Politics

07 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 6 February 2019 - As the government is about to decide whether to follow in the footsteps of several other EU countries by recognising Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, the coalition are divided on the issue with the Social Democrats (SD) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) arguing parliament should be consulted first.

Before taking any unilateral action which would mean assuming responsibility under international law, the government should discuss it with parliament, Milan Brglez, an MP for the SD and former speaker of parliament, told reporters on Wednesday.

He believes that Slovenian legislation is clear and that the National Assembly needs to take a decision on the matter, while he said that it would be very unpleasant if it had to discuss the matter subsequently.

He expressed concern about the hardship of the people of Venezuela, including Slovenians living there, who he said should be taken care of by the Foreign Ministry as a matter of priority.

Considering Venezuela's constitutional categories, a president's self-declaration could not have happened. "If this held true in Catalonia and Spain, I don't know why it wouldn't in such a case," said Brglez.

If in Catalonia's case "the constitutional constraints were those which wouldn't warrant direct application of international law over self-determination, I cannot see why it would be different this time around and why we would apply double standards in our foreign policy".

DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec, the former foreign minister now serving as defence minister, told the STA that the situation was a highly delicate one.

He believes that Foreign Minister Miro Cerar's proposal for Slovenia to recognise Guaido as interim president should be debated by the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee before the government took its decision.

Like Brglez, he warned that such decisions by the international community could have grave consequences for Venezuela and there was a serious risk of a civil war.

Erjavec believes that the solution for Venezuela is to hold an early democratic election. Whether Guiado's recognition could lead to such an election is in his view a very complicated question, but he said that it increased the danger of internal unrest.

Erjavec also noted that there was a very thin line as to whether recognising the interim president was interference in Venezuela's internal affairs. He believes that international organisations should exert pressure in order to have the country hold an early election.

Asked about whether the decision on recognising Guaido should be taken by the government or parliament, the Modern Centre Party (SMC) of Foreign Minister Cerar noted that in 2011 the government recognised the National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of Libya's people and in 2013 the government recognised the Syrian national coalition in the same way.

"We trust that the government will dedicate due attention to the matter and justify its decision. The important thing is that Slovenia stands by a position that is clear and right: that a free and democratic election should be held as soon as possible," the party stated on its website.

The LMŠ party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec would not comment on the matter officially but unofficial information indicates that there is coordinated communication on the issue between the Foreign Ministry and Šarec's office.

The Foreign Ministry will brief the government on the situation in Venezuela on Thursday and the LMŠ will take steps based on the discussion.

The Left, the minority government's partner in the opposition, is strongly opposed to recognising Guaido with the party's MP Miha Kordiš saying the question of recognition "is the question of whether we'll break international law" and indicating it could impact on the Left's cooperation with the government.

"Guaido is a self-styled American appointee; as Slovenia we certainly cannot benevolently recognise someone who declared himself as one," Kordiš said, adding that Emmanuel Macron's presidency in France could be called into question because of the gilets jaunes.

The opposition Democratic Party (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) support recognising Guaido with NSi MP Jernej Vrtovec commenting that the recognition must lead to a democratic process starting with a writ of a snap presidential election.

He believes that the government can take the decision on the matter itself but that the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee should also discuss the issue.

SDS MP Žan Mahnič said the party favoured an earliest possible recognition of Guaido as an interim president and a snap election. He said it was up to the government whether the issue would be discussed by the Foreign Policy Committee but he did deem every discussion on the issue useful.

05 Feb 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 4 February 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar announced on Monday he would propose to the government that Slovenia recognise the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela's interim president with the intention of Guaido calling an early presidential election. The government is to decide on the proposal on Thursday at the latest.

Cerar made the announcement after a closed-door session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, which was to be briefed on Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia over the border arbitration situation at the EU's Court of Justice.

Cerar spoke of a dramatic situation in Venezuela, which is experiencing a serious economic, social and humanitarian crisis. Three million people have emigrated in the last five years and human rights are not respected, he told the press.

He said that the recognition of Guaido would be "exclusively for the purpose of ... calling a new, fair, free and democratic election", and added that the final decision remained to be made by the Marjan Šarec-led cabinet.

"It's a fact that Mr. Maduro did not win in such an election. He won in an undemocratic election, meaning unfair, not free and lacking transparency," Cerar said.

Thus Slovenia needs to join the EU in helping in humanitarian efforts as well as, if necessary, step up sanctions against the current power holder.

"Above all, Slovenia needs to react in the right way. This means recognising the power holder that can and wants to call new elections as soon as possible, so that people can be helped, so that the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights are restored."

He argued this would help restore peace and stability and help make sure that "people will not be without medicine and food, that they will not flee or fear state violence".

Cerar added that while the EU was united in the points listed, it is not the domain of the EU as a whole, "or this has not been the usual practice so far", to recognise power holders in individual countries". "This is now being left to individual countries to decide," he said.

TWEET

Meanwhile, the press was also addressed by Foreign Policy Committee chair Matjaž Nemec, who said that he in a way identified with Cerar, but that at the same time he saw himself confronted with a number of questions.

"Remembering how democracy was used as a pretence to approach the situation in Ukraine or the Arab Spring ... or the situation in Syria, I fear and warn that this could mean a new hot spot in South America. There are major interests involved," Nemec said.

While agreeing that the current leadership in Venezuela is incapable of governing, Nemec fears what the alternative could bring.

Several European countries recognised Guaido, the parliamentary speaker, as interim president today after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro rejected the ultimatum to call an election by Sunday. Spain, Great Britain, France, Austria and Germany were among the first to do so.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="sl" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/vladaRS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@vladaRS</a> bom predlagal, da <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Slovenija?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Slovenija</a> prizna predsednika Nacionalne skupščine <a href="https://twitter.com/jguaido?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jguaido</a> za začasnega predsednika Venezuele, z namenom izvedbe svobodnih, poštenih in demokratičnih predsedniških volitev. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Venezuela?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Venezuela</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MZZRS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MZZRS</a> <a href="https://t.co/Q9DdsCMjD0">pic.twitter.com/Q9DdsCMjD0</a></p>&mdash; dr. Miro Cerar (@MiroCerar) <a href="https://twitter.com/MiroCerar/status/1092477936177954818?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 4, 2019</a></blockquote>

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05 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 4 February 2019 - Slovenia believes it can achieve sustainable public finances without having to hinder economic growth, the Finance Ministry told the European Commission on Monday, as it sent clarifications of its 2019 budgetary plans to Brussels.

The government sent to the Commission the draft supplementary budget for this year after it adopted it on 24 January.

However, last Friday the Commission requested clarifications about whether the 2019 budget plans were in line with EU rules.

In the document sent to Brussels today, the Finance Ministry said the government would carry on with activity designed to keep public finances sustainable, which would be done so as not to hinder economic growth.

The ministry explained that the fiscal rule had been the main guiding principle the government had taken into account in forming economic policies.

In doing so, it strived to preserve a nominal surplus, and consequently sustainable public finances in the medium term.

In this sense, Slovenia pursues an adequate ratio between the stability of public finances, and the care for its citizens and the country's development.

Slovenia will therefore continue with the activity designed to achieve long-term sustainability of public finances in line with the rules so that it does not hinder economic growth.

It will not lower expenses nor investments, but at least keep them at the current levels, at the same time facilitating a certain level of social security.

"For Slovenia, it is vital to preserve economic activity and raise productivity while keeping the general government debt at an adequate level."

In asking Slovenia to provide clarifications about its 2019 budget plans, Brussels acknowledged the planned surplus was to stand at 0.55% of GDP and that due to solid economic growth public debt was to drop to 66% of GDP by the end of the year.

But what worried it was the fact that the budget also envisaged a 4.5% nominal growth in public spending, which exceeds the recommended 3.1% growth ceiling.

The 0.55% of GDP figure refers to all public finances - the state budget, the health and pension purses and municipal budgets, whereas the surplus for the state budget alone is planned at 0.4% of the GDP.

Brussels said today it had received the Slovenian response, but would respond to it as part of the European semester winter package, expectedly at the end of the month.

04 Feb 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 4 February 2019 - Most public sector employees will benefit from a rise as they get their January payslips this month. However, the pay deal struck at the end of last year will also result in costlier public services.

Citing higher labour costs, some of the retirement homes and kindergartens have already hiked up the prices of their services, while higher wages may yet translate into higher supplementary health insurance premiums and in-home support services. However, not all hikes can be blamed on higher wages.

Prices of services at retirement homes are as a rule adjusted once a year, that is on 1 March. An additional adjustment is possible if labour costs have gone up by more than 1.5% since the last adjustment.

The Labour Ministry says that labour costs resulting from annexes to collective bargaining agreements increased by about 4% from 1 January on. These costs "represent about 50% in the price structure, which at 4% pay rise translates into 2% higher price of services".

According to ministry data, 60% of service providers opted for adjustment of prices of their services as of 1 January, following the ministry's recommendation that the average price increase should not exceed 2%.

However, they will be able to introduce additional hikes on 3 March due to changes in other elements of the price such as the costs of material, services, investment maintenance, amortisation and financing.

The ministry expects that the providers who did not adjust their prices at the beginning of the year, will do so now by an average of between 2% and 3%. Those who did would be able to increase prices by a further 1% on 1 March.

Nursery school fees are also going up. City councils in municipalities such as Ptuj, Velenje and Kranj, have already given the go ahead for price hikes of between 3% and 10%.

Ptuj Mayor Nuška Gajšek has linked the rises directly to the public sector pay deal, noting that labour costs represent more than 80% of the fee at nursery schools.

She says that municipalities are underfunded even without the burden of the latest pay rise, so part of the increase in costs would have to be covered by parents.

"If we wanted to subsidise the increase in prices, it would cost the municipality more than 400,000 euro a year, on top of the 3.4 million we already allocate for the purpose."

Velenje will allocate an additional EUR 500,000 for the increase in the cost of nursery schools. The increase in fees affecting the parents will depend on their income and the age of their child.

Parents in the median wage bracket will be paying EUR 14.92 more a month for first age group children, EUR 11.67 more for children in combined age groups classes and EUR 11.08 more for oldest children. The lowest income parents will pay EUR 3-4 more and top income parents up to EUR 32.84 more.

Several other municipalities are considering raising nursery school fees, while Maribor and Ljubljana will wait for calculations after the kindergartens have paid out January pay, before taking decisions.

The Education Ministry says prices of nursery school fees go up at different rates from one municipality to another and that they are not affected by higher wages alone.

The ministry is thus considering amending the pricing rules to "align individual elements of the price and thus prices", however it will also need to consider the position of local communities and nursery schools.

Similarly, one of the trade unionists who agreed the pay rises, Branimir Štrukelj of the KSJS confederation, says that some of the providers have used the pay rise to increase the prices of their services in order to deal with their problems.

He told the STA that some private providers used the increase in the minimum wage to hike up their prices by 20%. He rejected the reasoning that trade unions could be responsible for the growing prices in any way.

Fellow trade unionist Jakob Počivavšek noted that the government had committed to cover the higher pay costs for the services which are paid for from the budget directly or indirectly.

The Labour Ministry said it was seeking to agree an increase in the funds that the public health insurer pays to retirement homes for health services.

Local communities also urged the government to secure additional funds to municipalities to cover for higher labour costs. They want the per capita funding to increase beyond the EUR 20 agreed in November 2018.

The government responded by saying that the November agreement included a commitment for the government and municipalities to assess the impact of the public sector pay rise on municipality finances in mid-year.

The government has also appointed a taskforce comprising representatives of government departments and municipality associations to examine municipality legislation and their responsibilities and to draw up measures to reduce their costs.

31 Jan 2019, 17:14 PM

STA, 31 January 2019 - The Ljubljana District Court heard Gratel owner Jurij Krč back Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič on Thursday in a case in which the mayor stands accused of taking a bribe to the benefit of the city. Much like Janković last week, Krč said the donation to Ljubljana Castle was no bribe but a payment in line with the contract.

The indictment says that soon after becoming mayor in late 2006, Jankovič demanded that Gratel pay a donation of half a million euro to the municipality to be allowed to continue digging roads to install optic cables for telecommunications company T2.

The prosecution argues Jankovič had unjustifiably revoked the permit for temporary road closures Gratel had received from his predecessor just before the 2006 local elections and then made a new contract with the company.

But he added a damages clause, thereby assuming powers of the city's traffic department, which is in charge of issuing permits for road closures, according to the prosecution.

Janković told the court last week he had annulled the permit signed by his predecessor Danica Simčič because it was illegal, as it should have been issued by the city's traffic department. He said legal expert Rajko Pirnat confirmed this.

"We had an agreement on how to come to the site, whom to inform, who must be present. The deal also had a provision on damages for making a spatial intervention that exceeds the one outlined in the permit for temporary road closures," Krč said today.

"We had an agreement with the mayor to pay the damages and we did," he added.

According to Krč, Janković did not set the donation as a condition for the continuation of works. As Gratel owner Krč said he did not feel there was something wrong with the payment because it was in line with the contract. "We would have to pay one way or another," he said.

Janković said the deal was that the company either pays damages or makes a donation. The money was allocated to the same purpose any way, he said.

Former T2 adviser Miran Kramberger also took the stand today, saying that T2 was in the middle of negotiations for a loan with a consortium of banks at the time and that any interruptions in the construction works would have affected the process.

All our stories on Mayor Janković can be found here

30 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 29 January 2019 - Peter Svetina, a 53-year-old special education expert and social entrepreneur, was overwhelmingly endorsed as Slovenia's fifth human rights ombudsman in parliament on Tuesday as 89 MPs voted in favour and none against. He succeeds Vlasta Nussdorfer, whose five-year term ends on 23 February.

"I never expected such strong support," Svetina commented on the vote, pledging to perform this important and responsible job to the best of his abilities to serve humaneness.

He would not say what his priority areas would be because "they are all equally important and interconnected, so it's hard to set one of them apart". But he said his priority would be the cases open at the ombudsman's office.

He said the team working at the Human Rights Ombudsman's office numbered many able professionals, while he would also consult members of the civil society.

In endorsing Svetina, deputy factions invariably praised his wealth of experience and professional background that allowed him to learn really well about the needs of vulnerable groups of the population.

Svetina is a social entrepreneur who has been working with persons with special needs for all his professional life both practically and theoretically.

He graduated in special education from the Ljubljana Faculty of Education in 1989, and after graduation worked as a primary school teacher for several years.

He moved to Austria's Klagenfurt in 1995 to work as a teacher in a Slovenian minority association to get acquainted with the issues of the Slovenian community in the province of Carinthia. He was also a member of the local association of teachers.

Svetina returned to Slovenia in 1999 to work in institutions for persons with physical and mental disabilities, also cooperating with their parents, relatives, caretakers and NGOs. In 2007-2008 he was an adviser in the office of the minister of the environment and spatial planning.

Since June 2015, he has been running Grunt, a social entrepreneurship establishment in the countryside, based in Komenda, north-west of Ljubljana. He is also a co-founder of the non-profit, established in 2014.

Since 1999 he has also been mentoring students at various colleges in Ljubljana and Maribor. He has co-authored several handbooks on work with persons with special needs and participated in the drafting of legislation in the field of their employment and work.

When President Borut Pahor opted to nominate Svetina as one of nine candidates, his office said he had "a lot of practical and life experience in working with vulnerable groups and is characterised by compassion to fellow human beings".

"He is firm in his beliefs, but ready to accept arguments which manage to convince him. He is a person of dialogue, but he is relentless when people suffer injustice," the office added.

Pahor said that Svetina was a person with a high degree of integrity and public reputation, and with proper expertise, arguing that he would "perform the post honourably, responsibly, professionally and independently."

Before the vote in parliament, Svetina presented his vision for the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman to the media, saying would be a proactive ombudsman. He said that in his jobs so far, he had always pursued one goal - respect for human beings.

The newly-appointed human rights ombudsman said he had dedicated his entire life and career to working with vulnerable groups, mostly people with mental and physical disabilities.

"I've always made an effort to give people dignity," he said, noting he had tried to enable people to be as independent as possible, including financially.

Svetina said he had constantly stumbled upon violations of human rights of vulnerable groups and their families, fighting small battles against the violations.

He believes he will be able to continue on this path, but he does not think the ombudsman should protect only the rights of vulnerable groups, so he pledged to promote humanity and justice for all.

Svetina mentioned the link between labour rights and poverty, and pointed to environmental issues or children's rights. He stressed though that those who had been waiting to be tackled for a long time should be addressed first.

He also believes the ombudsman needs to speak up against violations, at the same time being open to different proposals and opinions and not shying away from criticism.

Svetina also deems it very important to work closely with the civil society and experts from various fields, so he would like to take the cooperation to a higher level.

29 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 28 January 2019 - President Borut Pahor and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić confirmed the friendly relations between their countries as they met in Belgrade on Monday, highlighting the good business cooperation. Pahor expressed Slovenia's support for Serbia's efforts to join the EU.

Addressing the press after their meeting, the pair stressed that Slovenia and Serbia had friendly relations which were developing well, in particular in business. Annual trade went up from EUR 500m to EUR 1.3bn in the last ten years, they noted.

Pahor asserted Slovenia supported Serbia's efforts to join the EU, for which Vučić expressed gratitude. Vučić noted that the relations between Belgrade and Prishtina would be crucial in this context, while Pahor urged leaders to further "reconciliation, trust and respect" irrespective of how difficult relations were.

Vučić was asked by the press to comment on last week's statement by Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar that the latest events in Serbia - a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and weeks of anti-government protests in Belgrade - raised questions in the EU about whether Belgrade was still persisting on a European path.

"I couldn't believe that he said that. Who knows what got into him that morning, perhaps he got up on the wrong side of the bed," Vučić said about the statement made at a session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee.

He stressed that Serbia stayed on a European path while it simultaneously maintained good relations with Russia, which it would continue to do.

"As you can see, I answer to you, who come from the EU, the same way I answer to Putin, to the Americans and all the rest. Serbia doesn't have two policies, only one, and this is the policy of Serbian interests ... which are being on the European path and speeding up our development, our economy," Vučić said.

The presidents also discussed the summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process which is to be held in Albania's Tirana on 7 and 8 May. According to Vučić, this will be an important meeting for the entire region.

Moreover, the pair touched on the status of the Serbian community in Slovenia, with Pahor saying that "Slovenia will do all it can to allow these citizens of Slovenia to preserve their identity".

He said Slovenia was big enough to be a homeland to everybody but added that "changing the constitution because of this is neither necessary nor possible".

While suggesting this was not an issue in bilateral relations, Vučić said Serbia would of course wish for Serbs in Slovenia to have more rights, pointing out that - contrary to Serbs in Slovenia - the 4,033 Slovenians living in Serbia are recognised as a national minority, with Serbia "striving to help them feel well".

Meanwhile, Pahor is accompanied by a business delegation featuring around 100 representatives of companies interested in digitalisation of business and administration.

They met Serbian executives at a business forum, which featured around 600 participants and was opened by Pahor and Vučić after their meeting.

Boštjan Gorjup, the president of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the STA that the forum, focusing on SMEs and the fields of digitalisation, the circular economy and tourism, had been a success.

Elaborating on cooperation in the circular economy, Gorjup pointed in particular to Slovenian waste processing companies, which see an opportunity in the additional EU funds headed to Serbia to improve this field.

"Our companies can be good partners in the exchange of best practice, in joint investment and sale of technologies," Gorjup told the STA.

The tourism debates revolved a lot around positive experiences with glamping, another field where Slovenian and Serbian businesses could join forces.

Meanwhile, Pahor also met National Assembly Speaker Maja Gojković as well as representatives of all parliamentary parties and addressed Serbian MPs at a session held especially in his honour.

In his address, he urged cooperation and trust among all the countries in the Western Balkans and those on its edge, saying in the context of the region's EU ambitions that "no other power or even super power can do this in our place".

Pahor understands Serbia's right to independently choose its security policy and thus also respects its cooperation with Russia.

However, he added that such circumstances meant that the pace and success of Serbia's negotiations with the EU would also depend on the settling of relations between the EU and Russia.

As to the Belgrade-Prishtina situation, Pahor said negotiations needed to be conducted peacefully, without threats or use of force and bring a result that will allow peaceful implementation without collateral security consequences in the region.

The Serbian press agency Tanjug reported that several opposition MPs boycotted the session, protesting not Pahor but the manner in which the session was convened as well as some of the statements made by Vučić after the meeting with the Slovenian counterpart.

Pahor will wrap up the official visit on Tuesday by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Mt Avala.

28 Jan 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 28 January 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's decision to accept the resignation by Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček triggered mixed responses on Monday. Welcoming the move, trade unions warn that the resignation alone will not be enough, while Prešiček's supporters regret his departure. Coalition parties respect Šarec's decision.

The Glosa trade union of culture and the Trade Union of State Bodies believe that Prešiček's resignation alone will not be enough for the situation to return to normal. More action is needed both at the ministry and wider in culture, they said.

Glosa head Mitja Šuštar said that Prešiček "is definitely not responsible for the old problems, but he is responsible for what was going on when he came and for maybe not tackling the situation as he should have, because we have something called subjective and objective responsibility."

It is essential that the situation at the ministry and wider improves and this will be the task for the new minister, according to Šuštar.

He also hopes that the new minister will tackle the issue of the status of the self-employed in culture and the drawing up of a new collective bargaining agreement.

According to Frančišek Verk of the Trade Union of State Bodies, Prešiček was "obviously just the tip of the iceberg." Some things had been heading in the wrong direction for a while, but now somebody took their own life, he said in a reference to the suicide of a ministry employee which triggered an avalanche of accusations against the minister.

Verk believes Prešiček handing in his resignation was the right thing to do. But he also pointed to "some employees at the ministry, who have been there for decades, enjoying certain privileges they would not have in the private sector."

The head of the Culture Ministry's in-house trade union, Gregor Lesjak told the STA he saw Šarec's decision as a sign that the government would help tackle the situation at the ministry.

"Employees are relieved. Indeed, we must make an effort to improve our relations ourselves, but the understanding and support of the leadership is important in this process. We wish that the new leadership would lend an ear and help tackle all the problems that have piled up in a dignified way," he wrote in a statement.

Several acclaimed figures from the world of arts and culture who had expressed support to Prešiček in the face of bullying and abuse of office accusations regretted his departure today.

The head of the Kapelica Galley, Jurij Krpan, told the STA that the relations at the Culture Ministry had been poor for a decade and that Prešiček had "started putting things right again."

"He created hope that these relations could start changing," he said.

A similar line of thought came from the coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), with MP Maša Kociper saying that it was not completely clear yet whether Prešiček was indeed a man with a quick temper or somebody who wanted to make changes at the ministry and faced resistance from interest groups.

Other coalition parties said they respected the prime minister's decision and would like the situation at the ministry to be thoroughly investigated.

Prešiček's Social Democratic Party too said it respected the prime minister's decision and was already looking for a new minister.

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) and the Left, which see Šarec's move as sensible, were critical of the SD, suggesting it had not been not resolute enough when the scandal erupted.

The National Party (SNS) head, Zmago Jelinčič, said he would have kept Prešiček and tackled the situation at the ministry and public broadcaster instead. The Democrats (SDS) would not comment on the matter.

Two journalists' associations, the DNS and ZNP, commented on the resignation by expressing fear that the replacement at the helm of the Culture Ministry would delay the planned overhaul of the media legislation.

"Putting the factors and circumstances that led to Prešiček's resignation aside and looking at the culture sector as a whole, we can see that the minister's resignation and replacement suggests that the much needed changes to the media legislation cannot be expected any time soon," DNS head Petra Lesjak Tušek said.

Political analyst Andraž Zorko meanwhile said that the course of events leading up to today's announcement made the prime minister look like a "winner" because he made the seemingly hard final decision in accepting Prešiček's resignation.

While Šarec's refusal to comment on the affair while in Davos last week made it seem like he was indecisive, Zorko believes that he was trying to give time to Prešiček to hand in his resignation before being dismissed.

Zorko was however not surprised with the move, saying that the dismissal of former Cohesion Policy Minister Marko Bandelli set a high standard and that Šarec had no other option but to let Prešiček go.

28 Jan 2019, 16:20 PM

STA, 28 January 2019 - The Party of the European Left has nominated Slovenian MP Violeta Tomić of the opposition Left as one of the party's two Spitzenkandidaten for the European Parliament election in May.

 

What’s a Spitzenkandidaten? According to Wiktionary, “the first candidate on an electoral list, who is often the leader of the respective political party, or the person designated to lead the government in the event of the party winning the election”

In addition to Tomić, the European Left has nominated Nico Cue, the former secretary general of the Metalworkers' Union of Belgium, as the other front runner.

Tomić and Cue were announced as the top candidates on the party's list at a session of its executive committee in Brussels last weekend, the European Left said in a press release on Monday.

Only recently, Tomić was appointed rapporteur on the rights of the LGBT community by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE).

"With these two candidates, we want to make a clear offer to the people of Europe, because we are on the side of those who do not accept the growing contradiction between wealth and poverty," the European Left said in the release.

The Slovenian Left said it saw the nomination as an acknowledgement to the party's work in the European context, adding that it would promote a different Europe, which would not be undermined by neo-liberalism of the centre and populism of the right.

Tomić, who is the deputy coordinator of the Left, could not say if she would also top the Slovenian party's list for the European Parliament election.

Speaking to the press today, she said that the registering of the candidates was still under way, adding that she would make her name available.

The European Left will run in the May election with the slogan "For a progressive exit from the crisis. Vote left in the European Elections".

Elected MEPs from the member parties of the European Left sit in the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament, which currently has 28 seats in the 751-member legislature.

28 Jan 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 28 January - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec on Monday accepted the resignation tendered by Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček, saying that interpersonal relationships at the Culture Ministry were broken to such an extent he could not imagine the current team continuing its work.

 

The prime minister would therefore like the junior coalition Social Democrats (SD), which put forward Prešiček as minister, to present new candidates for minister and two state secretaries as soon as possible.

Šarec said he believes the entire leadership at the Culture Ministry must be replaced so that the whole situation could be cleared up.

He said he expected concrete results from the new team and the ability to manage interpersonal relations.

Šarec notes a long-standing culture of bullying at the Ministry

The Culture Ministry is a very important ministry in the sense that it preserves this nation's identity, language and culture and makes sure that money is spent efficiently, he said.

Acknowledging the achievements that Prešiček listed in his letter of resignation yesterday, he said that he accepted his resignation so that the situation at the ministry could normalise.

Prešiček managed to raise culture spending and "move things that were in the drawer for a long time." He published a call for applications that was in the making for a decade and had General Rudolf Maister's library in Maribor declared national monument, Šarec noted.

The prime minister said that he had received letters in the past week blaming Prešiček for virtually everything that was wrong as well as those praising the minister to the skies. "I don't feel it's my place to judge on this."

Neither the trade unions nor the employees should celebrate today, Šarec said, calling for self-reflection among all those involved, "including Culture Ministry employees who have been working there since 1990."

He pointed to that fact that 74 reports of bullying or mobbing had been filed at the ministry in the previous term, saying this was cause for concern.

Prešiček, who offered his resignation yesterday in the face of bullying and abuse of office accusations following the suicide of a Culture Ministry employee, would not comment on the PM's decision today.

Prešiček says accusers are liars who hurt cultural workers

In the letter of resignation, Prešiček said he was offering resignation because the "public lynch that happened did not hurt just me and my co-workers but also those in culture who - as Prešeren would say - 'are kind-hearted'."

He said he had decided for the move to show that he was "not an insensitive person as some (media) have tried to portray me."

While denying having bullied the employee, Prešiček admitted to misusing the ministry car. He admitted to using the ministry car for the transporting of his instruments to the Music and Ballet Conservatory, where he served as director until his current job between 2010 and 2018, and where he continues to teach.

Prešiček is the second minister to leave the government after Marko Bandelli was forced to resign as minister without portfolio in charge of development and cohesion policy in mid-November over meddling in the local elections and delays in producing a report on EU funds phasing.

Prešiček is leaving the ministry after just over four months. He was sworn in on 13 September 2018. Nine other ministers have been forced out of the office even quicker so far. The shortest term had Klavdija Markež, who had to leave the Education Ministry in 2015 after only five days on the job following revelations that her master's thesis was plagiarised.

28 Jan 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 27 January 2019 - Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček offered his resignation in a letter to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec on Sunday, the Culture Ministry said. Šarec is to announce his decision on the fate of the minister who has been accused of bullying and abuse of office on Monday.

"I would not wish to anyone what I have been through in the last week. The public lynch that happen did not hurt just me and my co-workers but also those in culture who - as Prešeren would say - 'are kind-hearted'. And that I cannot allow, because I am not an insensitive person as some (media) have tried to portray me," Prešiček wrote in the letter.

"Having said that, dear prime minister, I see only one possible solution, and that is to offer you my resignation as culture minister," he said, noting that a lot of work had been done during his term, some of which would only be noticed in the future.

Prešiček has recently been the target of accusations of bullying employees at the ministry and abusing his office.

He denied having bullied an official who recently committed suicide, while admitting to the accusations of misusing the ministry car.

Being a minister put forward by the coalition Social Democrats (SD), the party leadership discussed the situation on Saturday but would not reveal any conclusions of the debate.

The SD has shown support for Prešiček in the past week, but also said that the decision about his future as minister lies in the hands of the prime minister.

Šarec is expected to announce his decision at a press conference tomorrow morning. According to unofficial information obtained by the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, he will not accept Prešiček's resignation.

Prešiček said in the letter he had taken on the job in the government with the desire and responsibility to make positive change in the Slovenian culture.

"I believe I have done my job in line with the oath I took in front of the National Assembly."

Among his achievements he highlighted a further rise in culture spending, better drawing of EU funds and "steps to optimise public spending".

He also pointed to the problems he inherited, saying they "erupted in the recent days".

Regretting the "premature and unexplained death of a Culture Ministry employee", Prešiček said it was yet another reminder that ministers must devote more time to human relations on all levels.

He also thanked all those who expressed support to him publicly in the face of the scandal.

The Slovenian Writers' Association (DSP) responded to the situation earlier today by saying that the "chaos we are seeing with the current minister and other officials is a result of the political attitude to culture," a consequence of years of political underestimating and neglecting of culture, which had led to shortages of staff and funds.

"The conflict was inevitable and in a way expected, as the situation reached rock bottom in many areas." The association expects the government to tackle the situation as soon as possible with radical and efficient measures.

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