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Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Demos government was decisive for independence

By: M.B.

On May 3rd, 1991, the massacre of Croatian police officers in Borovo Selo near Vukovar reverberated in Yugoslavia. The Demos government followed the situation with concern, and expressed concern for its young boys who were serving in the YPA.

Let’s remember. The President of the Republic of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman, addressed the Croatian citizens in the early morning hours of May 3rd, 1991, telling them that they had experienced the most tragic day in Croatia’s short democratic history and that this was the beginning of an open war against Croatia. Twelve Croatian police officers were killed and several people were injured in Borovo Selo, as we wrote in a previous magazine.

“The imminent danger of a civil war”

The Slovenian republican government, led by Lojze Peterle, responded to the events in Croatia with a special statement, writing that it was following the events that were growing into open armed resistance against the legal and legitimate authorities in the neighbouring republic, with concern. It warned of the imminent danger of a civil war and called on all authorities in the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Serbia, and especially the federal authorities, to do everything possible to stop the senseless bloodshed and prevent a conflict that could threaten peace throughout Yugoslavia. They expressed support for the leadership of the Republic of Croatia in its efforts to ensure peace and security of all its citizens through legal measures. In doing so, the Slovenian government expressed special concern for Slovenian citizens who had served in the military and had to participate in the activities of YPA units in Croatia against their will. The Slovenian government also sent a request to the Federal Executive Council, then headed by Ante Marković, to ensure that the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia serving military service were discharged from the Yugoslav People’s Army by June 10th, 1991 at the latest. Well, the Yugoslav generals did not take this Slovenian call seriously and continued to prepare for military intervention in the “rebel republics”.

A call for unity within Demos

On May 4th, 1991, the youth wing of the Slovene Democratic Union published an appeal in Delo entitled “Demos, where is your reason?”. The appeal read: “We call on all parties in Demos, their leaders and others to end all mutual disputes or to forget them at the time of Slovenia’s independence. We young people do not want to be victims of mutual party disputes at the expense of the prestige of a certain party, the accumulation of cheap political points, and the arbitrariness of some party leaders. We believe that the already adopted decision of the Slovene nation, confirmed at the plebiscite, must be implemented, because the national interest must prevail over individual party interests. We young people will carry the greatest weight of your current political decisions. On Tuesday, may 7th, the Council of Demos met behind closed doors. At the session, they spoke about the demands of the Slovenian Farmers’ Association – People’s Party to solve agricultural problems. It had previously demanded the resignation of its own agriculture minister, triggering the condemnation of some coalition partners. Regarding the “diversity” within Demos, Jože Pučnik said that they would still “strike badly”, but this was only in Slovenia’s favour. With unifying the opinions, he said at a press conference after the session: “Demos is a very controversial coalition that has never been a voting machine. Tensions are and will remain. And thank God they are.” He added that no government is his or ours that we would not criticise it if it made mistakes. At the meeting, they also agreed on the requirement to limit the upper level of wages in social enterprises in order to ensure the existence of all workers.

Adoption of a package of independence laws

After the meeting of Demos on Rač Island on Brdo near Kranj at the end of April 1991 and the escalation of ethnic conflicts in Croatia, the work of the Demos government intensified. On Saturday, May 4th, 1991, the government adopted a package of independence laws (e.g. the law on the National Bank of Slovenia, the law on banks and savings banks, the law on foreign exchange operations) as well as laws on citizenship, foreigners, travel documents, border and its protection. The Slovenian Parliament adopted these laws together with the amendments in early June, and they came into force with the declaration of Slovenia’s independence and autonomy. At a press conference after the government session, the main features of the package, the so-called independence laws, were presented by Prime Minister Lojze Peterle and Ministers Dimitrij Rupel, Janez Janša, Igor Bavčar, and Jože Mencinger. They all emphasised that “all legislation looked for examples in similar modern legislation of Western European countries”. The bills that defined the monetary and banking system were presented by Mencinger, who was already saying goodbye to his ministerial post in those days. He emphasised that the law provides the National Bank of Slovenia for a monetary institution with all the powers “that such a bank has in each independent state”. Minister Rupel presented the Foreign Exchange Act, which was supposedly based on market principles. Most of the draft laws were in the field of internal affairs, and they were presented by Minister Bavčar. He drew attention to the draft law on citizenship, which provided for four ways of acquiring citizenship (by birth, by territorial principle, on the basis of an application, and by an international treaty). The bill thus made it possible for citizens of other Yugoslav republics to apply for citizenship of the Republic of Slovenia if they had permanent residence in Slovenia. Prime Minister Peterle said that all legal bases for Slovenia’s full independence should be ready by June 26th, 1991, that is, by the day scheduled for the declaration of independence. The great wish of the Slovene political leadership was that the partition with Yugoslavia would take place by mutual agreement.

However, Slovenian politicians now had to take the initiative. Thus, Janša pointed out: “So far we have tried to adapt to what came from the federation, and with a package of these laws we are taking our own initiative.” When asked by a journalist what would happen if other countries would not recognise sovereign Slovenia for a long time, Peterle replied: “The government is also preparing for the possibility of a short or long international blockade of independent Slovenia. Of course, we are aware of this possibility and we are ready for it.” Mencinger added that it is not possible to know everything in advance, but Rupel made it clear that Slovenia will achieve independence regardless of whether it will receive guarantees for international recognition by then.

The situation in Croatia was approaching a boiling point

On Sunday, May 5th, 1991, the Slovenian law on military service came into force, but on the first day it had no practical effects, so more about it in one of the next issues of Demokracija. After the massacre in Borovo Selo, the riots in Croatia continued. Shots and explosions occurred in various parts of Croatia. There was a rally on Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb, at which those gathered shouted that there were enough talks with Slobodan Milošević, Borisav Jović, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav People’s Army Blagoje Adžić. At the same time, the protesters stated that Croatia was occupied, which made it necessary to start defending itself in an organised manner. On Sunday night, some residents of Borovo Selo fled across the Danube to Vojvodina. On the Zagreb-Belgrade main road, the attackers near Velika Kopavica shot at the car of the vice-president of the SFRY presidency, Stjepan Mesić, at two in the morning, but fortunately he was not in the car at the time, as he had returned to Zagreb by plane. On the first Monday in May, May 6th 1991, the dramatic aggravation of the situation in Croatia continued with the death of the first YPA soldier in Split. Due to all this, the Federal Secretary of People’s Defence, Veljko Kadijević, returned early from treatment to work and, together with the Belgrade generals, issued a threatening message announcing that the state was already in a civil war because the federal authorities did not follow their proposals. In doing so, the generals again threatened to take matters into their own hands.

Source: 30 let samostojnosti Slovenije/gov.si

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