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Interview given to TVS for broadcast Odmevi

Ljubljana, 05/22/2007  |  interview

The interview with the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr. Janez Drnovšek for the TVS broadcast Odmevi was conducted by Vladimir Vodušek.
Published on: 18th May 2007

Vladimir Vodušek: Mr President, on Wednesday the Government published documents proving that the head of your presidential office, Valentina Flander, was involved in the purchase of an airline ticket from a secret SOVA (note: the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency) fund for the Indian healer Sardeshmukh Sadanand. Did Valentina Flander order the ticket from SOVA on your instructions or not?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: The documents prove nothing, they’re just an attempt to draw attention to some banal matter, so that people don‘t notice all the other things that are going on; so that people don’t notice that a group of people were sent into SOVA who had no right to be looking there, who spent weeks and weeks reviewing everything they could, just to find something that could compromise any of their opponents. What were their reasons for doing this? It wasn’t in the interests of the state, it was for party-political, personal reasons, so they could keep themselves in power. That's the reason they’ve misused and destroyed an institution, an institution charged with the security of the state, and that’s why a few details have come out, with no context at all, which they are trying to use to compromise people. But why not ask yourself about the damage that has now been done, that an institution has been destroyed, after we spent 15 years building it, an institution where 300 people work, which nobody in the world can trust anymore? It was a vital element in international stability and security, it was very successful, we managed to build it up, and it was never involved in the things it is now being forced to deal with.

Vodušek: Well, for the public it’s still important whether or not you ordered the head of your office, Valentina Flander, to send information to SOVA about Mr Sardeshmukh Sadanand.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I have never been involved in that way with details and airline tickets, and the president simply does not function that way. I have complete faith in her. Absolute trust. And also in Iztok Podbregar, the former director of SOVA. Both act with complete propriety, they are both high quality workers. They are both honest, unlike others who, with new masters taking charge, have probably been frightened, and sought to curry favour with these new masters in order to keep their jobs. So they find a little information, change it around a little, adapt it a little, just because they’re afraid …

There are two kinds of people there now, two kinds of officials. Those that are out to save themselves, their careers, betraying state secrets, passing on things they should not, even adapting it a little if it’s not quite right. They allow it to be embroidered a little, just to save their own skins. Then we have those who really know what the state means, what loyalty is, what propriety is. So should we now judge this second group, those on whom the state should actually be based, or will we build our state on those who would betray it at the first breath, who don’t care about the state or anything? They destroy everything, just to save themselves.

Vodušek: But still, Valentina Flander did not act on her own accord. Do you feel personally responsible for this matter?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I am certain she did nothing wrong, I am absolutely certain of that. I'd put my hand in the fire for her, as well as for Iztok Podbregar, and I am sure that neither one nor the other broke any regulations and that everything that was done, was done in the way it should be. I didn‘t go into those kind of details then, nor at any other time, but I can be quite certain that regulations were not broken, and that neither of them would violate regulations.

Vodušek: Did you know about the purchase of these tickets?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I’m sorry, but don’t you have any other questions? You’ve asked that four times now. Please. I knew nothing of a purchase from any fund of that kind.

Vodušek: But the gentlemen nevertheless probably came at your invitation, and SOVA apparently endorsed him several times for a visa?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well you see, this special fund, which an institution like SOVA has had for a long time, and which similar institutions in other countries have, is managed by those in charge at SOVA, using their own judgment. We never know the purpose of such actions. Something may seem like just one matter, but there may be a second, a third thing connected to it. And these kinds of operation are financed from that special fund. But never, of course, even before when I was Prime Minister, when SOVA was subordinate to me, despite that being for a long time, while now it is no longer. We can’t now go and order SOVA to do something, neither myself, nor Valentina Flander. SOVA has not been subordinated to me for five years, and of course I don’t have those kind of links to SOVA, nor even before when I was Prime Minister, I never received reports on what was financed from a special fund, nor was I interested, because those are the specific operations of the institution.

Vodušek: So Mr Sadanand did not come here to treat you? We've been told that you met him on several occasions, that in India and elsewhere around the world ...

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, I can see that you're only interested in that, and if meanwhile the state collapses you won't even notice, you’ll just keep asking the same question – twenty times if you have to. I did meet him, I don't know if he came because of something else, I don’t know if he met other people.

Vodušek: So, in other words, SOVA did not take care of the logistics of your treatment?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I don’t know why SOVA would take care of logistics. It’s true that some foreign institutions offered state help in the matter, some major countries, their statesmen and women, and their institutions. Discretely, of course. I didn’t need treatment, because it wasn‘t effective. The cancer I had was so specific that the expert opinions I received elsewhere also confirmed that it was advancing slowly, but that nothing – neither established medicines nor any other traditional cure – could stop it. I received similar second opinions from abroad. Sometimes their institutions helped, because they themselves offered that assistance. But I will not go and mention them now, I’m not prepared to betray their trust, or put them in an embarrassing position. It was a question of very minor things, and did not involve any treatment. It was only, let's say, a matter of second opinions from some of their experts. Similar offers came from many countries at the time, important countries and their institutions, and I took the fact that they showed interest, in part, as recognition for Slovenia.

Vodušek: I understand, but did they also pay, or did you pay yourself?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Do you think that I abused my position those years when I was Prime Minister and now as President? Is that what it seemed like? Do you think I would struggle to find a few hundred euros for an airline ticket? I give more than that to people, if they ask me, if they’re having problems or such like. I’m only interested in the things I use for myself, I mean I have a house where I live, and what I need to function. I'm not interested in the rest, I've not amassed anything, unlike many others in this country who have accumulated a great deal, particularly now. Believe me, I have not been involved with how or whether I might manage to save some money for an airline ticket. Really.

Vodušek: Does it seem right to you that …

Dr Janez Drnovšek: ... Now for the eighth or ninth time of asking.

Vodušek: I’d just like to ask you again, does it seem right that the state should take care of treating the country's top politicians?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Do you know what I think would be right? That we might retain a little human dignity in this, a little respect for the general rules of human conduct, which it seems in this case are being broken one after the other, so that we’re heading towards a primitive level of human morality that is really quite appalling. And what is truly appalling is that you all accept this as something normal, as a game you simply have to accept – so that we all just now accept that's the way we have to conduct ourselves. That’s appalling. That’s what shocks me most of all in this matter. You're not interested in all the irregularities involved, everything they’ve done to turn something up. Because some ticket may once have been purchased in the wrong way, they are prepared to sacrifice an entire institution, and all trust in that institution, its credibility, the state itself. Do you know why we have an institution like that? So that at any moment, they are ready if a crisis occurs. At that point they have to have good contacts in place all over the world, they must have established contacts, and they must have their trust. Then they'll be able to function better. Who will now want to work with such an institution? It is subject to the day-to-day internal political needs of those now in power, and if they want to discredit someone, they will send people who have nothing to do with SOVA to do just that. They'll look through everything, and find something that can be used to compromise someone. Does that not interest you? You've been asking the same question ten times.

Vodušek: We're interested, because some information has been made public that from 1992 to 2003 there was some kind of para-SOVA (note: a "para-intelligence" organisation), and that you and Mr Kučan (note: Drnovšek's predecessor as President of the Republic of Slovenia) and some party leaders were informed about ….

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Someone tosses something up into the ether, someone makes something up, and you grab hold of it, though you know it's not true. From 1992 until now, for 15 years we consolidated SOVA. At the beginning there were difficulties, there was so much going on. Then we systematically calmed things down, got SOVA out of the public sphere. All the SOVA directors over that period had a clear brief, that in no case were they permitted to interfere in domestic politics. They couldn’t bug anything, even incidentally. That was the clear prohibition. And I trust all three of them: from Drago Ferš, to Tomaž Lovrenčič, and Iztok Podbregar. They all acted with propriety over that period, and there were no problems with SOVA. It established itself as a trustworthy partner, even internationally. The presidents of other countries often praised it for excellent partnership and cooperation in resolving situations such as in this region, in the Balkans and elsewhere. And it created a reputation for trust.

Vodušek: Do you think that Janez Janša (note: the current Prime Minister) resents the fact you removed him from his post in 1994?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I don’t deal with his psychology, but it’s clear that they are systemically attempting to compromise me. And that has been going on for months and months, one thing after another. Since I spoke critically on a number of matters relating to the Government, there has been a full blown attempt to discredit me, which is ongoing. And in upcoming debates it will probably intensify. I assume that they will now be even more incensed. I don’t know why they are so afraid of me, that they want to discredit and destroy me in any way they can. Are they afraid that I will stand in the next elections? I said I wouldn’t. So they’re probably afraid I’ll stand in the 2008 parliamentary elections. Are they’re afraid that I’ll be a threat to them there, so they’re trying to discredit me? I’m not thinking of standing for parliament either. But clearly they're afraid of that, which I think is quite sad.

Vodušek: But did these attempts to discredit you affect your decision not to stand as a candidate in the presidential elections?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I decided before that, last June, before all this started. Basically, it started after that, when I had already stated I would not stand.

Vodušek: What is your comment on the posters for Demokracija magazine, showing you in a photograph together with Kadijević (note: Yugoslav Minister of Defence, 1988-1992 and hence de facto commander of Yugoslav armed forces) and other military generals in your role as president of the Yugoslav armed forces, with the quotation below that things are worse in Slovenia than at the end of the 1980s?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, things really are worse. Spiritual state really is worse. Many people do feel worse, and many are afraid. They're afraid they'll lose their job, if they're not loyal to the current regime. Many have already lost their jobs, because they weren’t associated with those in power. It's happening on a wide scale. Journalists are afraid. Many of them have acknowledged that people are putting pressure on them. If they don’t act as expected, they’ll lose their job. Some already have. That’s how things are. It’s sad that it’s left to me to talk about the fact that too many people are genuinely frightened. I hope that they’ll wake up and say what’s going on in public, things that many people have already recounted to me. I say this in public, because I think that's my duty. I have no political interests, I have no political ambitions. But I think it’s my duty. Look around, at what they are investing in. They go off and think up these giant posters, as you said, trying to discredit me. There really is an irrational fear behind all this. What's really strange is that what they see as discrediting me, really isn’t at all. I was sent to Belgrade at that time by Slovenes, who had elected me in the first elections. And I fulfilled my duties. According to the great majority of Slovenes I did my job very well in difficult circumstances. Including the fact that I negotiated with the same Yugoslav armed forces seen in that photograph so that they would withdraw from Slovenia. Ensuring that they withdrew from Slovenia when nobody expected it, when I had secretly negotiated with them and the federal government.

Vodušek: I agree. We weren’t afraid then, and I’m not afraid now. But I would still ask you, have you not yourself contributed with your choice of words. When you said that Janša was the “commander of negativity,” who tells his people to find out things that would compromise you?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I didn’t mention him by name. If you found that, or he found that in those words, then that says something doesn't it? I didn't mention him by name.

Vodušek: What about the "slander commission"? Some lawyers understood this as a criminal matter? Will you file charges?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Put simply, because you wanted to know my thoughts on the matter, I told you the essence of how things seemed to me. In my opinion, the commission was appointed with the aim of looking for and finding something that could prove compromising. And what was its purpose besides that? You have to speak forthrightly. Don’t pretend that it’s something else, that there was some other purpose. What other purpose?

Vodušek: Some lawyers have mentioned speculation about impeachment? Are you afraid of impeachment?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Do I give you the impression that I'm afraid? I’m not afraid of anything. You know throughout this period, when people were asking me where all the thoughts I had written in my books had come from, I had already been through a great deal, gradually dealing with all my fears, with all kinds of attachment. Facing illness, a fatal illness, also led me to see how as a person you come to terms with an incurable disease. What attitude you develop towards it, and finally your attitude to life as well. In the end, you’re not afraid for your life anymore. So if you’re not afraid for your life, what could you possibly fear? Why would you be afraid, if you already faced that kind of situation? Will I now be afraid of the sorry, negative kind of people that would do things like that? Why would I be? If I don’t say what needs to be said, who will?

Vodušek: You don’t think you’ve broken any law during your mandate?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: No, I don’t think I have. I’m not convinced about other people, who you’re not asking the same question of.

Vodušek: Well, there’ll be a chance for that, too ...

Dr Janez Drnovšek: You’ve already had the chance …

Vodušek: ... if any data or information comes out...

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I haven’t set up a “slander commission,” so you’ll have to find out for yourself, as part of your investigative journalism. But I don't think it would be that difficult.

Vodušek: Could you give us a hint?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: You'll find it, if you want to.

Vodušek: I’d like to ask you about the position of Governor of the Bank of Slovenia. There's a lot of talk again that parliamentary deputies expect you to give your position to parliament.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I’ll put forward a candidate when I’m sure I have the right one. But then, given that two very good candidates – the previous governor and his deputy ­– have been rejected by being discredited in that way, which has simply amazed people abroad, in the international community and in international institutions, interest from suitable candidates is of course flagging. I spoke with Veljko Bole and Mojmir Mrak, both of whom are top experts that I know in this field, and I would be very happy to propose. But who would put themselves forward now? They would immediately be subjected to discrediting, and attacks from various parties. If it has already been publicly stated that only the candidate they have decided on can get through, then it's very difficult to convince any good candidates to step forward. I’ll try to find someone.

Vodušek: Will you repeat the invitation for applications for the job?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: An invitation wouldn’t help. You’re well aware that we more or less all already know those people who could be governor, and there aren’t many of them. If I issue an invitation then probably only those who know the governing coalition favour will come forward. Regardless of whether they are the best candidate or not. And better candidates may not come forward, because who would place themselves in that situation?

Vodušek: Do you think that this conflict between you and the Prime Minister happened in part because you're not from the same political sides, because there weren't any conflicts like this between Kučan as president, and the then parliament with its LDS (note: Liberal Democracy of Slovenia) majority?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Political sides aren’t at issue here, at all. I’m no longer attached to any political group, and I'm not putting forward any political alternative. I have no interest in that kind of confrontation. I'd much rather there were no conflicts, and I have no need of it whatsoever. These are just the fears that they have. But I really have no interest in such confrontation. But, if this is the state of the country, if they’re doing things like this, if they’re starting to systematically compromise me, and all the rest, then of course I'm going to have something to say. You've already accused me of not paying enough heed to your questions, because for some time I have avoided exacerbating the situation and have stayed silent. Now you see. I didn’t want to make statements and so on, but now there's been another wave of attacks and attempts to compromise me. So I will speak my mind.

Vodušek: Yesterday you celebrated your birthday. Who did you celebrate with?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: You’ve seen what kind of wishes I received from those we’ve been talking about! A new wave of attempts to compromise me.

Vodušek: Well, I’d still like to wish you all the best for your birthday.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Thank you very much.

Vodušek: Thank you, too.
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