Politics

26 Feb 2020, 17:26 PM

STA, 26 February 2020 - President Borut Pahor on Wednesday formally nominated Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), for prime minister after four parties reached an agreement forming a centre-right coalition.

New Slovene Govt Announces Policies on Conscription, Borders, Housing, Health, Taxes, Cannabis, EU & More (Feature)

Having joined forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) Janša can count on a slim but comfortable majority in the 90-member parliament, which has to vote on the nomination in seven days at the latest.

Janša said the coalition agreement showed the four parties were willing to seek compromise solutions and would work to tackle the most pressing issues that Slovenia faces, even as he acknowledged that it was impossible to achieve everything that had to be done in the two and a half years until the next scheduled election.

He highlighted tackling healthcare, environmental issues and the elderly situation as top priorities. The coalition agreement envisages establishing a government demographic fund to deal with the issue of population ageing.

Moreover, decentralisation and debureaucratisation are expected to be among the potential coalition's main targets.

Janša believes that it goes without saying the parties will also implement any Constitutional Court ruling, including the decision mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, even if the latter is not written down in the agreement.

He added that he would seek cooperation with the opposition and national minority MPs as well. The coalition plans to sign an agreement outlining national minority issues with the latter.

The likely new prime minister said that the coalition did not initially plan any changes to the government act due to shortage of time. He did say though that amending the budget would be necessary.

Pahor said he was glad the period of political uncertainty following the resignation of Marjan Šarec as prime minister in late January had been so short.

He called on political stakeholders to engage in dialogue and refrain from excluding anyone, while pledging to work together with the government in his capacity as president. "I want this cooperation to be constructive and for the benefit of our country and all the people."

The president expects every one to refrain from any offensive statements or actions and to strengthen trust in the constitutional system.

Asked about alleged intimidation tactics used during coalition formation, Janša said that threats meant the line had been crossed. He deems this kind of pressure illegitimate.

Pahor meanwhile added that public figures were faced with pressure on a regular basis and as long as such pressure was expressed in an appropriate way, that was acceptable. However, he warned against spreading hatred.

Prompted by the press, Janša also touched upon his media relations and Twitter communication, saying "what do you think influences public opinion more? A public accusation in a media outlet watched by 400,000 people or a tweet read by a few thousands? When this is measured in the same way, then we could have a serious discussion about that".

Profile: Janez Janša – Constant Player and Bête Noire of the Left

26 Feb 2020, 12:13 PM

STA, 26 February - The coalition government that is being formed by Janez Janša is planning to reintroduce military conscription, effectively secure the border, decentralise the country and increase local government funding, as well as introduce a general child benefit.

This follows from a 13-page draft coalition agreement obtained by the STA. The draft was initialled on Monday by Janša's Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi), Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners Party (DeSUS), but unofficial information indicates the parties have already signed the agreement.

Under the draft, the partners plan to gradually reintroduce conscription, which Slovenia abandoned in 2003, and a six-month military service. They also pledge to "tackle the situation" in the police force and consistently implement asylum procedures.

More on the conscription plans here

The parties have also committed to implement the Constitutional Court ruling mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, and complete the system to fund science and research.

The per-capita funding of municipalities is to be raised to EUR 623.96 in 2020 and EUR 628.20 in 2021, which compares to EUR 589.11 and EUR 588.30, respectively, under the valid budget implementation act.

The coalition pledge to put in place a housing scheme for young families, build rental flats and establish a demographic and pension fund, headquartered in Maribor. Slovenia's second city will also host a government demographic fund. Pension rights are not to be changed.

The coalition also plan to reform social transfers policy and introduce free kindergarten for second or more children simultaneously enrolled in pre-school care and education. Family-friendly policies also include plans to introduce a universal child allowance.

The coalition pledge to secure extra financing from pubic and other funds in order to establish a financially sustainable and stable financing of the national health system and long-term care, and take effective measures to cut short waiting times in healthcare by engaging all staff resources.

The commitments include adopting legislation on long-term care and reforming the healthcare and health insurance act to change the management and functioning of the Health Insurance Institute and transform top-up health insurance.

Under the plans, employees will be able to take three days of sick leave without seeing a doctor, but only up to nine days a year. Measures are also planned to increase the vaccination rate and to set up an agency for quality of medical services.

The coalition have also committed to reduce taxes on performance bonuses and to reform the public sector wage system by pegging part of pay to performance.

Plans in the judiciary include making court rulings fully public and giving judges the option to pass dissenting opinions. Legislative changes are to affect the Judicial Council, state prosecution service, insolvency law and penal procedure.

The foreign policy agenda includes a pledge to support Western Balkan countries in their integration in the EU and NATO.

Other concrete projects include introducing e-motorway toll stickers and considering the option to transfer the Koper-Divača railway project and its manager 2TDK to the national railways operator.

The coalition would also like to reform land policies and the Farmland Fund, amend the co-operatives act and regulate production and use of cannabis in medicine and industry.

The coalition agreement sets out that the partners are taking the responsibility to manage the state according to voters' will, constitutional values, and rights and obligations as set forth in the agreement, based on the principles of equality and partnership.

The coalition pledges to focus on what connects and unites people in the country, and to advocate cooperation based on the willingness to work for the common good.

Under the draft, the SDS will be responsible for the departments of home and foreign affairs, finance, culture, which includes media, as well as the environment, diaspora and cohesion. The SMC was allocated the briefs of education, economy, public administration and justice, the NSi labour, infrastructure and defence, and DeSUS health, agriculture and the demographic fund.

26 Feb 2020, 08:57 AM

STA, 25 February 2020 - Providing a key seal of approval for a new centre-right government in Slovenia, the executive councils of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi), the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), and the Democrats (SDS) all backed on Tuesday the entry into a coalition led by SDS president Janez Janša.

Profile: Janez Janša – Constant Player and Bête Noire of the Left

The nods came after weeks of talks held following the 27 January resignation of PM Marjan Šarec, who had formed a minority centre-left government in September 2018.

The draft coalition agreement was initialled by the four parties on Monday, while consultation talks were held today with President Borut Pahor, who is likely to nominate Janša for his third stint as prime minister on Wednesday.

The parties, which have 48 votes in the 90-member National Assembly, have already divided the ministerial posts among them.

Several media reported that SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek would stay economy minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec would remain in charge of the Agriculture Ministry, while NSi head Matej Tonin would become defence minister.

Other names circulated include the SDS's Anže Logar as foreign minister, the SDS's Zvonko Černač as interior minister, the SDS's Andrej Šircelj as finance minister, DeSUS's Tomaž Gantar as health minister, the SMC's Igor Zorčič as justice minister, the NSi's Cveto Uršič as labour, family and social affairs minister, and the NSi's Jernej Vrtovec as infrastructure minister. The SDS will allegedly also head the culture ministry.

Tonin indicated after the NSi's executive council session that the party had expected a little more from the coalition agreement, in particular bolder steps in healthcare.

56 of the NSi's 88 executive council members cast their vote today, all voting in favour.

Tonin confirmed the NSi had gotten the three departments mentioned by the media and that he would be put forward for defence minister. The candidates for the two remaining NSi cabinet posts are on the other hand still being discussed.

The second party to reveal its decision was the SMC, where Jani Möderndorfer, one of the SMC 10 MPs, was the only to vote against.

RTV Slovenija reported that some of the SMC's MPs allegedly received an offer from Marjan Šarec's LMŠ to vote against today and instead join the LMŠ to get favourable treatment on the party's slates in the next general elections.

SMC head Počivalšek told the press after the vote that "Slovenia needs an operational and mature government, capable of facing the challenges ahead".

"It is important to say that this will not be a coalition of one party... of one [party] president, this will be a coalition of four parties operating in consensus.

"This will also be a government for which 47% of voters voted in the last election and I am confident that such a government will work for the good of all of us," said Počivalšek.

Pivec of DeSUS revealed her party's decision shortly after, saying DeSUS was content with what it secured in the coalition negotiations.

Along with the agriculture and health minister, DeSUS is also expected to head the planned government demographic office. The vote on the executive council was 12:1 and on the council 45:5.

Addressing the press on behalf of the SDS was the party's MP Anže Logar, who explained that 219 of 219 SDS executive council members had voted in favour today.

He hopes the decisions adopted today will also be reflected in the parliamentary votes on the PM nominee and the ministerial team, which he hopes will proceed promptly.

Keep up with Slovenian politics here

25 Feb 2020, 16:06 PM

STA, 25 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS), Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) have reached an agreement on forming a coalition, the head of the SDS deputy group Danijel Krivec announced on Tuesday.

He said the SDS's proposal to appoint party head Janez Janša prime minister had already been forwarded to President Borut Pahor.

The four parties have found common ground and the final decisions of the executive bodies of the SMC, NSi and DeSUS are expected this evening, Krivec said.

He noted that the SDS had secured 26 MP votes for the appointment of the new government while the number of additional votes would be clear this evening.

The SDS deputy head did not confirm unofficial information that the draft coalition agreement was initialled on Monday.

He also said that staffing decisions were yet to be finalised and did not confirm unofficial media reports on the distribution of ministries among the four parties.

He said this would depend on the decision of parties' bodies.

According to unofficial reports, SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek would stay economy minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec would remain in charge of the Agriculture Ministry, while NSi head Matej Tonin would become defence minister.

Pahor is conducting a second round of talks on the coalition building with the heads of SMC, NSi and DeSUS deputy groups today.

SMC deputy group head Igor Zorčič told Pahor that a draft coalition agreement among the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS had been agreed on Monday evening.

He said the agreement met the SMC's demands and dispelled fears about some SDS policies that had been raised by the civil society.

He also said that an agreement had been reached on the distribution of government posts but he would not go into detail.

Both was confirmed by NSi deputy group head Jožef Horvat after his meeting with Pahor. But Horvat stressed that the final decision would be made by the party council this evening.

Horvat said it had been agreed that the NSi would nominate the defence, infrastructure and labour ministers. The party has not picked the candidates yet.

DeSUS deputy group head Franc Jurša said the coalition agreement included the establishment of an office for demographics, which the party would lead along with the ministries of agriculture and health.

If all three deputy group heads express support to Janša as prime minister, Pahor will hold an official meeting with him on Wednesday. If they do not, Pahor will notify the National Assembly that he will be not putting forward a PM-designate.

The deadline for his decision is this Friday.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

23 Feb 2020, 11:08 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 21 February 2020

Mladina: SDS puts autocratic tendencies on open display

STA, 21 February 2020 - The left-wing weekly paper Mladina argues in its latest editorial that unlike in the past, the Democrats (SDS) do not even bother to conceal the wolf hiding under their sheep's clothing, immediately revealing their revenge-driven, arrogant and autocratic view of politics and the state.

Things got real much sooner than expected, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says, highlighting the threat issued by SDS MP Žan Mahnič to Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar as well as SDS head Janez Janša's statement that the SDS was discussing the editorial policy at the left-leaning daily Dnevnik.

"Coming from any other politician, this would perhaps be understood as a (bad) joke. But not with Janša. Because he already did this. And is doing it," Repovž says in Has the Election Campaign Already Begun?.

"He is interfering in the media all the time, if needed he will sell the nation's silverware (retailer Mercator in exchange for influence on the papers Večer and Delo) or even his own political sovereignty (he did it when he took millions from Hungary to build a media empire)," Repovž says.

Mladina's editor speaks of Janša's obsession with the media and his blaming of allegedly exclusively left-oriented media for his failures, while pointing out that Janša's term at helm of the SDS has been the longest among any heads of serious political parties in Europe.

Repovž argues that the latest developments are only a repeated demonstration of what makes the SDS a party that no serious democratic party is able to cooperate with.

He then turns to the Modern Centre Party (SMC), which he says will make the unoriginal mistake of entering an SDS-led coalition only to gradually disappear while giving absolutely everything to Janša - the latter will in turn say thank you and go to an early election.

Reporter: Deep State & Janša

STA, 17 February 2020 - Reflecting on Janez Janša's chances to form a government this term, the latest editorial of the right-leaning weekly magazine Reporter speculates that a short-lived Janša government may be in the interest of the deep state.

Under the headline Coincidental Prime Minister-Designate, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla writes that Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), probably has a better chance forming a government now than after an early election unless the balance of power between the left and right changed substantially.

Being that the ballot to appoint PM-designate is secret and that many MPs are "trembling about where to find new jobs", Janša should not have difficulty securing 46 votes.

"The problem could emerge later; the new government, like the Šarec cabinet would be in the draught all the time. Janša (...) is probably aware of that. It is obvious he desires immensely to be prime minister, the question is whether also at all cost.

"Even more than Janša, a new government is desired by SMC [Modern Centre Party] leader Zdravko Počivalšek (...) polls show it would be hard for the SMC to make it to parliament in a snap election, so Počivalšek is hoping to enhance the party under Janša."

Šurla finds that the biggest problem for a new Janša coalition is the SMC because it is still not clear how many MP votes the party can secure with at least two or even half of the SMC's ten MPs rumoured to be opposed to a Janša-led coalition.

The paper notes that the Marjan Šarec minority government saw the start of its end when the Left denied its support, wondering whether the leader of the Left Luka Mesec might have been ordered to make the move because of a new master plan ready in the background.

"Considering that the opportunity for a new government literally landed in Janša's arms even though parties left of the centre have as many as 52 members in parliament this term, the potential role of the so-called deep state should not be overlooked.

"What if it is in the interest of the uncles behind the scenes to have Janša return to power for a short while so that his government take some urgent, unpopular measures, which would spark off a revolt in the form of 'popular uprisings' that would bring new faces of the 'transition left' back to power?"

All our posts in this series are here

22 Feb 2020, 14:04 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 14 February
        MUNICH, Germany - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec rebuked the EU over excessive self-absorption and inefficiency as he spoke on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Illustrating, he said the bloc was not even capable of agreeing its expansion to the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec urged for the chairs of "relevant parliamentary committees" to start actively discussing potentially problematic foreign funding of Slovenian parties and their media outlets. This followed media reports that Hungarian companies were financing media outlets close to Janez Janša's Democratic Party (SDS). Šarec also warned against a potential new Janša-led coalition government.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor announced he would hold a second round of consultations with parliamentary parties on 24 and 25 February to determine whether there is sufficient consensus for him to nominate a prime minister-designate.
        KOMEN - Addressing a World War II commemoration, President Borut Pahor expressed sadness over the "abuse of 10 February, the Foibe Remembrance Day," and regret that senior Italian officials ignored the historical truth Slovenia and Italy established together.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office reported that the value of construction work put in place in Slovenia increased by 3.3% in 2019, a significant slowdown compared to the 20% expansion in 2018.

SATURDAY, 15 February
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Addressing an event marking the 31st anniversary of the Democratic Party (SDS), its leader Janez Janša said a new early election was likely close despite the SDS being in talks with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and New Slovenia (NSi) to form a government.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democratic Party (SDS) polled at 20.1% in a survey commissioned by broadcaster Nova24TV, up 1.8 percentage point from a week ago, followed by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) at 12.8% (down 4.4pp) and the Social Democrats (SD) at 6.5%.
        LJUBLJANA - Stojan Nikolić, the CEO of the power group HSE, indicated in an interview with Dnevnik that TEŠ6, Slovenia's newest coal-fired generator, was likely to close down early because its supplier, the Velenje mine, was unlikely to be viable after 2045.
        KRANJSKA GORA - Local Meta Hrovat paced third at the Alpine Ski World Cup giant slalom event for the Golden Fox Cup along with Swiss Wendy Holdener, following Alice Robinson of New Zealand in first and Slovak Petra Vlhova in second. Vlhova secured the Golden Fox trophy by finishing first in the slalom on Sunday. The two-day event attracted 10,000 spectators.
        PTUJ - The 60th Kurentovanje carnival, Slovenia's largest, got under way, bringing together more than 2,200 traditional costumed figures or 44 groups from across the world, including four costumes protected by UNESCO.

SUNDAY, 16 February
        MUNICH, Germany - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended panels on the Western Balkans and the Three Seas Initiative and held a number of bilateral meetings at the 2020 Munich Security Conference.
        BAD MITTERNDORF, Austria - Timi Zajc placed third at the Ski Jumping World Cup event to secure a second podium at the same venue after finishing second the day before for his third podium finish this winter.
        CHICAGO, US - Luka Dončić scored 8 points in the 2020 NBA All Star Game, contributing four passes for the winning Team LeBron, headed by the legendary LeBron James of the LA Lakers. Team LeBron won the game 157 to 155 against Team Giannis, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

MONDAY, 17 February
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, attending the Foreign Affairs Council, assessed that European Council President Charles Michel's proposal for the EU's 2021-2027 budget was still inadequate for Slovenia despite slight improvements in cohesion policy.
        LJUBLJANA - Jernej Pavlič, secretary general of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), denied the speculation that the party was considering joining a potential centre-right government that is being formed by Janez Janša.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) gained 2.6 percentage points to 19.6% in the Vox Populi poll to overtake the LMŠ party of the outgoing PM Marjan Šarec, which slipped back 2.3 points to 17.1%. The poll, commissioned by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer, also showed over half the respondents favoured a snap election.

TUESDAY, 18 February
        LJUBLJANA - A delegation of the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services, headed by vice-chair Žan Mahnič (SDS), made an unannounced visit to the National Bureau of Investigation examine the allegation that outgoing PM Marjan Šarec and his state secretary Damir Črnčec had abused intelligence and security services to "influence, threaten and extort MPs and leaderships of parties of the potential future coalition". Šarec and Črnčec denied the allegation as fake news propagated by the SDS. Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar denied any police spying, accusing Manhič of threatening her as she refused to hand over documentation she said exceeded the commission's powers. In response, parties urged for the allegations to be investigated. The police and the Information Commissioner are looking into the matter.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Donald Tusk, the head of the European People's Party (EPP), pleaded with the Slovenian members of the EPP not to waste the chance to take "leadership in both the parliament and the government", after meeting New Slovenia (NSi) head Matej Tonin. NSi is one of the parties in talks to form a government led by the fellow EPP member Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Health Committee and the government were briefed by health officials that Slovenia was well prepared for early diagnosis in case of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. However, MPs were also told that hospitals could not handle a great number of patients.
        LJUBLJANA - A petition addressed to PM Marjan Šarec and backed by 12,700 individuals and 255 organisations called for the government to take more resolute action to decarbonise the energy, transport and agriculture sectors.
        LJUBLJANA - Police statistics showed the number of cases of illegal border crossing nearly doubled (+85%) year-on-year to 595 in January. Most of the migrants were returned to Croatia.
        LJUBLJANA - The Pension and Disability Insurance Institute (ZPIZ) endorsed a regular annual adjustment of pensions to wage and consumer prices growth as a result of which pensioners will get a 3.2% rise at the end of the month. Higher pensions will cost the pension fund EUR 172 million a year.
        LJUBLJANA - 2TDK, the state company managing the construction of the new railway between the port of Koper and Divača, announced it would ask Markomark Nival, the bidder that won the subsequently annulled tender for the first of several bridges on the planned track, to change its subcontractor which cited flawed reference in the bid. This was after the National Review Commission said 2TDK had been right to doubt the reference but should not have annulled the tender.
        LJUBLJANA - The Trade Union of Journalists and Journalists' Association protested against layoffs at Delo, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, saying the management was demolishing the newspaper and Slovenian journalism by shedding a quarter of its workforce within three years.
        LJUBLJANA - The energy company Petrol confirmed that it had been chosen as the best bidder to acquire E3, the subsidiary of the power distributor Elektro Primorska which is one of the largest electricity sellers in the country. The newspaper Finance reported that Petrol would pay EUR 15 million for E3, which would raise its share in the electricity retail market to 20%.

WEDNESDAY, 19 February
        LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs successfully challenged the decision of the Environment Agency that no environmental impact assessment is necessary for the 20-year life-span extension for Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant.
        LJUBLJANA - Tourism companies and tourism and hospitality trade unions signed an annex to the collective bargaining agreement to increase the lowest basic wages; these will go up by 5% on 1 March and 5.25% more on 1 July, and the holiday allowance will increase by EUR 100 to EUR 1,150.
        SLOVENJ GRADEC - The 14th annual auction of valuable timber saw a record EUR 2 million worth of logs change hands. More than half of the wood was sold abroad with the biggest buyer coming from China. A 100-year old sycamore maple log was sold to a German buyer for EUR 29,160 or EUR 14,414 per cubic metre, which the organizers described as an absolute record.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology announced Slovenian companies were now able to do business on Amazon Europe. This was after the US tech company made technical adjustments to include Slovenia among supported countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Culture Committee called on the corruption watchdog to look into appointments of heads of culture institutions made by the Culture Ministry due to suspicions of politically-motivated staffing. Culture Minister Zoran Poznič denied the allegations.
        LJUBLJANA - Film director Ema Kugler was declared the winner of this year's Štiglic lifetime achievement award in film and theatre directing. She will receive the accolade given out by the Association of Slovenian Directors at an award ceremony on 27 February.

THURSDAY, 20 February
        LJUBLJANA - Two of the six Slovenian passengers quarantined for over a fortnight on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Japanese port of Yokohama tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The other four tested negative. Two of arrived in Slovenia on a commercial flight and were placed under a 14-day quarantine, while two are still waiting to return.
        BRUSSELS - Arriving for an EU summit aiming to reach a consensus on the bloc's budget for 2021-2027, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia could not accept the latest compromise proposal under which it would lose 24% in cohesion funds. He said negotiations would be tough.
        LJUBLJANA - RTV Slovenija, the public broadcaster, warned of escalating attacks on its journalists, editors and other staff in recent days in the form of threatening and offensive phone calls, e-mails, letters and social network posts, condemning them in the strongest terms as an attack on journalism.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest bank, NLB reported its group net profit decrease by 5% to EUR 193.6 million last year. The core bank's profit rose by 6.5% to EUR 176.1 million.

All our posts in this series are here

22 Feb 2020, 13:44 PM

STA, 21 February - Coming out of an EU summit dedicated to the bloc's next seven-year budget, which ended without an agreement, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told reporters on Friday that the European Commission had presented a technical proposal for the 2021-2027 budget which the cohesion countries rejected. Šarec called the proposal a provocation.

"There is still no deal and we didn't expect it," said Šarec after the two-day negotiations.

He blamed the four net payer countries - Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria - for the failed talks.

Šarec believes the four countries, which are insisting on 1% of the EU's gross national income (GNI) for the first post-Brexit EU budget, want to cut the budget and are not ambitious enough. "The negotiations came to a standstill because of them ..." he said.

The other group of countries comprises of 17 net receiver countries known as friends of cohesion, which according to Šarec want an ambitious budget and claim that it is impossible to do more with less funds.

"We had two meetings today and we were united on both of them that this does not make any sense at the moment," the PM said.

The cohesion countries agreed that the latest proposal is unacceptable, because it is not ambitious enough and does not allocate enough funds for cohesion. "In addition, Slovenia cannot be certain whether it would get what it wants."

The plenary session, which was postponed several times during the day, was very short. The technical proposal, presented by the Commission, was not even discussed, according to Šarec "because we saw it as a provocation after everything we have witnessed in the last 24 hours".

Šarec said the cohesion countries had been united that there was no point in opening a new round of talks today and that it was better to "go home and make all the calculations again".

"We have to start fresh," Šarec said, adding that no talks were possible until a better proposal was on the table.

The outgoing prime minister reiterated that Slovenia would insist that a 24% cut in cohesion funds compared to the current budget was unacceptable.

EU leaders are expected to convene another meeting in March. It is not clear yet, however, whether this will be a regular meeting or another extraordinary meeting. 5 March is being mentioned unofficially as a possible date for a potential extraordinary summit.

22 Feb 2020, 09:54 AM

STA, 21 February - Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar is to file a defamation complaint against Žan Mahnič, a Democrats (SDS) MP and vice chair of the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS) after he had accused her of lying about alleged spying on politicians by the police and called on her to resign.

The police said in a press release late on Thursday that Bobnar would lodge a complaint against Mahnič over "misleading and malicious statements and an attack on her honour, good name and integrity".

"It has apparently become a habit of some politicians to try and shape public opinion" by intentionally repeating lies, the police said after Mahnič called on Bobnar to resign.

Mahnič said the fact that the police had launched a preliminary investigation into the spying allegations - Bobnar spoke on Thursday of an investigation against possible spying by individuals outside the police force - was proof that she had been lying to KNOVS members as they had made an inquiry on Tuesday, and should thus resign.

The MP said in a tweet yesterday that the launch of the preliminary investigation in and of itself meant that there is reasonable suspicion that politicians had been spied on.

Bobnar told him and two other KNOVS members, who made an unannounced visit to the police on Tuesday, that the allegations were "fabrications of some web portal and that procedures cannot be launched over every article," said Mahnič in reference to reports about spying allegations published by the SDS-launched weekly Demokracija and the news portal Požareport.

The police responded in the evening, saying that "in line with the principle of legality, police always investigated to see if there is reasonable suspicion for criminal acts of which perpetrators are prosecuted ex officio.

"The police have done this in this concrete case as well, but the launch of a preliminary investigation is far from reasonable suspicion and cannot be launched because of something that has, in Mahnič's words, been known for a long time," the police also said.

22 Feb 2020, 09:34 AM

STA, 18 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS) called on Tuesday for an emergency session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission to examine a cooperation memorandum signed last September by the state-controlled energy company Petrol with a Russian company subject to US sanctions.

The memorandum with T Plus was signed as part of a visit to Moscow by outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and envisages cooperation with the T Plus Group and Schneider Electric Russia in the field of energy efficiency.

Petrol's chairman at the time Tomaž Berločnik said the two projects planned involved work on the optimisation of district heating. He valued them at "a few million euro" and potentially at a few dozen million in the future.

However, citing documents published by the US Department of the Treasury, the SDS is pointing out that T Plus is part of the Russian Renova Group, which is subject to US sanctions along with its billionaire owner Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg.

The sanctions were introduced in April 2018 over interference in the 2016 US presidential election, with the US also freezing Vekselberg's assets.

The SDS is puzzled by how the government, Foreign Ministry and the SOVA intelligence agency could allow the memorandum to be signed, and what is even worse, to be signed during Šarec's official visit to Moscow.

The party claims all of the listed institutions as well as the PM and the management and supervisory bodies of Petrol and state asset manager SSH had obviously failed to fulfil their duties.

The SDS says that Petrol now runs the danger of becoming subject to retaliation measures on the part of the US, which could undermine government revenue and the value of state assets, while the SSH and government could also be compromised.

"The signing of the memorandum under to auspices of the Slovenian government could also bring negative consequences for other areas of transatlantic cooperation," the party wrote.

The SDS is thus proposing that the Public Finance Oversight Commission ask the government to have the SSH draw up a report on the matter, to have Petrol withdraw from the memorandum and to have authorities examine whether official duties were neglected, money laundered or terrorism financed as part of the memorandum signing.

21 Feb 2020, 09:43 AM

STA, 20 February 2020 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor has sent a letter of condolences to his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier over Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Hanau, which has left eleven people dead, including the suspected perpetrator and his mother.

In the letter, Pahor expressed his condolences and compassion to the families and relatives of the victims on behalf of Slovenia, says a post on the president's official Twitter account.

A subsequent tweet added that the "president condemns any violence which endangers tolerance and coexistence, without which it is impossible to build a safe future for all."

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar also expressed Slovenia's solidarity with Germany in a tweet today. He extended his "sincere condolences" to his German counterpart Heiko Maas and the relatives of the victims.

The town in the German state of Hesse, located 25 km east of Frankfurt, saw two separate armed attacks on Wednesday evening and night, in which at least nine people were killed.

Several hours after the attacks, the police found in an apartment the dead body of the suspected shooter along his dead mother. The German federal prosecution is treating the attacks as an act of terrorism.

20 Feb 2020, 11:34 AM

STA, 20 February 2020 - The parliamentary Culture Committee called on the corruption watchdog last night to look into appointments of heads of culture institutions made by the Culture Ministry due to suspicions of politically-motivated staffing. Culture Minister Zoran Poznič denies the allegations.

The committee session was called by the Left, which claims that Poznič, a member of the Social Democrats (SD), has been appointing people linked to the party to top positions in some of the main public institutions.

The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) will thus look into appointments and attempts to replace heads at the Technical Museum, the Slovenian Philharmonic and the Modern Gallery museum.

Poznič defended the decision to appoint a translator to the helm of the Technical Museum late last year despite the fact that the museum's council and expert board found that director Nataša Polenec was the only candidate to meet the conditions from the call for applications.

Poznič said Polenec was replaced because he was unhappy with the way she led the museum. However, Polenec challenged the appointment of Barbara Juršič in administrative court. She achieved a temporary suspension and took over from Juršič after only ten days.

Luka Mesec of the Left said in the debate that the head of the Book Agency was facing dismissal by the ministry and criticised the situation in the Ljubljana Opera House after the appointment of Staš Ravter, who was allegedly responsible for the closure of the Kinodvor cinema years ago.

Poznič on the other hand, denied the allegations of political staffing and expressed anger over "half-truths and lies" reported by the media.

According to these reports, his predecessor Dejan Prešiček is a candidate for several jobs, Poznič said, while one of the employees in his office was reportedly to replace Zdenka Badovinac at the helm of the Modern Gallery, which Poznič said was absurd.

Poznič wants, according to the Left, to appoint Prešiček head of the Philharmonics. Indeed, the minister has launched the procedure to dismiss Philharmonic director Marjetka Mahne, citing poor business results.

Mahne, in response, said that she had complete control over the use of public funds. Most of the ensemble wants Mahne to stay, while the Philharmonics' two governing bodies have called on her to resign.

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