24 Apr 2019, 13:16 PM

STA, 24 April 2019 - With less funds available than before last year's general election, Slovenian parties entering a month-long campaign for the 26 May EU elections are betting on direct contact with voters and social media.

They have until 26 April to file their lists of candidates with the National Electoral Commission. Then, campaigning gets formally under way, ending on 24 May at midnight, when election blackout sets in until polls close on 26 May in the evening.

The parties plan to engage in different forms of direct campaigning, such as MEP candidates meeting voters around the country or hosting various events and debates.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ has already launched its campaigning by collecting signatures in support of its election bid at stalls around Slovenia.

The Marjan Šarec List's (LMŠ) says its campaigning will be based on various debates and on posting free ads on social media.

Similarly, the opposition Democrats (SDS) and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS), which have a joint slate, are betting on a door-to-door campaign, but also on attracting voters via posters as well as traditional and new media.

The coalition Social Democrats (SD) will opt for what they term a classic campaign but will also use digital media. The party deems it vital to be in direct contact with people so it plans a series of field events.

The opposition Left, which also favours a direct contact with voters, considers it important to combine various communications channels, traditional and digital ones alike.

Field trips around Slovenia will be the order of the day for the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), which will also promote its candidates on the social media and on the internet in general.

Meanwhile, the coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) will focus its campaign on its frontrunner, Austrian ALDE MEP Angelika Mlinar, a member of the Slovenian minority.

Social media and posters around the country will also be used apart from SAB candidates giving interviews and engaging in other promotional events in the media.

Similarly, the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) will focus on its frontrunner, MEP Igor Šoltes, who is to meet potential voters in person at more than 50 events.

DeSUS also plans to campaign by sending voters mail and fliers and by addressing them on social media.

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the opposition National Party (SNS) have not responded to the STA's queries about their election campaigning.

As they file their lists of candidates, the parties will also have to provide information about the special bank account they opened to finance the election campaigns.

Under the Slovenian law on election and referendum campaigns, the costs of EU election campaigning should not exceed EUR 0.40 per voter, which translates to roughly EUR 680,000 per party.

But judging by their announcements, the parties will spend much less, as many of them are in the red following last year's general and local elections, and a referendum.

Among the parties which have told the STA how much they plan to spend, the SDS will spend the most, expectedly around EUR 200,000.

The Left is still working on its financial plan, but intends to spend no more than EUR 70,000. Much more modest campaigns of around EUR 30,000 are planned by the SD and DeSUS.

The LMŠ, however, has only said the exact sum will be known after the elections, but the party will try to be economical.

Although the NSi is still finalising the details, its campaign will be cheaper than the one for the 2018 general elections.

While parties are not allowed to get funds for campaigns for general and local elections or for referendums from abroad, they can get donations from EU citizens for their EU campaign under the same conditions as from individuals in Slovenia.

This means a foreign individual can donate up to ten average monthly gross salaries to a Slovenian party for the EU elections.

This translates to roughly EUR 17,000 gross, since the average monthly gross salary in February, the last available data, amounted to slightly over EUR 1,700.

All our stories about this year’s EU elections are here

24 Apr 2019, 12:30 PM

SDS-SLS candidates join EU election race

STA, 23 April 2019 - The opposition Democratic Party (SDS) and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) formally submitted their joint list of candidates for the upcoming EU election to the National Electoral Commission (DVK) on Tuesday. They expect winning the May election by a landslide.

The list is topped by Milan Zver, the current MEP who was the SDS' top candidate already in the previous EU election in 2014. Apart from him, it features another two MEPs of the SDS, Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin, as well as the SLS MEP Franc Bogovič, former Maribor's mayor Franc Kangler, prominent SDS member Alenka Forte, and two candidates from the SDS youth wing, Davorin Kopše and Alja Domjan.

"I'm sure of a landslide victory since the list includes extremely competent people in the professional as well as political terms," said Zver, adding that the two parties are counting on at least four seats.

Zver pointed out that the SDS and SLS were anticipating an intensive election campaign period, since the EU was facing an existential crisis. EU citizens should thus vote for parties which are striving to keep the member states together.

Zver also said that the centre-right political spectrum had a head start advantage over the centre-left one since the latter was less consolidated.

The deadline of submitting the candidacies expires on Friday, when the election campaign officially gets under way.

The opposition National Party (SNS) and the non-parliamentary party The Good State submitted their lists last week, with all the other parties competing for the European Parliament seats scheduled to do so today or in the upcoming days.

The Social Democrats (SD) are yet to confirm their list of candidates, while the Left is still collecting signatures required to submit the list.

The campaign will last for a month, until 24 May at midnight, when the election blackout period starts.

SAB reveals its list of candidates

STA, 23 April 2019 - The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) formally submitted its list of candidates for the May EU election to the National Electoral Commission (DVK) on Tuesday, with the party's head Alenka Bratušek stressing the significance of the upcoming election for the EU future.

"We wish that as many people as possible would participate in this election, since the EU is currently facing an important crossroads," said Bratušek.

The party's frontrunner Angelika Mlinar (Alde) pointed out that this election was decisive for the future of the European Parliament - whether it would stay pro-European or not. She also wished for a higher voter turnout compared to the one in 2014 and for a fair and interesting campaign.

Mlinar is a member of the Slovenian minority in Austria and currently serves as an Austrian MEP. She decided to vie for a seat in the Parliament on behalf of Slovenia in this year's election, even though she could have been the top candidate of the New Austria party (NEOS), which is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Bratušek pointed out that Mlinar had a wealth of experience and knowledge, which would contribute to Slovenia's development.

The deadline to submit candidacies expires on Friday, when the election campaign officially gets under way. Slovenian voters will be able to cast their ballots for new MEPs on 26 May.

Homeland League (DOM) files candidate list for EU election

STA, 23 April 2019 - The recently established, right-wing, Homeland League (DOM) has filed a list of candidates for the 26 May European Parliament elections. Party leader Bernard Brščič tops the list, followed by former Democrats (SDS) MP Lucija Ušaj, pro-life activist Norma Korošec and Marko Oblak.

Talking to the press after filing the list of candidates with the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, Brščič said that party would get the votes of those who care about Slovenia remaining the home of Slovenians and Europe remaining the home of Europeans.

"On 26 May, the fat lady will sing. We will not be stealing, we will get the votes of those who care about their homeland... Of those who believe it is the duty of the Slovenian state to ensure security and welfare of Slovenian citizens and not of migrants."

SocDems confirm manifesto, with the slogan “We Want Europe”

STA, 23 April 2019- The coalition Social Democrats (SD) endorsed a new manifesto Tuesday as they confirmed their eight candidates for the European Parliament election. They will enter the campaign with the slogan We Want Europe.

Europe is not ideal, but we do not have a better option than the EU, party leader Dejan Židan said as he addressed the rank-and-file. He described the EU as the only centre-left party that is growing with field work, which represents "an amazing opportunity."

"When we talk about the EU, we talk about solidarity, about a green, successful and victorious Europe," he said, a reference to the rest of the party's slogan, which highlights solidarity, progressiveness and justice as values that his party stands for.

MEP Tanja Fajon, the party's top-ranked candidate, was confident SD had the chance of winning two of the eight MEP slots considering that it has "very good candidates" and is offering change.

The election will be about "whether we head into a progressive, open, tolerant Europe, or into a disintegration spearheaded by conservative far-right forces that have already brought division, fear and symbols of fascism into Europe."

The manifesto highlights elimination of inequalities and strengthening of solidarity as the party's main pillars, which would include a 35-hour work week across the EU, fair taxation of multinationals, and measures to crack down on tax havens.

The party will also advocate common minimal social standards, consistent implementation of gender equality, and a ban on goods produced by child labour.

DOM will stage a guerilla campaign, according to Brščič, who believes that its alternative platform is the party's advantage.

Apart from DOM, several other parties filed their EU election lists today ahead of the Friday deadline.

All our stories on this year's EU elections are here

23 Apr 2019, 17:50 PM

STA, 23 April 2019 - Commenting on the ongoing EU election race, the right-wing weekly Reporter says in its latest editorial that the newly-established party Homeland League (DOM) is not likely to eat away votes to the opposition Democrats (SDS).

According to the latest poll by Mediana, the Slovenian right will be defeated on the election Sunday, 26 May, as the lists of the SDS and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) as well as the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) are projected to win only three MEP seats, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says.

The joint SDS-SLS slate is expected to win the most votes, but only two of Slovenia's eight MEP seats. It could also win a third one by a hair's breadth, just like the SDS did five years ago.

Perhaps it will also manage to win three seats this year because of the alliance with the SLS. However, according to the latest polls, winning four MEPs is not likely, Šurla notes.

The NSi is also not likely to repeat its historic victory from 2004, when the first European election was held in Slovenia and the party won as many as two MEPs.

In the end, the left and right may very well each win four seats, just like ten years ago, Šurla says under the headline Race for Million Euro.

The centre-left has slightly more voters although they are inclined to change party preferences. Most of them currently favour the coalition Social Democrats (SD), which are projected to win two MEPs, while the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the opposition Left would each get one.

Meanwhile, voters of the centre-right, are much more decided. This is why Šurla expects no major flow of SDS voters to the Homeland League, which does not even appear in opinion polls yet.

Perhaps, DOM could cost the SDS-SLS list of candidates only the third potential MEP seat, Šurla concludes.

Keep up with news on politics in Slovenia here, and follow the European elections here

23 Apr 2019, 15:58 PM

STA, 23 April 2019 - Addressing the annual consultation of Slovenian diplomats in Brdo pri Kranju on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar asserted that Slovenia remained committed to multilateralism and the rule of law. President Borut Pahor said the country should strengthen its role in the world.

Both Pahor and Cerar noted that multilateralism was indirectly jeopardised and that countries were returning to traditional geopolitics.

But Pahor is confident that all problems will eventually be resolved and that Slovenia should be among the countries striving for peaceful solutions.

"A key priority for Slovenia and a large majority of other countries is a multilateralism that is efficient and based on clear rules. It is a guarantee for stability, predictability and orderly relations," Cerar said at the start of the two-day consultation of Slovenian diplomats.

Cerar also pointed to different opportunities and challenges ahead, including the EU elections, Brexit and security threats.

"The actions of individual players have weakened the security infrastructure that was set up after the Cold War, some crucial agreements dealing with disarmament and arms control are jeopardised," he said.

Cerar also stressed the importance of tackling security challenges in cooperation with other countries and within international organisations, most notably NATO.

Slovenia strongly believes all agreements and treaties reached should be respected and decisions by international courts fully implemented.

Respecting the principles of the rule of law in the international environment is important not only because it protects weaker countries in relation to the strong but because the rule of law is an important value of this civilisation, Cerar said.

"The EU too could fall apart if democratic values and the rule of law were not protected," he warned.

Turning to Slovenian-Croatian relations, he repeated that the condition for the bilateral relations to improve was the implementation of the border arbitration award. Croatia should also refrain from causing incidents in the Bay of Piran, he said.

Pahor suggested the two countries should focus on what unites them and deal with problems in a wise and prudent way. Problems should not be put in the forefront unless that is urgently needed for things to be cleared up, he said.

In the light of recent attempts from abroad to influence Slovenian media and controversial statements by some foreign politicians, Cerar said Slovenia "rejects attempts to interfere with the freedom of our media, revision of historical facts and inciting of intolerance."

Cerar called for the strengthening of relations with partner countries, and pointed to the strengthening of relations with the US. He added that the country would also maintain dialogue with other countries, including Russia.

Regarding the Western Balkans, he said the countries from the region needed positive and realistic prospects for joining the EU based on their achievements.

Pahor stressed the importance of Slovenia's efforts for the integration of Western Balkan countries, including through the Brdo-Brijuni Process. He said the EU's enlargement in the region should be considered a geopolitical issue.

Turning to economic diplomacy, Cerar said Slovenia should continue to focus on innovation and new technologies. Business cooperation with Africa and Latin America should be boosted, he added.

The minister also sees many opportunities to enhance business ties within the existing initiatives such as the Bled Strategic Forum and the Three Sees Initiative.

Tomorrow, the diplomats will be addressed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

According to the Foreign Ministry's data, Slovenia has 55 diplomatic representation offices and consulates around the world, including 40 embassies, seven permanent representation offices, and five consulates general.

23 Apr 2019, 07:23 AM

STA, 23 April 2019 - With turnout at European Parliament elections exceptionally low - under 25% in 2014 - the path to success hinges on mobilising core constituents in the weeks leading up to polling day. This will also crucially inform the substance of the debate, according to political analysts.

Mobilisation of decided voters will be key, says Alem Maksuti of the Institute of Political Management, a private think-tank. This gives established parties an advantage.

Addressing the hard core of constituents will be instrumental, and this is most easily achieved with field work, which plays to the advantage of established parties, according to Rok Čakš, a columnist for the conservative portal Domovina.je.

This is also why the campaign is unlikely to feature substantive debates on the future of the EU.

Related: How to Vote in the 2019 EU Elections in Slovenia

"I'd be glad if debate about pressing issues concerning the shared future in the EU is more substantive and less populist this time, but knowing the Slovenian political and media reality, this is overly optimistic," Čakš told the STA.

Maksuti likewise believes there will be no room in the campaign for the future of the bloc. Instead, the focus will be on the parties and their candidates.

"Politics is on the back burner here. Since the parties are relatively similar and pursue a practically identical policy, I don't expect substantive differences," he said.

But despite the focus on personalities, many parties old and new have fielded weak candidates overall, according to Maksuti.

He thinks that party affiliation will be the key factor determining success, with individual names less important, with the exception of MEPs, who are "already stored in people's brains".

Čakš thinks that some parties, in particular the Democrats (SDS), Social Democrats (SD) and New Slovenia (NSi) have put together strong slates and are offering "people who understand what the EU is about".

Newer parties, meanwhile, are concealing their lack of substance with "polished images, apt public appearances and the repetition of general, principles populist sentences".

As regards the campaigning techniques, Čakš believes that TV debates will remain the biggest media events, while social networks will be "cheap support for all other activities."

Maksuti, meanwhile, thinks tools such as debates are less relevant, even as they are often ascribed significant importance.

Turning to the likely outcome, Čaks said fragmentation on the left could cost the left-liberal bloc an MEP seat at the expense of the opposition Left or the centre-right.

Maksuti believes the distribution of votes will be very similar than four years ago, in particular for established parties.

In 2014 conservative parties that are members of the European People's Party (EPP) got five of the eight MEPs allocated to Slovenia, with liberal and left parties getting three.

All our stories on the EU elections are here

20 Apr 2019, 13:00 PM

Mladina: Government failing to protect national interest from Hungary

STA, 19 April 2019 – The left-leaning Mladina is critical of Slovenia's reluctance to protect its national interests in a commentary accompanying revelations about connections between the European Commission, the Hungarian government and a bank vying to take over Abanka. The weekly underlines that strong financial institutions are the backbone of a sovereign country.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that a journalist of Mladina found new connections between the Hungarian government and a Hungarian official at the European Commission who insisted that Slovenia privatise its banks.

The situation is becoming increasingly problematic because the revelations trigger doubts about the actions of those involved in Slovenia, as well as the expertise of the European Commission.

Mladina shows connection between the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orban and István P. Székely, who works for the commission, also highlighting the efforts of Hungarian OTP bank to take over Abanka, which is being privatised.

It wonders why the Hungarian Imre Balogh, who also has links to the Orban government, was appointed the CEO of Slovenian bad bank in 2015 and why Laszlo Urban, a member of Orban's party Fidesz, was appointed a member of the NLB supervisory board in 2016.

"What sort of network has the Hungarian government already woven in Slovenia, apart from the obvious links to the Democrats (SDS) and the media it bought from it?" the weekly wonders, adding that Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi had met privately with Slovenia's central bank governor Boštjan Vasle.

The world is changing and countries are pursuing increasingly selfish interests. "Small countries, above all, need to think very carefully about future relations and how to position themselves today to be safe from turbulence in the future."

But Slovenia does not have many experts capable of thinking so far in advance, Mladina says under the headline Time for the Wise.

Strong banks and financial institutions are the backbone of a country but the incumbent government does not seem to be aware of this.

It has not stopped the privatisation of Abanka although countries are fighting for "the last segment of Slovenia's financial backbone" in plain sight.

Demokracija: Politicians should not speak of media freedom

STA, 18 April 2019 – The right-leaning Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the concern for freedom of the press expressed by ruling politicians in the wake of the alleged pressures on the private broadcaster POP TV should be taken with a grain of salt, adding that journalists should actually be worried about politicians who are doing that.

The ruling politicians were quick to swear on democracy and presented themselves as defenders of media independence from politics and capital, but this care of politicians for freedom of the press should raise concern among journalists.

Friday's editorial headlined Riders of Freedom notes that, for instance, MEP Tanja Fajon of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) said on Twitter that "if there is no democracy, there could be no media freedom".

Fajon's idea that democracy ensures freedom of the press is wrong. It is the opposite: freedom of the press, individuals, expression and economy can ensure democracy, which manifests itself in various forms, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly, Jože Biščak, argues.

Slovenia has around 20,000 laws and by-laws and also has media legislation. "What is regulated by law cannot be free. The media are therefore not free, they are regulated. And the government will make media legislation only stricter."

Some have gone as far as proposing licences for journalists, which would be a very totalitarian thing, as an "expert committee" appointed by politicians would determine who is journalist and who is not.

They say this is a method to fight bad journalism, protect the public from fake media and fake journalists, and improve media professionalism. But this has no basis in reality, as despite the increasing regulation, there are a lot more media outlets today, and they are much more accessible to an average citizen.

"It is not up to the state or politicians to recognise the legitimacy of the media, it is up to every individual to choose freely what sources and media they will believe. This is how it goes in free societies."

Biščak concludes by saying that those who think that the majority of Slovenian citizens are not capable of differentiating between disinformation and information and that politics could "help" them in that, are inclined to dictatorship.

All our posts in this series can be found here

19 Apr 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 18 April 2019 - The budgets planned for 2020-2022 are on the edge of what is still acceptable under the fiscal rule, the Fiscal Council told the press on Thursday. While the 2019 budget violates the fiscal rule, the blueprint of 2020-2022 general government sector budgets adopted last week "walk the edge," according to council chair Davorin Kračun.

The blueprint plans budget revenue to exceed expenditure by 1% of GDP in 2020. In the two years after that the surplus is to increase even more, according to the blueprints presented by the government just over a week ago.

"The projections in these documents are in line with the fiscal rule but are close to the border values and prone to certain risks," Kračun said, adding that "projections are hard to realise".

Key risks listed by the council include macroeconomic risks and a slower-than-expected growth in revenue. "We cannot predict global events and we must be aware that these risks exist and that they can endanger fiscal plans," said Kračun.

He also warned that measures planned by the government as regards the pension and fiscal systems remain undefined. "The measures are listed, but undefined, and we cannot make conclusions about their fiscal effects."

The Fiscal Council wants to see draft pension and tax reforms and relevant projections as soon as possible. Council member Tomaž Perše is especially worried about the cost of population ageing.

Unless Slovenia starts to tackle the issue, the cost of ageing could increase by 2% of GDP in a decade, according to Perše, who is in charge of projections. Moreover, if the cost is to be covered solely by borrowing the country's debt would increase by 10 percentage points, he added.

Kračun is also worried about pressure from interest groups. "The government is weak but interest groups are strong and this may spoil the fiscal projections," said Kračun, pointing to the public sector pay system, saying it basically fell apart as the strongest interest groups got what they wanted.

The Fiscal Council thus advises the government to tread cautiously. "There will be no problems if economic growth is high. But if it slows down, problems can arise," said Perše.

The Institute of Economic Analysis and Development (IMAD) projects 3% growth for Slovenia next year but only 0.5 percentage points less would lead to public finance deficit, Perše said.

If growth were at 2%, public finance deficit would amount to 1% of GDP, while 1.5% expansion of economy would cause a 2% deficit, he added.

Kračun moreover commented on the constitutional review of the 2019 budget request by the opposition Democrats (SDS), saying it would be good that the Constitutional Court said what are the consequences of violating the fiscal rule act.

The court is expected to decide today whether it will review the issue or not.

17 Apr 2019, 09:38 AM

April 17, 2019

Monday’s edition of Tednik, a news show from the national broadcaster, reported that Croatian women have been facing increasing difficulties in finding clinics that perform abortions at home, which brings them in growing numbers across the border to Slovenia.

According to Tednik, Brežice hospital, (the first Slovenian hospital on the way from Zagreb) has seen a 25% increase in Croatians seeking abortions in the last three months.

Although the procedure is legal in Croatia, almost 60% of Croatian gynaecologists, or 186 out of 322 ,refuse to perform abortions, according to Tednik. The problem is further acerbated by the fact that nurses and anaesthesiologists are also allowed to invoke the right to object on moral grounds, which, among other things, also leads to the painful procedure often being carried out without anaesthesia.

Another reason why Croatian women prefer to travel to Slovenia is the availability of an easier method of chemically induced abortion, which is only performed at two Croatian clinics, in Rijeka and Pulj. Furthermore, the general attitude towards women who chose an abortion is helpful and supportive in Slovenia, compared to the increasingly hostile environment in Croatia with regard to women and their reproductive rights. A recent case Tednik reported on involves a Croatian woman who had been molested by a close relative and got pregnant in the process. Croatian doctors refused to perform an abortion as it would mean “destruction of evidence”. With some help of the NGOs, the woman eventually managed to get the procedure done in Slovenia.

Abortion is part of the Slovenia’s health insurance plan, but not for Croatian citizens, who also have to pay for it in Croatia, if they’re lucky enough to find someone who is willing to perform it at all. Travelling to Slovenia is also not an option for everyone, as some people cannot afford to, while others do not want others to perhaps learn of the true purpose of their cross-border journey.  

While Slovenia also allows gynaecologists to refuse to perform an abortion on moral grounds, only 10 out of 296 have invoked this right.

The legislation Slovenia and Croatia inherited from Yugoslavia was liberal with regard to family planning. However, following the independence of both, Slovenia was mostly led by liberal governments, while Croatia turned right, which pushed for a Catholic re-sacralisation of society.

A work group of the Croatian Parliament is currently drafting a new abortion legislation. The draft was supposed to be finished this March, but it wasn’t. The position of the current Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, who is supervising the drafting of the new law, suggests that we might see even more Croatian women coming to Slovenia for abortions in the future. Mr. Kujundžić believes that life begins with conception, that abortion is an act of evil, and that Church should be included in the debate over women’s reproductive rights.

16 Apr 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 16 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec called for a European Commission that would consistently implement the rule of law and respect small member states as he gave an interview for Politico. His vote for the next European Commission chief will go to Margrethe Vestager (ALDE).

In the interview, Šarec took issue with the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for implying that small EU members did not have the same status as large countries such as France, and for not taking sides in the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia.

Šarec suggested that the soft-handed approach could have been politically motivated since Juncker and the ruling Croatian party belonged to the same European Parliament group, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

He said that the Commission should have urged Croatia to respect the border decision, which was handed down in Slovenia's favour by an international arbitration panel in 2017, adding that the decision was valid no matter the surrounding controversy.

"We need a European Commission which will obey the rule of law ... we need a Commission which will be less political," said Šarec, pointing out that Vestager, his choice for the next Commission chief, had a "common sense" vision for the EU.

Hailing from Denmark, Vestager also has more understanding for small member states, according to Šarec. Both of them belong to the ALDE alliance of European liberal parties, with the competition commissioner being considered the party's top candidate for the Commission presidency.

He also called for an EU which would be faster at making decisions and expressed his disapproval of the Spitzenkandidat process, describing it as "not legal" and "not democratic".

Commenting on European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent controversial remarks, which implied Italy's territorial claims on parts of Slovenia and Croatia, Šarec called them an outrageous example of WWII revisionism and declared Tajani unfit for his office.

He urged taking measures that the next European Parliament president would not be someone who advocated such problematic statements and views.

Politico also addressed Šarec's stand-up past, pointing out that a number of former comedians have started performing in the EU political arena in recent years.

The Slovenian prime minister welcomed this trend, saying that some characteristics were useful in both worlds, including being observant, brave and a quick learner, as well as a performer skilled at reading people.

15 Apr 2019, 15:51 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar received US Republican congressman Paul A. Gosar on Monday to discuss bilateral relations between the US and Slovenia. After the meeting they both stressed the importance of strengthening the dialogue between the two countries.

Cerar pointed out that quality political relations could contribute to better economic cooperation as well. He said that Slovenia has had good relations with the US, which he would endeavour to further improve in the future.

The minister also acknowledged that Gosar has recently founded the Friends of Slovenia Caucus in the House of Representatives, while another US politician of Slovenian descent, Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar established a similar caucus in the upper chamber of the US congress.

Stressing the importance of such groups, Cerar added that both friendship societies could assist Slovenia in pursuing its political interests.

Despite the estimated good bilateral relations over the past ten years, Cerar said that there was not enough direct contact on the highest political level.

"I wish to improve that as foreign minister," said Cerar, stressing that he would not do that at the expense of Slovenia's relations with other countries.

The US is one of the most significant investors in Slovenia, said the minister, who like Gosar believes that the economic cooperation between the two countries could be further improved.

Gosar, who is visiting Slovenia at the invitation of President Borut Pahor, said that bilateral discussions significantly contributed to the cooperation between the countries since they were a way to look for solutions and clinch victories together.

The congressman also stressed the role of friendship societies as important opportunities for maintaining and strengthening the dialogue.

The two politicians also addressed current political issues, including the Western Balkans situation and international agreements with Iran, Russia and China.

Gosar has been visiting Slovenia since Friday, when Pahor bestowed on him the Golden Order of Merit, one of Slovenia's highest state decorations, commending the congressman for his contribution and cooperation in strengthening relations between Slovenia and the US.

On Saturday Gosar and Pahor attended a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of a US bomber's crash during WWII at the Andraž settlement near Polzela, addressing the event as keynote speakers.

Today, Gosar also met Dejan Židan, the speaker of the National Assembly, and Alojz Kovšca, the president of the National Council.

Židan and Gosar discussed the countries' respective political systems as well as the current political situation, including the upcoming May EU elections.

According to Židan, the majority of Slovenians are in favour of the EU for many reasons, including because they feel safer as part of the bloc.

Gosar also met with the chair of the Foreign Policy Committee and Parliamentary Friendship Group with the US Matjaž Nemec.

15 Apr 2019, 13:03 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Slovenian MEPs have been active in a number of different fields in the past five-year term. The eight of them listed for the STA their achievements, reflecting above all their work in parliamentary committees. Among other things, each of them has been a member or a substitute member of a committee dealing with issues of the Western Balkans.

Ivo Vajgl (ALDE/DeSUS) was among the most active Slovenian MEPs as regards foreign policy and the Western Balkans. He highlighted his efforts as the European Parliament rapporteur for Macedonia, "which we helped steer onto the European path".

Vajgl, who will not run again this year, was also a member of a task force dealing with issues of the elderly, which managed to get this topic onto the parliament's agenda.

Together with Igor Šoltes (Greens), who will succeed Vajgl on the ticket of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) in May election, Vajgl nominated the programme Elderly for the Elderly for the Citizen of Europe 2017 award.

The project, which went on to win the award, "includes what is often missing in Europe: empathy, solidarity and true humanity," said Šoltes, who has also been active in the fields of environmental and consumer protection, filing a motion to exclude food orders from the public procurement system in order to serve locally-grown food in schools, hospitals and retirement homes.

Romana Tomc of the (EPP/SDS) is proud of her "fight of the small against the big", as her warnings had led to the launch of infringement procedure against Austria for cutting child benefits for Slovenians working in Austria.

Tomc also strived against youth unemployment and highlighted her work in an investigative committee that looked into money laundering at the Slovenian bank NLB.

Her party colleague Patricija Šulin (EPP/SDS), a member of the budgets committee, was also active in the field of finance, serving as member of the parliament's delegation in talks with the European Commission and the European Council.

She also highlighted that she managed to speed up the drafting of a report that provided Slovenia EUR 18m in funds following an ice storm that devastated much of Slovenian forests in 2014.

Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) told the STA that she acquired for Slovenia additional EUR 70m in the next financial perspective to improve border security and migration management.

"Slovenia has a long Schengen border and long traffic jams and we will try to reduce this burden, while on the other hand ensuring that Schengen is preserved," Fajon told the STA, adding that she was also fighting against "current illegal practices of border controls within the Schengen zone, such as those between Slovenia and Austria."

Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS) is dedicated to regional development issues, being a member of the regional development committee. He campaigned for the launch of the Smart Villages pilot project, which aims to stop the young moving from the countryside and against the trend of people moving from the less to the more developed parts of the EU.

"The regional development fund will provide EUR 13.5bn for this field and EUR 2.4bn for smart villages," said Bogovič, expressing pride in what he has achieved.

Milan Zver (EPP/SDS), a rapporteur for the culture and education committee, highlighted as one of his biggest achievements a threefold increase in funds for the Erasmus exchange programme. "I find this very important because there has always been too little money when it came to Erasmus and youth policy."

He is also happy that one of the conference halls at the parliament has been named after Slovenian dissident Jože Pučnik.

Lojze Peterle (EPP/NSi) meanwhile said he was proud to have enabled a paid internship at the parliament for 60 youths. He also contributed to the decision of the EPP to make cancer one of its priorities in the next term.

All our stories on this year's EU elections, including details of how to vote, can be found here

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