Politics

22 Feb 2019, 15:49 PM

Mladina: Šarec's popularity result of well-placed ideology

STASTA, 22 February 2019 - The weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that the growing popularity of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, his party and the government is a success of an ideology which avoids declaring the state of emergency and portraying leaders as messiahs.

The high popularity "deserves a serious analysis: what we can see is not popularity, not someone being sympathetic, but a success of an ideology of a certain authority, which is fitting very well with the state of society."

In order to understand what is going on, one needs to use political and ideological glasses, not marketing or some other glasses used by the media. "It is about politics and ideology," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž adds in Victory of an Ideology.

He notes that Šarec has, probably not deliberately, abandoned certain concepts which had marked the work of governments for a long time, including in particular portraying the situation as catastrophic while at the same time playing messiahs.

"Up to and including the government of Miro Cerar (2014-2018), all governments were building their image on attempts to normalise allegedly horrific situations which they had inherited, to prevent the worst from happening, to save us, the country and the world, to be our saviours."

This concept is always comfortable and comes in handy, but people actually do not like to live in an abnormal state, as this causes stress and anxiety. What is more, they feel it as a threat, an actual political mobbing of the nation, Repovž writes.

He argues that the Šarec government has not significantly changed the ideological framework of operation, it is still a slightly leftist government, but predominantly neo-liberal. The essential difference is that it does not harass the citizens and create a state of emergency.

"What people feel and how they respond is the ideological framework of that government. Only when one acknowledges this enables the understanding of the political changes we are witnessing. This is why the first catastrophist in the country is losing support," Repovž says in reference to Democrat (SDS) president Janez Janša.

Demokracija: Macron & Merkel Threaten EU

STA, 21 February 2019 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija claims in the latest issue that the only real danger to Europe at the moment is the "multi-cultural axis Berlin-Paris", arguing that the only way for the EU to survive is as a formation of nation states whose sole interest is to create prosperity based on economic cooperation.

Writing under the headline Sixth Reich, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak dismisses the controversy provoked by Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, in his Foibe Victims Remembrance Day address, asserting that no one in the EU truly cares about what he said.

Instead, Biščak is more concerned about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's stating that "Nation states must today be prepared to give up their sovereignty".

He says that few expressed indignation or protest at her statement and that "no one warned that they will not push their nation into dependence from a new, so far still imaginary sixth reich ... which would give rise to new Europeans, a mix of natives, camel shepherds and Negroids."

Biščak launches an attack on the Brussels bureaucracy, European Council President Donald Tusk and French President Emmanuel Macron, whom he says the nationally minded French consider to be a German vassal.

"Macron is a man who, without asking anyone, put Germany in a position to lead the EU. And the European army. This means that he will hand over to it nuclear arms that only France and the UK among EU countries posses."

Biščak says that the obstacle to these plans is Brexit, arguing that the UK saw through it on time and decided to leave the EU. He says that it will be no disaster for Britain regardless of whether it will be a hard or soft Brexit.

"They can merely encourage to leave the countries which are resisting the senseless EU bureaucracy even now. These are Italy, Hungary and Poland, the targets of the strongest desire for control.

"Only a thorough change of priorities and a rethink about the future can save the EU. It can only be a formation of free nation states whose sole interest is to create prosperity based on economic cooperation."

All our posts in this series can be found here

22 Feb 2019, 13:00 PM

February 22, 2019

In a public appearance in Miami last Monday aiming to support USA foreign policy on Venezuela, Melania Trump introduced her husband’s speech with the following words:

“I am proud to be here with you in the United States of America as your First Lady. Many of you in the room know what it feels like to be blessed with freedom after living under the oppression of socialism and communism.”

 

Various Slovenian media reported on her statement from different angles, and the comments on social media exploded, especially among those who felt that she was also claiming first-hand experience of such oppression.

A tweet from POP TV’s news programme, 24UR, decided to avoid the issue, leaving Mrs Trump’s personal experience out of the story’s headline and just giving a general idea of Melania’s concern for the victims of Venezuela’s socialist regime.

tweet 24 ur.jpg

Translation: She expressed hope that Venezuelans will soon be freed from socialism.

Melania condemned “oppressive” socialism in Venezuela. The First Lady of the USA Melania Trump introduced her husband in Miami and condemned oppressive socialism and communism. She expressed hope that Venezuelans will soon start living their lives in freedom….

Some online commentators joined the Sevnica native’s condemnation of oppressive socialist regimes, claiming that Melania had some personal experience of such systems.

twitter melania ve kaj je socializem.jpg

Translation: Melania knows what socialism is and empowers Venezuelans.

Translation of the retweeted summary of the right-leaning weekly Reporter’s article: Melania enthuses the Venezuelan diaspora in Miami: You have tasted freedom after the oppression of socialism and communism. The First Lady of the USA Melania Trump in Miami first visited child patients and then at the rally with her husband Donald encouraged Venezuelans to persist since freedom is close.

The left-leaning Mladina, however focused mainly on Melania’s implication of first-hand experience of socialist oppression.

fb mladina melania survivor.jpg

Translation: Melania Trump on oppression in socialism and communism. The American media presented the First Lady’s performance with the comment that she was born in “communist” Slovenia, while she herself stressed that many in the audience know how it is to be blessed with freedom after living under the oppression of socialism and communism.

Since many in Slovenia interpreted the First Lady’s words as suggesting that she had lived under similar conditions in Yugoslavia, commentators, both professional and amateur, weighed in with their opinions.

Some focused on technical issues, such as the improper use of “communism” when talking about such regimes and the functional nature of political rhetoric.

nenormalna izjava ni trump ultrakapitalist.jpg

Translation: Do you find this statement abnormal ? It is crystal clear to her that this is what she is supposed to say. After all, she is married to an ultra-capitalist and there’s no room there for socialism and similar matters…

there was no communism.jpg

Translation: No system so far practised communism. We lived in socialism, thank God.

The fact that the Yugoslavian regime was socialist (a planned economy with private property) not communist (no private property rights) should be pretty clear to Melania, as Marxist historic materialism was once part of the elementary school history classes.

Most of the social media comments, however seemed to be inspired by an attempt to visualise Melania’s alleged personal experience of the hardship of oppression on her way to the freedom she eventually found in her marriage to Donald Trump and the US citizenship which followed.

twitter socialism survivor.jpg

Translation: She survived socialism.

twitter debata vicisepisejokarsami.jpg

Translation:

- I hope she writes a book about her thorny path to freedom

- Yes, the title: On the catwalk to freedom

- … and beyond without the Iron Curtain

- Jokes are just writing themselves: How I came out of dissidence and ended up on a catwalk, which was the only way out from oppression and poverty

- Comment under some of her pictures: Communism stripped me naked

melania film angelina.jpg

Translation: Poor girl. After her dramatically illegal life [meaning the life of a dissident] she managed pass deadly traps and spies and leave communist Slovenia in secret. The story of this escape to freedom, full of tragic twists, loss of memory to trauma and immense efforts will be immortalised by action movies. The word is out there that she will be played by Angelina J.. She is now sending her regards from a place of freedom to the Slovenian people, who continues to live in trauma.

Several of the commentators also made reference to the variety of goods on offer in earlier days, with a focus on yogurt.

melania socialism survivor yogurts.jpg

Translation: She might also have found the range of yogurts insufficient.

yogurts in socialism #2.jpg

Translation: Actually, she is right – it really was difficult living in a country with such a poor choice of (artificial) yogurts.

The last two comments come in a reference to a failed attempt at criticism of the former Yugoslav regime by the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović. Her statement on the lack of yogurts under Tito prompted some in the Croatian media to even pull out of the archives a 1975 study titled “Organoleptic quality of Yugoslavian yogurts and other fermented milk products”, proving that there were over 300 varied items of this kind on the Yugoslav market at the time.

You can see all our stories on Slovenia and Venezuela here, and all our stories on Melania Trump here

 

22 Feb 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 21 February 2019 - The government confirmed on Thursday the financing plan for public healthcare in 2019, which includes additional funding and incentives for reducing waiting lines and an extra EUR 104m to cover the recent pay rise for healthcare staff.

The government confirmed what is termed "the general agreement for healthcare" and the financial plan of the healthcare purse ZZZS which envisages revenue and expenditure to level out at EUR 3.054bn. The figure is EUR 172m higher than in 2018.

A total of EUR 55m has been earmarked - coming on top of EUR 35m left from last year - to address waiting lines, which have been the main and persistent issue of the public healthcare system.

The funding framework adopted today was presented as giving the green light to some of the measures meant to cut the waiting times, one novelty being bonuses for hospitals and health centres for every medical examination beyond the number set down by standards.

"These examinations will be paid separately. They can start with them immediately, they just need to increase the number of doctor's offices ... I know that the system is rigid and that things will take time. But progress can be reached within a year," Health Minister Samo Fakin told the press.

He added that the results will be most obvious if the waiting lines are tackled at the country's largest hospitals, in Ljubljana, Maribor and Celje. If the response is slow, private providers will show interest, Fakin warned.

The ZZZS budget for 2019 envisages EUR 2.14bn going for healthcare services, 5.6% more than this year.

The financial plan entails an expansion of the primary healthcare network, providing funds for more GPs and paediatric surgeries since access varies greatly across the country.

The plan earmarks EUR 366.6m for sick pay (+7.5% over 2018), while EUR 54.2m is to be spent for healthcare provided abroad (+2.4% y/y).

Moreover, the insurer wants to preserve the same level of accessibility to innovative drugs. In total, EUR 444.5m will be available for drugs, medical aids and vaccines next year, 7% more than in 2018.

The government was also briefed on a report on the year-long project aimed at cutting waiting times that was adopted by the previous government as part of a strike deal with doctors and concluded on 31 March 2018.

The report found that out of EUR 18m earmarked for the purpose only EUR 8.15m was actually spent. The money went for performance bonuses for doctors and other healthcare staff putting in extra work to reduce waiting times and provide better care to patients.

All our stories on healthcare in Slovenia can be found here

22 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 21 February 2019 - The government has decided against sealing a EUR 306m deal to acquire 48 eight-wheeled Boxer armoured personnel carriers from the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR), Slovenia's biggest defence purchase in a decade.

The army does not have a comprehensive tactical study showing exactly what capabilities Slovenia needs and the procurement documentation is based on a tactical study made in 2005 that does not represent an appropriate basis for the purchase, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec said after the government session on Thursday.

The minister ordered the army to carry out a new tactical study that will determine whether it needs new eight-wheeled personnel carriers, which vehicles would be best, how they will be maintained, and how staff will be trained.

Erjavec said this did not mean that the purchase has been terminated. "We will have to buy eight-wheeled armoured personnel carriers sooner rather than later, but first we need to define exactly what we need."

The decision was expected given weeks of rumours about there being something wrong with the proposed deal, most recently expressed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec in an interview with Večer last weekend. He said his government "did not want to embark on an adventure, we had certain indications things are not acceptable."

But it casts doubt on the country's ability to meet the pledge given to NATO that it will have one battlegroup ready by 2022 and a second one by 2025.

Erjavec was sanguine about that, noting that it was already clear the first battlegroup will not be ready by 2022. "Even if we signed the purchase agreement today, we would not be able to do everything," he said. The effort would be hampered not just by long delivery times but also by staff shortages and lack of investments.

The planned purchase is being closely watched in Slovenia given the parallels to the previous mega defence deal, the 2006 contract with Patria on the purchase of 135 infantry vehicles at that time worth EUR 278m.

The Patria deal, signed the first time Erjavec was defence minister, devolved into years of court drama involving senior politicians.

Erjavec repeated today that the mid-term defence programme and the white paper on defence would be revised. Pointing to Slovenia's commitments to NATO about increasing defence spending, he said the 2020/21 budget would be "the moment of truth."

"I expect that in 2019, 1.1% of GDP will be allocated to defence, 1.2% in 2020, 1.3% in 2021, 1.4% in 2023 and 1.5% in 2024. These are the commitments that were made orally for now when NATO secretary general visited the country last year," Erjavec said.

Today's government decision on cancelling the EUR 306m deal was welcomed by the opposition Left. "After two years of opposition (to the purchase) we have finally managed to persuade the government that the purchase of the eight-wheeled armoured personnel carriers did not make sense," said MP Miha Kordiš.

All our stories on defence and Slovenia can be found here

21 Feb 2019, 17:23 PM

STA, 21 February 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt said after a meeting in Ljubljana on Thursday that their respective countries would do everything possible so that the rights of Slovenian and British citizens did not suffer in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

 

Cerar said that Slovenia wanted a Brexit scenario with an agreement, adding that both sides had agreed that Slovenia and the UK must make sure that the status of their respective citizens did not deteriorate after Brexit.

"They need to enjoy the same rights and they need to preserve their status," the Slovenian foreign minister said, adding that reciprocity would be secured with legislative changes which were already being prepared in Slovenia.

The British foreign secretary added he agreed with Cerar about proceeding on the basis of reciprocity and that Slovenian and British citizens would enjoy all rights, including in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Slovenia has "confirmed that the rights of British citizens will be preserved", Hunt said, adding that one of the most important things was that individual citizens' rights did not suffer and that they could continue with their daily lives.

Cerar added that Slovenia did not want a no-deal Brexit because both sides would suffer damage in other fields as well. "There would be negative consequences in the economy," he said, estimating that Slovenia's GDP would drop by 0.25%.

Asked about the no-deal scenario, he said that ministries were preparing legislative changes in the fields of social rights and insurance, and potential changes to the citizenship act as British nationals would become third-country citizens.

Hunt expressed the hope that a Brexit deal to mutual satisfaction would be reached, also because of what are some 5,000 Slovenian citizens living in the UK, who are "contributing to the UK economy and social life".

Cerar stressed that Hunt's visit confirmed the excellent relations between Slovenia and the UK in politics and economy, as they were friendly countries which were also allies within NATO.

"The things are developing well in the field of economy," he said, adding that Slovenia remained open to and invited British investors to continue making "healthy investments with a good business model" in Slovenia.

Slovenia and the UK need to continue to cooperate also because of the security challenges and illegal migrations, Cerar said, adding that he had also discussed with Hunt other EU topics and the Western Balkans.

He said that they agreed that the EU must remain open to enlargement to the region provided that the Western Balkan countries meet the conditions, while the EU must provide economic and security assistance.

Hunt praised the transformation of Slovenia in the last 30 years into a modern democracy and a growing economy, noting that the UK had excellent bilateral relations with Slovenia.

"We will continue to provide strong support to Slovenia's efforts to preserve peace in the Balkan region," Hunt said, while also welcoming Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who is to pay a visit to London for bilateral talks next week.

All our stories on Brexit and Slovenia can be found here

21 Feb 2019, 17:11 PM

STA, 21 February - President Borut Pahor wrapped up his two-day trip to Brussels with a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday. Pahor expressed great satisfaction with his stay, saying was not a classic visit dictated by protocol.

He was especially pleased that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker accepted his invitation to a Three Seas Initiative conference in June and that High Representative Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini accepted an invitation to the next Brdo-Brijuni conference.

"Slovenia is wholeheartedly a part of the western world, sharing in its opportunities and worries. This is about being able to position oneself in complicated circumstances that see the western world changing in face of contradiction."

Tusk tweeted that he had a good meeting with Pahor and that they discussed the situation in the Western Balkans, the future of Europe and the Brdo-Brijuni conference.

As regards the Western Balkans, Pahor underlined it was key the EU does not let Northern Macedonia hanging dry, with Juncker ensuring him that they were doing everything to set a date to launch accession talks in June.

Juncker expressed support for the Three Seas Initiative, promising he would do everything to attend the next meeting, hosted by Slovenia in early June.

Responding to criticism that the initiative was too pro-American, Pahor said that Russia and China were also trying to carve out a part of the market for themselves and he sees no reason why US investments should be any less welcome, after all the US business model and culture are closer to Europe's.

The president believes that the conference will be a great opportunity for Slovenia because it would feature the heads of large banks. He also sees it as an opportunity for port operator Luka Koper, but would not go into detail.

The US is also amidst serious preparations for the conference, but it is not yet sure who would represent the country, said Pahor.

Juncker's confirmation adds leverage to hopes that "maybe we could get a high [US] representative, maybe even the highest," said the president but added that he did not wish to increase expectations.

The president said he told Juncker once again that the Commission missed an opportunity in the border arbitration process between Slovenia and Croatia to underline the importance of the rule of law and honouring one's obligations.

Juncker replied, according to Pahor, that the EU did not have a duty but the right to join Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia, which it chose not to do.

He also underlined that the arbitration pact was co-signed nearly four years ago by the then Swedish Prime Minister and Council President Frederik Reinfeld and that the EU had political and legal obligations not to discard efforts to uphold the pact that laid out the course of border arbitration.

21 Feb 2019, 12:53 PM

STA, 20 February 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor underscored the need to invest in security as he visited NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeated his call for an increase in defence spending.

"Slovenia is increasing defence spending not because it would face a direct military threat, but because the world is less safe a place today, and also because [Slovenia] is part of the western world. Like fifteen years ago, I continue to believe today it's important we understand this," said Pahor.

Slovenia joined NATO and the EU in 2004 and Pahor said his latest visit to NATO was also important symbolically considering the 15th anniversary of the country's membership of the two organisations.

Pahor argued that in compliance with the alliance's defence targets was not about meeting the country's obligations to NATO but rather about its own security; Slovenia must invest in security, he said.

The president said it was understandable for NATO to expect of Slovenia to meet the target of increasing defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2024.

He told Stoltenberg that Slovenia was planning to increase defence budget to 1.5% of GDP by 2024, which he said was a substantial increase considering the strong economic growth.

Stoltenberg lauded Slovenia as a valuable ally which he said contributed to common security and defence in many ways and played an important role in the Western Balkans, in particular in the KFOR mission in Kosovo and in the efforts to bring the countries in the region closer to the EU and NATO.

He also noted Slovenia's participation in the Afghanistan mission, in the battalion in Latvia and in the Trident Juncture exercise.

He again welcomed the fact that after years of decline Slovenia started increasing defence spending, which was substantial in absolute terms considering the economic growth, but he also repeated that he would want the country to make more effort.

Asked for comment about the Slovenian Armed Forces' poor readiness assessments, Stoltenberg repeated that NATO appreciated Slovenia's contribution in the allied missions and operations.

He said that he had met Slovenian soldiers and was able to see their commitment and professionalism, in particular in their key role in Kosovo.

He acknowledged that there had been some readiness issues in the past, but said the very reason of NATO testing the forces to be deployed in its missions and operations was to recognise the problems so they could be dealt with.

This is what Slovenia has done, the readiness problem was addressed, Slovenian troops took part in Trident Juncture, which is a very demanding exercise, and did excellently, said Stoltenberg.

The Western Balkans ranked high on the agenda with Pahor noting the significance of NATO's and the EU's enlargement to countries in the region. He said NATO was doing much better in that respect than the EU having admitted Montenegro with enlargement to North Macedonia due soon.

Pahor, the supreme commender of the Slovenian Armed Forces, noted that he was the first president to visit NATO headquarters last year, which he would want to become a tradition.

21 Feb 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 20 February 2019 - President Borut Pahor said the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and him agreed that addressing the Kosovo situation should also allow for "out of the box" solutions, albeit not based on the ethnic principle. The pair also discussed Venezuela, with Pahor stressing that threats with military force to secure change were unacceptable.

Pahor, who co-chairs the Brdo-Brijuni regional cooperation initiative, handed to Mogherini on Wednesday an invitation to the 8 and 9 May summit in Tirana, Albania.

He stressed that her in-depth analysis, coming after five years as foreign policy chief, would be extremely valuable in the search for solutions concerning the European future of the Western Balkans.

Pahor said Mogherini agreed that original solutions should also be sought to bilateral and multilateral issues in the region. These solutions must not be based on the ethnic principle, he added.

Pahor is happy that Mogherini shares this view, which he described as very daring but still prudent, since some "out of the box" thinking was needed after years of deadlock.

When the initiative first surfaced for a compromise solution that would also involve border changes, this was raising eyebrows in the West, said Pahor, who agreed that bad past experience indeed called for caution.

He is however open to original solutions, provided the process, start to end, is conducted in a wise political fashion, with mutual respect and very disciplined oversight by the international community to prevent collateral damage in the neighbourhood.

Pahor, who said this would be part of the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue, added "the friends of a peaceful solution to the dispute" just need to decide whether they are ready to think "out of the box".

Pahor would oppose a solution that would be based solely on the ethnic principle, while he repeated that an agreement that would not cause collateral damage should not be excluded in advance.

Pahor later also discussed Kosovo with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who stressed NATO supported the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue while it would not go into the specific elements of the dialogue.

He said NATO supported the idea about Prishtina and Belgrade being capable of solving open issues. NATO believes in a political solution and calls on both sides to refrain from actions and rhetoric that would increase tensions, said.

Meanwhile, Mogherini's spokesperson Maja Kocijančič tweeted that the discussion with Pahor had been "excellent", and that it focused on the Western Balkans while also going beyond this topic.

Venezuela also discussed

Pahor said Venezuela had also been discussed, with the pair agreeing that the recognition of Juan Guaido as interim president until an early election was one of the solutions allowing a peaceful path to a president that would represent the country and lead it democratically.

The president said this was the "better among bad possibilities". "We're not in a position where we would have a good vs bad solution regarding Venezuela. We have several bad ones and we both see the recognition of an interim president as a better among bad options," he said.

Pahor stressed it was very important that the enforcement of these changes is not accompanied by military force or even threats of it. Such threats are unacceptable and cannot bode well for a peaceful transition in the country, he said.

20 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 19 February 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Finnish host Juha Sipilä agreed in Helsinki on Tuesday that the two countries shared a number of interests and views as regards the future of the EU. They focused on topical EU issues and Finland's upcoming presidency over the bloc.

 

Highlighted as an example of shared interests was the recent letter for higher EU rural development funding after 2021, initiated by Slovenia and singed by the agriculture ministers of 15 member states. Finland was one of the main supporters of the initiative.

Meanwhile, Šarec listed the deepening of the common market, the circular and digital economy, stronger foreign trade and climate change among the key challenges of the EU.

He argued that the common market still needed to get rid of remaining limitations to the free flow of persons, goods and services, the government said in a press release.

The pair also talked about EU presidency preparations, with both countries being small members and thus benefiting from the exchange of experience. Finland's six-month stint is due later this year and Slovenia's in the second half of 2021.

Brexit and the EU's 2021-2027 financial perspective were given ample attention as well, with Šarec and Sipilä calling for closer cooperation between the two countries, not only in EU affairs but also in the economy, culture and other fields.

As part of the working visit, Šarec also met the leadership of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. Slovenia plans to step up activities this year to join the centre, which currently has 20 EU and NATO members cooperating in efforts against hybrid threats, the government announced.

Šarec also attended a working dinner featuring his counterparts from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands. All of them members of ALDE, they exchanged views on EU affairs ahead of the 9 May informal summit in Sibiu, Romania.

They issued a joint statement after the meeting in which they reiterated their call for a strong Europe that will be an engine of growth, create jobs, security and prosperity for all.

They also called for a Europe that will promote the rule of law and act as a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Moreover, the statement highlights the importance of the upcoming European elections and warns against the negative consequences of populism.

19 Feb 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 18 February - President Borut Pahor will meet top EU and NATO officials in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday to promote a conference which Slovenia will host in June as part of the Three Seas Initiative. Their meetings will also focus on the upcoming EU elections.

 

On Wednesday, Pahor is scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

A meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk is scheduled for Thursday.

"The visit to Brussels is an opportunity to continue dialogue on topical international, European and regional issues at the highest political level," Pahor's office said before the visit.

Pahor is expected to discuss in Brussels Slovenia's active role in the EU and NATO, the EU's future and preparations for two conferences - a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Albania in May and the meeting of the presidents of the countries of the Three Seas Initiative in Slovenia in June.

"Both conferences are to be attended by high EU representatives," the president's office said. Promoting the conference hosted by Slovenia is one of the main purposes of the visit, it added.

The initiative, comprising a dozen EU members and connecting the Adriatic Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea, aims to strengthen the cooperation in infrastructure on the north-south axis and is to help find investors for these projects, including from the US, according to the office.

Slovenia will host the fourth summit of the initiative, which is still evolving. Pahor said at the Munich Security Conference last week that the initiative was "an advocate of a strong and united Europe" and "support to pan-European cooperation."

He also rejected allegation that the US wanted to turn the forum into a club like the Chinese 16+1 initiative.

According to the European Commission, Pahor will discuss topical EU issues with the EU officials in Brussels. The meeting with Mogherini is expected to focus on the Western Balkans.

An important topic will also be the upcoming EU elections and the rise of right-leaning, Eurosceptic parties.

The controversial statements made by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani at a commemoration in Basovizza, Italy, last week, which Slovenia interpreted as territorial claims, are also expected to come up.

Meanwhile, Pahor's meeting with Stoltenberg will be an opportunity to discuss topical NATO issues, reaffirm Slovenia's participation in the alliance and exchange views on other political and security issues that concern Slovenia and NATO, the president's office said.

Defence spending will undoubtedly be discussed as well, given that Slovenia is far from achieving NATO's goal of allocating 2% of GDP to defence by 2024. Slovenia's defence spending is to rise to 1.5% of GDP by then.

NATO member states should invest 20% of their defence budget funds into development of their capabilities, while Slovenia invests only 4.5%.

Pahor's visit also marks the 15th anniversary of Slovenia's EU and NATO memberships.

The president last paid a visit to Brussels at the beginning of January 2017. This will be his fourth meeting with the heads of EU institutions since he took office.

The first meeting was held in January 2013, when he chose Brussels for his first official visit after assuming office a month earlier.

Pahor's visit to NATO's headquarters will be the second visit of a Slovenian president since the country became a full-fledged member. It was Pahor who paid the first visit, in January last year.

Pahor has spent quite a lot of time in Brussels in his career. Prior to becoming prime minister in November 2008, he served as MEP from 2004. As prime minister he regularly attended EU summits there until February 2012.

18 Feb 2019, 16:05 PM

STA, 15 February 2019 - The European Commission has approved EUR 44.3m for Slovenia for projects as part of the LIFE programme for the environment and climate action, including EUR 27.3m for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Commission has announced it will provide a total of EUR 116.1m for twelve major environmental and climate projects in ten countries.

The funds from the programme, combined with other sources, will mobilise a total of EUR 3.2bn in additional support for projects supporting Europe's transition to a low-carbon, circular economy, the European Commission said.

Slovenia will get EUR 17m for integrated projects carried out together with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Portugal.

The projects are expected to contribute to the preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity and improvement of the management of the Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas.

The European Commission noted that Slovenia had one of the highest biodiversity rates in the EU, with around 38% of its territory being included in Natura 2000.

The LIFE programme is already present in the country, and the additional funds are aimed at securing its long-term functioning and greater inclusion of stakeholders.

Slovenia will also get EUR 27.3m for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which will focus on the implementation of the national goals.

The projects relate to the construction of infrastructure, emission-free road traffic, carbon sequestration and improvement of energy efficiency of buildings.

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