In one of his last interviews before his fall, despot Nicolae Ceausescu was asked by a Western journalist how he justified the fact that Romanian citizens could not travel freely abroad, though freedom of movement was guaranteed by the constitution. His answer: True, the constitution guarantees the freedom of movement, but it also guarantees the right of the people to a safe and prosperous home. So we have here a potential conflict of rights: If Romanian citizens were to be allowed to freely leave the country, the prosperity of the homeland would be in danger. One has to make a choice, and, as Ceausescu saw it, the right to a prosperous and safe homeland enjoys a clear priority.
It seems that this spirit of Stalinist sophistry is alive and well in today’s Slovenia, where, on Dec. 19, 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that a public referendum on proposed “bad bank” legislation was unconstitutional. The idea behind the legislation was to create a new bank to which the main banks would transfer all their bad loans, preventing any serious inquiry into who was responsible for both making and taking out these bad loans. Then, the government would bail out the “bad bank” (at the taxpayers’ expense). The legislation, which had been debated for months, was far from being accepted as sound economic policy, even by financial specialists. The referendum was promoted by trade unions opposed to the government’s neoliberal economic politics, and it received enough signatures to make it obligatory.
So why prohibit the referendum? After all, in 2011, when Papandreou’s government in Greece proposed a referendum on austerity measures, the Troika—the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank—panicked. But even in Brussels no one dared to directly prohibit it.
According to the Slovenian Constitutional Court, the referendum “would have caused unconstitutional consequences.” How?
[Extract. Appeared in In These Times, on February 20th, 2013. (full text).]