12 Dec 2019, 10:21 AM

STA, 11 December 2019 - Opinions varied as stakeholders discussed a proposal from New Slovenia (NSi) for sex offences not to become statute-barred. While the NSi believes this would help victims who decide to speak about their experience at a later age, the justice minister argued victims should report such crimes as soon as possible.

Wednesday's debate on the parliamentary Justice Committee was opened by its vice-chair, Meira Hot of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who said that the goal was to get a wide range of opinions on the proposal from the conservative opposition party.

Hot discussed a number of questions related to the topic, including how sex offences influence the long-term mental health of the victims, and how their age affects their ability to face such acts.

Justice Minister Andreja Katič said that a task force at the ministry was drafting more extensive changes to the penal code, also in relation to sexual offences.

Under the existing penal code, only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity never become statute-barred. Other criminal acts fall under the statute of limitations in 10 to 30 years, depending on the envisaged prison sentence.

When it comes to criminal offences against sexual integrity, the time period after which an act becomes statute-batter starts after the victim reaches the age of 18.

Katič said that extending this period from 20 or 30 years alone would not contribute to a better status of the victim and would not solve the issue of proving a sexual offence.

"Our goal must be that victims report a criminal act as soon as possible," she said, warning against rushed and partial changes of legislation.

NSi leader and MP Matej Tonin meanwhile called for support for the proposal, which he sees as a "clear message that we are a society which has zero tolerance to such acts".

As the proposal was filed in July, Tonin also said the problem was that it took very long for the victims to speak about their experience. "When sexual abuse happens in early childhood, victims usually subconsciously suppress it.

"They are ready to face it perhaps only decades later, when it is too late in certain cases, as criminal acts become statute-barred," he added.

Violeta Neubauer of Women's Lobby of Slovenia said that the proposed change would not lead to the women experiencing sexual violence losing fear from reporting it.

Neubauer also believes the "police, prosecution and courts, or even lawyers, would change their manner of doing things so that victims would not experience secondary victimisation any more."

Katja Zabukovec Kerin of the Association for Non-Violent Communication added the elimination was not enough, and that the mindset and legal practice should also be changed.

"It's still believed paedophiles only like children too much. Education and awareness-raising is not enough. Legislation needs to be changed, right now," she added.

The NSi's proposal is supported by the Association Against Sexual Abuse. "This is only one of the needed measures in the prevention and prosecution of criminal acts against sexual integrity," said Manca Bizjak of the association.

12 Dec 2019, 09:26 AM

STA, 11 December 2019 - Election legislation, provinces and climate change ranked prominently as the country's top four officials met for an end-of-year reception in Ljubljana on Wednesday. Coming out of the meeting, President Borut Pahor said changes to election legislation should be ready for parliamentary procedure at the start of 2020.

Pahor said the leaders of deputy groups in parliament who support the proposed abolishing of electoral districts and introduction of a preferential vote would be urged to iron out the proposal in January so that the necessary signatures of support could be collected.

Changing the electoral legislation in line with a Constitutional Court decision is strategically speaking a key political issue in Slovenia, Pahor said after the meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Speaker Dejan Židan and National Council President Alojz Kovšca.

The president had launched the debate on possible legislative changes after the Constitutional Court declared the size of electoral districts for general election unconstitutional at the end of last year.

After seven rounds of talks with representatives of parliamentary parties and two meetings with deputy group heads, Pahor believes the proposal to abolish electoral districts and introduce a preferential vote is ready to be made into a bill.

In order to be passed in parliament, it will need to be backed by at least 60 MPs in the 90-member legislature. "If and when 60 or more MP signatures are collected, the proposal will be filed to parliament."

However, Pahor believes that a step further should also be taken to close the debate on the proposal to change the borders of the electoral districts as an alternative to the first solution.

The top officials agreed today that the deputy group heads who want to finish this debate should meet with the public administration minister in January, so that both proposals could be on MPs' table at the beginning of next year.

PM Šarec said he was in favour of scrapping electoral districts and introducing the preferential vote in order to give voters more say on who was to sit in parliament.

Speaker Židan expressed hope that the parties who had publicly supported this solution would also contribute signatures.

He also pointed to Tuesday's debate hosted by the Women Parliamentarians Club, where participants agreed that legislative solutions should be aimed at increasing gender-balanced representation in parliament.

National Council President Kovšca said the Constitutional Court had also found the National Council act unconstitutional in the part mentioning the possibility of appeal to election to the upper chamber. He said changes to the act had already been filed to parliament and expressed hope MPs would discuss it in January.

Turning to provinces, Pahor said that a task force of the National Council had done an excellent job in preparing guidelines for legislative changes.

The top officials agreed today that the finance minister should get involved in the drawing up of a bill on the financing of provinces in the next two months.

Kovšca said that in the first phase more than 50 experts had formed the proposal on the setting up of provinces. They covered the territorial aspect, and made a list of tasks to be transferred from the state and municipalities to provinces, he noted.

In the first phase of a public debate, local communities will be asked to give their remarks, while the government will review the financial aspect, he said.

When this phase is completed, the work of the National Council will be over and the proposal will be sent to the National Assembly.

Šarec said the government supported the idea of provinces but that their tasks would need to be defined and their seats picked as well. "Provinces must serve a purpose, implement tasks, and citizens must benefit from the arrangement," he said.

This was the first time that the top officials also discussed climate policy at their annual meeting. They agreed that special attention must be paid to three documents related to the climate and energy policy of the country which will be discussed in the public and the National Assembly next year.

There must be plenty of opportunity for a broad political and social debate, they agreed.

Šarec said a big problem was the sixth generator of the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant (TEŠ), "which gives us 25% of electricity". "Until we close TEŠ 6, it will be difficult to talk about a greener environmental policy," he said.

Pahor agreed that TEŠ would need to be shut down sooner than planned, but he stressed this would not be possible overnight. However, preparations for its closure should be sped up, he said, adding that alternative energy sources needed to be introduced.

Šarec and Židan agreed it should first be acknowledged that climate change is a reality, and then Slovenia should not only set ambitious goals but also start implementing them.

11 Dec 2019, 15:00 PM

Jump to the Slovenian reaction

STA, 11 December 2019 – The ECJ Advocate General Priit Pikamäe has stated that the EU Court of Justice is not competent to rule Slovenia's case against Croatia over its failure to implement the border arbitration award, having assessed that the case is an international border dispute outside the scope of EU law and thus outside the court's jurisdiction.

"The infringements of EU law of which Slovenia accuses Croatia are ancillary to the issue of determining the boundary between those two states, which is a matter of public international law," the advocate general stated in his opinion, released by the court on Wednesday.

The opinion is not binding on the court. Available statistics show that the court's Grand Chamber, which is deliberating on Slovenia's case, agrees with the advocate general's opinion in about half of the cases.

In its case Slovenia argues that Croatia infringes several articles of EU law by refusing to implement the award as declared by the mutually appointed arbitration tribunal in June 2017.

Slovenia alleges Croatia's infringements of the principles of the rule of law and sincere cooperation, regulation on the Common Fisheries Policy, Schengen rules governing the movement of persons across borders and the directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning.

Slovenia has been insisting that its legal action against Croatia is not about the border dispute, which has been resolved through the arbitration award, which is final.

In his opinion, Pikamäe notes that the purpose of an action for failure to fulfil obligations under Article 259 of Treaty on the Functioning of the EU is to obtain a declaration that the conduct of a member state is in breach of EU law and to terminate that conduct.

The advocate general notes that the situations in which the EU is bound by international law are well-established; "it is bound by international conventions concluded by the EU pursuant to the provisions of the Treaties, by international conventions where the EU assumes powers previously exercised by the member states, and by rules of customary international law when the EU exercises its powers".

"International conventions that do not fall within those categories are not acts of the EU and do not bind it," the advocate general finds.

Relying on the court's case law, he points out that "the territorial scope of the Treaties is an objective fact predetermined by the member states which the EU has to accept".

Consequently, he is of the opinion that "delimitation of national territory does not fall within the sphere of competence of the EU or, therefore, of the Court of Justice".

As regards the relationship between, on the one hand, the arbitration agreement and the arbitration award and, on the other hand, EU law, the advocate general says that it does not fall within any of the situations in which the EU is bound by international law.

Concerning the alleged infringement of the value of the rule of law and of the principle of sincere cooperation, he finds that those "are merely ancillary to the issue of delimitation of the land and maritime boundaries between the two member states concerned and that, accordingly, the Court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine those complaints".

Citing case law, the advocate says that the principle of sincere cooperation has constituted an independent basis for obligations in cases where the EU was party to a mixed agreement or where the obligations being fulfilled arose under the EU Treaties. "However, the conduct at issue does not fall within either of those two situations."

Regarding the alleged failure to fulfil obligations related to the common fisheries policy, border control and maritime spatial planning, Pikamäe says that "Slovenia is relying on the premiss that the boundary has been determined by the arbitration award.

"However (...) the award has not been implemented in the relations between the two member states concerned," so the advocate general "is of the opinion that, from an EU law perspective, the boundary between those two member states has not been established".

Hence, Pikamäe infers that "Slovenia is seeking, by implication, to have the arbitration award implemented, which falls outside the EU's sphere of competence".

His conclusion is that "the alleged infringements of EU law are ancillary to the issue of determining the boundary between Croatia and Slovenia. Determining that boundary is, by its very nature, a matter of public international law in respect of which the Court does not have jurisdiction."

In releasing the advocate general's opinion, the court made a point of noting that the opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice.

"It is the role of the Advocates General to propose to the Court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible."

Now the court's judges will start deliberations on the admissibility of the case. "Judgement will be given at a later date," the release said. Unofficially, it is expected in the first quarter of 2020.

If the court finds the case outside its jurisdiction, the case is closed. However, if it finds the case admissible or partly admissible, another hearing will follow, followed by another opinion of the advocate general and another judgement.

Slovenia rejects Advocate General's opinion

STA, 11 December 2019 - Slovenia did not expect the EU Court of Justice (EJC) advocate general would deem the country's lawsuit against Croatia over EU law violation inadmissible. Foreign Minister Miro Cerar believes the advocate general's reasoning is weak, indicating that the court's decision might be different.

President Borut Pahor said the opinion of the advocate general does not change the fact the border between Slovenia and Croatia had been drawn by a Hague-based international arbitration tribunal.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said that Slovenia remained determined to implement the arbitration decision and that bilateral talks or returning to square one was out of the question.

The Foreign Ministry stressed in a release that Advocate General Priit Pikamäe's position was not binding on the court, noting the procedure at the ECJ would not affect the fact the border arbitration decision from 2017 was valid and binding for Slovenia and Croatia.

Cerar, who called a news conference to comment on the opinion, said the court had so far decided in only five cases brought against a fellow member state and that the court followed the advocate's position in only three of the cases.

He added that the decision had "absolutely no effect on the validity of the arbitration award" and that arguments were on Slovenia's side.

Cerar also highlighted the fact that nobody had ever said Croatia did not have to implement the arbitration award, while many countries had urged it to do so.

When asked whether Slovenia had plan B if the court decided the case was inadmissible, Cerar said plan B was not needed because "there is plan A, which is completely clear: Croatia must implement the arbitration award".

The lawsuit brought against Croatia is in no direct relation to the border arbitration as such, but discusses violations of EU law committed by Croatia, the ministry said in a release.

Slovenia has taken measures and adopted legislation to implement the border arbitration decision, while Croatia is yet to fulfil this obligation, it added.

Pahor and Šarec commented on the matter following a tradition December meeting of the president, the prime minister, the presidents of both chambers of president.

Pahor stressed Slovenia would insist on setting up a Slovenian-Croatian demarcation commission which will set the land border, as envisaged in the arbitrtaion award.

Šarec explained Slovenia had called on Croatia to appoint its members to the commission four times now, but Croatia had failed to respond.

Slovenia's agent Maja Menard meanwhile believes Pikamäe ignored Slovenia's claim and was deciding as if Slovenia had expected the EU court to define the border. On the basis of Croatia's refusal to implement the arbitration award, he also argued the border had not been drawn.

Menard is however reserved in any further comments, saying she must read the full opinion first. This was also echoed by Marko Vrevc of the Foreign Ministry, who said that the advocate general's position was not what Slovenia had expected.

"Slovenia is not taking Croatia to court because the course of the border was unclear but because it realised Croatia was hindering Slovenia from following EU law," Vrevc said, expressing belief that the Luxembourg-based court would decide differently than Pikamäe.

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) regretted the advocate's position and hopes the ECJ will decide differently. A decision by a panel of judges is expected in a few months' time.

On the other hand, head of the National Party (SNS) Zmago Jelinčič said Slovenia displayed a poor understanding of international law.

Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša tweeted the Slovenian government had known the outcome in advance and that Cerar, who was prime minister when Slovenia decided to sue Croatia, should cover the expenses from his own pocket.

When asked whether Cerar should be held responsible if thecourt follows the advocate's position, Šarec said the decision to take Croatia to court was a political one, taken after consultations of parliamentary party leaders.

Speaker Dejan Židan was very happy that the prime minister, the president, the upper chamber president and himself displayed complete unity in the face of today's development.

Alojz Kovšca, the National Council president, meanwhile, warned the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia was a bad signal for other nations with unresolved border issues in the Balkans.

On the other hand, the opposition Left believes Slovenia should take a different approach instead of taking Croatia to court. MP Matej Vatovec reiterated the party's position the lawsuit was barely legitimate.

The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said Slovenia must persist in getting Croatia to implement the arbitration award even if the court decided the lawsuit was indeed inadmissible.

The SAB, as well as the coalition Social Democrats (SD) underlined the advocate general's position had no bearing on the validity of the arbitration award, which remains a binding element of international law.

All our stories on the border dispute can be found here

09 Dec 2019, 08:26 AM

STA, 5 December 2019 - The opposition Democrats (aka Slovenian Democratic Party - Slovenska demokratska stranka, SDS) issued a demand Thursday that the government widen deployment of the army on the border under provisions of the defence act that may be triggered in the event of mass migrations.

Police figures show 11,786 cases of illegal border crossing in January-September, up over 70 from a year ago, which the SDS says demands that the government take measures to "provide for the security of the residents of Slovenia".

The SDS motion will be debated at a joint session of the parliamentary defence and home policy committees on 12 December.

The army received limited police powers under amendments to the defence act passed in October 2015, at the peak of the migration crisis when thousands of migrants crossed into Slovenia each day.

The provisions may be activated for a period of up to three months, a decision which requires an absolute majority in parliament to be initiated.

Soldiers are already assisting the police in patrolling the border and the SDS motion is unlikely to gain traction considering the government's official position that the police are doing a good job protecting the border.

08 Dec 2019, 12:49 PM

STA, 5 December 2019 - The government has adopted a national strategy on the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism which provides a basis for a systemic approach to reducing Slovenia's vulnerability to terrorism and violent extremism. The document is aligned with the recently passed resolution on national security.

The strategy aims to prevent radicalisation which leads to terrorism and violent extremism, and to protect residents against acts of terrorism and violent extremism, the Government Communication Office said after the government session on Thursday.

The document, which is largely preventive in nature, also aims to improve preparedness to take measures in the wake of an act of terror and to prosecute terrorists.

Its goals will now be specified in an action plan, the drafting of which will be coordinated by an inter-departmental anti-terrorism task force.

The same task force drafted the strategy, after it was tasked to do so by the National Security Council already in its previous term.

Activities and exchange of information in the field of terrorism and violent extremism prevention are coordinated by the country's national coordinator for the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism and the national coordinator for the prevention of radicalisation.

Intelligence agency SOVA director Rajko Kozmelj has just recently been appointed the national coordinator for the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism.

The Government Communication Office explained that Slovenia was one of a few EU members without a basic systemic document setting down a coordinated fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

The National Security Council, a government advisory body, also called on the government last month to draft legislation that would allow law enforcement to prosecute paramilitary militias which have recently sprung up and started to patrol the border to keep illegal migrants out.

The appeal came in the aftermath of increased activity by militias including the Štajerska Guard (Štajerska vlada), whose leader Andrej Šiško was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year for attempting to subvert the constitutional order.

Štajerska vlada stajerska guard militia facebook logo.png

The logo of Štajerska vlada, from the group's Facebook page

Militia leader requests deferral of jail sentence

STA, 6 December 2019 - Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a militia that calls itself the Štajerska Guard (Štajerska vlada), has requested a deferral of a prison sentence that he received for incitement to subversion of the constitutional order.

Šiško told the STA he was to report to prison on Friday but submitted a formal request for deferral on Wednesday.

While sentenced to eight months in prison in March, Šiško had spent almost seven months in detention before and during his trial, time which counts towards his overall sentence.

Since the trial, Šiško and his militia have stepped up their activities, most notably by patrolling the border with Croatia in fatigues and faux weapons.

While their activities do not constitute criminal conduct under existing law, the government has already proposed legislative changes that would make it a crime for individuals or groups to imitate police border patrol activities.

Activities that impede the police in conducting border surveillance will also be banned.

07 Dec 2019, 10:11 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 6 December

Mladina: Macron is right, NATO is brain dead

STA, 6 December 2019 - In its latest commentary, Mladina agrees with French President Emmanuel Macron's assessment that NATO is brain dead, as it has been proven by the acts of Turkey and the US. The weekly says this could actually be good news for those who already think that Slovenia has no business being a NATO member state.

"Of course Macron is right. What will be the next thing that NATO members, including Slovenia, will have to swallow," Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly, wonders under the headline Of Course NATO is Dead!.

He notes that Slovenia, as a NATO member state, has apparently not been informed that "another member state will carry out ethnic cleansing of Kurds on the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border", adding that consulting other members is an obligation written down in the North Atlantic Treaty.

If no one but Macron is protesting, it is our obligation to conclude that NATO member states, including Slovenia, had been informed about Turkey's intentions and that they had decided to tolerate them. "Can we conclude that the US consulted other members when it decided to exit the international nuclear deal with Iran?".

Repovž argues that neither Turkey nor the US cared what other NATO members thought. "Why? Because they don't take it seriously. For the US and Turkey, NATO has been clinically dead long ago - and they don't care if they violated the alliance's rules."

This is why Macron's words should be taken seriously by those who actually believe in NATO and in its mission. It is about those, in fear of Trump's America and Erdogan's Turkey, are being "calculated in tolerating the usurping of international law and rules, and destroying any credibility in the long run".

Repovž also wonders how it will be possible for NATO members to point a finger at Russia for violating democratic standards or criticise China if they tolerate grave violations of these standards by their allies.

"NATO is brain dead - Turkey and the US have shown this with their actions, and Macron with words. Which could be good news for all those who already think that Slovenia has no business being in this organisation," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Govt cares more for state apparatus than citizens

STA, 5 December 2019 - Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the government of Marjan Šarec does not only have the pathological desire for full control and for suffocating the free business initiative with regulation, but that it, first and foremost, cares more for the state apparatus than citizens.

"Just take a look at the budget: nine tenths will go for wages, material costs, welfare and other transfers, and only a tenth for investments," says Jože Biščak, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly.

Investments are something all citizens not only certain groups of people benefit from, which should be the purpose of public financing, he adds under the headline Doors Without a Lock.

"But the government says that citizens have obligations towards it. Of course, this is not true. In modern societies, governments have obligations towards citizen, and they as executive bodies have the power to decide only in rare cases."

These are defence of the population (military), maintaining order and peace (police) and making unbiased rulings in disputes (judiciary). "Everything else is abuse of authority, as the government must serve to citizens and not vice versa."

According to Biščak, Šarec and "his comrades", which make up by far the worst government in independent Slovenia, have "brought their authoritarian perversions to the point where they actually threaten democracy and freedom."

Their measures are ranking from "fully subordinating" the National Security Council and the intelligence agency SOVA, to heavily fining "free gathering of people into village guards" and persecuting media and opposition leaders.

If stricter forms of punishment were used in socialism, more sophisticated measures are available in the digital era, which force an individual to lose any desire for freedom and let themselves be controlled by the state.

"It is not socialism as such anymore, but a perfidious form of progressive democracy, which calls itself democratic socialism, where the deep state has the desire to control literally everything with help from a mass of loyal bureaucrats."

According to Demokracija, citizens are becoming prisoners of modern-day government despots. "When you are terrorised and exploited by the government, which uses the most detestable methods in the process, you have nowhere to go. But then you know what you have to do."

All our posts in this series are here

06 Dec 2019, 15:30 PM

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

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

FRIDAY, 29 November
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's economy expanded by 2.3% at the annual level in the third quarter of the year or a seasonally adjusted 2%, the slowest rate in three years, as growth continued to decelerate in line with predictions, the Statistics Office said.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a mini pension reform, amendments to the pension and disability insurance act that will raise the pension base for men to equate it with women's and offer incentives to those who continue working after meeting retirement requirements.
        LJUBLJANA - Inspectors reported irregularities in the hiring practices at the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA), in a case connected with the employment of a friend of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. But Lidija Apohal Vučkovič, the chief inspector, said they were not of the kind that had been mentioned in the public and did not warrant action beyond guidance for the future.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed amendments to the labour market regulation act that significantly increase the minimum monthly unemployment benefit while stiffening eligibility conditions across the board. The minimum benefit will be raised from EUR 350 to EUR 530 gross.
        LJUBLJANA - NLB, Slovenia's largest bank, posted a group net profit of EUR 162.2 million for the first nine months of 2019, up 2% over the same period last year. All banks within the group generated profit, with the parent company's profit rising by 21% to almost EUR 163 million.
        KOPER - Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port, reported its nine-month net profit drop by 29% year-on-year to EUR 34.5 million. Net sales revenue rose by 3% in the period to EUR 173.8 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Consumer prices in Slovenia grew at an annual rate of 1.4% in November, which is level with the month before. On the monthly level, prices grew by 0.1%. The annual inflation was driven by higher prices of services and goods, the Statistics Office said.

SATURDAY, 30 November
        MARIBOR - PM Marjan Šarec dismissed criticism about border security and said police were doing a fine job protecting the EU's external border, as he addressed a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of Operation North, a police campaign which prevented a disputed rally that Serbian nationalists wanted to stage in Ljubljana.
        LJUBLJANA/KOPER - The police officer who was injured in the 2016 shooting at the Izola general hospital is suing the state for damages, media reported. He is still on a sick leave, while the damages he received from insurers did not cover his costs. He also wants compensation for physical and emotional pain.

SUNDAY, 1 December
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor commented on the latest row over the parliamentary report on the arbitration intelligence scandal in a televised interview, finding that while the report was useful for the country, its publication at the moment was not.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - The new religious leadership of the Slovenian protestant community formally took over as Leon Novak was installed bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church succeeding Geza Filo and Geza Erniša before him. Novak likened himself to the captain of a ship using the Bible as a navigational aid.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian police recorded 14,066 illegal crossings of the border in the first ten months of the year, up 72% year-on-year, the latest statistics showed. The number of people who expressed the wish to stay in Slovenia was also up, from 3,952 to 4,441, but the figures show most people treat Slovenia as a transit country.
        LJUBLJANA - An idiosyncratic graphic novel that was originally released in instalments on Facebook won the Grand Prix for book of the year at the Slovenian Book Fair. "Vinjete Straholjubca" (The Bête Noire Vignettes) is a joint project by writer Eva Mahkovic and illustrator Eva Mlinar.

MONDAY, 2 December
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dačić as he started an official two-day visit to Serbia dedicated to preparations for a joint 17 December government session. Cerar said Slovenia would make an effort for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans to be given a fresh impetus with the new European Commission.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar told a session of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council that Slovenia advocated a comprehensive approach to migrations in the future EU migration and asylum policy. The underlying goal must be to reduce illegal migrations, he said.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly overturned both vetoes the upper chamber imposed last week to block the state budget for 2020 and 2021, meaning the 2020 budget will start to be implemented on 1 January as planned. Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said common sense had prevailed.
        LJUBLJANA - Opposition Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša said he expected "an early election sooner or later" because the government coalition is running out of "candy" to distribute among voters, "which will cause big trouble". If fragmented, minority governments do not last long, Janša said.
TUESDAY, 3 December
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar continued his official visit to Serbia by meeting President Aleksandar Vučić, who hailed Slovenia's active engagement in the Western Balkan Region. The pair discussed bilateral economic cooperation, succession to the former Yugoslavia and Slovenia's support for EU enlargement.
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - Slovenia, the European Commission and Croatia presented to the General Court of the European Union their arguments in a case related to a derogation enabling Croatia to use Teran as the name of a red wine protected by Slovenia. A ruling is expected by the end of next year.
        LJUBLJANA - A parliamentary commission inquiring into the prosecution of former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, which had been thwarted by the Constitutional Court, said it planned to file a criminal complaint against two judges at the court, Rajko Knez and judge Matej Accetto, arguing they had acted unlawfully and arbitrarily in decisions connected with the commission's work.
        LJUBLJANA - The results of Slovenian 15-year-olds in reading, scientific and mathematical literacy tests are above the OECD average, shows the recent PISA study. Compared to the previous such study, the students have come off as less accomplished in reading and science literacy though.
        LJUBLJANA - Turkish builder Cengiz announced it had won the contract to build the Slovenian section of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel, as the motorway company concluded talks with three bidders. The decision is yet to be confirmed by the DARS management.
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank warned that there were "substantial downside risks" in budgetary plans for 2020 and 2021 that the National Assembly confirmed in a revote. The risks "stem from a possible acceleration of the slowing of economic growth," it said.

WEDNESDAY, 4 December
        LONDON, UK - After attending a NATO summit in London, PM Marjan Šarec said he was happy that NATO leaders had again shown unity, solidarity and effort for democracy. While there were disagreements between some members states ahead of the meeting, he said everything had been settled during the discussion, which he described as constructive.
        LJUBLJANA - The migration crisis, security issues, EU enlargement, and nuclear waste management were discussed as President Borut Pahor met the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the outset of an official two-day visit. Pahor said that Slovenia supported Bosnia and respected its results despite the numerous challenges it faced.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In the wake of last week's earthquake, Slovenia's European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič left for Albania for his first official visit after taking over as EU commissioner. The visit was designed to assess the extent of aid the country needs after the quake.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan urged the government to declare a climate crisis in Slovenia to ensure the necessary resources for drawing up a comprehensive strategy to fight climate change. He based his appeal on conclusions reached at a climate change debate at the National Assembly last month.
        NAPLES, Italy - Environment Minister Simon Zajc called for cooperation among all countries in the Mediterranean at a Barcelona Convention ministerial. He urged joint efforts for sustainable development and preservation of natural resources.
THURSDAY, 5 December
        LJUBLJANA - Mercator's bankrupt Croatian owner Agrokor and the newly established Fortenova group, which has taken over Agrokor's assets, reported the Slovenian Economy Ministry led by Zdravko Počivalšek to the European Commission over his interference in the transfer of Slovenian retailer Mercator to Fortenova. Počivalšek said he had been merely striving to protect Slovenian suppliers under existing competition rules and had always been open about his intentions.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a national strategy on the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism which lays the groundwork for a systemic approach to reducing Slovenia's vulnerability to terrorism and violent extremism. The strategy aims to prevent radicalisation, and protect residents against acts of terrorism and violent extremism.
        BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated his call for effective multilateralism at the 26th OSCE ministerial. He stressed the importance of OSCE for improving democratic processes.
        LJUBLJANA - The government revealed plans to invest EUR 5.6 billion in transport and transport infrastructure in 2020-2025. Under the plan, the funds will be spent on air and maritime transport, investments in and reconstruction of state roads and toll roads, modernisation of railways, sustainable measures and traffic control.
        LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court decided that several documents pertaining to treatment of migrants and asylum seekers on the state border are public information, ordering the Interior Ministry and the police to disclose the documents.
        LJUBLJANA - The District Court of Koper initiated bankruptcy proceedings for Istrabenz, a once mighty financial holding, as the request of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), its biggest creditor. The move is designed to give BAMC control of Istrabenz's remaining assets.

All our posts in this series are here

05 Dec 2019, 10:26 AM

STA, 4 December 2019 - The migration crisis, security issues, the European integration prospects of the Western Balkans and nuclear waste management issues were discussed as President Borut Pahor hosted the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina as it started a two-day official visit to Slovenia on Wednesday.

After the official talks, a press conference in Ljubljana was held by Pahor and Presidency Chairman Željko Komšić, with the former noting that all three members of the presidency had visited for a second time, which Slovenia appreciated.

Pahor said that Slovenia was inclined with favour to Bosnia-Herzegovina and respected its results despite the numerous challenges it faced, adding that Slovenia had always been inclined to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

"As the enlargement process could lose its momentum, this region must respond wisely," he said, endorsing the regional trade cooperation initiative, sometimes called a "mini Schengen", which he sees as a tool for the region to become attractive once more to the EU, to "become a magnet".

Pahor did not forget to mention that trade between Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina is constantly rising, reaching EUR 1.4 billion last year, and that more than 100 Slovenian companies in the country employ 15,000 people.

"This means that Slovenia enjoys trust in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and we want these relations to further improve."

Komšić said that he was glad that his country had a friend in Slovenia which understood what was going on in the country, adding that he was happy that Pahor supported the "mini Schengen" initiative as every cooperation was welcome.

He said that it had been stressed that the initiative was not a substitute or alternative to the EU accession of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the entire region, but a "recommendation to the European Commission" that the region was able to cooperate.

Komšić, who represents the Croatian ethnicity in the three-member presidency, said that there were some worrying topics though, including migrations, with thousands of west-bound migrants being stuck there.

He said that a joint effort should be made towards EU institutions to solve the problem at the source, adding that the current efforts were only a reaction. "The problem should be solved at the entry to Europe, in accordance with international conventions."

The issue was also discussed by Milorad Dodik, the Serb representative on the presidency, who noted at the press conference that the borders of the EU were being shut down and that migrants could remain stuck in Bosnia-Herzegovina and "cause problems".

"A difficult humanitarian crisis may erupt," said the former PM of Republika Srpska, "adding that "the EU is trying to donate money and steer policies, but we don't need money for migrants and we don't need migrants either".

A related issued was raised, as reporters asked the presidency about the plan to bring back 24 Bosnian citizens related to the former ISIS fighters in Syria, with Komšić noting that these were women and children returning to their families.

He said that "checks have been made" and that the procedure had been carried out in cooperation with partner security agencies so the "things are being kept under complete control".

Pahor said that he was happy with the agreement that security agencies exchange all information in order to prevent incidents which could trigger fear among citizens.

As Slovenia and Croatia are discussing where to deposit nuclear waste from the jointly-owned NEK power station in Krško, the presidency raised some issues with Croatia's plan to build its rad-waste repository near the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Dodik said that "depositing nuclear waste at this location is unacceptable for us and we will continue with activities to this cause", adding that Croatia needed to understand the position of Bosnia regarding waste from Krško.

Presidency member Šefik Džaferović also addressed the press, saying that the most important question was what stance the new European Commission would take following North Macedonia and Albania failing to make progress in EU accession.

Džaferović said that the rejection should be emphasised as a serious issue. "This decision has surprised us but it hasn't discouraged us, as we want our European prospects to gain significant momentum.

"We need friends who will help us in this process, including within the EU, and Slovenia is our great friend," added the Bosniak representative in the Bosnia-Herzegovina presidency.

The presidency was also hosted by parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan, with the main topic being the EU accession prospects of the Western Balkans, with the trio saying that their country's integration in the EU was the only option.

Komšić, Dodik and Džaferović also expressed the hope that the good cooperation at the parliamentary level would continue with the new term of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina and that a Slovenian-Bosnian friendship group would be established soon.

04 Dec 2019, 12:06 PM

STA, 3 December 2019 - The three-member presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina will pay an official visit to Slovenia on Wednesday and Thursday for talks with their host President Borut Pahor and the country's other top officials.

Chairman Željko Komšić and presidency members Šefik Džaferović and Milorad Dodik are visiting after being elected just over a year ago. The previous presidency visited Slovenia in March 2015.

Pahor's office sees the visit as a continuation of regular bilateral meetings at the highest political level, and an opportunity to reaffirm the traditional friendship between the two countries.

Pahor will receive the presidency with a guard of honour, after which the trio will lay a wreath at the Memorial to Victims of All Wars and open a Bench of Friendship with Pahor in Congress Square.

After talks at the Presidential Palace, the presidency will also meet National Assembly Speaker Dejan Židan and then Foreign Minister Miro Cerar.

On Wednesday, the presidency will also visit an exhibition that looks backs at the 20 years of demining efforts by the Slovenian-run ITF fund in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is scheduled for Thursday when the presidency and Pahor are also due to take part in an academic debate on constitutional issues in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The visit is expected to focus on a variety of topics, including ways to develop bilateral relations and economic cooperation, regional and multilateral cooperation and the implementation of the 2001 Yugoslavia succession treaty.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's reform process and its aspirations to join the EU are also expected to rank prominently, along with topical political and economic situation in the country.

Migration will be another major topic, in particular considering that between 6,000 and 8,000 migrants are estimated to be stranded in Bosnia-Herzegovina, most of them in the north-west of the country.

Due to a lack of accommodation facilities almost half of the migrants are roughing it out in the open or in abandoned buildings, which has been causing discontent among the migrants and the local population.

About 3,300 migrants are accommodated in five EU-funded temporary reception centres. The centre in Bihać is overcrowded and so is the nearby Vučjak refugee camp where migrants live in appalling conditions.

The European Parliament and the former European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos have called on the Bosnian authorities to move the migrants into appropriate reception centres to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the winter.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is also grappling with economic difficulties and high unemployment. The country has been trying to make headway in the process to join the EU and NATO.

The country submitted an application for EU membership three years ago, but the European Commission has merely issued an opinion on its application without giving it candidate status or making any recommendations to member states on the future course of action.

The biggest obstacle to membership of NATO, apart from meeting the alliance's requirements, is the opposition by the Serb entity and the Serbian member of the presidency Dodik, the former long-serving president of Republika Srpska.

Slovenia has been vocally supporting Bosnia-Herzegovina's aspirations to join the EU and NATO and the countries have good political and economic relations.

Bilateral merchandise trade rose to a record EUR 1.34 billion last year, amounting to nearly EUR 881 million in the first eight months of this year, Slovenia's exports accounting for EUR 521 million.

Slovenia is also a major investor in Bosnia-Herzegovina with more than a hundred companies there in majority Slovenian ownership.

Along with other successors to the former Yugoslavia, the countries are also engaged in the implementation of the succession agreement. Slovenia would like talks to start on division of the former federation's guarantees for the savings deposits.

Pahor met the new presidency in the Bosnian capital on 17 April when he attended the Sarajevo Business Forum at their invitation.

Miro Cerar made an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina in April 2017 as the first Slovenian prime minister since 2010.

The last Bosnian official to visit Slovenia was Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak in April 2018, while senior officials from the two countries meet regularly on the sidelines of multilateral meetings.

03 Dec 2019, 10:32 AM

STA, 2 December 2019 - Opposition Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša expects "an early election sooner or later" because the government coalition is running out of "sweets" to distribute among voters, "which will cause big trouble".

If fragmented, minority governments do not last long, Janša said as he commenced on political developments on the sidelines of an event marking the 30th anniversary of the DEMOS government.

"The DEMOS coalition did also not last long once it became a minority government," Janša drew a parallel with the events from three decades ago.

The current coalition will "keep the government alive for a while longer, but all they can do is harm", said Janša, whose SDS won the 2018 election but was unable to form a government because practically all parties rejected working with it.

"It's been somehow OK as long as sweets were distributed and debts accumulated for future generations to pay. But this 'rope' is getting shorter, which will cause big trouble."

Nevertheless, Janša does not expect an early election "very soon", saying voters were tired of elections and parties financially drained.

He believes the most plausible option will be finding "a temporary solution", yet sooner or later there will be an early election.

Asked whether his party could be the temporary solution, Janša said "the SDS is never a temporary solution".

Asked whether he was in talks with the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) to possibly form a new government, he said that his party had always been "willing to talk with all those who are willing to talk".

Janša moreover believes Prime Minister Marjan Šarec should have called a session of the National Security Council to discuss the latest escalation of tensions between the SOVA intelligence agency and the parliamentary oversight commission, as suggested by President Borut Pahor.

He said Šarec opting not to call the session was "a mistake", noting "this body is in charge of national security, not of the security of the prime minister". Janša also criticised the media for "not reacting" to Šarec's decision.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

02 Dec 2019, 15:47 PM

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, has made an election pledge to make it more difficult for EU citizens to enter the UK after Brexit, in the wake of a terrorist attack in London last Friday that has so far claimed two lives. The attack was carried out by a British citizen, born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, and stopped by a group that included a Polish immigrant wielding a narwhal tusk that he obtained from the wall of a nearby fish market, in a scene that has since been viewed around the world.

After the incident the Conservative Party announced five changes to border rules, including a requirement for Europeans to submit to electronic clearance procedures before entering the UK. Under the proposal EU nationals would need to get clearance to visit the UK using a new Electronic Travel Authorisation, an online form intended “to screen arrivals and block threats from entering the UK,” similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) scheme used in America.

However, EU nationals should not feel singled out in having their freedom curtailed in this manner, as Prime Minister Johnson's Brexit plans would also see UK citizens lose freedom of movement to the EU 27 as well as more red tape when they choose to leave the British Isles, thus reducing their opportunities for travel, work, study and more, with the poorest being hit hardest by the changes.

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