03 Dec 2018, 12:50 PM

STA, 2 December 2018 - Slovenian voters appear to have opted for change in the mayoral run-off on Sunday as they showed many incumbents the door to usher in newcomers that promised a sea-change in the way their communities are managed.

With elections held in 56 municipalities, perhaps the biggest surprise came in Koper, where radio host Aleš Bržan appeared to have defeated incumbent Boris Popovič.

But after Popovič already conceded, the local electoral commission revealed the gap was only twelve votes - more than 25,000 ballots were cast, so there is still a chance postal ballots, which will be counted tomorrow, may change the result.

In Maribor, businessman Saša Arsenovič convincingly defeated former mayor Franc Kangler after the incumbent, Andrej Fištravec, was drubbed in the first round.

When the final tally was made, Arsenovič carried the vote with 58%, having campaigned on his record as successful businessman and promising to turn the city's economic fortunes around.

The vote pitted the more urbane Arsenovič against the more rural Kangler, who had been ejected from office in 2012 under a cloud of corruption allegations that he has mostly deflected in court since then.

Changes in all other run-off races

All other municipalities classified as urban holding run-offs also got new mayors tonight.

In Kranj, Matjaž Rakovec, the former chief executive of insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav, will fill the mayoral seat vacated by Boštjan Trilar. He won 68% of the vote against the independent Zoran Stevanović.

In Nova Gorica in the west, the 43-year-old Klemen Miklavčič defeated two-term Mayor Matej Arčon with 51.6% of the vote, despite Arčon having a 12-point lead in the first round.

Tilen Klugler, an independent endorsed by centre-left parties, emerged victorious in Slovenj Gradec in the north-east, edging the incumbent Andrej Čas with 52% to 48%.

And in eastern municipality of Ptuj, Social Democrat (SD) Nuška Gajšek has become the sole woman mayor in one of Slovenia's 11 urban municipalities as she surprisingly defeated the former mayor Štefan Čelan with nearly 67% of the vote.

Several larger cities that are not classified as urban municipalities got new mayors as well.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's party lost primacy in its home base in Kamnik as his chosen successor at the mayoral office, Igor Žavbi, was defeated by the candidate of the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) Matej Slapar.

In Jesenice in the northwest, Blaž Račič, 44, a correspondent for the daily Delo, ended the 12-year reign of Tomaž Tom Mencinger with a convincing 64.6% of the vote, having already narrowly won the first round.

And in Črnomelj in south Slovenia, a staunch anti-immigrant platform did not help Democrat (SDS) candidate Maja Kocjan, who was defeated by businessman Andrej Kavšek with a clear 72.9% of the vote, having already convincingly carried the first round.

All in all, only 11 incumbents who entered the run-offs secured re-election, a stark contrast to the first round, when incumbents posted serial wins.

But it was not all upsets, as Tržič, where the campaign was bitterly fought, delivered a resounding win for the incumbent Boštjan Sajovic against former mayor Pavle Rupar.

In Brežice, long-serving mayor Ivan Molan stood his ground, as did Toni Dragar in Domžale.

At the cumulative national level the trend has changed little, albeit keeping with a long trend.

The People's Party (SLS) remains the strongest force with 26 mayors in 2012 municipalities, largely thanks to a strong base in small, rural communities. The Democrats (SDS) have 17 and the Social Democrats (SD) 16.

The three dominant political forces on the local level have long been losing ground to mayors who are running as independents (although some have very clear political pedigrees).

There are now 123 mayors classified as independents, up from 115 four years ago, with another eight fielded by multiple parties, the same as in 2014.

However, there has been a reversal of the trend of declining voter engagement, as turnout stood at 48.4%, almost two points below that of the first round but five points higher than in the run-off in 2014.

01 Dec 2018, 09:13 AM

Mladina: An alliance is needed to fight SDS-associated media

STA, 30 November 2018 – The left-leaning weekly Mladina welcomes PM Marjan Šarec's appeal against state-owned companies running adds in hate-peddling media, but says it is only a first step. What needs to follow is the fostering of an alliance that will protect these companies in case of a change in power, Grega Repovž says in the weekly's latest editorial.

"Slovenian media have a problem... The Democrats (SDS), a political party, has an increasing number of products on the Slovenian market that are pretending to be media outlets... Because this propaganda machine it costly, it gets financial help from Hungary, from Viktor Orban," Repovž says.

He argues that the people of Slovenia and its media and journalists are not the only victims of this proliferation of fear and hatred by far-right parties working in concert.

Companies also find themselves under pressure, in particularly those that are involved with the state. Their managers know, including from experience under past SDS-led governments, that SDS leader Janez Janša will eventually end up issuing them a bill if they fail to cooperate.

Šarec's call was in order, but now the government has to follow up this first step by offering assistance and an alliance to these companies.

"If he is serious about this, it is not enough to point the finger at these companies. We posit that the reason why most of the exposed companies are advertising on these media platforms is their desire to secure the peace they need to do business normally," Repovž says under the headline First Step.

Speaking of the need for an alliance, he argues "this would benefit all genuine media" and lists several centrist and left-leaning media as well the right-leaning weekly Reporter.

It would also benefit politics, companies and above all the public. "The thing is a that radical politics is abusing liberal democratic institutes and institutions and rights (including those pertaining to the media and freedom of speech) and that this entails the undermining of democracy itself - and through that also of corporate autonomy."

Demokracija: Šarec’s anti-hate speech campaign is an attack on opposition media

STA, 29 November 2018 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija says PM Marjan Šarec's recent call to state-owned companies to reflect on whether to advertise in media outlets instigating hate amounts to "the worst attack on the freedom of speech since independence", making him No. 1 enemy of the freedom of expression.

Šarec's call not to advertise in media outlets which are critical of mass migrations was a case of abuse of power par excellence, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Thursday.

Although Šarec did not specify what hate content is and did not mention any media outlet, "it was clear he meant private opposition media – Demokracija and Nova24TV".

Instead of endorsing a referendum on whether Slovenia should join the UN-sponsored deal on migration, he in fact started implementing its objective 17, which speaks about media funding and advertising standards.

He announced, in the manner of the hardest communist times, attacks on the media which promote different views from those of the government and left-wing activists.

As an elected representative of the people, Šarec has a right to influence state-owned companies, for instance if state assets are poorly managed.

"But he is absolutely not authorised to use a state-owned company to suppress the fundamental and most important human right, that of the freedom of expression."

Biščak notes there is a short way from dictating state-owned companies where to advertise to police violence against those with different views.

"What is more, his actions show that he would be one of the first to abolish elections and ban opposition, whereby risking a civil war.

"He crossed the Rubicon, which he never should have," Biščak says, quoting philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's thesis "What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence."

While not denying Šarec the right to be critical or even harsh, Biščak says his instruction that advertisers should end their business cooperation with the opposition's media is "scandalous".

"In this way, by abusing power, Šarec has become enemy No. 1 of the freedom of speech," according to the commentary headlined Ludwig Wittgenstein's Seventh Thesis.

Other posts in this series can be found here (note that sometimes we use another right-wing weekly, Reporter)

29 Nov 2018, 20:00 PM

STA, 29 November 2018 - Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković pleaded not guilty as he appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing on Thursday in the Gratel case, in which he is charged with taking a bribe from a company to the benefit of the city.

"I think I'd be guilty if I hadn't done what I'm charged with," he told judge Vladislava Lunder at the Ljubljana District Court.

The case concerns EUR 500,000 which the mayor demanded from construction company Gratel in March 2007 to allow it to dig roads to install optic cables.

Gratel then transferred two EUR 250,000 instalments to the municipality as a donation for the renovation of Ljubljana Castle.

This enabled it to resume its work under a new development permit after Janković had initially banned Gratel from digging on public premises.

The payment was compensation for the damage incurred by the city because Gratel had dug up wider conduits and installed more cables than agreed.

Janković had already denied the allegation of bribery when the police raided the offices of the municipality and several other locations in February 2014.

His defence counsel Janez Koščak demanded today that evidence obtained in the 2014 house searches be excluded, arguing it had been obtained by violating human rights.

The lawyer explained the relevant court order had not specified the suspected crimes, which made the house searches unlawful.

Upon leaving the courtroom, Janković said he did not understand what prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar wanted to achieve with the indictment.

"A private company has paid compensation because it assessed it had installed too many cables," Janković repeated his view of the case.

He reiterated there was nothing wrong with a company making a donation to a public institution, saying it caused no damage to anyone and nobody except the prosecutor was claiming anything back.

Janković is convinced he is innocent: "I believe I'll prove my justice. They cannot sentence an innocent person."

He told the judge he had came to the courtroom "out of respect for the court", having had a business trip scheduled for today, which means he could have avoided it.

The main hearing in the Gratel case will start on 3 January.

Janković has another trial coming up soon, where he faces allegations of fraud concerning EU funds for the Stožice sports complex project.

While the trial starts next week, the pre-trial hearing for him is scheduled for 12 December.

Jankovič, who has led Ljubljana since late 2006, is also subject to criminal proceedings in several other cases.

29 Nov 2018, 18:00 PM

STA, 29 November 2018 - Slovenia has been fixated on Maribor and Koper as local elections enter the run-off on Sunday. Maribor will get a new mayor in any case and in Koper the incumbent faces the biggest challenge of his career. But there are plenty of other races that could produce surprises as well.

In Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, former mayor Franc Kangler, the candidate of the right, and businessman Saša Arsenovič, an independent running on the Modern Centre Party (SMC) ticket, are neck-and-neck with just days to go until the polls open.

The latest poll by Večer, the Maribor-based daily, puts Arsenović less than two points ahead of Kangler, but the race is too close to call. In the first round, Arsenovič was well ahead, with 38.2% to Kangler's 31.4%.

While the campaign ahead of the second round shifted a gear lower from the tense and at times aggressive campaigning for the second round, the race is lively given that the candidates represent two very distinct visions of Maribor.

The more urban Arsenovič, a businessman credited with helping to revive the struggling centre of the city, looks up to the long-term mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, as he tries to infuse town hall with a bit of business acumen.

Kangler, a former police officer and MP who was ousted as mayor in 2012 in mass protests sparked by allegations of corruption, has a can-do attitude but connects better to Maribor's suburban and rural population with his populist, salt-of-the-earth rhetoric about returning the city to its industrial glory.

The race in Koper, the biggest city on the coast and home to Slovenia's sole seaport, pits incumbent Mayor Boris Popovič, who has run the city with a penchant for strong-arming for 16 years, against radio host Aleš Bržan.

It had been widely expected that Popovič would be a shoo-in for his fifth term, but he has spent years fending off corruption allegations, and spent months in courtrooms, sometimes for cases that became statute-barred in odd circumstances.

Local political pundits say the people appear to have become fed up with his authoritarian style, hence the shift to the mild-mannered Bržan, who has led a low-key campaign while letting Popovič defend his record in office.

Popovič edged Bržan by almost 14 points in the first round, but since then nine unsuccessful candidates, who together accounted for nearly a fifth of the first-round vote, jointly backed Bržan. There have been no polls for Koper ahead of the run-off so far.

Another major race is in Kranj, the centre of the wealthy Gorenjska region, but polls suggest the result will be more clear-cut.

Matjaž Rakovec, the former boss of insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav who is running with the support of the Social Democrats (SD), is expected to carry the mayorship easily against independent Zoran Stevanović, a prominent councillor.

Both focused their campaigns on buttressing the city's economy, with Rakovec pledging to bring over a thousand jobs to the city under his watch. Rakovec is projected to win about 70% of the vote, according to a poll carried by Dnevnik.

In the absence of local polling it is difficult to gauge many other races under way in the 56 municipalities that are holding run-offs, but many are interesting merely by virtue of the illustrious and industrious candidates on the ticket.

In Jesenice, which vies with Kranj as the economic centre of Gorenjska, incumbent Tomaž Mencinger has had to surprisingly enter a run-off against Delo journalist Blaž Račić. In the first round, they were neck-and-neck at just over 23%.

In the nearby Tržič, the incumbent Borut Sajovic faces former mayor Pavel Rupar, who is attempting his second return to politics after spending time in prison for defrauding the municipality and who became a tabloid sensation after phone conversations with a mistress were published in 2006.

In southern Slovenia, all eyes are on Črnomelj, where a local member of the opposition Democrats (SDS) managed to enter the run-off with a staunchly anti-immigrant agenda, ousting the incumbent Mojca Čemas Stjepanovič in the process.

But the real surprise there was Andrej Kavšek, a local businessman who carried 45% of the vote with a distinctly pro-business platform emphasising the need to revive the economic fortunes of the community.

In Kamnik, the party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who served two terms as mayor there, faces a major test. Its candidate, deputy mayor Igor Žavbi, finished neck-and-neck with New Slovenia (NSi) candidate Matej Slapar, another deputy mayor.

Smaller communities scattered around the country could deliver surprises as well, as many famous and infamous candidates are on the ticket.

Journalists Bojan Traven in Bohinj and Dejan Karba in Ljutomer are in the run-off. Disgraced former ambassador Milan Balažic will try his luck in Moravče east of Ljubljana, and Roman Leljak, a former convict and amateur historian well liked in conservative circles, is in the run-off in Radenci in the east.

Overall, the second round is much more local since only mayoral run-offs are held and parties at the national level have mostly stayed out of campaigning, which dovetails with the increasingly pronounced trend of established parties giving way to independent and semi-independent local lists in local elections.

In the first round, independents carried well over half of all mayor offices and as a bloc they are the strongest contingent in municipal councils.

All of our local elections coverage can be found here

28 Nov 2018, 12:50 PM

STA, 27 November 2018 - Successful Slovenian businessmen frequently get the feeling that politicians and municipal representatives expect gifts or high-value rewards in exchange for conducting business, according to a survey by Deloitte Slovenija.

All in all, 72% of the respondents assessed the business environment as moderately corrupt, with only a tenth saying corruption is low, the head of Deloitte forensics for the Adriatic region Yuri Sidorovich told the press on Tuesday.

In recent years there have been no substantial efforts to tackle graft. "The question is not how much corruption there is in a country, it is what the state is doing about it," he said.

Problems seen with public projects, judiciary and law enforcement

He summed up the results by saying that Slovenians are disproportionately honest, but they are also disproportionately tolerant to those who steal.

Deloitte set out to poll successful businessmen, including the wealthiest Slovenians and members of management and supervisory boards.

It received only 53 completed surveys. "Many responded, but they did not want to participate because of questions regarding anonymity," said Deloitte manager Aleš Berham.

More than one in three said that public projects are overpriced because of corruption, and almost half said they did not trust Slovenian judiciary and law enforcement when it comes to white collar crime.

Sidorovich said that not a single respondent fully trusted law enforcement. "Is it normal that people with access to information, who know what is going on in the financial world do not trust law enforcement?," he wondered.

28 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 27 November 2018 - The strike announced for 5 December seems increasingly unlikely after a number of public sector trade unions and the government initialled on Tuesday an agreement stipulating pay hikes for public sector employees. The deal is yet to be approved by the bodies of the 19 individual unions represented by negotiator Jakob Počivavšek.

The unions are expected to make a decision about the agreement, which will be the same for all of them, within a few days.

The chief government negotiator, Peter Pogačar, believes that the strike agreement could be signed early next week.

He thanked the strike committees, appointed after a number of public and private sector unions said they would go strike in early December, for "fair but also tough negotiations".

Počivavšek said today that the unions he represented found it key that all public sector employees would see their salaries increase.

He also underlined the importance of having reached a promise from the government to ensure funding sources for the pay increase.

This comes after the SVIZ union of teachers and two healthcare unions initialled a deal with the government last week. Getting the majority of unions on board is essential for the agreement to become valid for the entire public sector.

The deal will see pay rises and bonuses for working on Sundays and holidays

Pogačar believes that the agreement is a good omen for future cooperation and commended Počivavšek for doing a good job in coordinating and representing the strike committees of 19 unions.

Počivavšek thanked the government negotiators and expressed satisfaction that the unions, representing different activities and interests had a common position and followed the principles of equality and solidarity.

He said that there was however a bitter aftertaste "that the strike agreements that had been initialled earlier followed some other principles".

Počivavšek said that the sides also agreed to go over the system of promotions in the public sector next year to see whether there are unjustified differences between different occupations.

The deal initialled today entails a pay hike, increases of some bonuses such as those for work on Sundays and holidays. The agreement is to introduce a bonus for 40 years of service and raise pension severance from two to three salaries.

The unions represented by Počivavšek represent veterinarians, customs officers, public administration clerks, social services employees, as well as health care, as well as two soldiers' unions that are not allowed to go on strike.

26 Nov 2018, 16:27 PM

STA, 26 November 2018 - The latest poll released by Delo indicates the government is becoming increasingly popular, but this has not helped the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which has lost ground to their coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SD). The opposition Democrats (SDS) remain by far the strongest party.

The government's approval rating improved from 2.52 to 2.76 on a 1-5 scale, shows the Mediana poll carried by Delo on Monday.

In the party rankings, the SDS has retained the top position, although it lost some ground. It polled at 18.3%, a drop of more 0.3 points.

The SD gained ground, apparently mostly at the expense of the LMŠ.

It mustered 8.9%, almost two points higher than in October, while the LMŠ saw the reverse trend, going from 8.9% to 7%.

In the ranks of the opposition, the Left remained flat at 6.1%, New Slovenia (NSi) added 0.6 points to 5.5% and the National Party (SNS) was also up 0.6 points to 3.8%.

Related: Our guides to most of Slovenia’s political parties are here

Among the coalition parties, the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) lost ground, polling at 3.7% and 3.2%, respectively, while the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) was up over a point to 3.4%.

Buoyed by a solid result in the local election, the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) went from 1.7% to 3.8%.

Pahor the most popular figure in Slovenian politics, but Janković also rises

In the politicians' popularity rankings, President Borut Pahor remains in the top position with a grade of 3.57 on a 1-5 scale, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec made the jump from fourth to second, his ranking going from 2.89 to 3.18.

EU Commissioner Violeta Bulc and MEP Tanja Fajon, who have for years been trading places in runner-up position, have been pushed to third and fourth place, respectively.

SDS lawmaker Anže Logar, who failed to beat incumbent Mayor Zoran Janković in the recent local election but managed the best result so far for a centre-right candidate, is in fifth place, but Janković, in seventh, made the biggest jump of all the politicians in the top 20.

The poll was carried out by Mediana between 13 and 22 November and involved 714 respondents.

24 Nov 2018, 16:34 PM

STA, 23 November 2018 - The Celje District Court sentenced the Democrats (SDS) head, Janez Janša, to three-month suspended prison sentence on one-year probation for defaming two TV Slovenija journalists. He is also to pay for the costs of the entire procedure related to his 2016 defamatory tweet.

Judge Barbara Žumer-Kunc said in announcing the decision that the contents of Janša's twit had been insulting to the two journalists on a personal level. She added that such a way of expression was not becoming of a senior political official.

Janša, known for his fierce criticism of the media, attacked journalists Mojca Pašek Šetinc and Eugenija Carl in his March 2016 tweet, which read: "The FB page of the public house is offering cheap services by washed up prostitutes Evgenija C and Mojca PŠ. One for 30 euros, the other for 35. #PimpMilan,".

At today's hearing Janša said he did not have sexual prostitution in mind but media prostitution, while the two journalists insisted that the tweet was demeaning and insulting to them both as women and journalists.

Janša remains unrepentant

The judge offered Janša a settlement but he refused to properly apologise to the two journalists.

In his defence speech, he labelled the lawsuit absurd, saying that the tweet had been a reaction to Carl's report "containing a bunch of despicable lies about SDS members." The tweet was seen by a few hundred people, while more than 100,000 people watched Carl's report, he said.

Carl called the tweet brutal, adding that Janša had more than 1,000 followers on Twitter.

Janša also said that Pašek Šetinc had been insulting him with her reporting for more than 25 years, which the journalist denied.

Janša was not present when the ruling was announced and his lawyer Franci Matoz has already announced an appeal. He argued that many violations had happened during the proceeding and that the court had misjudged the tweet and the context in which it had been written.

Meanwhile, the two journalists are happy with the ruling, which they believe sends the message to Slovenian journalists that the judiciary respects and protects them.

"The court has sent a clear signal that nobody, not even top-level politicians like the accused, can and should rise above moral, social and legal postulates," said Carl.

All our Janez Janša stories are here

23 Nov 2018, 14:20 PM

STA Ljubljana, 21 November 2018 - The government and three public sector trade unions initialled a pay-rise agreement worth more than EUR 300m on Wednesday. Meanwhile, nearly 20 public sector unions are still in talks with the government and are also planning a strike and protest alongside unions from the private sector for 5 December.

The agreement was initialled by the SVIZ union of teachers and two unions representing health care employees. The solutions amount to a total of EUR 306m in 2019 and include pay increases of between one to three brackets and increases of some bonuses.

On the other hand, performance bonuses and promotions are to remain frozen until December 2019 instead of April 2019.

While the health care unions are not completely happy with the agreement, they see it as a first step forward.

Branimir Štrukelj of SVIZ on the other hand was happier with the outcome, saying that the agreement included everything his union had already negotiated with the previous government in the spring.

Nonetheless, SVIZ has not yet officially called off the strike. If its members express agreement with the document, the strike planned for 5 and 6 December will be suspended until the points negotiated are actually included in the collective bargaining agreement.

Because some of the changes need to be incorporated in the public sector collective bargaining agreement, they must be supported by a required number of unions.

A group of 17 unions represented by negotiator Jakob Počivavšek is still in talks and it remains open whether they will also support the agreement. Police unions are also unhappy and still in talks with the government.

Following hours of talks today, chief government negotiator Peter Pogačar announced that a breakthrough was made with Počivavšek's group and that he expected an agreement will be reached to prevent their strike too.

Počivavšek was slightly more reserved, but corroborated that the negotiators "are inches away from harmonising the agreement at the level of negotiating groups", but that some issues remain open.

"We're happy we succeeded with our primary strike demand about raising wages for practically all public sector employees, but we assess nevertheless that some exceptions brought anomalies or destroyed ratios [in the single public sector pay system], which will have to be addressed very soon," Počivavšek said.

The government is to send the proposal to the trade unions tomorrow, with the unions to decide on it on Friday. It is still to be decided if another round of talks will have to be held.

Meanwhile, the government has already hosted a meeting of all 42 representative unions of the public sector to discuss a new pay agreement to substitute the existing one from 2016.

The document would also include the points agreed upon by the unions and the new government over the course of the past weeks.

23 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 22 November 2018 - The government approved on Thursday a budget deal for 2019, securing extra funding for pensions and municipalities, according to an official tweet. The detailed contents of the changes to the budget implementation act for 2018 and 2019 is not known yet.

The changes are needed because of the additional costs envisaged for next year. The government will also need to prepare a supplementary budget for 2019. "It (the supplementary budget) will be discussed next year, but talks will start now," Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said after the session.

The costs for next year rose following an agreement with municipalities on higher funding, which will cost an additional EUR 32.5m, and a pensions raise in the autumn, which will cost EUR 7m.

The budget expenditure will rise by another EUR 6m because of the setting up of a new budget fund promoting the development of NGOs.

Pensions remain a sore point

The government also endorsed today the proposal drawn up by Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj under which EUR 140m would be allocated for the annual bonus for pensioners, which means additional EUR 18m in cost for the state.

The proposal was endorsed unanimously although the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) had demanded that the government fully honour the commitments from the coalition agreement regarding pensioners, which would cost EUR 178m.

Šarec stressed today the amount of money available was limited. "I personally believe that people deserve a decent living, but ministries will need to work hard and prepare certain structural measures," he said.

Commenting on the tensions between the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the SAB over their demands concerning pensioners, he said that all members of the government must work for the benefit of all social groups and that it made no sense to claim that just one party advocates for pensioners.

To balance the budget, the government plans to cut budget spending by EUR 80m. Some EUR 16m are to be saved by leaving transfers to individuals and households level in 2019 and another EUR 60m by keeping restrictions on the paying out of bonuses for increased workload to public sector employees.

22 Nov 2018, 14:20 PM

STA, 21 November 2018 - The European Commission has established that Slovenia'a draft budgetary plan for 2019 is at risk of non-compliance with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. It has called on Slovenia to take appropriate measures and send a revised plan back to Brussels at least a month before submitting the 2019 supplementary budget to parliament.

The assessment published on Wednesday had been expected, as the new government, which took over in September, has sent the draft budgetary plan for 2019 under the no policy change scenario while it has recently engaged in changes to social transfer and pay policies. Slovenia also received the same mark last year.

The European Commission has called on Slovenia to take measures to bring the budget in line with the EU rules, especially when it comes to the difference between the recommended and planned structural effort and the difference between the recommended and envisages rate of growth of primary net expenditure.

Four other countries at risk of non-compliance

Joining Slovenia in the group of countries at risk of non-compliance are Belgium, France, Portugal and Spain.

The Finance Ministry said that Slovenia would sent to the Commission next year a draft budgetary plan which would be "as compliant as possible with the EU rules". It will be prepared along with the 2019 supplementary budget.

The ministry added that it had already informed the Commission in mid-October, when the draft plan was sent to Brussels, that a new draft would be made at the beginning of next year.

It said that the plan had been submitted under the no policy change scenario because "it is completely usual that right after a government change draft budgetary plans do not include envisaged measures."

The European transport commissioner, Slovenia's Violeta Bulc, commented on the assessment of Slovenia's budget by pointing to graphs for the last 15 years and recognising "very demanding, but successful steps Slovenia has made in the last four years."

According to Bulc, Slovenia has recorded a very good economic growth in the recent years, driven by strong investments and increased exports. The growth of public investments will continue to have a positive effect on GDP, she added.

The commissioner stressed, though, that Slovenia should not forget about the need to maintain stable public finances and ensure sustainable growth. This means a careful increase in public spending - of wages and social transfers.

Slovenia has addressed its macroeconomic imbalances

In a written statement, Bulc pointed to two aspects which represent a risk for the proposed budget to fail to comply with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact.

"What needs to be adjusted is the difference of 0.3% of GDP in state expenditure and the difference of 1.4% of GDP in reducing debt to up to 60% of GDP," she added.

Meanwhile, Slovenia will not undergo an in-depth review of macroeconomic imbalances this year for the first time after 2011.

The decision was expected as the European Commission announced in March that Slovenia had fixed its macroeconomic imbalances, six years after it had entered the excessive macroeconomic imbalances procedure.

All our stories on Slovenia and the European Union can be found here

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