From Political Prisoner to Prime Minister
Janez Janša was born on 17 September 1958 in Ljubljana as the second of three children. He attended primary school at Žalna and in Grosuplje, and at the classical gimnazija in Stična. In 1982, Janša graduated in defence studies from the Faculty of Sociology, Political Science and Journalism.
Beginnings of a career
After graduating, Janša became a trainee at the then Republican Secretariat for Defence, where he passed his professional exam. At the end of 1982, Janša was appointed president of the Committee for Basic People's Defence and Social Self-Protection within the framework of the former youth organisation (ZSMS). His presentation of a critical view of conditions within the Yugoslav People's Army, which were labelled as counter-revolutionary, marks the beginning of Janez Janša's dissidence. It was followed by strict surveillance of him and his associates by the State Security Service, political sanctions, and limitation and prevention of his public work.
Among the leaders of the Slovene Spring
The political restrictions put on Janez Janša permeated all aspects of his life, and he thus lost any possibility of employment in state institutions or companies. Between 1985 and 1986, he was turned down in 250 cases when he applied for publicly advertised positions for which he was fully qualified.
During this time, Janez Janša became politically active in newly emerging pacifist and environmental movements, which were considered "socially disruptive" by the authorities. He earned his living by writing computer programmes and doing occasional "high-altitude" jobs along with his friends from the mountaineering club.
In late 1986 he became secretary of the monthly Journal for the Criticism of Science, published by the student organisation of the University of Ljubljana, which began to touch on topics that were then considered politically undesirable.
The year 1987 saw partial liberalisation of the editorial board of Mladina (Youth), the main publication of the ZSMS, which enabled him to write and publish critical commentaries and contributions on topics such as democracy and national sovereignty.
In the spring of 1987, Janez Janša and Igor Omerza founded a small computer company called MikroAda, which soon turned into a kind of technical service for emerging political alternative and social movements.
This is also where the diary of Stane Kavčič, a former president of the government of the Slovenian republic who was removed from office by the communist authorities in 1972 for being too liberal, was secretly prepared for print (edited by Janez Janša and Igor Bavčar). The diary was published in 1988 and generated great interest – the first edition sold out in a matter of hours.
In the same manner, A Working Paper for the Constitution of Slovenia, written by Slovene writers, lawyers and sociologists, was prepared for publication at MikroAda in April 1988. The paper was strongly condemned by the president of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, and by the senior Yugoslav People's Army staff. Nonetheless, the Working Paper served, in its entirety, as a basis for the current Constitution of Slovenia, adopted in 1991.
Trial of the Four and the first steps to Slovene democracy
In the early morning hours of 31 May 1988, Janez Janša was arrested by agents of the State Security Service. Also arrested were staff sergeant Ivan Borštner, journalist David Tasić and editor Franci Zavrl. Thus began the renowned Trial of the Four, which was a trial by the communist nomenclatura against the emerging opposition and provoked a strong response from the Slovene public. There appeared demands for a change to a multi-party democracy, which was one of the major levers of Slovenia's independence process.
Mass demonstrations in Ljubljana and the enrolment of tens of thousands of citizens in the newly formed Committee for the Protection of Human Rights characterised what came to be known as the Slovene Spring.
In a trial held in camera and during which the defendants were not allowed legal representation, Janez Janša was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. After the sentence became final in May 1989, he was arrested again by the communist authorities and sent to serve his sentence in the maximum-security prison at Dob pri Mirni; it was only after a public outcry that he was transferred to the open prison at Ig.
It was at these demonstrations that the May Declaration of 1989 was first read – a declaration in which the opposition demanded a democratic and sovereign Slovenia and respect for human rights. Because of immense public pressure, Janez Janša was released from prison in the summer of 1989 after serving a third of his sentence.
On his release from prison, he became editor-in-chief of the opposition weekly Demokracija (Democracy), where he remained until May 1990. Demokracija became the unofficial voice of the united opposition, known as Demos.
First democratic elections held in 1990
In January 1989, Janez Janša took part in the foundation of the first truly political opposition organisation in Slovenia, the Slovene Democratic Alliance (SDZ), and was first elected its vice-president and later president of the party council.
In the first democratic elections in the Republic of Slovenia held in April 1990, he was directly elected to Parliament on an SZD party ticket.
Janez Janša, Minister of Defence
In May 1990, Janez Janša became Minister of Defence. He was instrumental in the creation of a competent defence system which, via the Manoeuvre Structure of National Defence and the transformation of the Territorial Defence into the first true Slovenian Armed Forces, enabled the country to fend off the aggression of the Yugoslav army in June 1991 with relatively few casualties, and ultimately to proclaim full independence.
Janez Janša was Minister of Defence until 1994; in his four-year term of office he and his colleagues created a military structure that enabled Slovenia to sign the Partnership for Peace programme with NATO. As Minister of Defence, Janša played a pivotal role in incorporating the Slovenian Armed Forces in other international mechanisms of collective security, and established parliamentary control over the military as a fundamental democratic standard.
In 1993, he proposed the creation of the Union of Veterans of the War for Slovenia, comprising patriots who actively resisted Yugoslav domination and aggression between 1990 and 1991.
In March 1994, the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, on a motion by the Prime Minister, Dr Janez Drnovšek, relieved Janez Janša of his duties as Minister of Defence. The reason given for the dismissal was the alleged transgression of the civilian sphere by the military. Almost a year later, the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Parliamentary Committee for Legislation and Legal Affairs adopted a unanimous decision that the military authorities had acted in compliance with Slovenian law.
During the debate on the dismissal of Janez Janša from the position of the Minister of Defence, thousands of his supporters demonstrated outside the parliament building, demanding the rule of law and an end to corruption in the civil service.
President of the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS)
In the spring of 1992, Janez Janša joined Dr Jože Pučnik’s Social Democratic Party of Slovenia. In the 1992 elections, Janez Janša was re-elected deputy, and in May 1993, he was elected president of the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia at the party’s third congress. Janez Janša was re-elected president of the Social Democratic Party at the party's congresses held in 1995, 1999, 2001, and 2005.
In 1996, Janez Janša was again elected deputy, and the Social Democratic Party became the leading opposition party in Slovenia.
In the period from January 1997 to July 1998, Janez Janša was also head of the Slovene parliamentary delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly (NAA).
Minister of Defence in the government led by Dr Andrej Bajuk
From June to October 2000, Janez Janša held the office of Minister of Defence in the government led by Dr Andrej Bajuk. During this period, he and his colleagues drafted the Resolution on the national security strategy of the Republic of Slovenia, the most important strategic document in the field of defence, and on his proposal, the Government also adopted the Defence Doctrine of the Republic of Slovenia.
During his term of office, the Ministry of Defence realistically assessed the implementation of the basic development programmes of defence forces for the period 1994–2003, and adopted a plan for their partial restructuring, which was to be completed between 2000 and 2003; members of the Slovenian Armed Forces were also given the right to spiritual care.
At the time when Janez Janša was Minister of Defence, Slovenia prepared its second action plan for full membership of NATO and was the first among the candidate countries to make a submission to Lord Robertson, the then NATO Secretary General in Brussels.
At the National Assembly elections held in October 2000, Janez Janša was elected deputy of the National Assembly for the third time, and the Social Democratic Party became the second largest political party in Slovenia.
Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia
On 9 November 2004, Janez Janša, the nominated candidate to be given a mandate to form the new Slovenian Government, was elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia by 57 votes.
On 3 December 2004, the new Government took the oath of office in the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia and met under the leadership of Janez Janša for its constituent session that same day.
The Government of the Republic of Slovenia, led by Janez Janša, consists of the following coalition partners: the Slovenian Democratic Party, the New Slovenia – Christian People’s Party, the Slovenian People’s Party and the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia.
On 19 November 2007, the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia held a vote of confidence called by Prime Minister Janez Janša in relation to the forthcoming Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and reconfirmed the Government’s term of office.
Some of the major achievements of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia between December 2004 and December 2007 are also the measures which have directly affected the lives of the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia, bringing about exceptional economic success, a higher rate of employment and the lowest ever unemployment rate. Most of the measures defined in the Framework of economic and social reforms for increasing welfare in Slovenia and improving the standard of living have been implemented, which ranks Slovenia among the most successful EU Member States in achieving the Lisbon Strategy goals. The Government has regulated taxes and removed a number of administrative barriers in a modern way that is internationally comparable and socially sustainable. Measures for reducing the burden on the economy and for increasing competitiveness in domestic and foreign markets have been adopted.
During Janez Janša’s term of office, the Republic of Slovenia became a recognisable and successful member of the European Union: on 1 January 2007, it adopted the single European currency; on 22 December 2007, it eliminated internal borders and joined the Schengen area; and in the first half of 2008, it became the first Member State from the 2004 and 2007 enlargement rounds to take the helm of the Council of the European Union.
In his capacity as President of the European Council, Janez Janša chaired two European Council meetings, as well as EU summits with Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States and the Russian Federation. Under his leadership, the European Union launched the second cycle of the Lisbon Strategy, introduced the fifth freedom and concluded the network of Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the Western Balkan countries. He played an important role in achieving agreement on the energy and climate package, Galileo, liberalisation of energy markets and the long-awaited start of negotiations on a new agreement between the European Union and the Russian Federation. He contributed significantly to the EU’s concerted response to Kosovo’s declaration of independence and the “no” vote in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
In his capacity as Prime Minister, Janez Janša has visited Austria, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, the Vatican, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Publishing and lecturing work
Janez Janša has published several books and hundreds of articles, commentaries, essays and scientific discussions. He has also published several poems and literary essays. His book entitled Premiki (Movements, 1992), describing the processes which led to the creation of the Slovenian state, was printed in an edition of 55,000 copies, and has been translated into English, German and Croatian. His other book, Okopi (The Barricades, 1994), in which he analyses the characteristics of the transitional period, was also enthusiastically received by the public and was published in 15,000 copies. In the book Seven Years Later (1995), Janez Janša, in association with David Tasić and Ivan Borštner, discloses the background of their arrests seven years before. A year later, this book was followed by a miscellany entitled Eight Years Later, comprising a number of important documents which illuminate what was going on backstage in government during the Slovene Spring. As early as 1988, a collection of several of his commentaries published in different magazines came out in a book entitled On My Own Side.
As a lecturer, a specialist on defence and geostrategic issues, Janez Janša has been invited to several consultations and symposia around the world. He has also spoken at King's College in London, the Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, the Centre for Balkan Security in Washington, the Conference of the Atlantic Council of Great Britain, the Institute for International Studies in Bonn, the Catholic University in Buenos Aires, and at a CNN conference in Atlanta, as well as at international symposia and NATO consultations in Vienna, Rome, Brussels, Prague, etc.
He has a son, Žan, and a daughter, Nika, both of them students. In his spare time, he plays football and golf, enjoys skiing and snowboarding, but most of all, he enjoys hiking in the Slovenian mountains, where he also met his fiancée, Urška Bačovnik, a doctor.