Politics

17 Jun 2019, 10:54 AM

STA, 16 June 2019 - The National Assembly will discuss the opposition-sponsored motion to oust Defence Minister Karl Erjavec as it convenes two sessions this week. The opposition Democrats (SDS) believe that Erjavec abused the military intelligence service and unlawfully dismissed the army's force commander. Erjavec appears to enjoy sufficient support to stay on.

Pressure on Erjavec has been rising because a parliamentary commission investigating Erjavec's alleged abuse of the intelligence service has interviewed the dismissed Force Commander Miha Škerbinc last week.

Škerbinc's appearance before the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services behind closed doors on Thursday allegedly showed that Erjavec had been lying about the reasons for Škerbinc's dismissal.

Commission chair Žan Mahnič, an MP for the SDS, said that Škerbinc had provided a report by Chief of the General Staff Alenka Ermenc showing that Škerbinc had not broken the chain of command as regards late-night shooting at training grounds near Postojna.

Commenting on a report by Ermenc saying that the military had been following closely the ministry's order about activities on the training ground, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Friday that Erjavec will have to explain what happened.

The prime minister however also said that the parliamentary commission was a political body. "It has an investigative role but there is a thin line between having powers and abusing powers," the prime minister said, echoing Erjavec's position that the commission had abused its powers for political purposes.

Moreover, Mahnič said that Škerbinc told the commission he had not spread rumours about Ermenc's ill health, which was another reason cited by Erjavec after the dismissal.

Škerbinc said that he had 200 witnesses to prove that he did not spread lies, according to Mahnič, who said that the former force commander told the commission that he condemned the rumours about her poor health that had been going around in an address.

Before debating the motion to oust Erjavec in a dedicated session on Friday, the National Assembly will convene a regular session starting on Monday with questions time for the government.

Other business: Apppointments, energy infrastructure, private schools, bear & wolf culls, tobacco sales

On Tuesday, the MPs will take a vote on the reappointment of Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik, the appointment of Rok Čeferin to the Constitutional Court and the appointment of Peter Golob as Electoral Commission chairman.

Moreover, the MPs will conduct the second reading of changes to the energy act transposing two relevant EU regulations and changing compensation procedures for the construction of public energy infrastructure, which was ordered by the Constitutional Court.

The most heated debates can be expected on Wednesday, when parliament is scheduled to launch the first reading of legislative changes drafted to implement a decision by the Constitutional Court ordering the National Assembly to provide equal funding to private primary schools.

Private schools, as well as the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) believe the changes do not transpose the decision of the Constitutional Court.

On Thursday, MPs are expected to pass a emergency bill ordering the culling of bears and wolves in the wake of attacks on farm animals and increasingly frequent sightings after an environmental NGO successfully challenged the government's decree with the same cull order in Administrative Court.

The parliament is also expected to fast-track changes to the tobacco act postponing by three years the introduction of uniform packaging for tobacco products, initially planned for January 2020. The proponents of the changes want to conduct studies whether the measure is actually effective.

15 Jun 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 15 June 2019 - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Peter J. Česnik expressed concern in an interview for the STA about nationalist sentiment expressed in Italy and Hungary. He also hopes that young generations taking over minority organisations will be able to work together even more closely than the old guard.

 

In recent weeks, maps indicating territorial tendencies have been shared online by an official Twitter account of the Hungarian government and a right-leaning Forza Italia member.

Soon after, another Forza Italia member proposed legislative changes to hold a population census in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region to determine language groups.

Česnik told the STA that the latter was a political move of a politician hoping to boost his popularity. Nonetheless, it sounded an alarm indicating that the rights of the minority might be in danger.

"It is hard to comment. Our people on the other side of the border are worried. So am I. We have a very strong community there... There are other open issues, like the relocation of the [Slovenian] RAI editorial board from Rome back to Trieste."

The minority in Hungary faces different challenges. "There are few children and good bilingual primary education is a challenge." Investing in the Raba valley, the home of the Slovenian minority in west Hungary, "also demands road infrastructure investments by Hungary."

The minister is meanwhile optimistic about the change in leadership taking place in minority organisations. He believes that Ksenija Dobrila, who replaced Rudi Pavšič at the helm of the Slovenian Cultural and Economic Union (SKGZ) in Italy, is doing a job.

Meanwhile, Marjan Sturm "is showing the ropes to the young" Manuel Jug, who has taken over the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO) in Klagenfurt, Austria.

"Personally, I believe that if Slovenians joined forces like the German-speaking community in South Tyrol, they could achieve more effective representation in the parliaments of both neighbours," said Česnik.

Cooperation has been getting stronger in recent years. "With years, organisations may merge. The young are our future but Slovenians beyond borders have pushed them aside for too long."

When asked about the representation of Slovenians abroad in Slovenia's National Assembly, Česnik said that the communities are represented by the parliamentary Commission for Slovenians Abroad.

The commission and two government councils, one for minorities in neighbouring countries and the other for communities across the world, ensure that the positions of Slovenians abroad are heard.

"In principle, I am all for representation. But somebody please give me a formula to do this the right way. Not to mention how much this would cost and the fact that this money could be used to the benefit of the communities."

One of the most topical issues of the government's Office for Slovenians Abroad, as Česnik's department is officially called, is the repatriation of Slovenian living in Venezuela.

"Two months ago, we received the first message expressing the wish for humanitarian aid and repatriation. So far, the office has received 21 repatriation requests. Legal grounds exist, now it is time for technical implementation, to see how we can carry this out."

Moreover, "the government must yet adopt a decree to start the repatriation process," said Česnik, who returned to Slovenia after decades in Australia.

When asked about his experience in returning to Slovenia, he said that once you decide to leave your country, there is no turning back.

"When you return, you are often seen as the rich uncle from America and at the same time you need to deal with long bureaucratic procedures, problems having your qualifications recognised, trouble with investment. Those who succeeded are the exception to the rule."

"The number of Slovenians who come back is relatively low compared to the number of young people leaving the country every year," he added.

The minister said that the department was working on legislative changes to bring the relevant laws up to date. "Legislation needs to adapt to new circumstances. Old generations are dying out and the young have different demands."

He believes that Slovenia needs a special repatriation law and a systemic approach to the process.

Nonetheless, the single biggest improvement for Slovenian communities abroad would be more funds. He hopes that the money for the department would increase from EUR 8.6 million this year to EUR 10.3 million the next.

About 80% of the funds go to the Slovenian minorities in neighbouring countries. "If we lose the language in an area we have lived in for 1500 years, we lose the area."

Touching on the upcoming annual Welcome Home event for Slovenians living abroad, Česnik said that this year it will not be organised by his department but by diaspora organisation.

"Decades ago, this was called a picnic. I still find it is a picnic where the family comes together, talks and spends time together. We also have a meeting at the National Assembly. It's a forum for official representatives of the communities to voice their comments and proposals."

15 Jun 2019, 15:31 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 14 June 2019

Mladina: New EU Core Emerging Post-Brexit, Slovenia Should Optimise Its Position

STA, 14 June 2019 - The left-leaning weekly paper Mladina argues on Friday that the EU will in fact breathe much more easily without Great Britain. New constellations are likely to emerge in the wake of its departure and Slovenia should make sure to be among the core EU countries that take a step forward integration and policy-wise, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.

It actually looks like optimism is making a comeback in political analytical centres in the EU's capitals after a long time, Repovž says, arguing Europe will simply become a much more flexible alliance without Great Britain.

He speaks of signs that a two-tier EU is emerging, with the second tier involving Eastern European countries - an exception being Slovenia as a member of the eurozone.

The eurozone is looking like a bypass that can "enable most normal European countries to start pursuing more serious policies which are blocked today in particular by Eastern European nationalist and backward populists".

Slovenia is being referred to as a part of this emerging coalition, as part of what is being called the EU's core, "but the question is whether our government is aware of this", Repovž says in Core of Europe In the Making.

Slovenia should optimise its position and have an influence on the agenda of this coalition, which is why Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who has no serious diplomats or experienced international analysts among his ranks, needs to move fast and form a strong team around him.

"Why are we warning about this? In order to avoid hearing excuses again in a few years about how it was only possible to implement what was received in e-mails from Brussels and Berlin and to not feel embarrassed about the amateurs we had in power when the future was being designed," Repovž says, invoking the example of the 2013 bank bailout.

Demokracija: Interior Minister Should Resign Over Illegal Migration

STA, 13 June 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija calls on Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar to resign for being unable to provide for security of locals in border areas, listing several cases of unpleasant encounters between illegal migrants and locals, including a recent incident involving an 11-year-old girl.

Editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Thursday Poklukar bragged about the Slovenian police having successfully provided for security at the recent Three Seas Initiative summit.

"When the high-profile guests were adopting the closing Ljubljana Declaration to set up an investment fund ..., a drama was almost simultaneously unfolding on a bridge over the river Reka."

An 11-year-old was crossing it by bike in the area of Ilirska Bistrica in the south-west when she heard voices under the bridge, and stopped.

A group of men then started yelling and throwing stones at her, with one stone hitting her hand. Her parents reported the incident to the police, Biščak recalls.

The majority of police officers were protecting well-mannered Three Seas Initiative guests, "while the southern border remains full of holes like Swiss cheese".

If border control was stricter and better and if legislation was more in favour of Slovenians than foreigners, the illegal migrants would not have come that far into Slovenian territory, they would have been intercepted on the border and swiftly returned where they came from, to Croatia, Bosnia and further to the Arab world.

Biščak says the girl, a recently abducted pensioner, a wine grower whose van was stolen from his courtyard or any other person whose property has been destroyed by illegals would find it hard to agree with Poklukar that the police is in control of the situation.

What happened in Western Europe, is now starting to happen in Slovenia - while it began with small thefts and fights, today those who came to Europe a few years ago are claiming entire areas where they enforce their religion-based rules and where the police does not dare to go any more.

Biščak says such areas, controlled by Muslims and ruled by Sharia law, could well emerge in Slovenia, adding "Islam is not a religion, it is a spiritual, judicial and political system, and is not compatible with any western democracy".

While some countries such as Italy and Hungary have managed to secure their border against illegals, the Slovenian government has proved completely incapable of taking action.

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

14 Jun 2019, 12:08 PM

STA, 13 June 2019 - The government adopted on Thursday a decree updating Slovenia's list of safe countries from 2016. The list has three new names, while Turkey has been removed from it. This means that Slovenia will no longer return migrants or extradite suspects to Turkey.

The new list contains 14 countries: Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Kosovo, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Serbia, Tunisia, and newcomers Georgia, Nepal and Senegal.

A third country, meaning a non-EU member, is considered safe if it can be assumed, based on several factors, that in general it does not see persecution, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and that people there are not in danger due to an international or internal conflict.

There was a push last year to remove Turkey from the list after Slovenia rejected the asylum applications 38 Turks even though they had fled Turkey for fear of persecution, but the motion was rejected at committee by the previous parliament.

The move comes about a month and a half after Swedish news portal Nordic Monitor reported that the Turkish Embassy in Ljubljana spied on critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan living in the country, likely believed to be the followers of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish authorities believe was behind the failed 2016 coup d'etat.

14 Jun 2019, 10:58 AM

STA, 13 June 2019 - The deputy chair of the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services Žan Mahnič has accused Defence Minister Karl Erjavec of having fabricated the reasons for the April dismissal of Miha Škerbinc as the force commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces.

Mahnič said the testimony given today for the parliamentary commission by Škerbinc had shown that Škerbinc had not spoken ill of the health of Maj-Gen Alenka Ermenc, the chief of the general staff, as well as that Škerbinc had not been responsible for late-night shooting at the Poček training grounds.

According to the MP for the opposition Democrats (SDS), Škerbinc attributed the reports about his comments on Ermenc to "informal informants" within the army who also spread false rumours.

One such rumour led to media reports that Ermenc would be replaced, which is something Škerbinc said he strongly opposed although he might have been misunderstood in the process, Mahnič told the press.

While Minister Erjavec is facing an ouster motion for allegedly abusing the Defence Ministry's Intelligence and Security Service (OVS) to gather information on Škerbinc, Mahnič said Škerbinc said today nobody from OVS had actually asked him, in what had been unusual sets of questions, whether he had in fact spoken inappropriately of Ermenc's health.

As for the Poček night shooting drills that upset the local community, Mahnič said Škerbinc had provided documents showing the shooting had been conducted in line with the guidelines provided by the government and Defence Ministry.

According to Mahnič, the documents show Erjavec had lied about Škerbinc's responsibility and about the shooting not being planned.

The commission decided today it would also interview Ermenc, the OVS members involved in the Škerbinc inquiries as well as OVS director Dejan Matijevič, Mahnič announced.

Erjavec has been rejecting claims that the night shooting had been in line with government-approved plans, saying the army had failed to make adjustments after a plan of exercises approved by the government in January.

The minister also dismissed Škerbinc's referencing of the documents put forward today - these in fact make up a report by Ermenc on the developments - arguing they do not go into the details of the training conducted and of all the documents issued in relation to it.

Ermenc's report, which has also been obtained by the media, however states that all agreements and guidelines adopted in relation to training at Poček had been honoured by the army.

14 Jun 2019, 08:51 AM

STA, 13 June 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor and his Austrian host Alexander Van der Bellen called for an upgrade of bilateral relations as they met in Vienna on Thursday. While acknowledging some differences in views, Pahor said those could be resolved in dialogue.

The presidents broached a variety of issues, including the status of the Slovenian minority in Austria and the position of the German-speaking community in Slovenia, which wants to be recognised as a minority.

Van der Bellen said the two countries were partners and friends whose relations were underpinned by "human, economic and political ties".

He said the situation of the Slovenian minority there had changed for the better, while there were also positive signals regarding Slovenia's support for the preservation of the German-speaking community in Slovenia.

Pahor stressed that the communities had different constitutional statuses, but he is in favour of Slovenia doing everything it can so that the community can preserve its identity. "This makes us richer," he stressed.

Both presidents expressed support for the idea of a Slovenian-Austrian event marking the 100th anniversary of the referendum under which voters in a large part of Carinthia opted for Austria instead of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians.

Pahor said the anniversary was an opportunity for a manifestation that would unite both nations and countries. "It is a great opportunity to set things that appeared a historical problem into the context of the future, where they can become solutions."

The pair also discussed Austrian police checks on the border with Slovenia, which Pahor said were unjustified, and construction of a new unit at the Krško nuclear power station, which Pahor indicated would likely be subject to a referendum in Slovenia.

Ven der Bellen said nuclear energy, which Austria has given up long ago, was one of the open issues, a reference to Austria's long-standing opposition to nuclear energy, both existing and new projects, in its neighbourhood.

Pahor said that his official visit was a part of Slovenia's efforts to have excellent relations with all neighbouring countries, noting that Slovenia was trying to resolve problems in dialogue. He expressed pleasure at Slovenia and Austria declaring 2020 as the year of neighbourly dialogue.

Broaching EU topics, in particular EU enlargement to the Balkans, Van der Bellen said that progress with regard to the accession of North Macedonia and Albania was needed in order for the EU to remain credible.

Pahor said the EU's absorption capacity was not questionable since these countries have small populations. He believes the EU Commission must treat Western Balkans as a whole.

The Slovenian president also held talks with Brigitte Bierlein, the new Austrian chancellor, with the pair describing bilateral relations as excellent and expressing the wish for deeper ties in science and culture, according to Pahor's office.

Pahor and Bierlein also expressed the hope that cooperation in 2020, which they declared as the year of neighbourly dialogue, would "nurture and affirm the already good neighbourly relations", with Pahor expressing the conviction that all issues, no matter how complex, can be resolved in dialogue.

The meeting with Speaker Wolfgang Sobotka revolved around international issues, the future of the EU and multilateralism.

All our stories about Austria are here

13 Jun 2019, 15:55 PM

STA, 12 June 2019 - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek met Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng on the final day of her visit to China to talk about Slovenia's geostrategic advantages in light of China's plans to upgrade links to Europe.

According to a press release from the Infrastructure Ministry, Bratušek also met the management of Cosco, one of the world's biggest shipping companies which has stakes in several European ports, including a 100% stake in the container terminal of the Piraeus port in Greece.

Cosco, which is a state-owned company, is also a major partner for Slovenia's sole maritime port, Koper.

Bratušek put in her word for boosting that cooperation, and presented plans to build a second track connecting the port inland.

The CEO of the port operator Luka Koper, Dimitrij Zadel, who accompanied the minister, presented the company's development potential and investment plans.

The minister tweeted that the construction of the second track between Koper and Divača, and investment in extension of port piers would increase the joint potential of the port and Slovenia, "so stable partners are important for our companies".

Bratušek also visited the Slovenian Embassy in Beijing and met Transport Minister Li. They discussed the advantages of Slovenia's geostrategic position in Central and Eastern Europe.

China has been dedicating considerable attention to transport infrastructure within the 17+1 initiative for cooperation with the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the Belt and Road initiative, or the new Silk Road to boost transport links with Europe.

Li thanked Bratušek for Slovenia's active participation in both initiatives, noting the country's geostrategic location. He called for enhancing cooperation between the two countries. Bratušek invited her counterpart to visit Slovenia.

Earlier this week, Bratušek visited the China - CEEC Investment and Trade Expo fair in Ningbo, meeting Chinese Vice-Prime Minister Hu Chunhua at the forum of representatives of the participating countries. She also met former long-serving Transport Minister Jang Huantang.

Apart from Luka Koper, several other Slovenian companies were showcased at the Ningbo fair, including the Slovenian railways operator Slovenske Železnice, postal company Pošta Slovenije, logistic companies Intereuropa, Adria Kombi and d OmniOpti.

13 Jun 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 12 June 2019 - President Borut Pahor will start an official visit to Austria on Thursday for talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen and other top officials. The visit is designed to maintain successful political dialogue at the presidential level and review bilateral cooperation between the countries so far.

Pahor will also meet Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein and parliamentary Speaker Wolfgang Sobotka.

According to the Austrian Press Agency (APA), the talks between Pahor and Van der Bellen will focus on the future of the EU following the May EU elections, the EU enlargement process and climate change.

Pahor will be the first foreign head of state to visit Austria after the Ibiza scandal that swept away the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Bierlein was appointed chancellor to lead an interim government until the snap election scheduled for September.

On Wednesday evening, Pahor will attend a ceremony hosted by the Slovenian Embassy in Austria to mark the upcoming Statehood Day.

Relations between Slovenia and Austria are considered excellent, with the two countries maintaining a regular and versatile political dialogue and successful economic cooperation.

The talks are also expected to touch on the protection of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia on the basis of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty.

The notification of the treaty has been an issue, as Austria has been against any of the new countries, including Slovenia, notifying its succession to the treaty, one of whose original signatories was Yugoslavia.

Although it has not formally notified its succession, despite occasional initiatives to do so, Slovenia considers itself a successor.

Meanwhile, Austria has repeatedly raised the issue of the German-speaking community in Slovenia, urging the Slovenian authorities to grant it the minority status.

Slovenia is also not pleased with Austria extending border checks on its border with Slovenia, which were reintroduced at the peak of the migration crisis in 2015. Slovenia deems the measure unnecessary.

Van der Bellen paid his first official visit to Slovenia as president in May 2017, while Pahor met him for the first time at the beginning of the same year during his working visit to Vienna when Van der Bellen was yet to take over as president.

In early May, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar paid an informal visit to the Tyrol state to meet his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl. The ministers signed a joint statement on a multinational bid to have the Lipizzan horse breeding listed as UNESCO intangible heritage.

In terms of economic partnership, Austria is Slovenia's third biggest partner and its leading investor. Austrian tourists rank second in terms of the number of arrivals and nights spent in Slovenia.

Austria is also the most important market for Slovenia's sole port Koper, which in turn is the most significant port for Austria.

Merchandise trade between the countries amounted to EUR 5.5 billion last year, according to official statistics, with EUR 2.3 billion in exports and EUR 3.2 billion in imports. In the first three months of 2019, trade reached almost EUR 1.4 billion - more than EUR 549 million of which was exports and over EUR 849 million imports.

12 Jun 2019, 16:10 PM

STA, 12 June - The EU Court of Justice has scheduled an oral hearing for 8 July in a case that Slovenia has brought against Croatia due to its failure to implement the award of the border arbitration tribunal, according to the schedule released by the court on Wednesday.

Slovenia has accused Croatia of breaching several provisions of EU treaties and regulations with its refusal to implement the final award of an arbitration tribunal the two countries appointed to resolve their long-standing border dispute.

In general, Slovenia asserts Croatia is failing to respect the rule of law, which is a fundamental value of the EU, and unilaterally refuses to fulfil its obligations under the arbitration award, which is in breach of its duty of sincere cooperation as enshrined in the EU Treaty.

Slovenia has also made more specific charges relating to breach of common fisheries policy, violation of the rules governing the free movement of persons, and violations preventing Slovenia from conducting maritime spatial planning.

The arguments will be heard by the court's Grand Chamber, which comprises 15 judges and is called up either at the request of a party or to deliberate on matters that are highly important or complex.

In this part of the procedure, the court will first determine whether the application is admissible; Slovenia claims Croatia's violations directly infringe on EU law, while Croatia has told the court this is a matter of international rather than EU law.

The Foreign Ministry told the STA the Slovenian side would "reiterate its position that the final award of the arbitration tribunal on the border is valid and binding".

"By rejecting the border as determined with the [arbitration] award, Croatia is preventing Slovenia from exercising EU law in certain parts of Slovenian territory. This is why Slovenia is suing Croatia at the EU Court," the ministry said.

Moreover, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, told Radio Slovenia today that Slovenia was well prepared for the 8 July hearing.

He stressed that the arbitration award would remain binding no matter what the Luxembourg court decides and would have to be implemented.

Having the EU Court of Justice confirm this will be yet another argument for the implementation of award, Cerar told reporters in Trieste on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Central European Initiative (CEI).

"I hope that Croatia will start with the implementation before the end of the proceeding in Luxembourg," he said.

Croatia insists that the court is not competent to rule in the case. "Our position has been clear from the start: we don't see how the court is competent in this dispute," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told reporters at an European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Spain.

He also reiterated Croatia's long-held position that all disputes should be resolved bilaterally. The outstanding bilateral issues are "issues left over from the break-up of Yugoslavia. These are issues that can be resolved in agreement," he said.

If the court rules that Slovenia's application is admissible, it will delve into the substance of its claims. It may also decide to merge the admissibility decision with the substantive ruling.

The court's rules of procedure provide for several steps that both sides may follow and while it is difficult to forecast how long the procedure may take, it is unlikely to be completed this year.

All our stories on this border dispute can be found here

11 Jun 2019, 13:48 PM

STA, 10 June 2019 - Coalition partners and ministers agreed at Monday's summit that healthcare and the pension system would be the priorities of Slovenia's budgets in 2020 and 2021. Each will get EUR 200-300 million more annually.

Nevertheless, Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said as he spoke to the press after the Brdo pri Kranju meeting the budgets would still be in surplus.

The coalition and government partners met to agree further steps in planning the budgets for the coming two years.

The government is due to send the draft budgets to parliament by 1 October based on a budgeting decree which was passed in April.

The decree caps expenses for 2020 at EUR 10.45 billion, whereas for 2021, they can be a bit higher, at EUR 10.50 million.

Bertoncelj said he had presented the planned revenue and the spending ceilings for the state budget, the health and pension purses as well as for local government.

He expects the government to meet for its first session dedicated to the budget on 4 July, by when the ceilings for individual budget users should be ready.

Although he does not expect everyone to be happy with the distribution of funds, Bertoncelj intends to insist on the ceilings set in April, since this would keep the budgets within the fiscal rule.

The coalition also agreed to have the budget surplus at around 1% of the country's GDP, while Bertoncelj would also like to cut pubic debt to 65% and 61% of GDP, respectively, with a view to have a structurally balanced budget by 2022.

"The budgets for the next two years will have to be within this framework, and we committed to it today," he stressed.

The budgets will be drafted on the basis of the government's macroeconomic forecaster IMAD's outlook, which puts Slovenia's growth for 2020 at 3.1% and at 2.8% for 2021.

Bertoncelj pointed out Slovenia's GDP growth was now double the eurozone average, and its public debt was being reduced the fastest among all eurozone members.

Health Minister Aleš Šabeder, on the other hand, presented the situation in healthcare, noting the priorities were a long-term care bill, improving the management of medical organisations and reducing waiting times.

Happy the healthcare system can count on an additional EUR 400-600 million in 2020-2021, he said the funds would have to be spent in line with the priorities.

"All resources on the market will probably have to be identified and a decision made on how to involve them in cutting the long waiting times," said Šabeder.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec agreed, but was quick to add this should not be a cover for "permanent privatisation" of the healthcare system.

Šabeder stressed the long waiting times would first be tackled where they were the severest, announcing the first pilot project for orthopaedics.

He, however, admitted his ministry was just starting to tackle the issue, stressing waiting time records would first have to be sorted out.

Šabeder believes more funds would have to be provided to finance not just individual doctors but entire teams of doctors and nurses to cut the waiting periods.

He said the bill on long-term care could be adopted by the end of the year, but noted it was too early to discuss funding, as several scenarios were still being studied.

The coalition partners were generally happy with the summit, with Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, the leader of the Pensioners' Party, saying the budgets should make it possible to meet the country's commitments to NATO and to raise pensions.

Šarec, on the other hand, said names of Slovenia's possible candidate for the European commissioner had not been discussed.

08 Jun 2019, 12:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 07 June 2019

Mladina: Slovenia taking the wrong approach in selection a candidate for EU commissioner

STA, 7 June 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday that instead of considering how to affect the future of EU politics by selecting a suitable European commissioner candidate, Slovenia is simply discussing who will be its next commissioner and will probably continue underestimating the influence of the post.

The editorial points out that in 2014, the then government made a fool of itself when it nominated Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek to damage her political status and get rid of her by exposing her lack of English language skills and professional knowledge.

The ridicule attempt backfired, with the whole country and not just Bratušek being laughed at by the EU, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline “Commissioner”.

Slovenia's political influence was weakened and the second attempt did not amend the situation. The decision to nominate a political newbie Violeta Bulc, who was regarded as the then Prime Minister Cerar's confidant, was similarly absurd.

She tried to navigate the EU waters, but lacked basic Brussels-speak skills of the art of subtext. "During her term, Slovenia recorded a great deal of political losses, from the Commission's attitude toward the arbitration dispute to its never-ending demands for the privatisation of state assets, including the NLB bank, Adria Airways, Fotona.

"All those cases show the actions and decisions of the Commission, which will significantly affect the development and the strength of this country in the long term," says the editorial.

Those incidents have also branded Slovenia as another "nation of some kind of characters", Easterners, which does not grasp the significance of the commissioner post. "A commissioner is a powerful politician, diplomat, who runs a certain sector but also acts in their country's interest at the Commission level in a smart and skilful way."

This unspoken aspect is key to the nomination procedures of the other EU countries. The candidates' professional skills certainly raise their political status, but their international experience and diplomatic skills are even more essential, Mladina points out.

"It's high time Slovenia left the club of countries which don't understand the dimensions of this post. Unfortunately, things are not looking good," concludes the editorial, adding that there is a shortage of suitable candidates.

Reporter: What the EU vote could mean for the Slovenia’s next general election

STA, 3 June 2019 - The right-wing magazine Reporter offers an analysis of the EU election results in the latest editorial, finding that the right bloc is no closer to power than it was a year ago and that the conservatives would have to "cut the Gordian knot" unless they want the left to continue in power.

Under the headline Game of Thrones on the Right editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla finds that the EU vote has not significantly changed the balance of power between the left and right, and that the electorate is sill tipped slightly to the left, although a bit less than in the 2018 general election.

He notes that the Democratic Party (SDS), which won the election convincingly on a joint ticket with the People's Party (SLS), mustered roughly as much of the vote as it did five years ago when it ran on its own.

It was mainly the SLS which benefited from the joint ticket, because Franc Bogovič would not have been re-elected MEP if the party stood on its own, while the joint ticket in a way also benefited the SDS, because otherwise its victory would have been less convincing, writes Šurla.

"The SDS is now trying to convince the public that the joint ticket was an investment in the next general election so that it would be easier, if the SLS returned to parliament, to form a right government.

"However, the speculation that this would be made possible by Marjan Podobnik, risen from the dead after twenty years of political abstinence, is, given his political baggage from the 1990s, a bit far fetched."

Šurla goes on to say that the concept of Spring parties is rather passe in 2019; after the failure of the pro-life GOD party last year, this year it was Bernard Brščič's Homeland League (DOM) which flopped, partly due to SDS leader Janez Janša, which Brščič will not easily forget.

"The state of latent tension" also continues between the SDS and New Slovenia (NSi). For the right losing one MEP term Janša blamed NSi leader Matej Tonin, who rejected the accusation as 'fake news', arguing that a joint NSi/SLS ticked would get two MEPs, as much as the SDS independently, so the right would have ended up with the same tally of seats.

Speculating about the next general election in spring 2022, Šurla is doubtful that the Spring parties formula would work this time, when it did not the last, although he expects Janša to give it one more try with the NSi, SLS and possibly DOM.

Šurla notes that the combination lacks a centrist party like the Virant List which helped Janša form his second government in 2012, or a party that would appeal to the half of the electorate who do not turn out.

"The SDS as it is can obviously not address these voters either. In the finale of each election campaign it is only capable of scrapping as much right voters as possible, but the pool of those is limited," writes Šurla.

Considering the left bloc is ruling out forming a coalition with Janša, he can come to power only if a coalition of akin right parties win a majority in parliament.

"This is not impossible but very hard, considering the structure of the Slovenian electorate, to whom the left adapts better by means of new faces. But the Gordian knot on the right will have to be cut at one point or else they will continue to turn in vicious circles, while the left will rule."

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

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