Full Text Of Slovenian Ambassador's Apology For Signing ACTA

from the wow dept

Yesterday, we wrote about the Slovenian ambassador to Japan, Helena Drnovsek Zorko, apologizing for signing ACTA last week in Japan. We later updated the post with a link to a Google translation of her apology that was a bit confusing. However, she’s also posted a version in English, in which she admits that she signed it because her government told her to, and “out of civic carelessness” in not bothering to understand what ACTA meant before signing it. She talks about being overworked, and apologizing to her children for signing ACTA. She also expresses exasperation at the fact that the hatred of many people has been directed at her, rather than at her government and others who actually created ACTA. The whole thing is worth a read, so we are posting it in its entirety below:

On Thursday, 26th January, 2012, I signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on behalf of the Republic of Slovenia, following the directive and authorisation of the Slovenian government. A somewhat longer clarification of the signature can be found on the Media section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, which explains the role of the Ministry and my role as the Slovenian Ambassador to Japan.  This explanation states that I signed the agreement because I was instructed to do so by the government, and because it is a part of my job.

And yet, why did I sign ACTA. Every day there is a barrage of questions in my inbox and on Facebook from mostly kind and somewhat baffled people, who cannot understand how it occurred to me to sign an agreement so damaging to the state and citizens. With this reply, which is of a purely personal nature and expresses only my personal views, I wish to respond to all those people, all my friends and acquaintances who have remained quiet, all Anonymous, and not least also to myself and to my children.

I signed ACTA out of civic carelessness, because I did not pay enough attention. Quite simply, I did not clearly connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds the freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children. I allowed myself a period of civic complacency, for a short time I unplugged myself from media reports from Slovenia, I took a break from Avaaz and its inflation of petitions, quite simply I allowed myself a rest. In my defence, I want to add that I very much needed this rest and that I am still having trouble gaining enough energy for the upcoming dragon year. At the same time, I am tackling a workload that increased, not lessened, with the advent of the current year. All in line with a motto that has become familiar to us all, likely not only diplomats: less for more. Less money and fewer people for more work. And then you overlook the significance of what you are signing. And you wake up the following morning with the weight of the unbearable lightness of some signature.

First I apologised to my children. Then I tried to reply to those acquaintances and strangers who expressed their surprise and horror. Because there are more and more of them, I am responding to them publicly. I want to apologise because I carried out my official duty, but not my civic duty. I don’t know how many options I had with regard to not signing, but I could have tried. I did not. I missed an opportunity to fight for the right of conscientious objection on the part of us bureaucrats.

But there is a second, very important reason why I am writing this. There has been a demonization of “some sneak”, that is me, who in far-off Tokyo secretly signed something on her own initiative.  This was heard in the Slovenian parliament and in the Slovenian media, and it is spreading on the web. It is dangerous particularly because it conceals the responsibility of those who had the power to decide, and did in fact decide, that Slovenia would be a signatory of ACTA. This was decided by the Slovenian government and by the parliamentary committee for EU matters, and before that, Slovenia was for quite some time involved in coordinating the agreement. All this was done with too little transparency, judging by the outraged responses that have appeared following the signing. Back then, the Slovenian media did not demonise this decision to the same extent as they now demonise my signature. This I consider very dangerous for the continuous (non-)development of democracy in Slovenia. At the same time, this means that I was not the only one whose attention slipped, that we, as Slovenian citizens, neglected our civic duty. And that there may be a little known party in the Slovenian political space that missed an excellent opportunity to gain votes in the recently concluded electoral struggle.

On Saturday, 4th February, a protest is planned in Ljubljana for those who object to the ratification of ACTA. The true concern and determination of those Slovenian citizens who feel that the agreement must be stopped will be reflected in the number of people who attend this protest. I would like to ask for somebody to please attend in my name. One of my concerned correspondents asked me what my brother, the late Dr. Janez Drnovsek , would have thought of my signature. The struggle to protect civic freedoms is most certainly in the spirit of his heritage, much more so than the removal or non-removal of some statue. Let my example be a cautionary tale of how swiftly we can make mistakes if we allow ourselves to slip. And if nothing else, we then sleep very badly.


Helena Drnovsek Zorko

That’s quite a statement… I’m still curious if Slovenia can now take back the signature?

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Comments on “Full Text Of Slovenian Ambassador's Apology For Signing ACTA”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Basically, she did her job without looking, which shows carelessness and poor judgement. I feel she should resign for showing that she is doing things without thinking, blindly following directions without consideration, etc. She was literally willing to sign for her country without knowing what she signed.

I am sure there are plenty of unemployed people in her country that would be willing to do the job for half the price, and actually pay attention while working.

The real story is this: She did her job, and when called out for doing it, she is passing the buck. WTG, you have a future in politics!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The real story is this: She did her job, and when called out for doing it, she is passing the buck. WTG, you have a future in politics!

I’d argue she did not do her job — which would have been to understand what was in the thing that she was signing.

However, given that, I’m fairly amazed at the honesty of her statement, which actually suggests she does not have a future in politics. Such honesty is pretty rare in politics and I appreciate her willing to speak out rather than clam up about it.

Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

One important thing to keep in mind here is that fact that she is an Ambassador; a position that is supposed to be the eyes, ears, and mouth for the country she serves. Would an American Ambassador have any greater liberty with anything they were specifically instructed to do by our government?

Don’t be so surprised that an Ambassador would have little or no recourse but to do exactly as instructed. In a way, I applaud her honesty and sincere desire for forgiveness from her countrymen – would be inspiring to see more of this on the International stage…


Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That is the point…no Ambassador for any country has liberty to go “rogue” and do as they please. Our Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President and I am reasonably certain that other country’s Ambassadors are similarly responsible to the leader of their governments as well.

They do as they are told, when they are told..period.

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agreed. Just because someone makes one mistake, it’s no reason to ruin their whole life.

Ms. Drnovsek Zorko might, on the other hand, make a very good politician, now that she’s been burned because she ‘just followed orders’. However, she considers herself a bureaucrat, not a politician.

The critical part of her apology:
“…I want to apologise because I carried out my official duty, but not my civic duty…”

If only more people in power would do their civic duty, rather than simply their official duty.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The reality is that she was acting as a diplomat, the Ambassador of her country which had already decided to back ACTA. It’s not an ambassador’s job to make policy much less defy it.

What is so unusual is that she admits she signed it, as did so many others, on the instructions of her government without understanding what it contained. Or the ramifications of it. In that, I’m sure she’s not the only Ambassador who did that. She seems to he the only one who has “manned up” and admitted it.

As with so much surrounding SOPA/PIPA what you’re seeing here is a glimpse into a world we “mere citizens” rarely see which is how high level diplomacy works and the secrecy in which virtually all of it takes place.

Even in trade agreements which ACTA pretends to be.

These things are a danger to the most creative, productive and profitable thing humans have ever devised. The Internet. I’d have to check it again, but if memory serves while discussing the coming Facebook IPO one economist observed that the Internet was responsible for some $17 trillion in profits in 2011 along with the escalator for the sales that generated that profit. (He also noted, if memory serves again, that less that 5% of all of that had anything to do with what ACTA is supposed to stop and won’t.)
She’s not passing the buck. She’s telling the truth. Had she refused to sign it Solvenia would have recalled her and sent a diplomat over who would sign it. That’s how diplomacy works at that level.
Almost makes you feel as dirty as watching legislators past and present hang out the “For Sale” sign to interest groups with tons of money. Doesn’t it?

Max O. says:

Re: Re:

Sorry Anonymous Coward, I beg to differ. I feel I need to defend her, as what you say is not fair and moreover it is besides the point. She deserves credit for the courage of writing this honest and open account of how she thinks she has made a mistake. This shows something else, this is not about her personal carelessness – it is not her to take the decision whether her country signs an agreement or not.

You can imagine: very often things happen in the way she describes, and most of the time the people involved do not write about afterwards like she did. All the others who have contributed to this treaty were probably equally careless – and that is the real problem. She is only the tip of the iceberg. And the problem is not her person – it is of a more systemic nature. Mrs. Zorko – thank you for bringing it to our attention!

And no: not everybody can be an embassador.

Not the same anonymous coward says:

Re: Re:

The job of an ambassador is to act apon the wishes of her government, not to take decisions. As the Italians say, “ambasciatore non porta pena” – the ambassador is not to blame.

If she had refused to sign the treaty, it would be the civillian equivalent of a soldier refusing to obey orders. Just to put things into perspective, Ms Drnovsek Zorko is not an elected official and the stand she has taken now against the government that appointed her is a very brave one. Keep in mind that she is probably risking her job.

Anonymous Coward says:

regardless of what she should or shouldn’t have done, she was under orders to sign ACTA. now Slovenia has signed ACTA it shows yet again that governments are totally ignoring the wishes of their own people, ignoring the protests of their own people just to go along with a US (basically) entertainment industry that refuses to adapt and cant look after itself, without getting just about every country on the planet to help them out, taking the cost out of the taxes paid by those same ordinary citizens!

zub says:

Could she have not signed?

I wonder if she actually could have not signed the agreement.

If the Slovenian government made the decision, isn’t she just a “limb” of the government? Can she apply her own judgment to that?

Sure, she could have simply refused. And if she felt strongly about it might have been reasonable. But if it was her job to sign, when she was told to sign, she would have to expect e.g. being fired.

I wonder if she really is that honest. Or maybe ACTA has become too toxic by now. I could imagine (I do no know if this is true) the Slovenian politicians trying to put the blame on some far-away diplomat. Maybe the media would go along with them. This way they appear like they have nothing to do with this toxic thing. And maybe this made the ambassador speak, not to let the blame on her shoulders.

Ok, some speculations. Feel free to correct me.

Digital Consumer (profile) says:


What people fail to realize is that these copywright laws have nothing to do with copywright, and even less to do with foolish hollywood. It has to do with government eroding our rights, and other countries using America as an excuse to erode their people’s rights. The Polish government says, “See, America is doing it, and they are the world’s example of freedom, so it must be okay!”. It is about establishing a normal rate of civil rights removal at a pace that is only quickening. The interesting thing is that you will see Republicans working on taking your ability to make money away, and you will see democrats working on taking your ability to speak out about it away. Now you have no money and no voice. The top 1% wins. Please remain divided about piracy/theft, think about abortion, gay marriage, religious institution, and remain afraid of muslims. WIth all these fears we can take all from you, or more correctly, you will give us all your rights, your wages, and your ability to change, and you will feel safe…until you don’t. Then it is too late.

Anonymous Coward says:

An honest-sounding humble apology from someone in charge. It’d be nice to have something like that from our leaders in the US.
They’re either “Big media is right about censorship, but this bill went slightly too far”, or “Big media is right about censorship, and the protests are a Google conspiracy”.
They just don’t own up when they’re wrong. They prefer trying to preserve political capital to trying to sound human.

Q?r Tharkasd?ttir (profile) says:

Ambassadors speaking out

I know that three doesn’t make a crowd, but with the relatively recent cases of Craig Murray and Jean-Christophe Rufin in mind, there seem to be an increasing number of people in that function that won’t let things just happen. As much (and as positive), I believe, a reflection of the state of our societies as the riots of all kinds taking place all around the globe, including on the net.

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