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By Marja Novak

Ljubljana, Slovenia LJUBLJANA, June 24 (Reuters) - President Milan Kučan on Monday hailed Slovenia's political and economic achievements since independence in 1991, but acknowledged high unemployment was a growing social problem.

On the eve of Slovenia's fifth anniversary of breaking from the former Yugoslavia, Kučan said the country had managed to bring its politics and economy in line with those of the developed world.

"I can hardly imagine any better alternative to what we have achieved in these five years," Kučan told a news conference. But he said Slovenia had faced some social problems in the past year, namely high unemployment, which rose to about 13.9 percent this year from only 4.7 percent in 1990 -- among one of the highest jobless levels in Europe. Kučan said that rising unemployment was a result of structural reforms in Slovenia's economic transition.

"We would have faced this problem sooner or later because of our economic transformation," he said.

International studies say Slovenia is the wealthiest among Europe's former communist countries, but an opinion poll showed on Monday that up to 39 percent of Slovenians believe they are worse off now in economic terms than they were before 1991. Slovenia, already a member of the Council of Europe, this month signed a long-awaited association agreement with the European Union.

But domestic politics are showing signs of instability ahead of a general election due by December, with increasing strains between the centre-left and right in the ruling coalition. Turning to the uncertain days in June 1991 as Yugoslavia began a disintegration that was to dominate European politics for half a decade, Kučan described Slovenia as "the illegitimate child" unwanted by the international community. "Slovenia was born against the will of the international community, as an illegitimate child, but managed to gain international recognition and start a normal life," Kučan said.

Slovenia's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia on June 26, 1991, precipitated a short, bloody conflict that stunned Europe. After 10 days of fighting that killed 64 people, commanders of the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav federal army in Belgrade ordered its forces out.

"Our sensitivity to human rights was the basic reason for the breakup of Yugoslavia, and until the issue of human rights is solved, there can be no solution to the Yugoslav crises," Kučan said. "The brief but real war (in Slovenia)...showed the resoluteness of a nation that believed it had the right to self-determination, and the poor motivation of the Yugoslav army that did not know what it was fighting for," he added.

Kučan said all former Yugoslav republics should be recognised as equal successors to the ex-Yugoslavia in order to settle a dispute over the share-out of assets. Belgrade wants rump Yugoslavia, consisting now of Serbia and Montenegro, as the sole legal successor to the old federation, but that would deprive Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia of a share in the property owned by the old Yugoslavia when war broke out in 1991.



To learn more...
Berserkistan, June 10 · Slovenia Set to Become European Union Member

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Ljubljana Visit Slovenia’s Capital
Slovenia Weekly Government Public Relations & Media Office
SloWWWenia Guide to Virtual Slovenia


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