Published 05 Oct 2011 in the Slovenia Times
The Constitutional Court has ruled unanimously that the 2009 decision of the Ljubljana City Council to name a street in the capital after former communist leader Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980) is unconstitutional.
The court, which acted at the initiative of the Young Slovenia (MSi), the youth wing of the non-parliamentary New Slovenia (NSi), argued in Tuesday’s press release that Tito’s name symbolised the former totalitarian regime and that naming a street after him could objectively been seen as a recognition for this regime.
Establishing a violation of the constitutional principle of respect for human dignity, the court also pointed out that Slovenia is defined as a constitutional democracy, meaning “a state where the power of authorities is limited with constitutional principles, human rights and basic freedoms”.
According to the court, official decisions are unconstitutional when they symbolise values that are wholly incompatible with basic constitutional values.
In Slovenia, where the development of democracy and free society based on respect for human dignity began with the break with the former system, any institutional glorification of the former totalitarian communist regime – symbolised the most by Tito as Yugoslavia’s life-long president – is unconstitutional.
The court moreover stressed that the case was not about a street name preserved from the old system as part of history.
The decision was taken in 2009, “18 years after Slovenia became independent and set up a constitutional order based on constitutional values opposite to the values of the regime before independence”.
The ruling also says that the purpose of the review was not a verdict on Tito as a figure or on his concrete actions, as well as not a historical weighing of facts and circumstances, but the evaluation of the symbolic weight of his name from the perspective of constitutional principles.
“The name Tito does not only symbolise the liberation of the territory of present-day Slovenia from fascist occupation in WWII as claimed by the other party in the case, but also grave violations of human rights and basic freedoms, especially in the decade following WWII.”
The NSi welcomed the country’s ruling, with NSi president Ljudmila Novak labelling it the first step by a public institution towards admitting that Tito was a criminal.
Novak told the press that the ruling was in line with European and general civilisational norms and meant the “decision for more truth in Slovenia” and at the same time a closure for the victims of the communist regime.
She urged mayors and councillors in other towns with the 12 remaining streets and squares named after Tito or other members of the former regime to consider changes.
Representatives of the Ljubljana municipality said they would respect the court’s ruling, but added that they were still proud that the now late councillor Peter Bozic – a writer who had notably been imprisoned under the former regime several times – had proposed that the street be given Tito’s name.
The press release moreover says that Bozic’s proposal had been probed in a public opinion poll and was backed by 60% of the residents of Ljubljana that were polled.
Meanwhile, the decision was also commented by historian Stane Granda, who sees it as very “European” and important for the development of democracy in Slovenia. He feels that “crime was given its name” with the ruling.
Head of the Association of WWII Veterans Janez Stanovnik see things differently. While stressing that the court’s decision needed to be respected, he noted that it was also a “condemnation of the commander of one of the four allied armies that liberated Europe”.
The STA has found out that no changes are planned with regard to a street in Maribor named after Tito and a square in Velenje, which also has a Tito statue and was named Titovo Velenje before independence. In both cases, the choice of Tito’s name dates back to the time of the old regime.