01 Mar 2020, 11:26 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The security apparatus of the state will be a major priority for the incoming centre-right coalition, according to the coalition agreement, which suggests asylum procedures will be tightened, the police force strengthened, and army conscription reintroduced.

The agreement makes "efficient protection of the state border" the no. 1 priority in the chapter on security and defence. Asylum procedures will be "consistently respected" and "mandatory integration of foreigners" instituted.

The priorities are broadly in line with the agenda of the Democrats (SDS), who have long advocated a tougher stance on migrations and called for stronger border security.

The police force gets several mentions, with the coalition pledging to "sort out the situation in the police" and "sort out the status, staffing and operation of the police". Consideration will also be given to the re-establishment of a secondary school for police officers, which was shut down in 1999 and transformed into a police academy.

While other details have not been disclosed, some media have speculated that a thorough overhaul of the police may be in the works. The speculation is borne out by a point from the SDS's election platform from 2018, which states that "during the transition from the former totalitarian regime to a democratic society, the criminal police has not been entirely purged by ideologically blinded officers".

One major priority that has captured the imagination of the public is the idea to gradually phase in conscription military service, which was abolished in 2003 and replaced with a professional force; the idea was floated by the SDS in January and was immediately endorsed by the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), one of the partners in the emerging four-way coalition.

The army has for years had problems enlisting enough soldiers and some see conscription as a good way of increasing the potential pool of professional soldiers.

Critics say introducing conscription will not improve the performance of the military until there is sufficient funding since the conscription system is potentially even costlier than a professional military. Some have also questioned whether conscription makes sense from a military perspective given the advanced technological requirements of modern warfare.

The incoming government also plans to develop cyber-defence capabilities and beef up measures to protect critical infrastructure.

This is the first in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

01 Mar 2020, 10:56 AM

STA, 29 February 2020 - The likely new government plans to tackle housing issues among the young and problems stemming from population ageing, according to the social affairs chapter of the coalition agreement. It does not intend to change pension rights though.

The incoming centre-right government vows to set up a housing scheme for young families and build rental flats, the top pledge of the 19-point Youth, Family, Pensions and Social Affairs chapter of the agreement.

It plans to re-introduce a scheme under which families with two or more children enrolled in public kindergarten simultaneously would only pay for the first child, a policy that had been put in place by the first Janez Janša government in 2008 and was later abandoned due to austerity measures.

Family-friendly policies, designed to boost the country's birth rate, include plans to introduce a universal child allowance and incentives promoting "greater enrolment of all children in kindergartens at least a year before starting school".

The document does not mention implementing a Constitutional Court decision mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, however Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), the party expected to lead the coalition, has said that it goes without saying the parties would also implement any Constitutional Court ruling regardless of whether it is specifically mentioned in the agreement.

Tackling population ageing, the emerging four-party coalition intends to establish a public pension support fund as well as a government demographic office, both headquartered in Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city - initiatives that may be considered as steps towards decentralisation.

The coalition also plans to reform social transfers to prevent abuse of the system and integrate recipients of social benefits who are able to work into the community work placement scheme.

The minimum amount of a full pension is to be gradually brought nearer the poverty threshold, "depending on economic growth and budget capacities". To preserve the existing pension ratios, other pensions would be raised as well.

Addressing the shortage of nursing homes, the coalition pledges to complete the construction of a couple of such facilities as well as build at least five new nursing homes.

It also intends to carry out additional pension increases on top of regular annual pension indexation, assuming GDP growth reaches certain thresholds.

The coalition also promises to provide the chance of spa or climatic treatment for war victims and veterans.

This is the second in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

29 Feb 2020, 14:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 28 February 2020

Mladina: Public will keep a close eye on Janša

STA, 28 February 2020 – The left-wing weekly Mladina puts the pending power shift in Slovenia in the context of a nationalist-populist wave that gripped Europe in 2015. It issues a scathing criticism of the Democrats (SDS) and those about to enable a Janez Janša government, saying they are foolish to think Janša has changed his ways and that the Slovenian public will stand by quietly.

The weight of the decision that MPs face next week as parliament will vote on the new government "is much bigger than they are willing to admit to themselves", the weekly's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in the commentary entitled The Public is Watching and Remembering.

"They are being calculated in their actions, but it seems they are not really aware they will carry the consequences of their decision for the rest of their lives," he says, arguing the MPs know very well what Janša's Democrats (SDS) are about.

Repovž equates the SDS with "hatred, a giant factory of lies, constant and grave elimination of those not sharing their views, overt racism and exclusion".

"Many people and institutions have for years been living under this pressure and this has left Slovenian democracy deeply wounded," Repovž says, speaking of year after year marked by inciting of hatred, attacks on scholars, culture workers, media, individual journalists.

"Of course there was also abuse of power, the circumvention of laws (for instance those governing the funding of parties from abroad), and last but not least corruption and all kinds of dodgy manoeuvres with cash, including the inability of the party's president to explain the origins of his."

Repovž says that statements by MPs and party leaders show they know exactly who they are putting in power and thus they also know what Slovenian society will go through because of their decision.

He argues that they may be trying to convince themselves that there will be no culture war and ideological attack on society this time around, but notes that these already started before the coalition agreement was signed and that there has been too much of this for any politician serious about democracy to swallow.

"There is one habit that Slovenian politicians are simply incapable of losing: they keep underestimating the public and treat citizens as small children that can be fooled with stupid tricks. Well, these citizens have shown too often now how they feel about this arrogant attitude of the elite and how to demonstrate this sentiment."

Reporter: "Deep state" wants Janša in power

STA, 24 February 2020 - Reporter, the right-leaning political magazine, believes the "deep state" is the force slotting the pieces together to result in a new Janez Janša government. "Janša is literally being gifted his third government by the deep state," it says in Monday's commentary.

Arguing that the Left, "the party most strongly led by the deep state", is the main reason why the Marjan Šarec government came crashing down, Reporter says that "if it was in the interest of old networks to prevent Janša's renewed ascent to power, they could probably have done that."

"Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back to then take two steps forward. The Communists had successfully deployed these tactics thirty years ago, during the change of political system and independence, when they temporarily gave up power so that two years later, dressed up as social democrats and liberals, they could return," the commentator says.

Now the deep state wants to let Janša carry out some urgent but unpopular measures, just like his government did eight years ago, counting on people rebelling for "a new episode of pan-Slovenian popular uprisings". Two years later, the left can then return to power even stronger, the paper says in Gift by the Deep State.

All our posts in this series are here, while all our stories on Janez Janša are here

29 Feb 2020, 12:30 PM

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

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 21 February
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Coming out of an EU summit dedicated to the bloc's next seven-year budget, which ended without an agreement, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said the European Commission had presented a technical proposal which recipients of the cohesion funds rejected because they saw it as a "provocation".
        STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar started a two-day visit to Sweden by meeting Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Speaker Andreas Norlen. Zhe officials stressed the importance of an EU future for Western Balkan countries, and discussed sustainable development as well as the EU's challenges.
        LJUBLJANA - Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar announced she would file a defamation complaint against Democrats (SDS) MP Žan Mahnič, the vice-chair of the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS), after he had accused her of lying about alleged spying on politicians by the police.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian banks generated a combined pre-tax profit of EUR 597.4 million last year, up 12.5% on the year before and the highest on record. Profit after tax rose by 8% to EUR 534.9 million, central bank figures show.

SATURDAY, 22 February
        MARIBOR - Two Slovenian passengers from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess were flown home on a chartered flight, touching down in Maribor after being airlifted from Japan to Germany. The two, who will be in self-isolation at home for two weeks, were tested for the novel coronavirus at Maribor airport, and the results were negative.
        NEW YORK, US - Slovenia has advanced ten spots to place 21st in the 2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index, which is the greatest improvement among all 60 countries surveyed for the list. Slovenia scored a total of 73.93 points out of 100 possible, compared to 88.21 by the first-ranked Germany.

MONDAY, 24 February
        LJUBLJANA - The Secretariat of the National Security Council met to discuss Slovenia's preparedness for a coronavirus outbreak in the wake of the first reported cases in Italy. Health authorities in Slovenia said no additional protective measures were needed and denied persistent rumours of patients testing positive for the virus in Slovenia.
        THESSALONIKI, Greece - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar urged Western Balkan countries to make reform headway as he addressed a high-level conference in Thessaloniki designed to push forward the stalled EU enlargement process to the region. Cerar highlighted "the need for in-depth reforms, in particular in rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime".
        LJUBLJANA - A protest was held in front of the UK Embassy in Ljubljana as Britain started hearing a US case requesting extradition of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange. Much like in other towns around the world, the protesters called for media freedom and the freedom of speech.

TUESDAY, 25 February
        LJUBLJANA - In a surprise move following a week of talks behind tightly closed doors, the top executive bodies of the Democrats (SDS), Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) confirmed they were forging a coalition led by SDS head Janez Janša. Outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said he was not surprised at the prospect of a new Janša government, which he saw from the start as one of the possible outcomes of his resignation.
        LJUBLJANA - Public institutions started taking precautionary measures to protect staff against coronavirus infections after first cases of the virus were confirmed in neighbouring Italy, Austria and Croatia, sparking fears of an outbreak in Slovenia. Schools started to cancel planned activities and field trips, while retailers reported increased footfall as shoppers grabbed by panic stocked up on essentials.
        MARIBOR - A company in Chinese ownership that used to lease the Maribor Airport plans to file a damage suit against the state after it terminated the lease in early 2019, whereupon the airport management was turned over to a state-owned consulting and engineering company. Aerodrom Maribor said it will demand EUR 2.1 million in damages plus costs and lost profits.

WEDNESDAY, 26 February
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor formally nominated Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), for prime minister after four parties reached an agreement to form a centre-right coalition. Janša said the coalition agreement showed the four parties were willing to seek compromise solutions and would work to tackle the most pressing issues that Slovenia faces.
        LJUBLJANA/BELGRADE, Serbia - The Slovenian NLB bank announced it had signed an agreement with the Serbian government to acquire the 83% state stake in the bank Komercijalna Banka. The deal worth EUR 387 million is pending regulatory approval and is expected to be finalised in the last quarter of the year. NLB's market share in Serbia by total assets will increase to over 12%.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia has made no progress in reforming long-term care. Some progress has been achieved in public procurement, and in labour market policies, and limited progress was detected in economic policies facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy, shows a European Commission report.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Two Slovenian regions, Savinjska in the east and the central Zasavska region, were designated among a hundred EU regions eligible for financing from the EU fund for a fair green transition. They will be entitled to EUR 92 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Central Slovenia, one of Slovenia's 12 statistical regions, will get EUR 93 million in EU and state subsidies for 21 development projects under an agreement signed by regional officials with the government. Just over EUR 45 million of the total funding comes from EU cohesion funds, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said.

THURSDAY, 27 February
        OTOČEC - Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Croatia's Zoran Milanović called for the resolution of all open bilateral issues as they met just over a week after Milanović was sworn in. They urged the governments of both countries to work towards excellent relations in all fields.
        LJUBLJANA - The outgoing cabinet adopted measures to contain the new coronavirus in case it spreads to Slovenia. Most notably, it released strategic commodity reserves to ensure enough protective gear. The government however noted that borders with neighbouring countries would remain open since there was no reason for panic.
        LJUBLJANA - The outgoing government adopted the National Energy and Climate Plan, a set of energy policy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030. It called the document "a key step towards a climate-neutral Slovenia until 2050". Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said the goal was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, improve energy efficiency by at least 35% and have at least 27% of energy come from renewable sources.

All our posts in this series are here

29 Feb 2020, 10:43 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The Slovenian web portal Oštro published on Friday along with two more investigative journalism groups in the region a report alleging that a Slovenia-based company was used to launder illegal Hungarian government money and finance media propaganda in North Macedonia.

The story - coming after reports showing entrepreneurs close to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban helped fund Slovenian media with ties to the Democrats (SDS) and Macedonian media associated with the country's VMRO-DPMNE party - is based on an investigation that had been started by Macedonian financial police in 2018.

The file of the Macedonian police, which allegedly acted after receiving a hint from Slovenian colleagues, is also said to contain documents obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and shared with its local centres in Slovenia (Oštro), North Macedonia (Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia, IRL) and Hungary (Direkt36).

The centrepiece of the investigation is a EUR 2.94 million advertising campaign contract signed in 2017 by Hungarian entrepreneur Peter Shatz both on behalf the contracting party, his Slovenian publishing company R-POST-R, and the contractor, Macedonian company Target Media.

orban jansa slovenia hungary media politics.JPG

Screenshot ostro.si. You can see the story referred to here

Shatz, who has also been heavily engaged in dealings around Slovenian media associated with the SDS, used Target Media to buy the Macedonian Alfa TV and establish the Macedonian web portal ripostmk.com, both of which were publishing the ads stemming from the dubious EUR 2.94 million contract that ran from August 2017 to February 2019.

According to the findings of the Macedonian financial police, the marketing involved products by two small Hungarian companies - one of them purporting to sell olive oil from Croatia's Dalmatia region - that "do not exist on the Macedonian market" and whose import into Macedonia was not recorded before or after the ads were ran.

Moreover, indicating that the value of the contract was overblown, IRL quotes a Macedonian marketing expert as pointing out that the biggest client of a marketing agency in Skopje pays less than half a million euro annually for prime time ads at six TV and radio stations and web portals.

Macedonian police is said to suspect that the funds originated from illegal sources and that the aim had been to "legalise" them through Macedonian companies, meaning that money laundering is suspected.

The investigation is led by the director of the Macedonian financial police Arafat Muaremi, who suspects the money came from the Hungarian state budget.

Muaremi told IRL the police had informed the Macedonian prosecution of its findings in August 2019 but that no indictment had been filed. The prosecution said it was acquainted with the case but failed to explain why no action had been taken.

Muaremi added the investigation was started on the basis of a hint from Slovenian colleagues, who also "informed us that the money came from Hungary". According to Muaremi, Hungarian authorities have "not been willing to talk or cooperate with us in any way".

Slovenian police have not commented, but they did repeat that they had been conducting since March 2018 an investigation "of a suspected criminal offence whose perpetrator is prosecuted ex officio".

The Slovenian web portal necenzurirano.si has reported that this investigation pertains to the contentions EUR 450,000 loan taken out by the SDS in 2017 with Bosnian citizen Dijana Đuđić.

All our stories about Hungary and Slovenia are here

29 Feb 2020, 10:26 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The arson of the Trieste National Hall (Narodni dom) by the Fascists a century ago marked the start of a painful period for the Slovenian community that ended up on the Italian side of the border. A documentary shedding light on that event and what followed will premiere in Ljubljana tonight. 

"It's a painful and often overlooked and too often simplified story about our western border and about Primorska. The arson of National Hall was the start of that cruel story and I dear say the beginning of Fascism in Europe," the author of Arson (Požig) Majda Širca has told the STA in an interview.

The Trieste National Home was built in 1904 to the design of architect Max Fabiani (1865-1962). It was commissioned by the Trieste Savings and Loan Society; as a Slovenian cultural centre, it was home to a theatre, hotel, savings bank, a ballroom, a print shop; most Slovenian associations.

"Trieste at the time of Austria-Hungary was a multi-cultural city in which various nations and cultures lived together. By building the National Hall, Slovenians made it clear they weren't going to build churches like other nations. They decided to build a space of multi-cultural dialogue (...)"

"Slovenians knew they needed a representative, visible and effective place in the middle of Trieste. Slovenians at the time lived on the city's outskirts, in small villages. They were a rural population that supplied Trieste but they didn't have their visible place in the city centre," Širca said.

The project was a thorn in the flesh of bigots who looked down on Slovenians, calling them schiavi (Italian for slaves). After the end of First World War, tensions escalated in Trieste, with a number of rallies held.

On 13 July 1920, one of those rallies escalated into a violent conflict in which shouts were heard that a Slav had killed an Italian. A mass of people then stormed the National Hall and torched it, historian Kaja Širok says in the film. Witnesses say that police and army officers stood by watching.

"That event later went down in history as 'the Slavic Crystal Night'. On that day several stores, print shops and buildings owned or managed by Slovenians were torched," the historian said.

Badly damaged in the fire, the National Hall was rebuilt between 1988 and 1990 and now houses the headquarters of the college of modern languages for interpreters and translators, part of the University of Trieste, as well as a Slovenian information centre.

The Slovenian community has been unsuccessfully trying to get back the building, with their hopes placed in this year's centenary when the presidents of Slovenia and Italy, Borut Pahor and Sergio Mattarella, are expected to meet in Trieste to mark the anniversary.

The film Arson also features excerpts of old comments by Boris Pahor, the 106-year-old Slovenian writer from Trieste who witnessed the National Hall arson and has often spoken out about the issue and has often said that Fascism in Europe started with that arson.

The year the National Hall went up in flames Slovenian territory was subject to barter, Širca says. Under the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in November 1920 by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) and the Kingdom of Italy, a third of Slovenian ethnic territory was awarded to Italy.

Ethnic Slovenians were put under huge pressure, faced assimilation attempts, denial of their language and territory, turbulence which Širca seeks to portray in her documentary, although she believes each of the key events included would merit a film of its own.

The film traces individuals' stories to the Basovizza victims, the Slovenians that were the first victims of fascism in 1930, the Fascist and Nazi occupation, the concentration camps and executions, the 1975 Treaty of Osimo and the establishment of a new border between Slovenia and Italy.

The documentary also touches on the foibe, the Karst pits where the victims of post-WWII reprisals by Yugoslav Communists were thrown.

"If you visit Basovizza, there are two monuments there not far from one another. One is an Italian monument to foibe, where every year the complex and complicated history of this space is sadly drastically simplified and abused, and the other a monument to the Basovizza victims.

"There's 15 years of history between the two, but I believe it always needs to be read in the context of that space. You cannot isolate one event from the other, just like you cannot but link the things together," said Širca, who served as Slovenia culture minister between 2008 and 2011.

She is concerned about what she sees as a dangerous loss of memory in Slovenia and elsewhere: "We know the past is being adapted, history is being horse traded and facts are being dressed in new clothes. Like in the past the new clothes are better worn trendy and we know how hard such simplification of history hits the Slovenian community."

The film, which will premiere at the National Museum of Contemporary History before being shown on TV Slovenija on Sunday night, is her contribution so that younger generations should learn about that difficult and multi-layered history: "If someone drums but one truth into their heads, it sticks. It's what is happening in the world today."

27 Feb 2020, 15:24 PM

STA, 27 February - The outgoing cabinet adopted on Thursday measures to contain the new coronavirus in case it spreads to Slovenia. It released strategic commodity reserves to ensure enough protective gear but noted that borders with neighbouring countries remained open and that there was no reason for panic.

No coronavirus infection has been recorded in Slovenia as yet, but the country has been preparing for it as neighbouring Italy, Austria and Croatia all have patients with COVID-19.

According to Health Minister Aleš Šabeder, protective masks, glasses, gloves, coats and hospital shoe covers will be available in case of emergency.

Equipment in the total value of EUR 200,000 will be made available, including 48,000 protective masks, 5,000 hazmat suits, 500,000 gloves and hand sanitizers, the Economy Ministry said.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec added the strategic commodity reserves were intended for medical staff not citizens. "First we must protect public workers, so that they can help citizens efficiently," he said.

UKC Ljubljana gets masks for coronavirus

Meanwhile, the UKC Ljubljana hospital received 100,000 protective masks today, a donation from the company Labena. The hospital said the masks from state reserves would be used only if existing supplies and further orders would not be enough to cover the hospital's needs.

Based on an agreement with the neighbouring countries, borders remain open. Experience from Italy has shown that fierce measures did not stop the spreading of the disease while they could cause substantial economic damage, Šarec said.

Croatia is conducting checks at the border crossings, which is causing long tailbacks of traffic. "Such measures are not efficient. Tailbacks on the borders are causing economic damage," Šarec warned.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in response that the measure was necessary. "Croatia acts as it should, peacefully and prudently, without panic, in order to protect public health and its citizens."

Hinting at Slovenia's measures at the Schengen border causing tailbacks in the past, Plenković said that "now we have a true reason to raise preparedness on the border, which is good both for us and for Slovenia".

Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who is meeting Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor in Otočec, said that the Croatian government probably had reasons to take such measures, adding that panic was unwarranted.

Pahor said that measures should be coordinated. "It's about our people's health and we have to do everything in our power to help each other find solutions which would preserve health," he added.

Šarec also stressed that responsible action was needed otherwise the side effects of the protective measures could be more harmful than the virus itself.

The outgoing PM listed the problems that could emerge if people started withdrawing their money from banks in panic or buying supplies in abnormal quantities, which is already happening.

The civil protection will get involved in case of multiple infections, and so will the army, sanitary service and others, he asserted. "But we'e not there yet. So those who have called for closing of the borders are merely spreading panic."

Both Šarec and Šabeder rejected claims by the Medical Chamber that health institutions were not informed of the situation and measures.

Šabeder called on the chamber to "immediately stop sowing fear and panic among the people and medical staff".

Presenting the agreements reached at a meeting of health ministers of Italy and neighbouring countries in the face of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, Šarec said countries had agreed not to close the borders and to exchange information about the virus. They will hold regular videoconferences to agree on protective measures.

As yet, no major events cancelled

As regards cancellations of public events, decisions will be made on a case-to-case basis, with Šarec noting that Slovenia would also host some major events in the near future such as the Ski Jumping World Cup events in Planica.

Šabeder said that protective gear was being inventoried in all hospitals and community health centres, and that no institute was without it. This week, Slovenia will join a European public order for more protective gear.

Full protective gear is required only during swab taking, Health Ministry State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek explained. She added that there was no need for healthy people who come from countries where infections have been recorded to be taking sick leave.

Presenting the scenario for action if case of a positive test, she said the first infected patient would be hospitalised and their family members or those living with the person would be isolated while other would not be affected.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

27 Feb 2020, 12:15 PM

STA, 26 February 2020 - Three local communities in the north-eastern region of Prekmurje are upset after a cable operator announced it was expanding its TV package in the area with programmes catering for the Hungarian minority, which does not in fact live in the three municipalities. The development comes amid concerns about Hungary's expanding influence in the region.

Telemach said it would include five Hungarian programmes in its package in Lendava, Odranci, Velika Polana and Črenšovci, in response to the wishes of the Hungarian community in the area. The latter three communities are not bothered by the new programmes, but rather by the reason given for the move.

Jožef Horvat, the head of the parliamentary faction of the conservative party New Slovenia (NSi), has alerted the government in a letter that Hungary's influence in the municipalities with exclusively Slovenian population is expanding through the programmes.

"We are not bothered by the programme scheme and business decisions of a private subject even when it comes to bilingual programmes, but it does bother us that in its official release the company stated that this was in accordance with the wishes of our municipalities' residents and labelled them as bilingual, which they aren't," Velika Polana Mayor Damijan Jaklin said.

In his letter, MP Horvat said that it was commendable that the Pomurje Hungarian community was aspiring for Hungarian programmes, but that it was unacceptable that in public explanations Črenšovci, Velika Polana and Odranci were listed as mixed ethnicity areas populated by a sizeable Hungarian minority. "This is simply not true and it is common deceit."

Horvat, whose party has just agreed to be part of a new government formed by Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), accused the outgoing government of silently watching developments in Prekmurje, asking what it was planning to do to protect the majority nation and language in the region.

Črenšovci Mayor Vera Markoja says that Telemach has apologised to the community for declaring it is home to a Hungarian minority. The company told the STA its purpose was not to cause discord or "declare ethnically mixed areas", but rather to offer a choice of quality content to all viewers across the country.

Telemach said that as part of its switch to the digital programme scheme new Hungarian programmes would be available throughout the country. The company has one TV signal for Lendava, Odranci, Velika Polana and Črenšovci, which means separating the programme scheme by municipalities impossible.

Prekmurje has in recent time seen extensive Hungarian state and private investment, which has sparked considerable attention. While some see the investment as welcome aid benefiting the entire population of the underdeveloped region, others see it as Hungary expanding its influence in a region what used to be part of the Hungarian empire.

Hungarian investments in the region include the acquisition of the spa Terme Lendava, unofficially at the cost of EUR 9 million, EUR 6 million investment in the Lendava football academy as well grants distributed to individuals and entrepreneurs commanding Hungarian language.

Opinions on the Hungarian aid are also divided within the Hungarian ethnic community in the region with some arguing that the investments do not generate economic effects and questioning the motives behind them, suggesting that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was trying to assert his ways also in Slovenia.

Hungarian MP Ferenc Horvath believes that the aid is welcome. "Slovenia too should give as much here. Aid is welcome in the region. These are public funds, we know where they are destined, and they are also a contribution to Slovenia because money is spent here and taxes are paid here as well."

A similar view was taken by the SDS, which is facing allegations that media with ties to the party have received funds from Hungary.

The SDS believes that the Slovenian government is neglecting Prekmurje as well as the Slovenian minority in Hungary, "which is why the Hungarians help both". "If our investment was sufficient, the Hungarians would have nowhere to invest".

All our stories on Hungary are here

26 Feb 2020, 17:26 PM

STA, 26 February 2020 - President Borut Pahor on Wednesday formally nominated Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), for prime minister after four parties reached an agreement forming a centre-right coalition.

New Slovene Govt Announces Policies on Conscription, Borders, Housing, Health, Taxes, Cannabis, EU & More (Feature)

Having joined forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) Janša can count on a slim but comfortable majority in the 90-member parliament, which has to vote on the nomination in seven days at the latest.

Janša said the coalition agreement showed the four parties were willing to seek compromise solutions and would work to tackle the most pressing issues that Slovenia faces, even as he acknowledged that it was impossible to achieve everything that had to be done in the two and a half years until the next scheduled election.

He highlighted tackling healthcare, environmental issues and the elderly situation as top priorities. The coalition agreement envisages establishing a government demographic fund to deal with the issue of population ageing.

Moreover, decentralisation and debureaucratisation are expected to be among the potential coalition's main targets.

Janša believes that it goes without saying the parties will also implement any Constitutional Court ruling, including the decision mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, even if the latter is not written down in the agreement.

He added that he would seek cooperation with the opposition and national minority MPs as well. The coalition plans to sign an agreement outlining national minority issues with the latter.

The likely new prime minister said that the coalition did not initially plan any changes to the government act due to shortage of time. He did say though that amending the budget would be necessary.

Pahor said he was glad the period of political uncertainty following the resignation of Marjan Šarec as prime minister in late January had been so short.

He called on political stakeholders to engage in dialogue and refrain from excluding anyone, while pledging to work together with the government in his capacity as president. "I want this cooperation to be constructive and for the benefit of our country and all the people."

The president expects every one to refrain from any offensive statements or actions and to strengthen trust in the constitutional system.

Asked about alleged intimidation tactics used during coalition formation, Janša said that threats meant the line had been crossed. He deems this kind of pressure illegitimate.

Pahor meanwhile added that public figures were faced with pressure on a regular basis and as long as such pressure was expressed in an appropriate way, that was acceptable. However, he warned against spreading hatred.

Prompted by the press, Janša also touched upon his media relations and Twitter communication, saying "what do you think influences public opinion more? A public accusation in a media outlet watched by 400,000 people or a tweet read by a few thousands? When this is measured in the same way, then we could have a serious discussion about that".

Profile: Janez Janša – Constant Player and Bête Noire of the Left

26 Feb 2020, 12:13 PM

STA, 26 February - The coalition government that is being formed by Janez Janša is planning to reintroduce military conscription, effectively secure the border, decentralise the country and increase local government funding, as well as introduce a general child benefit.

This follows from a 13-page draft coalition agreement obtained by the STA. The draft was initialled on Monday by Janša's Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi), Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners Party (DeSUS), but unofficial information indicates the parties have already signed the agreement.

Under the draft, the partners plan to gradually reintroduce conscription, which Slovenia abandoned in 2003, and a six-month military service. They also pledge to "tackle the situation" in the police force and consistently implement asylum procedures.

More on the conscription plans here

The parties have also committed to implement the Constitutional Court ruling mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, and complete the system to fund science and research.

The per-capita funding of municipalities is to be raised to EUR 623.96 in 2020 and EUR 628.20 in 2021, which compares to EUR 589.11 and EUR 588.30, respectively, under the valid budget implementation act.

The coalition pledge to put in place a housing scheme for young families, build rental flats and establish a demographic and pension fund, headquartered in Maribor. Slovenia's second city will also host a government demographic fund. Pension rights are not to be changed.

The coalition also plan to reform social transfers policy and introduce free kindergarten for second or more children simultaneously enrolled in pre-school care and education. Family-friendly policies also include plans to introduce a universal child allowance.

The coalition pledge to secure extra financing from pubic and other funds in order to establish a financially sustainable and stable financing of the national health system and long-term care, and take effective measures to cut short waiting times in healthcare by engaging all staff resources.

The commitments include adopting legislation on long-term care and reforming the healthcare and health insurance act to change the management and functioning of the Health Insurance Institute and transform top-up health insurance.

Under the plans, employees will be able to take three days of sick leave without seeing a doctor, but only up to nine days a year. Measures are also planned to increase the vaccination rate and to set up an agency for quality of medical services.

The coalition have also committed to reduce taxes on performance bonuses and to reform the public sector wage system by pegging part of pay to performance.

Plans in the judiciary include making court rulings fully public and giving judges the option to pass dissenting opinions. Legislative changes are to affect the Judicial Council, state prosecution service, insolvency law and penal procedure.

The foreign policy agenda includes a pledge to support Western Balkan countries in their integration in the EU and NATO.

Other concrete projects include introducing e-motorway toll stickers and considering the option to transfer the Koper-Divača railway project and its manager 2TDK to the national railways operator.

The coalition would also like to reform land policies and the Farmland Fund, amend the co-operatives act and regulate production and use of cannabis in medicine and industry.

The coalition agreement sets out that the partners are taking the responsibility to manage the state according to voters' will, constitutional values, and rights and obligations as set forth in the agreement, based on the principles of equality and partnership.

The coalition pledges to focus on what connects and unites people in the country, and to advocate cooperation based on the willingness to work for the common good.

Under the draft, the SDS will be responsible for the departments of home and foreign affairs, finance, culture, which includes media, as well as the environment, diaspora and cohesion. The SMC was allocated the briefs of education, economy, public administration and justice, the NSi labour, infrastructure and defence, and DeSUS health, agriculture and the demographic fund.

This is the first in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

26 Feb 2020, 08:57 AM

STA, 25 February 2020 - Providing a key seal of approval for a new centre-right government in Slovenia, the executive councils of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi), the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), and the Democrats (SDS) all backed on Tuesday the entry into a coalition led by SDS president Janez Janša.

Profile: Janez Janša – Constant Player and Bête Noire of the Left

The nods came after weeks of talks held following the 27 January resignation of PM Marjan Šarec, who had formed a minority centre-left government in September 2018.

The draft coalition agreement was initialled by the four parties on Monday, while consultation talks were held today with President Borut Pahor, who is likely to nominate Janša for his third stint as prime minister on Wednesday.

The parties, which have 48 votes in the 90-member National Assembly, have already divided the ministerial posts among them.

Several media reported that SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek would stay economy minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec would remain in charge of the Agriculture Ministry, while NSi head Matej Tonin would become defence minister.

Other names circulated include the SDS's Anže Logar as foreign minister, the SDS's Zvonko Černač as interior minister, the SDS's Andrej Šircelj as finance minister, DeSUS's Tomaž Gantar as health minister, the SMC's Igor Zorčič as justice minister, the NSi's Cveto Uršič as labour, family and social affairs minister, and the NSi's Jernej Vrtovec as infrastructure minister. The SDS will allegedly also head the culture ministry.

Tonin indicated after the NSi's executive council session that the party had expected a little more from the coalition agreement, in particular bolder steps in healthcare.

56 of the NSi's 88 executive council members cast their vote today, all voting in favour.

Tonin confirmed the NSi had gotten the three departments mentioned by the media and that he would be put forward for defence minister. The candidates for the two remaining NSi cabinet posts are on the other hand still being discussed.

The second party to reveal its decision was the SMC, where Jani Möderndorfer, one of the SMC 10 MPs, was the only to vote against.

RTV Slovenija reported that some of the SMC's MPs allegedly received an offer from Marjan Šarec's LMŠ to vote against today and instead join the LMŠ to get favourable treatment on the party's slates in the next general elections.

SMC head Počivalšek told the press after the vote that "Slovenia needs an operational and mature government, capable of facing the challenges ahead".

"It is important to say that this will not be a coalition of one party... of one [party] president, this will be a coalition of four parties operating in consensus.

"This will also be a government for which 47% of voters voted in the last election and I am confident that such a government will work for the good of all of us," said Počivalšek.

Pivec of DeSUS revealed her party's decision shortly after, saying DeSUS was content with what it secured in the coalition negotiations.

Along with the agriculture and health minister, DeSUS is also expected to head the planned government demographic office. The vote on the executive council was 12:1 and on the council 45:5.

Addressing the press on behalf of the SDS was the party's MP Anže Logar, who explained that 219 of 219 SDS executive council members had voted in favour today.

He hopes the decisions adopted today will also be reflected in the parliamentary votes on the PM nominee and the ministerial team, which he hopes will proceed promptly.

Keep up with Slovenian politics here

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