Slovenia's ambassador apologizes to her children and her nation for signing ACTA, calls for mass demonstrations in Ljubljana tomorrow

After Helena Drnovsek Zorko, Slovenia's ambassador to Japan, signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, she was deluged with emails from Slovenians criticizing her for signing onto the agreement, which encourages widespread network censorship and creates criminal penalties for copyright infringement. The ambassador read the agreement more closely and decided she agreed with the critics, and wrote an open letter of apology to her country for signing them up to the treaty.

The ambassador calls on Slovenians to converge on Ljubljana tomorrow, Saturday, Feb 4, to protest ACTA.

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.

Full Text Of Slovenian Ambassador's Apology For Signing ACTA [via Techdirt]


  1. Proof that there MAY be intelligence somewhere in the barren galaxies of Politics?

    Or just a Wow signal? 

    1. Actually, no. The government ordered her to do it, so she did it. If you read the full text she speculates that she may actually have been legally obliged to sign it once she had been ordered to do so. She goes on to explain that she signed it as a matter of course and without considering whether she could or should resist doing so; she contrasts her “official duty” to sign it with her “civic duty” not to. She believes she chose wrong – hence the apology.

    2. Dunno. As an ambassador to Japan she was not likely involved with the negotiations and such. She likely just got a notice from the capitol saying that they had this agreement that they needed signed, and she was the national representative with the shortest travel time or something similar.

      1.  Yeah, rather than travel time, I think it is that she is the representative of the government there, so she goes to sign on behalf of the government. That’s the job.

        If you disagree so strongly with a decision of your government that you don’t wish to carry out this duty, you must resign.

    3. “Ambassador  Zorko, you have a minute? Good, please sign here, here, and here, here, then here, and now here and finally here. Thank you.”

      I really does happen like that.

  2. To err is human, to forgive divine, to admit error is higher yet.
    THIS is a courageous statement from a true statesperson.
    I wish all politicians could live up to this standard.

    1. deleted

      I would also like to mention that this was probably attached to something else,, in happens here in the U.S. a lot.

        1. Kinda missing the point, point was it has been done with successors etc so it’s not unprecedented to effectively reverse the decision. I wasn’t saying it’s exclusively for presidents just that that’s the most obvious examples that come to mind.

    1. The European Parliament will still have to vote on it, so any publicity that will encourage MEPs to read the treaty before voting for it is useful.

  3. I was raised with ‘apologies are nice, but useless when you already messed up’.
    Frankly, as she says the job is too much for her she might just resign before she accidentally makes even worse mistakes than this.
    Shouldn’t their government vote on this ???

    1. Here is a politician doing the very thing we wish we saw more of. Admitting mistakes, apologizing and rectifying within her power. She screwed up yes, but so do many others who never bother apologizing or worse, deny wrongdoing. She sets herself apart by taking some responsibility. 
      To ask for her resignation does not in any way help matters, on the contrary. We want more of her kind in government, not less. 

    2. Read what Fang Xianfu wrote above. An ambassador isn’t exactly in a position to decide national policy or legislation; she’s just a representative of her government. She was ordered to sign the agreement (IOW, it was her job) but now has second thoughts and contemplates whether she should have staged an act of civil disobedience.

      1. Exactly.  This line of her’s says it all:

        “I don’t know how many options I had with regard to not signing, but I could have tried.”

    3. “I was raised with ‘apologies are nice, but useless when you already messed up'”
       What a horrible way to be raised up.

        1. Never. Apologies are therefore a sign and admission of failure, period, and anybody who ever apologizes is a weakling and stupidhead.

        2. True, we seem to apologize for other people and their situations, “I’m sorry” is usually now a response to someone’s situation, it’s the new “fuck off and leave me alone”. 

      1. Some people spend their whole lives screwing up other people’s lives and expect to get away with it by saying, “Ooops! Sorry!” An apology isn’t enough; you need to clean up your mess.

  4. Hang on a second: A politician made a mistake, was able to see this when informed by her constituents, and then admitted that it was a mistake? Weird. 

    1. A sad state when she deserves a medal for doing what’s essentially the correct thing that we were taught to do when we were little. Admit a goof and apologize on recognition of what exactly you goofed on.

    1. As an American, I have read of this “Character” thing being involved in politics.  Sounds shady to me.

  5. This is a brilliant act and I wish more politicians and civil servants followed her example.
    The simple fact is that everyone is overworked these days and mistakes happen. What matters is that you take responsibility for them and fix them where possible.

    You don’t like it = resign is a ridiculous argument. Apart from a few trust-funded hipsters and teenage internet warriors, people can’t just quit their jobs and do what they want instead. Things like mortgages and children can’t be funded by self-righteousness.

    1.  If she’d come to this conclusion before she signed, her two choices would have been resign or be fired. Signing then apologizing only works once.

    2. Yeah, exactly.  Our society encourages people to have children and get mortgages so that they’ll be in a position where they have to do unethical things for money.  That’s pretty much how civilization works.

      Maybe the trust-funded hipsters and internet warriors have it right after all.

      Edit: Go forth and multiply, suckers.

    1.  She mentions that in the statement: “One of my concerned correspondents asked me what my brother, the late Dr. Janez Drnovsek , would have thought of my signature.”

  6. To be fair, she does say that there was an upcoming dragon year. We had ours a few years ago, and let me tell you, it was draining. Dragons booked all the hotel rooms, and left a mess, partying until all hours. Some locals had to rent out the spare bedroom. You couldn’t find an available rental car. You would go into a restaurant, and all the dragons there would turn and stare until you left.

    They left as suddenly as they arrived. To this day, I have no idea what the dragons were doing, but they seemed to be determined to have a good time.

  7. She’s an ambassador. As an ambassador she represents the government and must do what the government says- or else resign. Regardless of her civic duty that is her job. If her civic duty outweighs her responsibilities as a diplomat she must step down in order to refuse to follow through with her instructions.

  8. Limitless hypocrisy …. how can you not resign after this? Instructed to sign? Really? Was she signing with the name of the country or her own name? She bears full responsibility and must ask for her calling back or resign. Saying you are sorry after this is pathetic and dishonouring. Her job is to read what she signs… she didn’t do that… sorry is just not enough anymore.

    1. Well, it’s kind of the point of having an ambassador that she represents the will of her government, and reliably so. Ambassadors don’t just quit when they don’t agree with their government (or when the government changes). Yeah, it sucks that Slovenia decided to sign the agreement and good on her for bringing it to the public’s attention but it’s solely the government’s responsibility, not hers.

  9. Polish Prime Minister just recently announced that ratification of ACTA is on hold. I guess social pressure does account for something in our country. Though this certainly is not the last word, it’s not to put in on hold but to repeal it. Also we should try to turn the table on them, while we get the chance, and make a case against copyright (or at least invasive protection for it).

  10. She should have added a note while signing, like Obama.
    Apparently that’s the new get-out-of-guilt card.

  11. How many of the hyper-critical here always read every last word of every page of the small-print on anything they sign? I’ll call anyone who says they do a liar, unless they’re a lawyer, because nobody ever does, especially a document prepared by a government and presented as a Fâit Accompli with only a signature required to ratify it.
    Here’s something to consider: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
    Spoken by a far wiser man than many commentators on here.

    1. Here’s something to consider: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
      Spoken by a far wiser man than many commentators on here.

      Pardon me if I don’t take advice from a guy who got the death penalty in his early thirties for being a religious nut.

    2.  Some of us sign less things, so we can.

      However, I’ll agree with your macro-point here. Certainly someone in this person’s job wouldn’t have time, (or more likely, opportunity) to do so.

      Appeal to celebrity isn’t a good rhetorical argument, but given that we’re talking about stoning someone to death, I’ve always appreciated the sentiment of this quote, no matter who originated it.


  12. bullshit!

    At least that’s what I think she was trying to say through all the cake crammed in her mouth.

  13. It takes a brave person within the political scene to change their mind.  

    Remember, we had a couple Republicans switch parties a few years ago, so resigning isn’t necessary  in some situations. 

  14. I know this woman personally and I have to say that she sincerely feels bad about her decision but she had no way of not signing it as she was ordered to do it. It is true that she should read ACTA thoroughly and complain to Slovene government before signing it.

    I think she has a great character for apologizing and trying to fix her mistake unlike 99,9999% politicians on this world.

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