Politics

04 Mar 2019, 17:26 PM

STA, 4 March 2019 - President Borut Pahor will embark on a two-day official visit to Albania today. Hosted by his counterpart Ilir Meta, he will also meet Prime Minister Edi Rama and Speaker Gramoz Ruci, the president's office said in a press release.

The visit is seen as an opportunity to get more closely acquainted with Albania's domestic political situation and its headway in EU accession negotiations.

Pahor wants to strengthen the already good bilateral ties and cooperation between the countries and he intends to express Slovenia's support for Albania's EU accession efforts, the president's office said.

Albanian and Slovenian representatives will also exchange views on topical issues in the region and regional cooperation, also in the light of the Brdo-Brijuni summit, which Albania will host in May.

Pahor is moreover expected to underline the importance of continuous constructive cooperation among neighbours and countries in the region.

He will arrive in Tirana in the afternoon and hold a tete-a-tete with Meta, followed by bilateral meetings of the Slovenian and Albanian delegations.

The presidents will hold a joint press conference, after which Pahor will meet Rama, followed by a meeting with Luzim Basha, the head of the opposition Democratic Party. Tonight, Meta will host a dinner in Pahor's honour.

On Tuesday, Pahor will lay a wreath at a burial site dedicated to national heroes and meet Mayor of Tirana Erion Velia. He will moreover visit the nearby town of Kruje, the home town of national hero Skenderbeg (1405-1468). Pahor will also meet the speaker on the second day of his visit.

Pahor's meetings in Tirana will also revolve around cooperation in multilateral organisations, which is deemed good.

While the countries have good political ties, there is still room for improvement in economic cooperation, which is relatively modest.

Albania ranked 58th among Slovenia's trade partners in 2017, with trade amounting to EUR 53.1m. Data for the first three quarters of 2018 place the trade figure at EUR 34.3m, 14.1% less than in the same period in 2017.

The countries are also linked in terms of development aid, as Slovenia provided more than EUR 2m in aid to Albania between 2010 and 2016.

Moreover, Slovenia supported several projects in Albania in 2017 and 2018 relating to the EU, women's empowerment and environmental protection.

04 Mar 2019, 11:53 AM

STA, 2 March 2019 - The parliamentary Finance Committee rejected all amendments to the revised 2019 budget filed by the three right-leaning opposition parties as it debated the document on Saturday, with the parties seeking to redistribute some EUR 80m out of more than EUR 10bn in expenditure, mainly for infrastructure projects.

Debating the document as the last parliamentary working body before the next week's plenary vote, the committee rejected all 34 amendments filed by the Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS).

In addition to infrastructure projects and support activities in the fields of labour, the family and social affairs, the SDS wanted that the government earmark an extra EUR 15m for investments in school and sport infrastructure.

The proposals from the NSi that an additional EUR 10m is earmarked for the maintenance of cultural heritage sites, and EUR 5m each for investments in schools and kindergartens have also failed to garner sufficient support.

The party is not satisfied either with the amount of funds earmarked for the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad, which it would increase by EUR 500,000.

The three parties also proposed that additional funds be earmarked for the development of a number of road sections, but all proposals were rejected by the committee.

The revised 2019 budget, which was discussed by the other parliamentary bodies at the beginning of February, increases the planned revenue by 6.2% to EUR 10.35bn, and expenditure by 4.8% to EUR 10.16bn.

The budget is thus expected to have EUR 193.6m in surplus by the end of the year, which is 0.4% of Slovenia's gross domestic product (GDP), said Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj as he presented the documents to the MPs.

The minister said that the budget was stable and development-oriented, and that it represented the foundation for structural measures. The main priorities are healthcare, science, infrastructure and drawing of the EU funds.

Bertoncelj also pointed to the objective of reducing general government debt and noted that the state of public finances was improving, which positively affected economic growth. This also shows in increased tax revenue, he added.

However, the Fiscal Council, the body advising the government how to follow the golden fiscal rule, has warned that the planned expenditure is too high, while the budget has also been criticised by the opposition.

The SDS deputies said at today's session that the budget did not ensure medium-term stability of public finances, and that it did not contain any measures which would reduce structural deficit.

The NSi is reserved to the budget too, with MP Ljudmila Novak noting that while expenditure was increasing, there were no measures which would bring long-term revenue to the budget.

"Revenue will be really high until the economic growth is high, but we know that the economy is already cooling down, particularly in Germany, on which Slovenian exporters depend greatly."

Anja Bah Žibert (SDS) does not agree that the budget is development-oriented as it "has no true objectives at all", while Jani Ivanuša (SNS) warned against excessive expenditure as the expected economic growth is only an estimate.

Jože Lenart of the ruling Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) retorted that "you cannot develop by saving money", noting that the additional expenditure would go for development and reforms dictated by the demographic trends.

Matjaž Han of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) said that "we never had so much money than now in the last 15, 20 years", adding that this was also a result of policies of the previous governments, not only of the current one.

The document was also endorsed by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) as it gives more funds for municipalities, public sector and pensioners, as well as healthcare, research and social affairs.

Also promising support for the budget is the opposition Left as the partner of the minority coalition, with MP Luka Mesec assessing that it was both socially- and development oriented, which was something Slovenia needed at the moment.

However, the coordinator of the party said earlier today that an agreement was expected to be signed between the Left and the coalition on cooperation for this year before the vote on the budget, which is to take place on Wednesday.

The committee also went through changes to the act implementing the 2018 and 2019 budgets, which accompanies the revised 2019 budget. Minister Bertoncelj said that the document reduces the required amount of borrowing by the state.

Compared to the current act, the amount for 2019 is reduced by some EUR 1.4bn, the minister told the MPs, with EUR 1.89bn being required for the implementation of the budget instead of EUR 3.26bn.

The document takes into account the planned budget surplus of EUR 193.6m, EUR 570.5m in pre-financing in 2018 and the EUR 602.6m in proceeds from the privatisation of the NLB bank last November.

The state has already secured a part of the needed EUR 1.89bn with a EUR 1.5bn bond issue in January.

02 Mar 2019, 09:29 AM

STA, 1 March 2019 - President Borut Pahor concluded on Friday his three-day official visit to the United Kingdom by visiting the City of London to meet representatives of the London Stock Exchange and Lord Mayor of the City of London Peter Estlin.

London Stock Exchange chairman Donald Brydon presented the institution to Pahor, and they also exchanges views on the situation on the financial markets and the global economy, the president's office said in a press release.

The Slovenian president then visited the London office of the US multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs to discuss how the global financial industry views the expected changes in Europe, including Brexit.

In the meeting with Estlin, Pahor focused on how Brexit will reflect on the role of the City of London as one of the most important and busiest financial centres in the world.

Pahor concluded today's visit at the seat of the insurance and reinsurance market Lloyd's of London, the president's office added.

It noted that the UK was important global partner to Slovenia, with trade with the country increasing by 2% in 2017 to EUR 921.5m, with the positive trend also continuing last year.

The UK is also an important partner in investments and tourism, with the number of British tourists in Slovenia growing.

"By leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom is not leaving Europe and it remains our important business partner and a security ally in NATO," the office said.

On the first day of the visit, Pahor met Prince Edward and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who visited Slovenia last week. Pahor and Hunt discussed bilateral relations and Brexit.

On Thursday, the Slovenian president was received by Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace, after laying a wreath to the memorial to innocent victims of war and oppression in front of Westminster Abbey.

Other stories on President Pahor’s UK Visit:

Pahor in UK this Week to Discuss Brexit (Background)

Pahor & Hunt Say Slovenia-UK Relations Good, Will Remain So After Brexit

Pahor Meets the Queen, UK Visit Continues Friday

President Borut Pahor: The Geopolitical Positioning of Europe (Video)

01 Mar 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 1 March 2019 - Peter Vilfan resigned as state secretary in charge of sports at the prime minister's office on Friday, following over a month of speculation that he evaded taxes. In his resignation, Vilfan once again denied being audited by the Financial Administration (FURS) or being issued a fine.

 

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec responded by saying that he accepted Vilfan's resignation.

In mid-January news portal Požareport said that Vilfan, a former basketball player, had been receiving sizeable payments from two TV stations for serving as basketball commentator.

Požareport said that the public TV Slovenija and commercial media company ProPlus paid the fees to Vilfan's own sports association and that he cooked the books to avoid tens of thousands of euro in taxes.

Vilfan on the other hand said that he had been paid about EUR 1,500 a month, while the figures circulated in the public were much higher.

Moreover, in late February the weekly Reporter said that Vilfan had been fined by FURS, which he denied immediately.

"Let me assure the public that neither I nor my association have been in any offence proceedings, and we have not been issued any decision or fine by FURS," Vilfan said in his letter of resignation forwarded to the media by the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), of which he is a member.

In his response last week, Vilfan said that "the association filed a report on its own with FURS" and that they "are jointly examining a period of several years for possible accounting errors or irregularities".

DeSUS confirmed today that the review was concluded on Monday and the certain accounting irregularities had been discovered.

The party's president Karl Erjavec said he regretted the developments but respected Vilfan's decision.

Vilfan announced he was leaving politics for good. He was first elected to parliament as a member of Positive Slovenija of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković in 2011, defecting to the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) after a split in 2014.

After being reelected MP in 2014, he joined the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) in 2015, serving out his term until 2018 but he did not get re-elected in the June 2018 election. Instead, he was appointed state secretary at the PM's office.

He also commented matches when he served as an MP between 2011 and 2018, having being granted the permit by parliament.

A member of the Yugoslav national team that won the 1978 FIBA World Championship, Vilfan commented the 2017 EuroBasket matches for ProPlus channels POP TV and Kanal A under a similar arrangement as with RTV Slovenija.

Vilfan's resignation comes two days after Šarec accepted the resignation of Environment Minister Jure Leben, the third member of his cabinet leaving the government which was sworn in in September 2018.

01 Mar 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 1 March 2019 - The resignation of Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) deputy Darij Krajčič over a stolen sandwich is not final yet. The National Assembly is to take note of his resignation on Monday, but now the MP whose story was picked up by international media, has second thoughts about resigning. PM Šarec said Krajčič would be expelled from the LMŠ if he did no resign.

 

Krajčič told the STA and the newspaper Dnevnik today that he was considering withdrawing his resignation and would make his final decision known by Monday, when the National Assembly is to discuss his case.

Related: MP Resigns After Stealing Sandwich, Claims Act Was “Social Experiment”

The MP of the ruling coalition party said today that his decision to step down may had been too hasty.

He said that in the meantime legal experts had warned him that his action, which he called a "social experiment", did not constitute a theft.

"With theft some other conditions must be met, including an intent to benefit from it, keeping it a secret and not paying for the item."

In contrast, Krajčič took a sandwich out of a store without paying it impulsively, only to tell about it soon after and paying for the sandwich later.

The MP said at the time he had been waiting with the sandwich for several minutes while three shop assistants were talking without paying any attention to him, so he decided to "check their system of control."

Krajčič, who told the story to the members of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee soon after, regretted the incident and tendered in his resignation later on.

The story was picked up by global media such as the BBC, Die Presse, Kurier, and Europe Times.

Krajčič said the LMŠ had expected him to resign after the story came out but that he had felt no pressure about his decision now.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec indicated today Krajčič would be dismissed as LMŠ member if he did not resign.

But he added that nobody could force him to step down because MPs are autonomous in this respect. "I said what I had to say. I think that an MP loses their join if they resign but preserves or gets their dignity," Šarec said.

Krajčič too said he could not be kicked out of the deputy group and noted that another option was for him to become an independent MP.

The LMŠ deputy group has not commented yet.

01 Mar 2019, 14:20 PM

Mladina: Proposed tax reform would mainly benefit the rich

STA, 1 March 2019 - The latest editorial of the left-leaning weekly Mladina tears apart the Finance Ministry's tax reform proposal as yet another taxation tweak to primarily benefits the rich.

Only two years have passed since the last changes that brought the biggest tax burden reduction and greatest gains for those who already have high wages.

While Prime Minister Marjan Šarec now stands to gain almost EUR 1,000 a year, his predecessor Miro Carar saw his wage rise by EUR 2,000 net at the annual level or to EUR 3,457 net a month, effective on 1 January 2017.

The argument keeps repeating - "we are doing this because of those who are the most productive", editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says, labelling this as despicable deceit by those working for the benefit of their own class.

It is true that high wages are taxed more in Slovenia, but on the other hand property is not subject to any serious taxation and the bulk of the income of the wealthiest stems from property.

Meanwhile, the taxation of the average wages of those in whose name the wealthiest would get even more after this reform is comparable to that in similar countries in Europe and is for instance lower than in Austria, Repovž says in the editorial entitled New Tax Cuts for the Rich.

At the same, the government is shying away from a real estate tax or from heavier taxation of those letting out several apartments, while it has also avoided reforming the compulsory health insurance system that continues to channel large sums of public money to private insurers.

This is an arrogant and offensive tax reform proposal that benefits the wealthy and should be withdrawn, Repovž says, adding PM Šarec dismissed the wrong minister this week.

Demokracija: Why does media ignore warnings on government spending?

STA, 28 February 2019 - In its latest commentary, the right-leaning weekly Demokracija is flabbergasted by the fact that a majority of the Slovenian media dedicated almost no attention to the warnings from the Fiscal Council that the general government expenditure planned for 2019 should be EUR 270m lower.

The warning about the need for the country to preserve a structural balance in compliance with the fiscal rule was buried quickly, ending up somewhere "on the dark side of the internet", editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.

Is the expansive fiscal policy, which could cause a headache in the autumn, really a marginal topic, he wonders. It obviously is, as the media are busy "inflating the popularity of the prime minister," he adds in the commentary entitled It's Good to Be Marjan Šarec.

Šarec is really happy because, as the global economic situation is getting increasingly unpredictable, and forecasts more pessimistic than optimistic, the media do not bother him with questions about what to do if the economic growth happens to be lower than expected.

The fear of the 2008 crisis repeating has made the smart countries (Germany, Norway) start accumulating surpluses and creating reserves, while others are reducing general government debt (Estonia, the Czech Republic).

The only solution for the Slovenian government, if it wants to keep the public sector in the current size and meet the obligations given to the sector "either blindfolded or drunk on power", will be to increase the already high taxes.

The problem is not in taxes themselves, but what you get in return. According to an analysis by the Quality of Government Institute, Slovenia belongs to the countries which spend much, while giving back little to the citizens.

All our posts in this series can be found here

01 Mar 2019, 10:22 AM

STA, 28 February STA - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek announced on Thursday the dismissal of Damir Topolko as the head of the Infrastructure Agency following the escalation of the scandal surrounding the dodgy tender for the Koper port rail track model.

The announcement comes after PM Marjan Šarec accepted on Wednesday the resignation of Environment Minister and former Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Jure Leben while also calling for the resignation of Topolko.

The official video introducing the Koper-Divača "second rail" project

While Šarec had suggested that everyone else involved in the possibly rigged 2017 tender for the EUR 130,000 scale model should follow Leben's example, Bratušek said Šarec and her agreed today that conditions were not met yet to dismiss certain public servants.

Bratušek said the scandal also bore on other ministry employees, they however "cannot accept political responsibility for this fiasco"

As regards Topolko, Šarec and Bratušek both felt it was time to find a new name for the head of the Infrastructure Agency, which was responsible for the tender, carried out as a PR move for the EUR 1bn-plus investment in the Divača-Koper rail expansion.

"My predecessor Peter Gašperšič could have already done that," said Bratušek, adding a candidate had not yet been found to replace Topolko, who has ran the agency since mid-2015.

"But they didn't do it. I sense it was because that would mean revealing what is being revealed now: that the former leadership of this ministry was actively involved in the public procurement of this scale model, even though it is unusual for a minister or state secretary to interfere with public tenders," she added.

Bratušek said the scale model story had been inherited by her and that it was casting a bad light on the rail project that is now being managed differently and was on track on getting fully covered financially by the end of May.

28 Feb 2019, 16:56 PM

STA, 28 February 2019 - President Borut Pahor was received by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Thursday in what is considered the highlight of his official visit to the UK. The conversation with the queen was longer than had been expected, according to Pahor's office.

Pahor said the queen had been extremely friendly and very much focussed on the talks, telling TV Slovenija that he was surprised by how well informed she was. "Substantively the talks were much richer than I would have expected."

Even though the monarch does not take sides on political issues, Pahor said she did this time, and she induced him to share his views on issues that concern her.

Pahor started the second day of his official visit to the UK by laying a wreath to the memorial to innocent victims of war and oppression in front of Westminster Abbey. He then went on a tour of the 11th century abbey, which is one of the best known religious buildings in Europe.

He also met several British MPs and lords, including Labour MP Paul Farrelly, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Slovenia Group, and Lord Speaker Norman Fowler.

The talks focussed on Britain's exit from the EU, which is planned for 29 March, although the divorce process may be extended.

Pahor told TV Slovenija he had been acquainted with a variety of views on Brexit, noting that his wish was to express support for those who are looking for solutions that benefit London as well as Brussels and Ljubljana.

"It is probably not possible to find a solution that will be good just for one side, such a solution would not be sustainable," he said.

Pahor said it was in Slovenia's interest to find a solution that will enjoy the support of the British Parliament and Ireland, whereby it may not divide the EU. "Chaotic exit from the EU is a danger for both sides, for Great Britain and EU countries."

A no-deal Brexit could prove problematic for an estimated 5,000 Slovenians living in the UK. Pahor will meet some of them at a reception hosted by Slovenia's Ambassador Tadej Rupel in the evening.

On the final day of his visit, on Friday, Pahor will visit the City to ring the bell of the London Stock Exchange and meet financiers at Goldman Sachs. He will also meet Lord Mayor of the City of London Peter Estlin and expectedly also British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Pahor started the visit on Wednesday by meeting Prince Edward and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Pahor and Hunt praised the relations between Slovenia and the UK as very good, with Pahor saying that Slovenia had "genuine interest" for the bilateral relations to strengthen also after Brexit.

The talks with Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, focussed on the the Duke of Edinburgh's award for young people as part of the MEPI programme. The awards are annually conferred in Slovenia as well.

According to Pahor's office, Prince Edward, who visited Slovenia in 2013 with his wife Sophie, accepted Pahor's invitation to visit Slovenia again soon.

 All our stories on Slovenia and the UK can be found here

28 Feb 2019, 12:45 PM

STA, 27 February 2019 - Slovenia has not seen progress in healthcare, long-term care and the pension system, the European Commission said as part of its European semester winter package and country reports released on Wednesday. It also assessed the updated draft budget plan for 2019 remains at risk of non-compliance with the requirements of EU budget rules.

The Commission argues that Slovenia's economy, currently experiencing strong growth, could become even more resistant to future shocks by strengthening investment and resolving challenges related to the ageing population.

The report features mixed findings as regards progress in the implementation of recommendations issued in 2018.

Progress is for instance acknowledged in privatisation, alternative financing sources for fast growing companies, while limited progress was established in public procurement and the employment of older and low-skilled workers.

Considered as seeing no progress are healthcare, long-term care and the pension system, areas that are all burdened by the ageing population.

The Commission indicated that expenditure related to the ageing population could rise by 6 GDP percentage points between 2016 and 2070, which is one of the biggest increases in the EU. In the 2020-2050 period public pension costs could rise from 11% to 15.6% of GDP.

However, the Commission said Slovenia was performing well in most social indices, while saying that fairness in the system could be improved further.

Another finding says that Slovenian SMEs rely strongly on bank loans and that major administrative burdens as well as shortcomings related to public procurement persist despite an improved business environment.

Despite the good progress in the privatisation of the country's no. 1 and no. 3 banks, the Commission said the state continued to play a dominant role in a number of sectors, which entailed competition distortion risks.

Also, Slovenia is not on course to meeting renewable energy goals for 2020 and goals for investment in research and development. It is on other hand nearing its employment rate target.

Meanwhile, in an assessment of Slovenia's budget plans for 2019, the Commission said that the last draft remains at risk of non-compliance with the requirements of the preventive arm of the Stability and Growth Pact.

The Commission said the draft could lead to a substantial deviation from the adjustment path towards reaching medium-term budgetary objectives.

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said these findings may come as a surprise, as the public finances situation improved substantially in nominal terms and as public debt is falling. However, high economic growth has played a crucial role in this, he added.

The plan's structural effort is not compliant with the 2018 June recommendation that the nominal growth rate for primary expenditure must not exceed 3.1% this year, which would require an annual structural effort of 0.65% of GDP.

Commission data indicates a 0.7% of GDP gap between the plan and the target as regards expenditure, and a 0.8% of GDP gap as regards the structural effort.

The Commission's and the government draft budget plan data diverge markedly, with the latter assessing the expenditure gap at 0.5% of GDP and the structural effort gap at 1.3% of GDP.

Meanwhile, the Commission highlighted pressure on expenditure, mostly due to wages and social services, as key challenges for Slovenia's public finance in the coming years.

The opinion on the recently updated plan comes after the draft submitted to the Commission under the no policy change scenario last October had already been deemed at risk of non-compliance.

In a first review on the updated draft on 1 February, the Commission acknowledged the plan projected the budget to remain in surplus, at 0.8% of GDP in 2018 and 0.6% of GDP in 2019, but argued, among other things, that the planned rate of expenditure growth exceeded the recommended maximum increase.

28 Feb 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 27 February 2019 - Lavishing praise on the work of Environment Minister Jure Leben, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec announced on Wednesday that they had come to a conclusion that it would be hard for Leben to continue in his job whilst investigation is under way over his role in the previous term in a tender related to the Koper-Divača rail project.

"We made this decision with a heavy heart," said the prime minister, underlining that they had made the decision together after a lengthy talk.

He added that he would be happy to work together with Leben in any other capacity in the future if no fault is found with the outgoing minister for the tender for a scale model of the Divača-Koper track, a project Leben oversaw in his capacity as Infrastructure Ministry state secretary.

Šarec said that Slovenia had not had an environment minister like Leben for 15 years. "He was the first after a long time to start moving things [at the department], the first to be out in the field, the first to regularly report to me about all activities, be it Saturday or Sunday or any other day of the week. He really cares about this department."

The prime minister underlined that he would demand that Leben's successor kept up the work he started and the pace he had set.

He believes that the Modern Centre Party (SMC), which got the department in coalition talks, would provide a good candidate but "I will reserve my right to decide whether the candidate is appropriate for the job".

Šarec: Leben did a good job, surprise that complaints were not voiced earlier

"Minister Leben has done a very good job, he will continue doing it until his successor is appointed and I want the same work continue at the ministry."

The prime minister also expressed surprise that the alleged wrongdoings had only been voiced now, wondering why the people who "now claim to have known a lot" had not acted earlier.

Today's announcement comes after weeks of speculations about a 2017 tender for the track scale model in which the more expensive of the two bidders got the order, only to hire the cheaper bidder to actually make the model, which had ultimately not been paid.

Šarec also said he expected the resignation of Damir Topolko, the head of the Infrastructure Agency, which handled the scale model tender. If Topolko refuses to resign, Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek should dismiss him, Šarec said.

Šarec said that his insistence on Topolko's resignation was logical, as he himself had said that the tender chose the wrong bidder due to an algorithm error in an Excel table. He also said that other people involved in an email correspondence about the tender should take their responsibility.

He was referring to an email correspondence including several officials at the agency, as well as representatives of a PR agency that handled the project and of the companies that made the model, as well as the former prime minister's office.

Nonetheless, Šarec said that the correspondence had not persuaded him that Leben had "ordered to choose this or that bidder".

Moreover, Šarec said he expected of Bratušek to make sure that Leben would not be the only one shouldering political responsibility.

The prime minister also warned against drawing parallels among the three ministers who offered their resignation since the government was sworn in in mid-September 2018.

While Cohesion Minister Marko Bandelli and Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček both had to go because of mistakes they made while serving as ministers in Šarec's government, Leben's alleged wrongdoings stem from his work in the previous government, said Šarec.

28 Feb 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 27 February 2019 - President Borut Pahor started his official three-day visit to the UK on Wednesday by meeting Prince Edward and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Pahor and Hunt praised the relations between Slovenia and the UK as very good, with Pahor saying that Slovenia had "genuine interest" for the bilateral relations to strengthen also after Brexit.

The pair assessed that the two countries would be bound by many joint values and tradition also after the UK leaves the EU.

The UK will remain Slovenia's important business partner and an alley within NATO. The two countries share the awareness of the importance of multilateralism, security and stability, and progress in the world in general, especially in Europe, Pahor's office said in a press release.

Slovenia and the UK are enhancing their cooperation in business, tourism, investment, science, education and culture. Trade between the countries has been rising and has exceeded EUR 1bn for the first time last year.

Hunt presented to Pahor the parliamentary procedure for the passage of the Brexit agreement and the UK's possible scenarios for the future.

Pahor stressed the importance of finding appropriate solutions both for the EU and the UK and the responsibility in the efforts for the passage of the Brexit agreement as the best possible compromise solution that would enable an orderly Brexit and mitigate the potential negative consequences for the people and the economies.

Apology accepted over “vassal state” remark, Pahor will meet the Queen

Hunt raised some dust during his visit to Slovenia last week for referring to Slovenia as a former "Soviet vassal state". He and Pahor discussed the issue today with Pahor saying on Twitter that Hunt had started the conversation by offering an explanation, which Pahor accepted as an apology.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry told the STA today that the British side had turned to the ministry about the matter after Hunt's visit. The ministry explained it to the British ambassador that Hunt's statement had been inappropriate and had caused unease.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar is expected to discuss this with Hunt at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, the ministry added.

Pahor's talks with Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, earlier in the day focussed on the the Duke of Edinburgh's award for young people as part of the MEPI programme. The awards are annually conferred in Slovenia as well.

According to Pahor's office, Prince Edward shared his memories of his visit to Slovenia in 2013, during which he and his wife Sophie had been received by Pahor.

The prince also accepted Pahor's invitation to visit Slovenia again soon.

Later in the afternoon, Pahor gave a lecture on the global positioning of Europe at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

He will continue his official visit on Thursday by meeting Queen Elizabeth II, the representatives of both houses of the UK Parliament and expectedly also PM Theresa May.

He will address Slovenians living in Britain at a reception in the evening.

All our stories on Slovenia and Brexit are here

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