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Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Cathedral of Freedom intends to initiate a new debate on the state of the country

By: G. B.

The Cathedral of Freedom is considered a civil society initiative with a moderate liberal orientation, a Slovenian think tank that emerged a few years ago in response to the Slovenian retrogression. Due to current circumstances, it has announced a conference on the State of the Republic, which will take place on Tuesday, November 14th, at 5 p.m. at Eurostars Hotel (Orchid Lounge) on Miklošičeva Street 3 in Ljubljana.

The name of the mentioned intellectual forum actually comes from the unrealised plan by Jože Plečnik to build a monumental structure for the Slovenian parliament. Interestingly, this older name poses a challenge to the currently ruling party with a similar name – the Freedom Movement (Gibanje Svoboda). In the introductory text, they provided an assessment of the situation over the past six years, using interesting and distinctive expressions commonly found in recent public discourse.

The starting points for the conference are as follows:


  1. The direct initiative for the establishment of the Cathedral of Freedom was sparked by an Open Letter to Slovenian MPs and the public just before the appointment of the prime minister for the thirteenth Slovenian government in August 2018. According to the assessment of the five signatories of the letter[1], the minority government of left-wing parties in cooperation with the Levica party was deemed unstable, retrogressive in development and reform, as well as inefficient and short-lived. The letter proposed, as an alternative, a broad or developmental centrist coalition whose goal would be the implementation of developmental reforms to conclude the transition period. The prediction regarding the government proved entirely accurate. Šarec’s government resigned after two years in office, and it was succeeded by Janša’s government.[2]

Before the parliamentary elections in November 2022, at the invitation of nine signatories[3], eight political parties[4] participated in the founding meeting of the Alliance for the Political Centre. This alliance aimed to advocate for a programme and mandate for a third path – against exclusion, division into two blocks, and for a strong political centre. The idea of a broad centrist coalition was not implemented, and the parties of the Alliance remained outside the National Assembly. In June 2022, the mandate was assumed by the government of the Freedom Movement, formed in a similar manner to its elected predecessor – as a coalition of left-centre parties in alliance with the Levica party.

  1. Just over a year into its governance, the fifteenth Slovenian government, aligned with the Levica, found itself in a similar, perhaps even more problematic, situation than its identically composed predecessor found itself after only after two years in office. Both governments were burdened with the avant-garde role of the Levica, which oscillates from one socialist idea to another. Public systems were supposed to be monopolistically state managed as in the times of real socialism, corruption became a constant practice, private initiative was disqualified and hindered. The public “politics of envy” has become increasingly vocal, always dear to those whose horizons are cows in the neighbour’s yard. The government struggles to address the consequences of floods, health and pension reforms are forgotten, Slovenia’s competitiveness in global markets is declining, and social dialogue has dried up. We are experiencing ever-rising inflation, accompanied by budget deficits and the country’s foreign debt.

Government immobilism is accompanied by insurmountable value and political differences between the ruling coalition and the opposition, declining voter trust, and, furthermore, the contradictions within the chaotic community of “left privatisers” between the left-radical and left-liberal blocs seem increasingly untenable. In short, this time as well, the timely pre-election assessments and calls from the Cathedral of Freedom have fallen on deaf ears. Already this autumn, however, as it did four years ago (2018) and then just over a year ago (2022), they prove to be correct once again.

What is particularly concerning in all of this is that state politics in international relations cannot follow the lasting interests of the nation and its home country, Slovenia. On the contrary, it confusingly clings to misguided assessments of crisis hotspots on the external borders of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance, on the geostrategic border between Ukrainian democracy and Russian despotism, and in the crisis area of the Palestinian and Jewish peoples. It cannot establish even relaxed friendly relations with its closest neighbours – Italy and Austria, Croatia, and Hungary. It seems unaware of the historical cultural roots of the Slovenes within Central Europe from Poland through the Czech Republic to Slovakia. It appears as if even the plebiscitary values of membership in the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance are becoming contentious.

  1. As a nation, Slovenes have established our own state as a historical subject. Will we now ruin it all, perhaps even perish, symbolically and truly? When politics, this, or that, confusedly abolishes and helplessly monitors the decay of Slovenian healthcare and education, agriculture and businesses, housing for the young and homes for the elderly? When political power seizes museums, holidays, monuments, radio and television programmes, psychiatric clinics, and the constitutional court? Are we like a mere fictional hero of history at the end of our journey, facing a new debacle? Are we evaporating, along with the names of our fathers, the core values and constitutional centre of the nation? For quite some time, we have been reading insufficiently thoughtful explanations about transition, post-communism, illiberal and liberal democracy, démocrature, populism, sovereignism, feminism, antisemitism, post-fascism, and so on. As if the complexity of modern times could be squeezed into cheap ideological phrases for convenient mass persuasion.
  2. Considering all of the above, we believe that Slovenes and our Republic have a firm legal commitment and a value vision in the valid constitutional documents – in the plebiscite as a constitutional act, in the Basic Constitutional Charter on the Sovereignty and Independence of the Republic of Slovenia, and in the Constitution itself. The fundamental constitutional values are the enduring and inalienable right of the Slovenian people to self-determination[5] and democracy in the sense of the power of the people[6]. Both are based on the right of every person to their personal freedom[7], to human personality, dignity[8], and security, as well as the inviolability of human physical and mental integrity, privacy, and personal rights[9]. The thus defined Slovenian constitutional democracy is inherently open-minded and liberal, especially in the sense of limiting each right with the rights of others, and in cases where the limitation is expressly regulated by the constitution. Any other limitation of constitutional rights would be illiberal because it would be arbitrary and, therefore, unconstitutional.
  3. Only a relaxed, open, pluralistic, and creative civil society environment enables entrepreneurship, innovation, and the development of people and their companies. Only a competitively successful economy knows how to fill the state treasury for common needs – that is, for everything that enables social security and the well-being of citizens, characteristic of modern developed countries. Regarding the current government, which is, to put it mildly, in serious trouble, we believe that Slovenia does not have time for it to solve its problems to the detriment of the people for the next two or three years of its mandate. Or perhaps to replace the current confusion with an even more left-leaning démocrature? The idea of a government of national unity and solutions is tempting, but: Is anything like that even possible in the post-communist era, when the state is wriggling out of the pettiness and chaos of mafia democracy? Or would, instead of a real, capable government, a comforting shadow opposition government be more acceptable to the people? Preliminary elections, proven in constitutional democracies, are also an option.

[1] Peter Jambrek, Dimitrij Rupel, Romana Jordan, Matej Avbelj, Tomaž Zalaznik (13.08.2018).

[2] Her term was from June 13th, 2020, to June 1st, 2022.

[3] Peter Jambrek, Matej Avbelj, Ernest Petrič, Janez Podobnik, Dimitrij Rupel, Ivan Štuhec, Žiga Turk, Marko Voljč, Tomaž Zalaznik.

[4] Parties positioned in the middle between the two profiled Slovenian political parties: Dobra država, Naša dežela, Nova Slovenija, Nova slovenska ljudska stranka, Slovenska ljudska stranka, Stranka modernega centra, Zeleni Slovenije, Gospodarsko aktivna stranka.)

[5] Preamble, Article 3.

[6] Article 3.

[7] Article 19.

[8] Article 21.

[9] Articles 34 and 35.


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