Economic difficulties and establishing conditions for a free-market economy are among the major issues facing Yugoslavia, a former communist official and now a member of the Slovenian Parliament said Tuesday.
Borut Pahor, 27, one of the youngest members of the 240-member Assembly of Slovenia, one of six republics of the Yugoslav nation of 22 million people, met with the Deseret News editorial board and afterward for an interview.He is in the United States for 30 days as a guest of the U.S. Information Agency to learn more about America and to share information about his own country, which is reeling from economic chaos and ethnic unrest.
While in Salt Lake City he met with Lt. Gov. Val Oveson, visited the offices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, took in some skiing and was a Tuesday evening dinner guest - along with his escort-interpreter, Carmen Ess, at the home of Peter Van Alstyne,, a state Commerce Department official. Ess, born in Yugoslavia and now living in a New York City suburb, is employed in the State Department's language division.
Wednesday morning the two left Salt Lake City for Kansas City, Kan.; Bloomington, Ind.; and New York City. Their Salt Lake visits were arranged by Peggy Weiler of the Utah Council, International Visitors.
This is Pahor's first trip to the United States. He said he has been "nicely impressed with America, not only for its physical beauty but with the spirit of its people." He will return to his own country March 12.
Pahor speaks fluent Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, Italian and English and has degrees in sociology, political science and journalism.
During the meeting and interview, Pahor, a staff member of the Central Committee of the Slovenian League of Communists, said his republic is in a transition from a Communist regime to one struggling for democracy.
And "our problem is one of how to establish all necessary conditions for being a full member of the European community," he said. Ess said that means Slovenians and other Yugoslavs should be not only able to participate in trade but be fully recognized in every way as Europeans.
Pahor said the people of Slovenia, the smallest and richest of Yugoslavia's make about 20 percent of the total income earned by Yugoslavians. And just last week, the republic adopted a resolution to secede from the nation.
Pahor said the cost of food, clothing, housing and other basic needs is rising rapidly in his country, but salaries are not showing comparable increases.
"If we look to Austrian or Italian quality of life we can see that we are under the average (citizen), but if we look toward say Romania or Czechoslovakia or Russia, we can see that we are highly above," he said.
He said he hopes the international community will recognize as legitimate the options being negotiated by Slovenia and the nation's other republics.
Pahor said he doesn't believe in the use of force in solving political or other problems.
"As a member of the Slovenian Parliament we have tried to do and we are going to do everything we can to avoid the use of force, particularly military force in resolving the political, economic and ethnic crisis in Yugoslavia," he said.