Politics

01 Jun 2019, 10:38 AM

STA, 30 May 2019 - The government has formally aborted plans to build hydro power stations on the river Mura in the north-east. The decision, expectedly inviting mixed responses, was taken after the former environment minister announced in January the project was not viable due to environmental concerns.

The government on Thursday halted the drafting of the zoning plan for the Hrastje-Mota hydro power station upon the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry's proposal.

The ministry had examined three proposed options for the new facility, finding them all environmentally inappropriate.

Speaking after the government session, Minister Simon Zajc said it was impossible to find a suitable location that would not affect the environment, even if measures to alleviate its impact were taken.

"Without a valid national zoning plan, nothing can be constructed, not even the power stations," he said, recalling this was in line with the coalition agreement, in which the coalition parties pledged there would be no power stations on the Mura.

Environmentalists, who have campaigned for this for years, welcomed the decision, hoping it would be followed up by stripping the investor, power utility Dravske Elektrarne Maribor (DEM), of the licence to build eight power station on the Mura.

Andreja Slameršek of the Let's Save the Mura! campaign said she expected DEM to seek the reimbursement of the funds it had already invested in the project.

Environment Ministry data shows the company has so far spent over EUR 12 million on a variety of studies, measurements and other activities related to the project.

But this is nothing "compared to preserving the Mura, the sources of drinking water and possibilities for sustainable development of the people in the Mura area", she said.

However, Zajc said he was not afraid of the potential claims for the invested funds. "They can of course demand it, but they have no legal grounds to do so."

DEM regretted today's decision, attributing it to pursuing partial interests of one sector (the environment) to the detriment of other broader goals (social, agricultural, climate and energy ones).

DEM also said in a release studies had shown the Hrastje-Mota project would have been environmentally viable if measures to alleviate the impact on the environment had been taken.

It did not say whether it would seek reimbursement of the incurred costs. But back in February, DEM and its parent company HSE called against rushing any decisions, saying a solution that would be in Slovenia's long-term interest should be found.

The river Mura is one of the areas with the highest level of biodiversity not only in Slovenia but also in Europe. Last July, UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve.

31 May 2019, 11:49 AM

STA, 30 May 2019 - Former Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec suggested on Thursday that interviews conducted by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission had confirmed he had been in no way involved in the border arbitration incident with Croatia. He called that commission's chair Matej Tonin a "notorious liar" who is abusing his post and hurting Slovenia.

Erjavec commented after today's government session on Tonin's claim, made after Wednesday's session of the commission, that the testimonies by two former directors of Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA and that of arbitration agent Simona Drenik did not add up.

While the commission plans to continue the investigation into the phone conversations - believed to have been recorded by Croatian intelligence - between the Slovenian arbitration agent and the Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal, Erjavec said he hopes "Tonin's lying will finally end".

Erjavec, who is now serving as defence minister while he was foreign ministry when Croatia published the phone conversations in 2015 and used them as an excuse to pull out of the arbitration process, said he had to listen to accusations he had caused the scandal for four years.

After allegations that Croatian intelligence services had something on Erjavec and were extorting him and reproaches related to his weekend house in Croatia, Tonin has recently led those peddling the allegation that the collusion between judicial agent Drenik and arbiter Jernej Sekoloec had been ordered by the minister, Erjavec said.

The minister, who heads the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), added Drenik had said on Wednesday that no pressure had been exerted on her. "However, somebody is making misleading statements all the time and creating a big show out of this," Erjavec added.

He pointed out that Sekolec, interviewed by the commission on Thursday along with Drenik and former SOVA director Andrej Rupnik, had acknowledged he had made a mistake and had expressed regret.

Erjavec expects that Tonin, who is the president of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), will "stop abusing" his leading post on what is a very important commission.

Tonin responded to the accusations by saying that it was understandable that those involved in the arbitration fiasco would like to forget about it all as soon as possible.

However, irregularities occurred, this was also confirmed by the arbitration tribunal, and finding out the truth cannot undermine Slovenian interests while it can prevent such mistakes from repeating, Tonin wrote.

He said it was the commission's duty to find out whether SOVA had properly trained and equipped people at the Foreign Ministry and to draw up a report on how to remedy potential shortcomings.

Tonin said the commission had also received this mandate with votes from the coalition, and that everyone testifying before the commission was doing so voluntarily, which makes any accusation of abuse indecent and foul.

What is more, "Minister Karl Erjavec knows that I cannot speak publicly about the details, which is presently allowing him to attack the work of the commission and me personally". Tonin said the final report of the commission would serve as the best answer to the minister's offensive remarks.

Meanwhile, speaking to TV Slovenija in the evening, Drenik said she felt the reviving of the scandal was a political stunt.

Surprised by Tonin's claim her testimony did not match that of the former SOVA directors, Drenik repeated she had answered the question of the commission within the confines of the commission's mandate.

Drenik said she had been convinced during the conversation with Sekolec that she had been sufficiently protected, but added that she saw things differently today. "We would have acted differently today," she said.

"It is clear, and I'm convinced this is the case, that Slovenia was not the only party that was involved in such ex-parte communication, but there is no direct evidence for this," Drenik also said.

Still, Drenik is content with how things ended, as the arbitration tribunal dismissed this "procedural complication" as not grave enough to derail the procedure and Slovenia got an arbitration result it can be happy with.

30 May 2019, 16:06 PM

STA, 30 May 2019 - President Borut Pahor met his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Đukanović on Thursday as part of his official visit to the country. They talked about the situation in the Western Balkans and exchanged views on the progress of Montenegro's talks to join the European Union, the president's office said in a press release.

Pahor said at a joint press conference after the meeting that Montenegro was an important factor of stability in the region, that led constructive and friendly policy toward all its neighbours.

The Slovenian president noted that the leaders of the countries of the Brdo-Brijuni process had stressed at the recent summit in Tirana that enlargement of the EU was a geo-political, and not a technical question.

This means that the leaders have assessed that the political will for an enlargement will probably be weaker in the future, and it is thus "our duty to have a more visionary approach to enlargement to make Europe see the Western Balkans as an opportunity."

Pahor also expressed the hope that a new European Commission will be constituted as soon as possible, while noting that the process would be harder than ever. In the meantime, an attractive plan should be made to help the European Commission keep enlargement on the agenda, he added.

Pahor and Đukanović also focused on the progress of Montenegro's talks to join the EU, with Pahor confirming that Slovenia supported Montenegro in the process, including with expert assistance in the closing of negotiating chapters.

It is key that Montenegro stays clearly committed to the negotiations and implements concrete reforms, he said, adding that the country's NATO membership had boosted its reputation, also from the aspect of foreign investments.

The Slovenian president stressed that the relations between the countries were excellent and without open issues. The countries conduct a regular dialogue at the political and expert level and mutual trust has been established, added Đukanović.

Pahor noted that Slovenia was the first country to open a diplomatic office in Montenegro in 2006, while Slovenian companies were among the first to invest in the country.

The country's economic cooperation has been on the rise, with the amount of bilateral trade increasing by 6.5% last year to EUR 114.7 million.

Pahor and Đukanović expressed the interest for further boosting of cooperation, in particular in energy, renewables, infrastructure projects, tourism, agriculture, information technology and digitalisation.

Montenegro has also been a priority country for Slovenia's development aid, receiving EUR 1.24 million of such aid in 2017.

The first official visit by the Slovenian president to Montenegro after the country joined NATO in June 2017 is also a symbolic confirmation of Slovenia's support for Montenegro in its Euro-Atlantic integration, the president's office said.

Pahor also held talks with Montenegrin Speaker Ivan Brajović revolving around the parliament's role in Montenegro's accession to the EU and the country's progress in membership negotiations.

The meeting with Prime Minister Duško Marković focused on the situation in Western Balkans.

On Friday, the Slovenian president will attend the 9th To Be Secure (2BS) conference in Budva, discussing regional and global security challenges.

29 May 2019, 16:23 PM

STA, 29 May 2019 - Foreign ministers of Slovenia and Russia, Miro Cerar and Sergey Lavrov, confirmed that political ties between the two countries were good, as they addressed the media following a meeting in Ljubljana Wednesday morning. The pair discussed topical issues, above all the Western Balkans.

Cerar told the press that Slovenia deemed it important to nurture regular dialogue at the top level with permanent members of the UN Security Council and key players in international relations.

"Being a member of the EU and NATO, Slovenia is striving for stability in the international community, especially in our neighbourhood, the Western Balkans. Therefore, we support open dialogue with Russia on all topical issues of international significance," said Cerar.

Cerar underlined the importance of the role played by the EU in Western Balkans, while Lavrov said that all open issues in the region must be resolved in a peaceful manner and through political dialogue.

They also commented on tensions in Kosovo triggered earlier this week. Lavrov said that the the tensions were provoked by those who want to make the Balkans a "sanitary cordon" targetting Russia, adding that this is being allowed by the EU and NATO.

Cerar expressed belief that the events will undoubtedly have broader consequences for the relations between Prishtina and Belgrade.

The foreign ministers also talked about other international challenges such as terrorism, the crises in Syria and Libya, the growing tensions between the US and Iran, and relations with China.

Cerar also underlined the need to do everything possible to resolve the Yemen conflict and bring one of the worst humanitarian disasters to an end.

Commenting on the Ibiza scandal that recently broke in Austria, Lavrov said that this was a case of Russo-phobia, adding that the noise had died down since it became clear that the alleged Russian oligarch daughter was not who she pretended to be.

The ministers announced that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec would visit Russia, accompanied with a business delegation, in mid-September.

Lavrov and Cerar confirmed good bilateral cooperation in business, culture and science, with Cerar saying that Russia was a key economic partner to Slovenia.

Merchandise trade between the countries amounted to EUR 1.16 billion last year, according to Slovenia's statistics, while those provided by Russia are even higher.

Russia is the fourth most important partner in terms of Slovenia's foreign direct investments, while Slovenia is becoming an increasingly popular destination among Russian tourists.

Cerar added that a bilateral commission for economic cooperation plays an important role in this and that the body would meet in Slovenia on 13 and 14 June.

Moreover, a Slovenian business delegation led by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek is expected at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June.

This was the foreign ministers' second meeting following Lavrov's arrival on Tuesday. Last night, they met behind closed doors at Strmol Castle, some 20 kilometres north of Ljubljana.

Today, Lavrov also held separate meetings with President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. Pahor said in a tweet that they discussed preparations for the Three Seas Initiative meeting, which Pahor will be hosting next week.

The pair also discussed topical multilateral issues, focusing especially on the Ukraine crisis and the situation in the Western Balkans.

The Ukraine crisis was also discussed in the meeting between Lavrov and Šarec, with the prime minister's office saying that Slovenia supported a peaceful solution in eastern Ukraine and underlined the importance Minks Agreement implementation.

They also discussed bilateral relations, labelling them friendly and adding that the countries are in ongoing dialogue in a number of fields, including economy, culture, science and education.

The foreign ministers were today also scheduled to unveil a monument honouring Davorin Hostnik (1853-1929), the author of the first Russian-Slovenian dictionary, who made a significant contribution to bilateral relations in culture and science at the turn of the century.

28 May 2019, 16:20 PM

STA, 28 May 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec voiced Slovenia's strong advocacy for North Macedonia to get a date for the launch of EU accession talks in June, as he met his counterpart Zoran Zaev on Tuesday. The pair also discussed efforts to boost bilateral trade to EUR 500 million.

Addressing a joint press conference after talks, Šarec described Zaev's official visit to Slovenia as very important, noting that North Macedonia was at a crossroads.

Zaev thanked Šarec for Slovenia's support in his country's bid to join the EU, and asked him for further support, something that Šarec assured him of.

The Slovenian prime minister said that the European Commission should acknowledge North Macedonia's "great progress" on this path.

Šarec noted in particular the Prespa Agreement, the treaty reached in June 2018 between North Macedonia and Greece to resolve the long-running name dispute and end the blockade of North Macedonia's bid to join NATO and the EU.

Šarec lauded the agreement as a historic moment, "a great action demonstrating the great political wisdom of the two prime ministers", Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.

The authorities in Skopje made that step in order to meet the conditions and to start accession talks with the EU, Šarec said, adding that Slovenia "is a strong supporter of this process as early as June".

He argued that integrating the Western Balkans into the EU, "in particular North Macedonia, which has made enormous progress", was important for the development of the region and the entire EU.

Zaev said that after 14 years as a candidate country, time had come for North Macedonia to upgrade the process by starting membership talks, which he said Skopje was aware would take years, but which were seen as an opportunity for the Macedonian society's progress.

Šarec warned that the European Commission should refrain from setting ever new conditions, because the people of North Macedonia would be disappointed unless the country gets a date to start accession talks at the EU summit in June.

Zaev thanked Slovenia for the fast ratification of the protocol on his country's accession to NATO, which prompted other NATO members to speed up the ratification process.

Both prime ministers termed the present visit as confirmation of good political, economic and other relations between their countries, and voiced mutual interest in strengthening the ties further, in particular in business, so that trade could increase from EUR 300 million to EUR 500 million.

The potential to boost business links is seen in investment, tourism and agriculture.

On the occasion, the countries signed a memorandum on cooperation in tourism and a programme of cultural cooperation for the period until 2022.

Šarec also expressed the wish for more Macedonian investments in Slovenia and said that both countries were interested in boosting agricultural cooperation.

Zaev, on the other hand, said that Slovenian products enjoyed great respect in North Macedonia and that Slovenia had invested EUR 375 million in his country. On Monday, a EUR 25 million plant of battery maker Tab was launched, creating 100 jobs.

Zaev also met President Borut Pahor and Speaker Dejan Židan, with both offering Slovenia's help in North Macedonia's efforts to join the EU also in the future.

Pahor told Zaev that EU enlargement onto the Balkans must become a geo-strategic issue, a conclusion of the most recent Brdo Brijuni Process summit earlier this month, Pahor's office said in a press release.

They also talked about NATO's expansion onto the Balkans and exchanged views on the situation in the region, the press release added.

Židan congratulated Zaev for the progress his country made in efforts to join the EU. He also offered Slovenia's help, saying "we believe in you", according to a press release from parliament house.

Slovenia, North Macedonia seek to increase trade to EUR 500m

STA, 28 May 2019 - Slovenia and North Macedonia plan to increase the volume of bilateral trade to EUR 500 million over the medium term, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said after holding talks with North Macedonia's Deputy Prime Minister Kočo Agnjušev on Tuesday.

Last year trade amounted to EUR 366 million, up 7%, with Slovenia's exports accounting for nearly two-thirds of the total. Slovenia also had investments worth EUR 357 million in Macedonia at the end of last year.

Počivalšek said the plan to increase trade to EUR 500 million over several years was ambitious but there were plenty of opportunities in energy, transport, infrastructure, the agri-food sector, industry and tourism, according to the Economy Ministry.

As part of efforts to increase trade, Počivalšek and Agnjušev signed a memorandum on cooperation in tourism, stressing that tourism affected not only economic ties but was also important for mutual understanding and the strengthening of friendly relations.

The memorandum deals with cooperation between tourism associations and tour organisers, exchange of information, and exchange of experience, the ministry said.

The meeting was held as part of an official visit by Zoran Zaev, North Macedonia's prime minister.

The EUR 500 million trade target was reiterated by Zaev and his host, Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec, at a business forum featuring over 80 entrepreneurs from both countries.

Zaev said Slovenian products on market shelves in North Macedonia were seen as a guarantee of quality, much like Slovenian contractors that win tenders in the country.

Šarec hailed cooperation and called for further growth of investment in both countries.

The chairmen of the two countries' chambers of commerce, Boštjan Gorjup and Branko Azeski, agreed there is room to expand trade.

Gorjup highlighted the role of NLB as a systemic bank in both countries, while also mentioning the Slovenian company Puklavec Family Wines, plastics producer Roto, insurers Zavarovalnica Triglav and Sava Re, LTH Castings, battery maker TAB, metrology company Lotrič Meroslovje and engineering company Riko.

28 May 2019, 12:11 PM

STA, 28 May 2019 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will arrive in Slovenia on Tuesday evening, starting a two-day visit by meeting his counterpart Miro Cerar at Strmol Castle near Cerklje na Gorenjskem. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

Today's meeting will take place behind closed doors and the pair will hold another one tomorrow morning at the Foreign Ministry in Ljubljana. The latter is to be followed by a press conference.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has said beforehand that the visit represents the continuation of bilateral dialogue between the two countries. Lavrov's last trip to Slovenia was in February 2018.

After meeting Pahor and Šarec on Wednesday, Lavrov will attend a ceremony in Šmartno pri Litiji to unveil a statue honouring Davorin Hostnik (1853-1929), the author of the first Russian-Slovenian dictionary.

Russia is a key trade partner for Slovenia, with trade amounting to EUR 1.16 billion last year. The figure was highest in 2014, when it reached nearly EUR 1.5 billion.

Trade has decreased in recent years due to a poorer macroeconomic situation on the Russian market and sanctions the EU imposed on Russia after the latter annexed Crimea. Both Slovenia and Russia hold the view that the 2015 Minsk Agreement is key in ending the tensions in Ukraine.

Tensions between western countries and Russia ran high again in March 2018 following the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergey Skripal. While the UK blamed Russia for his death, Moscow denied the allegations.

Following the Skripal attack, Slovenia was one of the few EU member states which did not expel Russian diplomats.

The countries also have close cultural ties. Only last week, a collection of more than 80 icons from leading Russian museums went on display at the Ljubljana City Museum.

But the key event each year is the commemoration of more than 100 Russian POWs who died in an avalanche building the Vršič mountain pass during World War I.

27 May 2019, 19:23 PM

Milan Zver says EU should do more to fight terrorism

Milan Zver, turning 57 the day before the election, has won his third term in the European Parliament as the lead candidate on the joint slate of the opposition Democrats (SDS) and non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS). The head of the Slovenian EPP delegation has been a member of the EU parliament's committee for culture and education and a member of the delegation for relations with the US in 2014-2019. He is particularly happy that as the rapporteur for Erasmus+ he has managed to increase funds for the EU's programme for education, youth and sport to EUR 45 billion. He is also proud that one of the European Parliament halls was named after Jože Pučnik (1932-2003), a central figure of Slovenia's independence, to whom Zver served as an advisor in the early 1990s when Pučnik was a deputy prime minister. Since he entered politics in the early 1990s he has become one of the most prominent SDS politicians of the past 15 years. An SDS vice-president, Zver, a holder of a PhD in sociology, was elected MP in 2004, but left parliament shortly after to serve as education minister. He was elected to the EU parliament for the first time in 2009. He has written several books, including one on the SDS's history, which was published under the auspices of the EPP in English in 2009. Zver is married to historian Andreja Valič Zver and has two daughters from a previous marriage.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - In the new term, the re-elected MEP Milan Zver of the Democrats (SDS) will continue with his work in the security and defence policy, while also focusing on education. He has told the STA that the agenda in the European Parliament will also include fight against terrorism, where he believes the EU should make a step forward.

Zver, 57, expects that security issues and illegal migration will remain high on the agenda in the next five-year term of the European Parliament. He sees cybersecurity and the fight against terrorism as the most important points.

He believes that there is a need for a common EU policy in the field of security, either in the form of common armed forces or a common security and intelligence service.

"It is not enough any more that autonomous intelligence services cooperate and coordinate their work. We should make a step forward if we want to be more effective in fighting terrorism and reduce security risks in the EU generally."

Zver is currently a member of the Special Committee on Terrorism, and the other fields he is the most familiar with are youth policy, culture, education and sport, in which he has also been active as a member of the Committee on Culture and Education.

He expects to continue with the Erasmus+ project as "one of the most successful stories in the EU", which has been "sold very poorly" in the political campaign.

Zver also expects that he will lead the national delegation in the European People's Party (EPP), which he labelled as responsible work, especially at the beginning, when new bodies are being established.

Commenting on the emerging social union, he said that "some common standards need to be established as soon as possible so that the social and development differences between the east and west are reduced".

On the other hand, there are fields which Brussels could transfer to member states and give them more powers and independence. "Common agricultural policy should not necessarily be a completely regulated system."

Zver also commented on the situation in which the EU has found itself after the election of British MEPs, who are mainly Eurosceptics. "This is a big problem for the European Union, coming right at the time when it needs to get stabilised."

If the British went to another Brexit referendum, the result could perhaps be different, but the result of the EU election shows that the "Eurosceptic reflex in the United Kingdom is still very strong".

According to Zver, Brexit has become a second-rate topic in the UK, as the British "care more about which party will win a majority in the early election".

Ljudmilla Novak to work for benefit of Slovenia and European integration

Ljudmilla Novak, 59, is returning to the European Parliament after she served as MEP in 2004-2009 together with Lojze Peterle, who today failed to get re-elected for what would be his fourth term. A graduate of Slovenian and German, Novak abandoned her teaching career to enter politics in 2000 by joining the NSi's predecessor, the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SDK), and being elected Moravče mayor in 2001. When the NSi failed to make it to parliament in 2008, she replaced Andrej Bajuk at the helm of the party, where she stayed until resigning in January 2018 to give way to younger-generation Matej Tonin. It was rumoured she stepped down in exchange for being placed high on the slate for the EU election, which she has denied on several occasions. Novak took the NSi to the general election in 2011 and to the surprise of many, the party managed to return to parliament. Given that no party had managed to make it back to parliament before, this is considered her major achievements. In the second Janez Janša government (2012-2013), Novak served as minister for Slovenians abroad, but later distanced herself from the Democrats (SDS), chiefly due to Janša's ill-disposed policies. Novak, currently an MP, is seen as a moderate conservative willing to engage in dialogue. She is married and has three children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - Ljudmila Novak, who is returning to the European Parliament after a ten-year hiatus to join the ranks of the European People's Party (EPP) as the sole MEP for New Slovenia (NSi), would like to focus on culture and education in her new term.

Talking to the STA about her plans and commitments in the European Parliament, Novak pledged to dedicate her "heart to work for the benefit of Slovenia and integration in Europe".

The first topics she will take up as MEP would depend on the agenda, she said, while noting that in her first term as MEP between 2004 and 2009, she spoke out when something went wrong with respect to Slovenia's borders, minorities and similar issues.

In the past, she was active in the fields of culture and education, the fields she would also like to focus on in her second term in the European Parliament. However, since four of the eight Slovenian MEPs are EPP members "we will need to agree yet who represents which field".

The other three Slovenian MEPs from the EPP ranks - Milan Zver, Franc Bogovič and Romana Tomc - have served as MEPs this term so they will probably want to continue their work in the field they committed themselves to, Novak said. It will all be a matter of agreement. "I'll see what I get to choose from."

The 59-year-old former NSi leader says she is aware of the challenges of reconciling her work as MEP, her family life and her political activity in Slovenia. She did note though that MEPs tended to return home on a weekly basis because they needed to keep in touch with the Slovenian citizens.

All the articles in this series are here

27 May 2019, 17:25 PM

Tomc a lot needs to be done for pensions and demographics

An economist by profession, Romana Tomc, 53, was re-elected to the European Parliament as the second-placed on the joint SDS+SLS slate. She was first elected MEP in 2014, which marked the peak of her political career and a rapid rise through the party's ranks at the time, giving rise to rumours she could take the party leadership while Janez Janša was shortly serving time in the Patria corruption case. As an MEP, she has been a member of the committee for employment and social affairs, and a member of the delegation for relations with Japan. She was the rapporteur for the Youth Employment Initiative, one of the main EU financial resources to help fight high unemployment rates among the young, and has fought, though in vain, against Austria's efforts to cut child benefit for Slovenian parents working in Austria but living in Slovenia. MEPRanking.eu, a quantitative analysis of MEP activity, however, shows she has been one of the three least active Slovenian MEPs in this term. In 2017, the SDS fielded her as a presidential candidate, but she failed to advance to the run-off, placing third after Borut Pahor and Marjan Šarec. Drawing on her rich experience from the private sector and employer organisations, Tomc joined the Labour Ministry in 2007, first as the head of the labour directorate and later as a state secretary in the SDS-led government. In 2011-2014, she served as MP, of which two years as deputy speaker. Tomc has a partner and two adult children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - The freshly re-elected MEP Romana Tomc of the Democrats (SDS) has told the STA that a lot of work remains to be done in the EU in the fields of pensions, older people and demographic trends. She intends to keep focusing on these fields in the next term, hoping that she will manage to "put some wheels in motion".

Tomc (53), who was re-elected to the European Parliament as the second-placed on the joint SDS+SLS slate, said her priorities would be connected with the work she had been already performing.

She noted that although she had worked a lot with young people in the outgoing term, she had paid the most attention to pensions, pension systems, demographic changes and population ageing.

She thinks that the EU owes a lot to its citizens in terms of demographic policy and pensions. "If we dealt with things such as clock changes, I think that we can also deal with serious things such as problems in the pension systems in all member states, not only in Slovenia."

Considering that all EU member states have problems in this field, Tomc believes that it is time for the EU institutions to commit to deal more intensively with the challenge.

In countries where governments are not being responsible, these systems are bursting at their seams, assessed the member of the largest opposition party, adding that Slovenia was among them. This is an issue that needs to be regulated anew.

"We discussed the issue of ageing, but did not adopt any measures. I think that we could adopt some binding commitments in this field," she said, while noting she was inclined to setting minimum standards.

Such standards would leave enough manoeuvring space to individual member states, while being means for Brussels to control whether a member state is taking measures they should be taking in order to make its pension system stable.

According to Tomc, the EU has dedicated a lot of money to projects such as bridges and other infrastructure, and now it is time to start investing in people.

As a case of good practice, she pointed to the youth guarantee scheme, for which the EU has earmarked EUR 9 billion. "Why wouldn't we have a guarantee scheme for older people," she wonders.

Milan Brglez will commit himself to human rights

Milan Brglez, 51, was elected MEP with preferential votes despite having just recently joined the SD after defecting from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) of former PM Miro Cerar, which he helped found just before it won the 2014 general election. It was then that Brglez, who has a PhD in international relations, entered politics, before which he was known mainly in academic circles. He was elected MP in 2014 and became parliamentary speaker, a post he held until 2018. During this stint, parliament stripped opposition SDS MP Janez Janša of his term as MP as he was serving time in the corruption Patria defence case, in what was perceived as a rather controversial move. As an expert on foreign relations, Brglez was also a member of the advisory group involved in the preparation of Slovenia's case for the tribunal arbitrating on the border with Croatia. In 2018, he was re-elected to the National Assembly on the SMC ticket, but defected soon over a dispute about the new parliamentary speaker with SMC leader Cerar during the talks on the coalition formation. He is a father of two children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - Milan Brglez, an international law professor who was elected one of two MEPs for the Social Democrats (SD) on Sunday, says he will dedicate his term to things he knows best, that is issues linked to international relations, international law and human rights, including social rights.

"This is such a surprise that I haven't given it much thought yet," Brglez, who made it to the European Parliament as No 4 SD candidate owing to preference vote, told the STA when asked about his future work.

However, Brglez, who served as the National Assembly speaker in the previous term, said that value added he would bring to the EU parliament was his "commitment to human rights and the rule of law", two topics that he believes are underrated and neglected in the EU.

Having defected to the Social Democrats from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) after the 2018 general election, Brglez says that in the European Parliament he will work toward a clearer social democratic profile, and will also dedicate his time to social rights, where he believes Europe should do much more.

He would like for "certain minimum standards to be adopted in the future so we don't compete for money when it comes to social security". However, a more detailed distribution of tasks will also depend on distribution of European Parliament seats between groups, he noted.

Brglez, who currently serves as deputy in the National Assembly, plans to first complete the work he has started in the Slovenian parliament before devoting his time fully to how he operates within the European Parliament. "Some expertise from this field will certainly help," he added.

Brglez is happy to have won his term with a preference vote. "I gather these are the votes of those new voters who supported social democracy and this was the basic goal that was behind our joint decision for me to stand," said Brglez.

As a result of his election to the European Parliament, the SMC will gain back Brglez's seat in the national legislature, considering that Brglez was elected on the SMC ticket before defecting to the SD last summer.

"That's the logic of parliamentarism, which I believe is right in principle, but as far as the SMC and I are concerned this part of the story is now over," said the 51-year old.

All the articles in this series are here

27 May 2019, 16:30 PM

Klemen Grošelj will work for solidarity and security

Klemen Grošelj, 43, holds a PhD in defence studies from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Studies. He entered politics last year when he was appointed a state secretary at the Defence Ministry after the general election, and has since authored a new resolution on the national security strategy designed to beef up the national security system at a time of changing global security threats. Elected as the second-placed on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ, Grošelj said during the campaign that EU members should reach agreement on its new strategic areas to be added to the existing ones. He has also said in a recent interview: "I believe in a EU which will have common policies and where the European identity and national identities do not exclude each other." Before turning to politics, Grošelj was best known for his analysis of global geostrategic developments.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - State secretary at the Defence Ministry Klemen Grošelj (LMŠ/ALDE), who has been elected to the European Parliament for the first time, has told the STA that as an MEP he would strive for solidarity and security, as highlighted in his campaign.

"I believe that the EU must remain a place of security where internal cohesion and solidarity among EU member states and citizens will be built," Grošelj said after the partial official results were released.

Asked about his future MEP career, the newly-elected Grošelj did not elaborate further, saying he had not considered possible committee engagements yet.

The 43-year-old was pleased that voters had placed trust in him and the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ). Prior to starting his MEP term, Grošelj said he would like to complete certain duties at the Defence Ministry.

Elected as the second-placed on the LMŠ slate, Grošelj said he welcomed the positive trend of the liberal democracy idea, describing it as striving for "an open society which is not based on exclusion and intolerance" and counterweighting certain extremist or populist forces on the rise.

"A strengthened European centre indicates the strengthening and further development of the European idea, which, as we should keep in mind, is essential for the European peace and prosperity enjoyed by us today," pointed out Grošelj.

Tanja Fajon will fight against intolerance

Fajon, 48, won her third term in the European Parliament as the party's leading candidate after leapfrogging in 2014 SD leader Igor Lukšič with the help of preference votes. The only SD MEP in 2014-2019, Fajon has been a member of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and a member of the delegation for relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. MEPRanking.eu, a quantitative analysis of MEP activity, shows she has been overall the busiest Slovenian MEP and one of the 101 most active ones. In her first term, she strongly advocated visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, which earned her the title of honorary citizen of the Sarajevo canton earlier this year. As one of the vice-presidents of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), she was mentioned in 2018 as a potential successor to S&D president Gianni Pittella. Fajon graduated in journalism in Ljubljana and continued her studies at the University of Paris, where she obtained a master's degree in international politics in 2005. She joined the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija in 1995 and was posted to Brussels as a correspondent for eight years before she entered politics in 2009 to successfully run for a seat in the European Parliament. She is married, but has no children.

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Tanja Fajon will fight against intolerance

Fajon, 48, won her third term in the European Parliament as the party's leading candidate after leapfrogging in 2014 SD leader Igor Lukšič with the help of preference votes. The only SD MEP in 2014-2019, Fajon has been a member of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and a member of the delegation for relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. MEPRanking.eu, a quantitative analysis of MEP activity, shows she has been overall the busiest Slovenian MEP and one of the 101 most active ones. In her first term, she strongly advocated visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, which earned her the title of honorary citizen of the Sarajevo canton earlier this year. As one of the vice-presidents of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), she was mentioned in 2018 as a potential successor to S&D president Gianni Pittella. Fajon graduated in journalism in Ljubljana and continued her studies at the University of Paris, where she obtained a master's degree in international politics in 2005.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - Tanja Fajon (SD/S&D), who has won her third term in the EU Parliament, would like to continue the work she was doing in her previous terms, fighting for human rights and against intolerance, xenophobia, hatefulness and fake news. "I will strive for a socially fair Europe," she told the STA.

After the announcement of the partial official EU election results on Sunday, Fajon thanked voters who, according to her, provided a lot of support to her.

Being asked about the future of her political career, the 48-year-old MEP replied that she would gauge the situation upon her return to the Parliament.

Fajon was also pleased that she would be joined there by another candidate from the Social Democrats' (SD) slate, Milan Brglez, since together they will constitute "a bit stronger delegation than in the past".

The re-elected MEP wishes for a socially fair Europe, a goal she said she was already pursuing in her previous term as a member of the Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties and Committee on Tax Rulings.

"I assume I will remain active in the same areas in my new term, but that will, of course, be determined by the leadership of the S&D political group," said Fajon, one of the vice-presidents of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

Looking back at the EU election campaign, she estimated that Slovenians were mostly concerned with how to maintain their standard of living.

"We're talking about decent life, social justice, tax justice and protection of the environment, which has turned out to be important especially through young people's actions, actively supported by myself," said Fajon.

She plans to continue to strive for achieving sustainable equality in Europe. She believes Europeans are facing numerous issues, including political, economic and social ones, which will have to be addressed and tackled.

All the articles in this series are here

27 May 2019, 15:31 PM

Joveva will promote the interests of young people in EU Parliament

Irena Joveva, 30, is a political newcomer and the youngest of all Slovenian MEPs. Leaving a career in journalism to stand in this year's EU elections, she has been criticised for lack of experience in politics, but defended herself by saying it is time for new faces and new approaches. Joveva, who holds a master's degree in international relations, started her career at the Slovenian Press Agency's home policy desk and received the Slovenian Journalists' Association's award for best young journalist in 2014. She then moved to private broadcaster POP TV to cover home affairs. Although many know her from the TV screen, she admitted the invitation to headline the ticket of the party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec came as a surprise. She says experience is not the only thing that matters in politics, as those criticising her for the lack of it have many experiences but have failed to bring change for the better. Joveva, of Bulgarian and Macedonian descent, is a basketball fan and cheers for North Macedonia, except when they play against Slovenia.

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STA, 27 May - Irena Joveva, a former journalist who was elected MEP as the frontrunner of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), plans to promote social issues and the youth in the European Parliament. She would like to cooperate with parties and political groups that share LMŠ's views and are foremost pro-European.

Joveva is a political novice and the youngest Slovenian MEP to date. The 30-year-old former journalist called for a new mindset during the campaign.

Being the LMŠ's lead candidate, Joveva told the STA she had been relieved when she heard the election results. "It was very nice to see our percentage and especially the number of our MEP seats," she said.

The second candidate on the LMŠ's list, Klemen Grošelj, was also elected MEP in what was the first EU election for the party.

"I'll need some time to fully grasp what actually happened," she said.

She will not have a lot of time to process things though, as her first meeting with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) is scheduled for Tuesday.

She thinks it is too early to talk about her work in committees but she will be active in social affairs and the youth.

Being young herself, she feels she will be in a better position to advocate the interests of young people. But she will also promote the interests of the elderly, and deal with environmental issues, and common foreign and security policy.

She is open for cooperation with everyone and hopes Slovenian MEPs will be more united in this term. She would like new faces in politics to attract more people to the polls in five years.

The LMŠ won 15.58% in what was the first EU election for the party, which was founded just before the 2018 general election.

Franc Bogovič to focus on smart villages

Franc Bogovič, 56, was re-elected as the fourth-placed on the joint list of the opposition SDS and his People's Party (SLS). He was first elected MEP in 2014 on the joint New Slovenia (NSi) and SLS slate with preference votes from last place on the list. At the time, he was the SLS leader and an MP. As MEP, Bogovič, who has a degree in agronomy, has been active in promoting digitalisation in agriculture. Although he led the SLS for just over a year, he is a party stalwart as a founding member of the SLS's predecessor, the Slovenian Farmers' Union, established in 1988. Before being elected Krško mayor in 1998, a post he held for 13 years, he served as local councillor for nearly a decade, but first came to national prominence as a member of parliament in 2008-2011. After the snap election of 2011, he served as agriculture minister on Janez Janša's short-lived government for a year. When he took over the SLS in March 2013 from Radovan Žerjav, he steered it back to its rural roots and pursued a conciliatory policy that helped the party forge close ties with the NSi. He is married and has three children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - MEP Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS), who was elected for another term on the joint slate of the Democrats (SDS) and the People's Party (SLS), says he will continue his line of work in Brussels. "It takes a while before you get connected, before people get to know you and trust you," he said, adding that he would stay true to himself.

Bogovič would like to continue his work in the committee on agriculture and rural development, and on regional development. He would also like to join the transport and energy committee.

Apart from participating in the three committees, he plans to promote the project of smart villages, which he thinks sums up his efforts in the European Parliament so far.

According to Bogovič, funding for this project has been secured in the next multi-annual financial framework, and now these funds need to be phased. Slovenia should be a pioneer in this field, he believes.

He is confident that pro-European parties - the European People's Party (EPP), Socialists (S&D), liberals and the greens - will successfully form a coalition that will have a majority in the new parliament, form the new commission and continue with European projects.

"Together we will make sure Europe will be doing well and that those who come to the European parliament only to break the EU will remain marginalised."

Asked whether Brexit could still be prevented, he said this was a question primarily for the British. "There has been so many twists already that Europe does not understand them any more. I think they don't know what they're doing themselves and all this is not good for anyone."

Noting that the UK is one of the largest and most important economies, he expressed hope that it changes its mind about leaving.

All the articles in this series are here (if they're not online yet, come back soon, as this is just part one)

27 May 2019, 09:50 AM

STA, 27 May 2019 - Political analysts believe the opposition Democrats (SDS/EPP) are in a way a loser of this year's EU vote even if their joint slate with the SLS has won three MEPs and the largest share of the vote. Andraž Zorko and Rok Čakš have however pointed to the success of the Social Democrats (SD/S&D), which have gained one seat.

Although the victory of the joint slate of the SDS and the People's Party (SLS) is convincing, the SDS is actually a loser: it will have one MEP less, since the third one is a member of the SLS, Zorko of pollster Valicon told the STA.

"Even without pairing up with the SLS, the SDS would have won enough votes to secure three seats", as was the case in the 2014-2019 term, believes Zorko.

Agreeing that three SDS+SLS seats somewhat overshadowed the fact that compared to 2014-2019, the SDS has lost one MEP, Čakš believes that by joining forces, the SDS+SLS "took the key step towards victory". He noted the SLS had contributed one MEP and added a significant 5% to the outcome.

Zorko believes the Social Democrats (SD) may be considered the biggest winner, not only picking up an extra seat but nearly trebling the number of votes compared to five years ago.

On the home ground, the SD's result strengthens this coalition party against the LMŠ of PM Marjan Šarec and further weakens the position of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and especially of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), said Domovina portal editor Čakš.

Both Zorko and Čakš, meanwhile, believe the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) did well, winning two seats in its first EU elections.

"The LMŠ has broken through with two MEPs apart from winning around 74,000 votes, which is an above-average index compared to the general elections," said Zorko.

The analysis are however unanimous in that the opposition Left is the biggest loser, having made several mistakes during the campaign.

"It had an excellent starting position and a spitzenkandidat at EU level, but with awkward moves during the campaign it squandered a seat it was practically already secured," said Čakš.

Zorko believes the Left's biggest mistake was its first-seeded candidate, MP Violeta Tomić, who did not do well in the EU arena.

Another loser is according to Zorko the Pensioners' Party (DeSus) and its leading candidate, outgoing MEP Igor Šoltes.

"It actually lost twice," said Zorko, noting DeSUS lost a seat it had in 2014-2019 (its MEP Ivo Vajgl did not stand for re-election) and Šoltes lost his own seat.

The election outcome has also brought change to the Slovenian centre-right parties, as the centre-right has lost one seat to have four, just as the centre-left parties.

Čakš attributed the fact that the centre-left had gained one seat to its successful campaign in districts where it is strong.

Otherwise there are no major winners or losers among other parties, though Zorko pointed to a small victory for the SMC.

Although its election result is relatively poor, it regained the seat in the Slovenian parliament it lost when its MP Milan Brglez defected to the SD.

Since he was now elected MEP, his seat will be filled by a SMC stand-in deputy because he was elected on the SMC slate last year.

With one MEP, the NSi is where it was five years ago, the only difference being that its new MEP is a woman. "They lost nothing by not joining forces with the SLS, but they were not far from winning a second MEP," said Zorko.

And it was perhaps premature to put a member of the Slovenian minority on the slate in Slovenia, Zorko commented on the Alenka Bratušek Party's (SAB) choice of its frontrunner Angelika Mlinar. "The experiment has fallen through."

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