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Takle mamo: Vlade danes polagajo račune biznisu, ne volivcem.

Kako to spremeniti?

There is no alternative

Governments now answer to business, not voters. Mainstream parties grow ever harder to distinguish. Is democracy dead?

A child waits for her mother at a polling station in Rome, 24 February, 2013. Photo by Yara Nardi/ReutersA child waits for her mother at a polling station in Rome, 24 February, 2013. Photo by Yara Nardi/Reuters

Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. His latest book is The Political Economy of Trust (2009).


Last September, Il Partito Democratico, the Italian Democratic Party, asked me to talk about politics and the internet at its summer school in Cortona. Political summer schools are usually pleasant — Cortona is a medieval Tuscan hill town with excellent restaurants — and unexciting. Academics and public intellectuals give talks organised loosely around a theme; in this case, the challenges of ‘communication and democracy’. Young party activists politely listen to our speeches while they wait to do the real business of politics, between sessions and at the evening meals.

This year was different. The Italian Democratic Party, which dominates the country’s left-of-centre politics, knew that it was in trouble. A flamboyant blogger and former comedian named Beppe Grillo had turned his celebrity into an online political force, Il Movimento 5 Stelle (the Five Star Movement), which promised to do well in the national elections. The new party didn’t have any coherent plan beyond sweeping out Old Corruption, but that was enough to bring out the crowds. The Five Star Movement was particularly good at attracting young idealists, the kind of voters who might have been Democrats a decade before.

Worries about this threat spilt over into the summer school. The relationship between communication and democracy suddenly had urgent political implications. The Democratic Party had spent two decades suffering under the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s stranglehold on traditional media. Now it found itself challenged on the left too, by internet-fuelled populists who seemed to be sucking attention and energy away from it.

When Bersani started talking, he gave a speech that came strikingly close to a counsel of despair

The keynote speaker at the summer school, the Democratic Party leader and prospective prime minister Pier Luigi Bersani, was in a particularly awkward position. Matteo Renzi, the ‘reformist’ mayor of Florence, had recently challenged Bersani’s leadership, promising the kind of dynamism that would appeal to younger voters. If Bersani wanted to stay on as party leader, he had to win an open primary. The summer school gave him a chance to speak to the activists in training, and try to show that he was still relevant.

I was one of two speakers warming up the crowd for Bersani. The party members and reporters endured us patiently enough as they waited for the real event. However, when Bersani started talking, he gave a speech that came strikingly close to a counsel of despair. He told his audience that representative democracy, European representative democracy in particular, was in crisis. Once, it had offered the world a model for reconciling economy and society. Now it could no longer provide the concrete benefits — jobs, rights, and environmental protection — that people wanted. In Italy, Berlusconi and his allies had systematically delegitimized government and undermined public life. The relationship between politics and society was broken.

Bersani knew what he didn’t want — radical political change. Any reforms would have to be rooted in traditional solidarities. But he didn’t know what he did want either, or if he did, he wasn’t able to describe it. His speech was an attack, swathed in the usual billowing abstractions of Italian political rhetoric, on the purported radicalism of both his internal party opponent and the Five Star Movement. He didn’t really have a programme of his own. He could promise his party nothing except hard challenges and uncertain outcomes.

Why do social democrats such as Bersani find it so hard to figure out what to do? It isn’t just the Italians who are in trouble. Social democrats in other countries are also in retreat. In France, Francoise Hollande’s government has offered many things: a slight softening of austerity (France’s deficit this year will be somewhat higher than the European Commission would like); occasional outbursts of anti-business rhetoric (usually swiftly contradicted by follow-up statements); higher taxes on the very rich (to be rolled back as soon as possible). What it has not offered is anything approaching a coherent programme for change.

Germany’s Social Democrats are suffering, too. The Christian Democrat-led government can get away with austerity measures as long as it convinces voters that it will do a better job of keeping their money safe from the Spaniards, Italians and Greeks. And the Social Democratic Party’s candidate for Chancellor, Peer Steinbrück, is not well placed to object. In 2009 he helped introduce a constitutional measure to limit government spending, hoping that this would make his party look more responsible. He now appears like a weaker, less resolute version of his opponent, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and has 32 per cent job approval.

Greece’s mainstream socialist party, Pasok, won only 12.3 per cent of the vote in the election in June last year. Spain’s social democrats are perhaps in even greater disarray than the conservative government. Ireland’s Labour Party, a junior party in the current government, saw its vote collapse from 21 per cent to 4.6 per cent in a by-election in March.

Where they are in opposition, European social democrats don’t know what to offer voters. Where they are in power, they don’t know how to use it. Even in the United States, which has never had a social democratic party with national appeal, the Democrats have gradually changed from a party that belonged ambiguously to the left to one that spans the limited gamut between the ever-so-slightly-left-of-centre and the centre-right. It, too, has had enormous difficulty in spelling out a new agenda, because of internal divisions as well as entrenched hostility from the Republican Party.

This isn’t what was supposed to happen. In the 1990s and the 2000s, right-wing parties were the enthusiasts of the market, pushing for the deregulation of banks, the privatisation of core state functions and the whittling away of social protections. All of these now look to have been very bad ideas. The economic crisis should really have discredited the right, not the left. So why is it the left that is paralysed?

Colin Crouch’s disquieting little book, Post-Democracy (2005), provides one plausible answer. Crouch is a British academic who spent several years teaching at the European University Institute in Florence, where he was my academic supervisor. His book has been well read in the UK, but in continental Europe its impact has been much more remarkable. Though he was not at the Cortona summer school in person, his ideas were omnipresent. Speaker after speaker grappled with the challenge that his book threw down. The fear that he was right, that there was no palatable exit from our situation, hung over the conference like a dusty pall.

Crouch sees the history of democracy as an arc. In the beginning, ordinary people were excluded from decision-making. During the 20th century, they became increasingly able to determine their collective fate through the electoral process, building mass parties that could represent their interests in government. Prosperity and the contentment of working people went hand in hand. Business recognised limits to its power and answered to democratically legitimated government. Markets were subordinate to politics, not the other way around.

The realm of real democracy — political choices that are responsive to voters’ needs — shrinks ever further

At some point shortly after the end of the Second World War, democracy reached its apex in countries such as Britain and the US. According to Crouch, it has been declining ever since. Places such as Italy had more ambiguous histories of rise and decline, while others still, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, began the ascent much later, having only emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s. Nevertheless, all of these countries have reached the downward slope of the arc. The formal structures of democracy remain intact. People still vote. Political parties vie with each other in elections, and circulate in and out of government. Yet these acts of apparent choice have had their meaning hollowed out. The real decisions are taken elsewhere. We have become squatters in the ruins of the great democratic societies of the past.

Crouch lays some blame for this at the feet of the usual suspects. As markets globalise, businesses grow more powerful (they can relocate their activities, or threaten to relocate) and governments are weakened. Yet the real lessons of his book are about more particular forms of disconnection.

Neo-liberalism, which was supposed to replace grubby politics with efficient, market-based competition, has led not to the triumph of the free market but to the birth of new and horrid chimeras. The traditional firm, based on stable relations between employer, workers and customers, has spun itself out into a complicated and ever-shifting network of supply relationships and contractual forms. The owners remain the same but their relationship to their employees and customers is very different. For one thing, they cannot easily be held to account. As the American labour lawyer Thomas Geoghegan and others have shown, US firms have systematically divested themselves of inconvenient pension obligations to their employees, by farming them out to subsidiaries and spin-offs. Walmart has used hands-off subcontracting relationships to take advantage of unsafe working conditions in the developing world, while actively blocking efforts to improve industry safety standards until 112 garment workers died in a Bangladesh factory fire in November last year. Amazon uses subcontractors to employ warehouse employees in what can be unsafe and miserable working conditions, while minimising damage to its own brand.

Instead of clamping down on such abuses, the state has actually tried to ape these more flexible and apparently more efficient arrangements, either by putting many of its core activities out to private tender through complex contracting arrangements or by requiring its internal units to behave as if they were competing firms. As one looks from business to state and from state to business again, it is increasingly difficult to say which is which. The result is a complex web of relationships that are subject neither to market discipline nor democratic control. Businesses become entangled with the state as both customer and as regulator. States grow increasingly reliant on business, to the point where they no longer know what to do without its advice. Responsibility and accountability evanesce into an endlessly proliferating maze of contracts and subcontracts. As Crouch describes it, government is no more responsible for the delivery of services than Nike is for making the shoes that it brands. The realm of real democracy — political choices that are responsive to voters’ needs — shrinks ever further.

Politicians, meanwhile, have floated away, drifting beyond the reach of the parties that nominally chose them and the voters who elected them. They simply don’t need us as much as they used to. These days, it is far easier to ask business for money and expertise in exchange for political favours than to figure out the needs of a voting public that is increasingly fragmented and difficult to understand anyway. Both the traditional right, which always had strong connections to business, and the new left, which has woven new ties in a hurry, now rely on the private sector more than on voters or party activists. As left and right grow ever more disconnected from the public and ever closer to one another, elections become exercises in branding rather than substantive choice.

Crouch was writing Post-Democracy 10 years ago, when most people thought that things were going quite well. As long as the economy kept delivering jobs and growth, voters didn’t seem to mind about the hollowing out of democracy. Left-of-centre parties weren’t worried either: they responded to the new incentives by trying to articulate a ‘Third Way’ of market-like initiatives that could deliver broad social benefits. Crouch’s lessons have only really come home in the wake of the economic crisis.

The problem that the centre-left now faces is not that it wants to make difficult or unpopular choices. It is that no real choices remain. It is lost in the maze, able neither to reach out to its traditional bases of support (which are largely dying or alienated from it anyway) nor to propose any grand new initiatives, the state no longer having the tools to implement them. When the important decisions are all made outside of democratic politics, the centre-left can only keep going through the ritualistic motions of democracy, all the while praying for intercession.

Most left-wing parties face some version of these dilemmas. Cronyism is less a problem than an institution in the US, where decision-makers relentlessly circulate between Wall Street, K Street, and the Senate and Congress. Yet Europe has some particular bugbears of its own. Even if national political systems were by some miracle to regain their old responsiveness, the power of decision has moved to the European Union, which is dominated by a toxic combination of economic realpolitik and bureaucratic self-interest. Rich northern states are unwilling to help their southern neighbours more than is absolutely necessary; instead they press for greater austerity. The European Central Bank, which was deliberately designed to be free of democratic oversight, is becoming ever more important, and ever more political. Social democrats once looked to the EU as a bulwark against globalisation — perhaps even a model for how the international economy might be subjected to democratic control. Instead, it is turning out to be a vector of corrosion, demanding that weaker member states implement drastic economic reforms without even a pretence of consultation.

Let’s return to Italy, the laboratory of post-democracy’s most grotesque manifestations. Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s elaborate simulacrum of a political party, is a perfect exemplar of Crouch’s thesis: a thin shell of branding and mass mobilisation, with a dense core of business and political elites floating free in the vacuum within.

After the Cortona summer school, Bersani won his fight with Renzi in November last year and led his party into the general election. His coalition lost 3.5 million votes but still won the lower house in February, because the Italian electoral system gives a massive bonus to the biggest winner. It fell far short of a majority in the upper house and is doing its hapless best to form a government. Grillo’s Five Star Movement, on the other hand, did far better than anyone expected, winning a quarter of the votes. Grillo has made it clear that his party will not support the Democratic Party. Renzi has tried to advance himself again as a compromise leader who might be more acceptable to Grillo, so far without success. In all likelihood there will be a second general election in a few months.

‘We die if a movement becomes a party. Our problem is to remain a movement in parliament, which is a structure for parties. We have to keep a foot outside’

The Italian Democratic Party is caught on one tine of the post-democratic dilemma. It is trying to work within the system as it is, in the implausible hope that it can produce real change within a framework that almost seems designed to prevent such a thing. As the party has courted Grillo, it has started making noises about refusing to accept austerity politics and introducing major institutional reforms. It is unclear whether senior Democratic figures believe their new rhetoric; certainly no one else does. If the party does somehow come to power, the most it will do is tinker with the system.

The Five Star Movement has impaled itself on the other tine, as have the Indignados in Spain, Occupy in the US and UK, and the tent movement in Israel. All have gained mass support because of the problems of post-democracy. The divide between ordinary people and politicians has grown ever wider, and Italian politicians are often corrupt as well as remote. The Five Star Movement wants to reform Italy’s institutions to make them truly democratic. Yet it, too, is trapped by the system. As Grillo told the Financial Times in October: ‘We die if a movement becomes a party. Our problem is to remain a movement in parliament, which is a structure for parties. We have to keep a foot outside.’

The truth is, if the Five Star Movement wants to get its proposals for radical change through the complex Italian political system, it will need to compromise, just as other parties do. Grillo’s unwillingness even to entertain discussions with other parties that share his agenda is creating fissures within his movement. Grillo is holding out for a more radical transformation, in which Italian politics would be replaced by new forms of internet-based ‘collective intelligence’, allowing people to come together to solve problems without ugly partisan bargaining. In order to save democracy, the Five Star Movement would like to leave politics behind. It won’t work.

The problems of the Italian left are mirrored in other countries. The British Labour Party finds itself in difficulty, wavering between a Blairite Third Wayism that offers no clear alternative to the present government, and a more full-blooded social democracy that it cannot readily define. The French left has mired itself in scandal and confusion. The Greek left is divided between a social democratic party that is more profoundly compromised than its Italian equivalent and a loose coalition of radicals that wants to do anything and everything except find itself in power and be forced to take decisions.

All are embroiled, in different ways, in the perplexities of post-democracy. None has any very good way out. Ever since France’s president François Mitterrand tried to pursue an expansive social democratic agenda in the early 1980s and was brutally punished by international markets, it has been clear that social democracy will require either a partial withdrawal from the international economy, with all the costs that this entails, or a radical transformation of how the international economy works.

It is striking that the right is not hampered to nearly the same extent. Many mainstream conservatives are committed to democracy for pragmatic rather than idealistic reasons. They are quite content to see it watered down so long as markets work and social stability is maintained. Those on the further reaches of the right, such as Greece’s Golden Dawn, find it much easier than the Five Star Movement or Syriza, the Greek radical-left coalition, to think about alternatives. After all, they aren’t particularly interested in reforming moribund democratic institutions to make them better and more responsive; they just want to replace them with some version of militaristic fascism. Even if these factions are unlikely to succeed, they can still pull their countries in less democratic directions, by excluding weaker groups from political protection. The next 10 years are unlikely to be comfortable for immigrants in southern Europe.

Post-democracy is strangling the old parties of the left. They have run out of options. Perhaps all that traditional social democracy can do, to adapt a grim joke made by Crouch in a different context, is to serve as a pall-bearer at its own funeral. In contrast, a new group of actors — the Five Star Movement and other confederations of the angry, young and dispossessed — have seized a chance to win mass support. The problem is, they seem unable to turn mass frustration into the power to change things, to create a path for escape.

Perhaps, over time, they will figure out how to engage with the mundane task of slow drilling through hard boards that is everyday politics. Perhaps, too, the systems of unrule governing the world economy, gravely weakened as they are, will fail and collapse of their own accord, opening the space for a new and very different dispensation. Great changes seem unlikely until they happen; only in retrospect do they look inevitable. Yet if some reversal in the order of things is waiting to unfold, it is not apparent to us now. Post-democracy has trapped the left between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born. We may be here for some time

Snowden – intervju za NDR 26.02.14

Snowden-Interview: Transcript

Edward Snowden im Januar 2014 im Interview mit dem NDR. © NDR / Cine Centrum Detailansicht des BildesEdward Snowden says he sleeps well – despite potential death treats.Mr Snowden did you sleep well the last couple of nights because I was reading that you asked for a kind of police protection. Are there any threats? 

There are significant threats but I sleep very well. There was an article that came out in an online outlet called Buzz Feed where they interviewed officials from the Pentagon, from the National Security Agency and they gave them anonymity to be able to say what they want and what they told the reporter was that they wanted to murder me. These individuals – and these are acting government officials. They said they would be happy, they would love to put a bullet in my head, to poison me as I was returning from the grocery store and have me die in the shower

But fortunately you are still alive with us.

Right but I’m still alive and I don’t lose sleep because I’ve done what I feel I needed to do. It was the right thing to do and I’m not going to be afraid.

Snowden-Interview in English
– 26.01.2014 23:05 Uhr – Autor/in: Hubert Seipel

Whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked the documents about US mass surveillance. He spoke about his disclosures and his life to NDR journalist Seipel in Moscow. (Germany only)

“The greatest fear I have”, and I quote you, “regarding the disclosures is nothing will change.” That was one of your greatest concerns at the time but in the meantime there is a vivid discussion about the situation with the NSA; not only in America but also in Germany and in Brazil and President Obama was forced to go public and to justify what the NSA was doing on legal grounds.

What we saw initially in response to the revelations was sort of a circling of the wagons of government around the National Security Agency. Instead of circling around the public and protecting their rights the political class circled around the security state and protected their rights. What’s interesting is though that was the initially response, since then we’ve seen a softening. We’ve seen the President acknowledge that when he first said “we’ve drawn the right balance, there are no abuses”, we’ve seen him and his officials admit that there have been abuses. There have been thousands of violations of the National Security Agency and other agencies and authorities every single year.

Is the speech of Obama the beginning of a serious regulation?

It was clear from the President’s speech that he wanted to make minor changes to preserve authorities that we don’t need. The President created a review board from officials that were personal friends, from national security insiders, former Deputy of the CIA, people who had every incentive to be soft on these programs and to see them in the best possible light. But what they found was that these programs have no value, they’ve never stopped a terrorist attack in the United States and they have marginal utility at best for other things. The only thing that the Section 215 phone metadata program, actually it’s a broader metadata programme of bulk collection – bulk collection means mass surveillance – program was in stopping or detecting $ 8.500 wire transfer from a cab driver in California and it’s this kind of review where insiders go we don’t need these programs, these programs don’t make us safe. They take a tremendous amount of resources to run and they offer us no value. They go “we can modify these”. The National Security agency operates under the President’s executive authority alone. He can end of modify or direct a change of their policies at any time.

Snowden-Interview: Transcript

For the first time President Obama did concede that the NSA collects and stores trillions of data.

Every time you pick up the phone, dial a number, write an email, make a purchase, travel on the bus carrying a cell phone, swipe a card somewhere, you leave a trace and the government has decided that it’s a good idea to collect it all, everything, even if you’ve never been suspected of any crime. Traditionally the government would identify a suspect, they would go to a judge, they would say we suspect he’s committed this crime, they would get a warrant and then they would be able to use the totality of their powers in pursuit of the investigation. Nowadays what we see is they want to apply the totality of their powers in advance – prior to an investigation.

You started this debate, Edward Snowden is in the meantime a household name for the whistleblower in the age of the internet. You were working until last summer for the NSA and during this time you secretly collected thousands of confidential documents. What was the decisive moment or was there a long period of time or something happening, why did you do this?

I would say sort of the breaking point is seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress. There’s no saving an intelligence community that believes it can lie to the public and the legislators who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions. Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realisation that no one else was going to do this. The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public, but neither of these things we were allowed to discuss, we were allowed no, even the wider body of our elected representatives were prohibited from knowing or discussing these programmes and that’s a dangerous thing. The only review we had was from a secret court, the FISA Court, which is a sort of rubber stamp authority

When you are on the inside and you go into work everyday and you sit down at the desk and you realise the power you have  – you can wire tap the President of the United States, you can wire tap a Federal Judge and if you do it carefully no one will ever know because the only way the NSA discovers abuses are from self reporting.

We’re not talking only of the NSA as far as this is concerned, there is a multilateral agreement for co-operation among the services and this alliance of intelligence operations is known as the Five Eyes. What agencies and countries belong to this alliance and what is its purpose?

The Five Eyes alliance is sort of an artifact of the post World War II era where the Anglophone countries are the major powers banded together to sort of co-operate and share the costs of intelligence gathering infrastructure.

So we have the UK’s GCHQ, we have the US NSA, we have Canada’s C-Sec, we have the Australian Signals Intelligence Directorate and we have New Zealand’s DSD. What the result of this was over decades and decades what sort of a supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.

In many countries, as in America too the agencies like the NSA are not allowed to spy within their own borders on their own people. So the Brits for example they can spy on everybody but the Brits but the NSA can conduct surveillance in England so in the very end they could exchange their data and they would be strictly following the law.

If you ask the governments about this directly they would deny it and point to policy agreements between the members of the Five Eyes saying that they won’t spy on each other’s citizens but there are a couple of key points there. One is that the way they define spying is not the collection of data. The GCHQ is collecting an incredible amount of data on British Citizens just as the National Security Agency is gathering enormous amounts of data on US citizens. What they are saying is that they will not then target people within that data. They won’t look for UK citizens or British citizens. In addition the policy agreements between them that say British won’t target US citizens, US won’t target British citizens are not legally binding. The actual memorandums of agreement state specifically on that that they are not intended to put legal restriction on any government. They are policy agreements that can be deviated from or broken at any time. So if they want to on a British citizen they can spy on a British citizen and then they can even share that data with the British government that is itself forbidden from spying on UK citizens. So there is a sort of a trading dynamic there but it’s not, it’s not open, it’s more of a nudge and wink and beyond that the key is to remember the surveillance and the abuse doesn’t occur when people look at the data it occurs when people gather the data in the first place.

How narrow is the co-operation of the German Secret Service BND with the NSA and with the Five Eyes?

I would describe it as intimate. As a matter of fact the first way I described it in our written interview was that the German Services and the US Services are in bed together. They not only share information, the reporting of results from intelligence, but they actually share the tools and the infrastructure they work together against joint targets in services and there’s a lot of danger in this. One of the major programmes that faces abuse in the National Security Agency is what’s called “XKeyscore”. It’s a front end search engine that allows them to look through all of the records they collect worldwide every day.

What could you do if you would sit so to speak in their place with this kind of instrument?

You could read anyone’s email in the world. Anybody you’ve got email address for, any website you can watch traffic to and from it, any computer that an individual sits at you can watch it, any laptop that you’re tracking you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one stop shop for access to the NSA’s information. And what’s more you can tag individuals using “XKeyscore”. Let’s say I saw you once and I thought what you were doing was interesting or you just have access that’s interesting to me, let’s say you work at a major German corporation and I want access to that network, I can track your username on a website on a form somewhere, I can track your real name, I can track associations with your friends and I can build what’s called a fingerprint which is network activity unique to you which means anywhere you go in the world anywhere you try to sort of hide your online presence hide your identity, the NSA can find you and anyone who’s allowed to use this or who the NSA shares their software with can do the same thing. Germany is one of the countries that have access to “XKeyscore”.

This sounds rather frightening. The question is: does the BND deliver data of Germans to the NSA?

Whether the BND does it directly or knowingly the NSA gets German data.  Whether it’s provided I can’t speak to until it’s been reported because it would be classified and I prefer that journalists make the distinctions and the decisions about what is public interest and what should be published. However, it’s no secret that every country in the world has the data of their citizens in the NSA. Millions and millions and millions of data connections from Germans going about their daily lives, talking on their cell phones, sending SMS messages, visiting websites, buying things online, all of this ends up at the NSA and it’s reasonable to suspect that the BND may be aware of it in some capacity. Now whether or not they actively provide the information I should not say.

The BND basically argues if we do this, we do this accidentally actually and our filter didn’t work.

Right so the kind of things that they’re discussing there are two things.  They’re talking about filtering of ingest which means when the NSA puts a secret server in a German telecommunications provider or they hack a German router and they divert the traffic in a manner that let’s them search through things they’re saying “if I see what I think is a German talking to another German I’ll drop it” but how do you know. You could say “well, these people are speaking the German language”, “this IP address seems to be from a German company to another German company”, but that’s not accurate and they wouldn’t dump all of that traffic because they’ll get people who are targetes of interest, who are actively in Germany using German communications. So realistically what’s happening is when they say there’s no spying on Germans, they don’t mean that German data isn’t being gathered, they don’t mean that records aren’t being taken or stolen, what they mean is that they’re not intentionally searching for German citizens. And that’s sort of a fingers crossed behind the back promise, it’s not reliable.

What about other European countries like Norway and Sweden for example because we have a lot of I think under water cables going through the Baltic Sea.

So this is sort of an expansion of the same idea. If the NSA isn’t collecting information on German citizens in Germany are they as soon as it leaves German borders? And the answer is “yes”. Any single communication that transits the internet, the NSA may intercept at multiple points, they might see it in Germany, they might see it in Sweden, they might see it in Norway or Finland, they might see it in Britain and they might see it in the United States.  Any single one of these places that a German communication crosses it’ll be ingested and added to the database.

So let’s come to our southern European neighbours then. What about Italy, what about France, what about Spain?

It’s the same deal worldwide.

Does the NSA spy on Siemens, on Mercedes, on other successful German companies for example, to prevail, to have the advantage of knowing what is going on in a scientific and economic world.

I don’t want to pre-empt the editorial decisions of journalists but what I will say is there’s no question that the US is engaged in economic spying.

If there’s information at Siemens that they think would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security of the United States, they’ll go after that information and they’ll take it

There is this old saying “you do whatever you can do” so the NSA is doing whatever is technically possible.

This is something that the President touched on last year where he said that just because we can do something, and this was in relation to tapping Angela Merkel’s phone, just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should, and that’s exactly what’s happened. The technological capabilities that have been provided because of sort of weak security standards in internet protocols and cellular communications networks have meant that intelligence services can create systems that see everything.

Nothing annoyed the German government more than the fact that the NSA tapped the private phone of the German Chancellor Merkel over the last 10 years obviously, suddenly this invisible surveillance was connected with a known face and was not connected with a kind of watery shady terrorist background: Obama now promised to stop snooping on Merkel which raises the question: did the NSA tape already previous governments including the previous chancellors and when did they do that and how long did they do this for?

This is a particularly difficult question for me to answer because there’s information that I very strongly believe is in the public interest. However, as I’ve said before I prefer for journalists to make those decisions in advance, review the material themselves and decide whether or not the public value of this information outweighs the sort of reputational cost to the officials that ordered the surveillance. What I can say is we know Angela Merkel was monitored by the National Security Agency. The question is how reasonable is it to assume that she is the only German official that was monitored, how reasonable is it to believe that she’s the only prominent German face who the National Security Agency was watching. I would suggest it seems unreasonable that if anyone was concerned about the intentions of German leadership that they would only watch Merkel and not her aides, not other prominent officials, not heads of ministries or even local government officials.

How does a young man from Elizabeth City in North Carolina, 30 years old, get in such a position in such a sensitive area?

That’s a very difficult question to answer. In general, I would say it highlights the dangers of privatising government functions. I worked previously as an actual staff officer, a government employee for the Central Intelligence Agency but I’ve also served much more frequently as a contractor in a private capacity. What that means is you have private for profit companies doing inherently governmental work like targeted espionage, surveillance, compromising foreign systems and anyone who has the skills who can convince a private company that they have the qualifications to do so will be empowered by the government to do that and there’s very little oversight, there’s very little review.

Have you been one of these classical computer kids sitting red eyed during the nights in the age of 12, 15 and your father was knocking on your door and saying “switch off the light, it’s getting late now”? Did you get your computer skills from that side or when did you get your first computer?

Right I definitely have had a … shall we say a deep informal education in computers and electronic technology. They’ve always been fascinating and interesting to me. The characterisation of having your parents telling you to go to bed I would say is fair

If one looks to the little public data of your life one discovers that you obviously wanted to join in May 2004 the Special Forces to fight in Iraq, what did motivate you at the time? You know, Special Forces, looking at you in the very moment, means grim fighting and it means probably killing and did you ever get to Iraq?

No I didn’t get to Iraq … one of the interesting things about the Special Forces are that they’re not actually intended for direct combat, they’re what’s referred to as a force multiplier. They’re inserted behind enemy lines, it’s a squad that has a number of different specialties in it and they teach and enable the local population to resist or to support US forces in a way that allows the local population a chance to help determine their own destiny and I felt that was an inherently noble thing at the time. In hindsight some of the reasons that we went into Iraq were not well founded and I think did a disservice to everyone involved.

What happened to your adventure then? Did you stay long with them or what happened to you?

No I broke my legs when I was in training and was discharged.

So it was a short adventure in other words?

It’s a short adventure.

In 2007 the CIA stationed you with a diplomatic cover in Geneva in Switzerland. Why did you join the CIA by the way?

I don’t think I can actually answer that one on the record.

OK if it’s what you have been doing there forget it but why did you join the CIA?

In many ways I think it’s a continuation of trying to do everything I could to prosecute the public good in the most effective way and it’s in line with the rest of my government service where I tried to use my technical skills in the most difficult positions I could find in the world and the CIA offered that.

If we go back Special Forces, CIA, NSA, it’s not actually in the description of a human rights activist or somebody who becomes a whistleblower after this. What happens to you?

I think it tells a story and that’s no matter how deeply an individual is embedded in the government, no matter how faithful to the government they are, no matter how strongly they believe in the causes of their government as I did during the Iraq war, people can learn, people can discover the line between appropriate government behaviour and actual wrongdoing and I think it became clear to me that that line had been crossed.

You worked for the NSA through a private contractor with the name Booze Allen Hamilton, one of the big ones in the business. What is the advantage for the US Government or the CIA to work through a private contractor to outsource a central government function?

The contracting culture of the national security community in the United States is a complex topic. It’s driven by a number of interests between primarily limiting the number of direct government employees at the same time as keeping lobbying groups in Congress typically from very well funded businesses such as Booze Allen Hamilton. The problem there is you end up in a situation where government policies are being influenced by private corporations who have interests that are completely divorced from the public good in mind. The result of that is what we saw at Booze Allen Hamilton where you have private individuals who have access to what the government alleges were millions and millions of records that they could walk out the door with at any time with no accountability, no oversight, no auditing, the government didn’t even know they were gone

At the very end you ended up in Russia. Many of the intelligence communities suspect you made a deal, classified material for Asylum here in Russia.

The Chief of the Task Force investigating me as recently as December said that their investigation had turned up no evidence or indications at all that I had any outside help or contact or had made a deal of any kind to accomplish my mission. I worked alone. I didn’t need anybody’s help, I don’t have any ties to foreign governments, I’m not a spy for Russia or China or any other country for that matter. If I am a traitor who did I betray? I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues. If they see that as treason I think people really need to consider who do they think they’re working for. The public is supposed to be their boss not their enemy. Beyond that as far as my personal safety, I’ll never be fully safe until these systems have changed.

After your revelations none of the European countries really offered you asylum. Where did you apply in Europe for asylum?

I can’t remember the list of countries with any specificity because there were many of them but France, Germany were definitely in there as was the UK.  A number of European countries, all of whom unfortunately felt that doing the right thing was less important than supporting US political concerns.

One reaction to the NSA snooping is in the very moment that countries like Germany are thinking to create national internets an attempt to force internet companies to keep their data in their own country. Does this work?

It’s not gonna stop the NSA. Let’s put it that way. The NSA goes where the data is. If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunication networks in China, they can probably manage to get facebook messages out of Germany. Ultimately the solution to that is not to try to stick everything in a walled  garden. Although that does raise the level of sophistication and complexity of taking the information. It’s also much better simply to secure the information internationally against everyone rather than playing “let’s move the data”. Moving the data isn’t fixing the problem. Securing the data is the problem.

President Obama in the very moment obviously doesn’t care too much about the message of the leak. And together with the NSA they do care very much more about catching the messenger in that context. Obama asked the Russian president several times to extradite you. But Putin did not. It looks that you will stay to the rest of your life probably in Russia. How do you feel about Russia in that context and is there a solution to this problem.

I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that these leaks didn’t cause harm in fact they served the public good. Because of that I think it will be very difficult to maintain sort of an ongoing campaign of persecution against someone who the public agrees serve the public interest.

The New York Times wrote a very long comment and demanded clemency for you. The headline “Edward Snowden Whistleblower” and I quote from that: “The public learned in great detail how the agency has extended its mandate and abused its authority.” And the New York Times closes: “President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.” Did you get a call in between from the White House?

I’ve never received a call from the White House and I am not waiting by the phone. But I would welcome the opportunity to talk about how we can bring this to a conclusion that serves the interest of all parties. I think it’s clear that there are times where what is lawful is distinct from what is rightful. There are times throughout history and it doesn’t take long for either an American or a German to think about times in the history of their country where the law provided the government to do things which were not right.

President Obama obviously is in the very moment not quite convinced of that because he said to you are charged with three felonies and I quote: “If you Edward Snowden believe in what you did you should go back to America appear before the court with a lawyer and make your case.” Is this the solution?

It’s interesting because he mentions three felonies. What he doesn’t say is that the crimes that he has charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit. The espionage act was never intended, it’s from 1918,  it was never intended to prosecute journalistic sources, people who are informing the newspapers about information that’s of public interest. It was intended for people who are selling documents in secret to foreign governments who are bombing bridges who are sabotaging communications not people who are serving the public good. So it’s I would say illustrative that the president would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial.

Hollandova kapitulacija

Scandal in France

I haven’t paid much attention to François Hollande, the president of France, since it became clear that he wasn’t going to break with Europe’s destructive, austerity-minded policy orthodoxy. But now he has done something truly scandalous.

I am not, of course, talking about his alleged affair with an actress, which, even if true, is neither surprising (hey, it’s France) nor disturbing. No, what’s shocking is his embrace of discredited right-wing economic doctrines. It’s a reminder that Europe’s ongoing economic woes can’t be attributed solely to the bad ideas of the right. Yes, callous, wrongheaded conservatives have been driving policy, but they have been abetted and enabled by spineless, muddleheaded politicians on the moderate left.

Right now, Europe seems to be emerging from its double-dip recession and growing a bit. But this slight uptick follows years of disastrous performance. How disastrous? Consider: By 1936, seven years into the Great Depression, much of Europe was growing rapidly, with real G.D.P. per capita steadily reaching new highs. By contrast, European real G.D.P. per capita today is still well below its 2007 peak — and rising slowly at best.

Doing worse than you did in the Great Depression is, one might say, a remarkable achievement. How did the Europeans pull it off? Well, in the 1930s most European countries eventually abandoned economic orthodoxy: They went off the gold standard; they stopped trying to balance their budgets; and some of them began large military buildups that had the side effect of providing economic stimulus. The result was a strong recovery from 1933 onward.

Modern Europe is a much better place, morally, politically, and in human terms. A shared commitment to democracy has brought durable peace; social safety nets have limited the suffering from high unemployment; coordinated action has contained the threat of financial collapse. Unfortunately, the Continent’s success in avoiding disaster has had the side effect of letting governments cling to orthodox policies. Nobody has left the euro, even though it’s a monetary straitjacket. With no need to boost military spending, nobody has broken with fiscal austerity. Everyone is doing the safe, supposedly responsible thing — and the slump persists.

In this depressed and depressing landscape, France isn’t an especially bad performer. Obviously it has lagged behind Germany, which has been buoyed by its formidable export sector. But French performance has been better than that of most other European nations. And I’m not just talking about the debt-crisis countries. French growth has outpaced that of such pillars of orthodoxy as Finland and the Netherlands.

It’s true that the latest data show France failing to share in Europe’s general uptick. Most observers, including the International Monetary Fund, attribute this recent weakness largely to austerity policies. But now Mr. Hollande has spoken up about his plans to change France’s course — and it’s hard not to feel a sense of despair.

For Mr. Hollande, in announcing his intention to reduce taxes on businesses while cutting (unspecified) spending to offset the cost, declared, “It is upon supply that we need to act,” and he further declared that “supply actually creates demand.”

So what’s the significance of the fact that, at this of all times, Mr. Hollande has adopted this discredited doctrine?

As I said, it’s a sign of the haplessness of the European center-left. For four years, Europe has been in the grip of austerity fever, with mostly disastrous results; it’s telling that the current slight upturn is being hailed as if it were a policy triumph. Given the hardship these policies have inflicted, you might have expected left-of-center politicians to argue strenuously for a change in course. Yet everywhere in Europe, the center-left has at best (for example, in Britain) offered weak, halfhearted criticism, and often simply cringed in submission.

When Mr. Hollande became leader of the second-ranked euro economy, some of us hoped that he might take a stand. Instead, he fell into the usual cringe — a cringe that has now turned into intellectual collapse. And Europe’s second depression goes on and on

Števec škandalov – Slovenija

Republic of Slovenia: Scandal counter

23. januar

Michali : Klokočovnik, za zdaj 1: 1 – vojna kirurgov

Golob :  Biščak, za zdaj 1:0  – vojna energetskih mafij

Združnje manager + Mišič : Lahovnik 1: 1 – vojna države proti menežerjem

Bruselj : slovenska vlada:  1: 0 –  Bruselj zavrnil slovensko prijavo za strukturna sredstva z “Kakšen  zmazek je to?”

Direktor Onkološkega inštituta Remškar : karteli: 0 : 0 –  šikane od neznao kod, ker hoče urediti naročila

Davkoplačevalci: tuji managerji 0 : 1 –  Plača enega tujih direktorjev slabe banke 23.000 na mesec

Števec dosežkov

Sodišče v Murski soboti : ZDA    1 : 0 – Slovenija ne bo izročila romunskega hekerja

 24. januar

menežer Časar : novinarka Carl  1 : 0  –  Obsojeni Časar toži novinarko in se hkrati skriva pred roko pravice

meščani Ljubljane –  uradniki   0 : 1 –  Četrt milijona za službene prevoze

29. januar


župan Vidma : javni interes 1 : 0, župan je sebi posodil 100.000 občinskega denarja, Praprotnik pravi, da do leta 2011 to ni bilo nezakonito

župan Zanoškar : Slovenj gradec  1: 0, ne spomni se kako je njegov sin dobil zaposlitev na njegovi občini

opozicija in koalicija : volilci  1 : 0, njegova stranka tega ne bi komentirali, opozicija (Vizjak) razume njegovo skrb za sina, sestrska stranka da mora vsaka stranka sama poskrbeti za te stvari

Bratuškova : volivci  1 : 0, ob interpelaciji komentira očitke, da mora vsak, ki očita nezakonitost in neetičnost najprej pomesti pred svojim pragom  !!!!

1. februar

Vlado Ambrožič : Zoran Thaler, župan Zanoškar in slovenski pravni sistem,  0 : 1 .                     RTV in gospod Amrožič bosta plačala nad 13. 000 za napačen klik, ki je razkril ambudsmanove naslovnike, Thaler bo za pripravljenost na korupcijo v Evropskem parlamentu plačal približno enako in nekaj vikendov prespal v zaporu. Župani, ki pridno delajo v svoj prid so pa itak nedolžni.

Cerkvene finance / Sveti nered


Church finances: Holy disorder

By Alex Barker in Maribor

The bankruptcy of a Catholic diocese that diversified into business reflects scant supervision
Stained Glass window depicting Money Making. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.©AlamyMinting money: coin making in a stained glass window

Father Joze Golovsek is praying for a bailout. But if it comes to the worst and the banks seize his church, he can take solace from knowing they cannot asset-strip the angels.

“It is protected as a cultural heritage,” says the priest, wistfully looking up at the pastel pink and yellow hues of the handsome baroque building in Maribor, Slovenia’s second city. “Any new owner wouldn’t be allowed to resell the relics inside. They can’t dismantle the altar and remove the panorama of holy St Aloysius, or take away the angels.”

Warning signs

Warning signs

Trouble for Slovenia

This 18th century house of God is at risk of repossession not because of the prohibitive cost of repairs but as a result of the commercial misadventures of its clergy. The Archdiocese of Maribor is bankrupt, unable to pay its debts and at the mercy of its creditors. Father Golovsek’s church may pay the price.

The Roman Catholic Church is no stranger to financial troubles. Yet by sheer size, the collapse of Maribor diocese and its associated investment funds – Zvon Ena and Zvon Dva (Bell One and Bell Two) – is one of the biggest to blight the modern Church. Total claims have reached up to €1bn – all that for a small city of 114,000 souls nestled in the lush foothills of the Pohorje mountains.

The events that put St Aloysius into receivership and rocked Slovenia involve unchecked entrepreneurial spirits, arms-length financing, soft porn, a runaway bubble and suspected demonic possession. Already three bishops have resigned and a priest turned financial wizard is facing jail.

For Slovenia, it is a painful reminder of – and a contributor to – the go-go years of the past that have left its economy today on the brink of a eurozone bailout. For the Vatican, now under a Pontiff battling the “idolatry of money”, it is a stark lesson in the perils of hands-off management.

The Church in Slovenia is still reeling. “These events are the fruits of ploys by mysterious evil forces,” said Monsignor Andrej Glavan, president of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, last year. “Rationally it is difficult to grasp and understand.”

St Aloysius’s problems stem from being pledged as collateral, along with the bishop’s seat in Maribor’s main square, assorted vineyards, an organ workshop and a disused monastery. These scant assets underpinned an epic financial folly, a sprawling enterprise funded in part by priests urging their flock to entrust the Church with the privatisation certificates they received after Slovenia broke from Yugoslavia and threw off communism. Some 60,000 heeded their call.

Through the two Zvon funds, the diocese stood astride an investment empire spanning publishing, paint manufacturing, glassworks, water parks, telecommunications, Croatian property and a slaughterhouse in Buenos Aires. Paper gains in an overheated stock market secured loans to expand further. When the boom collapsed, so did most investment funds. The Zvons stood out because of their Church ties: this was not a religious institution struggling to manage inherited wealth but a ruinous attempt at building a fortune from scratch.

The final tally from the failure is hard to pin down. Although total claims lodged in the bankruptcy process exceed €1bn, a more accurate figure is perhaps roughly €500m in net loans from banks. By comparison, the Holy See’s annual administration budget is about €250m. It is a remarkable sum given, under Vatican rules, any loans in excess of €1m require Rome’s approval.

Blame for the calamity is heaped on Mirko Krasovec, a canny priest who acted as Maribor’s treasurer for almost a quarter of a century. As the bankruptcy hit in 2011, Krasovec was banished to an Austrian monastery and last month sentenced to two years in jail for a role in embezzling EU grants – a guilty verdict against which he is appealing. While admitting mistakes, he insists he is no more than a scapegoat. His critics are less generous. Anton Guzej, a banker with whom he formerly worked, said: “He always behaved like a baron. His methods were those of Slovenian tycoons.” Krasovec declined to comment.

It is an unlikely fate for a man born to a modest farming family in which four out of five brothers entered the priesthood. He showed an enterprising spirit from a young age, whether making his own shoes or pianos. He was trained in theology, not economics, but impressed as a parish priest when managing a renovation project. In 1985 he took over as treasurer, shepherding Maribor through a critical transition.

The demise of Tito’s Yugoslavia was the Church’s opportunity to reclaim what it had lost. Communist partisans saw the bishops as the enemy within, a permanent threat, tarred with collaborating with fascists during the second world war. Once a state within a state – with football clubs, schools and hospitals – the Church was left with almost nothing. Persecution was relentless. In 1953 Anton Vovk, Ljubljana’s archbishop, was doused in petrol and set alight in the street. The wounds inflicted on Slovenian society are still raw.

As Slovenia seceded in 1991, Krasovec’s sharp instincts proved invaluable. He built connections overseas and opened Krekova, a successful savings bank, which was bought by Austria’s Raiffeisenbank for about €30m in 2002. Relative to Ljubljana, its episcopal big brother, Maribor fared poorly from the restitution of property. Jealousy was rife; Krasovec was the priest with the nous to close that gap. Clerics recall his predecessor saying: “As an old-style treasurer I dealt with the money I had. My successor is dealing with the money he thinks he will have some day.”

A pivotal decision was to collect certificates granted to Slovenes during mass privatisation, which had a notional value of €1,500-€3,000. Priests throughout Slovenia were enlisted to help. St Stanislaus Institute, Slovenia’s top Catholic education institute, claimed that investing with the Church “out of love” would bring “inner joy, now and in eternity”. “God who sees in secret will reward you,” it said.

In the early days, Maribor fared well. While most certificates were badly invested, it oversaw a blue-chip fund that soared as Slovenia moved into the eurozone in 2004. The main market index jumped 500 per cent between 2003 and 2007 – a rise that was eventually wiped out. Simon Zdolsek, the former head of Zvon Ena, said: “We all made a mistake – Zvon and the banks and the Church – because we believed in this boom.”

Krasovec, in an interview with the Delo newspaper before his banishment, said: “It is like you have sown wheat and then the crop is destroyed by hail and at the same time the barn is burnt. Had anyone warned us this would happen, we would never have done it.”

Like many investment funds, the Zvons borrowed too much. Certain decisions made the fallout worse for the bishops. One was to take a controlling stake in the Zvons in 2005 via a vehicle named Gospodarstvo Rast. Legally, there was a distinction but the Zvons were bound to the Church. Another problem was failing to prevent Zvon’s management from straying into more speculative investments. And then there was T2.

It was pornography, in the end, that alerted the Vatican. In late 2007, T2, a company controlled by Zvon Ena, sought to muscle in on the Slovenian television market with a 120-channel package – including several adult offerings. One banker joked that it offered the “finest pornography in Slovenia”. But for the archbishop of Maribor, this was no laughing matter. The morality of its investments was being debated in public.

. . .

There are conflicting accounts of whether Pope Benedict raised the matter directly. But in 2008 when Slovenia’s bishops visited Rome, the message was clear: the porn and financial escapades must stop. The Pontiff preached to the assembled Slovenian bishops in their black cassocks and purple cincture bands on “greater fidelity to the Gospel in the administration of Church property”.

Over time it became apparent that T2’s soft porn was one of its more astute commercial decisions. Its big misjudgment was attempting to build its own telecoms infrastructure across Slovenia – an unfinished and ultimately ruinous goal. The market turned when the project was at its most vulnerable; banks took fright. It was Zvon’s biggest asset and the key to the downfall.

While the Vatican’s suspicions of Maribor were raised in 2008, it took three years for the Holy See to take charge, eventually calling in NM Rothschild, its advisers, ordering an inquiry and ousting three bishops. Even now in Slovenia there is open criticism of Pope Francis for last summer pushing out Monsignor Anton Stres, a popular cleric who became archbishop of Ljubljana after serving in Maribor.

Krasovec argues that he was given strategic direction by the bishops he served. They approved the strategy and backed the crucial decisions, he claims. The problem was the leap into the capitalist markets, not the execution.

In a 30-page letter to clergy leaked to the newspaper Dnevnik by a source other than its author, Krasovec said he “accepted the role of scapegoat”. “But the twisting of the truth goes too far . . . this unjustified blackening of my name will not let the Church save face”.

Aftershocks continue. More prosecutions are possible. Alenka Bratusek, Slovenia’s centre-left prime minister, said the scandal was “amazing”. “We are conducting forensic searches now in our banks so that those that did on purpose commit any wrongs will be brought before the judges.”

Creditors are expecting back only a fraction of their claims. Debate is raging within the Church over compensation for faithful investors. Bogdan Knavs, a Franciscan friar born in Maribor, openly argued regret alone would not absolve the sin of recklessly squandering “savings of small people”. “If this injustice is not settled . . . the stain will blight the Church for decades,” he wrote.

The bishops are standing firm. In their eyes the responsibility is limited: other dioceses are not answerable for Maribor’s errors; Maribor was legally separate from the investment companies; and investors were given several opportunities to cash out. Msgr Glavan said the compensation demands were “unreasonable” given that the Maribor archdiocese “completely depends on its beggar’s stick”.

A neighbouring Austrian diocese may yet intervene to save St Aloysius, and perhaps the bishop’s seat. The Church is painfully aware of the reputational hit it has suffered; a few yards from St Aloysius church are walls daubed with names of church leaders and swastikas. The resentment runs deep.

“I learnt something about the church,” said Zoran Zeljic, a psychologist who invested late in Zvon. “At every mass there is confession, recognition of sin. It is ritual, they say it but they don’t mean it, life goes on as before. They are hiding, hiding from moral responsibility, hiding behind legal structures, hiding from what they owe.”


Church and society: The threat of the satanic red dragon

The ruin of the Maribor archdiocese is a parable for Slovenia as it struggles with the hangover of a runaway boom and the unhealed divisions of history. The country of just 2m people, squeezed between the Adriatic and the Alps, faces its biggest crisis since independence as the bills from a decade of excess and political negligence come due.

Once feted as the great success of post-communist transition, Slovenia has been brought low by corporate cronyism, lax lending and a state that still looms large over the economy.

The clerics of Maribor were far from alone in being swept along in an unsustainable bubble. But their downfall has bitterly divided a society still grappling with the legacy of the second world war and 50 years of communism.

“The red dragon relentlessly attacks,” said Monsignor Andrej Glavan, the Bishop of Novo Mesto, evoking the seven-headed beast of the Book of Revelations. “Satan exploits the weaknesses and failures of one of the six dioceses . . . to mount an attack on the entire Church in Slovenia.”

Ivan Stuhec, a prominent theologian, said: “My opinion remains that the Zvons could have been saved. If we could have saved the Zvons we could have saved Rast [the Church holding company] and with that we would have saved the archdiocese.”

The Zvons were in better shape than other Slovenian funds that collapsed. Companies it backed are still prospering. But Slovenian stocks fell 40 per cent after the Zvons declared bankruptcy. Any white knight for Maribor needed deep pockets.

People involved in the final days say a Vatican-brokered loan was close – even provisionally accepted – before it was scuppered by a mysterious intervention. Banks later demanded collateral from other dioceses, leaving some suspecting a plot against the entire Church.

Mr Stuhec has previously denounced lobbies attempting to “behead” the Church. “I don’t think the trap was set for us,” he said. “The people within the Church strayed so far that they could be captured. And when they were already in the trap it was of course exploited by opponents of the Church.”

Additional reporting: Urban Cervek and Caroline Bauman


Trmasto gnila država

Dokler se bo ta družba sprenevedala, da je pri nas, kljub ignoriranju lanskoletnega poročila KPKa, letošnjem odstopu senata in enoletnih neargumentiranih in pobalisnkih diskreditacijah tega nadzornega organa, pri nas vse v redu, se slovenska kriza ne more niti začeti sanirati.  Smo globoko bolna družba in država. Pika.

Igor Koršič

Leto dni od protikorupcijske »atomske bombe«

Napoved, da bomo priče bitke za interpretacijo in diskreditacijo poročila ter članov KPK, se je uresničila.

Rok Kajzer, Ozadja

sre, 08.01.2014, 06:00


Ljubljana – »When numbers talk, bullshit walks – v prevodu: ko začnejo govoriti dejstva, ne bi smelo biti več prostora za politično demagogijo, celo v Sloveniji ne,« je 8. januarja 2013 dejal predsednik KPKGoran Klemenčič. Leto dni pozneje: dejstva poražena, demagogija zmagovalka.

Ko se je senat protikorupcijske komisije (KPK) pred natančno letom dni pojavil pred mikrofoni in kamerami, ni skoraj nihče slutil, da Goran Klemenčič, Rok Praprotnik in Lilijana Selinšek prinašajo politično »atomsko bombo«.

Poročilo o (nepojasnjenem) premoženjskem stanju je bilo katastrofalno za takratnega premieraJaneza Janšo in ljubljanskega župana Zorana Jankovića. Leto dni pozneje je jasno, da sta bila oba akterja dovolj daleč od ničelne točke eksplozije, ki ju je le oplazila.

Janša je sicer izgubil premierski položaj in vlado ter dolgoročno tudi možnost, da bi sestavil še kakšen ministrski kabinet, a je ostal trdno v sedlu najmočnejše opozicijske stranke SDS. Jankovića je bolj kakor ne navidezno odpihnilo s položaja predsednika PS, županski položaj pa je s podporo stranke in svoje mestne liste v celoti ohranil.

Oba sta politično preživela, ne da bi vsaj približno zadovoljivo pojasnila izvor svojega premoženja. Po objavi sta izvedla klasični slovenski politični manever in se s poročilom nista spopadla z argumenti, papirji, številkami in verodostojnimi pojasnili, ampak z obtoževanjem, blatenjem in diskreditacijo KPK, v čemer je SDS sicer vodila pred PS.

Klemenčič je ob objavi poročila dejal (in hkrati že napovedal usodo vodstva KPK): »Posledice so lahko le dvojne: ali nas vse zaprejo, ker smo neutemeljeno očrnili najvišje predstavnike države, ali pa se sprejmejo odgovornost in ustrezni ukrepi. V nasprotnem primeru nima nobenega smisla več, da komisija še obstaja.« Odgovornosti in ukrepov ni bilo, je pa nato, tudi zaradi drugih razlogov, odšla komisija.

Čeprav slovesa hudo obremenjenih politikov ni bilo, je imelo poročilo blagodejne učinke za demokracijo: državljani so imeli prvič v zgodovini mlade države vpogled v drobovje nepojasnjenega premoženja pomembnih politikov, korupcija je postala tema številka 1 in končno je prišel trenutek za spoznanje, da v državi ne more biti več nedotakljivih.

Poročilo je pri tem prineslo še širitev protestniškega gibanja proti oholim in korumpiranim političnim elitam in je s padcem vlade tudi zaznamovalo celotno leto 2013. Država je dobila nov ministrski kabinet in na novo so se pomešale politične karte.

Leto podlih in neargumentiranih diskreditacij

»Naš komentar na dogajanje v letu po objavi poročila o premoženjskem stanju je v celoti zajet v naši odstopni izjavi in v 15 predlogih za soočenje s sistemsko korupcijo, ki smo jih podali ob odstopu,« je izjava senata KPK ob današnji prvi obletnici izdaje poročila.

Na račune Zorana Jankovića se je, odkar je postal župan Ljubljane, zlilo okoli 2,8 milijona evrov; komisiji jih ni prijavil. Večina sredstev je prišla iz družinskih podjetij. Župan trdi, da mu sinova odplačujeta odkup Electe holdinga. Ko mu je zmanjkalo denarja, je praviloma prišlo nakazilo iz teh družb. »Ko potrebujem denar, pokličem pa rečem, dragi moj sine, je čas, da kaj vrneš atu … Približno tako to izgleda,« je pojasnjeval Janković, ki je po izračunih na leto porabil tudi do 11-krat več, kakor je zaslužil. Nič kaj prepričljivo pa ni mogel pojasniti verižnega prenakazovanja denarja od Grepa, ki je posloval z ljubljansko občino. Višina: 208.000 evrov.

Nezadostna pojasnila

KPK je pri Janezu Janši ugotovila, da se je njegovo premoženje od leta 2004 nesorazmerno in nepojasnjeno povečalo za vsaj 210.000 evrov. Precej financiranja je bilo z velikimi količinami gotovine, o kateri pa ni znano, kdaj, kako in od koga jo je dobil. Janša se je precej zapletel pri transakcijah pri nakupu stanovanja v Ljubljani in nakupu hiše v Silovi pri Velenju. Številke, ki jih je predstavil KPK, se niso ujemale s podatki komisije. Prav tako ni zadovoljivo pojasnil financiranja potovanj, sodnih taks in nakupa vozila, katerega vrednost je bila veliko višja od tiste, ki jo je prijavil. KPK je opozorila tudi na 100.000 evrov premoženjske koristi, ki jo je pridobil od družbe Imos, ki je preplačala zemljišče v Trenti.

Preverljivo lažna

Oba sta ugotovitvam oporekala, jih zavračala in poudarjala, da nista imela možnosti ugovora. KPK jima je dala več možnosti, da podata svoja pojasnila, vendar so bila ta po Klemenčičevih besedah izmikajoča, nepopolna in tudi »preverljivo lažna«. Oba sta na upravno sodišče vložila tožbo zaradi poročila, poleg tega sta zahtevala njegovo začasno zadržanje, vendar pri tem nista bila uspešna, niti na vrhovnem sodišču ne.

Nespodobna bitka

»KPK, ki dela in živi v tej državi, ne dvomi, da se bo v prihodnjih dneh in tednih začela bitka za interpretacijo, verjetno bomo tudi priče diskreditacije poročila, postopka in mogoče celo posameznih ali vseh članov,« je razplet takoj po objavi poročila napovedal Klemenčič. Niti najmanj se ni zmotil.

Šest dni po objavi poročila smo v Delu v članku Kronologija neke diskreditacije analizirali odnos Janše in Jankovića do poročila. Sklep: »Ni skrivnost, da pri nas resnica, argumenti, dokumenti, številke in dejstva v politiki že dolgo nimajo več domovinske pravice. Politiki vedo, da je obramba z njimi najtežja in najbolj tvegana. Zato je tukaj diskreditacija. Najlažja, najbolj podla in tudi najbolj uspešna.«

Poleg standardne diskvalifikacije o zaroti, politični igri, kazanjem na druge (Janša: »Predsednik KPK, ki je precej mlajši od mene, vozi boljši avtomobil od mene.«), žolčnih nastopih strankarskih vojščakov se je SDS poslužila še pisanja pisem podpore predsedniku. Kar je sicer večinoma naletelo na hudomušne pripombe, da to spominja na pisma, ki jih je prejemal Tito, s čimer se je krepil vtis o priljubljenosti prvega moža SFRJ.

Brez argumentov

Posebna farsa je bilo sejanje obeh svetov strank, kamor sta se obrnila po »zaupnico«. Neki tvitar je to ponazoril s primerjavo, kakor da bi Tito šel po zaupnico v CK ZKJ. V tem duhu so posel bolje izpeljali v PS, kjer so glasovanje odpravili z aplavzom, v SDS pa so izrekli plebiscitarno podporo predsedniku. Nihče pa ni uporabil niti enega argumenta, zakaj poročilo KPK ni verodostojno. Papir, dokaz, številka, ki bi lahko ovrgli poročilo KPK? Ni jih bilo.

Protikorupcijska zakonodaja pa je pristala tudi pri ustavnih sodnikih. Ko je, tudi zaradi ugotovitev KPK, odstopila Katarina Kresal, ko je odšel Pavel Rupar in ko so s papirji KPK glasno mahali poslanci PS ob interpelaciji notranjega ministra Vinka Gorenaka, ne KPK ne zakonodaja niti za hip nista bili sporni. Taki sta postali v trenutku, ko sta bila v igri šefa SDS in PS. Naključje?

Ni sprememb

KPK je konec leta presenetila s kolektivnim odstopom. »Ne odstopamo iz obupa ali občutka nemoči in tudi ne zaradi pritiskov, ker jih znamo prenašati. Odstopamo iz protesta, ker ne moremo več pristajati na to, da se vprašanje korupcije in nasprotje interesov in integritete v tej državi politizira in je predmet populizma,« je dejal Klemenčič. »Odstop smo napovedali že ob predstavitvi poročila o premoženjskem stanju, če se ne bo nič spremenilo. In po našem mnenju se ni nič spremenilo,« je dodal Klemenčič, oblasti in javnosti pa so pustili 15 točk spopada s sistemsko korupcijo. Nihče se jih še ni resno lotil.

Objava poročila je Sloveniji prinesla politično krizo in razpad desnosredinske vlade. Vodenje PS je prevzela Alenka Bratušek, ki je po izglasovani konstruktivni nezaupnici Janševi vladi postala mandatarka, marca pa smo dobili novo vlado. Kronologijo diskreditacije smo sklenili s tvitom uporabnika Gnila Slovenija: »Tudi če bi v KPK sedeli vesoljci, bi apologeti velikih vodij našli način, da se ne pogovarjajo o številkah in dejstvih.«

Nacionalni interes in “nacionalni interes”

Razprodaja državnega premoženja

Kaj je nacionalni interes?


Nacionalni interes mora biti vodilo za trajnostni razvoj vsake države. Pri nas je to na slabem glasu, ker so nacionalni interes že ob napovedi zlorabili prevaranti in goljufi. Sedaj nas pa na ta račun oblast zavaja, da je država povsod slab gospodar. Politični mešetarji vidijo rešitev za vse naše težave samo še v razprodaji ter privatizaciji vsega državnega premoženja. In celo naših največjih vrednot..V priprave na nove finančne orgije so pritegnili še nekatere ekonomske in pravne veljake. Oni že vedo, zakaj bo za njih to dobro in tudi donosno.


Nacionalni interes je dolgoročni javni interes, ki mora biti nad vsemi sprotnimi in osebnimi interesi! To je na primer ohranjanje naše kulturne identitete, kar je vse od jezika v vrtcu do univerz, od ljudskega izročila do kulturnih in naravnih spomenikov, od ozemlja in morja ter kulturne krajine do ostankov divjine. Javni interes sedanjih in vseh bodočih rodov je, da za trajno ohranimo in varujemo naravo, ki daje obnovljive vire za življenje ljudi in za vse vrste prosto živečih bitij. Gozdovi obnavljajo plodno zemljo, blažijo vremenske skrajnosti, obnavljajo zrak in čistijo vodo od izvirov do potokov in rek, zagotavljajo donose lesa, kar je trajna osnova za lesno industrijo in obrt, za turizem… Zato je varstvo in trajnostna raba vseh gozdov naš nacionalni interes. V gozdu je samo les lastnikov, in še to samo pod pogojem, da strokovno določen posek ne ogroža vseh javnih nalog gozdov. Kdo od lastnikov do ekonomskih in pravnih učenjakov tega še ne ve? Zmeda med javnim in zasebnim v gozdovih je donosna samo za lesne trgovce doma in v tujini. Zakaj oblast nima interesa, da bi to dvoje jasno ločila?


Zdravje ljudi je nacionalni in zato tudi javni interes, kar nam govori zdrav razum, še toliko bolj pa to razume vsak bolnik. Zakaj so potem politiki prepletli javno zdravstvo z zasebnim do take mere, da se prelije na škodo zdravja vsako leto na stotine milijonov iz državnega proračuna v zasebne žepe? Zdravstvo je seveda lahko javno in zasebno, vendar mora biti eno od drugega strogo ločeno, tudi od mize in od postelje! Taka zmeda med zasebnim in javnim ni zaradi slabe pameti, pač pa zaradi moči in pohlepa kapitala ter pokvarjenih lobistov pri poslih na vseh ravneh, od toaletnega papirja do operacijskih miz. Samo zaradi prepletanja med javnim in zasebnim je zmeda donosna za izbrance v zdravstvu. Seveda je za izbrance podobno opojna in donosna zmes med javnim in zasebnim tudi v izobraževanju, energetiki, urbanizmu, pri državni infrastrukturi, pri nakupih orožja…


Pretoki državnega denarja v zasebne žepe so lahko samo zato, ker za nobeno področje ni sprejetih trdnih in dolgoročnih razvojnih programov. Za politike ter za domače in tuje lobiste je najbolj donosno sprotno barantanje. Še posebno veliko našega javnega denarja bo za vedno izgubljenega ob privatizaciji in pri razprodaji državnega premoženja..Zato skrbno zakrinkani roparji doma in v tujini že čakajo na bogat plen.

Janez Černač

Objavljeno v Financah 17. septembra 2007

Izboljšati državo ali zamenjati ljudstvo?

Gospod Mića Mrkaić kot mantro ponavlja tezo o državni podpori kot vzroku za vse težave tega sveta. Zlo, v katerega prepričuje svoje bralce so poleg države še paraziti umetniki, sindikati in ljudje, delojemalci. Bralec dobi vtis, da je Slovenija nekak preostanek komunističnega etatizma v sicer svobodnem svetu, kjer neomejeno vladajo tržne zakonitosti.

Ta teza je empirična laž. O tem pričajo ZDA, kjer sicer vulgarni ideologi to misel prodajajo kot kavbojski mit, v praksi pa ZDA intervenirajo in podpirajo, če je potrebno tudi hollywoodsko proizvodnjo filma. Le od svoje konkurence zahtevajo, da umakne zaščite. Žal Mrkaič ni izjema, tudi razni LDS-ovi pooblaščenci za kulturo so imeli »državne seske« za poglavitni problem.

Škodljivost tega cenenega populizem ni samo v razširjanju ideološke laži, ampak kot vsaka populistična ideologija tudi ta prikriva prave probleme. Nenehno kazanja s prstom na umetnike, socialno državo, sindikate in na zaposlene kot na nesposobne parazite, onemogoča razpravo o pravem problemu, o kakovosti naše države. Vprašanje, ali je ta država slaba in ali je nujno tako, se sploh ne zastavi.

Če bi država bila tako zlo potem tudi prava ne bi bilo. Potem bi bile idealne države Nigerija, Liberija, Irak takoj po okupaciji in nekoč Srbija. Tu se, vsaj teoretično, Mrkaić strinja s Kardeljem, ki je v teoriji odpravljal državo, kot nekaj a-priori nesprejemljivega.

Državo vodi politika in to bolj ali manj kvalitetno. Empirično ugotovljeno dejstvo je, da je naša država najslabše kar imamo. Medtem, ko se Slovenija po delavnosti, izobrazbi, produktivnosti, varnosti uvršča znatno više, je po kakovost države na 47. mestu. To samo potrjuje ugotovitev tujcev, da je naša primerjalna prednost kakovost, izobraženost, delavnost, podjetnost njenega prebivalstva, gotovo pa ne kakovost države.

Politiki in druge družbene elite so običajno nosilci zaščite javnih interesov. Pri nas ni tako. Dobri pogoji za gospodarjenje sicer niso edini javni interes, kar izhaja iz miselne matrice, kjer je država vedno nekaj slabega, zasebna lastnina pa vedno nekaj odličnega. Tisto kar velja za gospodarstvo velja tudi za druge dejavnosti, denimo za kulturo. Nizka kakovost države se kaže tudi ko država ne uvidi, da kultura postaja pomemben del gospodarstva in da kot izjema na trgu potrebuje poseben režim, zaščito. Četudi jo njeno širše okolje, EU, v to nenehno prepričuje.

V novih demokracijah elite na verjamejo v javni interes. Zato imamo politike, ki temu interesu bolj škodujejo kot ga ščitijo. Temu primerni so potem tudi uradniki, ki bi morali neko določeno politiko izvajati, pa je ne, ali pa jo slabo. Riba pač vedno smrdi pri glavi.

Vzemimo film. Imamo Filmski sklad, ki bi moral omogočati pogoje za kvalitetno produkcijo, distribucijo in razvoj filma in avdio vizualne kulture. Tako je v vseh »starih«, tudi največjih evropskih državah. O nedavna tudi na Hrvaškem. Naša država pa tega ne zna ali/in noče. Raje se ukvarja z državnim producentstvom, to je z vmešavanjem politike v filmske posle, v scenaristiko, produkcijo, celo post produkcijo. Prejšnje vlade so to počenjale pod mizo, diskretno. Zdajšnja gre do konca. Seveda to upravljanje ne more biti drugačno kot nekvalitetno, saj to delajo politični birokrati in samozvani eksperti s posebnimi političnimi pooblastili, skratka klani in ne strokovnjaki. Država namreč za te politike ne predstavlja nujnega instrumenta politike, ampak zlo samo, ki bi ga pravzaprav bilo treba odpraviti. Ker pa se to ne da izvesti do konca, jo je treba kot volilni plen, fevd, zlorabiti in oropati. Država je kot svinja, kjer so politiki urejevalci reda okrog njenih seskov, ki jih ljubosumno čuvajo zase in za svoje kliente.

Nekritični apologeti vsega domnevno ameriškega, ki se ne sramujejo norega redukcionizma in kot edino merilo kakovosti vsega, tudi filma in umetnosti dopuščajo uspeh na blagajni ali »box officu«, pogosto tako pretiravajo, da njihova servilna proameriškost za Ameriko samo ni sprejemljiva. Kar kažejo tudi trenutne ameriške kritike stanja svobode v naših medijih. To dvomljivo proameriškost izvažajo misijonarji, diplomanti ali post diplomanti na ameriških ekonomskih fakultetah. Kot provincialni nepristni »Američani« imajo pač tipična obeležja vseh konvertitov in »poturic«: farsično fanatičnost, prezir lastnega okolja in agresivnost.

Pametni srbski igralec Miki Manojlović pravi, da filma v Evropi ni, ker ga politiki ne rabijo več, obstaja le še v nerazvitih okoljih, kot je Srbija. V Sloveniji, pravi, ga že ni več. Naše nove elite filma niso hotele, paradoksalno, od demokratizacije in osamosvojitve naprej.

Morda, gledališče, opero, slikarstvo, skratka tradicionalne umetnosti še potrebujejo. To so statusni simboli, potrebni vsem parvenijem, kot mesta, kjer se lahko kažejo v svojih novih oblačilih. Film je za plebs, za ljudstvo, za vsakogar, kar je danes prezirano. Berite kaj si o teh ljudeh, o večini ljudi, o neizjemnih ljudeh, o ljudeh, ki zgolj delajo, ki hodijo v službo, o »povprečnežih« dejansko o ljudeh, ki niso dovolj spretni ali brezobzirni, da bi obogateli, misli gospod Mićo Mrkaić.

Nekoč je poslanec Evropskega parlamenta, sarkozijevec, nekdanji minister za kulturo in pravosodje Francije Jacques Toubon dejal, da se motijo tisti, ki pričakujejo, da bo evropska kultura močnejša, ko bodo vzhodne države stopile v Unijo. Obratno bo, je trdil. Tudi Španija in Portugalska, tudien nekdanji diktaturi, sta potrebovali desetletje in več, da sta se naučili evropskih manir in spoznali, da trg ne bo rešil vseh problemov v kulturi.

Edino česar ne razumem je, zakaj mi tako rinemo na Vzhod, saj smo vendar imeli delno tržno, celo delujočo ekonomijo, nismo bili za zaveso, edini smo bili celo nekje vmes. Tudi zemljepisno in kulturno smo bolj na Zahodu kot na Vzhodu. Za to neumnost ni več odgovorna naša geopolitična lega, ampak je zanjo odločilna naša volja. S tem kažemo, kdo dejansko smo.

Res je, da se redukcionistični demagogi niso pojavili šele z vulgarnimi ekonomicisti. Tudi revolucionarni marksizem ni bil nič drugega. Zdaj smo pač v regresivnem obdobju vulgarne kopije razsvetljenstva, le da je »razum« zamenjala »ekonomija«. Vsaj na Divjem Vzhodu, kamor se z našimi »ekonomisti – filozofi« brez dlake na jeziku vred, za vsako ceno želimo priključiti.


Igor Koršič

Dobro plačana kolonizacija Slovenije (in EU)

Slovenia: Bank tests treated as military secret

30.12.13 @ 09:18


LJUBLJANA – Bank stress tests indicate that Slovenian lenders do not need a bailout, but private consultancies played a controversial role in the evaluation.

The test results, published last month and accompanied by positive statements from the Slovenian government, the Bank of Slovenia and the European Commission, say Slovenia can recapitalise its banking sector without international help.

But the role of financial consultancies, Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger, and auditors, Deloitte and Ernst & Young, in the exercise has prompted questions on lack of transparency and conflict of interest.

The EU commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) blessed the arrangements.

According to a press statement by the Slovenian central bank, the “scope, conditions and performers of asset quality review and stress-tests were determined by [an] intersector commission after consultation with [the] European Commission and European Central Bank.”

The stress test report on the central bank’s website notes that the tests were “closely monitored by the international organisations, constituted of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the European Banking Authority. These institutions ensured international standards were met and supported the design of the macroeconomic scenarios.”

The bank also says that due to lack of time, the ongoing credit crunch and prolonged negotiations with the EU institutions, it was forced to hire the “suggested” consultancies without a public tender and using a legal procedure normally reserved for arms procurement contracts.

The procedure means that, aside from the results of the tests, all other information, such as the methodology used and the fees paid to the consultancies, have the formal status of military secrets.

Last summer, several Slovenian economists signed a petition demanding that the “credible methodology” – to use the EU commission’s phrase – be made public.

It never was.

Instead, the terms of reference and the whole process underlying the test results was negotiated between the Slovenian central bank and EU officials behind closed doors.

To carry out the tests, some 250 consultants spent four months in Slovenia reviewing eight of its banks.

The personnel, mainly from London, had little knowledge of Slovenian institutions or the Slovenian language.

The exercise was carried out with extensive help from the Slovenian central bank itself, which effectively repeated its own earlier evaluation.

The central bank estimated in October that the cost of the new test will be over €21 million. The initial estimate does not include the consultancies’ possible overtime and additional expenses, which are to be filed later.

By comparison, Spain, whose economy is 40 times larger than Slovenia’s and whose banking sector is 80 times bigger, paid consultancy firms €31 million to do a similar job in 2012.

Pushing down the price

The consultancies had a crucial role in determining how much Slovenian taxpayers will have to pay to put the country’s lenders back onto a stable footing.

Various Slovenian institutions had previously assessed the recapitalisation needs of three Slovenian state banks to be no more than €1.5 billion.

But the new stress tests cited €3 billion.

The figure is higher because the consultancies evaluated some real estate and other assets at their potential liquidation price.

The Slovenian central bank said the new test was “conservative” in its approach.

This is good news for potential investors, but bad news for Slovenia’s taxpayers, who now have to pay twice as much as before to fix the problem.

It could also spell bad news for other EU countries’ tax payers – the Slovenian stress test is likely to act as a template for the ECB’s upcoming review of the eurozone’s 130 top lenders.

The ECB review is also using Oliver Wyman.

For his part, the former Slovenian central bank governor, Mitja Gaspari, has estimated that if the same criteria are used at European level next year, the eurozone recapitalisation price will not be €100 billion, as expected, but approximately six times higher.

Potential conflicts of interest

Meanwhile, the Slovenian consultancy contracts and the private firms’ corporate structure pose questions on potential conflict of interest.

Back in 2012, the consultancy European Resolution Capital Partners (ERC) was hired by the Slovenian finance ministry – again, on the “recommendation” of the EU commission – to help Slovenia set up a bad bank and to perform an asset quality review of the three state banks.

The firm pronounced its verdict on the bank’s assets based on full access to commercially privileged information.

But now, Ovington Capital, an ERC offshoot, is creating an investment fund which will trade the bad bank’s debt.

In other words, ERC first set the price and now it is buying the assets.

Oliver Wyman, the New-York-based firm hired this year for the new test, flagged up its potential conflict of interest in its contract with the Slovenian central bank.

“It is the company’s practice to serve multiple clients within industries, including those with potentially opposing interests. Accordingly, the company may have served, may currently be serving or may in the future serve other clients whose interests may be adverse to those of the client,” the document says.

The company bound itself to “maintaining the confidentiality of each client,” but there is no way for the Slovenian authorities to make sure it does.

Oliver Wyman is part of the Marsh & McLennan group.

According to a 2011 study by the American Institute for Political Studies, the group has 105 companies in 20 different tax-haven countries and paid zero profit tax in the US in 2010.

Other international firms, which co-operated with Oliver Wyman in Slovenia – real estate firms Cushman & Wakefield, Jones Lang LaSalle, Colliers International and CBRE – also have “potentially opposing interests.”

Cushman & Wakefield, for instance, is owned by one of the biggest Italian investment funds, Exor.

Wrong medicine?

The panic about Slovenia becoming the next Cyprus has turned out to be unfounded.

This is shown not just by the new stress test, but also by other reports.

Earlier in December, the Brussels-based think tank Lisbon Council and the oldest German bank, Berenberg, said, in their Euro Plus Monitor report, that Slovenia is the most resilient country in the eurozone when it comes to financial shocks.

“Topping the ranking is Slovenia, a country which had been tipped as the next bailout candidate after Cyprus and still faces one of the highest borrowing costs in the eurozone,” the study says.

It adds: “Slovenia’s public and private debt levels are low, as befits a country with still modest per-capita GDP. Slovenia also runs a sizeable current account surplus and the banking system is small compared to the economy. Its problems seem more than manageable, whether it will need eurozone support or not.”

By many other standards, Slovenia is not really the healthiest euro-country.

International analysts and the EU commission usually say that state-owned companies and state ownership more broadly caused the country’s economic problems.

But the real reason is the government’s wrong-headed economic policies.

In the economic boom years of 2004 to 2007, when Slovenia joined the eurozone, the country was flooded by cheap euro money.

The government was not prepared for it.

It did not respond with countermeasures, such as saving schemes, to cool the economy.

Instead, new money was borrowed, taxes were cut, big projects were started and banks rolled out credit to investors.

Private sector and state debt rose from €15 billion to €33 billion in just four years. Ironically, state banks were, in that period, the most cautious. Their loan-to-credit ratio was at that time 1:1.3, while foreign banks in Slovenia, like Hypo, Raifeissen or Unicredit had a ratio of between 1:2 and 1:2.5.

Despite this, the EU commission in its macro-economic recommendations this year insisted that Slovenia privatises its banking sector.

The Slovenian government has also promised to sell 15 other state-owned companies, ranging from telecoms to energy and the Ljubljana airport.

The money will be used to lower the country’s state debt, which has now risen from 50 percent of GDP to some 75 percent of GDP.

Its debt climbed, in large part, due to the Oliver Wyman-dictated €3 billion bank recapitalisation.

The Slovenian state has no other option but to sell off assets.

But if the timeframe is short and the assets seized from banks are sold at liquidation price, the bill for Slovenian taxpayers will be even higher than it had to be.

At the same time, investors – such as firms in the Marsh & McLennan group “whose interests may be adverse to those of the client [Slovenia]” – will get an opportunity to snap up Slovenia’s crown jewels at bargain rates.

Borut Mekina is a journalist writing for the Slovenian weekly Mladina