27 Jun 2019, 09:35 AM

STA, 26 June 2019 - The parliamentary legal service has issued its opinion on the controversial bill on the funding of private primary schools related to a Constitutional Court decision, saying it is questionable in several places from the aspect of constitutional order, and even unconstitutional in certain points.

The nine-page opinion was issued after the bill passed first reading in the National Assembly last week and as the parliamentary Education Committee was scheduled to debate it again today, but postponed the session after the legal opinion was issued.

Under the bill, private primary schools are to get full state funding to teach publicly approved curricula, with pre-school or after-school classes, which are otherwise a normal part of daily life at school, not financed at all.

In the amendments to the act on the financing of education, which is meant to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling mandating full rather than just 85% state financing of publicly approved curricula at private primaries, any curricular content considered as above-standard will be exempted.

The parliamentary legal service says in its opinion the main shortcoming of the bill is the "strict focus of the initiator on realising very narrowly defined goals".

The government proposes broader and, in certain points inconsistent, changes to the existing education system compared to those demanded by the Constitutional Court, while not providing well argued reasons for this, it added.

The legal service has also made remarks on concrete articles, including the one on the funding of private primary schools, establishing that the proposed amount of public funds for this purpose would actually be lower compared to the current amount.

"The lower amount of public funding thus encroaches upon the legal position of private primary schools," it says, adding that private schools could transfer the burden of financing on the student's parents.

According to the legal service, this worsens the legal position of students and their parents, who could not count on such an initiative from the government in the wake of the Constitutional Court's decision.

It adds that the government has failed to explain what the public interest is that justifies the worsening of the legal position of private primary schools and their students and their parents.

There is also no explanation in the bill as to why the government is abolishing the co-funding of the part of the extended programme which is uniformly specified for all primary schools in Slovenia.

The bill also opens up several questions about compliance with the general principle of equality before the law, it says, adding the proposal that the educational programme of private schools must differ from that in public schools is also disputable.

What is more, the differentiation between publicly approved curricula and curricula that have gained public validity could be disputable from the aspect of the constitutional right to the freedom of expression, and from the aspect of the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on personal circumstances.

Following the legal service's opinion, coalition parties met to discuss the new development, opting to postpone the Education Committee's session. The committee then put the debate off by a few days.

MP Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD), who gave the initiative for the postponement, said they had only just received the legal service's opinion, so they had not had the time to study it yet.

Education Minister Jernej Pikalo welcomed the committee's decision to postpone the session, saying it was right the legal service's opinion was studied, "especially if we want to have quality legislation".

Nevertheless, he defended the solution to fund the mandatory part of publicly approved curricula 100% and not to fund any extra activities at all. He insists this is in line with the court's ruling.

However, since last week, the opposition has already filed a number of amendments. The Democrats (SDS) would not just like private primary schools which teach publicly approved curricula to get full state funding, they also propose that private music and secondary schools get 85% of its costs covered by the state.

During last week's parliamentary debate, only the parties of the minority coalition supported the bill, but some of them only under certain conditions. Some of them announced their final opinion would depend on the opinion of the parliament's legal service, so further changes during the legislative seem possible.

Other stories on this bill can be found here, while all our stories on education in Slovenia are here

25 Jun 2019, 10:13 AM

STA, 24 June 2019 - Its own state, especially for a nation as small as Slovenia's, is an asset in its own right, President Borut Pahor said as he addressed the national ceremony in Ljubljana's Congress Square on Monday, the eve of Statehood Day, which marks the day in 1991 when parliament passed the needed documents to declare independence.

"The establishment of an independent state 28 years ago is the most glorious milestone of our national history", and it "makes us an equal part of the global architecture", said Pahor.

He recalled the May Declaration, a document read in Congress Square 30 years ago in which writers and other groups called for democracy, a sovereign Slovenia and its integration with Europe.

"I don't think there is a national political manifesto more clear, more inspiring, more visionary and more brief than this one," he stressed.

Taking a look ahead, Pahor said parents and grandparents had the responsibility to enable their children a decent future to the best of their abilities.

This means "creating a tolerant society in which everyone can express themselves freely while also respecting the dignity and freedom of the other".

It also means "creating a society which is economically and socially strong and well integrated, but also competitive and solidarity-based enough so that it can create a lot and excellently, and distributes fairly what it has created".

It moreover implies acting to tackle climate change, and always address even the most complex of problems in a peaceful manner, according to Pahor.

Although we don't know what the future holds for us, we do know that in case of new watershed moments we will be able to take action more effectively because we are sovereign and have our own state, stressed Pahor.

The national ceremony is being attended by a number of politicians and other high-profile guests, including Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Speaker Dejan Židan.

Prior to the ceremony, the National Assembly met for a ceremonial session it holds before major national holidays, and Pahor hosted a reception for the relatives of military, police and civilian victims of the independence war, which broke out when the Yugoslav People's Army attacked the newly-declared state.

"We must never forget that Slovenia was attacked after it declared independence, but successfully countered the attack in a war," Pahor said at the reception at the Presidential Palace, which was also attended by Šarec as well as the defence and interior ministers.

War veterans used the occasion to urge the government to regulate the status of disabled war veterans who have not yet had their status recognised.

Rudolf Lah from the Association of Disabled War Veterans and Families of the Fallen in the 1991 War urged the government "to recognise our sacrifices and tackle the problems which we have been pointing to at all annual receptions".

Drago Koprčina, who heads the association, told the STA the Marjan Šarec government had appointed a task force to address the open issues.

Official statistics show that the ten-day independence war claimed the lives of 19 Slovenian soldiers and police officers, with another 182 Slovenians wounded.

22 Jun 2019, 09:22 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 21 June 2019

Mladina: Concerns Over Abanka Privatisation

STA, 21 June 2019 - Commenting on the recent sale of the country's third largest bank Abanka to the NKBM bank, the left-wing weekly Mladina believes that this step will probably lead to adverse consequences, with the government having wasted the last opportunity to secure any kind of financial backbone for the country during the next financial crash.

"Due to this decision, Slovenia will break (again) more easily and quickly upon the arrival of the next (and the next) financial crisis. Not the country, but its economy, because there will be no vascular system any more through which the state could help the economy."

Pointing out that during any financial meltdown, when the capital of foreign banks is retreating at a rapid pace, countries need to provide stability for their economies, the editorial says that the easiest way to do so is through state banks.

"In 2009, EUR 3.5 billion left Slovenia very quickly, more than EUR 2.5 billion in the first few months. Estonia, not having any domestic banks, broke immediately. Croatia as well. But not Slovenia," highlights editor-in-chief Grega Repovž, adding that was the main reason the country's economy started showing signs of improvement already in 2011.

But then things went awry when Borut Pahor, preoccupied with his public image, got scared and stopped the recapitalisation of banks, concludes the commentary under the headline The Traces of Some Ignorance.

Demokracija: Warnings on Climate Change a Scam

STA, 20 June 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija denies in its commentary on Thursday the existence of climate change, saying that its only purpose is to provide state funds for those making money off warnings of imminent catastrophe.

Demokracija editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Fairytale about World's End that the Fridays For Future campaign is nothing but a way for students to avoid school on Fridays.

Warnings about the end of the world have been growing increasingly severe, but the end of the world does not come, Biščak says.

Natural disasters are a mainstay of human history, only reports about them travelled much slower than they do today, therefore it seems that their frequency has increased. "And climate change was not blamed for every fire, like it is now."

"If I exaggerate a bit: a person gets a fever (of course, a consequence of global warming), their coordination deteriorates and they drop a match. And there you go, a fire caused by climate change."

People are easily manipulated. "It's logical. It is much easier to believe dramatic forecasts about the end of the world and humanity than (fairytales) that people will continue to live on Earth for a long time."

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

20 Jun 2019, 15:47 PM

STA, 20 June 2019 - Dissatisfied with the cooperation with the Marjan Šarec minority government, the opposition Left (Levica) has started questioning the partnership. Coordinator Luka Mesec said on Thursday that the things had gotten stuck and that the party's council would decide in July whether to carry on with the cooperation.

"When it comes to cooperating with the government, we are dissatisfied," Mesec, who is also an MP, told the press, noting that the party had wanted to carry out before the summer at least four of the projects agreed on with the government.

"These are changes to the health services act with which we want to prevent privatisation of healthcare from the inside, indexation of the minimum hourly rate for students with the minimum wage, regulation of real estate agencies, and transfer of apartments from the Bank Assets Management Company (DUTB) to the national Housing Fund."

Mesec said that the Left had held a meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec two weeks ago to express the wish that at least these projects were implemented before the summer, but "nothing has been happening in these fields."

He said that he will thus "put forward to bodies of the Left to debate the question of whether it makes sense to continue cooperating with the government of Marjan Šarec."

According to Mesec, the debate will be concluded at the party's council, which will take a decision on what to do next after the end of the July session.

The last straw for the Left was obviously the decision of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) to sell the country's last major state-owned bank, Abanka to US fund Apollo, on Wednesday.

The party said in its first response that the sale should have been prevented and that it exposed Slovenia to a development risk.

Mesec was critical today of the government's non-action regarding the sale. "The two remaining systemic banks in state ownership, Abanka and NLB, have been sold in recent months. The biggest problem is that in both cases, the government did not even try to stop the forced procedures."

Not even once did Marjan Šarec as the prime minister call on the government as the sole shareholder of the SSH to intervene in the sale procedures, which were forced by the European Commission."

According to Mesec, the Left sees the government leaning towards the right lately, which could be concluded from a draft income tax reform prepared by Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj.

"Despite agreeing ... that we will go for a just tax reform, we are actually again getting a tax reform which will relieve the best paid persons the most and create a huge hole in the budget," he said.

18 Jun 2019, 11:44 AM

STA, 17 June 2019 - The aid provided to migrants by the Legal and Information Centre (PIC), a group of NGOs, does not constitute a crime, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar told the National Assembly during questions time on Monday. He was answering a question from the opposition Democrats (SDS), who are appalled that these NGOs get state funding.

This comes less than a month after PIC president Katarina Bervar Sternad was reported to the police by Zmago Jelinčič, the president of the opposition National Party (SNS).

Poklukar confirmed today that the police saw an increase in the number of times PIC informed the police of illegal migrants entering the country.

Apart from informing the police of the migrants' location, PIC also sent to the police their names and informed them of the migrants' medical state, Poklukar said.

The minister said that migrants had told the police a PIC representative had given them directions, handed out leaflets with directions and advised them on how to conduct themselves in police proceedings and other procedures.

Both the relevant District Prosecution and the Supreme State Prosecution shared the view that PIC's actions did not amount to a crime, according to Poklukar.

The Supreme Prosecution also said that PIC's activities would have been criminal if they were done for financial gain, the minister added.

The answer was provided to SDS deputy Branko Grims, who said in his question that PIC was actively helping migrants in abusing the asylum procedure.

17 Jun 2019, 10:54 AM

STA, 16 June 2019 - The National Assembly will discuss the opposition-sponsored motion to oust Defence Minister Karl Erjavec as it convenes two sessions this week. The opposition Democrats (SDS) believe that Erjavec abused the military intelligence service and unlawfully dismissed the army's force commander. Erjavec appears to enjoy sufficient support to stay on.

Pressure on Erjavec has been rising because a parliamentary commission investigating Erjavec's alleged abuse of the intelligence service has interviewed the dismissed Force Commander Miha Škerbinc last week.

Škerbinc's appearance before the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services behind closed doors on Thursday allegedly showed that Erjavec had been lying about the reasons for Škerbinc's dismissal.

Commission chair Žan Mahnič, an MP for the SDS, said that Škerbinc had provided a report by Chief of the General Staff Alenka Ermenc showing that Škerbinc had not broken the chain of command as regards late-night shooting at training grounds near Postojna.

Commenting on a report by Ermenc saying that the military had been following closely the ministry's order about activities on the training ground, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Friday that Erjavec will have to explain what happened.

The prime minister however also said that the parliamentary commission was a political body. "It has an investigative role but there is a thin line between having powers and abusing powers," the prime minister said, echoing Erjavec's position that the commission had abused its powers for political purposes.

Moreover, Mahnič said that Škerbinc told the commission he had not spread rumours about Ermenc's ill health, which was another reason cited by Erjavec after the dismissal.

Škerbinc said that he had 200 witnesses to prove that he did not spread lies, according to Mahnič, who said that the former force commander told the commission that he condemned the rumours about her poor health that had been going around in an address.

Before debating the motion to oust Erjavec in a dedicated session on Friday, the National Assembly will convene a regular session starting on Monday with questions time for the government.

Other business: Apppointments, energy infrastructure, private schools, bear & wolf culls, tobacco sales

On Tuesday, the MPs will take a vote on the reappointment of Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik, the appointment of Rok Čeferin to the Constitutional Court and the appointment of Peter Golob as Electoral Commission chairman.

Moreover, the MPs will conduct the second reading of changes to the energy act transposing two relevant EU regulations and changing compensation procedures for the construction of public energy infrastructure, which was ordered by the Constitutional Court.

The most heated debates can be expected on Wednesday, when parliament is scheduled to launch the first reading of legislative changes drafted to implement a decision by the Constitutional Court ordering the National Assembly to provide equal funding to private primary schools.

Private schools, as well as the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) believe the changes do not transpose the decision of the Constitutional Court.

On Thursday, MPs are expected to pass a emergency bill ordering the culling of bears and wolves in the wake of attacks on farm animals and increasingly frequent sightings after an environmental NGO successfully challenged the government's decree with the same cull order in Administrative Court.

The parliament is also expected to fast-track changes to the tobacco act postponing by three years the introduction of uniform packaging for tobacco products, initially planned for January 2020. The proponents of the changes want to conduct studies whether the measure is actually effective.

15 Jun 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 15 June 2019 - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Peter J. Česnik expressed concern in an interview for the STA about nationalist sentiment expressed in Italy and Hungary. He also hopes that young generations taking over minority organisations will be able to work together even more closely than the old guard.


In recent weeks, maps indicating territorial tendencies have been shared online by an official Twitter account of the Hungarian government and a right-leaning Forza Italia member.

Soon after, another Forza Italia member proposed legislative changes to hold a population census in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region to determine language groups.

Česnik told the STA that the latter was a political move of a politician hoping to boost his popularity. Nonetheless, it sounded an alarm indicating that the rights of the minority might be in danger.

"It is hard to comment. Our people on the other side of the border are worried. So am I. We have a very strong community there... There are other open issues, like the relocation of the [Slovenian] RAI editorial board from Rome back to Trieste."

The minority in Hungary faces different challenges. "There are few children and good bilingual primary education is a challenge." Investing in the Raba valley, the home of the Slovenian minority in west Hungary, "also demands road infrastructure investments by Hungary."

The minister is meanwhile optimistic about the change in leadership taking place in minority organisations. He believes that Ksenija Dobrila, who replaced Rudi Pavšič at the helm of the Slovenian Cultural and Economic Union (SKGZ) in Italy, is doing a job.

Meanwhile, Marjan Sturm "is showing the ropes to the young" Manuel Jug, who has taken over the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO) in Klagenfurt, Austria.

"Personally, I believe that if Slovenians joined forces like the German-speaking community in South Tyrol, they could achieve more effective representation in the parliaments of both neighbours," said Česnik.

Cooperation has been getting stronger in recent years. "With years, organisations may merge. The young are our future but Slovenians beyond borders have pushed them aside for too long."

When asked about the representation of Slovenians abroad in Slovenia's National Assembly, Česnik said that the communities are represented by the parliamentary Commission for Slovenians Abroad.

The commission and two government councils, one for minorities in neighbouring countries and the other for communities across the world, ensure that the positions of Slovenians abroad are heard.

"In principle, I am all for representation. But somebody please give me a formula to do this the right way. Not to mention how much this would cost and the fact that this money could be used to the benefit of the communities."

One of the most topical issues of the government's Office for Slovenians Abroad, as Česnik's department is officially called, is the repatriation of Slovenian living in Venezuela.

"Two months ago, we received the first message expressing the wish for humanitarian aid and repatriation. So far, the office has received 21 repatriation requests. Legal grounds exist, now it is time for technical implementation, to see how we can carry this out."

Moreover, "the government must yet adopt a decree to start the repatriation process," said Česnik, who returned to Slovenia after decades in Australia.

When asked about his experience in returning to Slovenia, he said that once you decide to leave your country, there is no turning back.

"When you return, you are often seen as the rich uncle from America and at the same time you need to deal with long bureaucratic procedures, problems having your qualifications recognised, trouble with investment. Those who succeeded are the exception to the rule."

"The number of Slovenians who come back is relatively low compared to the number of young people leaving the country every year," he added.

The minister said that the department was working on legislative changes to bring the relevant laws up to date. "Legislation needs to adapt to new circumstances. Old generations are dying out and the young have different demands."

He believes that Slovenia needs a special repatriation law and a systemic approach to the process.

Nonetheless, the single biggest improvement for Slovenian communities abroad would be more funds. He hopes that the money for the department would increase from EUR 8.6 million this year to EUR 10.3 million the next.

About 80% of the funds go to the Slovenian minorities in neighbouring countries. "If we lose the language in an area we have lived in for 1500 years, we lose the area."

Touching on the upcoming annual Welcome Home event for Slovenians living abroad, Česnik said that this year it will not be organised by his department but by diaspora organisation.

"Decades ago, this was called a picnic. I still find it is a picnic where the family comes together, talks and spends time together. We also have a meeting at the National Assembly. It's a forum for official representatives of the communities to voice their comments and proposals."

15 Jun 2019, 15:31 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 14 June 2019

Mladina: New EU Core Emerging Post-Brexit, Slovenia Should Optimise Its Position

STA, 14 June 2019 - The left-leaning weekly paper Mladina argues on Friday that the EU will in fact breathe much more easily without Great Britain. New constellations are likely to emerge in the wake of its departure and Slovenia should make sure to be among the core EU countries that take a step forward integration and policy-wise, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.

It actually looks like optimism is making a comeback in political analytical centres in the EU's capitals after a long time, Repovž says, arguing Europe will simply become a much more flexible alliance without Great Britain.

He speaks of signs that a two-tier EU is emerging, with the second tier involving Eastern European countries - an exception being Slovenia as a member of the eurozone.

The eurozone is looking like a bypass that can "enable most normal European countries to start pursuing more serious policies which are blocked today in particular by Eastern European nationalist and backward populists".

Slovenia is being referred to as a part of this emerging coalition, as part of what is being called the EU's core, "but the question is whether our government is aware of this", Repovž says in Core of Europe In the Making.

Slovenia should optimise its position and have an influence on the agenda of this coalition, which is why Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who has no serious diplomats or experienced international analysts among his ranks, needs to move fast and form a strong team around him.

"Why are we warning about this? In order to avoid hearing excuses again in a few years about how it was only possible to implement what was received in e-mails from Brussels and Berlin and to not feel embarrassed about the amateurs we had in power when the future was being designed," Repovž says, invoking the example of the 2013 bank bailout.

Demokracija: Interior Minister Should Resign Over Illegal Migration

STA, 13 June 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija calls on Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar to resign for being unable to provide for security of locals in border areas, listing several cases of unpleasant encounters between illegal migrants and locals, including a recent incident involving an 11-year-old girl.

Editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Thursday Poklukar bragged about the Slovenian police having successfully provided for security at the recent Three Seas Initiative summit.

"When the high-profile guests were adopting the closing Ljubljana Declaration to set up an investment fund ..., a drama was almost simultaneously unfolding on a bridge over the river Reka."

An 11-year-old was crossing it by bike in the area of Ilirska Bistrica in the south-west when she heard voices under the bridge, and stopped.

A group of men then started yelling and throwing stones at her, with one stone hitting her hand. Her parents reported the incident to the police, Biščak recalls.

The majority of police officers were protecting well-mannered Three Seas Initiative guests, "while the southern border remains full of holes like Swiss cheese".

If border control was stricter and better and if legislation was more in favour of Slovenians than foreigners, the illegal migrants would not have come that far into Slovenian territory, they would have been intercepted on the border and swiftly returned where they came from, to Croatia, Bosnia and further to the Arab world.

Biščak says the girl, a recently abducted pensioner, a wine grower whose van was stolen from his courtyard or any other person whose property has been destroyed by illegals would find it hard to agree with Poklukar that the police is in control of the situation.

What happened in Western Europe, is now starting to happen in Slovenia - while it began with small thefts and fights, today those who came to Europe a few years ago are claiming entire areas where they enforce their religion-based rules and where the police does not dare to go any more.

Biščak says such areas, controlled by Muslims and ruled by Sharia law, could well emerge in Slovenia, adding "Islam is not a religion, it is a spiritual, judicial and political system, and is not compatible with any western democracy".

While some countries such as Italy and Hungary have managed to secure their border against illegals, the Slovenian government has proved completely incapable of taking action.

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

14 Jun 2019, 12:08 PM

STA, 13 June 2019 - The government adopted on Thursday a decree updating Slovenia's list of safe countries from 2016. The list has three new names, while Turkey has been removed from it. This means that Slovenia will no longer return migrants or extradite suspects to Turkey.

The new list contains 14 countries: Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Kosovo, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Serbia, Tunisia, and newcomers Georgia, Nepal and Senegal.

A third country, meaning a non-EU member, is considered safe if it can be assumed, based on several factors, that in general it does not see persecution, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and that people there are not in danger due to an international or internal conflict.

There was a push last year to remove Turkey from the list after Slovenia rejected the asylum applications 38 Turks even though they had fled Turkey for fear of persecution, but the motion was rejected at committee by the previous parliament.

The move comes about a month and a half after Swedish news portal Nordic Monitor reported that the Turkish Embassy in Ljubljana spied on critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan living in the country, likely believed to be the followers of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish authorities believe was behind the failed 2016 coup d'etat.

14 Jun 2019, 10:58 AM

STA, 13 June 2019 - The deputy chair of the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services Žan Mahnič has accused Defence Minister Karl Erjavec of having fabricated the reasons for the April dismissal of Miha Škerbinc as the force commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces.

Mahnič said the testimony given today for the parliamentary commission by Škerbinc had shown that Škerbinc had not spoken ill of the health of Maj-Gen Alenka Ermenc, the chief of the general staff, as well as that Škerbinc had not been responsible for late-night shooting at the Poček training grounds.

According to the MP for the opposition Democrats (SDS), Škerbinc attributed the reports about his comments on Ermenc to "informal informants" within the army who also spread false rumours.

One such rumour led to media reports that Ermenc would be replaced, which is something Škerbinc said he strongly opposed although he might have been misunderstood in the process, Mahnič told the press.

While Minister Erjavec is facing an ouster motion for allegedly abusing the Defence Ministry's Intelligence and Security Service (OVS) to gather information on Škerbinc, Mahnič said Škerbinc said today nobody from OVS had actually asked him, in what had been unusual sets of questions, whether he had in fact spoken inappropriately of Ermenc's health.

As for the Poček night shooting drills that upset the local community, Mahnič said Škerbinc had provided documents showing the shooting had been conducted in line with the guidelines provided by the government and Defence Ministry.

According to Mahnič, the documents show Erjavec had lied about Škerbinc's responsibility and about the shooting not being planned.

The commission decided today it would also interview Ermenc, the OVS members involved in the Škerbinc inquiries as well as OVS director Dejan Matijevič, Mahnič announced.

Erjavec has been rejecting claims that the night shooting had been in line with government-approved plans, saying the army had failed to make adjustments after a plan of exercises approved by the government in January.

The minister also dismissed Škerbinc's referencing of the documents put forward today - these in fact make up a report by Ermenc on the developments - arguing they do not go into the details of the training conducted and of all the documents issued in relation to it.

Ermenc's report, which has also been obtained by the media, however states that all agreements and guidelines adopted in relation to training at Poček had been honoured by the army.

14 Jun 2019, 08:51 AM

STA, 13 June 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor and his Austrian host Alexander Van der Bellen called for an upgrade of bilateral relations as they met in Vienna on Thursday. While acknowledging some differences in views, Pahor said those could be resolved in dialogue.

The presidents broached a variety of issues, including the status of the Slovenian minority in Austria and the position of the German-speaking community in Slovenia, which wants to be recognised as a minority.

Van der Bellen said the two countries were partners and friends whose relations were underpinned by "human, economic and political ties".

He said the situation of the Slovenian minority there had changed for the better, while there were also positive signals regarding Slovenia's support for the preservation of the German-speaking community in Slovenia.

Pahor stressed that the communities had different constitutional statuses, but he is in favour of Slovenia doing everything it can so that the community can preserve its identity. "This makes us richer," he stressed.

Both presidents expressed support for the idea of a Slovenian-Austrian event marking the 100th anniversary of the referendum under which voters in a large part of Carinthia opted for Austria instead of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians.

Pahor said the anniversary was an opportunity for a manifestation that would unite both nations and countries. "It is a great opportunity to set things that appeared a historical problem into the context of the future, where they can become solutions."

The pair also discussed Austrian police checks on the border with Slovenia, which Pahor said were unjustified, and construction of a new unit at the Krško nuclear power station, which Pahor indicated would likely be subject to a referendum in Slovenia.

Ven der Bellen said nuclear energy, which Austria has given up long ago, was one of the open issues, a reference to Austria's long-standing opposition to nuclear energy, both existing and new projects, in its neighbourhood.

Pahor said that his official visit was a part of Slovenia's efforts to have excellent relations with all neighbouring countries, noting that Slovenia was trying to resolve problems in dialogue. He expressed pleasure at Slovenia and Austria declaring 2020 as the year of neighbourly dialogue.

Broaching EU topics, in particular EU enlargement to the Balkans, Van der Bellen said that progress with regard to the accession of North Macedonia and Albania was needed in order for the EU to remain credible.

Pahor said the EU's absorption capacity was not questionable since these countries have small populations. He believes the EU Commission must treat Western Balkans as a whole.

The Slovenian president also held talks with Brigitte Bierlein, the new Austrian chancellor, with the pair describing bilateral relations as excellent and expressing the wish for deeper ties in science and culture, according to Pahor's office.

Pahor and Bierlein also expressed the hope that cooperation in 2020, which they declared as the year of neighbourly dialogue, would "nurture and affirm the already good neighbourly relations", with Pahor expressing the conviction that all issues, no matter how complex, can be resolved in dialogue.

The meeting with Speaker Wolfgang Sobotka revolved around international issues, the future of the EU and multilateralism.

All our stories about Austria are here

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