenship”. Article 40 of this Act allowed citizens of other republics to file for citizenship within 6 months should they wish to do so. 171,132 of the roughly 200,000 citizens of other republics did so and gained the new state’s citizenship.

The rest did not, for various reasons. Some were not informed of the possibility to file for citizenship, some were convinced that they didn’t have to do anything since they’d lived in the country for decades, some didn’t want the citizenship and only wanted to retain their permanent residence, some were afraid of losing their property in other republics had they become full Slovenian citizens. Yet others did file for citizenship, but had their applications rejected by clerks on account of them being incomplete (e.g. due to their inability to produce a birth certificate from the war-ridden Bosnia). The clerks did not advise them to file incomplete applications which they could have done and supplement them later, and they consequently missed the statutory deadline.

Two months after the expiry of the 6-month deadline, on 26 February 1992, 17 years ago yesterday, these people became subject to the Aliens Act and their status became unclear. For two months, it was completely unregulated and afterwards, it was unclearly covered by the Aliens Act, which did not specify whether they should be considered aliens with a residence in Slovenia or as illegal migrants. Since the Aliens Act did not regulate the status of such persons, the Constitutional Court presided by Lovro Šturm unanimously declared it unconstitutional in 1999 (Decision).

In part of the decision, the Court found that the Act did not arrange the transitory status of citizens of other republics who lived legally on the Slovenian territory and had a permanent residence. Consequently, their position was less favourable than that of aliens who had the status of aliens before the Republic of Slovenia declared its independence. Since there was no reason for this difference in the treatment of the two groups, the Court held that the omission of legal regulation of the status of such persons constituted a violation of the constitutional principle of equality.

Namely, there were suddenly two groups of aliens in Slovenia:

  • aliens from other countries (outside Yugoslavia) who had a permanent residence permit and a registered permanent residence in Slovenia – the Aliens Act provided for the permanent residence permits issued under Yugoslav legislation to remain valid;
  • aliens from other Yugoslav republics who had a registered permanent residence in the Republic of Slovenia, but did not have a permanent residence permit, because they had not needed one since prior to the country’s independence they were citizens of the same state, i.e. Yugoslavia.

Consequently, the “erasure” only affected Croats, Bosnians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Roma, Albanians and Macedonians (and Slovenians) and was declared discriminatory by the Constitutional Court on that account.

Erasure could have been avoided had an amendment proposed by Zveza socialistične mladine – Liberalna stranka (Association of Socialist Youth – Liberal Party) and Stranka demokratične prenove (Party of Democratic Renewal) been adopted. The proposed amendment read:

“Citizens of the SFRY who are citizens of other republics and do not apply for citizenship of the Republic of Slovenia, but have a registered permanent residence or are employed in the Republic of Slovenia on the day of entry of this Act into force shall be issued a permit for permanent residence in the Republic of Slovenia.”

It was not adopted, the legal gap remained and erasure took place. The legal gap was filled by internal documents at the Ministry of the Interior addressed to various institutions, which then carried out the erasure. On 27 February 1992, state secretary Slavko Debeljak sent instructions to all administrative units stating that upon expiry of the two-month deadline, persons who had not applied for citizenship should be treated in accordance with the Aliens Act and ordered for registries to be brought in line. He further stated that these people’s documents were no longer valid even if they were issued by competent authorities and did not yet expire.

On 4 June 1992, the Minister of the Interior at the time Igor Bavčar informed the Government about two different legal standpoints regarding the issue. The first one took into account the principle of “acquired rights” and held that all persons with a registered permanent residence in Slovenia should retain it and the second one held that they should register their permanent residence anew after three years of holding a temporary residence permit. He favoured the second approach, stating thatacquired rights should be ignored” even though this might cause “distress due to existential links to the Republic of Slovenia”.

Administrative bodies followed Debeljak’s instruction and transferred personal data of such persons into the inactive population records, thus depriving them of the status of permanent residents. They were effectively erased. By losing their permanent residence, they also lost all related rights and entitlements such as social assistance, healthcare and family benefits.

In 1999, the Act Regulating the Legal Status of Citizens of Former Yugoslavia Living in the Republic of Slovenia was adopted. Even on its basis, not all the erased could sort out their status, because the Act refers to citizens of other successor states and the Ministry of the Interior held that a person who could not present proof of citizenship of one of the other successor states could not obtain a status. The problem being that although most people did have double citizenship, the republic-level citizenship records in Yugoslavia were often incomplete and outdated so that while everyone had their federal-level citizenship sorted out, this was not the case with the republic-level citizenship. The Constitutional Court presided by Dragica Wedam Lukić unanimously found the Act inconsistent with the Consititution (Decision).

The second part of Point 8 of the Decision provided that the Ministry of Internal Affairs must (ex officio) issue supplementary decisions to citizens of other republics of former SFRY who were erased from the registry of permanent residents on 26 February 1992, which shall determine their permanent residence in the Republic of Slovenia from 26 February 1992 onward.

“Technical” and “systemic” acts were proposed, but were not adopted. In April 2004, a referendum was held against the “technical” bill. The question was posed (see original) roughly as “are you in favour of enforcement of the Act on the Implementation of Point 8 of the Decision of the Constitutional Court…” About 94% voted against with a 31% turnout. This was an election year and the erased proved a handy subject on which to gain points by stirring emotions with the help of misleading or false information and instilling fear.

Janez Janša’s government tried to push through a constitutional act in an attempt to circumvent the Decision, but failed. By:

  • putting the blame on the erased, e.g. they had the chance to get Slovenian citizenship, but didn’t use it (often with the note: because they thought Slovenia couldn’t make it as a sovereign state) and are now sorry for it;
  • branding the erased traitors or aggressors (no more than 2.5% of the erased were in any way connected to the Yugoslav army, including cleaning and kitchen personnel, etc.; many fought in the territorial defence during the ten-day war and some were even decorated for it prior to erasure);
  • predicting huge claims for damages by the erased if they were issued supplementary decisions establishing their residence in the Republic of Slovenia from 26 February 1992 on

that government pulled wool over people’s eyes so as to deny any wrongdoing by the State and government officials and evade the unanimous decisions of the Constitutional Court.

The new Government, more specifically the Ministry of the Interior led by Katarina Kresal, finally began fulfilling the Decision of the Constitutional Court, thus upholding the rule of law in the Republic of Slovenia.

And there we ago again. Blaming the erased, branding them traitors, portraying them as fortune seekers (what, who’ve lived in a twilight zone for years on purpose so they could claim damages??), proposing a new act circumventing the Constitutional Court Decision, the whole deal.

Except unlike 2004, this is not an election year.

Or is it?

Another Circle Completed, a New One Begins

02/23/2009


Photo by dr. Fil

Exactly a year ago I was sitting in Vienna, soaking up sunshine and pondering the meaning of life after receiving news of the passing of Slovenian statesman Janez Drnovšek who had gone through many a transformation in his life. I posted my thoughts on the subject from a cybercafé, using a photo I’d saved in my drafts months before.

Just a year later, so much has changed. I am now working for the then potential employer whose medical check-up  was the reason I found myself sitting in the centre of Vienna on that beautiful February day. The friend who nicknamed me dr. Fil is now a happily married young mother. And just today I received a sad message from my Rumanian friend who’d also become a mother in the meantime, but is giving up on the marriage she’d made sacrifices for and is now weighing the best interests of her child against her own.

Days like this inevitably trigger a stream of thoughts on what is truly important, who really deserves our precious time and attention, what events are too insignificant in the greater scheme of things to bother us.

I opened my Facebook account and received a message from a political party of the youth section of the Slovenian Christian People’s Party, entitled “Students are in greater need of money than the erased“. I certainly hope none of the people going hell yeah reading that note had the audacity to parade in front of Janez Drnovšek’s grave today or otherwise try to win some points by (ab)using his name. But I choose for this cheap attempt at winning sympathy at the expense of the suffering of others not to upset me. Too much.

Nil nisi bonum. I do admire the level of peace and self-acceptance Janez Drnovšek reached in the autumn of his years. Hopefully, many of those who have the gift of moving people, of speaking to them in a way that steers the thoughts of others, will be able to find a way to rise to that same level without facing death.  And will stop abusing their powers in the endless, fruitless pursuit of false happiness.

Things change. Things stay the same. And it remains all about the People. If you want to do good, if you want to pay respect, don’t go to the grave, don’t flaunt the largest bouquet. Be kind to the living. All of them.

Peace and Good.

Love,
dr. Fil

Duck Soup

02/17/2009


Photo by dr. fil @ Lake Zbilje, Slovenia

Does it pay to take a dive in politics? Voters are not the most loyal of fans.

Swan Story

02/16/2009

 

So what do you think happened? Can you think of a story to go with the photos? Let your imagination loose 😉

Wingless

02/13/2009


a swan in Dublin, photo by dr. fil

I haven’t been able to grow wings no matter how hard I try. Darn that nature. And since Ryanair won’t accept pets on my flight and Svarun is coming along, we’ll soon be on the road again.

Chanting: no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg, no snow in Salzburg…

Ljubljana, here we come! :)

Slavko, Pick Up the Phone

02/12/2009

phone in santo domingo
Phone booth in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; photo by dr. fil

Well, since everyone seems to be sharing their thoughts about the public exchange of love letters between the Vice President of the ruling coalition member LDS Slavko Ziherl and PM Borut Pahor, who’s to stop a pmsed dr. fil?

For background and more on the contents of the letter, visit Mr. P. Basically, a psychiatrist who entered the world of politics in 2005 in preparation for 2006 local elections took it upon himself to teach a man with a degree in political science who has been involved in politics since his student years, making it more than half of his life, on the subject of what is politics and how it is to be conducted.

With the best of intentions, he wants to open the PM’s eyes to the reality of the state of political affairs in the country which Pahor is apparently unable to comprehend. What is it they say about best intentions?

Although he did not sign the letter as the Vice President of PM’s coalition partner and even though allegedly he did not consult his party prior to this significant public outburst, he does write from the standpoint of a member of the ruling coalition and not as merely a concerned citizen.

Without going into much detail, let me say that in my opinion, this is not the correct place or way to handle a political partner’s dissatisfaction if he intends to remain a part of a hopefully productive partnership. I cannot imagine how this letter could achieve anything positive. If it served no positive purpose, why write it?

1/ Decide whether you’re writing as a concerned citizen or as a prominent party member. If the latter is the case, you may want to consult with the party before making important moves.

2/ Decide whether your party is part of the coalition and on what terms the party will remain in the coalition. If those terms are not met, get out.

3/ If you have better solutions to the present problems than the PM, go ahead and put your proposals forward for discussion. E.g.: how would you have handled the Annual Account extortion issue?

In his letter, Slavko Ziherl wrote: “They say that a mature person has no need to be liked by everybody.” How very true. And what other purpose than securing the sympathy of a mass of people angry with Janez Janša’s blackmail move has he achieved? Yes, he does have every right to write whatever he feels like writing short of slander. Yes, I do actually believe his intentions were basically good. And yes, I do believe writing the letter was a selfish and rather naive move, which made no contribution to constructive problem-solving in Slovenian politics.

You guys go have a cup of coffee or an energy drink or whatever and talk it over, for crying out loud.

Osel gre samo enkrat na led

02/11/2009


mestni park St Stephen’s Green v Dublinu, foto: dr. fil

Osel gre le enkrat na led, baš to je oslovstvo.
Modrec ve: danes sem pal, jutri bom plesal po njem.
(Oton Župančič)

V upanju, da se bo naš vrli drsalec kmalu izuril in najtežje politične piruete izvajal z elegantno lahkotnostjo prekaljenega mačka.

Raindrops and Snowflakes

02/10/2009


Howth, north of Dublin, Ireland (Photo by dr. fil)

Experiencing all the snow and rain here in Luxembourg lately, one wonders if it wouldn’t be more comfortable to be pleasantly immersed in water. In a bathtub, perhaps? :)

Still, here’s my theme song for the week:

Good Morning, Sunshine

02/09/2009

 

Faiche Stiabhna / St. Stephen’s Green
a beautiful park in Dublin
photo by dr. fil (click to enlarge)

Prešeren Recital Live Online from Ljubljana **Now**

02/08/2009

As I mentioned here, the recital of France Prešeren’s works by the best Slovenian performers is something to behold. It’s most enjoyable in person, but if you can’t be in beautiful Ljubljana on 8 February at noon, the second best thing is watching the event from anywhere in the world online live at:

http://www.radiokaos.info/ 

(Virtually) see you there!

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