“A World Without Walls“:

An International Congress on "Soft Power", Cultural Diplomacy and Interdependence

(Berlin; November 6th - 9th, 2009)
An Interview with Mr. Janša »

Janez Janša

Former Prime Minister of Slovenia

The former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša’s past is deeply connected with the democratization phase of the Republic of Slovenia. He had a turbulent career, ranging from being a political prisoner to being appointed Prime Minister, and he is currently serving as President of the Slovenian Democratic Party. Slovenia itself has suffered a traumatic struggle for independence, being part of a series of Empires, but was granted independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991 and was recognised as a sovereign state in 1992. In its early stages as a young independent state, Slovenia focussed on its relations with the West and towards a central European demos. It concentrated on a slow recovery of its otherwise unstable economy. Its final recognition as a stable independent state was its accession into the European Union and NATO in 2004. It can be said that Slovenia’s role in the international stage is out of proportion to its small size, having taken part in SFOR peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and the KFOR deployment in Kosovo, not to mention active membership in the World Trade Organisation.

In his earlier years, Janša was a member of the League of Communists and a leader of its youth wing. He also became president of the Committee for Basic People's Defence and Social Self-Protection of the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia (ZSMS). Graduating from the University of Ljubljana in 1982 with a degree in defence studies, he joined the Defence Secretariat of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia.

1983 was a period of democratic reform and liberalisation in Slovenia, with particular attention towards the issue of freedom of speech during which Janša condemned the nature of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). He wrote regular entries in the independent magazine Mladina criticizing the JNA and as a result he was not re-elected to be President of the Committee, and in 1985 he even had his passport withdrawn. With political restrictions imposed on him in the following years, he worked as a mountaineering guide and wrote computer programs. He also became increasingly active in other pacifist and environmental movements.

With increasing liberalisation he was able to publish in Mladina again and to work as secretary of the Journal for the Criticism of Science (1986) raising topics thought to be politically sensitive. In1987, Janša and Igor Omerza established a computer company called Mikro Ada: while at the company Jansa, together with Igor Bavar edited the diary of Stave Kav, a former president of the government of the Slovenian republic removed from office for being too liberal. In the same year, a Working Paper for the Constitution of Slovenia was worked on at Mikro Ada.

In 1988, Janša was arrested by the State Security Service along with three other Mladina journalists and a sergeant of the Yugoslav Army and they were accused of “betraying military secrets.” However these documents were never made public and aroused a series of rumours. This case became known as the JBTZ trial and was seen as an influential event in the development of a e democratic opposition in the republic, also known as the Slovenian Spring. Following a public outcry, Janša was transferred from the maximum - security prison at Dob Pri Mirni to the open prison Ig, near Ljubljana. He was sentenced to 18 months, but only served 6 months. The trial was deemed a failure for the JNA, but further increased public support for the four accused. The trial was conducted entirely under surveillance and was in the Serbo-Croatian language, rather than the agreed Slovene language. The accused were not allowed legal representation. Janša was finally released due to huge public pressure.

On his release, he became an important political figure and editor-in-chief of the opposition weekly, “Demokracija” where he stayed until May 1990. In January 1989, Janša was part of the opposition organisation in Slovenia, the Slovene Democratic Alliance (SDZ). First being vice – president, he later became the president of the party council. In April 1990, at the first democratic elections in the Republic of Slovenia, Janša was elected to Parliament.

In May 1990 he became Minister of Defence in Lojze Peterle's cabinet until 1994. Here he was influential in establishing the Slovenian security forces, which would allow Slovenia to defend itself against the Yugoslav army in June 1991, resulting in Slovenia’s full independence.

Slovenia then also signed the Partnership for Peace programme with NATO. He greatly increased the role of the Slovenian Armed Forces in international collective security matters. In addition, he proposed the creation of a Union of Veterans of the War for Slovenia who fought against Yugoslav aggression. In March 1994, Janša was controversially dismissed as Minister of Defence. Following the dissolution of the SDZ, Janša joined the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia.

In 1992, following the dissolution of the SDZ, Janša joined Dr. Jože Pučnik’s Social Democratic Party of Slovenia and was elected president of the Party in May 1993, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2005.
Between January 1997 and July 1998, Janša was also head of the Slovene parliamentary delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly.

Janša resumed the position as Minister of Defence in Dr Andrej Bajuk’s cabinet from June to October 2000. Here the Resolution on the national security strategy of the Republic of Slovenia was drafted. In addition, the government also adopted the Defence Doctrine of the Republic of Slovenia. Shortly after, at the National Assembly elections, Janša was elected deputy for the third time, and at the same time making the Social Democratic Party the second largest political party in Slovenia.

On 9th November 2004-2008, Janša was elected Prime Minister. During his term of office Slovenia held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Other achievements include improving the lives of the Slovenian people with better social welfare, economic success, and a decrease in unemployment. Slovenia now ranks as one of the highest-achieving EU Member States regarding the Lisbon Strategy goals. It has since adopted the Euro, joined the Schengen area and is the first new Member Sate to hold the EU Presidency.

Janša is also an acclaimed author, having written: Premiki (“Movements” 1992) and Okopi (“Barricades” 1994), Seven Years Later (1995), which was followed by Eight Years Later. He has published a number of articles, commentaries, literary essays and discussions. Several of his commentaries from different magazines were published in a book entitled On My Own Side. As a lecturer and an expert on defence and geo-strategic issues, he has also spoken at many lectures and symposia around the world.