07 Mar 2020, 14:00 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

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FRIDAY, 28 February
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP expanded by 2.4% in 2019 after growing by 1.7% in the final quarter year-on-year, showed the first estimate released by the Statistics Office. The annual increase is slightly below what had been announced in projections.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs staged a rally against the emerging centre-right coalition, with protesters urging the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and Modern Centre Party (SMC) in particular to reconsider their decisions to join the "coalition of hate" led the Democrats (SDS). More than
thousand people - 3,000, according to the organisers - gathered. The organisers later filed two criminal complaints, one against an unidentified person who shouted "Kill [SDS leader] Janša" in the crowd and the other against SDS MP Zvonko Černač, who reposted a Twitter post that announced violence against he protesters before the rally.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian web portal Oštro along with two more investigative journalism groups in the region run a report alleging that a Slovenia-based company owned by a Hungarian entrepreneur with ties to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban was used to launder illegal Hungarian government money and finance media propaganda in North Macedonia.
        LJUBLJANA - Consumer prices in Slovenia were up by 2% on average in February over the same month in 2019, mostly due to higher prices of food and housing. More expensive holiday packages were the main factor in the monthly inflation, which stood at 0.7%.
        LJUBLJANA - Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port, reported its group net profit plunge by 32% to EUR 40.4 million in 2019 due to a slowdown of global trade.
        LJUBLJANA - The insurance group Sava reported collecting EUR 599.3 million in gross premiums last year, 9.7% more than in 2018, as its net profit rose 16.7% to EUR 50.2 million.
        KIDRIČEVO - The foreign-owned car upholstery maker Boxmark Leather announced it would lay off a total of 288 workers at its sole remaining Slovenian location, in Kidričevo, by the end of April.

SATURDAY, 29 February
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry welcomed the landmark peace agreement between the US and Afghanistan's Taliban, saying that only bilateral and inclusive dialogue striving for compromise solutions could ensure a successful agreement leading to sustainable peace and stability for all citizens of Afghanistan.
        LAHTI, Finland - The Slovenian men's ski jumping team placed second in the Ski Jumping World Cup event in Finland's Lahti, finishing behind Germany.

MONDAY, 2 March
        LJUBLJANA - Miro Cerar, the outgoing foreign minister, quit the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre Party (SMC) lost its face after joining the new coalition led by Janez Janša of the right-wing Democrats (SDS). His successor at the head of the SMC Zdravko Počivalšek said he had withdrawn an offer to Cerar to become parliamentary speaker before Cerar made the announcement.
        LJUBLJANA - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec announced in the face of a potential new migration wave that legislative changes granting additional powers to the army were ready and may be confirmed by parliament as needed.
        LJUBLJANA - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the Slovenian Association of Journalists in condemning the "intensive attacks" on journalists reporting about alleged funding from Hungary of media close to the Democrats (SDS).
        NOVO MESTO - Revoz, the Slovenian subsidiary of the French car maker Renault, suspended production for three days due to irregular supply of car parts from Turkey blamed partly on the coronavirus outbreak in China. Revoz also confirmed that it would produce the new electric version of the Renault Twingo, to be rolled out at the end of the year.
        LJUBLJANA - Triglav, Slovenia's leading insurance group, saw net profit increase 4% to almost EUR 84 million in 2019 on the back of an 11% increase in gross written premiums, which totalled EUR 1.18 billion, show unaudited results.
        LJUBLJANA - Ulay, a major contemporary visual artist best known as a pioneer of body art and collaborator of performance artist Marina Abramović, died aged 76.

TUESDAY, 3 March
        LJUBLJANA - Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Janša was appointed PM-designate, receiving the mandate to form his third government. Having forged a centre-right coalition with three more parties - the NSi, SMC and DeSUS -after Marjan Šarec resigned as PM, Janša won 52 votes in the 90-member legislature. The priorities listed by Janša include cutting red tape, launching a fund in which state assets would be pooled to help finance public pensions, liberalisation of the economy and more competition in education and healthcare.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar hosted his new North Macedonian counterpart Nakje Chulev for a meeting that focused on illegal migration, including the situation on the Turkish-Greek border. The pair agreed that the situation on the Greek-Turkish border required close monitoring and united response, with regular exchange of information being of essence.
        LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and six co-defendants pleaded not guilty in a case focussing on EU funds abuse and bank fraud in the construction of the Stožice sports park as they faced the Ljubljana District Court. A total of nine defendants are indicted of abuse of office, fraud of EU funds, fraud to acquire a loan and forgery of documents in the multi-million euro project.
        LJUBLJANA - Bojan Požar, the editor of news portal Požareport received a judicial admonition for writing in 2016 that Viktor Knavs, the father of US First Lady Melania Trump, had been in prison for tax evasion. This comes after Požar was ordered to pay damages to Knavs in a related defamation lawsuit last year.
        LJUBLJANA - Actor Bojan Emeršič won the Silver Thistle for the most sexist statement of 2019. "I don't like the excessive emancipation of the last 15 years ... This affects erotics, which is not right, because men and women are different. Man has always been a hunter but is now losing his primary role," he said in an interview with Delo.

        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded the first infection with the novel coronavirus. The infected person, aged about 60, had been on a trip to Morocco and returned home via Venice airport. Four more cases were confirmed a day later, including two persons who had been in contact with the first individual.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar announced Slovenia was deploying 35 police officers as part of a Frontex rapid border intervention team sent to Greece to help the country deal with an increased influx of migrants after Turkey decided to open its border with Greece.
        DOBOVA - Thirty citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan were found by Slovenian border police hiding in sealed wagons of a train carrying clay. The foreigners, including 12 children aged between five and fourteen as well as a woman in a late stage of pregnancy, were literally buried in clay.
        LJUBLJANA - The Employment Service said it had registered 77,484 unemployed people in February, 3% fewer than the month before and 4.1% fewer than in February 2019.
        LJUBLJANA - Lotrič Meroslovje, a meteorology company, was declared the winner of this year's Business Excellence Award conferred by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology and the SPIRIT agency.
        MARIBOR - Hydro power plant operator Dravske elektrarne Maribor (DEM) is claiming EUR 6.5 million in damages from the state after the government suspended the construction of a hydroelectric power plant on the river Mura in the east in the face strong opposition by locals and environmentalists.
        VRHNIKA - Kemis, one of the two biggest hazardous waste management companies in Slovenia, was cut off power supply after building authorities found that much of the facility near Vrhnika had been rebuilt illegally following a May 2017 fire.

        LJUBLJANA - A bipartisan bill designed to reform electoral law by abolishing electoral districts and introducing a preference vote at the level of the existing eight electoral units, fell three votes short of the needed two-thirds majority of 60 votes to pass at the National Assembly.
        LJUBLJANA - Igor Zorčič, former deputy group leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), was elected parliamentary speaker by secret ballot in a 48:29 vote. He succeeds Social Democrat (SD) leader Dejan Židan, who stepped down as soon as Janez Janša was elected prime minister.
        LJUBLJANA - A proposal to reintroduce mandatory military service tabled by the Democrats (SDS) as one of the points on the agenda of the incoming ruling coalition was defeated in parliament in a 36:51 vote. The Modern Centre Party (SMC) and New Slovenia (NSi), the two of the four parties forming the new SDS-led coalition, did not back the bill, same as the newly-formed opposition.
        LJUBLJANA - The caretaker government endorsed a scheme for drawing funds from the national climate fund in 2020-2023. Some EUR 350 million is projected to be available. A total of EUR 106.3 million is to be allocated for tackling climate change this year.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed the national environmental protection programme for the period until 2030, whose implementation will cost an estimated 47 million to 53 million euro a year.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed the NSi-sponsored amendments to the penal code to extend the statute of limitations for gravest sexual offences to between 30 and 90 years, up from between 10 and 30 years. Parliament also endorsed an amendment to the property code law to introduce a new definition of animals as sentient living beings.
        LJUBLJANA - The Association of WWII Veterans, the Jewish Community in Slovenia and six victims of the WWII Home Guard militia have petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the recent decision of the Supreme Court to annual the 1946 treason verdict of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general.
        AJDOVŠČINA - The Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel signed a letter of intent with Australian company Eyre to There Aviation for the production of the electric two-seaters Alpha Electro. In the first phase 15 aircraft are to be exported to Australia, later the aircraft would be produced there.

All our posts in this series are here

07 Mar 2020, 10:51 AM

STA, 5 March 2020 - The Association of WWII Veterans, the Jewish Community in Slovenia and six victims of the WWII Home Guard militia have petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the recent decision of the Supreme Court to annual the 1946 treason verdict of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general.

Law firm Završek & Šnajder said on Thursday that the Supreme Court's decision to order a retrial was a grave interference in the dignity of its clients, "their right to safety, their personal rights, and a violation of international standards and treaties Slovenia must comply with".

leon rupnik with nazis 02.jpg

Leon Rupnik, leading the way for Nazis in Bežigrad Stadium, Ljubljana. Wikimedia

Rupnik (1880-1946) was sentenced to death by court martial and executed in September 1946 for treason and collaboration with the occupying forces.

In 2014, Rupnik's relatives challenged the verdict in Supreme Court, which recently annulled it for being insufficiently explained.

Rupnik's relatives could petition the Supreme Court on a point of law on the basis of changes to the penal code passed in the 1990s that introduced an extraordinary legal remedy to review the cases of those who were unlawfully or unjustly sentenced under the former communist regime.

Leon Rupnik saluting Nazi Flag youtube.JPG

Leon Rupnik, saluting the Nazi flag in Kongresni trg, Ljubljana. Screenshot

Meanwhile, public broadcaster Radio Slovenija reported today that the Ljubljana city authorities also decided to challenge the Supreme Court's decision at the Constitutional Court. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday.

The radio also reported that Maribor-based jurist Rok Lampe had filed a request for constitutional review. However, the request has been denied by the Constitutional Court because he failed to prove interest to bring proceedings.

All our stories on the Leon Rupnik case are here

07 Mar 2020, 10:43 AM

STA, 5 March 2020 - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed amendments to the penal code on Thursday to extend the statute of limitations for gravest sexual offences to between 30 and 90 years.

The amendments, proposed by New Slovenia (NSi) in a bid to establish a zero-tolerance policy on sexual offences, were backed by 86 votes to none.

Under the existing penal code, such criminal acts become statute-barred in 10 to 30 years, depending on the length of the prison sentence the offence carries.

The outgoing government, which had been planning more extensive changes in the area, agreed with the proposal as well.

Related: Shock Case Shows How Coercion Defines Rape in Slovenia, Not Lack of Consent

The legislators also backed the Democrats (SDS)-sponsored proposal to set down that the constitutional review procedure, launched by at least a third of MPs, would continue even if the MPs' terms are terminated in the meantime. Moreover, parliament

The amendment to the constitutional court act won the backing of 88 votes, with none against it.

Under the current solution, in case the procedure's initiators lost their MP status and the number of them fell below a third of all MPs (30), the Constitutional Court would put a stop to the procedure.

Many review claims had been thus dropped because the court did not hand down a ruling before the end of the National Assembly term.

Parliament also endorsed an amendment to the property code law in a 47:37 vote to introduce a new definition of animals - they are no longer things, but sentient living beings.

06 Mar 2020, 13:11 PM

STA, 5 March 202 - A proposal to reintroduce mandatory military service tabled by the incoming ruling Democrats (SDS) was defeated in parliament on Thursday in a 36:51 vote. Apart from the SDS, the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and National Party (SNS) were in favour of the proposal, but failed to convince the others.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) and New Slovenia (NSi), the two of the four parties forming the new SDS-led coalition, did not back the bill, same as the newly-formed opposition.

The SDS tabled the proposal in January before outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's resignation. It envisaged military service of six months or civil service of twelve months for conscientious objectors.

The first reading of the proposal took place on Wednesday, with the SDS highlighting that reintroducing conscription would reinforce Slovenia's standing army and military reserves.

The caretaker government did not support the amendment, with Defence Ministry State Secretary Nataša Dolenc saying that compulsory service was not warranted and that any changes to the system should be based on a comprehensive analysis.

Most critical were members of the Left, highlighting that instead the state should come up with actual solutions for the issues of the young and announcing that, should the proposal be adopted, the party would use any means available to fight its implementation, including a referendum.

05 Mar 2020, 11:09 AM

STA, 4 March 2020 - Slovenia is deploying 35 police officers as part of a Frontex rapid border intervention team sent to Greece to help the country deal with an increased influx of migrants after Turkey recently decided to open its border with Greece, said Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar as he attended an informal EU ministerial on Wednesday.

After today's meeting, called due to the emergency situation at the Greece-Turkey border, Poklukar highlighted that the police officers were already preparing for the task.

He said that the EU's reaction to the developments had been very rapid compared to the 2015 crisis. Greece has been handling the situation well so far, he added.

A total of 530 members of Frontex, the EU border protection agency, have been already deployed to Greece, including two Slovenians. Frontex is expected to mobilise an additional hundred experts as well as necessary vehicles.

The agency has also activated its rapid border intervention team or RABIT, which will be used for the first time ever.

Should the pressure on the Greece-Turkey border continue to build up and Greece be no longer able to cope with the situation, the minister will propose to deploy military forces as well in line with a defence act article which gives additional powers to the armed forces in such circumstances. Soldiers have been already assisting the police on Slovenia's south border under the legislation.

The proposal would need to get the endorsement of two-thirds of MPs if sent to parliament. Poklukar added that he had been in contact with his colleagues in the EU and Western Balkans to stay on top of the situation.

He has told them that the current situation on the external Schengen border in Slovenia is under control due to the police's efforts and highlighted that in the case of no joint EU solutions, the country is adamant to protect its border against a new influx of migrants single-handedly using the police and armed forces.

Poklukar said that the ministers did not discuss any plans for relocating migrants from Greece today, adding that Slovenia had not yet received any formal proposal to accept unaccompanied refugee minors from the Greek islands either.

He also pointed out that Slovenia was hesitant about a migration relocation scheme for those rescued in the central Mediterranean, agreed by four EU countries last year, since the country had been already dealing with the Western Balkans migration route, masses of asylum seekers and limited capacities.

04 Mar 2020, 14:33 PM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and six co-defendants pleaded not guilty in a case focussing on EU funds abuse and bank fraud in the construction of the Stožice sports complex as they faced the Ljubljana District Court on Tuesday. 

A total of nine defendants are accused of criminal acts, including abuse of office, fraud of EU funds, fraud to acquire a loan and forgery of documents in the multi-million euro project.

Janković argued that the criminal cases brought against him stemming from the Stožice project were a personal attack on him. Apart from his family, his coworkers have also been drawn into this, he said, adding that the company that built the complex went bankrupt.

"You won't be able to find anybody who would have done it cheaper or better," he said, also noting that the Stožice stadium and arena had opened their doors a decade ago and that they attracted a million visitors a year.

The defendants are former sports institute Zavod Tivoli president Roman Jakič, Uroš Ogrin and Zlatko Sraka, both of the bankrupt construction vehicle company Grep, and Samo Lozej, former director the municipal operator of parking lots and markets. Also among the accused are former construction overseers Borut Skubic and Milan Črepinšek.

Marko Kolenc, of the city's sports department, and project manager Andrej Lavrič did not attend today's hearing and are to make a plea next time. The charges will be presented in more detail at the beginning of the trial.

All our stories on Mayor Zoran Janković can be found here

04 Mar 2020, 09:02 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Veteran politician Janez Janša, the long-time leader of the Democratic Party (SDS), has been appointed prime minister of Slovenia's 14th government, his third stint at the helm of the executive. His stable base of supporters finds him charismatic, capable and effective, his opponents say he is resentful and radical.

The 61-year-old has been at the helm of the SDS since 1993 and enjoys unbridled support among party members, having ran unopposed for the position of party leader for two decades and successfully deflecting all challenges to his primacy. Being the party's unrivalled leader, his political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the SDS.

The party has been holding steady at or just below the top of party rankings for years. It won the 2018 general election but Janša was unable to put together a coalition because most parties refused to work with him, quoting the radical anti-immigrant rhetoric modelled on his close friend and ally, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

After Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister in late January, Janša got another chance, as leadership change at the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) made the former Šarec coalition partners less averse to working with Janša, and mindful of the uncertainty that a snap election brings.

His biggest success had been the 2004 election, in which the SDS got 29% of the vote. The SDS went on to build a stable government widely seen as capable, but also one that laid the groundwork for problems in final years of the economic crisis with policies that increased public spending even as they reduced government revenue.

Janša capped his first term by presiding the EU Council in 2008, and although his leadership was applauded across the EU, it was not enough to build up support domestically: in the 2008 general election, the SDS held steady at 29% but was overtaken by the Social Democrats (SD).

If the government serves out its full term Janša will do the cherished job once more as Slovenia is slated to preside the EU in the second half of 2021.

By 2008, Janša was also facing serious allegations of bribery from Finnish defence contractor Patria in exchange for a EUR 278 million purchase of armed personnel carriers, a transaction agreed in 2006.

The trial started in autumn of 2011, just months before Slovenia was about to hold the first snap election in its history and Janša remains convinced that the scandal was fabricated by his political rivals to undermine his chances of winning.

Despite his legal woes, the SDS came second in the 2011 election and Janša became prime minister once again in February 2012 after Zoran Janković, the head of the winning Positive Slovenia (PS), failed to put together a coalition.

The second time around Janša lasted only a year in the prime minister's office, but the policies adopted during that term had profound consequences as the government introduced a number of austerity measures in the wake of the 2008 economic and financial crisis.

The measures were in line with the dominant economic thinking at the time, which focused on the soundness of public finances, but in retrospect they have come to be seen as having contributed to the sluggish recovery of the economy by depressing demand due to wage cuts in the public sector and trimming of investment spending.

The government collapsed after all coalition partners, with the exception of New Slovenia (NSi), left in the wake of accusations by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption about assets Janša could not account for.

In the Patria trial, Janša was found guilty of corruption by the court of first instance and went to jail for several months in 2014 before being released after the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial. The case became statute-barred before a retrial could begin.

While he was in prison, his supporters held regular weekly protests in front of the Ljubljana Courthouse, criticising the judiciary and portraying Janša as a victim of the system.

The protests created a strong grassroots movement that Janša has been able to count on to support his policies and ideas. They were also a manifestation of a long-held belief, going back to the time when he, then a journalist for the weekly Mladina, was first arrested in the late 1980s for divulging classified information, that the "deep state", remnants of the Communist-era centres of power, is dead set against him.

Janša's supporters see him as a strong fighter against remnants of the old political forces. A large part of the public, in particular voters on the left, see in him a shrewd political strategist and demagogue who is very good at playing into the fears of voters, does not chose his means, and continues to deepen divisions in society.

Despite being in prison in the aftermath of the Patria trial at the time, Janša was once again elected MP in 2014, with the SDS coming second to the then newly established Miro Cerar Party (SMC), which was later renamed the Modern Centre Party and will now be a partner in his coalition.

By 2016, cracks had started to show in the SDS, as several senior members had left the party, among them Janša's former Interior Minister Dragutin Mate and long-serving Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The latter, when he left in 2015, said that Janša had deemed him "not orthodox enough", while Mate said that the party's internal democracy had declined.

In terms of relations with foreign politicians, Janša seems to be close to Orban, while he borrowed the slogan Slovenia First for the 2018 election from US President Donald Trump. And like Trump, Janša likes to communicate via Twitter, where he has more than 50,000 followers, more than any other Slovenian politician.

While the judiciary has been a persistent target of criticism by the SDS and Janša, their relationship with the media is testy as well. The most recent wave of criticism came following reports that two media outlets launched by the SDS, ostensibly to counter unfair coverage by mainstream media, had received funding from Hungarian businesses close to Orban.

The SDS has denied allegations that the financial transactions amounted to illegal funding for the party from abroad, and it has dismissed criticism that the Hungarian money makes Janša and the SDS beholden to Orban.

This alleged funding took place after the SDS found itself in crossfire in late 2017 for taking out a EUR 450,000 loan from Dijana Đuđić, an entrepreneur from the Republic of Srpska. The party immediately repaid the loan after this made the news.

Janša was born on 17 September 1958, he graduated in defence sciences in 1982. Soon after, he became the head of the defence commission of the then Association of Socialist Youth of Slovenia, starting to criticise the authorities.

In the 1980s, he was a writer for the weekly Mladina, and was arrested in 1988 and court-martialled on suspicion of leaking military secrets. The protests that accompanied the trial of Janša and three other co-defendants are seen as one of the key milestones in Slovenia's path to independence.

In 1989, he was one of the co-founders of the Slovenian Democratic Alliance, a predecessor of the SDS and one of the first opposition parties in Slovenia. He became a member of the National Assembly in 1990 and is the only MP who has been elected in every single general election since then.

He served as defence minister in successive governments in the early 1990s, including during Slovenia's ten-day independence war in 1991, until he was sacked as a result of a high-profile dispute over the use of military force against a civilian, and in 2000, during the short-lived government of Andrej Bajuk.

Janša has authored several books. His best known works deal with his early political career in the 1990s and the political situation at the time, while in recent years he has also tried his hand in fiction. While in prison in 2014, he wrote the historical novel Noric Kingdom, which imagines an ancient kingdom on present-day Slovenian lands.

He has four children, two with his first wife and two with his current wife, and three grandchildren.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

04 Mar 2020, 08:49 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Janez Janša, the 61-year-old leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), was elected prime minister-designate on Tuesday, receiving the mandate to form his third government after joining forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS).

Having forged a centre-right coalition with the three partners a month after Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister, Janša won 52 votes in a secret ballot in the 90-member legislature with 31 MPs voting against, six abstaining and one invalid ballot.

Biography: Janez Janša - Independence Hero, Former Prisoner, Veteran Politician, Now Slovenia’s PM for 3rd Time

After he was sworn in, Janša said the incoming coalition faced important challenges but he expressed the conviction that it would be able to address them with responsible management.

Janša now has 15 days to put to parliament his candidates for ministers. "The first step was made today. I expect that I will be able to bring the list of candidates for the new government to this assembly in a relatively short time."

The SDS will put forward candidates that have experience in government as well as Slovenia's 2008 presidency of the EU since Slovenia will preside the bloc again in 2021, according to him.

In an hour-long address to the National Assembly prior to the vote, Janša acknowledged that the government would not be able to achieve everything it wants to given that it has only two years to serve until the next scheduled election.

Its term would therefore be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with emphasis on the things that bring the parties together and measures that do not require significant outlays.

Some of the priorities include cutting red tape and decentralisation, including by basing any newly established institutions outside Ljubljana.

Other measures planned in the coalition agreement will have significant fiscal consequences, including higher pensions and a series of family-friendly measures the government plans to take such as expansion of free kindergarten and a universal child allowance.

One of the key policy priorities is the establishment of a "demographic fund", a pension support fund in which state assets would be pooled to help finance public pensions.

"It is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," he said.

The new government plans to liberalise the economy and introduce competition in education and healthcare. As least as a temporary measure to improve national security, it also plans to re-introduce military conscription.

Janša has often been accused of being too radical, in particular due to his anti-immigration sentiment in recent years, but his statements suggest he has softened his stance on migrations.

He said that migrants would be welcome if invited, provided they accepted the fundamental tenets of the "majority culture". "They cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

The debate in parliament saw the members of the new coalition pledging to work for the benefit of the entire society and rejecting criticism by the new opposition about the prospects of the new government being too far to the right.

"The experience from recent years makes us justifiably doubt that someone can become wise, tolerant, respectful, just and inclusive over night," said Brane Golubović, the head of the deputy group of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

The new opposition spent a significant portion of the allotted time arguing about who and what caused the Šarec government to collapse, with the Left, whose termination of a cooperation deal with the minority government was a major milestone, often in the focus of criticism.

Slovenia may have a new government with full powers within three weeks, the third led by Janša after stints in 2004-2008 and in 2012-2013.

The undisputed leader of the Slovenian conservative bloc, Janša is considered the most experienced politician in Slovenia, his career spanning over three decades.

Aside from having served as prime minister twice already, he was defence minister in three governments in 1990-1994, and again in 2000, during the interim Andrej Bajuk government.

All our stories on the new government and it's proposed policies are here

03 Mar 2020, 16:04 PM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša addressed the National Assembly ahead of the vote to appoint him prime minister-designate, stressing that the four parties entering a new coalition would focus on what brought them together. He said he would seek consensus while tackling challenges, adding that the opposition was also invited to cooperation.

 Janša, who in addition to the SDS has secured support of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), presented the guidelines of the future four-party coalition ahead of Tuesday's secret ballot.

He said that in the coalition agreement, the parties had used the current situation in Slovenia - the fact that the outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has caused a government crisis with his resignation, as reference point.

According to Janša, the parties have agreed on a coalition contract which would also be the basis for the government programme, to be presented along with the minister line-up when and if he is confirmed as PM-designate.

As the new government has only two years left before the new election, the term will be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with the things that bring the parties together being emphasised.

When addressing challenges, the parties will try to reach agreement by looking for consensus, Janša said, adding that he would also invite the opposition and the two minority MPs to participate in the creation of solutions.

"Our door for cooperation for the common good stays open to everybody else as well. We exclude nobody," he said.

Janša noted that the main guideline of the new government was that Slovenia could do much better with measures which did not require additional financial investments, including debureaucratisation and decentralisation.

"There is a segment in the administrative part of the public sector which employs too many people, including quality staff," he said, suggesting that a "certain reassignment" should be made as businesses lacked quality staff.

Janša said that the number of regulations had increased ten-fold since 1992, resulting in an unconstitutional situation in which a citizen "is allowed to do only what is expressly prescribed". The excessive bureaucracy also generates huge state administration costs and protracts procedures.

As for decentralisation of Slovenia, he said that the emerging coalition had pledged that new institutions, if established, would be located outside the capital.

An ambition for the next term is to distribute certain institutions currently located in Ljubljana around the country, he said, adding that provinces should also be established so that the state is better organised when it came to investing EU funds.

Among the measures which require a considerable financial investment, Janša mentioned a public pension support fund, with the population ageing being a strategic problem. He admitted that these problems could not be solved in one term.

"But it is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," so that pensions in the future are no longer an exclusive cost for the working population.

While speaking of demographics, Janša touched on migration, saying that those who came to Slovenia, if invited, were welcome, and if they were in trouble, they would also be helped.

"But they cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

Janša also announced measures to create a better environment for economic growth, as this is a permanent basis for prosperity. He added that public education and healthcare needed competition, which ensured quality.

"Slovenia will never replace public education and healthcare with a private system, like some countries have, but it needs to be said that neither of the two would work if it is a given, if there is no competition and if there is no possibility of choice."

Janša believes that problems in healthcare are solvable, but not without some order being made there and without the wage system being changed, upgraded. This is also true for some other sub-systems, he added.

He noted that not only highly qualified experts, but highly profitable companies too were leaving Slovenia, and that many more would follow suit if competitive conditions were not created at home.

Janša believes that certain contribution rates would have to be raised, including for health insurance and long-term care. "But this raise will be unnoticed if we create more, if economic growth is higher, if we eliminate all these obstacles."

Turning to security, he said that the current structure of the defence system did not allow for its basic task, national defence, to be performed.

"If nothing changes, in two years we will not even be able to bluff," Janša said, adding that for this reason it was necessary to at least temporarily reintroduce mandatory conscription and military service.

As for international challenges, he pointed to Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2021, and added that Brexit was a "strategic catastrophe for the EU, by far the largest since its formation", and that it was not time for experiments.

While large countries are pushing for the decision-making system in the EU to be changed, the Lisbon Treaty enables small countries to win equality, especially if they are skilful enough and if they are able to rally around common interests, Janša concluded.

A series of stories on the new coalition is here

03 Mar 2020, 14:17 PM

STA, 2 March 2020 - Miro Cerar, Slovenia's outgoing foreign minister, announced on Monday he was quitting the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre (SMC) lost its face after joining a coalition led by Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing Democratic Party (SDS).

Speaking in parliament, Cerar said he did not wish to be party member any longer, let alone "an honorary member of a party that has ended up without honour".

Cerar had been staunchly opposed to the SMC joining a Janša-led coalition since before the 2018 general election, but the party changed its mind under its new leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

However, despite his decision "in principle not to take part in the Janša government, I seriously considered Zdravko Počivalšek's proposal to head the National Assembly".

"The SMC could thus protect the principle of the division of power and serve as a liberal corrective to a right-wing government."

Cerar said that he had been encouraged by many within and outside the SMC to bid for the post of the speaker, but that after his discussion with Počivalšek last night he realised "it's all manipulation, empty rhetoric and private ambitions of individuals."

Meanwhile, Počivalšek suggested his decision not to put Cerar forward as candidate for the speaker under the Janša government was the reason behind Cerar's quitting the party.

Unofficially, the candidate for the post is Igor Zorčič, the leader of the SMC faction in parliament.

Cerar said that by opting to join the Janša-led coalition, the party had lost credibility to implement its founding values.

He said the party leadership did not see beyond themselves, not even as far as party members, let alone as far as their voters.

Cerar, a jurist and constitutional law expert, founded the SMC shortly before the 2014 election, leading it to victory and going on to serve as prime minister until 2018.

After the party's poor showing in the following general and EU elections, he stepped down as SMC leader, handing over to Počivalšek in September 2019.

Cerar said SMC MPs had forgotten not only who invited them to the project, but mainly who elected them, so he urged them to start thinking with their own heads.

"If this doesn't happen I appeal to party members who want to remain true to the SMC's founding values, democracy, rule of law, human rights and the freethinking liberal stance not to betray those values and leave the party that no longer deserves to be called Modern Centre Party".

"The SMC long ceased to be the party of Miro Cerar, and sadly even the Modern Centre Party, unless modernity is understood as following the latest fashion and turning the way the wind blows," he said.

Cerar would not say whether he will return to serve as MP after his ministerial job ends.

Looking back on the past six years as party leader, PM and party member, Cerar admitted that he may have made some mistakes.

"What hurts the most is that I was wrong about certain people that I proposed for senior positions: from ministers to the head of the deputy faction and others," he said.

In response, Počivalšek said that he had set out the situation in the party to Cerar; unofficial information suggests that they met on Friday morning and again on Sunday evening.

He said that after a long period of turbulence the party needed to undergo a consolidation, which he said could not happen if the party kept returning into the past.

This is why he told Cerar that he would not put him forward for the speaker once he returned to parliament, a decision that Počivalšek said was hard but required for the party to go forward.

Počivalšek, who has served as economy minister in the governments of Marjan Šarec and Miro Cerar, said that the SMC was keeping its social, liberal and sustainable profile.

03 Mar 2020, 10:20 AM

STA, 27 February 2020 - The outgoing government endorsed on Thursday the National Energy and Climate Plan, a set of energy policy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030. The document, which will now be sent to Brussels, is "realistically ambitious", said Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek.

The plan, which was revised after its draft was met with criticism from both industry and environmental NGOs, will serve as the basis for Slovenia's long-term climate strategy.

The government called it "a key step towards a climate-neutral Slovenia until 2050" on Twitter today.

Bratušek told the press after today's cabinet session that the goal was to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, improve energy efficiency by at least 35% and have at least 27% of energy come from renewable energy sources.

The outgoing minister announced that investment into research and development would reach 3% of GDP, of which 1% would be public funds.

These are the minimal goals that Slovenia has to meet until 2030 if it is to avoid sanctions, Bratušek said, adding that the document adopted today also clearly showed how these goals would be achieved.

If Slovenia fails to raise its share of renewable energy to 25%, it will have to pay a fine of some EUR 10 million as early as next year.

The plan preserves the country's nuclear power facilities in the current size although with less use of fossil fuels and more renewable energy sources, in particular solar and wind, and adds waste co-incineration.

Following criticism by the state-owned power utility HSE and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) that the draft plan did not involve new hydro plants on the central Sava river, the final version includes plans for further use of hydro energy.

Analyses of alternatives to hydro and the role of hydro energy use in meeting Slovenia's goal of becoming climate neural by 2050 are also planned.

As for a new reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Station (NEK), the document says that a decision on a potential construction should be made by 2027 at the latest.

A decision will also have to be made on the extension of the lifespan for the existing reactor, which expires in 2023. "This is why we must make sure that it will be able to function by 2043 as planned," Bratušek said.

Coal use has not been tackled yet and is to be resolved in Slovenia's Energy Concept until 2060.

Slovenia was obligated to adopt the Energy and Climate Plan and forward it to the European Commission under the EU regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action if it wants to draw cohesion funds in 2021-2027.

The GZS welcomed the new version of the plan yesterday, but still voiced some concerns, especially regarding GDP growth estimates. The GZS believes economic growth is underestimated in the document and subsequently also the total energy consumption.

A 30% share of renewable energy sources is still beyond reach for industry as there are no assurances that green sources of energy will be available, said the GZS, which also called for a compensation scheme for indirect emissions, which all EU countries bar Slovenia and Romania have.

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