Politics

08 Jul 2019, 17:24 PM

STA, 8 July 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Monday that security on Slovenia's southern border would be beefed up, including with new equipment such as drones, after meeting with Ilirska Bistrica officials and civil society representatives to discuss the situation on the border with Croatia.

Šarec, visiting the south-western town along with Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, said that he understood locals' feelings of unease about the situation.

Ilirska Bistrica Mayor Emil Rojc pointed out that the number of illegal border crossings had doubled since Poklukar's first visit to the area.

"We've never said there was no migration issue," said the prime minister, adding that the need for strengthening border controls had been acknowledged.

Šarec announced the expected arrival of additional soldiers to the area as well as the deployment of new police equipment, including border patrol drones, and expansion of the border fence.

However, Šarec also said that Slovenia's border patrol had been effective in meeting set expectations and that "we cannot settle for various forms of fear-mongering, which are sometimes politically-motivated as well".

Šarec will also visit the Kostel and Črnomlje municipalities later today.

06 Jul 2019, 10:57 AM

STA, 5 July 2019 - The city councils of all four coastal municipalities have urged authorities to present them within a month a timeline of activities to find a new, safe water source for Slovenian Istria.

Koper, Piran, Izola and Ankaran councillors met on Friday after almost 11,000 litres of kerosene spilled as a train derailed in a tunnel on the Koper-bound railway near Hrastovlje, south-west.

The spill is a threat to the Rižana water source, the only source of drinking water for Slovenia's coast. The greatest threat is heavy rain, which could make kerosene penetrate further into the soil and underground water.

The councillors are worried the state cannot guarantee the coast the constitutionally guaranteed right to drinking water if the Rižana source is contaminated.

They thus demand that all the necessary measures are taken and implemented to prevent the pollution of the only water source for Slovenian Istria.

Supervision of the state in which railway and road infrastructure is in water areas, should be enhanced, the councillors decided.

The railway infrastructure in water areas should be maintained and modernised to avoid any problems with the rail tracks.

The authorities should also make sure that trains carrying dangerous cargo in water areas run at adequate speeds.

Finally, the state should take measures to minimise risks for similar incidents.

If these measures cannot be guaranteed, then the option should be studied to ban transport of dangerous substances through water areas until a new water source is found.

The councillors also tasked the mayors to prioritise efforts to find a new water source and expressed support for the state's efforts to build the second rail track between Koper and Divača.

The session, which Koper Mayor Aleš Bržan labelled "Istrian parliament", was also attended by government representatives.

Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Somin Zajc promised serious efforts would be made to find a new water source, announcing a meeting with Istrian mayors at the ministry's water directorate for next week.

Several possible water sources have been proposed in the past, so it is clear which ones could be suitable, but they will have to be studied again, he said.

While he could not give any detailed timeline, he said "we're probably not talking weeks or months, but a year or two".

To further protect the Rižana water source from kerosene pollution, a special protective foil was laid in the Hrastovlje tunnel on Wednesday after much of the contaminated material was removed earlier.

All our stories on water quality in Slovenia are here

05 Jul 2019, 18:36 PM

STA, 5 July 2019 - While protests are being held on Friday in the Slovenian-Italian border area against the planned border control measures, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini spoke on the phone with his Slovenian counterpart Boštjan Poklukar to discuss migration and enhancing cooperation in this field.

Poklukar and Salvini, who visited Trieste today for a port investment contract signing and to discuss border protection with Friuli Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga, welcomed the start of Slovenian-Italian police patrols on the border.

According to the press release from the Slovenian Interior Ministry, Poklukar noted that it was not the first time Slovenia responded to Italian proposals for joint operations.

The Slovenian minister pointed to the assistance by the Slovenian Armed Forces in the maritime operation Mare Nostrum with the Triglav patrol boat in 2013 and projects to transfer persons in need of international protection from Italy to Slovenia.

The Slovenian and Italian police forces launched joint border patrols on 1 July as a response to the increase in illegal migration. The measure is expected to be in force until the end of September.

The Slovenian Interior Ministry told the STA today that the initiative for the mixed patrols had come from the Italian police on 29 April. The Slovenian police agreed with the proposal and Poklukar presented it to the government.

Subsequently, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar presented it to his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi and both countries agreed to implement it.

The two countries' police commissioners discussed the planned cooperation in more detail at the sidelines of a conference of police commissioners in Rome, the ministry said.

Salvini reiterated yesterday that if the border patrols failed to serve the purpose, Italy would erect physical barriers on the border with Slovenia. "We will make the border with Slovenia impenetrable with all available means."

Poklukar stressed that Slovenia was protecting its border with Croatia effectively and that the situation was under control. He said that special attention should be paid to the entire Western Balkan migration route and take appropriate measures.

The Italian and Slovenian interior ministers agreed that they would meet in person soon to talk about the possibilities of further bilateral cooperation as well as cooperation with the countries in the region.

According to the Austrian press agency APA, Salvini also talked today about measures to beef up the control of the Balkan route with Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

The Italian press agency ANSA reported that Salvini said in Trieste today that "joint patrols by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are something we are establishing, and we will see what the results will be".

The police forces of the three countries are expected to also enhance cooperation in fighting trafficking of illegal migrants.

Asked about the joint Slovenian-Italian-Croatian patrols, the Slovenian Interior Ministry said it could not go into detail at this point.

Several protests are meanwhile being held or are to be held in the area on both sides of the border and on border crossings to express opposition to the idea and to call for open borders.

Some 50 people have gathered in the main square in Trieste to protest against Salvini's policy of closure of Italian sea ports for migrants. People are also protesting in other parts of Trieste as the minister is visiting the city.

Slovenian politicians mostly against proposed border fence

STA, 5 July 2019 - Slovenian parliamentary parties and MEPs are critical of Italy's announcement it could set up "physical barriers" on the border with Slovenia if Slovenian-Italian border police patrols, introduced on 1 July, do not result in fewer illegal migrants. The patrols, on the other hand, continue to divide Slovenian politics.

Current developments in relations with Italy are "a total disaster" and proof that "our government is impotent security- and development-wise", opposition Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims told the press on Friday.

He believes the Bosnian-Croatian border should be properly protected, while Slovenia should properly protect its part of the Schengen border - its southern border with Croatia.

If that border was sealed, then Austria's and Italy's moves would be superfluous, said Grims, who believes the Slovenian police and the army, if it was given adequate powers, would have no problem protecting Slovenia's southern border.

The SDS's MEP Romana Tomc (EPP) meanwhile believes the announced fence on the border with Italy "presents a threat that Slovenia could become a migration pocket, which would undoubtedly worsen our security and seriously affect our economy".

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) believes a fence on the border inside the Schengen zone would be "unacceptable and un-European", and statistics do not corroborate it. What the EU needs is an effective supervision of its external borders.

The SMC believes the joint patrols are meant to build trust, with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ noting they were about preventing the smuggling of illegal migrants and fighting against smugglers.

Meanwhile, both MEPs from the ruling LMŠ believe Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's announcement of a fence was meant foremost to appease Italian voters.

"Physical barriers in the Schengen area are unacceptable, they would be a major step backwards and a major attack on the EU's basic values," wrote MEPs Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe).

If the Italian government keeps insisting on the fence, Joveva and Grošelj intend to bring the issue up in the European Parliament, but certainly at their political grouping's meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate for the nee European Parliament president.

The same would be done by MEPs Ljudmila Novak (EPP/New Slovenia (NSi)) and Tanja Fajon (S&D/Social Democrats (SD)).

Fajon urged Slovenia's authorities to do all in their power for solidarity to re-emerge in Europe and for a common migration and asylum policy be formed.

Novak expects the Slovenian government to "immediately condemn such announcements" and do all in its power to stop illegal migrations on the border with Croatia.

She said the mixed patrols on the Slovenian-Italian border would be no problem had they not been fuelled by a rise in illegal migrations on the Croatian border.

The NSi, convinced the patrols are a mistake, demanded yesterday a session of the parliamentary foreign policy and interior policy committees to discuss them.

Its MP Jernej Vrtovec said never again wanted the Slovenians living on both sides of the border, which is a single economic and cultural area, to be divided with a wall or even a wire.

The trend of erecting barriers should worry the entire EU, said MP Matjaž Nemec of the coalition SD, as a fence on the Slovenian-Italian border would be a measure disproportionate with illegal crossings of the border.

Nemec also believes the dialogue between the Slovenian and Italian interior ministers, who spoke on the phone today, was no longer constructive.

He thus called on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to start dialogue with the Italian prime minister.

Just like the SDS, Nemec believes the focus should be on the Croatian-Bosnian border as the outer EU border.

Saying the fence was no answer to the migrant issue, opposition Left MP Primož Siter said the rhetoric of Slovenia and Italy's right-wingers was the same.

"The only difference is that the Slovenian right has already got its wire [on the border with Croatia], while the Italian right is now calling for it."

Noting the EU lacked a common approach to illegal migrations, which forced each country to deal with them on its own, the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said Italy was dealing with them in line with its nationalist policy.

However, DeSUS also said the Slovenian Interior Ministry and the Slovenian police were trying to relativise the issue of illegal migrations.

The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) would rather boost the control of Slovenia's border with Croatia, where Italy and Austria could help in.

"The mixed police patrols on our western border are an un-European move, just as is Austria's border control on the northern border," the SAB told the STA.

The opposition National Party (SNS) believes the mixed patrols are nonsense.

Its leader Zmago Jelinčič criticised Foreign Minister Mira Cerar for having come up with the idea, wondering whether he tried to Italy's support for his bid to become a European commissioner.

Just like the SAB, Jelinčič believes Slovenia should have "double patrols" on the border with Croatia, which could also be mixed.

While MEP Fajon believes "there is absolutely no serious need for patrols on the border between Slovenia and Italy", MEP France Bogovič (EPP/SLS) welcomed them, but noted Slovenia should do more to protect its Schengen border with Croatia.

05 Jul 2019, 13:24 PM

STA, 5 July 2019 - The police continues to detect a rising trend in the number of illegal crossings of the Slovenian border, with the number standing at 5,345 in the first half of the year or 47.1% more than in the same period in 2018. There is an increasing number of illegal migrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco.

The biggest number of illegal crossings of the borders in the first half of the year was processed by police officers from the Koper, Novo Mesto and Ljubljana police departments.

By the end of June, 2,718 of illegal migrants expressed the intention to ask for international protection, which is 7.5% less than in the first half of 2018 (2,355).

According to the latest report, migrants who express the intention to ask for international protection frequently continue on their way to their actual target countries after being accommodated in asylum centres.

In the first half of the year, police officers recorded 355 cases in which foreigners crossed an internal Schengen border to Slovenia without valid documents or permits, which is 13.2% less than in the same period in 2018.

Pakistanis accounted for the most of such illegal entries, while they also dominate the statistics of illegal crossings of the external Schengen border.

A majority of such cases were recorded on the Slovenian border with Italy (226). The police notes that this is a relatively small number of cases, with the number of illegal entries on the border with Italy having dropped.

A total of 2,178 third country nationals were denied entry at border crossings for failing to meet the conditions to enter Slovenia or other EU countries, which is 10.8% more than in the first half of 2018.

Most of them were rejected on the border crossings with Croatia, and the biggest number of them were citizens of Afghanistan, followed by citizens of the Balkan countries.

The number of foreigners who were processed because they were not permitted to reside in Slovenia or other EU countries increased by almost a third to 2,728.

A majority of the cases related to expired residency permits, mostly involving citizens of the Western Balkan countries. An increasing number of Moldovan citizens are also being processed for this reason, as a consequence of visa liberalisation.

Slovenian police officers returned a total of 3,534 foreigners to the authorities of neighbouring countries in the first half of the year (up from 1,174), most of them to the Croatian authorities.

Foreign authorities meanwhile returned 333 persons to Slovenia in this period, including 23 Slovenian citizens, the report says.

05 Jul 2019, 11:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 05 June 2019

Mladina: Eastern Europe did not deserve any key EU posts

STA, 5 July 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the countries from Eastern Europe have no business lamenting the fact that none of its representatives have been tipped to get one of the top four jobs in the EU, as they do not deserve any respect.

"In the days following the selection of the leading staff of the European Union for the next five years, it could also be heard in Slovenia how bad it is that there are no candidates from Eastern Europe for any of the posts.

"That it would be symbolic and good as a gesture of respect to the new members. Respect? Why? The Eastern European countries have been a great disappointment of Europe, turning out to be fascistic, nationalistic, introvert, narrow-minded and democratically immature fifteen or twenty years after the enlargement."

In the commentary headlined On the Right Side of History, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž wonders whether Poland, Hungary, Slovakia or Croatia deserve any respect, adding that "this Eastern Europe is nothing but a disappointment."

Last year, Slovenia escaped by a hair becoming a part of this part of Eastern Europe owing to the maturity of a majority of political parties and the clearly expressed will of the civil society, he adds.

Referring to Marjan Šarec being appointed prime minister in a minority government, the commentator says that with Janez Janša of the opposition Democrats (SDS) in power, "today we would be a part of the problem and one of the countries which were pushed out from the so-called core Europe this week."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron played out a game which exposed the Eastern European nationalists, including Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, whose mouths are otherwise full of Europe.

"What is being formed is not automatically a Europe which we would like. We will perhaps get some headaches. But nevertheless, we are watching an attempt at stemming the growth of populism. This is good. Slovenia has fortunately found itself on the right side."

This is so because Slovenia has a normal, democratic government, and partly because it has the euro, and because Šarec, like Macron, became a liberal on the European scale at the right moment. "We have no serious influence on the developments, but we are on the right side of history. It could have been completely different."

Demokracija: New media legislation introduces censorship

STA, 4 July 2019 – Left-leaning politicians in Slovenia have no sense of responsibility and show no respect for the rule of law, the right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest editorial. They set the boundaries for what is allowed and now, with the new media bill, they will also decide on what constitutes hate speech, says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak.

According to the draft media bill, a state official called the media inspector will decide on what constitutes media-sponsored inciting of hatred and intolerance.

This person will be able to order a media outlet to remove certain content and even slap it with a fine.

"This is not only an inadmissible interference with the autonomous editorial policy but an interference with the freedom of speech from the position of political power," says Biščak.

It is not surprising that the Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS) welcomed this form of censorship.

First, it welcomed it because it will directly decide on what is appropriate and what is inappropriate content and second, because the DNS has shown many times it could not care less about media freedom.

Most recently it illustrated this by supporting Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's call to state-owned companies not to advertise in certain media outlets.

"It is more than obvious that Slovenia is again or (still) deeply in the Communist totalitarian system that tramples on human rights, of which the freedom of speech is the most important," Biščak says, adding that the deep state does not even bother to hide this anymore.

"The question is whether liberation from these chains is even possible in a peaceful way," concludes the commentary headlined In the Beginning Was the Word.

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

03 Jul 2019, 19:44 PM

STA, 3 July 2019 - Several monuments to WWII resistance members in Ljubljana's city centre have been vandalised. Police are investigating the incident, in which at least three monuments were sprayed with orange graffiti carrying political messages. President Borut Pahor and Culture Ministry condemned the act and called for tolerance.

Anti-revolutionary and anti-Yugoslavian messages were sprayed onto the 1975 Monument to the Revolution in Republic Square, while the statues of Partisan resistance leader Boris Kidrič (1912-1953) and Toni Mrlak, the pilot of a helicopter that was shot down over Ljubljana during the independence war, were in parts sprayed with orange.

"Vandalising monuments is not freedom of expression but a threat to it," Pahor tweeted, expressing hope that the authorities would investigate this and similar cases and act accordingly.

He called for tolerance that "allows us to present our views freely, while also considering the views and dignity of others.

The Culture Ministry also strongly condemned the incident, noting that the monuments of national and local importance were already being cleaned.

"The contents of the graffiti shows that this is more than just vandalism but enticing of intolerance and hatred," MEP Milan Brglez, former parliamentary speaker, wrote on Facebook.

The incident was also strongly condemned by the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who forwarded the photos of the vandalised monuments to the media.

It said it was "more than obvious" that the incident had been organised. The party said that nobody, regardless of their belief, had the right to vandalise joint monuments that serve as a reminder of the lessons of the past.

The SD said that although the memories of the recent history are very painful to some, vandalism would not bring them peace or unity.

This was echoed by the Left, which said that the monuments that were vandalised represented the achievements of the post-war Yugoslavia, which include workers, housing and social rights. This is also the time when the foundations of the modern public health and education system were laid, it noted.

This is not the first case of vandalism in the city centre. The 2013 monument to the victims of all wars in Congress Square has been vandalised four times already.

03 Jul 2019, 10:05 AM

STA, 2 July 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian signed in Paris on Tuesday a new action plan for a strategic partnership between the two countries in the 2019-2022 period. The pair also broached the appointment process for the EU's top posts and the Western Balkans, the Foreign Ministry said.

Cerar said the new agreement would enrich existing cooperation and provide a new momentum. He noted it also covered the time when Slovenia and France would successively preside over the EU in 2021 and 2022.

Cerar is confident the action plan, which focuses on cooperation in science and innovation, information, communication technology and AI, will contribute to closer economic cooperation, with France already being Slovenia no. 5 trading partner.

The Foreign Ministry added that an important part of the talks had been dedicated to the strengthening of multilateralism. France plays a key role here as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The pair also talked about current European topics, notably the Western Balkans. Cerar stressed the region needed to be given a European future and urged a clear and credible answer by October as regards the launch of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

Also broached were migration, terrorism and climate change, with Cerar calling for European solutions to migration issues.

Meanwhile, the head of the Slovenian diplomacy also met OECD secretary general Angel Gurria. Cerar explained Slovenia wanted to use its preparations for the EU presidency in 2021 to examine topics where it can work closer with the OECD.

Slovenia is already participating in an OECD expert group on AI and has participated in the drafting of OECD recommendations in the this field, the first such document on the global level.

Next year, the country will host an OECD summit that will serve as a chance for a debate on lifelong learning in a time when society and the economy are undergoing a digital transformation, the ministry wrote.

Cerar also met the chairs of the European Affairs Committees of the French parliament's lower and upper houses, Sabine Thillaye and Jean Bizet, respectively. He also discussed European topics and areas covered by the action plan with them.

All our stories on France are here

02 Jul 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 1 July 2019 - The parliamentary Education Committee has endorsed, in a narrow vote, a controversial government-sponsored bill designed to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court decision under which the state must provide 100% funding for publicly approved curricula taught at private primary schools.

The committee on Monday rejected all amendments, so the changes to the law on financing education will now be put to vote at a plenary in the form adopted by the government in early June.

Under the changes, the state is to finance fully publicly approved curricula at private primary schools. However, any publicly approved curricular content considered above-standard (pre- and after-school classes etc) will be exempted from state funding. At the moment, both programmes are funded 85%.

This is what the centre-right Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), pushing for full state funding of all services, had tried to change with their amendments.

The amendments filed by four coalition parties, which had acted after the parliament's legal service found the changes rather problematic, were also voted down.

However, unofficial information indicates further changes are possible, as the coalition has not yet given up on trying to come to an acceptable model of financing.

The coalition is apprehensive the bill, if passed as it is, would be sent into constitutional review and found unconstitutional again.

If the state provides no funds for publicly approved above-standard activities which are part of normal daily routine, the overall funds Slovenia spends on private primary schools would drop.

The parliament's legal service believes the lower amount of public funding would encroach upon the legal position of private primary schools.

One of the amendments filed today by the ruling Marjan Šarec List's (LMŠ) had thus tried to raise the funding a bit.

It said the state would fund part of the publicly approved extra-curricular activities such as classes for under- and over-performing students and morning day-care for first graders.

The amendment was a kind of a compromise reached by four coalition parties bar the Social Democrats (SD), which met before the committee session to negotiate a deal.

The SD, on the other hand, insists on the original bill, which was drafted by the Education Ministry, led by Jernej Pikalo from its ranks.

During the debate Marko Koprivc of the SD said the bill was in line with the court decision, and he was happy it would not dismantle the network of public schools.

"For us, it would be absolutely unacceptable to finance public and private schools equally. This would lead to further stratification," he said.

The debate on the committee was expectedly held along partisan lines, focussing on differing views on public vs private education.

SDS and NSi MPs said passing the bill unchanged would be in breach of the court decision.

Jožef Horvat of the NSi criticised the coalition for wanting to "destroy private schools". "The bill contains some very clear signals that private schools are not welcome in Slovenia," he said, adding Slovenia would most probably find itself before the European Court of Human Rights.

The opposition Left, meanwhile, called for changing the Constitution, arguing it is not clear about financing private schools.

Several MPs regretted though that the court decision, made four and a half years ago, had not yet been implemented.

The bill will now be sent into second reading in the National Assembly, which has recently already held a public debate on it.

All our stories on education are here

27 Jun 2019, 17:49 PM

STA, 27 June 2019 - Serbian lawyer Dušan Bratić has reportedly filed a criminal complaint against former Slovenian President Milan Kučan, accusing him of responsibility for genocide and the breakup of Yugoslavia. Kučan said the claims, published in the Serbian daily paper Politika, do not warrant a serious comment.

According to the report by Politka, Bratić, who is researching alleged crimes against members of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, filed the criminal complaint against Kučan and five more individuals with Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor's Office.

Bratić reportedly focuses on the deaths of JNA members on the Škofije border crossing with Italy during the ten-day independence war and other alleged crimes.

The list of individuals he says are responsible for violating the Geneva Convention, also includes the commander of the Territorial Defence Janez Slapar, the head of one of the defence's units Franc Anderlič and three more persons.

"Milan Kučan was the president of Slovenia then, the de facto commander in chief of all the armed formations and is among the main war criminals responsible for the shattering of Yugoslavia," Politika quotes Bratić.

Responding to the report, Kučan wrote that the claims completely ignore the historical context of the processes that caused the breakup of Yugoslavia and the tragedies they led to.

"My comment is not necessary, since I believe that Serbian politics and society will be capable of their own objective confrontation with Serbia's politics in the 1990s, which caused resistance from practically all the peoples of the former joint state.

"This was a retrograde politics that stopped the development, primarily of Serbia but also of other republics, for a long time...Levelling accusations at others means running away from ones own responsibility. As for my responsibility, history will be the judge of it," Kučan wrote.

Meanwhile, a response also came from the first director of the Defence Ministry intelligence service Andrej Lovšin, who said no crimes whatsoever had been committed by the Slovenian side in the war.

He argued that it was in fact the JNA that used excessive force and targeted civilian targets in several cases and that the International Red Cross confirmed no violations had taken place on the Slovenian side.

Referring to wars in Yugoslavia that followed Slovenia's, Lovšin added that "war crimes and genocide is what was characteristic of the continuation of the downfall of the former joint state".

27 Jun 2019, 09:35 AM

STA, 26 June 2019 - The parliamentary legal service has issued its opinion on the controversial bill on the funding of private primary schools related to a Constitutional Court decision, saying it is questionable in several places from the aspect of constitutional order, and even unconstitutional in certain points.

The nine-page opinion was issued after the bill passed first reading in the National Assembly last week and as the parliamentary Education Committee was scheduled to debate it again today, but postponed the session after the legal opinion was issued.

Under the bill, private primary schools are to get full state funding to teach publicly approved curricula, with pre-school or after-school classes, which are otherwise a normal part of daily life at school, not financed at all.

In the amendments to the act on the financing of education, which is meant to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling mandating full rather than just 85% state financing of publicly approved curricula at private primaries, any curricular content considered as above-standard will be exempted.

The parliamentary legal service says in its opinion the main shortcoming of the bill is the "strict focus of the initiator on realising very narrowly defined goals".

The government proposes broader and, in certain points inconsistent, changes to the existing education system compared to those demanded by the Constitutional Court, while not providing well argued reasons for this, it added.

The legal service has also made remarks on concrete articles, including the one on the funding of private primary schools, establishing that the proposed amount of public funds for this purpose would actually be lower compared to the current amount.

"The lower amount of public funding thus encroaches upon the legal position of private primary schools," it says, adding that private schools could transfer the burden of financing on the student's parents.

According to the legal service, this worsens the legal position of students and their parents, who could not count on such an initiative from the government in the wake of the Constitutional Court's decision.

It adds that the government has failed to explain what the public interest is that justifies the worsening of the legal position of private primary schools and their students and their parents.

There is also no explanation in the bill as to why the government is abolishing the co-funding of the part of the extended programme which is uniformly specified for all primary schools in Slovenia.

The bill also opens up several questions about compliance with the general principle of equality before the law, it says, adding the proposal that the educational programme of private schools must differ from that in public schools is also disputable.

What is more, the differentiation between publicly approved curricula and curricula that have gained public validity could be disputable from the aspect of the constitutional right to the freedom of expression, and from the aspect of the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on personal circumstances.

Following the legal service's opinion, coalition parties met to discuss the new development, opting to postpone the Education Committee's session. The committee then put the debate off by a few days.

MP Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD), who gave the initiative for the postponement, said they had only just received the legal service's opinion, so they had not had the time to study it yet.

Education Minister Jernej Pikalo welcomed the committee's decision to postpone the session, saying it was right the legal service's opinion was studied, "especially if we want to have quality legislation".

Nevertheless, he defended the solution to fund the mandatory part of publicly approved curricula 100% and not to fund any extra activities at all. He insists this is in line with the court's ruling.

However, since last week, the opposition has already filed a number of amendments. The Democrats (SDS) would not just like private primary schools which teach publicly approved curricula to get full state funding, they also propose that private music and secondary schools get 85% of its costs covered by the state.

During last week's parliamentary debate, only the parties of the minority coalition supported the bill, but some of them only under certain conditions. Some of them announced their final opinion would depend on the opinion of the parliament's legal service, so further changes during the legislative seem possible.

Other stories on this bill can be found here, while all our stories on education in Slovenia are here

25 Jun 2019, 10:13 AM

STA, 24 June 2019 - Its own state, especially for a nation as small as Slovenia's, is an asset in its own right, President Borut Pahor said as he addressed the national ceremony in Ljubljana's Congress Square on Monday, the eve of Statehood Day, which marks the day in 1991 when parliament passed the needed documents to declare independence.

"The establishment of an independent state 28 years ago is the most glorious milestone of our national history", and it "makes us an equal part of the global architecture", said Pahor.

He recalled the May Declaration, a document read in Congress Square 30 years ago in which writers and other groups called for democracy, a sovereign Slovenia and its integration with Europe.

"I don't think there is a national political manifesto more clear, more inspiring, more visionary and more brief than this one," he stressed.

Taking a look ahead, Pahor said parents and grandparents had the responsibility to enable their children a decent future to the best of their abilities.

This means "creating a tolerant society in which everyone can express themselves freely while also respecting the dignity and freedom of the other".

It also means "creating a society which is economically and socially strong and well integrated, but also competitive and solidarity-based enough so that it can create a lot and excellently, and distributes fairly what it has created".

It moreover implies acting to tackle climate change, and always address even the most complex of problems in a peaceful manner, according to Pahor.

Although we don't know what the future holds for us, we do know that in case of new watershed moments we will be able to take action more effectively because we are sovereign and have our own state, stressed Pahor.

The national ceremony is being attended by a number of politicians and other high-profile guests, including Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Speaker Dejan Židan.

Prior to the ceremony, the National Assembly met for a ceremonial session it holds before major national holidays, and Pahor hosted a reception for the relatives of military, police and civilian victims of the independence war, which broke out when the Yugoslav People's Army attacked the newly-declared state.

"We must never forget that Slovenia was attacked after it declared independence, but successfully countered the attack in a war," Pahor said at the reception at the Presidential Palace, which was also attended by Šarec as well as the defence and interior ministers.

War veterans used the occasion to urge the government to regulate the status of disabled war veterans who have not yet had their status recognised.

Rudolf Lah from the Association of Disabled War Veterans and Families of the Fallen in the 1991 War urged the government "to recognise our sacrifices and tackle the problems which we have been pointing to at all annual receptions".

Drago Koprčina, who heads the association, told the STA the Marjan Šarec government had appointed a task force to address the open issues.

Official statistics show that the ten-day independence war claimed the lives of 19 Slovenian soldiers and police officers, with another 182 Slovenians wounded.

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