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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Some more equal than others

By: Dimitrij Rupel

Slovenian media report on the unfavourable position of the President of the Supreme Court Florjančič regarding the alleged retirement of judges (who are now retiring only at the age of 70), which they compare to the initiatives (regarding the retirement of judges) in Poland.[1]

We have already read that the trade unions have filed a request with the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality and temporarily suspend the implementation of two articles from the seventh anti-corona package (ACP 7), which, in their opinion, allow for so-called forced retirement. “It is the trade unions opinion that the mentioned articles are inconsistent with the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of material condition and age, since according to the articles an employer could terminate the employment of employees who meet the conditions for old-age retirement without giving a reason. Forced retirement is supposed to be reducing the rights of older workers and jeopardize their social security.”[2]

Pension and Disability Insurance Institute of Slovenia (ZPIZ) estimates that with the measure ACP 7 it would gain between 9 and 16 thousand new pensioners. At first glance, it is possible to conclude why such measures pay off for politicians. Even if the state budget has to support a pension insurance company, pensions are still lower than salaries, and this difference means savings. In a way, the explanation that retirement facilitates the employment of the younger generation sounds convincing. On the other hand, retirement can also have political significance. Let’s take 70-year-old (or older) prosecutors and judges. If they started their careers when they were 25 years old, they have been doing their (e.g., judicial, prosecutorial) work for 45 years, say since 1976. According to a letter from the Executive Bureau and the president of the ZKJ, Tito, and after the purges at the University of Ljubljana, this was, of course, not an easy time, which rarely encouraged political heroism and dissent. Most complied with communist laws, which were – despite the concessions of the last 30 years –significantly different from today’s.

The measure is not new and it is no surprise. As early as 2012, Article 246 of the Public Finance Balancing Act (ZUJF 2012) stipulated: “Civil servants who, on the day this Act enters into force, meet the conditions for acquiring the right to an old-age pension… the employment contract shall cease to be valid.” This law achieved unusual effects in itself, and became particularly interesting in combination and even in violation of the Foreign Affairs Act, which prescribed the mandatory termination of the office of ambassador or consul after the age of 68. The law, of course, did not predicte for an ambassador or consul to be retired before s/he reached the age of 68.

Retirement laws were once used for lustration

If the political regime was reasonable and – as opponents of the retirement of judges suggest today – if it would take into account “life and professional experience”, then diplomats (like other civil servants) could continue to work despite ZUJF. However, if the reasonable regime replaced the revenge regime, which, as the regime of Alenka Bratušek, consisted of so-called acquirers or enemies of reasonableness (and of today’s celebrated national unity), then diplomats who met the criteria for retirement were, of course, retired. Reasonable politicians and sensible ministers may have also found the 68-year limit unreasonable, but – as they say – dura lex, sed lex. This mentioned lex (e.g. its Article 27) was created as early as 2009 under the protective wing of a tried and tested advocate of irrationality, i.e. President Danilo Türk, who thus won a double blockade for those diplomats he hated because they were not “to his liking”. If a diplomat was under the age of 68, s/he could be removed by an unreasonable political interpretation by the ZUJF, but if s/he was older, s/he was retired under the Foreign Affairs Act.

At this point we should become serious. Laws and packages aimed at opening up employment space have in the past been used for purges or, as they say, for lustration. Our dear acquirers talked about and associated it with dictatorship and anti-liberalism the most, while in practice it was mainly used by them. Although these were less important places, they took advantage of everything, even if it was as small opportunity as e.g. the expulsion of the Consul General in Trieste in 2013 (during the time of Bratušek and her exemplary subject Erjavec), after he had been (despite a two-year contractual term) serving for only one year. As usual, they secured their unreasonableness for the second time with a court decision provided in March 2014 by the president of the senate of the Ljubljana Labour and Social Court, Darko Krašovec. The man was later given position of Secretary General of the Government by Miro Cerar. This carrier of unreasonableness was reported by Delo on November 2nd, 2016: “Judge Darko Krašovec, who resigned as Secretary General of the Government in mid-September after finding himself in disciplinary proceedings for ethical violations in one of the court proceedings, when he represented his wife and when, due to doubts about the impartiality of the judges’ decisions, he demanded the exclusion of all Slovenian judges, and according to our information, he also left the ranks of judges.”

Privileges for followers

With all this, I am sure that the so-called forced retirement under ACP 7 will mostly hit reasonable prosecutors and judges independent of the left wing as well as the center-right establishment (for example, like Zvjezdan Radonjić, if he met the conditions for retirement). Meanwhile suitable excuses will be invented for acquirers and supporters of the left, such as they once – at the ZUJF – invented them for the benefit of the former president of the League of Communists and a whole host of other suitable people.

Finally, a small, vicious question: Why should judges and prosecutors be retired at the age of 70, and diplomats prevented from performing managerial positions in the diplomatic and consular missions of our country already at the age of 68? Will anything ever turn for the better for diplomats? I hear that the position has matured in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that from now on ambassadors who will reach the age of 68 during their term of office will be able to end their term regardless of age.

Dr. Dimitrij Rupel is a Slovenian sociologist, politician, diplomat, writer, playwright, editor and publicist. He was a dissident under the former communist regime. Immediately after the Slovenian independence, he became Foreign Minister. He was also Foreign Minister from 2004 to 2008.

“All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” (George Orwell, Animal Farm 1946)

“All different – all equal” (Council of Europe campaign 1995)

“All the same, all different” (event of the Ajdovščina Pensioners’ Association 2018)

  1. Dimitrij Rupel

[1] Primerjaj Mitja Felc, “Poljskega scenarija za zdaj ni na vidiku”, Delo, 6. februarja 2021, str. 2.

[2] Glej Igor Dernovšek, ” Prisilno upokojevanje v ustavno presojo”, Dnevnik, 21. januar 2021.

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