Politics

02 Dec 2019, 12:15 PM

STA, 1 December 2019 - The Slovenian police recorded 14,066 illegal crossings of the border in the first ten months of the year, which is almost 72% more than in the same period of 2018. The largest groups of migrants came from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan.

August was the month with the highest number of illegal crossings of the border since the 2016 mass migrations, whereupon the number of monthly crossings started dropping as the weather started to deteriorate.

The number of people who expressed the wish to stay in Slovenia was also up. Some 4,441 expressed the intention to seek international protection on contact with the police, up from 3,952 in the year before.

But the statistics show most people treat Slovenia as a transit country, with many who submit formal requests leaving the country before their cases are heard.

Of the over 4,400 who expressed their intention to seek asylum, only 3,350 eventually did so and the vast majority of cases were suspended because people had left, presumably to other EU countries.

The actual number of asylum seekers staying in Slovenia is thus low relative to the overall number of migrants, show figures by the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants.

On 28 November there were 335 persons in asylum centres awaiting the processing of their requests for international protection and 697 residing in Slovenia who have already been granted international protection

All figures below are from official police and Interior Ministry data.

Illegal crossings in January-October, by citizenship

               2018         2019
--------------------------------
Pakistan      2,531        3,777
Algeria         832        1,752
Afghanistan     956        1,519
Morocco         343        1,112
Bangladesh      172        1,090
Syria           620          754
Iraq            466          694
Turkey          221          618
Iran            684          604
Croatia         274          301
Other         1,087        1,845
--------------------------------
TOTAL          8186       14,066

Illegal crossings and requests for asylum in 2018,
first ten months of 2019

Month             Crossings      Asylum requests
               2018    2019        2018     2019
-------------------------------------------------
January         248     319         172      205
February        210     326         223      216
March           210   1,075         129      356
April           644   1,389         274      334
May           1,286   1,306         365      404
June          1,043   1,266         267      287
July          1,119   1,793         287      387
August        1,152   2,379         381      388
September       999   1,988         256      356
October       1,275   2,225         201      417
November        722                 170
December        358                 150
-------------------------------------------------
Total Jan-Oct 8,186  14,066

Persons returned to Slovenian police and persons returned
to foreign authorities by Slovenian police, Jan-Oct

              Returned to          Returned to
            Slovenian police   foreign authorities
Country        2018    2019        2018     2019
------------------------------------------------
Italy           343     235          59       68
Austria          29      77          16       13
Croatia           8      25       3,906    9,653
Hungary          18       5           5        2
Airport         150     211          30       25
------------------------------------------------
Total           548     553       4,016    9,761

Number of requests for asylum and their status in 2018,
first ten months of 2019

Status
                                   2018     2019
------------------------------------------------
Requests                          2,875    3,350
Requests for repeat procedure        40       25
Repeat procedure                     27       47
Solved cases                      2,886    3,234
Asylum granted                      102       62
Asylum denied                       135      102
Procedure suspended               2,372    2,792
Dismissed requests                  277      278
Permanent move                       40        0
Relocation                           21        0
30 Nov 2019, 12:11 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 29 November

Mladina: Hopeful about abolition of top-up health insurance

STA, 29 November 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that Wednesday's endorsement of legislation that would effectively introduce a fully-fledged single-payer system of health insurance by the parliamentary Health Committee is crucial. Slovenia has never been this close to abolishing top-up-health insurance, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

When the coalition Social Democrats (SD) announced they would present their own proposal at the committee, introducing a solidarity-based system of payment although somewhat different than the one tabled by the opposition Left, this seemed like a diversion, given that three other coalition parties are not in favour of such a system.

But then after a whole day of uncertainty, an ad hoc coalition was formed among those parties, the SD, Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), and the Modern Centre Party (SMC), and the opposition Left and National Party (SNS).

This secured enough votes to endorse the Left's proposal, which was amended by the LMŠ and coalition, and thus put it on the agenda of the National Assembly. As expected, the opposition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) voted against.

"We should remember that for next time, when the three parties talk about problems in health, because the legislative proposal (that was endorsed) is now so watered-down that it is only about whether insurers will continue to take EUR 60 million a year from insurants or the money will be spent in public healthcare," Repovž says.

"We've never been this close to having that money returned to healthcare. But we should not get overly excited yet. The insurers' lobby is really strong. But at least now we know who is on which side," concludes the commentary They Can Make It.

Demokracija: Attacks PM Šarec over holiday rentals

STA, 28 November 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija delivers a scathing attack on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec in the latest editorial headlined Šarec Is Mad, Stop Him!, in response to his suggesting limiting holiday rentals.

Referring to the comments made by Šarec as part of the efforts to tackle the Slovenian housing crisis, Demokracija editor-in-chief Jože Biščak writes that he "is afraid because almost no one, and in particular no mainstream media, reacted strongly to Marjan Šarec's idea to time limit holiday rentals of flats".

"The prime minister would set down by law to whom and when you can rent out your flat. To put it otherwise: the government would assume the right to have your private property at its disposal ... It is not just madness, it is outright insanity owing to a complete lack of ability to govern."

Biščak likens the proposal to limitations imposed by the former Communist regime in the country, asserting that the very thought of such a flagrant interference in private property should send all alarm bells ringing.

"This is no longer democracy, it is a road to tyranny, perfidiously wrapped up in some kind of social justice, and it is all directed at a socialist utopia in which the state can take care of everything."

Biščak agrees that high prices make housing ever less affordable, in particular in big cities, and that rental housing especially is in short supply, the reason for which he says is demand outstripping supply.

He blames the state, which he says is meddling in the market with central planning measures; the legislative and executive branches are passing detrimental laws and the bureaucracy imposes ludicrous demands.

"The only solution is consistently respecting the law of the free market and capitalism," Biščak says, calling on people to raise their voice.

All our posts in this series are here

30 Nov 2019, 09:26 AM

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, 22 November
        LJUBLJANA - MPs passed the budget acts for 2020 and 2021 in a 49:41 vote in was the first major test for the minority government after it lost the support of the Left. The populist National Party (SNS) and both minority MPs provided the missing votes. The budget implementation bill was vetoed on 28 November, requiring a parliamentary revote.
        LJUBLJANA - A special social benefit for those on welfare who are low-income earners or do voluntary work will continue to be paid out, as the National Assembly failed to override the upper chamber veto of a government proposal scraping the bonus.
        LJUBLJANA - MPs unanimously confirmed the minimum hourly rate for student work from EUR 4.13 to EUR 4.56 net, overturning a veto imposed by the National Council last month.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the VAT act lowering the VAT rate for books and other publications from 9.5% to 5% as of 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - MPs passed amendments to provide effective legal remedy against infringements in public contracting procedures, speed up procedures and improve the independence of the National Review Commission.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly overrode the upper chamber's veto against a bill that will allow the holders of subordinated bank liabilities wiped out in the 2013 bank bailout to sue for damages. However, the law will not be implemented just yet as the central bank is planning to challenge it at the Constitutional Court.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The Slovenian-Turkish intergovernmental commission urged closer economic cooperation to further increase bilateral trade as it met in Slovenia. The two countries expect their merchandise trade to top one billion euro if the current positive trends continue.
        LJUBLJANA - Insurance group Sava reported a net profit of EUR 37.7 million for the first nine months of the year, a 29.3% year-on-year increase driven by high premium growth and improved cost-efficiency.

SATURDAY, 23 November
        NOVO MESTO - Slovenian police confiscated seven pieces of what were possible replicas of weapons from 41 members of a self-styled militia known as the Štajerska Guard on the border with Croatia near the town of Krško. Its members said they were protecting the border against illegal migrants.
        NOVI SAD, Serbia - Slovenian President Borut Pahor attended a youth forum of the Western Balkans with his Serbian and North Macedonian counterparts, Aleksandar Vučić and Stevo Pendarovski, expressing support in his address to enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - Dnevnik reported that Ivo Vajgl, a former MEP and foreign minister, had left the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), where tensions continue to increase ahead of the party's election congress in January. "There is no room in DeSUS for me any longer," he said.
        LJUBLJANA - Beanpole, a Russian historical drama directed by Kantemir Balagov, was declared the best film of the 30th Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe).

SUNDAY, 24 November
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) returned to the top of party rankings for the first time since January in a poll aired by POP TV. The SDS polled at 15.4%, down from 15.7% in October, whereas the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) lost two points to 13.8%. The coalition SocDems returned to third place with a four-point gain to 9.5%, and the opposition Left added over a point and a half to 8.8%.
        BLEIBURG, Austria - The National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), an umbrella organisation of the Slovenian minority in Austria, marked its 70th anniversary, with Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec saying that although divided by borders in the past, "we are all part of one nation" now symbolically and de facto united in the EU.
        WISLA, Poland - Slovenia's Anže Lanišek placed second at the first individual event of the new, 41st Ski Jumping World Cup season in Poland's Wisla, only a day after the Slovenian team placed fourth in the team event.

MONDAY, 25 November
        PARIS, France - The UNESCO conference general unanimously decided that the first UNESCO-sponsored international centre for artificial intelligence will be seated in Slovenia's capital Ljubljana. Slovenia plans to formally establish the International Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) early next year.
        LJUBLJANA - The SOVA intelligence agency reported opposition New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin to law enforcement for having disclosed intelligence as the chair of the parliamentary commission overseeing intelligence services in a report on the border arbitration with Croatia. Tonin accused PM Marjan Šarec's camp of trying to discredit him and the commission, while Šarec argued it was the commission that was being abused.
        LJUBLJANA - Former central bank governor Boštjan Jazbec told the parliamentary inquiry examining potential wrongdoing at the Bank Assets Management Company that banks should have been bailed out before 2012 rather than in 2013. In this way, the erasure of junior bondholders, which he believes was in line with constitution, may not have have happened.

TUESDAY, 26 November
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted legislative amendments designed to crack-down on the activity of self-styled village guards and militias patrolling the border with the intention of stopping illegal migrants. The amendments will be fast-tracked
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants and the appertaining asylum centre in the Ljubljana Vič borough, praising their efforts.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The SPIRIT investment promotion agency honoured top foreign investors in the country. Electricity meter maker Iskraemeco was named the best among big companies, ventilation company Systemair won the award in the long-term presence category, and maker of LED traffic displays Swarco Lea got the smart products and services development award.
        STRASBOURG, France - The European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) elected Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) the chair of a special task force for the Schengen Area. She announced she would strive to restore importance and reputation to the idea, and restore full life to the area without borders.
        LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc said new legislation in the making would prioritise the environment over creditors in case a company goes into receivership. The damage it has caused needs to be cleaned up, which is usually a long and expensive effort, he said.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament passed a bill providing more funds for arts and culture to facilitate its development. The field will get an additional EUR 122.6 million for investments in 2021-2027, or an average EUR 17.5 million a year, in addition from what its gets in annual state budgets.

WEDNESDAY, 27 November
        STRASBOURG, France - Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner for crisis management, said he was a European commissioner but he would not forget he was from Slovenia, as he spoke to the press after Ursula von der Leyen's Commission was endorsed by the European Parliament. Slovenia's eight MEPs, all of whom voted for the new Commission, said it was time the new team got down to work.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Speaker Dejan Židan announced after a meeting with the president of the regional parliament of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Piero Mauro Zanin, that the Slovenian minority would get back Narodni Dom, a Trieste cultural centre of huge historical importance, in July 2020, 100 years after the building was burnt down by Fascists.
        LJUBLJANA - The most senior bodies of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) cleared two contenders to challenge Karl Erjavec for the presidency of the party at the January congress, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec and jurist Borut Stražišar, ending speculations that their bids would be thwarted to ensure Erjavec is re-elected.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Health Committee surprisingly endorsed legislation that would effectively end the current system of compulsory and supplementary health insurance as of 2021 in favour of a fully-fledged single-payer system. The bill folds the current lump sum, roughly EUR 29 per month, into the existing compulsory payments.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Finance Committee urged the central bank to reconsider the recently imposed curbs on consumer lending, an appeal that came at a session called by all five coalition parties after the central bank said consumer loans would pose a risk to the banking system if left unchecked.
        LJUBLJANA - Peter Jenko took over as the new director general of the Financial Administration (FURS) for a five-year term. He announced one of his goals would be to change the tax procedure act so that the names of major tax evaders could be made public.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian retail group Mercator said it posted EUR 6.21 million in net profit in the first nine months of the year, down 30.3% year on year. Mercator said the results were not fully comparable because of a change in accounting standards and last year's sale of a shopping centre and land in Serbia.
        LJUBLJANA - Abanka, Slovenia's third largest bank which was privatised in June, said it generated a net profit of EUR 42.5 million in the first nine months of 2019, a 20% year-on-year drop.
        STRASBOURG, France - God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya, a film by Macedonia's Teona Strugar Mitevska that involves Slovenian co-producer Vertigo, won the 2019 LUX Film Prize, given out by the European Parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Handball Association sacked the head coach of the men's national handball team, Veselin Vujović, who was appointed in 2015 and led Slovenia to bronze at the 2017 Worlds. The team's recent period was marked by unconvincing performances and tensions, also because Vujović verbally abused a Slovenian player during a club game.

THURSDAY, 28 November
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec turned down a request by President Borut Pahor to convene a session of the National Security Council due to ongoing disputes between SOVA and the parliamentary body which conducts oversight of the intelligence and security agency. Šarec said he did not want to politicise the situation and said Pahor's request came "too late".
        LJUBLJANA - Simona Leskovar was relieved of her duties as a Foreign Ministry state secretary, unofficially in order to become Slovenia's ambassador in London. Her successor is Matej Marn, the ministry's director general for the common foreign and security policy.
        LJUBLJANA - The government allocated EUR 40,000 for emergency humanitarian aid for migrants on the Western Balkan route, and EUR 50,000 for the Sahel region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Foreign Ministry said that the number of migrants on the East-Mediterranean route travelling to Europe via the Western Balkans doubled since 2017 and kept rising.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will send disaster relief aid to Albania in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Under the decision taken by the government today, the aid is valued at EUR 126,000, including transport. Responding to Albania's request for help, Slovenia will send material aid, including tents, beds, blankets, sleeping bags and generators.
        ŠKOFJA LOKA - Germany's multinational Freudenberg signed a contract to take over Filc, a Škofja Loka-based manufacturer of needlepunch nonwoven textiles and laminated materials for the car and construction industries, the Slovenian firm said, but did not disclose the value of the deal.
        VRHNIKA - Two illegal Syrian migrants died as a car carrying eight Syrians crashed into the motorway railing on the Ljubljana-Koper motorway near the town of Vrhnika. The accident happened as the car started to skid while overtaking a lorry, with three Syrian citizens falling out of the boot. Two died immediately while the third was rushed to the hospital.
        DORTMUND, Germany - Slovenian Damir Skomina was declared the world's best football referee in 2019 by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). Skomina was the first Slovenian referee to officiate a UEFA Champions League final, the game between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in Madrid in June.

All our posts in this series are here

28 Nov 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 27 November 2019 - The parliamentary Health Committee has surprisingly endorsed legislation that would effectively end the current system of compulsory and supplementary health insurance as of 2021 in favour of a fully-fledged single-payer system.

The committee was discussing Wednesday amendments to the health insurance act tabled by the opposition Left that would fold the supplementary insurance contribution, which is paid as a lump sum regardless of income, into higher employer and employee payments.

It was widely expected the amendments would simply be voted down since the government said the bill was not appropriate. Its reluctance to back it was also the main reason why the Left terminated its cooperation agreement with the minority government.

Instead, the original proposal was transformed with coalition amendments into a bill that folds the lump sum, roughly EUR 29 per month, into the existing compulsory payments.

This means that supplementary health insurance contributions of individuals would increase by the same amount regardless of income, in what the government says is "the first step" of a more comprehensive solution.

Even the Left in the end backed the government solution, with party leader Luka Mesec arguing that this would "keep the bill open" and provide an avenue to find better solutions in the coming days and months.

Despite the surprise endorsement today, the legislation faces obstacles down the line.

For one, the parliament's own legal department voiced apprehension about the bill being changed so thoroughly with amendments. It also has qualms about how clear the provisions are.

Marjan Sušelj, the head of public health insurer ZZZS, which would manage all health insurance payments under the new system, said the solutions were not defined clearly enough.

He also noted that the government had recently agreed with social partners to steer all legislation through the Economic and Social Council prior to adoption.

And even if these issues are resolved, the three companies that provide supplementary health insurance, two private firms and a mutual insurer, have indicated they will put up a fight against legislation that would effectively kill their business.

These insurers currently collect roughly half a billion euro in health insurance premiums, money that would be handled by the ZZZS if the legislation is passed.

27 Nov 2019, 16:10 PM

STA, 27 November 2019 - Janez Lenarčič, Slovenia's former ambassador to the EU who has taken over as crisis management commissioner, is a seasoned diplomat. He has served as ambassador to the OSCE, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, secretary of Slovenia's permanent mission at the UN, and the PM's diplomatic adviser.

Lenarčič, who speaks English, French and Serbian, was born in Ljubljana on 6 November 1967. He graduated in international law in Ljubljana in 1992 and started working for the Foreign Ministry the same year.

Between 1994 and 1999 he worked with Slovenia's permanent mission at the UN, initially as the third and then as the first secretary. In 2000 he started serving as adviser to the foreign minister and the following year he became the diplomatic adviser to the prime minister, the late Janez Drnovšek.

In 2002 and 2003 Lenarčič worked as state secretary in the prime minister's office, to be appointed in 2003 the head of the Slovenian mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). During Slovenia's OSCE presidency in 2005 he headed the organisation's permanent council.

In 2006 he was appointed state secretary for European affairs, serving also during Slovenia's first presidency of the EU in 2008 during the centre-right government of Janez Janša. He was the head of the task force in charge of preparing Slovenia's EU presidency.

In July 2008 he was appointed the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and confirmed for a second and final term at the same post in May 2011.

In September 2014 Lenarčič became state secretary in the office of the then Prime Minister Miro Cerar, where he was in charge of foreign and European affairs.

He served under Cerar's centre-left government until July 2016, when he took over as Slovenia's permanent representative to the EU.

Lenarčič decided to quit the Foreign Ministry after 19 years last month. He criticised a legal provision that financially penalises diplomats who suspend their status at the ministry to serve abroad and then return to the ministry for a period shorter than half of the duration of the absence.

Lenarčič is considered apolitical. In his opening address at the committee hearing in the European Parliament, Lenarčič listed improved crisis response, prevention and preparedness as his priorities. He also called on MEPs to support a 30% increase in the humanitarian aid budget for the next multi-year budget.

27 Nov 2019, 09:13 AM

STA, 26 November 2019 - The government adopted legislative amendments on Tuesday designed to crack-down on the activity of self-styled village guards and militias patrolling the border with the intention to stop illegal migrants.

The government proposes for parliament to pass amendments to the protection of public order act and to the state border control act as a matter of urgency.

The government says securing the border is in the sole jurisdiction of the police, while the so-called guards are trying to interfere in police powers and duties, obstruct police work and are upsetting the public.

The proposed amendments would ban any conduct by an individual or group conducted with the intention of controlling the border in the same or similar way as conducted by police in controlling the border.

Also banned are activities that impede the police in conducting border surveillance.

Violations of the ban carry a fine of at least EUR 1,000 for an individual or at least EUR 1,500 when the act is committed by an individual as part of a group.

The government also proposes banning the carrying, display or use of decorative weapons, imitation weapons, signalling weapons or other objects that look like weapons, in a way as to make it look as if police or army members perform their duties.

The ban would not apply when the objects are used as props by performers at events organised in accordance with the public assembly act.

A breach of this latter ban carries a fine of between 500 and 1,000 euro when committed by an individual or between 1,000 and 2,000 when the individual commits the act as a member of a group.

The government also proposes introducing a new offence for the use of camouflage clothing, uniforms or clothing that looks like police or army uniform, when the person wearing such a piece of clothing appears as if they are performing the duties of police or army personnel.

The use of such clothing as props by performers is again exempt from the ban, which carries fines of between 500 and 1,000 euro when committed by an individual or between 1,000 and 2,000 euro when committed as a member of a group.

The amendments come in the aftermath of increased activity by militias including the Štajerska Guard, whose leader Andrej Šiško was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year on the charge that he attempted to subvert the constitutional order.

Presenting the amendments to reporters, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar declared "zero tolerance of any initiative by individuals or groups to assume the duties in the jurisdiction of the state".

He expects that the amendments will meet with approval, saying that shortcomings in the valid law caused concern among the public and hindered police work.

Police have been reporting on their findings on militia activity to prosecutors but these have not established any crime in any of the cases. The government is now giving the police the tool to punish the perpetrators, he said.

Poklukar announced that the Interior Ministry would also draw up amendments to legislation dealing with associations, and the Justice Ministry proposed amendments to the penal code provisions on impersonating a police or army force member and on taking the law in your hands.

The United Slovenia movement, which is headed by the leader of the Štajerska Guard Šiško, responded to the changes by saying Slovenia was seeing "fascism and unconstitutional actions by an important segment of the very top echelons of the state and the state apparatus"

It argued MPs should do all in their power to "prevent such unacceptable conduct and to restore the rule of law and constitutional order of the Republic of Slovenia".

26 Nov 2019, 16:09 PM

STA, 26 November 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants and the appertaining asylum centre in the Ljubljana Vič borough on Tuesday, praising their efforts.

Accompanied by Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar, Šarec visited the Reception and Support Division and was acquainted with accommodation procedures.

A release from the Government Communication Office said that the issue of integration of persons with recognised international protection status ranked prominently during the visit.

It said that the main challenge in the field was preparing action plans of integration for the implementation of the government's migration strategy.

The release said that, in dealing with the challenges of migration, Slovenia remained committed to preserving a right balance between solidarity and security.

Šarec also visited the division for families where he met the youngest residents of the asylum centre. Commenting on his visit, he said that asylum seekers were being accommodated and attended to in accordance with Slovenian and EU legislation.

He found that the accommodation capacities were not overcrowded and that apart from regular psychosocial care the asylum seekers benefited from many other activities provided by NGOs. The prime minister praised the efforts put in the integration of migrants.

Upon his visit, the asylum centre accommodated 201 residents, most of them coming from Morocco, Algeria and Iraq.

26 Nov 2019, 10:27 AM

STA, 25 November 2019 - The Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) has reported Matej Tonin, chair of the parliamentary commission overseeing intelligence services, to law enforcement for having disclosed intelligence, the public broadcaster TV Slovenjia reported on Monday, citing an unofficial source.

Tonin, leader of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), is accused of releasing intelligence as part of a public section of a classified report his commission had compiled about SOVA's activity in Slovenia's preparations for border arbitration with Croatia, TV Slovenija said.

Tonin had said the report contained no intelligence, but SOVA maintained it contained the intelligence it had sent to the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services as part of the latter's inquiry into the circumstances leading to Croatia withdrawing from the border arbitration process.

The commission had examined the circumstances of the 2015 wiretaps of communication between Slovenia's agent in the border arbitration procedure and the Slovenian member of the panel of arbiters. The scandal led to Croatia declaring the procedure compromised and withdrawing from it.

After a months-long inquiry, the commission adopted the 150-page report on 8 November and made 16 redacted pages public a few days later.

According to TV Slovenija, SOVA has also notified the president of Slovenia, the prime minister and the parliamentary speaker of the Tonin case.

Tonin took to Twitter to say it was "bizarre" that SOVA had reported the commission to the law enforcement after the report cleared it of having done anything wrong.

"The report shows the Slovenian government and SOVA did not cheat in arbitration. It proves there is no Slovenian conspiracy against the Croats. The report strengthens Slovenia's position."

He attributed SOVA's move to Damir Črnčec, state secretary at the prime minister's office and SOVA's former boss, implying it was another of his smear campaigns.

25 Nov 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 24 November 2019 - Slovenian police appear to have stepped up activities against a self-styled militia that says it wants to protect the border from migrants. In an encounter Saturday near Krško, a group of officers confiscated seven pieces of weapons from 41 members of a militia known as the Štajerska Guard.

The weapons will be sent for analysis and the individual will be prosecuted if they are found to have broken the law. The encounter was also reported to the prosecution but the prosecutor did not detect elements of criminal activity, said the head of the border department at the Novo Mesto police, Anton Štubljar.

The encounter comes days after the government said it was in the process of changing legislation to be able to tackle the activities of groups such as the Štajerska Guard, a paramilitary formation led by Andrej Šiško, who has already served prison time for trying to subvert the constitutional order.

Andrej Šiško – Football Fan, Attempted Murderer, Presidential Candidate and Paramilitary Commander

In recent weeks the group has spent weekends at camps along the border, patrolling the border area in fatigues and carrying weapons that its members says are replicas.

While their activities have raised concern about the possibility of violent altercations with migrants, they cannot be prosecuted under existing law since nothing they do is technically illegal.

The legislative changes under consideration, strongly opposed by politicians on the right who see the militia as a harmless attempt by citizens to protect themselves, would make it illegal for such groups to present themselves as a type of a military structure trying to imitate the actions of the police or the army.

Štubljar said police support changes that would make it possible to "effectively detect and prevent such deviations, which constitute a security threat".

All our stories on militias in Slovenia are here

24 Nov 2019, 11:42 AM

STA, 23 November 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor attended in Novi Sad on Saturday a youth forum of the Western Balkans with his Serbian and North Macedonian counterparts, Aleksandar Vučić and Stevo Pendarovski. He expressed support in his address to enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans and the initiative for the so-called "mini Schengen" zone.

Addressing young leaders from the Western Balkans, Pahor said he was a friend of the region, a "big advocate of a strong and integrated EU, its enlargement, first and foremost to the Western Balkan countries."

He told them that they had the right for "such relationships between people and nations in the region to continue to ensure peace and security. You are the most important factor of the future of this region," Pahor was quoted by his office.

The Slovenian president endorsed the efforts to create the so-called "mini Schengen" zone in the region as an idea based on cooperation and mutual trust. He believes that it may succeed only if trust and respect between the countries in the region is strengthened.

It was on the initiative of Serbia's Vučić that Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania signed an agreement to establish a joint market with free flow of goods, services, capital and people.

"The so-called mini Schengen is something fresh, it inspires hope that the time of the entry in the European community, despite the enlargement slowing down, will not be missed in these countries," Pahor said.

He sees the initiative as precious, as it puts an emphasis on cooperation and strengthens trust, which he believes countries in the region need to implement reforms faster and resolve open bilateral issues more successfully.

Pahor stressed that the initiative was not an alternative to joining the EU, but that it should be understood as complementary to the European vision of the region.

"Values which are also the values of the EU need to be developed in the region: reconciliation, coexistence, cooperation and respecting differences between us and emphasising what is common to us."

Pahor also took advantage of the visit to Novi Sad to hold bilateral meetings with Pendarovski and Vučić.

The office of the North Macedonian president said that Pahor and Pendarovski had agreed that bilateral relations, which were based on friendship and understanding, were excellent.

They talked about how to further improve cooperation, the North Macedonian press agency Mia reported, adding that Pendarovski had thanked Slovenia for its open support for North Macedonia on its way to the EU and NATO, and that there was no alternative to the EU membership.

The three-day event, which will conclude on Saturday, is being attended by more than 200 young people from the region, who are discussing topical issues and challenges as part of panels with presidents, prime ministers and mayors.

According to the Serbian press agency Tanjug, the mayors' panel was attended by Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and Novi Sad Mayor Miloš Vučević, who announced that the Serbian city would officially endorse Ljubljana's bid for the European Capital of Culture title.

23 Nov 2019, 09:36 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 23 November

Mladina: Slovenia’s weakness at applying for EU funds

STA, 22 November 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina criticises Slovenian ministries for doing a poor job of preparing projects eligible for EU funds. The only exception seems to be the Justice Ministry, which has led to a situation in which Slovenia will be building a massive EUR 68 million prison, but not much-needed retirement homes and not-for-profit flats.

The prison project has been in the works since the term of former Justice Minister Lovro Šturm (2004-2008), Mladina editor-in-chief Gregor Repovž notes, adding that experts have said it resembled a prison serving medieval inquisition.

But surprisingly, the project was continued by Šturm's successor Aleš Zalar, who had said that the situation in Slovenian prisons was so poor that the country was paying compensation to prisoners. And then Justice Minister Goran Klemenčič stated the most important reason: Slovenia could get EU funds for the project.

When the next EU financial perspective is being negotiated countries pitch their plans and Brussels approved for Slovenia EUR 50 million for prisons in Slovenia in this perspective.

So the Justice Ministry made a simple calculation: the EU funds can cover up to 75% of the investment, thus Slovenia will be building a EUR 68 million prison. The project and its price are not based on actual needs but on the amount of EU funds available.

"And the most absurd thing? If this project goes through, Slovenia will once again be good at drawing of EU funds and the Justice Ministry (and the Prison Administration) will be the golden birdie."

Slovenia could also be drawing EU funds for much-needed retirement homes, but not a single retirement home has been built in the country for 15 years. "Simply because the Social Affairs Ministry has not stepped up in the recent years."

"The same could be said for the Infrastructure Ministry, which has failed for the past 20 years to become more active in building public flats, creating a crisis for 20 people who are unable to buy their own flat."

This shows it is very important what sort of a person heads a ministry. "Because the Justice Ministry has had two strong ministers in recent years, we will be building a disproportionately big prison, but not retirement homes and flats."

Demokracija: Deep state should be voted out of office

STA, 21 November 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija calls on "the good people" in Thursday's editorial to go to the polls in the next election to vote out of office "the bad guys" who are in power in Slovenia, which it says is ruled by the deep state.

The magazine gives several examples, including Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković's being untouchable for courts because he has "a membership card of the mafia deep state".

To join "this elite of first-class citizens", it takes publicly displaying hatred to opposition Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.

But it is not enough to hate Janša, he and his SDS must also be excluded from public life, which Prime Minister Marjan Šarec did by not inviting him to a recent session of the National Security Council, says Biščak.

The leader of the largest opposition party was not invited to the session nor was he informed about it, which Biščak says amounts to a coupe d'etat with which the largest opposition party was excluded from parliamentary democracy.

Biščak sees similar "stiffness" at the Constitutional Court, which has recently prevented a hearing in parliament in which prosecutor Niko Pušnik could reveal "the mafia workings of the deep state" by explaining how State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa exerted pressure on him in a case related to former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler.

"If the Government Palace has turned into a swamp under Šarec, then the Constitutional Court under its president Rajko Knez and the State Prosecution under Šketa and Zvonko Fišer are turning into a sewage system populated by rats. And these will never allow their comrades to be found guilty, giving each other immunity."

Biščak thus urges people to "clean Augeas' stables, to topple the bad boys ... so that a bad and corrupt government voted into office by the good people who do not go to the polls happens never again".

He says in the editorial Mafia Sends Cheques by Mail this is the only way "to give justice a chance and for mafia cheques to be no longer delivered by couriers."

All our posts in this series are here

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