Politics

21 Feb 2019, 17:23 PM

STA, 21 February 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt said after a meeting in Ljubljana on Thursday that their respective countries would do everything possible so that the rights of Slovenian and British citizens did not suffer in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

 

Cerar said that Slovenia wanted a Brexit scenario with an agreement, adding that both sides had agreed that Slovenia and the UK must make sure that the status of their respective citizens did not deteriorate after Brexit.

"They need to enjoy the same rights and they need to preserve their status," the Slovenian foreign minister said, adding that reciprocity would be secured with legislative changes which were already being prepared in Slovenia.

The British foreign secretary added he agreed with Cerar about proceeding on the basis of reciprocity and that Slovenian and British citizens would enjoy all rights, including in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Slovenia has "confirmed that the rights of British citizens will be preserved", Hunt said, adding that one of the most important things was that individual citizens' rights did not suffer and that they could continue with their daily lives.

Cerar added that Slovenia did not want a no-deal Brexit because both sides would suffer damage in other fields as well. "There would be negative consequences in the economy," he said, estimating that Slovenia's GDP would drop by 0.25%.

Asked about the no-deal scenario, he said that ministries were preparing legislative changes in the fields of social rights and insurance, and potential changes to the citizenship act as British nationals would become third-country citizens.

Hunt expressed the hope that a Brexit deal to mutual satisfaction would be reached, also because of what are some 5,000 Slovenian citizens living in the UK, who are "contributing to the UK economy and social life".

Cerar stressed that Hunt's visit confirmed the excellent relations between Slovenia and the UK in politics and economy, as they were friendly countries which were also allies within NATO.

"The things are developing well in the field of economy," he said, adding that Slovenia remained open to and invited British investors to continue making "healthy investments with a good business model" in Slovenia.

Slovenia and the UK need to continue to cooperate also because of the security challenges and illegal migrations, Cerar said, adding that he had also discussed with Hunt other EU topics and the Western Balkans.

He said that they agreed that the EU must remain open to enlargement to the region provided that the Western Balkan countries meet the conditions, while the EU must provide economic and security assistance.

Hunt praised the transformation of Slovenia in the last 30 years into a modern democracy and a growing economy, noting that the UK had excellent bilateral relations with Slovenia.

"We will continue to provide strong support to Slovenia's efforts to preserve peace in the Balkan region," Hunt said, while also welcoming Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who is to pay a visit to London for bilateral talks next week.

All our stories on Brexit and Slovenia can be found here

21 Feb 2019, 17:11 PM

STA, 21 February - President Borut Pahor wrapped up his two-day trip to Brussels with a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday. Pahor expressed great satisfaction with his stay, saying was not a classic visit dictated by protocol.

He was especially pleased that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker accepted his invitation to a Three Seas Initiative conference in June and that High Representative Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini accepted an invitation to the next Brdo-Brijuni conference.

"Slovenia is wholeheartedly a part of the western world, sharing in its opportunities and worries. This is about being able to position oneself in complicated circumstances that see the western world changing in face of contradiction."

Tusk tweeted that he had a good meeting with Pahor and that they discussed the situation in the Western Balkans, the future of Europe and the Brdo-Brijuni conference.

As regards the Western Balkans, Pahor underlined it was key the EU does not let Northern Macedonia hanging dry, with Juncker ensuring him that they were doing everything to set a date to launch accession talks in June.

Juncker expressed support for the Three Seas Initiative, promising he would do everything to attend the next meeting, hosted by Slovenia in early June.

Responding to criticism that the initiative was too pro-American, Pahor said that Russia and China were also trying to carve out a part of the market for themselves and he sees no reason why US investments should be any less welcome, after all the US business model and culture are closer to Europe's.

The president believes that the conference will be a great opportunity for Slovenia because it would feature the heads of large banks. He also sees it as an opportunity for port operator Luka Koper, but would not go into detail.

The US is also amidst serious preparations for the conference, but it is not yet sure who would represent the country, said Pahor.

Juncker's confirmation adds leverage to hopes that "maybe we could get a high [US] representative, maybe even the highest," said the president but added that he did not wish to increase expectations.

The president said he told Juncker once again that the Commission missed an opportunity in the border arbitration process between Slovenia and Croatia to underline the importance of the rule of law and honouring one's obligations.

Juncker replied, according to Pahor, that the EU did not have a duty but the right to join Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia, which it chose not to do.

He also underlined that the arbitration pact was co-signed nearly four years ago by the then Swedish Prime Minister and Council President Frederik Reinfeld and that the EU had political and legal obligations not to discard efforts to uphold the pact that laid out the course of border arbitration.

21 Feb 2019, 12:53 PM

STA, 20 February 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor underscored the need to invest in security as he visited NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeated his call for an increase in defence spending.

"Slovenia is increasing defence spending not because it would face a direct military threat, but because the world is less safe a place today, and also because [Slovenia] is part of the western world. Like fifteen years ago, I continue to believe today it's important we understand this," said Pahor.

Slovenia joined NATO and the EU in 2004 and Pahor said his latest visit to NATO was also important symbolically considering the 15th anniversary of the country's membership of the two organisations.

Pahor argued that in compliance with the alliance's defence targets was not about meeting the country's obligations to NATO but rather about its own security; Slovenia must invest in security, he said.

The president said it was understandable for NATO to expect of Slovenia to meet the target of increasing defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2024.

He told Stoltenberg that Slovenia was planning to increase defence budget to 1.5% of GDP by 2024, which he said was a substantial increase considering the strong economic growth.

Stoltenberg lauded Slovenia as a valuable ally which he said contributed to common security and defence in many ways and played an important role in the Western Balkans, in particular in the KFOR mission in Kosovo and in the efforts to bring the countries in the region closer to the EU and NATO.

He also noted Slovenia's participation in the Afghanistan mission, in the battalion in Latvia and in the Trident Juncture exercise.

He again welcomed the fact that after years of decline Slovenia started increasing defence spending, which was substantial in absolute terms considering the economic growth, but he also repeated that he would want the country to make more effort.

Asked for comment about the Slovenian Armed Forces' poor readiness assessments, Stoltenberg repeated that NATO appreciated Slovenia's contribution in the allied missions and operations.

He said that he had met Slovenian soldiers and was able to see their commitment and professionalism, in particular in their key role in Kosovo.

He acknowledged that there had been some readiness issues in the past, but said the very reason of NATO testing the forces to be deployed in its missions and operations was to recognise the problems so they could be dealt with.

This is what Slovenia has done, the readiness problem was addressed, Slovenian troops took part in Trident Juncture, which is a very demanding exercise, and did excellently, said Stoltenberg.

The Western Balkans ranked high on the agenda with Pahor noting the significance of NATO's and the EU's enlargement to countries in the region. He said NATO was doing much better in that respect than the EU having admitted Montenegro with enlargement to North Macedonia due soon.

Pahor, the supreme commender of the Slovenian Armed Forces, noted that he was the first president to visit NATO headquarters last year, which he would want to become a tradition.

21 Feb 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 20 February 2019 - President Borut Pahor said the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and him agreed that addressing the Kosovo situation should also allow for "out of the box" solutions, albeit not based on the ethnic principle. The pair also discussed Venezuela, with Pahor stressing that threats with military force to secure change were unacceptable.

Pahor, who co-chairs the Brdo-Brijuni regional cooperation initiative, handed to Mogherini on Wednesday an invitation to the 8 and 9 May summit in Tirana, Albania.

He stressed that her in-depth analysis, coming after five years as foreign policy chief, would be extremely valuable in the search for solutions concerning the European future of the Western Balkans.

Pahor said Mogherini agreed that original solutions should also be sought to bilateral and multilateral issues in the region. These solutions must not be based on the ethnic principle, he added.

Pahor is happy that Mogherini shares this view, which he described as very daring but still prudent, since some "out of the box" thinking was needed after years of deadlock.

When the initiative first surfaced for a compromise solution that would also involve border changes, this was raising eyebrows in the West, said Pahor, who agreed that bad past experience indeed called for caution.

He is however open to original solutions, provided the process, start to end, is conducted in a wise political fashion, with mutual respect and very disciplined oversight by the international community to prevent collateral damage in the neighbourhood.

Pahor, who said this would be part of the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue, added "the friends of a peaceful solution to the dispute" just need to decide whether they are ready to think "out of the box".

Pahor would oppose a solution that would be based solely on the ethnic principle, while he repeated that an agreement that would not cause collateral damage should not be excluded in advance.

Pahor later also discussed Kosovo with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who stressed NATO supported the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue while it would not go into the specific elements of the dialogue.

He said NATO supported the idea about Prishtina and Belgrade being capable of solving open issues. NATO believes in a political solution and calls on both sides to refrain from actions and rhetoric that would increase tensions, said.

Meanwhile, Mogherini's spokesperson Maja Kocijančič tweeted that the discussion with Pahor had been "excellent", and that it focused on the Western Balkans while also going beyond this topic.

Venezuela also discussed

Pahor said Venezuela had also been discussed, with the pair agreeing that the recognition of Juan Guaido as interim president until an early election was one of the solutions allowing a peaceful path to a president that would represent the country and lead it democratically.

The president said this was the "better among bad possibilities". "We're not in a position where we would have a good vs bad solution regarding Venezuela. We have several bad ones and we both see the recognition of an interim president as a better among bad options," he said.

Pahor stressed it was very important that the enforcement of these changes is not accompanied by military force or even threats of it. Such threats are unacceptable and cannot bode well for a peaceful transition in the country, he said.

20 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 19 February 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Finnish host Juha Sipilä agreed in Helsinki on Tuesday that the two countries shared a number of interests and views as regards the future of the EU. They focused on topical EU issues and Finland's upcoming presidency over the bloc.

 

Highlighted as an example of shared interests was the recent letter for higher EU rural development funding after 2021, initiated by Slovenia and singed by the agriculture ministers of 15 member states. Finland was one of the main supporters of the initiative.

Meanwhile, Šarec listed the deepening of the common market, the circular and digital economy, stronger foreign trade and climate change among the key challenges of the EU.

He argued that the common market still needed to get rid of remaining limitations to the free flow of persons, goods and services, the government said in a press release.

The pair also talked about EU presidency preparations, with both countries being small members and thus benefiting from the exchange of experience. Finland's six-month stint is due later this year and Slovenia's in the second half of 2021.

Brexit and the EU's 2021-2027 financial perspective were given ample attention as well, with Šarec and Sipilä calling for closer cooperation between the two countries, not only in EU affairs but also in the economy, culture and other fields.

As part of the working visit, Šarec also met the leadership of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. Slovenia plans to step up activities this year to join the centre, which currently has 20 EU and NATO members cooperating in efforts against hybrid threats, the government announced.

Šarec also attended a working dinner featuring his counterparts from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands. All of them members of ALDE, they exchanged views on EU affairs ahead of the 9 May informal summit in Sibiu, Romania.

They issued a joint statement after the meeting in which they reiterated their call for a strong Europe that will be an engine of growth, create jobs, security and prosperity for all.

They also called for a Europe that will promote the rule of law and act as a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Moreover, the statement highlights the importance of the upcoming European elections and warns against the negative consequences of populism.

19 Feb 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 18 February - President Borut Pahor will meet top EU and NATO officials in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday to promote a conference which Slovenia will host in June as part of the Three Seas Initiative. Their meetings will also focus on the upcoming EU elections.

 

On Wednesday, Pahor is scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

A meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk is scheduled for Thursday.

"The visit to Brussels is an opportunity to continue dialogue on topical international, European and regional issues at the highest political level," Pahor's office said before the visit.

Pahor is expected to discuss in Brussels Slovenia's active role in the EU and NATO, the EU's future and preparations for two conferences - a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Albania in May and the meeting of the presidents of the countries of the Three Seas Initiative in Slovenia in June.

"Both conferences are to be attended by high EU representatives," the president's office said. Promoting the conference hosted by Slovenia is one of the main purposes of the visit, it added.

The initiative, comprising a dozen EU members and connecting the Adriatic Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea, aims to strengthen the cooperation in infrastructure on the north-south axis and is to help find investors for these projects, including from the US, according to the office.

Slovenia will host the fourth summit of the initiative, which is still evolving. Pahor said at the Munich Security Conference last week that the initiative was "an advocate of a strong and united Europe" and "support to pan-European cooperation."

He also rejected allegation that the US wanted to turn the forum into a club like the Chinese 16+1 initiative.

According to the European Commission, Pahor will discuss topical EU issues with the EU officials in Brussels. The meeting with Mogherini is expected to focus on the Western Balkans.

An important topic will also be the upcoming EU elections and the rise of right-leaning, Eurosceptic parties.

The controversial statements made by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani at a commemoration in Basovizza, Italy, last week, which Slovenia interpreted as territorial claims, are also expected to come up.

Meanwhile, Pahor's meeting with Stoltenberg will be an opportunity to discuss topical NATO issues, reaffirm Slovenia's participation in the alliance and exchange views on other political and security issues that concern Slovenia and NATO, the president's office said.

Defence spending will undoubtedly be discussed as well, given that Slovenia is far from achieving NATO's goal of allocating 2% of GDP to defence by 2024. Slovenia's defence spending is to rise to 1.5% of GDP by then.

NATO member states should invest 20% of their defence budget funds into development of their capabilities, while Slovenia invests only 4.5%.

Pahor's visit also marks the 15th anniversary of Slovenia's EU and NATO memberships.

The president last paid a visit to Brussels at the beginning of January 2017. This will be his fourth meeting with the heads of EU institutions since he took office.

The first meeting was held in January 2013, when he chose Brussels for his first official visit after assuming office a month earlier.

Pahor's visit to NATO's headquarters will be the second visit of a Slovenian president since the country became a full-fledged member. It was Pahor who paid the first visit, in January last year.

Pahor has spent quite a lot of time in Brussels in his career. Prior to becoming prime minister in November 2008, he served as MEP from 2004. As prime minister he regularly attended EU summits there until February 2012.

18 Feb 2019, 16:05 PM

STA, 15 February 2019 - The European Commission has approved EUR 44.3m for Slovenia for projects as part of the LIFE programme for the environment and climate action, including EUR 27.3m for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Commission has announced it will provide a total of EUR 116.1m for twelve major environmental and climate projects in ten countries.

The funds from the programme, combined with other sources, will mobilise a total of EUR 3.2bn in additional support for projects supporting Europe's transition to a low-carbon, circular economy, the European Commission said.

Slovenia will get EUR 17m for integrated projects carried out together with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Portugal.

The projects are expected to contribute to the preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity and improvement of the management of the Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas.

The European Commission noted that Slovenia had one of the highest biodiversity rates in the EU, with around 38% of its territory being included in Natura 2000.

The LIFE programme is already present in the country, and the additional funds are aimed at securing its long-term functioning and greater inclusion of stakeholders.

Slovenia will also get EUR 27.3m for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which will focus on the implementation of the national goals.

The projects relate to the construction of infrastructure, emission-free road traffic, carbon sequestration and improvement of energy efficiency of buildings.

18 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 16 February - Alenka Bratušek was unanimously re-elected to lead the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), as more than 200 delegates got together for an electoral congress in Ljubljana on Saturday, four and a half years after the party was established. She was the only candidate for the post.

Addressing the delegates before the vote, Bratušek said the packed Old Power Station was proof the SAB was there to stay after it had already made a mark in politics.

"We're proud of our achievements ... nothing was given to us, what is more, many have tried to undermine us. That's why we are still here and even stronger."

She also reiterated the coalition party would insist on the government taking measures to improve the pensioners' financial standing and the situation in healthcare.

The party, which has three ministers and five MPs, will also push for improving the situation in public education, for a successful economy and human rights.

Bratušek said that as party president she "will always put first the state, people and our common goals which will make Slovenia a better place".

She recalled the time when she entered politics, including when she took over as prime minister (March 2013-September 2014) at the time of the deepest economic crisis.

Thanking all who had helped her and contributed to Slovenia's exiting the crisis, Bratušek could not avoid mentioning the massive bank bail-out in late 2013.

She admitted it had not been easy to decide to inject five billion euro into the banking system, "yet it was necessary if we wanted to avoid the troika and bankruptcy".

However, she was critical that those who had caused the massive bank shortfall had not yet been brought to justice.

She said those who should have been punished were now using the media to divert attention from the bank shortfall to those who had helped save the country.

"We're talking about those who solved the problem instead of those who became rich due to the bank shortfall or sank our flagship companies," she said.

The congress also elected four vice-president; MP Maša Kociper was re-elected and joined by Tatjana Voj, Slavko Šterman and Cohesion Minister Iztok Purič.

Marko Bandelli, who had had to step down as cohesion minister because of interference in the campaign for local elections last year, did not stand for re-election.

To support the fellow coalition party, senior representatives of three coalition parties attended the congress: SD leader Dejan Židan, and the SMC and LMŠ vice-presidents, Lilijana Kozlovič and Jerca Korče.

Židan recalled the times when Bratušek led the government, a member of which was also his Social Democrats (SD), noting they worked together during the hardest of times.

"We had the courage to rescue Slovenia, and this means we respect each other," said Židan.

Several of the speakers at the congress highlighted Bratušek's strong personality, notably her determination, self-confidence and courage, especially when had led the country.

17 Feb 2019, 09:59 AM

STA, 16 February 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has criticised the conduct of senior Italian politicians in the aftermath of controversial statements made by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini last week, saying that historical revisionism was "completely misguided".

"This is reminiscent of Marshal [Pietro] Badoglio, who took over the government after Mussolini and succeeded in Italy hardly being recognised as a country in which Fascism was in power. Germany has gone through profound denazification, Italy has not had such a process," Šarec told Večer in an interview published on Saturday.

"As a Slovenian, I'm sensitive to falsification of history and in such cases things have to be said clearly. The Slovenian nation has never attacked anybody, it never had territorial designs, on the contrary, we lost a lot, which is why depictions of Slovenians as occupying forces need to be forcefully resisted," he said.

Šarec was among the first Slovenian officials to respond after Tajani and Salvini addressed a ceremony in Basovizza, Italy on Sunday marking the day of remembrance for Italian victims of post WWII-executions. He called the statements "unparalleled revisionism" and said Fascism's goal had been to destroy the Slovenian nation.

While Salvini has expressed surprise at Šarec's comments and reactions in Slovenia overall, Tajani issued several apologies, after his first comments were interpreted as a textbook example of a non-apology.

Šarec told the newspaper what Tajani had initially said was "not an apology. It sounded as if you called someone a complete idiot, they demand an apology, and you say: 'Sorry, you really aren't a complete idiot.' This is just saying the same thing differently."

In Slovenia disputes over postwar history are not rare and Šarec has faced his share of criticism for several speeches he has delivered at ceremonies commemorating the victims of WWII, but he says that he is "not the one bringing up history".

"I don't raise such issues, nor does the Marjan Šarec List, other politicians do it. But I will never not react to statements that do not belong in the 21st century. Polarisation is not good, we should learn from history by acknowledging what was wrong and celebrating what was good."

Slovenia not turning foreign policy towards the US

Asked whether Slovenia's support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido "is a turn of Slovenian foreign policy towards the US", Šarec said it was not.

"It's not a turn in foreign policy. We always try to have good relations with all. We also don't have very close relations or too many visits with Russia."

He added he did not consider the support for Guaido as turning in the US direction "because we are Europeans".

"The whole EU has problems with the US policy of President Donald Trump," Šarec said, noting "twitter diplomacy does not suit us". As a small country, Slovenia must also pay attention to its own interests, he told the Maribor-based newspaper.

17 Feb 2019, 09:24 AM

STA, 14 February 2019 - The Postojna city council has decided to demand full closure of the Slovenian Armed Forces' main training area known as Poček, a vast area of forests and meadows in the south-west of the country. The municipality's official stance is now expected to be the basis for the Defence Ministry to decide on further steps.

Given the long-standing opposition to the army's training in the Poček area, the decision was largely expected. It came after Defence Minister Karl Erjavec asked the mayor in January to lay down the parameters acceptable for Poček to continue operations.

Erjavec said at the time that if the demands were such as to prevent Poček from remaining the main training area, the ministry would try to find other solutions.

The Poček military ground features an almost 2,000-hectare unpopulated area owned by the government and managed by the ministry since independence in 1991.

The wider area subject to restrictions when war games are under way comprises some 8,200 hectares, enabling the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) to train there and occasionally have international exercises and training with NATO parter countries.

It is no coincidence that Poček is the SAF's main training area as it was a military training ground before, used from the mid-1970s until 1991 by the Yugoslav army.

While Poček had been used as pastures for horses of the Vienna royal court from the early 18th century until 1915, Postojna, being a border area, was heavily militarised between 1915 when Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian empire and occupied the area, and WWII.

Since the area was in state ownership, it was relatively easy for the Yugoslav army to turn it into its training area, having purchased some more land from private owners in the 1970s.

But in 2000 the municipality held a consultative referendum at which Postojna locals decided on Poček's gradual closure.

Despite the people's will, Postojna and the ministry reached in 2004 an agreement on the military infrastructure in the area setting down their interests.

The accord, from which Postojna withdrew last December, set some limits on military activity, for instance a ban on shooting at weekends and on holidays, or limiting night shooting to ten days a month and until 11 PM from the beginning of June to the end of September.

But Mayor Igor Marentič says the army does not always stick to this. "Shooting is being carried out all months and at all times, regardless of tourism, and it is annoying even if it is announced in advance."

Water safety among major concerns

There are four things that bother locals: the noise coming from shooting and low flyovers, closure of air space (which affects the local airport), closure of the Poček area during exercises, and most notably water pollution.

Although locals could perhaps put up with occasional air space closures, pollution of the Malenščica water source for Postojna and Pivka would be a risk to public health.

While Marentič says the municipality has not commissioned any water monitoring or tests, the Karst Research Institute says its research has proved that waters from the Poček area travel underground towards the source of the Malenščica.

It adds that rain water in sensitive karst areas seeps underground very fast without having the opportunity to be cleaned, so it urges preventive measures.

Meanwhile, soil tests carried out by the ERICO institute in 2006 and 2009 showed "a strongly increased content of some heavy metals, primarily lead and copper", but its monitoring since 2016 has shown the heavy metals have not increased compared to previous measurements.

Also, Malenščica water monitoring by the Environment Agency, the ministry and the local water suppler have proved the concentrations were in line with drinking water standards.

The ministry has told the STA it is preparing a risk analysis to establish if certain military activity could have negative consequences for water quality in the area, while the municipality is drafting a bill to protect the water source.

Is a different solution still possible?

Erjavec indicated at his meeting with the mayor the army could go abroad for major war games and transfer some of its activity to other parts of Slovenia.

But pundits believe the attitude to Poček might be different if the SAF strictly respected the agreed rules and if the locals felt they benefited from it in some way.

Some foreign partners cannot understand the locals' opposition, but a well-placed source says "not a single job in this area is connected with Poček and the SAF does not get its supplies locally".

"If Poček is of national importance then the government could finance that, it would be only fair if the burden was shared by the local community and the state."

The ministry says it does not pay the municipality any compensation. However, on the basis of the 2004 accord, it co-funded local public infrastructure to the tune of EUR 3.1m and transferred property worth EUR 1.5m onto it in 2004-2018.

At the moment, the two sides are at odds over EUR 300,000 the ministry should pay for the new fire and rescue centre in Postojna, while it is also contesting the payment of EUR 1.3m in the duty for the use of land in Poček for 2013-2015.

Asked whether Postojna is opposed to Poček because it wants to develop into a green tourist destination, the mayor says this is not entirely so and stresses they have absolutely noting against the Slovenian army as such.

He notes, however, that while it is practically impossible to get an environmental permit for anything, "there are planes coming from other countries, shooting above this small tourist town".

"It's no longer appropriate to carry out such large-scale shooting with such heavy weapons only a kilometre in air line from the first settlements," he told the STA before the city council opted for closure.

Just yesterday, Defence Ministry State Secretary Klemen Grošelj told the parliamentary Defence Committee "intensive dialogue" was under way with the local community.

15 Feb 2019, 18:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, February 15, 2019

Mladina: EU election campaign to be dominated by fierce rhetoric

STA, 15 February 2019 - The magazine Mladina says the coming EU elections will be a clash, yet not a clash for a united Europe but a clash within Europe, of one nation against the other, as it comments on European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent revisionist statements at a foibe commemoration in Italy.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Friday's editorial that superpowers America, Russia and China will also get involved because a weak EU is in their interest.

"These elections will be much more ground-breaking than we have hoped," Mladina says under the headline Tajani, Just a True European.

"We can he grateful to Antonio Tajani for his speech at Basovizza, since the majority of people has overlooked the fact that with a few exceptions, most European parties have started resorting to nationalist rhetoric over the past four years."

Nationalist populism has become s staple of political success in the West, even moderate politicians use it for fear of being accused no not being patriotic enough.

"This is of course a way to hell, but also the European political reality," says Repovž, recalling that in fear of losing the race against nationalists, some have gone as far as erecting razor wire on the border during the recent migration crisis.

Just before the elections to the European Parliament, Tajani showed very clearly that the election campaign will be pervaded by nationalist rhetoric. "Nobody will dare avoid it in order not to fall behind."

It adds that Tajani is no radical extremist, but a calculating politician with short-term goals in his mind who also has to adjust to the rhetoric of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini which dominates Italy.

But his statements also show he apparently cares little about Europe currently being a fragile institution with an uncertain future where it can easily happen that European institutions themselves start using nationalist populism.

"Let us not be fooled by his apology," Repovž says, noting Tajani did not think his words would resound from a small village on the far east of Italy all the way to Brussels.

Demokracija: Vouchers could revitalise Slovenian culture and bring it closer to the people

STA, 14 February 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija disputes the quality of Slovenian arts in response to the Culture Day ceremony address by Vinko Möderndorfer, the chairman of the Prešeren Fund board. It argues Slovenia should introduce a voucher system as proposed by James Heilbrun and Charles M. Gray in The Economics of Art and Culture.

"In his speech, Möderndorfer degraded and insulted Slovenians and Slovenia as few before him in a long while ... The recurring theme was the same: badmouthing the state over its stepmotherly attitude to culture despite an extra 30 million euro for culture in this year's budget.

"But it is not enough. It is never enough. Even if the Culture Ministry's budget increased by 100 or 200 million euro, they would still demand an increase in public spending; most on their own behalf," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak writes.

He agrees that Slovenian culture is in the doldrums. However, he says the reason is not underfunding but rather that "a bunch of people, self-styled artists have learnt that they can get money without trying at least a bit to justify it and satisfy the needs of culture consumers".

"Their works, whatever they are, are mostly an aim in itself, no one ever even thinks of fighting for the reader, viewer or buyer. Also because the taxpayers are forced to pay for something they are not interested in even in their nightmare," Biščak writes, offering Möderndorfer's latest film as a case in point.

He says that the only cure is market economy, but he also offers vouchers as a compromise that would suit those who believe culture should be financed from public funds and those who favour market logic.

He proposes that the roughly EUR 380m or EUR 190 per capita that is allocated for culture from the national and local budgets should be distributed among Slovenia's citizens so that everyone gets a EUR 190 voucher a year to spend it on culture of their own choice. The artists who get the vouchers would then exchange them for money from the budget.

All our posts in this series can be found here

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