Slovene Journalist Predicts Secession
by Stephen Schwartz
A leading journalist from Slovenia believes that the region will soon secede from Yugoslavia and says that it already has made plans for a separate currency, a free-market economy and an independent press.
"We Slovenes are now 100 percent separatist," said Bernard Nezhmach, 29, a leader of the secessionist movement. "We support the creation of our own monetary unit, which is one undeniable sign of independence. It will be called the lipa, or leaf, and will be pegged to Western currency and fully convertible."
Nezhmach is editor of the mass-circulation weekly Mladina, which has been the most active of the media in the movement for a break with the Yugoslav state. Mladina, modeled on Western newsweeklies, has a circulation of 52,000, and is widely respected throughout Yugoslavia as an organ of what Nezhmach calls ""the dissident imagination."
Nezhmach came to the Bay Area this week on a tour of American universities. He has been speaking mainly to Slavic studies departments in the United States about the transformation of his homeland. Slovenia's population is about 2 million, and the area has the highest standard of living in Yugoslavia.
Nezhmach was unenthusiastic about the Bush administration's reluctance to support Lithuania's bid for independence from the Soviet Union. Pointing out that Russians marching in Moscow on May Day had shouted their support for Lithuania's independence movement, he asked: ""How can Bush turn his back when even ordinary Russians are on Lithuania's side?"
Although noting that recent elections in the neighboring Yugoslav region of Croatia had shown a strong vote for nationalism and possible independence, Nezhmach rejected the idea that Slovenes and Croatians could set up a new federated state independent of Yugoslavia. ""We are looking to a Europe after 1992 in which all localities can be equal partners," he said. ""Frankly, the rest of Yugoslavia has become somewhat faraway for us."
His most serious concern is how privatization of the economy would take place. ""We don't want to rush into a capitalism in which social services are abandoned," he said. ""Also, there is an element of chaos that creeps into the introduction of free-market economics." He said Slovenia has had private ownership of housing and rental property for a long time, but now has private newspapers, publishing houses, and other businesses.
He added that the region had come up with a novel response to the tradition of secret police activity. ""We now have our first private detective agency," he said.