20 Apr 2019, 13:00 PM

Mladina: Government failing to protect national interest from Hungary

STA, 19 April 2019 – The left-leaning Mladina is critical of Slovenia's reluctance to protect its national interests in a commentary accompanying revelations about connections between the European Commission, the Hungarian government and a bank vying to take over Abanka. The weekly underlines that strong financial institutions are the backbone of a sovereign country.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that a journalist of Mladina found new connections between the Hungarian government and a Hungarian official at the European Commission who insisted that Slovenia privatise its banks.

The situation is becoming increasingly problematic because the revelations trigger doubts about the actions of those involved in Slovenia, as well as the expertise of the European Commission.

Mladina shows connection between the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orban and István P. Székely, who works for the commission, also highlighting the efforts of Hungarian OTP bank to take over Abanka, which is being privatised.

It wonders why the Hungarian Imre Balogh, who also has links to the Orban government, was appointed the CEO of Slovenian bad bank in 2015 and why Laszlo Urban, a member of Orban's party Fidesz, was appointed a member of the NLB supervisory board in 2016.

"What sort of network has the Hungarian government already woven in Slovenia, apart from the obvious links to the Democrats (SDS) and the media it bought from it?" the weekly wonders, adding that Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi had met privately with Slovenia's central bank governor Boštjan Vasle.

The world is changing and countries are pursuing increasingly selfish interests. "Small countries, above all, need to think very carefully about future relations and how to position themselves today to be safe from turbulence in the future."

But Slovenia does not have many experts capable of thinking so far in advance, Mladina says under the headline Time for the Wise.

Strong banks and financial institutions are the backbone of a country but the incumbent government does not seem to be aware of this.

It has not stopped the privatisation of Abanka although countries are fighting for "the last segment of Slovenia's financial backbone" in plain sight.

Demokracija: Politicians should not speak of media freedom

STA, 18 April 2019 – The right-leaning Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the concern for freedom of the press expressed by ruling politicians in the wake of the alleged pressures on the private broadcaster POP TV should be taken with a grain of salt, adding that journalists should actually be worried about politicians who are doing that.

The ruling politicians were quick to swear on democracy and presented themselves as defenders of media independence from politics and capital, but this care of politicians for freedom of the press should raise concern among journalists.

Friday's editorial headlined Riders of Freedom notes that, for instance, MEP Tanja Fajon of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) said on Twitter that "if there is no democracy, there could be no media freedom".

Fajon's idea that democracy ensures freedom of the press is wrong. It is the opposite: freedom of the press, individuals, expression and economy can ensure democracy, which manifests itself in various forms, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly, Jože Biščak, argues.

Slovenia has around 20,000 laws and by-laws and also has media legislation. "What is regulated by law cannot be free. The media are therefore not free, they are regulated. And the government will make media legislation only stricter."

Some have gone as far as proposing licences for journalists, which would be a very totalitarian thing, as an "expert committee" appointed by politicians would determine who is journalist and who is not.

They say this is a method to fight bad journalism, protect the public from fake media and fake journalists, and improve media professionalism. But this has no basis in reality, as despite the increasing regulation, there are a lot more media outlets today, and they are much more accessible to an average citizen.

"It is not up to the state or politicians to recognise the legitimacy of the media, it is up to every individual to choose freely what sources and media they will believe. This is how it goes in free societies."

Biščak concludes by saying that those who think that the majority of Slovenian citizens are not capable of differentiating between disinformation and information and that politics could "help" them in that, are inclined to dictatorship.

All our posts in this series can be found here

19 Apr 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 18 April 2019 - The budgets planned for 2020-2022 are on the edge of what is still acceptable under the fiscal rule, the Fiscal Council told the press on Thursday. While the 2019 budget violates the fiscal rule, the blueprint of 2020-2022 general government sector budgets adopted last week "walk the edge," according to council chair Davorin Kračun.

The blueprint plans budget revenue to exceed expenditure by 1% of GDP in 2020. In the two years after that the surplus is to increase even more, according to the blueprints presented by the government just over a week ago.

"The projections in these documents are in line with the fiscal rule but are close to the border values and prone to certain risks," Kračun said, adding that "projections are hard to realise".

Key risks listed by the council include macroeconomic risks and a slower-than-expected growth in revenue. "We cannot predict global events and we must be aware that these risks exist and that they can endanger fiscal plans," said Kračun.

He also warned that measures planned by the government as regards the pension and fiscal systems remain undefined. "The measures are listed, but undefined, and we cannot make conclusions about their fiscal effects."

The Fiscal Council wants to see draft pension and tax reforms and relevant projections as soon as possible. Council member Tomaž Perše is especially worried about the cost of population ageing.

Unless Slovenia starts to tackle the issue, the cost of ageing could increase by 2% of GDP in a decade, according to Perše, who is in charge of projections. Moreover, if the cost is to be covered solely by borrowing the country's debt would increase by 10 percentage points, he added.

Kračun is also worried about pressure from interest groups. "The government is weak but interest groups are strong and this may spoil the fiscal projections," said Kračun, pointing to the public sector pay system, saying it basically fell apart as the strongest interest groups got what they wanted.

The Fiscal Council thus advises the government to tread cautiously. "There will be no problems if economic growth is high. But if it slows down, problems can arise," said Perše.

The Institute of Economic Analysis and Development (IMAD) projects 3% growth for Slovenia next year but only 0.5 percentage points less would lead to public finance deficit, Perše said.

If growth were at 2%, public finance deficit would amount to 1% of GDP, while 1.5% expansion of economy would cause a 2% deficit, he added.

Kračun moreover commented on the constitutional review of the 2019 budget request by the opposition Democrats (SDS), saying it would be good that the Constitutional Court said what are the consequences of violating the fiscal rule act.

The court is expected to decide today whether it will review the issue or not.

17 Apr 2019, 09:38 AM

April 17, 2019

Monday’s edition of Tednik, a news show from the national broadcaster, reported that Croatian women have been facing increasing difficulties in finding clinics that perform abortions at home, which brings them in growing numbers across the border to Slovenia.

According to Tednik, Brežice hospital, (the first Slovenian hospital on the way from Zagreb) has seen a 25% increase in Croatians seeking abortions in the last three months.

Although the procedure is legal in Croatia, almost 60% of Croatian gynaecologists, or 186 out of 322 ,refuse to perform abortions, according to Tednik. The problem is further acerbated by the fact that nurses and anaesthesiologists are also allowed to invoke the right to object on moral grounds, which, among other things, also leads to the painful procedure often being carried out without anaesthesia.

Another reason why Croatian women prefer to travel to Slovenia is the availability of an easier method of chemically induced abortion, which is only performed at two Croatian clinics, in Rijeka and Pulj. Furthermore, the general attitude towards women who chose an abortion is helpful and supportive in Slovenia, compared to the increasingly hostile environment in Croatia with regard to women and their reproductive rights. A recent case Tednik reported on involves a Croatian woman who had been molested by a close relative and got pregnant in the process. Croatian doctors refused to perform an abortion as it would mean “destruction of evidence”. With some help of the NGOs, the woman eventually managed to get the procedure done in Slovenia.

Abortion is part of the Slovenia’s health insurance plan, but not for Croatian citizens, who also have to pay for it in Croatia, if they’re lucky enough to find someone who is willing to perform it at all. Travelling to Slovenia is also not an option for everyone, as some people cannot afford to, while others do not want others to perhaps learn of the true purpose of their cross-border journey.  

While Slovenia also allows gynaecologists to refuse to perform an abortion on moral grounds, only 10 out of 296 have invoked this right.

The legislation Slovenia and Croatia inherited from Yugoslavia was liberal with regard to family planning. However, following the independence of both, Slovenia was mostly led by liberal governments, while Croatia turned right, which pushed for a Catholic re-sacralisation of society.

A work group of the Croatian Parliament is currently drafting a new abortion legislation. The draft was supposed to be finished this March, but it wasn’t. The position of the current Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, who is supervising the drafting of the new law, suggests that we might see even more Croatian women coming to Slovenia for abortions in the future. Mr. Kujundžić believes that life begins with conception, that abortion is an act of evil, and that Church should be included in the debate over women’s reproductive rights.

16 Apr 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 16 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec called for a European Commission that would consistently implement the rule of law and respect small member states as he gave an interview for Politico. His vote for the next European Commission chief will go to Margrethe Vestager (ALDE).

In the interview, Šarec took issue with the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for implying that small EU members did not have the same status as large countries such as France, and for not taking sides in the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia.

Šarec suggested that the soft-handed approach could have been politically motivated since Juncker and the ruling Croatian party belonged to the same European Parliament group, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

He said that the Commission should have urged Croatia to respect the border decision, which was handed down in Slovenia's favour by an international arbitration panel in 2017, adding that the decision was valid no matter the surrounding controversy.

"We need a European Commission which will obey the rule of law ... we need a Commission which will be less political," said Šarec, pointing out that Vestager, his choice for the next Commission chief, had a "common sense" vision for the EU.

Hailing from Denmark, Vestager also has more understanding for small member states, according to Šarec. Both of them belong to the ALDE alliance of European liberal parties, with the competition commissioner being considered the party's top candidate for the Commission presidency.

He also called for an EU which would be faster at making decisions and expressed his disapproval of the Spitzenkandidat process, describing it as "not legal" and "not democratic".

Commenting on European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent controversial remarks, which implied Italy's territorial claims on parts of Slovenia and Croatia, Šarec called them an outrageous example of WWII revisionism and declared Tajani unfit for his office.

He urged taking measures that the next European Parliament president would not be someone who advocated such problematic statements and views.

Politico also addressed Šarec's stand-up past, pointing out that a number of former comedians have started performing in the EU political arena in recent years.

The Slovenian prime minister welcomed this trend, saying that some characteristics were useful in both worlds, including being observant, brave and a quick learner, as well as a performer skilled at reading people.

15 Apr 2019, 15:51 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar received US Republican congressman Paul A. Gosar on Monday to discuss bilateral relations between the US and Slovenia. After the meeting they both stressed the importance of strengthening the dialogue between the two countries.

Cerar pointed out that quality political relations could contribute to better economic cooperation as well. He said that Slovenia has had good relations with the US, which he would endeavour to further improve in the future.

The minister also acknowledged that Gosar has recently founded the Friends of Slovenia Caucus in the House of Representatives, while another US politician of Slovenian descent, Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar established a similar caucus in the upper chamber of the US congress.

Stressing the importance of such groups, Cerar added that both friendship societies could assist Slovenia in pursuing its political interests.

Despite the estimated good bilateral relations over the past ten years, Cerar said that there was not enough direct contact on the highest political level.

"I wish to improve that as foreign minister," said Cerar, stressing that he would not do that at the expense of Slovenia's relations with other countries.

The US is one of the most significant investors in Slovenia, said the minister, who like Gosar believes that the economic cooperation between the two countries could be further improved.

Gosar, who is visiting Slovenia at the invitation of President Borut Pahor, said that bilateral discussions significantly contributed to the cooperation between the countries since they were a way to look for solutions and clinch victories together.

The congressman also stressed the role of friendship societies as important opportunities for maintaining and strengthening the dialogue.

The two politicians also addressed current political issues, including the Western Balkans situation and international agreements with Iran, Russia and China.

Gosar has been visiting Slovenia since Friday, when Pahor bestowed on him the Golden Order of Merit, one of Slovenia's highest state decorations, commending the congressman for his contribution and cooperation in strengthening relations between Slovenia and the US.

On Saturday Gosar and Pahor attended a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of a US bomber's crash during WWII at the Andraž settlement near Polzela, addressing the event as keynote speakers.

Today, Gosar also met Dejan Židan, the speaker of the National Assembly, and Alojz Kovšca, the president of the National Council.

Židan and Gosar discussed the countries' respective political systems as well as the current political situation, including the upcoming May EU elections.

According to Židan, the majority of Slovenians are in favour of the EU for many reasons, including because they feel safer as part of the bloc.

Gosar also met with the chair of the Foreign Policy Committee and Parliamentary Friendship Group with the US Matjaž Nemec.

15 Apr 2019, 13:03 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Slovenian MEPs have been active in a number of different fields in the past five-year term. The eight of them listed for the STA their achievements, reflecting above all their work in parliamentary committees. Among other things, each of them has been a member or a substitute member of a committee dealing with issues of the Western Balkans.

Ivo Vajgl (ALDE/DeSUS) was among the most active Slovenian MEPs as regards foreign policy and the Western Balkans. He highlighted his efforts as the European Parliament rapporteur for Macedonia, "which we helped steer onto the European path".

Vajgl, who will not run again this year, was also a member of a task force dealing with issues of the elderly, which managed to get this topic onto the parliament's agenda.

Together with Igor Šoltes (Greens), who will succeed Vajgl on the ticket of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) in May election, Vajgl nominated the programme Elderly for the Elderly for the Citizen of Europe 2017 award.

The project, which went on to win the award, "includes what is often missing in Europe: empathy, solidarity and true humanity," said Šoltes, who has also been active in the fields of environmental and consumer protection, filing a motion to exclude food orders from the public procurement system in order to serve locally-grown food in schools, hospitals and retirement homes.

Romana Tomc of the (EPP/SDS) is proud of her "fight of the small against the big", as her warnings had led to the launch of infringement procedure against Austria for cutting child benefits for Slovenians working in Austria.

Tomc also strived against youth unemployment and highlighted her work in an investigative committee that looked into money laundering at the Slovenian bank NLB.

Her party colleague Patricija Šulin (EPP/SDS), a member of the budgets committee, was also active in the field of finance, serving as member of the parliament's delegation in talks with the European Commission and the European Council.

She also highlighted that she managed to speed up the drafting of a report that provided Slovenia EUR 18m in funds following an ice storm that devastated much of Slovenian forests in 2014.

Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) told the STA that she acquired for Slovenia additional EUR 70m in the next financial perspective to improve border security and migration management.

"Slovenia has a long Schengen border and long traffic jams and we will try to reduce this burden, while on the other hand ensuring that Schengen is preserved," Fajon told the STA, adding that she was also fighting against "current illegal practices of border controls within the Schengen zone, such as those between Slovenia and Austria."

Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS) is dedicated to regional development issues, being a member of the regional development committee. He campaigned for the launch of the Smart Villages pilot project, which aims to stop the young moving from the countryside and against the trend of people moving from the less to the more developed parts of the EU.

"The regional development fund will provide EUR 13.5bn for this field and EUR 2.4bn for smart villages," said Bogovič, expressing pride in what he has achieved.

Milan Zver (EPP/SDS), a rapporteur for the culture and education committee, highlighted as one of his biggest achievements a threefold increase in funds for the Erasmus exchange programme. "I find this very important because there has always been too little money when it came to Erasmus and youth policy."

He is also happy that one of the conference halls at the parliament has been named after Slovenian dissident Jože Pučnik.

Lojze Peterle (EPP/NSi) meanwhile said he was proud to have enabled a paid internship at the parliament for 60 youths. He also contributed to the decision of the EPP to make cancer one of its priorities in the next term.

All our stories on this year's EU elections, including details of how to vote, can be found here

15 Apr 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Slovenian members of the European Parliament tend to vote in accordance with their Eurogroup, and have high attendance in votes in plenary meetings of the European Parliament, data from VoteWatch show.

Patricija Šulin (EPP/SDS) has attended 95% of votings in the European Parliament, ranking her first among Slovenian MEPs. Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) ranked last, at 82%. Slovenian MEPs' attendance averages about 90%.

Other parliamentary duties may cause MEPs to be absent from votings, according to VoteWatch. This is why Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, "only" attended 38% of the votings. This, however, is not an accurate measure for their activity and achievements.

Slovenian MEPs are extremely loyal to the political opinions of their Eurogroup. On average, they agree on around 96% of issues. The only discrepancy is Ivo Vajgl (Alde/DeSUS) whose agreement measures at around 90%.

Slovenia has five MEPs in the European People's Party (EPP), and one each in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and the Greens.

Tanja Fajon is the only Slovenian to be featured on VoteWatch's list of 70 most influential MEPs, probably because of her work as the vice-president of the S&D group. According to the site, Slovenian deputies seem to be the most influential in policy matters concerning the Western Balkans.

MEPs' activities can be tracked through two main web-based tools, VoteWatch and MEPranking, each of which relies on a different set of methods. Both have come under fire in the past because of their methodology.

Some MEPs were among the critics, arguing that arbitrarily quantifying their activity was not an accurate measure for their work.

On the other hand, these tools allow citizens of the European Union to view their elected representatives' activity and compare their voting with their own stance on issues, among other things.

More data on this can be found here

All our stories on this year's EU elections, including details of how to vote, can be found here

15 Apr 2019, 10:27 AM

STASTA, 15 April 219 - Slovenian voters have gone to the polls to elect MEPs three times so far - in 2004, 2009 and 2014, with most of the support in all three elections going to parties belonging to the European People's Party (EPP). The only Slovenian to win an MEP seat in all three elections is Lojze Peterle of New Slovenia (NSi/EPP).

Slovenia joined the EU in May 2004 and its voters had the opportunity to elect seven MEPs a month later, with centre-right parties winning the 13 June elections convincingly.

EPP members got four seats as Slovenians elected Lojze Peterle and Ljudmila Novak from the NSi, and Miha Brejc and Romana Jordan Cizelj from the Democrats (SDS).

The remaining three MEPs were Jelko Kacin and Mojca Drčar Murko from the Liberal Democrats (LDS), who joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and Borut Pahor from the Social Democrats (SD), who joined the Party of European Socialists (PES).

The NSi won most of the vote (23.6%), followed by a joint ticket of the LDS and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) with 21.9%, the SDS with 17.7% and the SD with 14.2%.

The group associating conservative and centre-right parties was also the winner at the EU level, wining a total of 272 seats in the 732-member European Parliament.

Turnout in Slovenia (28.4%) was significantly lower than in the 25 EU member states on average (45.5%).

In 2009, when the European Parliament elections were held in 27 countries, members of the EPP also won most of the vote, with the SDS getting 26.7% of the vote, followed by the SD (18.5%), the NSi (16.5%), the LDS (11.5%) and Zares (9.8%).

Elected as MEPs were Romana Jordan Cizelj and Milan Zver (EPP/SDS), Lojze Peterle (EPP/NSi), Zoran Thaler and Tanja Fajon (PES/SD), Jelko Kacin (ALDE/LDS) and Ivo Vajgl (ALDE/Zares).

Thaler resigned in 2011 after journalists posing as lobbyists exposed him as one of four MEPs accepting the offer of a bribe in exchange for tabling amendments in the European Parliament. He was replaced by Mojca Kleva (PES/SD).

The EPP also won the elections at the EU level convincingly, getting 263 MEPs in the 736-seat European Parliament.

As the European Parliament was enlarged in December 2011 with changes to the Lisbon Treaty, Slovenia received an additional, eighth seat, which went to Zofija Mazej Kukovič from the SDS.

In addition to the extra seats, changes to the treaty also brought certain restructuring of political groups, with the EPP having a total of 274, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) 195 and ALDE 85 MEPs at the end of the term.

While turnout in Slovenia remained almost flat at 28.37%, it dropped somewhat in the EU as a whole (42.97%).

The 2014 EU elections, which were held in 28 member states as Croatia joined the bloc the year earlier, were marked by a rise of Eurosceptics and ALDE losing the third place in the European Parliament to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

Out of the total of 751 MEP seats, the EPP got 221 and the S&D 191, while following far behind were the ECR (70) and ALDE (67).

In Slovenia, the EPP again won most of the vote, with the SDS winning three seats, for Milan Zver, Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin, and the People's Party (SLS) and the NSi winning one each, for Franc Bogovič and Lojze Peterle, respectively.

In addition to Zver, elected for their second terms were Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) and Ivo Vajgl, who ran on the ticket of DeSUS, while also making it to the European Parliament was Igor Šoltes, who ran with his own party Believe.

The SDS received 24.8% of the vote, followed by the joint ticket of the NSi and the SLS (16.6%), Believe (10.3%), and the SD and DeSUS (around 8% each).

The declining turnout trend continued, reaching record-lows of 42.6% at the EU level and 24.5% in Slovenia.

All our stories on this year's EU elections, including details of how to vote, can be found here

13 Apr 2019, 23:12 PM

STA, 13 April 2019 - Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj met representatives of the World Bank and the IMF on the sidelines of the two organisation's spring meetings in Washington to highlight Slovenia's effort to find the right balance between fiscal stability and prosperity for its people.

The Slovenian delegation, which also included Banka Slovenije governor Boštjan Vasle, met several senior World Bank and IMF officials, including IMF deputy director Carlo Grasso, deputy director of the IMF's Institute for Capacity Development Gerd Schwartz, and the World Bank's regional vice president Cyril Muller, the Finance Ministry wrote.

Highlighting the cooling of the global economy, increased risks and continuing expansionary monetary policy, the latter stressed the need for appropriate fiscal policies and structural reforms meant to improve productivity, the business environment and growth.

Slovenia's representatives explained the government was pursuing a fiscal policy that would strike the right balance between fiscal stability on the one side and development and prosperity on the other.

The Slovenian delegation also met representatives of credit rating agencies S&P, Fitch, and Moody's, briefing them in separate meetings on Slovenia's performance.

"The talks showed that the assessments of the economic situation for Slovenia are positive and that we are among the countries for which the agencies are preserving a positive outlook despite the cooling in the international business environment," the ministry's press release says.

Minister Bertoncelj told the STA that IMF and World Bank representatives were content with the government's fiscal and reform plans for the coming years.

They were particularity happy about the planned general government budget surplus - 0.8% this year an 1% in 2020 - and about the plans to reduce public debt.

"We're aware our debt is high, nominally at EUR 32bn, with the bulk of it, around EUR 24bn, stemming from budget deficits. Thus they find our planned path - surpluses and debt reduction - to be correct," he said.

Bertoncelj added that implementing structural measures would also be crucial. He presented plans to reduce the tax burden for labour and increase it for capital, as well as pension system and labour market measures. He said the assessment were very positive.

Earlier this week, the IMF downgraded the global growth forecast by 0.2 percentage points compared January to 3.3% for this year, mainly because of the poorer than expected trends in China and in Europe.

However, Slovenia is not expected to be affected as yet, with the IMF forecasting the economy to expand at a rate of 3.4% this year before the pace slows down to 2.8% in 2020 and then gradually to 2.1% by 2024.

12 Apr 2019, 19:45 PM

Mladina: GP resignations aimed at privatising healthcare

STA, 12 April 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina accuses the trade union of GPs of abusing their power at the cost of patients. This week's editorial refers to a document it says proves that the trade union Praktikum's head Igor Muževič orchestrated the current crisis among GPs to force the government's hand and ultimately lead to privatising public healthcare.

"It is a sad day for Slovenian public healthcare. The aim of these actions is not to improve the system, but to dismantle it," Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief writes under the headline Foul Play.

He says that Mladina has obtained a signed document from 2017 which proves that Muževič's plan had been to provoke a crisis that would force the state to privatise healthcare.

Privatising healthcare would essentially turn medical practitioners into businessmen. If the trade union's demands are met, GPs would remain part of the public sector that would provide them with the necessary infrastructure, however, they would get paid as private individuals, Repovž writes.

This is an abuse of what the trade union struggle stands for. It essentially turns patients into hostages, and it would not take long for other medical practitioners to demand the same working conditions, effectively leading to a collapse of the public healthcare system.

Repovž writes that doctors' wages are among the highest in the public sector. He says the attempt to increase their income by branching out into the private sector is unacceptable and unethical, especially since it is disguised as an industrial action.

Demokracija: Double standards on media freedom

STA, 11 April 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija plays down the importance of Hungary's protest over the weekly Mladina's cover portraying PM Viktor Orban making a Nazi salute in its latest editorial. It is bothered that the freedom of speech was not defended so eagerly when PM Marjan Šarec gave instructions regarding media advertising.

Hungary's protest sent to Mladina and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry was labelled a reflection of the idea of a complete media control, but the truth is that the "incident" will have absolutely no impact on the Slovenian media, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.

Thus, the diplomatic note sent by Hungary cannot be a form of pressure on the media or their editorial policy but merely a reaction to a controversial image of a democratically elected prime minister of a neighbouring country.

According to Biščak, much more dangerous for media freedom and the freedom of expression was Šarec's call to state-owned companies to refrain from advertising in "disobedient media".

"Is this really normal and ordinary? Is this freedom? Is this media freedom? Is this democratic? Is this in line with European values, which this government praises so much only when attacking someone, while resorting to rhetoric and measures of dictators when someone holds up a mirror in front of its face."

There is no middle way when it comes to the freedom of speech and media freedom. Either we have them or we don't. Media freedom cannot be only when the left has something to say. It is supreme hypocrisy and has nothing to do with real freedom, Biščak concludes the commentary headlined Matthew 23:27-28.

All our posts in this series can be found here

12 Apr 2019, 08:57 AM

STA, 11 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec met his Chinese counterpart Li Kequiang on the sidelines of the summit of the 16 Central and East European countries and China. The talks focused on economic cooperation.

According to a press release from the Government Communication Office, Šarec and Li "noted the traditionally good relations between the two countries, which are being deepened still in many areas".

Šarec also underscored that it was important to further enhance bilateral economic cooperation, and expressed satisfaction at continued increase in bilateral merchandise trade.

He was quoted as saying that it was important for Slovenia as an export economy that the 16+1 initiative opened doors to Slovenian companies.

As potential areas of cooperation he listed the automotive industry, pharmaceutical industry, high technologies, civil aviation and science.

Šarec also invited his Chinese counterpart to visit Slovenia.

The main part of the summit of the 16+1 initiative will be held on Friday. It comes only days after the EU and China adopted a joint statement at a summit in Brussels paving the way to a reciprocity-based partnership.

China would like for the 16+1 initiative to be part of its New Silk Road global infrastructure project. They expect to hear from the 16 Central and East European countries about the projects to be included in the New Silk Road.

The summit is bringing together almost 1,000 participants, around a third from China, including nine Slovenian companies, among them the port operator Luka Koper.

On the sidelines of the summit, Šarec may also hold a bilateral meeting with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković.

All our stories about Slovenia and China are here

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