Politics

14 Nov 2018, 13:00 PM

STA, 13 November 2018 - Several former political heavyweights are attempting comebacks in the upcoming local elections, some of them despite of scandals that seemed to have buried their political careers already. Standing out are Franc Kangler in Maribor, who resigned in the face of violent street protests, and Pavle Rupar in Tržič, who has served prison time.

Maribor

Kangler won the mayoral vote in Slovenia's second largest city Maribor in 2006 and 2010 but was then forced to resign in late 2012 amid violent mass protests triggered by his decision to erect automatic speed traps, which had been seen an attempt to skim money from the people at a time when the city was struggling with high unemployment.

He has had a prison sentence - which cost him his seat in the upper chamber of parliament and membership in the People's Party (SLS) - and a suspended prison sentence related to his mayoral activities quashed by the Supreme Court and is thus entering the election with a clean record.

The newspaper Večer recently reported that out of 21 cases brought against him by police and prosecution, 14 have already concluded in his favour. While sent into retrial, the major cases had wiretapping evidence excluded by the Supreme Court, making a conviction all but impossible.

However, what is very possible according to polls is Kangler's return to the mayor's office, which he said he gave up because the violent protests threatened the lives of police officers.

"A single police officer's life is worth more than mayorship," the 53-year-old, who started out as police officer himself, has said.

Tržič and Kočevje

Meanwhile, Rupar, a former member of the Democrats (SDS), is mounting a comeback attempt after serving a one-year prison sentence in 2014 over misuse of municipal funds.

Rupar, who ran Tržič (NW) for 12 years, fell from grace in 2006, when a recording was leaked of him attacking his alleged lover in an apartment he had failed to report to the Corruption Prevention Commission.

The 58-year-old, who became the first Slovenian MP to resign due to a criminal investigation against him, was later found guilty of several more counts of abuse of office.

"I paid for my sins, have gone through a lot and have learned from this," he says now, arguing locals have also started perceiving him differently than during the scandal period.

Some of the other comeback examples are less scandal-tinged but nevertheless noteworthy, including Janko Veber, who served four terms as the mayor of Kočevje (S) after 1994 and was also an MP between 1996 and 2018.

Veber's political career has been on a downward spiral ever since he was dismissed as defence minister in 2015 for having ordered the military intelligence service to conduct a national security analysis of a later shelved privatisation of Telekom Slovenije.

A former senior party member, Veber parted ways with the SocDems in early 2018 and formed his own party, Unity, which failed to make it to parliament in the June election.

Kamnik and Ptuj

An experienced local politician is also returning to the scene in Kamnik, where the mayoral seat was vacated by Marjan Šarec, the new prime minister.

Tone Smolnikar held the post for 16 years before Šarec and while he is relatively happy with the latter's performance, he is promising to do even better.

A comeback attempt is also being mounted by three-time Ptuj (NE) Mayor Štefan Čelan, defeated in 2014 by Miran Senčar, who will not be vying for a second term.

Also running in Ptuj is 28-year-old Andrej Čuš, who took over the non-parliamentary Greens after a clash with the SDS, which included an attempt to pin a cocaine scandal on him.

Destrnik, Ajdovščina and Videm

Another SDS defector, four-time MP Franc Pukšič, will try to revive his mayoral career in the tiny municipality of Destrnik (NE), which he ran for 18 years before losing the post in 2011 due to a new law preventing deputies to serve as mayors.

He made it to parliament in 2011 on the slate of the People's Party (SLS), but later parted ways with it.

The candidacies of two more former MPs have been raising eyebrows, one of them being 73-year-old Marjan Poljšak, whom most Slovenians remember for his eccentric speeches in parliament in the early 1990s.

Poljšak was defeated in Ajdovščina (SW) in 2014 after serving for 14 years. In 2018 he failed in his bid to get elected to parliament for United Slovenia, the fringe nationalist party led by Andrej Šiško, recently arrested for organising a self-styled militia.

Šiško, currently in detention, is running for the mayoral post in Maribor.

Then there is also Branko Marinič running for mayor in Videm (NE). Marinič resigned as an SDS MP in 2013 after being convicted to a suspended prison sentence over having somebody else, using a fake ID, take a German language exam for him.

All our local election coverage can be found here, while our guides to the various political parties can be found here.

13 Nov 2018, 16:45 PM

STA, 13 November 2018 - While most local races revolve around things such as traffic and the local economy, illegal migrations have featured prominently in the election campaign in the town of Črnomelj in the south east. Incumbent Mayor Mojca Čemas Stjepanovič seems to be caught between a rival calling for more anti-migration measures, and opponents of such measures.

Although four candidates are running for Črnomelj mayor, the two main protagonists are Čemas Stjepanovič, a candidate of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the Social Democrats (SD), and Maja Kocjan, put forward by the Democrats (SDS) and supported by the New Slovenia (NSi).

Kocjan, a municipal councillor of the SDS who has been very active in an anti-immigration group called the Bela Krajina Civil Initiative, advocates a harsher approach to migrations.

Illegal immigration in Slovenia rose by 400% in first nine months of 2018

The number of illegal crossings of the Slovenian border surged by more than 400% year-on-year between January and September, to 6,667. As many as 2,050 of the crossings were recorded in the Črnomelj area and the number rose to 2,498 until 4 November.

Kocjan believes Slovenia should send a signal to migrants that the Slovenian border cannot be penetrated, so she is calling for additional fencing along the bordering Kolpa river in places where there is no fencing yet.

Čemas Stjepanovič told an election debate aired by the commercial broadcaster Kanal A at the end of last month that additional fencing was being erected in the most critical areas and that future steps would depend on the number of migrants crossing the border.

She also expressed her grievances regarding the costs of migrations that fall on the municipality. "This means that we have less money available for other purposes," she said.

Kocjan would also like soldiers to protect the border and that the state authorities were more susceptible to the safety concerns of local population, including about any plans to set up migrant centres in the region.

But while Kocjan has criticised Čemas Stjepanovič for not being determined enough in the face of migrations, the opponents of anti-migration measures claim the opposite on social media.

A Facebook group opposing the border fence in Bela Krajina is upset by Čemas Stjepanovič's collaboration with the police in the erection of additional fencing along the Kolpa.

Saying that the two parties which support her advocate a different approach to migration, the group claims Čemas Stjepanovič is taking on the same anti-migration rhetoric ahead of election as the SDS candidate, Kocjan.

"Another election this year is being marked by repressive measures and scaremongering in what is no emergency situation," the group wrote on Facebook at the beginning of the month.

Immigration not such an issue in other border areas

Interestingly, migrations have not emerged as a major topic in any of the other municipalities affected by migrations, even though it seemed they might become a prominent issue in particular for centre-right parties.

The issue has come up only in Kočevje, where the National Party (SNS) candidate, Alenka Jelenovič, one of the four candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Vladimir Prebilič, voiced opposition to the setting up of a migrant centre unperturbed by there being no such formal plans for the area.

All our local election coverage can be found here

13 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 12 November 2018 - Municipalities in Slovenia are obliged by law to provide a range of public services to residents. However, funding is often a tough task causing friction in relations with the government, which provides a considerable amount of money for municipal budgets.

All of the country's 212 municipalities must provide services such as day-care for pre-school children, primary school, primary healthcare and social services.

They are also obliged to manage local transport infrastructure, and provide utility, firefighting and environmental protection services.

They have to make sure that their local government institutions - from the city council and mayor to the city administration - carry out their tasks duly.

To provide all these services, which are generally set down in the local government law, municipalities receive funds from the state.

These funds are known as "povprečnina" and were introduced with the new local government act as of 2007. Their main source is personal income tax.

€573.5 state funding per capita

The amount a municipality receives a year is calculated as an annual lump sum per capita and transferred from the state budget.

It is calculated by the Finance Ministry on the basis of the average cost per capita the municipalities have spent in the past four years to provide their services.

The government and the municipalities have just recently reached a deal on the per capita budget transfer for 2019, meeting half way at EUR 573.5.

Robert Smrdelj, who heads one of the three municipal associations, says this is 20 euros higher than this year but still 35 euros below the projected costs for 2019.

Municipalities underfunded since the last financial crisis

Ever since 2011, municipalities have received lower budget transfers than they are legally entitled to.

Apart from the per capita budget transfer, municipalities expect the state to provide the funds for higher wages which are currently subject to public sector talks.

Although "povprečnina" is the main source of revenue, municipalities are also funded from other own sources.

They for instance collect a property tax known as the compensation for the use of building land, tourist tax, inheritance tax, and various fines.

Not insignificantly, they are also entitled to concession fees for the use of public good in their municipality or the tax on lottery prizes of their residents.

Nevertheless, municipalities and experts have been warning about insufficient funds, especially since they were cut during the crisis to fall below the guaranteed sum, while at the same time new tasks are being transferred onto them.

This makes funding extremely difficult, affecting especially new investments and infrastructure maintenance, posing a risk to the country's balanced development.

As municipalities carry out a number of infrastructure projects with the help of EU cohesion funds, they also fear they will not be able to secure the required share of own funds.

Boštjan Brezovnik from the Maribor Faculty of Law says municipalities are the founders of almost 1,100 public institutions which employ more than 60,000 workers, and can issue more than 1,200 different types of administrative decisions.

He says that many of their tasks are also set down or specified in laws governing individual fields, such as zoning or infrastructure construction.

Small municipalities must provide the same services as large ones

They manage municipal property, take care of water systems, energy and utility objects and local sport infrastructure. Some are also in charge of air, water and soil quality as well as of waste management, he explains.

Municipalities differ greatly in the number of residents, but they are all obliged to provide all the services practically on an equal footing.

Brezovnik says "Slovenian law does not distinguish between small and large municipalities", noting that small municipalities with few civil servants are unable to carry out all of the allocated tasks.

"For instance, the smallest municipality, Hodoš, with 376 residents, and Ljubljana as the largest one with almost 290,000 residents, have equal powers and tasks."

To cut their costs, municipalities have joined forces as part of "joint municipal administrations", which carry out certain tasks for multiple municipalities. In 2017, there were 52 such administrations, with all but 10 municipalities taking part.

Nevertheless, some municipalities are heavily indebted, although total municipal debt, which rose during the crisis, dropped for the third year in a row in 2017.

According to a Finance Ministry report, their debt was at almost 842 million euro at the end of last year, down 0.3% from 2016, but more than double what it was a decade ago.

At the end of last year, only 16 municipalities had no debt, but these are mostly small municipalities.

In absolute terms, large municipalities have the biggest debt burdens, not least because they carry out the biggest investments.

Ljubljana has €624 debt per capita

For example, Ljubljana had the highest debt at the end of December - EUR 171m, followed by Maribor and Koper with EUR 63m and EUR 46m, respectively.

However, calculated per capita, large municipalities are often less indebted than smaller ones, which is also true for Ljubljana.

Its debt per capita was EUR 624, which made it one of the less indebted municipalities when the average per capita debt stood at EUR 408 in 2017, the report says.

Overall, municipal debt is not seen as a cause of concern, with the exception of a few municipalities which have had their accounts blocked for several years due to overdue debt from the past.

All our local election coverage can be found here

13 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 12 November 2018 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has told Marko Bandelli, the minister without portfolio in charge of development and EU cohesion funds, to resign or face dismissal over efforts to use his government clout to impact a local election. Reactions by the coalition parties indicate Bandelli would not survive a dismissal vote.

Šarec said he has warned Bandelli twice before about his communication, right after the government was appointed and then again a few weeks ago, when Bandelli came under fire for using emergency lights on his service vehicle. "Now I've decided he should leave."

Šarec and Bandelli met today after the story broke last week that Bandelli had threatened one of the candidates for the mayoral post in Komen (SW) with leaving the municipality without the support of his department and of the Infrastructure Ministry.

Both are controlled by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), on whose slate Bandelli was elected the mayor of Komen in 2014 and earlier this year as MP, which meant he had to give up the mayoral post.

Bandelli, who left today's meeting with Šarec without a comment, had apologised for the September e-mail to Erik Modic, in which he accused the candidate of being driven merely by self-interest and a personal vendetta.

The apology was also highlighted in today's press release by SAB, whose leadership will meet to discuss the situation on Tuesday morning.

But Šarec said that neither the apology nor SAB's initial defence that mayors are used to a different style of communication was convincing. "It was also insulting to all current, past and perhaps future mayors," said Šarec, who used to serve as the mayor of Kamnik.

While the largest parliamentary party, the opposition Democrats (SDS) already threatened with a dismissal motion ahead of today's meeting, the first reaction by SAB's fellow junior coalition parties confirmed Bandelli would not survive a vote were he to hold on to the post.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) welcomed Šarec's decision, arguing Bandelli had undermined trust in the government. In the case of vote, the SMC would back the dismissal, as would the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) whose Karl Erjavec said he would have probably acted the same way as Šarec in such a situation.

Erjavec however indicated that the Komen e-mail had not been the sole reason for Šarec's decision. According to his knowledge, Bandelli also still owes the PM a report on the drawing of EU funds.

The SocDems, another junior coalition party, did not wish to comment on the situation today, but with the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) naturally sharing the view of the prime minister, Bandelli's fate seems sealed.

"I'm convinced I did the right thing. We'll see what happens next," Šarec said.

Other issues with Bandelli’s communication style in local politics

The controversial correspondence was reportedly not an isolated case of the minister communicating inappropriately with a candidate in the Komen election.

Media also highlighted an October exchange on Facebook with Sergio Stancich, in which Bandelli expressed support for Stancich's rival candidate Dean Zalesjak, announcing the latter would "of course get maximum political support, know-how and ministerial information".

He later argued that he just highlighted the obvious fact that "mayors and municipal councillors of parties that are part of the government have easier access to ministers".

The news portal Siol reported last week that Bandelli erased his profiles on social networks last week.

In general, Bandelli appears to have not performed according to expectations, in particular now that the government has come under heavy pressure due to the poor drawing of EU funds.

Unofficial information obtained by the STA suggest Šarec demanded Bandelli that he present measures to improve the phasing of EU cohesion policy funds by last week, something the minister did not do.

But the demand that he resign also comes in the midst of rising tensions between Šarec and Brastušek, who recently requested a government debate about the realization of coalition priorities.

Her party attempting to take over the mantle of pensioner protection from the DeSUS, she said she would not rescind her demands for significantly higher pensions, even as the government faces demands from public sector unions that could run into several hundred million euro per year.

If Bandelli resigns or is dismissed, he will be allowed by law to return to the National Assembly as an MP.

All our local election stories are here

12 Nov 2018, 16:30 PM

STA, 12 November - Slovenian voters will head to the polls on Sunday to elect mayors and local councils in 212 municipalities. Coming less than half a year after the general election, the vote will be closely watched for signs of shifting political sentiment, but the results are likely to make for a poor barometer of the political climate in the nation.

For well over a decade, local elections have been dominated by truly hyperlocal issues, and 2018 does not look any different. In fact, judging by the candidacies and the handful of polls carried out, the vote may simply affirm trends that have become entrenched in the last decade-plus.

For one, large parties that are established at the national level do not necessarily perform well in local elections, with two constant exceptions: the Democrats (SDS) on the right and the Social Democrats (SD) on the left.

The SDS has won the last three local elections in terms of the total share of the vote for local council, while the SD has been near the top, finishing third in 2014, second in 2010 and third in 2006.

In 2006, the second strongest party was the Liberal Democracy (LDS), which has since disappeared from the political map, and in 2014 the runner-up position went to the then newly established Miro Cerar Party, since then renamed the Modern Centre Party (SMC).

The People's Party (SLS) has always done well and finished in fourth place in the last three elections, a feat achieved in 2014 despite having just been ejected from the National Assembly in what was a major upset for the once major political player.

In terms of the number of mayors, the SLS has been the undisputed leader, having the highest number of mayors of any party even in 2014, seemingly regardless of its fluctuating fortunes on the national political arena.

Local politics in Slovenia is a rural affair

These results reflect Slovenia's low rate of urbanisation, which is among the lowest in Europe, and the fragmentation of local communities.

The vast majority of Slovenia's municipalities are rural. Only 11 of the 212 qualify as urban, and the smallest among them has only 17,000 inhabitants.

In small rural communities, conservative parties tend to do well, and because there are so many small municipalities, centre-right parties have an upper hand by default when it comes to the sheer number of mayors.

But even more importantly, there has been a surge in independent and semi-independent parties and local lists, which have come to dominate the fragmented local political landscape.

In 2006, 67 mayors were elected from independent local lists. The figure rose to 70 in 2010 before exploding to 115 in the last election in 2014; that year, the SDS won 14.3% of the vote and had 31 mayors as the strongest individual party.

The trend is similar when one looks at the number of local councillors elected. In absolute terms strong parties such as the SDS have the highest number of local councillors, but independents have been gaining ground.

Independents accounted for just under 20% of all councillors elected in 2006 but 22% in 2010 and over 29% in 2014. Additionally, a tenth of councillors in each of those years was elected on the slates of smaller national or regional parties.

Another major trend driving Slovenian local elections has been the advantage of incumbency, which has been accelerating.

A 2015 study of local elections in Slovenia revealed that the rate of re-election rose from 77% in 1998 to over 80% in 2006 and as high as 84% in 2014.

As of 2018, ten of the 212 mayors have been in office for almost 24 years and many more have been mayors since their municipalities were first established (municipalities were created in several rounds in 1995, 1998, 2006 and 2011).

The incumbency advantage is so large that in as many as 36 municipalities, there is a single candidate for mayor, 35 of them being incumbents.

One major source of uncertainty disrupting these trends is the Slovenian tradition, especially on the left, of the rapid creation of parties, some of which tend to burn down fairly quickly.

In 2011, for example, the party of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković won 28% of the vote in the general election. But, unable to form a government, the party pretty much collapsed in time for the 2014 local election and won just 0.25% of the votes for local council.

In 2014, on the other hand, the newly established SMC profited from its win in the general election to finish second by the share of the local council vote. Nevertheless, it did not manage to get a single mayor elected despite fielding candidates in 40 municipalities.

This year, it is the prime minister's Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) that is in a unique position. It finished as runner-up in the spring general election with 12.6% of the vote, half of what the election winner, the SDS, received, and then managed to put together a five-party coalition.

But the party has its roots as a local player in Kamnik, where Šarec served as two-term mayor, and it has not yet built up a network of local chapters, which are seen as key for any party planning to become a serious player at the local level.

The LMŠ plans to field candidates in just 40 municipalities while also backing several candidates of other parties.

Given these trends, it seems likely that the SDS, SD and SLS may once again emerge as the strongest parties in the nation-wide tally, but independents, especially incumbents, are just as likely to affirm or even extend their dominance.

In the end, the results will probably give many players a cause for celebration. Some will brag with the number of mayors and local councillors, others will celebrate their outsize influence at the local level, and some will be happy with anything short of disaster.

You can find our guides to all the main political parties here

10 Nov 2018, 08:18 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, November 09, 2018.

Mladina: Cerar pushing Slovenia to the right on UN Migration Agreement

STA, 9 November - The left-leaning weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that Foreign Minister Miro Cerar is actually criticising his former self as prime minister as he is changing his mind on Slovenia's support for the UN Global Compact for Migration.

In the commentary headlined Cerar against Cerar, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž notes that Cerar had said that "Slovenia endorsed this spring the Global Compact for Migration, but that the circumstances have changed since".

"'Slovenia must make sure ... that the present way of life, the European way of life is preserved'", Repovž quotes Cerar, wondering what is the European way of life he was referring to, adding that "we are in a serious trouble".

If you take a look at the list of countries which decided not to endorse the document, which is expected to be adopted in Marrakesh in December, one can see that it is not a list of countries of the European way of life.

"Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Austria - is this the company Minister Cerar would like to push Slovenia into?", Repovž wonders.

UN document clearly separates migrants and refugees

What is funny is that Cerar speaking about "changed circumstances" reads like criticism of Miro Cerar as prime minister, who agreed with the European Commission acceding to the Global Compact for Migration.

"As long as the accession to the Marrakesh agreement was something the European Union expected us to do, this had to be done. How provincial and typical."

But immediately after the right started expressing doubt about the document, the foreign minister was quick to talk about changed circumstances.

Cerar and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec should actually defend the agreement and stand behind it, present it to the public, introduce it into public discourse as a positive shift. But Cerar is obviously not taking the document seriously.

It is actually a very though-through, relatively conservative document, which very clearly separates the issues of refugees and migrants. Politicians could use it to stand against the rightist agenda which abuses migrants for populist purposes, concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: UN Migration Declaration Will Spread “Eurabia”

STA, 8 November 2018 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija sets out its case against the UN Global Compact for Migration in its latest editorial, asserting that signing the declaration without seeking people's endorsement in a referendum first would be high treason.

Referring to the 2005 riots in France, the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and Muslim ghettoes in Europe, such as Molenbeek on the outskirts of Brussels, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak argues that European countries are losing the battle against the spread of "Eurabia".

"Pockets of little Eurabias are scattered throughout the western part of the continent. Whenever right-wing politicians try to restore state jurisdiction over their territories, violent unrest follows.

The only solution is to use “brutal power” to remove immigrants

"The planned signing in December of the Marrakesh Declaration, which is irreversibly taking away countries' sovereign right to decide on migration flows on their territories, could seal the fate of Europe as we know it. This is why signing the declaration without having asked people's opinion in referendum will be high treason."

Biščak says that the way for Europe's Islamisation was paved by the 1975 Strasbourg Resolution, backed by 200 members of parliament from West European countries.

The resolution said that Arab immigrants to Europe had a right to transfer their culture, customs, way of life and religion to Europe.

"The native population tried to preserve their customs and traditions, but the political authorities did not demand of the immigrants to integrate in the western society, but rather let the Muslim immigrants, joined by blacks from Africa, to create their territories (little Eurabias) where they live by their rules. An the Marrakesh Declaration will legalise all that."

Finally, Biščak says that the only solution is to use "brutal power" and to have the army surround these Little Eurabias and move all the immigrants out of the country.

08 Nov 2018, 15:27 PM

STA, 7 November 2018 - Slovenia's opposition leader Janez Janša addressed the European People Party's (EPP) congress in Helsinki on Wednesday, calling for unity in defence of the foundations of European democracy against internal and external threats.

The leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), one of around 15 European centre-right party leaders to address the event, said this was a moment in time which called for defence of the foundations of European civilisation from within and from the outside world.

As internal threats Janša described pressures by various forms of "cultural Marxism" that were trying to dismantle the family, national and European identity, private property, private education and religion.

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

From the outside, the European civilisation is facing a massive and increasing demographic pressure on ageing Europe, Janša said, adding this was used as a political weapon by the radical Islam.

"A combination of the two threats at the moment poses the biggest danger to the European civilisation since the collapse of the Soviet Union," said Janša.

He said defence of the European civilisation's foundations was the most pressing task for the EPP, which was the only group strong enough to lead the defence based on common values.

“Although there is no and there will never be a single European national culture, the European civilisation has been there for centuries. Every civilisation is constantly subject to challenges. There are also times when their own foundations are threatened and when they are to be defended. Now we live in a moment like this. “

"The defence of the very core of our civilisation is the most important priority and the noblest goal that we must be united on. We belong to the European People's Party so it's our duty to fight for a united, strong and free Europe and to provide security, opportunity and a predictable future to the Europeans.

"If voters in Europe see and feel our unity and resolve, the EPP will win the next European election with a landslide," Janša said.

08 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 7 November 2018 - Representatives of the government and municipalities on Wednesday signed a letter of intent that sets municipal funding provided by the state at EUR 573.5 per capita. The pledge was also made to draw up legislative changes within six months that will help reduce the costs carried by municipalities.

Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj signed on behalf of the government, while the heads of the three associations of municipalities, Branko Ledinek, Robert Smrdelj and Matej Arčon, signed on behalf of local government.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who was also on hand, said municipalities had hoped for more, but an agreement was reached as they understood the general financial picture in the country.

The per-capita funding figure is a source of tensions each year. The government and municipalities were still relatively far apart in October, with the former proposing EUR 570 per capita and the latter at least EUR 575.44.

Šarec, ex-mayor, says he understands local government in Slovenia

Šarec announced this was only the first step in improved cooperation between the government and municipalities. The plan is to also work together in an upgrade of relevant legislation, which is plagued by various issues that the PM finds more burning than per capita funding.

Šarec, who served as the mayor of Kamnik until recently, said few people could really imagine all the tasks municipalities were dealing with.

"This government understands this very well," he said, announcing a joint effort to secure "legislation that will allow them to develop more effectively, while also securing transparency".

The EUR 573.5 figure, which remains to be confirmed by the government and by parliament, was welcomed by the municipal representatives, who spoke of a compromise. Smrdelj said it is 20 euros higher than the funding for this year but still 35 euros below the projected costs for 2019.

The funding provided by the state is meant for a range of services municipalities are obliged to carry out by law, such as primary school, primary healthcare and social security services.

The funds provided by the government for local government are known as "povprečnina", whose main source is personal income tax.

The amount a municipality receives a year is calculated as an annual lump sum per capita and transferred from the state budget.

07 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 6 November 2018 - The opposition Democrats (Slovenska demokratska stranka - SDS) have requested an extraordinary session of the National Assembly to debate the UN-sponsored global compact for migration. MP Branko Grims said Tuesday the party demands the Slovenian government reject the agreement in its entirety.

The SDS is against the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration because "it treats all migrants in the same way, and eliminates state borders in the long-term".

The party fears the agreement would present a burden for Slovenia in terms of finances and in general, and would result in a downfall of Slovenia as well as other European countries, according to Grims.

He stressed that an increasing number of countries had already withdrawn from it, including the US and three of Slovenia's four neighbours.

See our guide to Slovenia’s main political parties here

Saying that the agreement is not binding on Slovenia is misleading, according to Grims. While it is true that parties to it are not legally bound by the deal, they are bound by it politically, he stressed.

Signatures for the request of the parliamentary session were contributed by another two opposition parties, New Slovenia (NSi) and the National Party (SNS).

Jožef Horvat, who heads the NSi's deputy group, told the press the government should not support the deal because it does not address the issue of how to eliminate the causes of migrations.

The NSi would like the National Assembly to pass a resolution recommending that the government "encourage seeking within EU and UN institutions a solution to eliminate the causes of migrations in source countries".

Slovenia had endorsed the drafting of the agreement, but the Foreign Ministry stressed on Monday that it was not binding and that it gave countries' sovereignty to shape their own migration policies.

The document, the first international agreement on migration management aimed at improving cooperation on this issue, will be adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco, next month.

See all our stories on immigration in Slovenia here

05 Nov 2018, 16:00 PM

STA, 4 November 2018 - Slovenia is among the least influential countries in the EU, but it is also deeply committed to integration, according to study by European Council on Foreign Relations, a London think-tank.

Slovenia placed alongside Latvia, Malta and Croatia as the country with the least influence on EU policy, with the four countries tied at 25th place among 28 member states.

Slovenia is also 25th along with Bulgaria, Croatia and Malta in terms how influential it is in general in the bloc.

The study, called EU Coalition Explorer, singles out Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands as the most influential countries overall.

Slovenia ranked high when it comes to fighting for deeper integration, placing 14th and beating the likes of Sweden and Finland.

When it comes to priorities, Slovenia is most active in common asylum policy, single fiscal policy, single market and single eurozone supervision.

Indeed, it is the most vocal advocate of the notion that all member states should be involved in a single fiscal policy.

Overall, Slovenia is of the opinion that the majority of common policies should be shaped by all member states.

It sees Germany as its best partner in policy making, followed by France and Italy.

Slovenia also ranks high, in 16th place, among countries that disappointed the least in the past two years; Hungary is seen as the country that disappointed the most.

The ECFR compiled the survey, which was released earlier this week, based on questions posed to 877 experts from all member states who are active in EU policy, be it in media, government or institutions.

You can find a PDF of the full study here – it’s 1113 pages long

05 Nov 2018, 11:22 AM

STA, 3 November 2018 - Andrej Šiško, the leader of a self-proclaimed local para-military formation, will remain in custody after the Supreme Court upheld the argument of lower courts that he represents a danger to the constitutional order.

"There are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect formed a para-military unit and called for the formation of other militias across Slovenia that would, when the time is right, bring down the highest authorities of the state," the Supreme Court.

The decision, announced on Friday, comes in response to an appeal by the defence, which argued that Šiško's conduct did not amount to instigation to the subversion of the constitutional order, the crime Šiško is suspected of.

Save for a brief intermission, Šiško has been in detention since early September, a week after video surfaced of him lining up several dozen men, some armed, wearing balaclavas and conducting what appeared to be basic military training.

Šiško, a former ultras who served prison for attempted murder, has argued that this was a provocation meant to disclose how Slovenian media work, but at the same time he called for the establishment of other such militias around the country.

Related: Andrej Šiško – Football Fan, Attempted Murderer, Presidential Candidate and Paramilitary Commander

The Supreme Court said the suspect's conduct, from the utterance of a threat against then Prime Minister Miro Cerar in January 2017 to the formation of the para-military unit, was sufficient at this point in proceedings to warrant his detention.

In making the decision, the court went against the argument of the prosecution, which held that whether Šiško should be remanded in detention should be re-examined by lower courts.

The prosecution's 27 September opinion caused uproar. It was penned by Supreme State Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar, who has for years been close to the opposition Democrats (SDS) and once ran for president with their support; one of Šiško's co-defendants was a member of the SDS's youth wing.

While Šiško is in detention, the investigation continues. Darko Simonič, the head of the Maribor branch of the State Prosecution, told the STA earlier this week that additional witnesses would be interviewed next week.

Šiško has been active in politics for years and ran in last year's presidential election. This year he is one of 18 candidates for mayor of Maribor.

Related: Football Fans, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis & Militias, a Brief Look at Far-Right Groups in Slovenia

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