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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 18:25 GMT
Slovenia resigned to the inevitable
Ljubljana
Ljubljana: Some say Slovenia is richer than Portugal

When Slovenia - "the lucky one" - broke free from Yugoslavia after a 12-day war in 1991, the most popular slogan was "Europe Now".

Even a magazine with that title appeared.

Yugoslav tank firing on apartment blocks
Slovenia won freedom, almost unscathed
Every leading politician was advocating a quick march towards the promised land of the European Union.

Few Slovenes disagreed with them.

Eleven years later, the overwhelming majority of politicians still sing the same tune.

But many Slovenes have changed from Euro-enthusiasts - not to Euro-sceptics, but to what they like to call Euro- realists.


People are fed up of still being confused with poorer Slovakia - or, even worse, every now and again still being called a 'Balkan' country

The magazine "Europe Now" is long forgotten; there is no need for it any more, because Europe has arrived.

What seemed a very distant wish - born out of an even bigger desire to leave detested Balkans - is coming true.

No subsidies

Slovenia, as one of the top candidates, is just 17 months away from entering the EU.

One would think the Slovenes would be dancing in the streets, but No: the closer get to the EU, the more they ask themselves if they are doing the right thing.

Skiers in Slovenia
The EU could leave wealthy Slovenes out of pocket
Doubts are borne of economic success.

According to some estimates, Slovenes are richer than at least two current members, Portugal and Greece.

Many Slovenes like to think they have done pretty well without the EU, and they are afraid of surrendering their new-found prosperity.

They are also unhappy that existing EU members are squabbling about the bill for the enlargement.

If Slovenia continues to get richer, it will be disqualified from receiving the EU subsidies which supposedly make membership worthwhile.

Many Slovenes actually think the country will become poorer in the short-term, after joining the EU, though will end up richer in the long-term.

Danger

They have grudgingly accepted the idea that foreigners will be able to buy land, but there are also worries about preserving a national identity, which is fiercely defended.

Logarska
Slovenia will welcome foreigners, but won't let them take over
Will entering EU strengthen or weaken Slovene national identity?

"I think entering the EU will be good for our national identity," said one person I met on the streets of Ljubljana.

"We will soon feel more endangered - and this will force us better to look after our national identity and to have more children."

Slovenians know Europe and their future European partners very well - much better than current members know Slovenia.

No alternative

People are fed up of still being confused with poorer Slovakia - or, even worse, every now and again still being called a "Balkan country".


I could not imagine Slovenia not entering the EU

Slovene businessman
The general view about Slovenia entering EU is that there is simply inevitable.

"There will be change. People generally are afraid of change, so, there is a feeling of uneasiness about it," says one student.

"In the end it is necessary, because the EU seems to be the future of Europe, so it' s better to be in it than out of it."

A businessmen concurs: "I think that is our way and our future - and I could not imagine Slovenia not entering the EU."

There will be a referendum about entry next year.

More than 50 % of Slovenians are expected to vote Yes - though with very little enthusiasm. But no-one is taking this result for granted.


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