25 Feb 2020, 16:06 PM

STA, 25 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS), Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) have reached an agreement on forming a coalition, the head of the SDS deputy group Danijel Krivec announced on Tuesday.

He said the SDS's proposal to appoint party head Janez Janša prime minister had already been forwarded to President Borut Pahor.

The four parties have found common ground and the final decisions of the executive bodies of the SMC, NSi and DeSUS are expected this evening, Krivec said.

He noted that the SDS had secured 26 MP votes for the appointment of the new government while the number of additional votes would be clear this evening.

The SDS deputy head did not confirm unofficial information that the draft coalition agreement was initialled on Monday.

He also said that staffing decisions were yet to be finalised and did not confirm unofficial media reports on the distribution of ministries among the four parties.

He said this would depend on the decision of parties' bodies.

According to unofficial reports, 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.

Pahor is conducting a second round of talks on the coalition building with the heads of SMC, NSi and DeSUS deputy groups today.

SMC deputy group head Igor Zorčič told Pahor that a draft coalition agreement among the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS had been agreed on Monday evening.

He said the agreement met the SMC's demands and dispelled fears about some SDS policies that had been raised by the civil society.

He also said that an agreement had been reached on the distribution of government posts but he would not go into detail.

Both was confirmed by NSi deputy group head Jožef Horvat after his meeting with Pahor. But Horvat stressed that the final decision would be made by the party council this evening.

Horvat said it had been agreed that the NSi would nominate the defence, infrastructure and labour ministers. The party has not picked the candidates yet.

DeSUS deputy group head Franc Jurša said the coalition agreement included the establishment of an office for demographics, which the party would lead along with the ministries of agriculture and health.

If all three deputy group heads express support to Janša as prime minister, Pahor will hold an official meeting with him on Wednesday. If they do not, Pahor will notify the National Assembly that he will be not putting forward a PM-designate.

The deadline for his decision is this Friday.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

23 Feb 2020, 11:08 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 21 February 2020

Mladina: SDS puts autocratic tendencies on open display

STA, 21 February 2020 - The left-wing weekly paper Mladina argues in its latest editorial that unlike in the past, the Democrats (SDS) do not even bother to conceal the wolf hiding under their sheep's clothing, immediately revealing their revenge-driven, arrogant and autocratic view of politics and the state.

Things got real much sooner than expected, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says, highlighting the threat issued by SDS MP Žan Mahnič to Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar as well as SDS head Janez Janša's statement that the SDS was discussing the editorial policy at the left-leaning daily Dnevnik.

"Coming from any other politician, this would perhaps be understood as a (bad) joke. But not with Janša. Because he already did this. And is doing it," Repovž says in Has the Election Campaign Already Begun?.

"He is interfering in the media all the time, if needed he will sell the nation's silverware (retailer Mercator in exchange for influence on the papers Večer and Delo) or even his own political sovereignty (he did it when he took millions from Hungary to build a media empire)," Repovž says.

Mladina's editor speaks of Janša's obsession with the media and his blaming of allegedly exclusively left-oriented media for his failures, while pointing out that Janša's term at helm of the SDS has been the longest among any heads of serious political parties in Europe.

Repovž argues that the latest developments are only a repeated demonstration of what makes the SDS a party that no serious democratic party is able to cooperate with.

He then turns to the Modern Centre Party (SMC), which he says will make the unoriginal mistake of entering an SDS-led coalition only to gradually disappear while giving absolutely everything to Janša - the latter will in turn say thank you and go to an early election.

Reporter: Deep State & Janša

STA, 17 February 2020 - Reflecting on Janez Janša's chances to form a government this term, the latest editorial of the right-leaning weekly magazine Reporter speculates that a short-lived Janša government may be in the interest of the deep state.

Under the headline Coincidental Prime Minister-Designate, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla writes that Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), probably has a better chance forming a government now than after an early election unless the balance of power between the left and right changed substantially.

Being that the ballot to appoint PM-designate is secret and that many MPs are "trembling about where to find new jobs", Janša should not have difficulty securing 46 votes.

"The problem could emerge later; the new government, like the Šarec cabinet would be in the draught all the time. Janša (...) is probably aware of that. It is obvious he desires immensely to be prime minister, the question is whether also at all cost.

"Even more than Janša, a new government is desired by SMC [Modern Centre Party] leader Zdravko Počivalšek (...) polls show it would be hard for the SMC to make it to parliament in a snap election, so Počivalšek is hoping to enhance the party under Janša."

Šurla finds that the biggest problem for a new Janša coalition is the SMC because it is still not clear how many MP votes the party can secure with at least two or even half of the SMC's ten MPs rumoured to be opposed to a Janša-led coalition.

The paper notes that the Marjan Šarec minority government saw the start of its end when the Left denied its support, wondering whether the leader of the Left Luka Mesec might have been ordered to make the move because of a new master plan ready in the background.

"Considering that the opportunity for a new government literally landed in Janša's arms even though parties left of the centre have as many as 52 members in parliament this term, the potential role of the so-called deep state should not be overlooked.

"What if it is in the interest of the uncles behind the scenes to have Janša return to power for a short while so that his government take some urgent, unpopular measures, which would spark off a revolt in the form of 'popular uprisings' that would bring new faces of the 'transition left' back to power?"

All our posts in this series are here

22 Feb 2020, 14:04 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, 14 February
        MUNICH, Germany - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec rebuked the EU over excessive self-absorption and inefficiency as he spoke on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Illustrating, he said the bloc was not even capable of agreeing its expansion to the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec urged for the chairs of "relevant parliamentary committees" to start actively discussing potentially problematic foreign funding of Slovenian parties and their media outlets. This followed media reports that Hungarian companies were financing media outlets close to Janez Janša's Democratic Party (SDS). Šarec also warned against a potential new Janša-led coalition government.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor announced he would hold a second round of consultations with parliamentary parties on 24 and 25 February to determine whether there is sufficient consensus for him to nominate a prime minister-designate.
        KOMEN - Addressing a World War II commemoration, President Borut Pahor expressed sadness over the "abuse of 10 February, the Foibe Remembrance Day," and regret that senior Italian officials ignored the historical truth Slovenia and Italy established together.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office reported that the value of construction work put in place in Slovenia increased by 3.3% in 2019, a significant slowdown compared to the 20% expansion in 2018.

SATURDAY, 15 February
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Addressing an event marking the 31st anniversary of the Democratic Party (SDS), its leader Janez Janša said a new early election was likely close despite the SDS being in talks with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and New Slovenia (NSi) to form a government.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democratic Party (SDS) polled at 20.1% in a survey commissioned by broadcaster Nova24TV, up 1.8 percentage point from a week ago, followed by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) at 12.8% (down 4.4pp) and the Social Democrats (SD) at 6.5%.
        LJUBLJANA - Stojan Nikolić, the CEO of the power group HSE, indicated in an interview with Dnevnik that TEŠ6, Slovenia's newest coal-fired generator, was likely to close down early because its supplier, the Velenje mine, was unlikely to be viable after 2045.
        KRANJSKA GORA - Local Meta Hrovat paced third at the Alpine Ski World Cup giant slalom event for the Golden Fox Cup along with Swiss Wendy Holdener, following Alice Robinson of New Zealand in first and Slovak Petra Vlhova in second. Vlhova secured the Golden Fox trophy by finishing first in the slalom on Sunday. The two-day event attracted 10,000 spectators.
        PTUJ - The 60th Kurentovanje carnival, Slovenia's largest, got under way, bringing together more than 2,200 traditional costumed figures or 44 groups from across the world, including four costumes protected by UNESCO.

SUNDAY, 16 February
        MUNICH, Germany - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended panels on the Western Balkans and the Three Seas Initiative and held a number of bilateral meetings at the 2020 Munich Security Conference.
        BAD MITTERNDORF, Austria - Timi Zajc placed third at the Ski Jumping World Cup event to secure a second podium at the same venue after finishing second the day before for his third podium finish this winter.
        CHICAGO, US - Luka Dončić scored 8 points in the 2020 NBA All Star Game, contributing four passes for the winning Team LeBron, headed by the legendary LeBron James of the LA Lakers. Team LeBron won the game 157 to 155 against Team Giannis, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

MONDAY, 17 February
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, attending the Foreign Affairs Council, assessed that European Council President Charles Michel's proposal for the EU's 2021-2027 budget was still inadequate for Slovenia despite slight improvements in cohesion policy.
        LJUBLJANA - Jernej Pavlič, secretary general of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), denied the speculation that the party was considering joining a potential centre-right government that is being formed by Janez Janša.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) gained 2.6 percentage points to 19.6% in the Vox Populi poll to overtake the LMŠ party of the outgoing PM Marjan Šarec, which slipped back 2.3 points to 17.1%. The poll, commissioned by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer, also showed over half the respondents favoured a snap election.

TUESDAY, 18 February
        LJUBLJANA - A delegation of the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services, headed by vice-chair Žan Mahnič (SDS), made an unannounced visit to the National Bureau of Investigation examine the allegation that outgoing PM Marjan Šarec and his state secretary Damir Črnčec had abused intelligence and security services to "influence, threaten and extort MPs and leaderships of parties of the potential future coalition". Šarec and Črnčec denied the allegation as fake news propagated by the SDS. Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar denied any police spying, accusing Manhič of threatening her as she refused to hand over documentation she said exceeded the commission's powers. In response, parties urged for the allegations to be investigated. The police and the Information Commissioner are looking into the matter.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Donald Tusk, the head of the European People's Party (EPP), pleaded with the Slovenian members of the EPP not to waste the chance to take "leadership in both the parliament and the government", after meeting New Slovenia (NSi) head Matej Tonin. NSi is one of the parties in talks to form a government led by the fellow EPP member Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Health Committee and the government were briefed by health officials that Slovenia was well prepared for early diagnosis in case of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. However, MPs were also told that hospitals could not handle a great number of patients.
        LJUBLJANA - A petition addressed to PM Marjan Šarec and backed by 12,700 individuals and 255 organisations called for the government to take more resolute action to decarbonise the energy, transport and agriculture sectors.
        LJUBLJANA - Police statistics showed the number of cases of illegal border crossing nearly doubled (+85%) year-on-year to 595 in January. Most of the migrants were returned to Croatia.
        LJUBLJANA - The Pension and Disability Insurance Institute (ZPIZ) endorsed a regular annual adjustment of pensions to wage and consumer prices growth as a result of which pensioners will get a 3.2% rise at the end of the month. Higher pensions will cost the pension fund EUR 172 million a year.
        LJUBLJANA - 2TDK, the state company managing the construction of the new railway between the port of Koper and Divača, announced it would ask Markomark Nival, the bidder that won the subsequently annulled tender for the first of several bridges on the planned track, to change its subcontractor which cited flawed reference in the bid. This was after the National Review Commission said 2TDK had been right to doubt the reference but should not have annulled the tender.
        LJUBLJANA - The Trade Union of Journalists and Journalists' Association protested against layoffs at Delo, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, saying the management was demolishing the newspaper and Slovenian journalism by shedding a quarter of its workforce within three years.
        LJUBLJANA - The energy company Petrol confirmed that it had been chosen as the best bidder to acquire E3, the subsidiary of the power distributor Elektro Primorska which is one of the largest electricity sellers in the country. The newspaper Finance reported that Petrol would pay EUR 15 million for E3, which would raise its share in the electricity retail market to 20%.

WEDNESDAY, 19 February
        LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs successfully challenged the decision of the Environment Agency that no environmental impact assessment is necessary for the 20-year life-span extension for Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant.
        LJUBLJANA - Tourism companies and tourism and hospitality trade unions signed an annex to the collective bargaining agreement to increase the lowest basic wages; these will go up by 5% on 1 March and 5.25% more on 1 July, and the holiday allowance will increase by EUR 100 to EUR 1,150.
        SLOVENJ GRADEC - The 14th annual auction of valuable timber saw a record EUR 2 million worth of logs change hands. More than half of the wood was sold abroad with the biggest buyer coming from China. A 100-year old sycamore maple log was sold to a German buyer for EUR 29,160 or EUR 14,414 per cubic metre, which the organizers described as an absolute record.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology announced Slovenian companies were now able to do business on Amazon Europe. This was after the US tech company made technical adjustments to include Slovenia among supported countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Culture Committee called on the corruption watchdog to look into appointments of heads of culture institutions made by the Culture Ministry due to suspicions of politically-motivated staffing. Culture Minister Zoran Poznič denied the allegations.
        LJUBLJANA - Film director Ema Kugler was declared the winner of this year's Štiglic lifetime achievement award in film and theatre directing. She will receive the accolade given out by the Association of Slovenian Directors at an award ceremony on 27 February.

THURSDAY, 20 February
        LJUBLJANA - Two of the six Slovenian passengers quarantined for over a fortnight on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Japanese port of Yokohama tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The other four tested negative. Two of arrived in Slovenia on a commercial flight and were placed under a 14-day quarantine, while two are still waiting to return.
        BRUSSELS - Arriving for an EU summit aiming to reach a consensus on the bloc's budget for 2021-2027, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia could not accept the latest compromise proposal under which it would lose 24% in cohesion funds. He said negotiations would be tough.
        LJUBLJANA - RTV Slovenija, the public broadcaster, warned of escalating attacks on its journalists, editors and other staff in recent days in the form of threatening and offensive phone calls, e-mails, letters and social network posts, condemning them in the strongest terms as an attack on journalism.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest bank, NLB reported its group net profit decrease by 5% to EUR 193.6 million last year. The core bank's profit rose by 6.5% to EUR 176.1 million.

All our posts in this series are here

22 Feb 2020, 13:44 PM

STA, 21 February - Coming out of an EU summit dedicated to the bloc's next seven-year budget, which ended without an agreement, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told reporters on Friday that the European Commission had presented a technical proposal for the 2021-2027 budget which the cohesion countries rejected. Šarec called the proposal a provocation.

"There is still no deal and we didn't expect it," said Šarec after the two-day negotiations.

He blamed the four net payer countries - Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria - for the failed talks.

Šarec believes the four countries, which are insisting on 1% of the EU's gross national income (GNI) for the first post-Brexit EU budget, want to cut the budget and are not ambitious enough. "The negotiations came to a standstill because of them ..." he said.

The other group of countries comprises of 17 net receiver countries known as friends of cohesion, which according to Šarec want an ambitious budget and claim that it is impossible to do more with less funds.

"We had two meetings today and we were united on both of them that this does not make any sense at the moment," the PM said.

The cohesion countries agreed that the latest proposal is unacceptable, because it is not ambitious enough and does not allocate enough funds for cohesion. "In addition, Slovenia cannot be certain whether it would get what it wants."

The plenary session, which was postponed several times during the day, was very short. The technical proposal, presented by the Commission, was not even discussed, according to Šarec "because we saw it as a provocation after everything we have witnessed in the last 24 hours".

Šarec said the cohesion countries had been united that there was no point in opening a new round of talks today and that it was better to "go home and make all the calculations again".

"We have to start fresh," Šarec said, adding that no talks were possible until a better proposal was on the table.

The outgoing prime minister reiterated that Slovenia would insist that a 24% cut in cohesion funds compared to the current budget was unacceptable.

EU leaders are expected to convene another meeting in March. It is not clear yet, however, whether this will be a regular meeting or another extraordinary meeting. 5 March is being mentioned unofficially as a possible date for a potential extraordinary summit.

22 Feb 2020, 09:54 AM

STA, 21 February - Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar is to file a defamation complaint against Žan Mahnič, a Democrats (SDS) MP and 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 and called on her to resign.

The police said in a press release late on Thursday that Bobnar would lodge a complaint against Mahnič over "misleading and malicious statements and an attack on her honour, good name and integrity".

"It has apparently become a habit of some politicians to try and shape public opinion" by intentionally repeating lies, the police said after Mahnič called on Bobnar to resign.

Mahnič said the fact that the police had launched a preliminary investigation into the spying allegations - Bobnar spoke on Thursday of an investigation against possible spying by individuals outside the police force - was proof that she had been lying to KNOVS members as they had made an inquiry on Tuesday, and should thus resign.

The MP said in a tweet yesterday that the launch of the preliminary investigation in and of itself meant that there is reasonable suspicion that politicians had been spied on.

Bobnar told him and two other KNOVS members, who made an unannounced visit to the police on Tuesday, that the allegations were "fabrications of some web portal and that procedures cannot be launched over every article," said Mahnič in reference to reports about spying allegations published by the SDS-launched weekly Demokracija and the news portal Požareport.

The police responded in the evening, saying that "in line with the principle of legality, police always investigated to see if there is reasonable suspicion for criminal acts of which perpetrators are prosecuted ex officio.

"The police have done this in this concrete case as well, but the launch of a preliminary investigation is far from reasonable suspicion and cannot be launched because of something that has, in Mahnič's words, been known for a long time," the police also said.

22 Feb 2020, 09:34 AM

STA, 18 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS) called on Tuesday for an emergency session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission to examine a cooperation memorandum signed last September by the state-controlled energy company Petrol with a Russian company subject to US sanctions.

The memorandum with T Plus was signed as part of a visit to Moscow by outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and envisages cooperation with the T Plus Group and Schneider Electric Russia in the field of energy efficiency.

Petrol's chairman at the time Tomaž Berločnik said the two projects planned involved work on the optimisation of district heating. He valued them at "a few million euro" and potentially at a few dozen million in the future.

However, citing documents published by the US Department of the Treasury, the SDS is pointing out that T Plus is part of the Russian Renova Group, which is subject to US sanctions along with its billionaire owner Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg.

The sanctions were introduced in April 2018 over interference in the 2016 US presidential election, with the US also freezing Vekselberg's assets.

The SDS is puzzled by how the government, Foreign Ministry and the SOVA intelligence agency could allow the memorandum to be signed, and what is even worse, to be signed during Šarec's official visit to Moscow.

The party claims all of the listed institutions as well as the PM and the management and supervisory bodies of Petrol and state asset manager SSH had obviously failed to fulfil their duties.

The SDS says that Petrol now runs the danger of becoming subject to retaliation measures on the part of the US, which could undermine government revenue and the value of state assets, while the SSH and government could also be compromised.

"The signing of the memorandum under to auspices of the Slovenian government could also bring negative consequences for other areas of transatlantic cooperation," the party wrote.

The SDS is thus proposing that the Public Finance Oversight Commission ask the government to have the SSH draw up a report on the matter, to have Petrol withdraw from the memorandum and to have authorities examine whether official duties were neglected, money laundered or terrorism financed as part of the memorandum signing.

21 Feb 2020, 09:43 AM

STA, 20 February 2020 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor has sent a letter of condolences to his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier over Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Hanau, which has left eleven people dead, including the suspected perpetrator and his mother.

In the letter, Pahor expressed his condolences and compassion to the families and relatives of the victims on behalf of Slovenia, says a post on the president's official Twitter account.

A subsequent tweet added that the "president condemns any violence which endangers tolerance and coexistence, without which it is impossible to build a safe future for all."

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar also expressed Slovenia's solidarity with Germany in a tweet today. He extended his "sincere condolences" to his German counterpart Heiko Maas and the relatives of the victims.

The town in the German state of Hesse, located 25 km east of Frankfurt, saw two separate armed attacks on Wednesday evening and night, in which at least nine people were killed.

Several hours after the attacks, the police found in an apartment the dead body of the suspected shooter along his dead mother. The German federal prosecution is treating the attacks as an act of terrorism.

20 Feb 2020, 11:34 AM

STA, 20 February 2020 - The parliamentary Culture Committee called on the corruption watchdog last night to look into appointments of heads of culture institutions made by the Culture Ministry due to suspicions of politically-motivated staffing. Culture Minister Zoran Poznič denies the allegations.

The committee session was called by the Left, which claims that Poznič, a member of the Social Democrats (SD), has been appointing people linked to the party to top positions in some of the main public institutions.

The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) will thus look into appointments and attempts to replace heads at the Technical Museum, the Slovenian Philharmonic and the Modern Gallery museum.

Poznič defended the decision to appoint a translator to the helm of the Technical Museum late last year despite the fact that the museum's council and expert board found that director Nataša Polenec was the only candidate to meet the conditions from the call for applications.

Poznič said Polenec was replaced because he was unhappy with the way she led the museum. However, Polenec challenged the appointment of Barbara Juršič in administrative court. She achieved a temporary suspension and took over from Juršič after only ten days.

Luka Mesec of the Left said in the debate that the head of the Book Agency was facing dismissal by the ministry and criticised the situation in the Ljubljana Opera House after the appointment of Staš Ravter, who was allegedly responsible for the closure of the Kinodvor cinema years ago.

Poznič on the other hand, denied the allegations of political staffing and expressed anger over "half-truths and lies" reported by the media.

According to these reports, his predecessor Dejan Prešiček is a candidate for several jobs, Poznič said, while one of the employees in his office was reportedly to replace Zdenka Badovinac at the helm of the Modern Gallery, which Poznič said was absurd.

Poznič wants, according to the Left, to appoint Prešiček head of the Philharmonics. Indeed, the minister has launched the procedure to dismiss Philharmonic director Marjetka Mahne, citing poor business results.

Mahne, in response, said that she had complete control over the use of public funds. Most of the ensemble wants Mahne to stay, while the Philharmonics' two governing bodies have called on her to resign.

20 Feb 2020, 09:36 AM

STA, 19 February 2020 - Tensions are running high as the police and the Democrats (SDS) clashed over the jurisdiction of the parliamentary Commission for Intelligence and Security Services Oversight (KNOVS), which wanted to investigate on Tuesday allegations that police had been spying on coalition party heads on behalf of outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

Three KNOVS members made an unannounced visit to the police headquarters yesterday, investigating the suspicion that Šarec and his state secretary Damir Črnčec abused the police to gain information to extort party leaders in coalition-building talks with the SDS.

Šarec and Črnčec - the latter ran both national intelligence agencies under Janša's rule - both denied the allegations, with Šarec saying that the media "close to the SDS...are obviously describing their own methods".

He believes the SDS, whose MP Žan Mahnič led Tuesday's visit by KNOVS, is abusing the commission for political purposes.

"Independent institutions are investigating Hungarian funds which are flowing we all know where and attention has to be diverted," he said in reference to alleged by-bass funding of the SDS or the media associated with the party through circles close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Črnčec denied the allegation through his lawyer, and posted a lengthy post on Facebook this morning, criticising Janša. He also wondered why and for how much Janša had "sold Slovenia's national interests to Hungary".

He said in a post that Janša's and him parted ways parted when he had realised that "the SDS apparatus operates on the principles of a mafia business, where all paths lead to its leader and his inner circle".

Meanwhile, the police force also issued a determined response, underlining it is not "a dislocated unit of any politician or of any political organisation."

Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar said in a statement that the three members of KNOVS had tried to gain access to information that were beyond the scope of their legal powers.

The police said they wanted the names of police officers who potentially accessed records of certain MPs and information about ongoing investigations, including in cases without covert methods, the latter being in the domain of KNOVS.

Bobnar said the police would not give in to pressure from anybody and called for an election campaign built on arguments and not made-up stories at the expense of the police force and threats to its leadership. She vowed that the police would do everything in its power to prevent the spread of fake news within the force.

She also noted KNOVS deputy chair Žan Mahnič warned her she might want to think about her future because she would face criminal charges if the commission finds out that she was covering up political abuse of the police force. The statement interpreted as a threat was witnessed by Bobnar's deputy, as well as the boss of the criminal police departments.

Mahnič later tried to downplay this, announcing that a different parliamentary commission that is already looking into alleged politically-motivated prosecution would look into the spying allegations and demand the material that was denied to KNOVS.

The commission demands that the police provide within 10 days a list of all interventions into police records for any of the 90 MPs, all the cabinet ministers and the outgoing prime minister.

The General Police Administration said that the police had started checking the allegations and that the state prosecution would be kept informed.

Most parliamentary parties have expressed concern over the allegations. They believe that the matter should be investigated and all suspicions clarified.

According to reports by news portal Požareport, the alleged mission by Črnčec and Šarec targeted friends of Zdravko Počivalšek, the outgoing minister of economy and the head of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and MPs of the SMC, as well as MPs of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB).

Meanwhile, the Left's MP Miha Kordiš labelled the developments as usual political scandaling, and took aim at the SDS.

The party and Janša have abused state institutions many times, he said, adding that Črnčec also belonged to that school of thought. It would not be surprising if the prime minister "has developed this bad habit too", he said.

19 Feb 2020, 13:48 PM

STA, 19 February 2020 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has denied allegations that he and his State Secretary Damir Črnčec demanded information from the police about party officials in coalition-building talks with the Democrats (SDS) so as to pressure them to withdraw from the talks.

"When various portals close to the SDS report that I ordered lists and whatever else about parties in government negotiations it is clear that they are describing their own methods," Šarec tweeted last night.

"This is an attack on the police force without comparison. I believe that things would work that way with [SDS]. Maybe they already did in the past," he also said in the tweet posted after it was reported that the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS) had visited the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) [that story is here].

On Facebook this morning Šarec said: "This is the same scenario all over again; a few KNOVS members make an unannounced visit to the NBI and the police. Because the NBI is allegedly being abused to persecute political opponents.

"But in truth, KNOVS is the one being abused and nobody else. Independent institutions are investigating Hungarian funds which are flowing we all know where and attention has to be diverted."

Yesterday's inspection was headed by KNOVS vice president Žan Mahnič, a member of the SDS, the party associated with media that have allegedly received funding from circles close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

It was reported last week that the NBI was investigating alleged funding from Hungary to two media outlets close to the SDS, which the SDS has no denied. However, the police said yesterday in relation to this that they were not investigating illegal funding of political parties but a criminal act investigated ex officio.

Šarec's State Secretary Črnčec issued a statement through his lawyer last night denying reports by the right-leaning Demokracija that he had spun a web of spies.

This morning, he also took to Facebook, posting a strong-worded criticism of SDS leader Janez Janša. Črnčec used to be an associate of Janša's and was appointed the head of the Intelligence and Security Agency at the Ministry of Defence in 2005 when Janša was first prime minister and became the head of the National Intelligence and Security Agency SOVA in 2012 when Janša was prime minister a second time.

Today, he said that Janša's modus operandi was harmful to democracy and right-wing political parties. He said that their ways parted when he realised that "the SDS apparatus operates on the principles of a mafia business, where all paths lead to its leader and his inner circle".

He said he needed a while to realise the ramifications of Janša's modus operandi, which, he says entails submissiveness to foreigners while systemically undermining vital social subsystems, like freedom of speech and other constitutional values, in Slovenia.

"Yesterday's fake news about alleged mass espionage, the abuse of KNOVS by MPs of the SDS, and the attack on the police show how close Slovenia is to slipping into Janševist authoritarianism, funded with no-good money from abroad."

In his post, Črnčec also wonders "why and for how many Judas silver coins or millions did [Janša] sell Slovenia's national interests to its eastern neighbour".

19 Feb 2020, 12:44 PM

STA, 18 February 2020 - The parliamentary Commission for Intelligence and Security Services Oversight performed an unannounced inspection at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI; Nacionalnega preiskovalnega urada – NPU; “Slovenia’s FBI”) on Tuesday, investigating suspicion that pressure was being exerted on political officials participating in coalition-building talks conducted by the Democrats. The police strongly rejected this.

Commission vice president Žan Mahnič, a member of the Democrats (SDS), told the STA that three commission members visited the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on suspicion that outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his state secretary Damir Črnčec had abused intelligence and security services to "influence, threaten and extort MPs and leaderships of parties of the potential future coalition".

Related: Interview With the Head of Slovenia’s National Bureau of Investigations

Mahnič was accompanies to the NBI by his party colleague Zvonko Černač, and Branko Simonovič of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which is also in talks for the potential new coalition.

This comes after newsportal Požareport reported that Črnčec has delivered to certain criminal police officers "a list of people who had to be processed for information".

This alleged mission reportedly targetted friends of Zdravko Počivalšek, the outgoing minister of economy and the head of the Modern centre Party (SMC) and MPs of the SMC, as well as MPs of DeSUS and of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), the portal said.

It added that criminal police had also been looking into privatisation of spa operator Terme Olimija, where Počivalšek served as CEO for a long period before becoming economy minister.

Commercial broadcaster Kanal A reported that KNOVS members spent an hour and a half talking to Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar. Mahnič told the STA the group could not perform the inspection in its entirety because Bobnar had blocked them.

"We wanted to see who of the employees might have gone through records of certain MPs and politicians in the past days and weeks, but she would not permit it," Mahnič said.

The police, meanwhile, released a strong-worded response, rejecting the reports that criminal police officers were looking into party officials at the order of the prime minister's office. "We are not a dislocated unit of any politician or of any political organisation."

"Background checks of people for political reasons are not a part of the police job description, legally defined or otherwise. The police does not investigate a list of politicians and their families based on an order.

"There are no confidants in the police to carry out such operations on the orders of any politician, and the collecting of useful information is not the police force's job."

The police sees the developments as a result of "mutual accusations in different media among different sides, who show a distorted image of the police force's work".

"In order to get the police force to engage in the debate, and operating under the principle of the goal justifying the means, they are discrediting certain units, the leadership and individuals within the force."

The General Police Administration believes that the goal is to destabilise the criminal police force, reduce its effectiveness and indirectly influence its work in concrete investigations. However, the police force will not give in, the statement says.

The statement also touched on the recent reports about alleged funding of the SDS from Hungary being investigated by the NBI, saying that the NBI "is not investigating illegal funding of political parties, but has been investigating since March 2018 suspicions that a criminal act had been committed for which the perpetrator must be persecuted ex officio.

"Irrespective of the suspect in this case, the police will, now and in the future, carry out the investigation with expertise and in line with the law, no matter the pressure exerted."

Črnčec meanwhile issued a statement through his lawyer, denying a report posted on the website of the right-leaning Demokracij that he had established a network of spies to exert pressure on party officials.

He also said that he had not subjected to himself the police or intelligence services and abused his previous positions. Črnčec served as director general of the Intelligence and Security Agency at the Ministry of Defence between 2005 and 2012, after which he was appointed director of the intelligence and security service SOVA.

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