Politics

15 Apr 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Slovenian members of the European Parliament tend to vote in accordance with their Eurogroup, and have high attendance in votes in plenary meetings of the European Parliament, data from VoteWatch show.

Patricija Šulin (EPP/SDS) has attended 95% of votings in the European Parliament, ranking her first among Slovenian MEPs. Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) ranked last, at 82%. Slovenian MEPs' attendance averages about 90%.

Other parliamentary duties may cause MEPs to be absent from votings, according to VoteWatch. This is why Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, "only" attended 38% of the votings. This, however, is not an accurate measure for their activity and achievements.

Slovenian MEPs are extremely loyal to the political opinions of their Eurogroup. On average, they agree on around 96% of issues. The only discrepancy is Ivo Vajgl (Alde/DeSUS) whose agreement measures at around 90%.

Slovenia has five MEPs in the European People's Party (EPP), and one each in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and the Greens.

Tanja Fajon is the only Slovenian to be featured on VoteWatch's list of 70 most influential MEPs, probably because of her work as the vice-president of the S&D group. According to the site, Slovenian deputies seem to be the most influential in policy matters concerning the Western Balkans.

MEPs' activities can be tracked through two main web-based tools, VoteWatch and MEPranking, each of which relies on a different set of methods. Both have come under fire in the past because of their methodology.

Some MEPs were among the critics, arguing that arbitrarily quantifying their activity was not an accurate measure for their work.

On the other hand, these tools allow citizens of the European Union to view their elected representatives' activity and compare their voting with their own stance on issues, among other things.

More data on this can be found here

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

15 Apr 2019, 10:27 AM

STASTA, 15 April 219 - Slovenian voters have gone to the polls to elect MEPs three times so far - in 2004, 2009 and 2014, with most of the support in all three elections going to parties belonging to the European People's Party (EPP). The only Slovenian to win an MEP seat in all three elections is Lojze Peterle of New Slovenia (NSi/EPP).

Slovenia joined the EU in May 2004 and its voters had the opportunity to elect seven MEPs a month later, with centre-right parties winning the 13 June elections convincingly.

EPP members got four seats as Slovenians elected Lojze Peterle and Ljudmila Novak from the NSi, and Miha Brejc and Romana Jordan Cizelj from the Democrats (SDS).

The remaining three MEPs were Jelko Kacin and Mojca Drčar Murko from the Liberal Democrats (LDS), who joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and Borut Pahor from the Social Democrats (SD), who joined the Party of European Socialists (PES).

The NSi won most of the vote (23.6%), followed by a joint ticket of the LDS and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) with 21.9%, the SDS with 17.7% and the SD with 14.2%.

The group associating conservative and centre-right parties was also the winner at the EU level, wining a total of 272 seats in the 732-member European Parliament.

Turnout in Slovenia (28.4%) was significantly lower than in the 25 EU member states on average (45.5%).

In 2009, when the European Parliament elections were held in 27 countries, members of the EPP also won most of the vote, with the SDS getting 26.7% of the vote, followed by the SD (18.5%), the NSi (16.5%), the LDS (11.5%) and Zares (9.8%).

Elected as MEPs were Romana Jordan Cizelj and Milan Zver (EPP/SDS), Lojze Peterle (EPP/NSi), Zoran Thaler and Tanja Fajon (PES/SD), Jelko Kacin (ALDE/LDS) and Ivo Vajgl (ALDE/Zares).

Thaler resigned in 2011 after journalists posing as lobbyists exposed him as one of four MEPs accepting the offer of a bribe in exchange for tabling amendments in the European Parliament. He was replaced by Mojca Kleva (PES/SD).

The EPP also won the elections at the EU level convincingly, getting 263 MEPs in the 736-seat European Parliament.

As the European Parliament was enlarged in December 2011 with changes to the Lisbon Treaty, Slovenia received an additional, eighth seat, which went to Zofija Mazej Kukovič from the SDS.

In addition to the extra seats, changes to the treaty also brought certain restructuring of political groups, with the EPP having a total of 274, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) 195 and ALDE 85 MEPs at the end of the term.

While turnout in Slovenia remained almost flat at 28.37%, it dropped somewhat in the EU as a whole (42.97%).

The 2014 EU elections, which were held in 28 member states as Croatia joined the bloc the year earlier, were marked by a rise of Eurosceptics and ALDE losing the third place in the European Parliament to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

Out of the total of 751 MEP seats, the EPP got 221 and the S&D 191, while following far behind were the ECR (70) and ALDE (67).

In Slovenia, the EPP again won most of the vote, with the SDS winning three seats, for Milan Zver, Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin, and the People's Party (SLS) and the NSi winning one each, for Franc Bogovič and Lojze Peterle, respectively.

In addition to Zver, elected for their second terms were Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) and Ivo Vajgl, who ran on the ticket of DeSUS, while also making it to the European Parliament was Igor Šoltes, who ran with his own party Believe.

The SDS received 24.8% of the vote, followed by the joint ticket of the NSi and the SLS (16.6%), Believe (10.3%), and the SD and DeSUS (around 8% each).

The declining turnout trend continued, reaching record-lows of 42.6% at the EU level and 24.5% in Slovenia.

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

13 Apr 2019, 23:12 PM

STA, 13 April 2019 - Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj met representatives of the World Bank and the IMF on the sidelines of the two organisation's spring meetings in Washington to highlight Slovenia's effort to find the right balance between fiscal stability and prosperity for its people.

The Slovenian delegation, which also included Banka Slovenije governor Boštjan Vasle, met several senior World Bank and IMF officials, including IMF deputy director Carlo Grasso, deputy director of the IMF's Institute for Capacity Development Gerd Schwartz, and the World Bank's regional vice president Cyril Muller, the Finance Ministry wrote.

Highlighting the cooling of the global economy, increased risks and continuing expansionary monetary policy, the latter stressed the need for appropriate fiscal policies and structural reforms meant to improve productivity, the business environment and growth.

Slovenia's representatives explained the government was pursuing a fiscal policy that would strike the right balance between fiscal stability on the one side and development and prosperity on the other.

The Slovenian delegation also met representatives of credit rating agencies S&P, Fitch, and Moody's, briefing them in separate meetings on Slovenia's performance.

"The talks showed that the assessments of the economic situation for Slovenia are positive and that we are among the countries for which the agencies are preserving a positive outlook despite the cooling in the international business environment," the ministry's press release says.

Minister Bertoncelj told the STA that IMF and World Bank representatives were content with the government's fiscal and reform plans for the coming years.

They were particularity happy about the planned general government budget surplus - 0.8% this year an 1% in 2020 - and about the plans to reduce public debt.

"We're aware our debt is high, nominally at EUR 32bn, with the bulk of it, around EUR 24bn, stemming from budget deficits. Thus they find our planned path - surpluses and debt reduction - to be correct," he said.

Bertoncelj added that implementing structural measures would also be crucial. He presented plans to reduce the tax burden for labour and increase it for capital, as well as pension system and labour market measures. He said the assessment were very positive.

Earlier this week, the IMF downgraded the global growth forecast by 0.2 percentage points compared January to 3.3% for this year, mainly because of the poorer than expected trends in China and in Europe.

However, Slovenia is not expected to be affected as yet, with the IMF forecasting the economy to expand at a rate of 3.4% this year before the pace slows down to 2.8% in 2020 and then gradually to 2.1% by 2024.

12 Apr 2019, 19:45 PM

Mladina: GP resignations aimed at privatising healthcare

STA, 12 April 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina accuses the trade union of GPs of abusing their power at the cost of patients. This week's editorial refers to a document it says proves that the trade union Praktikum's head Igor Muževič orchestrated the current crisis among GPs to force the government's hand and ultimately lead to privatising public healthcare.

"It is a sad day for Slovenian public healthcare. The aim of these actions is not to improve the system, but to dismantle it," Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief writes under the headline Foul Play.

He says that Mladina has obtained a signed document from 2017 which proves that Muževič's plan had been to provoke a crisis that would force the state to privatise healthcare.

Privatising healthcare would essentially turn medical practitioners into businessmen. If the trade union's demands are met, GPs would remain part of the public sector that would provide them with the necessary infrastructure, however, they would get paid as private individuals, Repovž writes.

This is an abuse of what the trade union struggle stands for. It essentially turns patients into hostages, and it would not take long for other medical practitioners to demand the same working conditions, effectively leading to a collapse of the public healthcare system.

Repovž writes that doctors' wages are among the highest in the public sector. He says the attempt to increase their income by branching out into the private sector is unacceptable and unethical, especially since it is disguised as an industrial action.

Demokracija: Double standards on media freedom

STA, 11 April 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija plays down the importance of Hungary's protest over the weekly Mladina's cover portraying PM Viktor Orban making a Nazi salute in its latest editorial. It is bothered that the freedom of speech was not defended so eagerly when PM Marjan Šarec gave instructions regarding media advertising.

Hungary's protest sent to Mladina and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry was labelled a reflection of the idea of a complete media control, but the truth is that the "incident" will have absolutely no impact on the Slovenian media, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.

Thus, the diplomatic note sent by Hungary cannot be a form of pressure on the media or their editorial policy but merely a reaction to a controversial image of a democratically elected prime minister of a neighbouring country.

According to Biščak, much more dangerous for media freedom and the freedom of expression was Šarec's call to state-owned companies to refrain from advertising in "disobedient media".

"Is this really normal and ordinary? Is this freedom? Is this media freedom? Is this democratic? Is this in line with European values, which this government praises so much only when attacking someone, while resorting to rhetoric and measures of dictators when someone holds up a mirror in front of its face."

There is no middle way when it comes to the freedom of speech and media freedom. Either we have them or we don't. Media freedom cannot be only when the left has something to say. It is supreme hypocrisy and has nothing to do with real freedom, Biščak concludes the commentary headlined Matthew 23:27-28.

All our posts in this series can be found here

12 Apr 2019, 08:57 AM

STA, 11 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec met his Chinese counterpart Li Kequiang on the sidelines of the summit of the 16 Central and East European countries and China. The talks focused on economic cooperation.

According to a press release from the Government Communication Office, Šarec and Li "noted the traditionally good relations between the two countries, which are being deepened still in many areas".

Šarec also underscored that it was important to further enhance bilateral economic cooperation, and expressed satisfaction at continued increase in bilateral merchandise trade.

He was quoted as saying that it was important for Slovenia as an export economy that the 16+1 initiative opened doors to Slovenian companies.

As potential areas of cooperation he listed the automotive industry, pharmaceutical industry, high technologies, civil aviation and science.

Šarec also invited his Chinese counterpart to visit Slovenia.

The main part of the summit of the 16+1 initiative will be held on Friday. It comes only days after the EU and China adopted a joint statement at a summit in Brussels paving the way to a reciprocity-based partnership.

China would like for the 16+1 initiative to be part of its New Silk Road global infrastructure project. They expect to hear from the 16 Central and East European countries about the projects to be included in the New Silk Road.

The summit is bringing together almost 1,000 participants, around a third from China, including nine Slovenian companies, among them the port operator Luka Koper.

On the sidelines of the summit, Šarec may also hold a bilateral meeting with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković.

All our stories about Slovenia and China are here

10 Apr 2019, 12:33 PM

STA, 9 April 2019 - Slovenia and Croatia have been locked in the border dispute ever since they declared independence almost 28 years ago. The countries have seen several intelligence scandals since, the last one prompting PM Marjan Šarec to call a session of the National Security Council. Below is a timeline of the developments.

25 June 1991 - Slovenia adopts the Basic Constitutional Charter on Independence, which states that the borders of the republics in the former Yugoslavia are the internationally-recognised borders of the new state. Croatia makes a similar declaration.

11 January 1992 - The Arbitration Commission of the Conference on Yugoslavia (the Badinter Commission) adopts the position that the borders of the former Yugoslav republics are the borders of the newly-emerged countries in the region.

28 April 1997 - Slovenia and Croatia sign the Agreement on Border Transport and Cooperation (SOPS) in a bid to facilitate the movement of people living in border areas (all municipalities within the 10-km belt of the border on both sides). The Croatian parliament ratifies the treaty the same year, Slovenia follows suit in June 2001. Even though the agreement also imposes the fishing regime in the Bay of Piran, incidents involving fishermen would be rife in the years to come.

January 1998 - Two operatives of the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Service (OVS) stray into Croatia in a spy van near the town of Zavrč. Their van is confiscated by the Croatian authorities, including the equipment with intelligence. Croatia does not return the van to Slovenia until 2001.

20 July 2001 - The Slovenian and Croatian governments endorse and initial a draft agreement on the border hammered out by the prime ministers, Janez Drnovšek and Ivica Račan. This is the first time that the two countries determine the border at sea. The agreement gives Slovenia 80% of the Bay of Piran and a corridor with access to international waters; Croatia retains contact with Italian territorial waters. The Slovenian parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee confirms the treaty, but the Croatian parliament is staunchly against.

4 September 2002 - Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan sends a letter to Slovenia in which Croatia announces it is withdrawing from the Drnovšek-Račan agreement.

3 October 2004 - Croatia implements a protective ecological and fisheries zone in the Adriatic Sea a year after declaring it despite protests from Slovenia and Italy.

10 June 2005 - The governments of Slovenia and Croatia sign the Brijuni Declaration at their first joint meeting, pledging to avoid incidents on the border and to respect the state on the ground as on 25 June 1991.

4 October 2005 - The Slovenian National Assembly passes a law declaring a Slovenian ecological zone and epicontinental belt in the Adriatic which includes a provision that says the demarcation still needs to be agreed at bilateral level.

5 January 2006 - Slovenia declares the whole of the Bay of Piran as its fishing area.

31 August 2006 - In one of the gravest escalations, Slovenia deploys members of a special police force to the area near the Slovenian border village of Hotiza on the north bank of the Mura river in the north-east of the country after Croatia has begun building an embankment and a road towards the Slovenian settlement Brezovec-part or Mirišče without having obtained consent from Slovenia.

June 2007 - Former Slovenian Prime Minister Tone Rop tells a reporter off the record that, prior to the 2004 election, the Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA had intercepted the then opposition leader Janez Janša and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader as they were plotting border incidents in the Bay of Piran. Due to the revelations, Rop is later fined by court for disclosure of secret data but later acquitted by a higher court.

26 August 2007 - The Slovenian and Croatian prime ministers, Janez Janša and Ivo Sanader, reach an informal agreement in principle at their meeting in Slovenia's Bled to put the border issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

4 November 2009 - Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor sign an arbitration agreement in Stockholm, Sweden, under the auspices of the Swedish EU presidency. The treaty sets forth that an arbitration tribunal shall determine the land and sea border, Slovenia's junction with high seas and a regime for the use of maritime zones.

22 July 2015 - The Croatian newspaper Večernji List publishes a recording of phone conversations between Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal Jernej Sekolec and Slovenian agent in the case Simona Drenik discussing details of the tribunal's confidential deliberations. The scandal prompts the pair to step down and Croatia withdraws from the arbitration process although the tribunal later decides it will resume its work.

29 June 2017 - The arbitration tribunal declares its final decision on the border, awarding Slovenia the bulk of the Bay of Piran, as well as a belt extending 2.5 nautical miles in width that represents Slovenia's junction with the open seas. The border on land largely follows the demarcation of cadastral municipalities.

3 April 2019 - The news web site 24ur.com reports that arbiter Sekolec and agent Drenik were tapped by the Croatian Intelligence Service (SOA) through its operative Davor Franić. The commercial broadcaster POP TV later reveals that the Croatian government had attempted to prevent the publication of the revelations by means of a go-between. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec responds on 9 April by calling a session of the national Security Council and the Foreign Ministry summons the Croatian ambassador to Slovenia and the Slovenian ambassador to Croatia for talks in Ljubljana.

10 Apr 2019, 08:00 AM

STA, 9 April 2019 - Reports that Croatia tried to prevent Slovenian media from reporting on Croatia's intelligence activities in Slovenia prompted strong reactions from senior officials, with PM Marjan Šarec calling a session of the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry summoning Croatian Ambassador Boris Grigić for talks.

It was POP TV which reported on Monday that the Croatian government had used an intermediary to try to prevent the private broadcaster's news portal from revealing last week that the Croatian intelligence agency SOA was behind the tapping of the phone calls between Slovenia's judge and agent in the border arbitration in July 2015.

The recorded conversations were leaked the same month only to have Croatia declare the border arbitration process "irrevocably compromised".

POP TV also said "one of the most influential Croatian media houses and a good friend of numerous Croatian politicians tried to prevent or even bribe a director of a foreign multinational to put pressure on POP TV."

The reports prompted Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to call a session of the National Security Council today after he had expressed concern over the news, saying that "these are serious accusations, which call for appropriate explanations."

The session was called by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and also featured, in addition to key ministers, President Borut Pahor, parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan, and MP Franc Breznik of the largest opposition party, the Democrats (SDS).

Also attending were Damir Črnčec, the state secretary in the prime minister's office in charge of national security, and Rajko Kozmelj, the director of the national intelligence and security agency SOVA.

The Government Communication Office said that the council had condemned any attempts at influencing freedom of the Slovenian media.

It said it expected from Croatia to refrain in the future from acts which were in opposition with the EU values, the rule of law and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said that the ministry had already summoned the Croatian Ambassador to Slovenia Boris Grigić for talks. Cerar will be meeting on Wednesday Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Smiljana Knez, who has also been summoned to Ljubljana.

Cerar said that foreign countries' interference and pressure on the Slovenia media were unacceptable, declaring that Slovenia would be unyielding in defence of the freedom of speech.

Židan said before the session that it was a serious issue which "encroaches upon the essence of the EU, which must function on the basis of trust and solidarity and not on unlawful practices in any case."

The pressure on POP TV was also condemned by several parties, including the heads of the deputy groups of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the opposition Left, Franc Jurša and Matej T. Vatovec.

According to POP TV, the high-ranking media official who had tried to put pressure on the broadcaster was Ivan Tolj, a 51-year-old Franciscan priest, who is a Croatian representative of the Styria Media Group.

Only Breznik gave a statement to the press after the session, saying that the participants had not received much more information than the media had already possessed before the session.

He proposed that SOVA representatives listen to the recordings and prove the influence of the Croatian government on Tolj, and to find out whether the report was true or not.

"But we did not get this proof," he said, adding that Šarec did not allow that, which makes Breznik believe that the session was about "minor information serving the prime minister in his daily political debates".

The General Police Administration meanwhile confirmed for the STA that it was conducting a pre-trial investigation of a suspected criminal act in relation to the wiretapping scandal and the alleged attempts by the Croatian government to influence the Slovenian media.

POP TV said that two of its journalists had been interviewed today by police officers. According to the broadcaster, the police is investigating the suspicion of criminal acts of wiretapping of journalists and corruption.

While the police did not provide any names of suspects, POP TV said that Tolj was among them.

The SOA denied the reporting by POP TV labelling it as "untruthful and a tendentious construct", and as a continuation of the media campaign in Bosnia-Herzegovina designed to smear the SOA and Croatia.

The Croatian government also rejected "fully and most resolutely" all reports on attempts on any influence on the Slovenian media.

Croatian PM Andrej Plenković told the press in Zagreb that his government had "no possibilities or ambition to influence reports in the Slovenian media", as reported by the regional TV station N1.

According to unofficial information, the Slovenian government will continue with all activities aimed at implementing the decision of the border arbitration tribunal "regardless of the new facts".

The issue will also be discussed tomorrow by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission and expectedly the Foreign Policy Committee as part of questions from MPs.

09 Apr 2019, 19:19 PM

April 9, 2019

Last week ended with news of a strange diplomatic move on the side of Hungarian government, whose diplomatic representative to Slovenia, Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi, sent a verbal note of protest (an official diplomatic tool of interstate communication) to the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia, demanding it “prevent” further “politically irresponsible” “incidents” on the side of the Slovenian media. The note was prompted by the cover of Mladina magazine depicting Hungarian president Viktor Orbán in a Nazi salute, guarded by three Slovenian SDS party members, all in presumable reference to the SDS’ struggles to prevent Orbán’s Fidezs from being kicked out of the European People’s Party. “We give up Europe, but we don’t give up Orbán”, read the title.

Over the weekend, media outlets in Slovenia that are part-owned by Hungarian interested that were established and run by sympathisers of the Janez Janša and members of his SDS party, issued a series of articles, that praise the formal and informal Hungarian protests and criticise the Slovenian government and Slovene Association of Journalists (SAJ) for having double standards with regard to media freedom. As a proof of the latter, Demokracija reminds readers of its own cover, which was not that long ago a target of criticism by both the SAI and the government for “spreading hate speech”, since, according to Demokracija, “these terms are arbitrarily defined by the left political pole”.  Furthermore, Demokracija emphasised that following a “really tasteless depiction of a foreign country’s prime minister”, Mladina then “instead of normal communication, which would become a supposedly serious news media” went on to make jokes on account of the Hungarian ambassador’s protest.

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Orban and Janša at the SDS conference, 2018, Photo: SDS Facebook
 

Before news of the official diplomatic note of protest broke, it was only known that the ambassador had sent an awkwardly assertive letter to the magazine, expressing “a protest against the way in which Prime Minister of Hungary was depicted”. Also in this letter the Hungarian ambassador wondered whether Mladina’s goal was to “stoke hatred among nations”, reminded the editor that such “distortions of truth” are “especially severe and unacceptable in times of election campaigns”, and concluded with an appeal to Mladina “to stop the negative campaign against Hungary”, since “you offend millions of people by doing so”. 

Mladina then responded with another, “corrected” version of the cover and an “apology” letter by the cover’s author, Tomaž Lavrič. Lavrič, the no. 1 Slovenian comic book artist who received a Medal of Merit for his Exceptional Contribution in the field of Slovenian Illustration, as presented by President Borut Pahor in 2015, along with the Prešeren Foundation Award in 2017, has collaborated regularly with Mladina as its “house caricaturist” since his first Diareja strip in 1988.

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President Borut Pahor and Tomaž Lavrič exchange decorations in 2015 Photos: http://www.up-rs.si
 

Apology

Much Honourable Madam Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary,

Accept my sincere and profound apology for a rude and completely untruthful depiction of your president Mr. Orbán on the cover of Mladina, which justifiably instigated your feelings of indignation and sadness.

After reading your concerned letter, I turned inside myself and realised my fault. I know that the anguish caused cannot be erased, but in my defence allow me nevertheless to explain that I myself am also just an innocent victim of objective circumstances. Let me point my finger at the real culprits of this undesirable scandal. These are:

  • First, of course, a long-term communist education system which washed my brains and numbed my sense for nation and religion.
  • Next to blame are my lackadaisical and inattentive superiors at the editorial board of Mladina, who should have better supervised me and stopped in time, as they know well that I am irresponsible and naïve in political matters, and just think that everything is allowed.
  • And last but not least to blame is our permissive judiciary system, which fails to harshly and swiftly punish such social deviations.

I am urging you, madam, not to give up on us, but to continue to kindly help us with your advice and benevolent criticism, so that we too can achieve an exemplary state of objectivity and speak in one voice, as you have managed to establish in the Hungarian media, and that one day we too can live our lives under the rule of order and peace, national purity and Christian love for all the people behind the wire fence, as commanded by your mild and righteous beloved leader V. Orbán.

With all due respect,

Tomaž Lavrič, house caricaturist

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To explain the main problem behind the “outrageous” cover of Mladina, Demokracija also quoted the Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács: “It’s an outrage and unacceptable first and foremost to the memory of the victims of that horrible period [World War 2]. Little surprise that the leftist editors at Mladina dislike the policies of the Orbán Government, but comparing the events of today’s Europe with the Nazi era trivialises what really happened in that dark time. (…) According to the author, Hungary’s firm opposition to immigration under the Orbán Government and our determination to protect European culture, which is deeply rooted in Christianity, is akin to the notorious German concept of Lebensraum.”

To understand the line of deduction here one might perhaps begin with the premise outlined by Milan Zver, MEP (depicted kneeling on the cover of Mladina) in his 2017 speech at the Pan-European Memorial for the Victims of Totalitarianism in Brussels: “Slovenia is the only state in the EU that has survived all three totalitarianisms: Fascism, Nazism and Communism. While the first two have practically disappeared, the process of the degradation of Communism has been too slow.” To paraphrase, we should not worry much about Nazism and Fascism, they are history. The Nazism of today is Communism, everything else is freedom fighting.

Furthermore, Kovács writes that “while everyone has the right to express an opinion, there’s also the matter of discretion and professionalism” and notes that Mladina’s function used to be the one of a “mouthpiece of the youth wing of the Communist Party”. Surely the Hungarian government spokesperson is aware of the fact that the lack of “discretion and professionalism” on the side of Mladina’s editors allowing for “juvenile and cynical” behaviour of its journalists has a long history which includes the imprisonment of three of its journalists (and one YPA sergeant) by the Yugoslav People’s Army in 1988, one of whom being no other than the leader of the SDS and admirer of Viktor Orbán’s policies, Janez Janša. At the time the arrests sent people onto the streets and launched Janez Janša’s career as a hero.

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Demonstrations in support to the imprisoned four, May 8, 1989, Congress Square, Ljubljana. Third from the left in the front row (wearing glasses): Mladina’s current editor-in-chief, Grega Repovž   Photo: Mladina.si
 

Another article by Nova24TV that followed on Monday, takes a similar path with regard to newspeak on contemporary sources of totalitarian danger. The author finds the Hungarian diplomatic protest “reasonable” since “if you were labelled Nazi by the media in the former Eastern bloc, which also included Hungary and Slovenia, it meant you were already on your way to gulag or being covered by soil. Also in Slovenia. The reaction [to the Hungarian reaction] bares a witness that this tradition is still alive. When a leftist weekly calls you a fascist, you aren’t even allowed to express your disagreement.”

If we may interrupt this narrative with a little correction – while Hungary was part of the Eastern Bloc and one of the Soviet satellites, Slovenia was not really, and certainly not since the Tito-Stalin split of 1948. Nova24TV then continues with a speculation on possible reasons behind the “panic on the left”, caused by the Hungarian diplomatic note of protest: “it is probably a combination of pre-election time, when the left is hoping for new voters with the use of an old policy of attacking external and internal enemies (fascists and such) and fear, because Orbán in fact exposes their modes of handling and controlling the media.”

Following this, Nova24TV published another article in full support of Generation Identity, a far-right movement associated with the recent “lone wolf” terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, titled “The Truth is our Weapon Against the Mainstream Media Lies”.

09 Apr 2019, 16:47 PM

STA, 9 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has called a session of the National Security Council for this afternoon after media reported that Croatia had tried to prevent Slovenian media from reporting on Croatia's intelligence activities in Slovenia.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar announced that the ministry had already summoned the Croatian Ambassador to Slovenia Boris Grigić for talks, to be conducted by State Secretary Simona Leskovar this afternoon, while he would be meeting on Wednesday Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Smiljana Knez, who has also been summoned to Ljubljana.

The prime minister is concerned by the news that Croatian officials had attempted to influence the reporting of the commercial broadcaster POP TV on the activities of the Croatian intelligence service, the office said.

These are serious accusations, which call for appropriate explanations, it added ahead of the session of the national Security Council, scheduled for 4 PM.

Exercising any kind of pressure on media outlets is inadmissible and runs contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy, the office said.

"If such pressure is even dictated by a foreign government, then this points to a big democratic deficit and a shift from fundamental European values, including the rule of law," Šarec's office stressed.

Cerar said that foreign countries' interference and pressure on the Slovenia media were unacceptable, declaring that Slovenia would be unyielding in defence of the freedom of speech.

"Slovenia has grown up respecting media freedom, the freedom of speech, and will therefore not yield in the defence of media freedom and the freedom of speech," said Cerar, adding that this was a democratic asset that must be defended not only in Slovenia but also in Europe, and promoted worldwide.

The revelations made by POP TV were not new to Cerar, who reported that there had been a series of incidents while he served as prime minister, but the prime goal at the time was for the arbitration process to get completed and for the border solution to be reached.

He said that as prime minister he had reasoned that any escalation would harm Slovenia's interests. "We were also bound by Article 10 of the Arbitration Agreement which provides that the parties shall refrain from escalation of tensions lest it should jeopardise the procedure and the goal."

Cerar said he did not know how Croatia would react to the disclosure, but he opined that the reactions this far suggest the Croatian authorities are in a tight spot. He said such conduct was not befitting Europe and that everything should be done to prevent such developments in the future.

He expects the Croatian government to take measures accordingly and that the two countries would form their relationship on different foundations, "not unfriendly, un-European foundations that are not in compliance with the rule of law".

Cerar said he was coordinating his activities with the prime minister. He will take part in the National Security Council's session, which he expects will discuss further steps.

Due to recurring incidents in the Bay of Piran and Croatia's violation of the border drawn by the arbitration tribunal, Cerar urged Šarec more than a week ago to call a political coordination meeting on the implementation of the arbitration award, which he said must be executed by both countries.

"We know the arbitration award is not ideal for either party, we know neither party is entirely pleased with it, but we committed to implement it and it must be implemented," he said, adding that EU countries were expected to respect basic values. "Respecting the rule of law and media freedom remain basic values for Slovenia that we will defend unconditionally."

POP TV reported on Monday that the Croatian government had used an intermediary to try to prevent the commercial broadcaster's news portal from revealing that the Croatian intelligence agency SOA was behind the tapping of the phone calls between Slovenia's judge and agent in the border arbitration in July 2015.

POP TV also alleged that Croatia was spying on foreign media. "The intention to run the story was known only to two POP TV journalists. Croatia could have learned about this only with special intelligence methods," said POP TV journalist Jure Tepina.

SOA today denied reporting by POP TV labelling it as "untruthful and a tendentious construct", and as a continuation of the media campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina designed to smear SOA and Croatia.

While the STA has been unable to get any official response from the Croatian government, the Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List reported today that the Croatian government denied the reports.

The coalition Social Democrats (SD) called for a session of the National Security Council in the wake of the latest revelations late last night.

The party argued that the council should meet to discuss what "peaceful and prudent steps should be taken to protect our country, people, media and democracy."

The party added that the top Slovenian politicians must decide on an appropriate way to respond to the situation and inform "our partners in the EU on Croatia's grave violation of European values and the rule of law."

09 Apr 2019, 11:24 AM

STA, 8 April 2019 - POP TV reported on Monday that the Croatian government had used an intermediary to try to prevent the commercial broadcaster's news portal from revealing that the Croatian intelligence agency SOA was behind the tapping of the phone calls between Slovenia's judge and agent in the border arbitration.

It was 24ur.com which reported last week that the communication between Jernej Sekolec and agent Simona Drenik, who were not allowed to communicate with each other, was reportedly picked up in July 2015 by SOA operative Davor Franić.

The recorded conversations were leaked the same month only to have Croatia declare the border arbitration process "irrevocably compromised".

POP TV journalist Jure Tepina said today that a day before the portal planned to publish the name and a photograph of the Croatian operative, a phone call came from a person asking the portal not to run the story.

"The lobbyist who contacted us was not even aware of the consequences, and he did not know who had actually ordered the attempt to put pressure on an independent Slovenian media house," Tepina said.

"The intention to run the story was known only to two POP TV journalists. Croatia could have learned about this only with special intelligence methods," he added, suggesting that Croatia is spying on journalists.

Tepina said that it was not the only attempt from Croatia to prevent the name of the Croatian operative and the conspiracy by the SOA from being revealed to the Slovenian and foreign public.

"A member of the management board of one of the most influential Croatian media houses and a good friend of numerous Croatian politicians tried to prevent or even bribe a director of a foreign multinational to put pressure on POP TV."

POP TV revealed in its evening news show later in the day that the high-ranking media official was Ivan Tolj, a 51-year-old Franciscan priest "with great influence on the Croatian media".

Citing Croatian media reports, Tepina said in an article posted on 24ur.com that Tolj headed a small parish in Bosnia but spent most of his days in Zagreb, working as a representative of Styria, the Austrian-owned publisher of Večernji List, the paper that first ran the Sekolec-Drenik wire taps in 2015.

Tolj also seems to be close to the Croatian political elite. He has hosted President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović in his home town in Bosnia a number of times, according to Tepina. He was a friend of former Prime Minister Ivica Račan and an ally of former President Ivo Josipović.

24ur.com has published an audio recording of the conversation, in which Tolj says he "has a proposal from the Croatian government" and asks for help. He asks the person on the other side of the line whether he had "influence on POP TV".

Croatia officially denies the report about its intelligence agency being behind the wiretapping and claims that the story is a fabrication.

If this is so, the question is "why the Croatian side would bother so much to influence a foreign media house and prevent the release of a story, for which it claims, without any proof, that it is a fabrication", Tepina wonders.

Croatia has been rejecting any responsibility for the recordings of the conversations between Sekolec and Drenik, which were first published by the Croatian media.

09 Apr 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 8 April 2019 - Slovenian Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said on Monday there were no reasons for Austria to extend control on the borders with Slovenia and Hungary, as announced by his Austrian counterpart Herbert Kickl in a letter to the European Commission.

"This measure is unwarranted and disproportionate and there is no reason for it," Poklukar said, adding that Slovenia was protecting the Shengen border well and effectively.

Kickl justifies the extension with the assessment that the number of illegal migrants was still too high, and warns about a "latent threat of terrorism" due to the possibility of foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq.

Slovenia has been opposing Austria's continued checks on the border between the countries, arguing that the number of illegal migrants returned from Austria to Slovenia is very small.

The Slovenian Interior Ministry said today that the Slovenian authorities had accepted only 15 persons from the Austrian authorities in the first three months of the year.

"Protecting the Schengen border is our absolute priority," said Poklukar, noting that he had not been notified by the Austrian counterpart about the intention to extend checks on the border with Slovenia.

The minister nevertheless noted that "migrations are on the increase, which is why we are ready to cooperate with all countries in the Western Balkans as well as other countries, including Austria."

Since 2015, checks on internal Schengen borders are also being carried out by Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

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