Politics

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

22 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 21 November 2018 - Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, pinpointed some of the issues for the party in the draft supplementary budget for 2019 on Wednesday by saying that the government faced the dilemma between "guns and butter".

Mesec said the Left, a partner to the Marjan Šarec minority government, was happy that the draft budget implementation bill envisaged an increase in the annual allowance for pensioners, an extra adjustment of pensions, and 10 new jobs at the Labour Inspectorate.

The draft, which the party received today, also contains a provision saying that public sector staff would as a rule have salaried jobs instead of being hired by agencies, which means they will also have appertaining worker rights.

However, Mesec said that there was a major flaw in the draft, which was that social transfers such as child benefit, baby bonus, unemployment benefit, disability benefits and scholarships would not be adjusted to inflation next year, measures valued at EUR 16m.

Mesec juxtaposed that to the EUR 15.5m deal to procure 38 Oshkosh armoured personnel vehicles for the Slovenian Armed Forces to form a battalion-sized battlegroup, the signing of which had been confirmed by Defence Minister Karl Erjavec.

The Left has been opposing the deal for months on the grounds that Slovenia is not facing any such threat to national security. Mesec said that even in case of aggression against Slovenia, the four-wheelers would not come useful because they were meant for offensive rather than defensive action, while they were also useless for civilian purposes.

The party thus called on the government to reconsider the contract. It will also call a session of the parliamentary Defence Committee to propose rescinding the deal and a legislative amendment under which any defence procurement in excess of EUR 1m would require parliament's consent.

The Slovenian military has had no casualties for more than two decades

In response the Defence Ministry said that the Oshkosh light combat all-terrain vehicles to be supplied to the army between 2021 and 2023, would replace the worn out Hummer vehicles and would provide troops with a high-level of protection, which was one of the main reasons for the purchase.

The ministry said that a well-protected armoured vehicle had proven to be essential for the survival of teams in combat and non-combat incidents as the one in Afghanistan a few years ago as Slovenian troops on a routine mission run onto an explosive device and "the vehicle's armour prevented fatalities and major injury".

The ministry said that Slovenia was one of few countries without casualties during more than two decades it had been participating in various international missions, and that high security and protection standards would remain a key requirement in army equipment in the future.

The ministry initiated procurement of 38 Oshkosh light combat vehicles in the previous term and completed it last week by signing an agreement with the US administration.

All our stories about the Slovenian military are here

22 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 21 November - Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša announced his party would seek an advisory referendum on the UN Global Compact for Migration as discussion in parliament reaffirmed the divide among parties on the matter. At the same time, around 200 protesters gathered outside the parliament in opposition to the deal.

 

Parliament discussed in an emergency session on Wednesday the UN global compact at the behest of the conservative opposition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS), which consider the compact dangerous for Slovenia and believe the government should reject it.

MP Branko Grims, the SDS's chief migrations bullhorn, reiterated their stance that the agreement, which is to be adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco, next month, was misleading and would not tackle the root causes of migrations.

Conservatives also took issue with the way the decision to back the deal was made in Slovenia, with Janša saying that parliament should have discussed it first and only then the government instead of vice-versa.

Related: Šarec - Slovenia supports UN Compact, but opposed to illegal migration

"You did not leave us any other choice but to file for an advisory referendum," he said and added that the name of the deal was misleading.

In a reference to the decision of the US not to take part in the compact, Janša said that no deal that was not supported by all members of the UN Security Council was global.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated that it was key for Slovenia to remain in the group of more than 150 countries by joining the compact. "This way, we will manage together the thing that no country can manage alone - mass migrations and illegal migrations."

He told the press that the opposition was "scaring people by misleading them, telling numerous nontruths and intentional lies".

"There are a few hundred refugees in Slovenia. Our borders are controlled," he stressed.

But this view is not shared by around 200 protesters in front of the parliament building carrying banners such as Slovenia for Slovenians. Protesters, who were also invited to join by Janša, are urging the government to reject the UN compact.

The session has been suspended, but it will end without any decisions anyway, because the proposal of the conservative parties was voted down by parliamentary committees last week.

UPDATE: The STA also reports that the Democrats (SDS) filed a demand for an advisory referendum on the UN Global Compact for Migration on Wednesday following a parliamentary session on the document. For the vote to take place, the motion needs to be endorsed by a regular majority in parliament.

 

A statement from the SDS said after the session that the motion was filed together by the SDS and the National Party (SNS).

The debate at the plenary indicated today that the only other party opposing the the government's decision that Slovenia support the document in Marrakesh in early December is the conservative New Slovenia (NSi).

Together, the three parties have 36 seats in the 90-member legislature.

If endorsed, the referendum question will read: Are you in favour of Slovenia joining the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that equates legal and illegal migrations?

SDS head Janez Janša called on other parties to support the motion and give the people a chance to voice their position after reading the compact. The Slovenian translation of the document has been available as of yesterday.

Janša indicated that the SDS would file the referendum motion during the plenary, saying that the process in which the document was approved in Slovenia was anti-constitutional and illegal. The government decided to endorse the document without political or legal discussions.

All our stories on immigration and Slovenia are here

A statement from the SDS said after the session that the motion was filed together by the SDS and the National Party (SNS).

The debate at the plenary indicated today that the only other party opposing the the government's decision that Slovenia support the document in Marrakesh in early December is the conservative New Slovenia (NSi).

Together, the three parties have 36 seats in the 90-member legislature.

If endorsed, the referendum question will read: Are you in favour of Slovenia joining the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that equates legal and illegal migrations?

21 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 20 November - While Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced last week that the country was withdrawing from the investment in the Koper-Divača rail project, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Tuesday as he paid a visit to Slovenia that the option remained open, Radio Slovenija reported.

According to the national radio, Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar has obviously convinced his Hungarian counterpart that the Slovenian government is yet to decide on the neighbour's participation in the project.

Szijjártó, who is visiting Slovenia upon an invitation from Cerar, told Radio Slovenija that the Slovenian government had not yet decided on Hungary's participation in the construction of a new rail line between the port of Koper and the Divača inland hub.

"My good friend Miro Cerar informed me that we should not understood the statements by your infrastructure ministry as the decision of the Slovenian government," the Hungarian foreign minister said.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said on Monday that Hungary was interested in the project to get a piece of the Slovenian coast and that that would never happen.

"If this is the reason that [Hungary] will not be involved, then be it," she added and reiterated that Slovenia was able to build the rail on its own.

Szijjártó today labelled Bratušek's statements as discouraging. "We had achieved great progress in the time when Cerar was your prime minister," he told Radio Slovenija.

According to hum, Hungary is also looking for opportunities in other ports. In Koper, the landlocked eastern neighbour transships two million tonnes of cargo, which is 10% of total transshipment in the port.

Szijjártó is in Ljubljana today for the opening of the 34th Slovenian Book Fair, where Hungary is the guest country.

Szijjártó and Cerar had a working meeting at Strmol Castle to confirm the excellent bilateral relations and regular dialogue between the countries, following the official visit at the end of October by Hungarian President Janos Ader.

What connects the countries is the protection of ethnic minorities from both sides of the border, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

Szijjártó and Cerar also discussed economic cooperation, investment opportunities, cross-border infrastructural projects, including power lines and gas pipeline connections between the countries, and topical EU and international issues.

All of our stories related to Hungary can be found here

20 Nov 2018, 13:08 PM

STA, 20 November 2018 - Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, held a series of talks in Slovenia on Monday, including with Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Simona Leskovar, discussing the situation in the Middle East.

The Middle East peace process and bilateral relations were in the focus of talks between Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and State Secretary Leskovar, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Leskovar stressed the need to continue regional and international efforts in the peace process and said Slovenia remained committed to the two-state solution, which is "the only possible path to lasting peace between Palestine and Israel," the ministry said.

She also highlighted the importance of good bilateral cooperation and said Slovenia would continue assisting Palestine through development and humanitarian projects.

Ashrawi presented the situation in the region and voiced the need for a continuation of high-quality political dialogue with Slovenia, which she sees "as an important supporter in the affirmation and respect of the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the international community," the ministry said.

Ashrawi, accompanied by Palestinian Ambassador Salah Abdel Shafi, also held talks with Speaker Židan and Left MP Matej T. Vatovec, the head of the parliamentary friendship group with Palestine.

The visit coincided with a week-long Palestine cultural embassy project which kicked off at the Janez Boljka Gallery in Ljubljana yesterday.

All our stories about Slovenia and Palestine are here

20 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 19 November 2018 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerer criticised on Monday "immature acts" on the part of Slovenia as a reason for Hungary deciding to pull out of the Koper-Divača rail expansion, saying "Slovenia has missed a unique historic opportunity to the detriment of future generations".

The former prime minister, whose government was in talks with Hungary to take part in this major infrastructure project, believes such treatment of strategic partners does not bode well for Slovenia.

Speaking to the press after an EU ministerial in Brussels, Cerar regretted that as he meets his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó in Ljubljana on Tuesday, they would probably not discuss "further strategic cooperation on the second rail towards the port of Koper".

Despite his government's major effort to get Hungary on board for strategic partnership on this important transport route, Cerar regretted that "a unique historic opportunity has been lost to the detriment of future generations".

"In my view, this is a big defeat for Slovenia," said Cerar, stressing that Hungary had been willing to cooperate for the past three years, but had been driven away by "immature acts" on the Slovenian side.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek referred to, but not named

He regretted "completely inappropriate, politically immature statements saying that we will dictate to Hungary the conditions for cooperation". This is in reference to Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek's statements, whom he did not explicitly mention. [More on that story here]

He said that such statements "mean a total lack of understanding of cooperation among countries at high political level", and added that it remained to be proved that the project would be more expensive with Hungary taking part.

He also warned the EUR 200 million that would have been contributed by Hungary would have to come from other sources - from loans or the state budget, which means there will be less money for other projects.

"Those who have caused this situation will have to find an answer to it. They will also have to say where we'll get the money and how we'll treat strategic partners in the future," Cerar said.

Similarly, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, who is also in Brussels for an EU ministerial, regretted Hungary's withdrawal, pointing to the financial aspect.

"If we look at how difficult it is to draft a supplementary budget for 2019, every cent coming into the country is welcome," said Erjavec, the foreign minister in Cerar's 2014-2018 government.

"Talks with the Hungarian side had been under way. Since the minister [Bratušek] disclosed how they proceeded, Hungary obviously withdrew," said Erjavec, who hopes this is not its final decision.

On Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the idea under which Hungary would take part in the construction of a new railway line between Koper and the inland hub of Divača had been dropped. He also said the country had already started talks with the port of Trieste in Italy, located some 15 km north of Kop

All of our stories about Slovenia and Hungary can be found here

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