01 Nov 2019, 13:11 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 1 November

Mladina: Problems with staffing in state firms

STA, 30 October 2019 - Mladina draws parallels in its latest commentary between the staffing policy in state-owned companies of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and that of the government of Janez Janša, arguing that the LMŠ is not being serious when it comes to managing state assets, and that it could be dangerous in the long run.

"When the management of Petrol stepped down last week, it was clear that the replacement took place because the management did not want to fulfil certain, actually very open wishes of the ruling party for staffing expansion."

Under the headline The Ides of October, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly Grega Repovž adds that the energy company Petrol, one of the largest companies in Slovenia, was not the only one faced with such a manner of staffing lately.

Actually, reporting of this soft (or even hard) pressure are numerous companies, and some of them have already been restructured. Management and supervisory boards have already been expanded in the motorway company DARS and the railway operator Slovenske Železnice, among others.

"Prime Minister Šarec claims that he has nothing to do with that, but he is not being credible, as at the same time he complains that his party has fewer of its people in companies than other parties do."

According to Repovž, there is no doubt whatsoever that his people, cabinet officials and ministers are making order in state-owned companies.

The management of Petrol is stepping down, but neither the prime minister, Slovenian Sovereign Holding nor the finance minister have explained this. "This is done when there is only one goal: to put someone of yours in a position, regardless of the cost."

Repovž argues that this is "completely unhealthy, suspicious and smelly. Even more: there are methods present that we witnessed during Janša' rule between 2004 and 2008."

This is how important companies, including Petrol, were managed. New managements of these companies usually put them into difficult situations with their lack of knowledge. Petrol barely managed to pick itself up after Janša's venting out."

A few exceptions excluded, Šarec's government is not putting strong staff in state-owned companies either, but its people, most of them with little knowledge and experience, concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Slovenia is in a swamp of a deep state

STA, 30 October 2019 – The right-leaning Demokracija argues in its latest commentary that it is because of the favourable attitude of the media towards the "holders of the former totalitarian authority" that Slovenia is where it is today - "in a swamp of a deep state".

One of the persons referred to is former Slovenian President Milan Kučan, the usual target of the right-leaning weekly, who is labelled as a key person who had initially "intimately" opposed Slovenia's independence.

"Later on, this person made plots to hinder Slovenia on its way to a truly free and democratic society," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Alligators in a Swamp and Pterodactyls in the Sky.

According to him, Kučan is still a deity for a majority of the journalist, editorial and managerial staff of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, "about whom it is literally prohibited to utter any criticism, let alone connect him with human rights violations."

It is also because of this attitude of the media that Slovenia is "in a swamp of a deep state, where the leftists elites are protected, sitting at the top of the food chain like predatory alligators and pterodactyls."

A pile of nonsense which has been uttered by these people and which should be exposed to serious criticism has gone by, and even deserved an applause, the commentator says, adding that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is leading the pack.

Šarec recently said in parliament that "taxes finance public services" with a straight face. "If this was true, it would mean that taxes grow on trees. That the government picks them and fills the budget basket. But this is not true."

Public services are largely financed by taxpayers, the mass of completely ordinary people who, without any connections or acquaintances, work hard in the private sector, which is increasing feeling the tax wedge.

"Because of the large amount they need to earmark to the state, we can say that they live in a kind of a state-controlled slavery, where it is completely clear who is the slave and who is the master," concludes Biščak.

All our posts in this series are here

01 Nov 2019, 11:34 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, 25 October
        LJUBLJANA - The Tomaž Berločnik-led management of energy group Petrol resigned "by mutual agreement" late on 24 October, capping a day of speculation about its fate amidst what media labelled a politically-motivated struggle to control one of Slovenia's largest companies.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court imposed a temporary injunction on the legislation governing parliamentary inquiry, which means the National Assembly's inquiry into prosecution of former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, a member of the upper chamber of parliament, will not be able to investigate judges for now.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec stressed the government would continue investing in the Slovenian Armed Forces, rejecting calls by the Left to withdraw soldiers from Afghanistan and cancel the planned purchase of Valuk six-wheeled armoured personnel carriers. He also signed a memorandum to set up regional command for special operations with his counterparts from Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's likely new European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, who has worked for the Foreign Ministry since 1992, handed in his resignation last week out of protest against a legal requirement which he believes deters Slovenian diplomats from taking jobs in international institutions.
        LJUBLJANA - Rudi Pavšič and Marjan Sturm, the long-serving retired leaders of umbrella minority organisations representing ethnic Slovenians in Italy and Austria, were honoured with the Medal of Merit for their decades-long efforts to promote minority rights and inter-cultural dialogue.
        LJUBLJANA - A code of conduct advising members of supervisory boards on how to act in case of political pressure was formed to tackle the issue in wake of a recent staffing pressure scandal at the Official Gazette.
        OSLO, Norway - The Slovenian Supreme Court received this year's Crystal Scales of Justice Prize, an award given out by the EU Council and the European Commission for innovative and effective judicial practices in the EU.

SATURDAY, 26 October
        KOPER - Primorske Novice reported that the Koper Higher Court ordered a retrial in a case involving plot purchases for a logistics hub in the town of Beltinci planned by port operator Luka Koper.
        CERKNO/VRHNIKA - A memorial plaque was unveiled at the site of a secret weapons depot of the Slovenian Territorial Defence force in 1990 and 1991 as part of celebrations of Sovereignty Day, a public holiday observed on 25 October to remember the day in 1991 when the last Yugoslav People's Army soldiers left Slovenia.

SUNDAY, 27 October
        LJUBLJANA - Ethiopian runner Kelkile Gezahegn Woldaregay won the men's marathon race in Ljubljana, clocking in at 2:07:29, the second fastest time in the history of the Ljubljana course. The women's race was won by Bornes Chepkirui Kitur from Kenya, who set a new women's record with a finish time of 2:21:26.
        MARIBOR - No Title Yet (Še ni naslova), directed by Tomi Janežič and produced by the Slovensko mladinsko gledališče theatre, won the award for best play as the curtain fell on the 54th Maribor Theatre Festival.
        SÖLDEN, Austria - Slovenian alpine skier Žan Kranjec picked up where he left off at the end of last season, finishing third in the season opening giant slalom World Cup race in Austria's Sölden.

MONDAY, 28 October
        BUDAPEST, Hungary - PM Marjan Šarec and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban called for stronger economic cooperation in what was their first official meeting. Also commenting on the Koper rail track project, Orban said Hungary was still willing to consider participating "if the situation in Slovenia changes".
        LJUBLJANA - The National Council unanimously vetoed the government-sponsored bill designed to provide legal recourse for holders of subordinated bank liabilities wiped out on instruction of the EU in the 2013 bank bailout. It also vetoed the raise of minimum net hourly rate for student work.
        PRAGUE, Czech Republic - The Czech investment group PPF, owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, signed an agreement on the takeover of the US-owned CME fund, which also owns Slovenia's leading television network group Pro Plus.
        DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar paid a two-day working visit to the United Arab Emirates. He visited the site of the Expo 2020, meeting the Expo Director General Reem Al Hashimiand, and met the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court said it suspended, pending a final decision, the implementation of a criminal procedure act provision allowing house searches without the presence of the resident or their representative.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Bank Association said that the pending new consumer lending restrictions would have wide ramifications if the state failed to provide alternative financing sources after Banka Slovenije imposes effective on 1 November restrictions to consumer and housing loans. PM Šarec also criticised the planned measure on 29 October.
        LJUBLJANA - The ZSSS trade union confederation said it reported about labour exploitation occurring within Slovenia's system of temporarily posting workers to other EU countries and to the European Labour Authority (ELA).
        MARIBOR - A couple of unexploded aerial bombs, relics from the Second World War, were unearthed in two locations in Maribor over the weekend and were expected to be defused later in the week. This will prompt the evacuation of thousands of people in the vicinity of the defusing sites.
        NEW YORK, US - Slovenian mission to the UN co-hosted with the Council of Europe (CoE) and UNESCO an event discussing the challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) at the UN headquarters.

TUESDAY, 29 October
        LJUBLJANA - MPs voted 34:18 to confirm amendments scraping a bonus for social benefit recipients who work. The majority of MPs agreed that the bonus, introduced in 2012 as a corrective welfare measure and work incentive, in many cases discouraged people from taking a full-time job.
        VELENJE/LJUBLJANA - The household appliances maker Gorenje will be split into two companies as part of group integration a year after it was taken over by Chinese conglomerate Hisense, with the management moving to Ljubljana as a separate company and providing corporate support services for all Hisense companies in Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed legislative changes making most public transportation free of charge for pensioners and persons with disabilities, among others, as of 1 July 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - Nine Slovenian meat processing companies recalled their products after the Food Safety Administration warned on 25 October that meat from an Austrian abattoir that failed to meet the required standards might have entered food supply chain.
        LJUBLJANA - Men outnumbered women in Slovenia in the first half of 2019 for the first time in the 160-year long history of population statistics recording in the present-day territory of Slovenia. In the total number of residents of Slovenia, which includes foreigners, recorded on 1 July there were 1,045,835 men and 1,043,475 women.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of road and urban public transport passengers dropped in 2018 on the previous year, while the rail passenger figure stayed mostly level. Passenger traffic in the Slovenian port and air passenger transport saw an increase last year, with the number of ship passengers going up the most - by as much as 23%.

WEDNESDAY, 30 October
        LJUBLJANA - Consumer prices in Slovenia grew at an annual rate of 1.4% in October, down from 1.7% in September, while monthly inflation was 0.1%. Annual inflation is driven by higher prices of services, which were up 3.2% to contribute 1 p. p. to the rise. Pushing annual inflation up by 0.4 p. p. were higher prices of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels, also as a result of prices of refuse collection increasing by 18.2%, the Statistics Office said.
        LJUBLJANA - A total of 5.2 million tourists were recorded in Slovenia in the first nine months, generating 13.2 million overnight stays, with the numbers going up 5.7% and 1.9%, respectively.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS) visited the SOVA national intelligence and security agency in the morning in connection to a current development in Slovenia's economy. The inquiry was allegedly prompted by the management board overhaul at energy company Petrol.
        LJUBLJANA - A potential partner of a new flag carrier which might be set up to fill the void left by Adria Airways's bankruptcy is a regional airline, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told the weekly Mladina in an interview. Pressed, he would not reveal who the potential partner was.
        LJUBLJANA - Geza Filo, the outgoing head of Slovenia's Evangelical Lutheran Church, told the STA that the spirit and teachings of the Reformation are still topical 500 years after the movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church shook Europe. At the national ceremony marking the holiday, Speaker Dejan Židan stressed in his keynote the importance of love for one's native tongue.

THURSDAY, 31 October
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia observed reformation Day, a bank holiday. Luther Bishop Geza Filo delivered a mass that was attended by top representatives of the state and other religious communities.
        MARIBOR - The first of two WWII-era bombs discovered at construction sites in Maribor was successfully diffused in a two-hour operation. Some 80 people in the 300-metre radius had to be evacuated.

All our posts in this series are here

30 Oct 2019, 12:15 PM

STA, 29 October 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash on day two of his working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), discussing with him further cooperation and the situations in the Middle East and Western Balkans, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday.

In the afternoon, Cerar officially inaugurated in Abu Dhabi Slovenia's first embassy in a Gulf country, which has been operating since 2018.

Cerar said in his address that the embassy was an "important step forward in deepening Slovenian relations with the UAE and the region". A similar a sentiment was expressed by Gargash in their meeting earlier in the day.

"Our countries share common values and mutual interests and it is time now to unleash our full potential for cooperation." Slovenia highly values "the role of the UAE in sustainable development, modern technology, food safety, exploration of space."

"Slovenia also possesses rich experiences and extensive knowledge in many areas and is keen on sharing these with our friends and partners," said the foreign minister.

After visiting the grounds of 2020 Expo in Dubai yesterday, Cerar said at the embassy opening that the exhibition was the first major opportunity for to promote Slovenia and said that the help of some 300 Slovenians living in UAE would be very important in this respect.

Cerar's talks with Gargash meanwhile focused on the Middle East and the Western Balkans, as well as Yemen and the importance of bringing an end to the suffering of civilian population.

Cerar also presented to Gargash a project by ITF - Enhancing Human Security in Yemen. It was reported earlier in the year that the Slovenia-run fund was supported in this project with a EUR 600,000 donation from the UAE.

This morning a commission for economic cooperation brought together representatives of a number of Slovenians and UAE ministries to discuss cooperation projects in business, logistics, science and artificial intelligence.

29 Oct 2019, 09:00 AM

STA, 28 October 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban called for strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries. The pair moreover urged a continuation of EU enlargement, while also discussing migration.

Hungary is Slovenia's sixth largest trade partner, with trade increasing by 9.1% in 2018 to exceed EUR 2 billion for the first time.

"I'm happy about this figure, but I'll be even happier if it will be higher," Šarec told the press after the meeting.

The pair meanwhile expressed regret that EU leaders recently failed to provide the green light for the start of accession negotiation talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Šarec and Orban also talked about the situation of the respective minorities in Slovenia and Hungary, agreeing both needed to be secured opportunities for developing economically in the areas where they lived.

Orban dedicated a substantial part of the press conference to migration, saying that the two countries knew very well what migration was and what it meant if a large number of migrants crossed the border in an uncontrolled way.

Šarec added that the issue of migration needed to be addressed at its root. "This is the joint task of the EU," he said.

The Slovenian PM was also scheduled to meet parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Köver and Slovenians living in Hungary.

Accompanied by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Šarec also attended an annual promotional event hosted by the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO).

All  our stories on Hungary and Slovenia are here

26 Oct 2019, 10:21 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 25 October

Mladina: Student work debate shows MPs out of touch with reality

STA, 25 October 2019 - Mladina, the lef-leaning weekly, is critical in its commentary on Friday of MPs and their disparaging comments about students as they were debating a rise in hourly wage for student work. Criticising students, while failing to make it easier for them to afford going to university, shows that MPs have no clue about the social reality of the country.

The weekly praises the coalition for increasing hourly wages for student work to EUR 4.56 nett, albeit by less than initially planned.

However, the discourse during the plenary debate was barely acceptable. If they had been talking about women, it would be chauvinism, if it were foreigners, it would be racism, Mladina editor-on-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Students? A Pest?

MPs do simply not understand what a child, or two, at university means for an average Slovenian family. It calculates that two children studying in Ljubljana cost about EUR 1,000 a month, which is a lot of money even for a middle-class family.

Students work and they have expenses besides just housing and food. This is 2019 and there is nothing wrong with the notion that student life should not be complete misery.

Many MPs likely had to sacrifice a lot and work hard manual jobs in exchange for poor pay, while they were studying. "But this society has advanced, GDP has grown to EUR 22,000, and the standard of living has increased for students, just like for everybody else."

Most students do not work 170 hours a month, most work between 60 and 70 hours a month and make about EUR 300. Saying they represent unfair competition is obscene.

They are hired because they are more flexible, they can work weekends, when most full-time employees need to get childcare. What is more, students do not get paid extra for working weekends, nights and holidays, like full-time employees.

While a family with average income can barely afford to send two children to university, those leasing apartments to students in Ljubljana will on average make an additional EUR 2,400 in the coming year as a result of growing rents, the weekly says.

Of course, these rents are off the books so that flat owners can avoid paying tax. While MPs were not short on words in their criticism of students, did they take any measures against Airbnb to reign in the growth of rents?

"How many student dorms will be built next year? Hasn't the coalition given up on a property tax? Didn't the coalition just now lower tax on labour, especially for those with highest pay?"

Reporter: SOVA should be rebuilt from scratch

STA, 21 October 2019 – Reporter, the right-leaning weekly, takes the opportunity of the controversial hiring of an acquaintance of PM Marjan Šarec in SOVA (Slovenska obveščevalno-varnostna agencija)  to say in its latest commentary that the national intelligence and security agency should be rebuilt from scratch as it has been completely discredited by politicians.

"SOVA should be demolished to the ground and then built anew," Silvester Šurla, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly says under the headline From a Target to Death.

Politicians who have been in power in the last three decades have completely "plucked and discredited this mysterious bird", he adds in reference to SOVA meaning an owl in Slovenian.

The secret service which should protect the interests of the state has been the grounds for political battles, with SOVA being hit by scandals under every government. Its agents have even been on strike and the agency has become a "caricature of itself, a disgrace for the country."

Each government has been employing their people in the agency following the party affiliation or family lines, with the first public call for applications being published only this year. "A bunch of rotten eggs have ended up in SOVA's nest."

In this "spy brothel", there are few innocent politicians who would be without a sin, and the battle for SOVA, for who will use it and (probably) abuse it for their political goals, is actually a battle for power.

"Politicians who should act from the position of statesmen towards SOVA, they engage in politicking. And then everybody are surprised by intelligence information produced by SOVA having practically no applicable value."

All our posts in this series are here

25 Oct 2019, 16:52 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, 18 October
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, speaking at the conclusion of the EU summit, said Slovenia opposed for the outgoing EU Commission to take a decision on Croatia's meeting the requirements to join the Schengen zone. This was after six of the eight Slovenian MEPs addressed an appeal calling for the new Commission to make that decision to Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and current and next president of the European Council.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Commenting on the EU summit's failure to greenlight the launch of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said that an opportunity had been missed, that the damage was done now and that the EU's credibility in the region was shaken.
        NICOSIA, Cyprus - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides and Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris as part of an official visit for an exchange of views on topical developments in the EU, Mediterranean and the Middle East, and bilateral relations. Cerar was accompanied on the two-day visit by a business delegation.
        LJUBLJANA - A committee in support of Catalan leaders, set up at the initiative of former President Milan Kučan, philosopher and sociologist Spomenka Hribar, Ljubljana Faculty of Arts professor Rudi Rizman and former Foreign Minister Ivo Vajgl, held its maiden session to protest against the "draconian" prison sentences handed out to the nine independence leaders, as well as against the EU institutions' silence on the issue. The committee later sent a protest statement to Slovenian and European leaders.
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry announced that the chief of staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Major General Alenka Ermenc, withdrew her proposal to prosecute Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc, whom she had sacked as force commander in April, for commenting on her health. However, Ermenc will push ahead with legal action against the online tabloid Požareport, which was the first to report about her health.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Academy of Music launched a facsimile of a copy of Ludwig van Beethoven's manuscript of Symphony No. 6 containing the composer's handwritten corrections, allegedly Beethoven's present to the Philharmonic Society in Ljubljana in gratitude for being admitted as its honorary member in 1819. Kept by the National and University Library, the Ljubljana copy of the Pastoral Symphony is one of the two preserved copies of Beethoven's autograph score.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court held pre-trial hearings in an insurance fraud case that shocked Slovenia earlier this year involving a young woman who cut off her hand to claim insurance. The 21-year-old, Julija Adlešič, and her 29-year-old partner Sebastien Abramov, who allegedly persuaded her to saw off her hand, pleaded not guilty. They are both in custody.

SATURDAY, 19 October
        WASHINGTON, US - Central bank Governor Boštjan Vasle and Finance Ministry State Secretary Metod Dragonja, attending the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF, told reporters that Slovenia's economic condition was sound despite risks to the global economy. They did note the issue of high public debt, though.
        TRBOVLJE - Delo reported that Lafarge Cement, the Slovenian subsidiary of the Switzerland-headquartered multinational LafargeHolcim, asked for an environmental permit to resume cement grinding, storage and dispatch in Trbovlje at the beginning of next year. Lafarge Cement suspended operations in February 2015, having lost an environmental permit.

SUNDAY, 20 October
        LJUBLJANA - Voter approval rating for the Marjan Šarec government fell by 11.4 percentage points in the October Vox Populi poll commissioned by TV Slovenija and newspapers Dnevnik and Večer. The proportion of supporters and opponents is all but tied at 49.2% against 48.2%. Šarec's LMŠ party slid 3.2 points to 20.1% ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS), who lost 0.8 points to 14.7%.

MONDAY, 21 October
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia's position on the British parliament's request for another postponement of Brexit was that "another delay would make sense" as long as it would justifiably contribute to an orderly Brexit.
        LJUBLJANA - Addressing parliament in questions time, PM Marjan Šarec said he was convinced a draft proposal amending Slovenia's electoral law by adopting the relative preferential vote would get enough support in parliament, also because voters had shown they were in support of such a vote.
        LJUBLJANA - Ex-Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler appeared as the first witness in the contentious parliamentary inquiry into the allegation that criminal prosecution against him was politically motivated. Kangler described the prosecution against him as a plot unthinkable in a law-ruled country, while the inquiry proposed parliamentary oversight of the Maribor police force. While the inquiry is being examined by the Constitutional Court, concern has also been raised by the OECD.
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar met his Serbian counterpart Nebojša Stefanović at the outset of a two-day visit to Serbia for talks focused on bilateral relations, a spike in illegal migration and Serbia's EU integration. The next day the pair visited Slovenian-Serbian border police patrols at the Preševo crossing with North Macedonia aimed at stopping illegal migrants.
        KOPER - The police forces of Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Europol dismantled a criminal ring smuggling illegal migrants to the EU through the Balkan countries. Ten persons, including four Slovenians, are charged for having smuggled at least 150 migrants across the border.
TUESDAY, 22 October
        LJUBLJANA - As the European Commission gave Croatia its go-ahead to enter the Schengen zone, PM Marjan Šarec labelled the decision political and regretted it was made right before the end of the Commission's term. He indicated Slovenia would act politically on the matter too. Slovenian diplomatic sources expressed belief that the country should veto Croatia's joining the passport-free zone. Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) Janez Janša argued that Croatia's joining the Schengen zone was in Slovenia's strategic interest.
        TOKYO, Japan - President Borut Pahor started a two-day visit to Japan by attending Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony. The next day he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visited the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation in Tsukuba, decorating director-general Masanori Yamauchi with the Order of Merit for his contribution to international promotion of Slovenian science.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec met his Croatian counterpart Damir Krstičević with the pair lauding the countries' defence cooperation. Erjavec did not want to comment on whether Croatia was prepared for joining the Schengen area, saying this was not in his purview.
        LJUBLJANA - The government-sponsored bill designed to provide legal recourse for up to 100,000 potential plaintiffs - holders of subordinated bank liabilities wiped out in the 2013 bank bailout - was passed in a 46:34 vote. The central bank had announced a constitutional review.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council found the draft budgets for 2020 and 2021 in compliance with fiscal rules, but warned of risks because the financial impact of bills that are being adopted, including those pushed by the minority government's opposition partner, the Left, was not factored in. Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said not all the risks could be fully included in the budget documents.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament backed legislative changes that raise the minimum net hourly rate for student work from EUR 4.13 to EUR 4.56. The opposition Left, which initiated the raise, had been pushing for more, but failed to get the coalition's support because of concerns about the impact on businesses.
        LJUBLJANA - The foundation stone was laid for the construction of nearly 500 public rental flats in the Ljubljana Brdo borough. The EUR 57 million project is part of the national Housing Fund's project to build 1,500 rental flats to expanding its portfolio by 10,000 new flats by 2025.
        LJUBLJANA - Virs, the Lendava-based supplier of welding and cutting solutions, won the Golden Gazelle Award for the fastest-growing company in Slovenia, conferred by the newspaper publisher Dnevnik. It increased revenue almost fourfold in five years to EUR 8.2 million in 2018.

WEDNESDAY, 23 October
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a package of tax bills that reduce personal income tax while increasing taxes on capital gains and rental income and introducing a minimum corporate income tax rate of 7%. The government's aim was to reduce the tax burden of highly skilled workers, in order to attract such staff to Slovenia, while the Left insisted the reform would primary benefit the rich.
        LJUBLJANA - Chile Eboe-Osuji, the president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), held meetings with Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Justice Minister Andreja Katič as part of a visit to Slovenia. They discussed the challenges of international criminal justice. Cerar pledged for Slovenia to remain a firm ally of the ICC and to promote its values in bilateral and international activities.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Delo reported that the government had put forward to Brussels three candidates for the post of Slovenia's prosecutor at the emerging European Public Prosecutor's Office; Jaka Brezigar, Tanja Frank Eler and Marjana Grašič.
        LJUBLJANA - The Trade Union of Pensioners and a civil initiative presented a petition, calling for a 7.2% extra indexation of pensions to compensate for the austerity measures that have affected pensioners since 2010. Signed by almost 14,000 people, the petition was handed to PM Marjan Šarec and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.
        LJUBLJANA - Data from the central bank showed that Slovenia's inbound FDI stock increased by 8.6% in 2018 to EUR 15.2 billion, as outbound FDI stock rose by 1.6% to EUR 6.1 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Music Academy marked its 80th anniversary and the centenary of higher music education with a ceremony at Cankarjev Dom. Dean Marko Vatovec told the STA in an interview that the academy had made great progress with its graduates a feature of Europe's leading orchestras.
THURSDAY, 24 October
        LJUBLJANA - The government as the founder and only shareholder of 2TDK approved a EUR 56 million recapitalisation for the company managing the Koper-Divača rail project in accordance with the relevant law. This will increase the company's share capital to EUR 77 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to recall Iztok Jarc as ambassador to Serbia and appoint him permanent representative to the EU, to succeed Janez Lenarčič, a European commissioner-designate.
        LJUBLJANA - The management of energy company Petrol headed by CEO Tomaž Berločnik agreed with the supervisory board to step down over differences in the company's strategy.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-run Farmland and Forest Fund confirmed that it had been ordered by the Ljubljana Higher Court to pay just over EUR 21 million in damages to the Ljubljana Archdiocese due to delays in denationalisation of forests, EUR 17 million of which it paid already.
        LJUBLJANA - David Tasić, a former journalist of the weekly Mladina who was one of the four political convicts in the 1988 JBTZ trial, a key event leading to Slovenia's independence, died aged 57. The quartet tried by a military court included Janez Janša, the long-serving leader of the Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted an annex to the agreement governing the scope of public healthcare services and their financing to allow an extra EUR 10 million worth of services to cut waiting times. The money will be secured by the Health Insurance Institute.
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the Mapping and Surveying Authority showed signs of stagnation in property prices in the first half of 2019, following three years of steep growth. Prices of flats are very close to the record levels in 2008, while prices of houses are lagging behind significantly.
        LJUBLJANA - A report from the Statistics Office showed that Slovenian households stepped up saving in 2018, recording a gross household saving rate of 12.6%, up 0.2 percentage points on 2017 and one of the highest in Europe.
        MARIBOR - Police revealed that they had dismantled a criminal ring that made an estimated EUR 1.3 million in illegal gains by smuggling at least 143 Chinese from China to Italy through Slovenia over the past year and a half. Of the four Slovenians and eight Chinese operating the ring, three are in detention and two in house arrest.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Writers' Association presented the EUR 1,000 Jenko Prize for best poetry collection from the past two years to Kaja Teržan for her second collection, Krog (The Circle).

All our posts in this series are here

24 Oct 2019, 21:45 PM

STA, 24 October 2019 - David Tasić, a former journalist of the weekly Mladina, a publisher and one of the four political convicts in the JBTZ trial, a key event in the mosaic of Slovenian independence, has died, the newspaper Delo reported on Thursday.

Tasić was born in Kurševac, Serbia, in 1962. Between 1981 and 1989 he was a journalist and editor for Mladina.

He covered political events in Slovenia and Yugoslavia, and opened up topics that were considered taboo at the time. His feuilleton on Goli Otok, an island in Croatia where Yugoslav authorities deported political prisoners, raised a lot of dust.

On 31 May 1988, Janez Janša, a Mladina journalist at the time, and private Ivan Borštner were arrested for leaking a military document. Four days later, on 4 June 1988, Tasić and the magazine's editor-in-chief Franci Zavrl were also arrested.

The arrests led to the formation of a committee for the protection of Janša's rights, which later evolved into the Human Rights Committee, which organised mass protests against trying civilians in a military court and against the trials being held in the Serbian language, the language used in the Yugoslav People's Army.

At the end of June 1988, the Yugoslav People's Army court sentenced Borštner to four years in prison, Janša and Zavrl to 18 months, and Tasić to five months.

In mid-October 1988, the Military Supreme Court in Belgrade upheld the sentences and raised the punishment for Tasić to ten months, but none of the defendants served out their full sentences.

Apart from energising the fight for human rights, the JBTZ trial - named after the initials of the four defendants - spurred pluralisation and speeded up Slovenia's transition to independence and democracy, which is known as Slovenian Spring.

Tasić left Mladina in 1989 and went on to set up one of the first independent private publishers in Slovenia, Založba Karantanija. Since 1999, he focussed on studying phaleristics and kept a low public profile.

Taking to Twitter, Janša, who now leads the opposition Democrats (SDS), said Tasić "was a hero of the Slovenian Spring in 1988 and 2014, a good and upright man, and a fighter for freedom and light".

Zavrl told the STA that Tasić "was extremely honest and uncorrupted, and did not tolerate injustice. As a journalist he was always polite, yet also critical."

He sees Tasić's role in the JBTZ scandal as extremely important: "He was at the very centre of developments. He had the courage to take this little stone - which the

23 Oct 2019, 19:10 PM

STA, 23 October 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor met Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday, with Pahor thanking the Japanese prime minister for the opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting in the days when the Japanese capital is hosting numerous world leaders who attended Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony yesterday.

"Slovenia understands this as a recognition and gesture of special attention from Japan," the president's office quoted Pahor, adding that the meeting with Abe had been held in the spirit of excellent bilateral relations.

Abe meanwhile thanked Pahor on his attendance of the enthronement ceremony in Tokyo, with Pahor noting that he attended such events only exceptionally, according to his office.

It noted that bilateral economic cooperation had been boosted following the Slovenian president's visit to Japan in 2013 and the visit by Miro Cerar in 2016 in the capacity of prime minister in 2016.

Pahor stressed on the occasion that "what is more important than merely capital is business culture, and the Japanese business culture is close to Slovenians."

Abe meanwhile assessed that Slovenia was interesting to Japan, being a member of the EU and NATO and having excellent relations with all countries of the Western Balkans.

Pahor and Abe also talked about the situation on the Korean Peninsula, agreeing that effort should be invested to find a peaceful solution and achieve reconciliation.

The Slovenian president showed understanding for Japan's concern about the unpredictability of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the office added.

The Japanese prime minister said he would like to visit Slovenia, with Pahor saying he would gladly welcome him in his country.

On the last day of this two-day visit to Japan, Pahor also visited the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation (KEK) in Tsukuba near Tokyo, where Slovenian scientists have been involved in an antimatter project.

Pahor met KEK director-general Masanori Yamauchi and Slovenian scientists and viewed the electron-positron supercollider. On the occasion, Pahor decorated professor Yamauchi with the Order of Merit for his contribution in promotion of Slovenian science in the world.

All our stories about Japan are here

23 Oct 2019, 13:16 PM

STA, 22 October 2019 - Commenting on the European Commission assessing that Croatia has met the conditions to enter the Schengen zone, PM Marjan Šarec regretted on Tuesday that such an important decision had been made right before the end of the Commission's term. Speaking of a political decision, Šarec expects Croatia to meet all technical and legal conditions.

"We had already said that if the decision was political, then Slovenia would also act politically and in line with its interests," Šarec reiterated at an event in Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana.

He said that the European Commission had apparently put the issue on the agenda at the end of the term, which "seems disputable to us". It would be better if the new Commission dealt with that, he added.

The prime minister's office quoted Šarec earlier as saying that "Slovenia expects that Croatia will meet all conditions, both technical and legal, including the respect of the rule of law, to enter the Schengen zone."

It added that Croatia must show the ability to protect the external border effectively and thus ensure security of the entire EU.

According to Šarec, Croatia needs to carry out a number of activities to be able to ensure permanent and effective management of the external border of the EU and to fully meet the required technical conditions.

The prime minister also told the press in Cankarjev Dom that "we are a bit worried" regarding Croatia meeting the technical requirements, noting that "we have had 12,000 illegal migrants already this year."

He added that "this means that they are coming from somewhere and that the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia is porous. This is why I doubt that this will change over night with the potential entry to Schengen."

Interior Ministry State Secretary Sandi Čurin meanwhile told the press that the green light from the European Commission was only an intermediate step in the process of Croatia's accession to the Schengen zone.

He noted that the assessment procedure was far from being concluded and that the "accession of a country to the Schengen zone is decided on by the member states with consensus."

"Today's message is exclusively intended for supporting Croatia in its efforts to enter the Schengen zone and encouraging it to make the steps needed to meet all standards and conditions," Čurin said.

He stressed that it was not an implementing act, as those were subject to discussion by the EU Council, and that it had no legal consequences whatsoever.

European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said that the report was only one of the steps in the process, adding that before any enlargement of Schengen, it needed to be secured that the system was fully functional.

Speaking to the press in Brussels, the Slovenian EU commissioner said that she had told the fellow commissioners at today's meeting that the Schengen area as it was known today was not functioning as a whole.

"There are still six Schengen countries - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria and France - which have kept border checks within the Schengen area, including on the border between Austria and Slovenia," she noted.

Bulc believes that the final assessment should take into account the progress that needs to be made in the migration policy, protection of external borders, rule of law and good neighbourly relations.

Noting that consent of the EU Council was required for the decision that Croatia entered Schengen, the commissioner said that the member states, including Slovenia, would have the final say based on a technical report.

The parliamentary parties which have so far responded to the announcement expressed varied opinions.

Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan, the head of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), said that it was a "political decision" which makes "Europe lose reputation even more".

Židan believes that an outgoing European Commission should not adopt any major decisions and "as a European" he wished that the next European Commission would act differently.

Jožef Horvat of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) said that it was somewhat unusual for the outgoing Commission to take such an important decision, adding that the precise conditions that Croatia needed to fulfil were known.

"If such a decision is made casually, the Schengen regime will definitely collapse, as it has already been strongly undermined with controls on internal borders", he added.

Horvat said that the NSi "is not on the side of those who would make ultimatums", which Zmago Jelinčič of the opposition National Party (SNS) agreeing, saying that "Slovenia will achieve nothing by extorting Croatia."

They were probably referring to speculation Slovenia could make its approval of Croatia's entry to the Schengen zone conditional on Croatia fully implementing the border arbitration decision.

Matej T. Vatovec of the opposition Left too said that blocking Croatia's entry to the Schengen zone would be counter-productive.

He supports Croatia entering the Schengen zone as soon as possible as the borders would be eliminated, which would make life in the border area easier and be followed by the elimination of border fences and razor wire.

Slovenian MEPs have expressed different opinions about the assessment, but a majority regrets that it has been made by an outgoing Commission. They also noted that the EU Council will have the final say on the matter.

"I regret the move by the outgoing European Commission. Instead of eliminating internal borders ... it is giving the false hope of the expansion of Schengen," said Milan Brglez (S&D/SD).

His party colleague Tanja Fajon added that the "message from the Juncker commission would be remembered as one of the most political ever," as it suggested that accession to the Schengen zone was no longer a technical process.

Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (both Renew/LMŠ) also regretted the European Commission making a "political" decision right before the end of the term.

They agree that the expansion of the Schengen zone is in everybody's interest, including Slovenia's, but that there should not be a sliver of doubt in the professionalism of such a decision.

Ljudmila Novak (EPP/NSi) said the decision should have been left to the new European Commission. "Today's decision will not be able to avoid the connotation of political, and not professional decision-making."

Agreeing with Novak, Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS) said that the decision was inappropriate and unfair as the readiness of Croatia to effectively protect its borders with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia was being realistically doubted.

On the other hand, Romana Tomc (EPP/SDS) believes that the European Commission was unbiased and professional in its decision. She noted that the member states would have the final say in a consensual decision.

"This means that Prime Minister Šarec has the opportunity to prevent Croatia from entering Schengen if he thinks that there are reasons for this and if this benefits Slovenia," she added.

Her party colleague Milan Zver thinks that Croatia has taken the appropriate measures, and that the Slovenian public will welcome the elimination of the Schengen border between Slovenia and Croatia as this would mean smoother traffic.

All our stories on Croatia are here

19 Oct 2019, 10:20 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, 11 October
        ATHENS, Greece - Attending the Arraiolos meeting of presidents from 13 EU countries, President Borut Pahor said the EU had been much more successful in addressing the economic crisis than it was now in addressing the migration crisis. In a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, they agreed to attend a ceremony marking 100 years since the Fascists burnt down the Slovenian National Home in Trieste next year.
        KOPER - Yusen Logistics, a Japanese supply chain logistics company, opened its subsidiary in the port city, thus becoming the first Japanese freight forwarder in Slovenia. The launch was an important step for the Slovenian port operator Luka Koper as well since it promotes the transport route via Koper.
        BARCELONA, Spain - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar called for empowering youth through education and intercultural dialogue at the Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona, which was attended by foreign ministers of northern and southern Mediterranean countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Defence Committee discussed the state budgets for 2020 and 2021, when funds for the national defence system will nominally rise. In 2020, the Defence Ministry will get EUR 545.85 million and in 2021 EUR 561 million. The latter figure is nominally higher but not if measured as a share in GDP, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec told the MPs.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Finance Committee decided to ask the Court of Audit to review the 2016 sale of now bankrupt carrier Adria Airways to the German turnaround fund 4K, and to present its findings to parliament as soon as possible. The Court of Audit said it might do so next year.

SATURDAY, 12 October
        GORNJA RADGONA - The border communities of Gornja Radgona in Slovenia and Bad Radkersburg in Austria marked the 50th anniversary of the bridge linking them with a high-profile ceremony that sent out a message that the countries would like to make their cooperation even better. The ceremony was addressed by Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and the Governor of Austrian Styria, Hermann Schützenhöfer.
        LJUBLJANA - Zmago Skobir, the CEO of Fraport Slovenija, told Dnevnik in an interview that Adria Airways's collapse would have consequences for Ljubljana airport stemming from Adria's debt as well as from a loss of income, but he said he was not in favour of incorporating a new state-owned airline.
        LJUBLJANA - The Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizzair announced it would fly between Ljubljana and Brussels in winter despite its initial decision to suspend flights. Flights are scheduled for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 19 December on. On 16 October, SWISS launched scheduled flights between Zurich and Ljubljana.
        IDRIJA - Hidria Holding, the company controlling a group that mostly manufactures hi-tech products for the car industry, posted a net profit of EUR 12.3 million for 2018, down 21% over 2017 despite net sales revenue rising by 6.6% to EUR 266.1 million.

SUNDAY, 13 October
        VELENJE - Premogovnik Velenje, the mine operator supplying coal to the TEŠ thermal power plant, slipped back into the red last year after it managed to stay in the black for three years. It posted a loss of EUR 3.8 million, after generating a net profit of EUR 3.4 million the year before. Net sales revenue was down by 5.2% to EUR 108.6 million.
        TRIESTE, Italy - Sailor Gašper Vinčec and his crew won the Barcolana, the biggest mass start sailing regatta in the world. The crew also included Slovenia's best professional cyclist Primož Roglič.

MONDAY, 14 October
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec made a case for the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans in a letter to the European Council president and EU leaders. He argued that yet another postponement of the decision to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania should not be an option.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court annulled part of the controversial amendments passed in January 2017 that define a special temporary regime on the border in the event of mass migration. The court believes that the provision violates the constitutionally-guaranteed principle of non-refoulement.
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg/LJUBLJANA - Responding to the prison sentences handed in Spain to Catalan leaders, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said after an EU ministerial that Spain was a sovereign country and that Slovenia should not interfere in its internal legal order. Ex-Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel on the other hand spoke of an "enormous scandal" and analyst Luka Lisjak Gabrijelčič of "distinctively political" judicial arguments. Cerar later called the sentences harsh and long.
        LUXEMBOURG - The European Court of Justice postponed by more than a month Advocate General Priit Pikamäe's independent legal opinion on the admissibility of Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia over its refusal to respect the 2017 border arbitration award. Pikamäe's opinion will be released on 11 December.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry presented a draft housing bill that aims to make housing more accessible to those in precarious jobs, young families and the poor, as well secure more effective management of apartment blocks. It also makes it harder for owners to rent out their apartment through Airbnb.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian and Croatian health minsters Aleš Šabeder and Milan Kujundžić agreed that their departments would relaunch cooperation in treating children with congenital heart disease. This comes after Slovenia gave up the plan to establish a regional treatment centre with the help of a US-based surgeon.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's intelligence and security agency SOVA denounced "known and unknown perpetrators" to the State Prosecutor's Office and police on suspicion of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The move comes after information about staffing at SOVA was leaked to the media following a visit by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission.
TUESDAY, 15 October
        LJUBLJANA - The International Monetary Fund downgraded its projection of growth of the Slovenian gross domestic product for this year from 3.4% to 2.9%, with the correction following the recent downgrade by the government macroeconomic think tank IMAD to 2.8%.
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar expressed regret over France's opposition to North Macedonia and Albania joining the bloc, which prevented EU affairs ministers from initiating accession talks for the two countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission, which is examining allegations that PM Marjan Šarec intervened to secure a job at the SOVA intelligence agency for a friend, expressed expectation that the government would allow it to conduct an inquiry into the matter. However, Šarec insisted the next day that the public employees inspectorate and not the commission was responsible for investigating the allegations. The inspectorate is looking into the matter.
        LJUBLJANA - Constitutional Court President Rajko Knez denied the allegation by court judge Klemen Jaklič, who in his dissenting opinion to the court's decision on the amendments to the foreigners act accused fellow judge Matej Accetto of political bias and lying. Knez denied that Accetto mislead the court about his ties with the Modern Centre Party (SMC) when the court deliberated on whether he should exclude himself from decision-making about a 2017 referendum on the Koper-Divača rail project.
        FRANKFURT, Germany - Economy Ministry State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar, accompanied by the top executives of Slovenia's bad bank, met representatives of Lufthansa to analyse the aviation market in the wake of the receivership of the German-owned Slovenian flag carrier Adria Airways.

WEDNESDAY, 16 October
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee discussed the draft state budgets for 2020 and 2021, hearing that the Foreign Ministry's budget will increase from EUR 94 million this year to EUR 100.4 million in 2020 and EUR 112.6 million in 2021 mostly due to Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021, which is to cost the country EUR 80 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Finance Committee finalised a package of tax bills that slightly reduce the taxation of labour in favour of higher taxes on capital, after adopting last-minute amendments to counter criticism that the legislation amounted to a generous handout to the rich. The legislative package is slated for passage at the National Assembly plenary next week.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian police recorded a drop in illegal migration in September, however the number of illegal border crossings in the first nine months of the year is still 70.5% above last year's figure, at 11,786.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian PEN Centre joined the protest by PEN International against the prison sentences imposed on the Catalan writers and civil society leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart by the Spanish Supreme Court.
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec ordered an internal probe at the Administration for Food Safety, Veterinary Sector and Plant Protection, over its belated reporting about the discovery of a banned additive in minced meat sold in five supermarkets.

THURSDAY, 17 October
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Arriving for a two-day EU summit, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec welcomed the deal on an orderly Brexit reached by EU and British negotiators, expressing the hope that the deal would get support in the UK. He urged fellow EU leaders to give North Macedonia the go-ahead to start EU accession talks, or else the situation would get unpredictable.
        LJUBLJANA - The government got acquainted with two draft proposals for electoral reform after the current system was declared unconstitutional a year ago. Under the first proposal, electoral units would remain roughly the same, while electoral districts would be scrapped, and a non-obligatory preferential vote would be introduced. The other solution envisages changing the borders of electoral districts.
        LJUBLJANA - The Justice Committee discussed a report on courts' efficiency in 2018, mostly agreeing with the assessment by the Supreme Court president that courts were successful. MPs were meanwhile critical of lengthy court proceedings and the number of pending cases.
        LJUBLJANA - With the population of the jackal in Slovenia stabilising, the government struck the species from the decree on protected wild animal species, setting a transitional period until 1 May 2020 for the relevant rules to be adjusted.
        LJUBLJANA - A foundation stone-laying ceremony launched the construction of the long-awaited Ikea store in Ljubljana, the first in Slovenia. The store is to be completed in a year.

All our posts in this series are here

19 Oct 2019, 08:54 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 18 October, 2019

Mladina: Puzzled by inaction in corruption cases

STA, 18 October 2019 – Mladina, the left-wing weekly, takes a look at several cases of alleged corruption and wrongdoing, wondering how it is possible that none of the involved politicians has been found guilty, while an ordinary citizen would definitely be punished or at leased fined for similar crimes.

The weekly's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž lists on Friday a number of cases related to Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič, SDS leader Janez Janša, former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler and former Koper Mayor Boris Popovič after TV Slovenija has recently run a story about Janković's old suspicious cases.

"Entire Slovenia has been witnessing these developments for years, and we all have a clear picture of things. We are also all aware that the destiny of an average Joe would have been sealed long ago, either with a prison sentence or at least a fine."

Repovž wonders why nothing has happened in these cases. Is it because of judges, are there too few of them and are they busy with other trivial cases, is it how the courts are organised, are there two few specialised prosecutors and experts on corporate crime, corruption and political corruption, do judges and prosecutors lack proper training.

Is it the fact that the professions of judge and prosecutor are ever less prestigious, or is it poorly written and dated legislation, the magazine wonders.

Meanwhile, the defendants are usually well off and can afford the best of lawyers and advisers who can dedicate hours and hours to their case, whereas for a prosecutor or a judge, this is just one in hundred cases and court hearings. Mladina also points a finger at the Constitutional Court for having annulled, to the benefit of the defendants, any attempt to tighten up legislation.

"This is all true and remains the basic challenge for Slovenian society, in which it is increasingly hard to believe. But for a society to be fully functioning, people have to believe in it," says Repovž.

He wonders how people should decide in such cases - along political lines or personal alliances. "Should people turn a blind eye to Janković because he is allegedly a good mayor or simply because he is at the helm of Ljubljana, because having an SDS mayor would make everything automatically worse?"

Repovž also wonders in his editorial headlined First-Rate what one should think when no other than Janša and Kangler attack Janković in a rally in the centre of Ljubljana saying he gets a preferential treatment by courts "because he is a first-rate citizen".

Demokracija: Reputation of Slovenia's top court compromised

STA, 17 October 2019 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija argues in the latest commentary that constitutional judge Matej Accetto should step down because he undermined the court's reputation and authority after it transpired that he failed to disqualify himself for decision-making despite his ties with the Modern Centre Party (SMC).

Under the headline the Case of Judge Matej Accetto, editor in-chief Jože Biščak writes that the e-mails released this week prove that Accetto made extensive proposals and opinions in the creation of the SMC's platform in 2014 and acted as a "tacit supporter" for the party of Miro Cerar.

Biščak notes that Accetto has been involved in decision-making on two political cases, the 2017 referendum on the Koper-Divača rail track and the foreigners act, both of which had to do with what was the ruling party in the previous term.

The Constitutional Court rejected a request for the judge's recusal at least two times, satisfied with his explanation that he was not involved in the work on the SMC platform.

Biščak notes the Constitutional Court's key role for the country's rule of law, freedom and democracy, saying that the public's trust in its rulings depends on the judges' ethical conduct, and its belief that the judges are unbiased, independent and fair.

"Judge Matej Accetto trampled all that, he tarnished the reputation of the Constitutional Court. No one would take a grudge against him if he had recused himself in the mentioned (political cases). He would have demonstrated the high standards he abided by himself and could have expected the same from his colleagues.

"As it is, he lied not only to fellow judges but also to parties in procedure and the entire public. Now that it has all come to light he should resign. Irrevocably ... His is not just a case of likely bias but of political and ideological bias par excellence."

All our posts in this series are here

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