Politics

02 Aug 2019, 11:23 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, 26 July
        LJUBLJANA - The government officially confirmed Slovenia's ambassador to the EU Janez Lenarčič as the country's candidate for European commissioner and submitted his candidacy to Brussels. The pick was met with criticism from some parties in the coalition as well as the opposition Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - Preliminary findings showed that the freight train derailment that led to a massive kerosene spill near Hrastovlje on 25 June had been caused by a broken rail switch. An investigation into why the rail switch broke will be conducted by an independent institute specialising in metals.
        LJUBLJANA - The household appliances group Gorenje generated EUR 567.5 million in revenue in the first six months of the year, up 1.6% on the same period in 2018. However, the company posted a net loss of EUR 29.5 million.
        HRASTNIK - Glass maker Steklarna Hrastnik posted EUR 33 million in revenue for the first half of 2019, a 11% year-on-year increase, and a net profit of EUR 5.9 million, a 54% improvement. The company told the STA that its glass packaging division had been the main driving force behind the successful results.
        KOPER - The passenger terminal at Koper, Slovenia's sole maritime port, welcomed 55,000 cruise line passengers by 26 July with more than 109,000 expected to arrive at the port by the end of the season.

SATURDAY, 27 July
        VRŠIČ - National Assembly Speaker Dejan Židan addressed the annual ceremony at the Russian Chapel below the Vršič mountain pass, saying that the chapel had become more than a place of reverence and a symbol of the deep friendship between the Slovenian and Russian nations. The ceremony featured senior officials from Russia and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc took stock of her outgoing term in an interview for the STA, noting that the EU was first to start discussing the vision of zero transport emissions by 2050. She is also very proud of the transport agreement with the Western Balkans, labelling it the biggest achievement in relations with the region.

SUNDAY, 28 July
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Smiljana Knez, who is wrapping up her term as Slovenia's ambassador to Croatia to become an aide to President Borut Pahor, told the STA in a valedictory interview that a lack of trust was the biggest obstacle preventing relations between two countries from thriving.
        LJUBLJANA - After the government proposed a series of tax tweaks to reduce labour taxation, coupled with higher taxes on capital which would partly offset the loss of revenue, the Finance Ministry revealed that the missing amount would be secured through more effective tax collection. An extra EUR 160 million is to be produced through a proactive approach that would make tax collection more effective.
        LJUBLJANA - The approval rating for the Marjan Šarec government increased further in a poll commissioned by the commercial broadcaster POP TV, while Šarec overtook President Borut Pahor as the most popular politician. The poll, conducted by Mediana, shows 57% of those questioned supporting the government, up 3.1 points on the month before; 11.4% are undecided and 31.5% oppose it.

MONDAY, 29 July
        LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR - The Competition Protection Agency (AVK) cleared the merger of Dnevnik and Večer, the publishers of the second and third largest daily newspapers in the country. The joint company is to have a 40% share on the print media market, which is believed to have been the reason why the deliberations of the AVK on the case took a whole year.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia slipped one spot to rank 31st among 129 countries in the 2019 Global Innovation Index, released by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and business school INSEAD. Switzerland continues in the lead as the world's most innovative country, followed by Sweden and the US.
        LJUBLJANA - Chief of the General Staff Alenka Ermenc launched a disciplinary procedure against the head of the Trade Union of Soldiers (SVS), Gvido Novak, over his alleged grave violations of army discipline. While the SVS said he was being prosecuted for his unionist activities, the General Staff claimed the procedure had been launched due to his actions as a member of the armed forces.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that former State Secretary at the Education Ministry Andreja Barle Lakota was among the ten people who have been indicted for alleged abuse of office in a case involving Armenian healer Ruben Papian. He was allegedly paid tens of thousands of euro between 2009 and 2011 by three Slovenian education institutions for two studies allegedly written by Barle Lakota.
        
TUESDAY, 30 July
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council warned that some of the measures included in the pension reform blueprint could jeopardise the long-term sustainability of public finances. Under the changes, the pensionable base for men with the full 40 years of service would increase from 57.25% to 63.5% by 1 January 2025, a figure that is already in place for women.
        LJUBLJANA - As part of an ongoing upgrade of the rail line between Maribor and the Šentilj border crossing with Austria, three bids were submitted for the construction of a demanding new section. The lowest bid was submitted by a local consortium headed by Pomgrad and including Kolektor Koling, SŽ-ŽGP, GH-Holding and Gorenjska Gradbena Družba, according to the Infrastructure Agency.
        LJUBLJANA - Researchers at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine presented the discovery of a new molecular mechanism of action in ketamine that they say opens up new potential for development of fast-acting antidepressants. Ketamine, a medication used primarily as an anaesthetic, is already applied to treat depression in the US but not yet in Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's population stood at 2,084,301 on 1 April, which is 3,400 more than at the start of January, the Statistics Office reported. The increase however comes on account of a larger number of foreign citizens, with the number of Slovenian citizens in fact decreasing.

WEDNESDAY, 31 July
        LJUBLJANA - Consumer prices in Slovenia grew at an annual rate of 2% in July, up from 1.8% in June and the highest level since the end of last year, even as prices declined by 0.7% at the monthly level due to summer clearance sales. Prices in the group housing were the biggest drivers of inflation.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor marked the tenth anniversary of a meeting between him, in the capacity of prime minister, and his then Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor, which led to the signing of the arbitration agreement, with a series of tweets calling for the implementation of the arbitration award. He stated Croatia should not be treated "like a spoilt child who only does what it wants".
        CELJE - The chemical company Cinkarna Celje saw its sales revenue drop by 5.6% year-on-year to EUR 92.7 million in the first half of the year. Net profit meanwhile plummeted by 57% to EUR 9.7 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed the financing of local infrastructural projects this year and in 2020 in three municipalities that are affected army activities. In line with the decision, the Defence Ministry will allocate EUR 1.7 million for infrastructure projects in the municipalities of Pivka, Ilirska Bistrica and Brežice.
        STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Slovenian football champions Maribor qualified for the third round of the UEFA Champions League qualifiers by eliminating AIK in Stockholm by virtue of scoring more away goals. Maribor had to work extra time as the regular time ended with a 3:3 tie on aggregate.

THURSDAY, 1 August
        KOPER - Port operator Luka Koper selected C Gradnje and its business partner Pro-concrete for the construction of a parking garage with 6,000 parking spaces and expansion of car terminal capacities. The value of the project had been estimated at some EUR 19 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian mountaineers Aleš Česen, Luka Stražar and Brit Tom Livingston learnt they will receive the Piolet d'Or, the top award in mountaineering, for their ascent of Latok I in August last year. They were only the second expedition that ascended the 7145-metre peak and the first ever to climb the mountain's north face.
        MARIBOR - UKC Maribor, Slovenia's second largest hospital, will conduct an internal inquiry on suspicion of mass unauthorised access to the health records of a Maribor judge who was recently brutally assaulted. A special commission is to check whether hospital staff or even some outside the hospital had accessed the health records of Judge Danijela Ružič, who suffered severe injuries in an assault in front of her Maribor home in mid-June, Večer reported.

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.

01 Aug 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 31 July 2019 - Slovenia's government budget posted a surplus of EUR 208.2 million for the first half of the year, which compares to a surplus of EUR 184.2 million in the same period a year ago, data from the Finance Ministry show.

The revised budget for 2019, passed in March, projects a revenue of EUR 10.35 billion and EUR 10.16 billion in expenditure with a surplus of EUR 193.6 million.

Compared to the first half of 2018, budget revenue this year increased by 6.8% to EUR 5.08 billion and expenditure was boosted by 6.5% to EUR 4.87 billion.

Tax revenue in the first half of 2019 stood at EUR 4.33 billion, up 4.6% year-on-year.

Receipts from personal income tax decreased by 1.3% to EUR 728.8 million due to a cut on tax on holiday allowance.

Meanwhile, corporate income tax revenue rose by 22.6% to EUR 555.6 million, and income from VAT rose by 4.2% to EUR 1.83 billion. But receipts from excise duties decreased by 3.5% to EUR 729 million.

On the expenditure side, the cost of debt servicing was reduced by EUR 81 million to EUR 523.4 million due to active management of government debt.

The outlays for public sector pay rose by 9% to EUR 677 million as a result of the agreed pay rises and promotions.

Expenditure on goods and services increased by EUR 30.5 million or 9.6%, mainly due to the cost of modernisation of the Slovenian Armed Forces and maintenance of road and rail infrastructure.

Social transfers were up by 12.6% to EUR 742.1 million.

Consolidated general government balance of payments, comprising the government budget, pension and health insurance funds and local government budgets, posted EUR 9.45 billion in revenue and EUR 9.19 billion in expenditure in the first half of 2019.

30 Jul 2019, 10:29 AM

STA, 30 July 2019 - Commenting on reports about Croatia being ready to enter the Schengen area in the autumn, the newspaper Delo says in Tuesday's front-page commentary that the government will thus be faced with a challenge of whether to support Croatia or use this step as leverage to ensure the implementation of the arbitration ruling.

"Prime Minister [Marjan] Šarec faces the first serious foreign affairs dilemma, which is strongly linked to interior policy, in particular to the opposition Democrats' criticism that this government is not able to protect the border properly.

"He will also face the public opinion, which will probably not welcome any yielding to Croatia."

The paper says that in terms of security and border control Slovenia would benefit from Croatia becoming a Schengen country; however, it would also lose its advantage in the two countries' border arbitration dispute.

Given Slovenia's status in Brussels, it is not likely that the country's efforts to let the new EU Commission decide on the issue would be successful, concludes the commentary headlined Šarec's Dilemma of Security and Politics.

28 Jul 2019, 20:05 PM

STA, 28 July 2019 - Smiljana Knez, Slovenia's outgoing ambassador to Croatia, has told the STA in a valedictory interview that a lack of trust is the biggest obstacle preventing relations between Slovenia and Croatia to thrive.

Knez is happy with her record in office to an extent, because the embassy "has in fact done a lot" considering the state of the political relationship between the countries, which is at a lowest point since the signing of the arbitration agreement in 2009.

"The relationship is not such as I'd like it to be, it could be much better. There's always room for improvement, but the precondition is the political will to solve issues and the willingness to respect the rule of law," Knez said.

She believes that it is time the countries fully resolved one of the big issues that have been troubling their relations for 28 years such as the border and or the matter of the Yugoslav-era savings deposits with the Zagreb branch of the defunct Slovenian bank Ljubljanska Banka.

She sees mutual trust between all players as the first condition to tackle all open issues between the two countries. Meanwhile, efforts have been made to deepen the links between the two nations through various presentations of Slovenian business and culture throughout Croatia.

"Regretfully, there's not much trust in a whole range of issues that would require more dynamic approach to get resolved. A low level of trust makes it harder to talk, negotiate and seek solutions to unresolved issues."

Turning to the issue of border arbitration, she says that even many politicians in Croatia are of the opinion that the arbitration award is in fact good for their country.

"It's a compromise solution and I regret that Croatia has failed to respond to Slovenia's proposal to agree a demarcation of the land border because that would make people's life easier and bring the sea border, which was set for the first time, into life."

In its first reaction after the border arbitration tribunal declared the award on 29 June 2017, the European Commission stated clearly that the award has to be implemented. However, talks between Ljubljana and Zagreb on how to implement the award went on only for half a year after its declaration.

"I don't know of any indications of any discussion about any serious Croatian proposal to package the arbitration award in a way that would make it more acceptable for Zagreb," Knez says about the legal framework that the Croatian government allegedly presented to Slovenia in a bid to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Slovenia has taken Croatia to he European Court of Justice over its refusal to implement the border arbitration award. Knez says that the award will remain valid even if the court declared the suit admissible but then failed to uphold Slovenia's view that through non-implementation Croatia violates EU law in terms of Schengen and fisheries.

"I've noticed a belief in Croatia that the two countries can live with open issues because we have good relations in other fields. I don't believe in that because unresolved issues burden relations and clog cooperation in some areas. There's for instance no real cooperation within the EU even though the two countries may have shared interests."

During her three and a half years in office, the embassy has been trying hard to prevent the cold political relationship affecting the boosting of business links.

Bilateral merchandise trade amounted to EUR 4.2 billion last year, a third more than at the start of Knez's term in 2016. In the first quarter of this year trade was up by 14% compared to the same period a year ago.

The two countries have been maintaining regular contacts at the level of ministries, in particular those linked to economy, transport and infrastructure.

Knez has devoted a lot of her attention to the Slovenian minority in Croatia, which is trying for ethnic Slovenians in Croatia to become more politically engaged, not only in the Croatian parliament, but also at the local level where decisions are taken on everyday life and on preserving the minority's identity.

Knez is leaving her post in Zagreb to become an international relations advisor to President Borut Pahor. Until the arrival of a new ambassador, her duties in Zagreb will be assumed by charge d'affaires Nataša Šebenik.

In April, the newspaper Dnevnik reported that career diplomat Vojislav Šuc was appointed as Slovenia's new ambassador to Croatia. Most recently, Šuc has served as the head of Slovenia's permanent mission to the UN and other Geneva-based organisations. He has also served as ambassador to Sweden.

27 Jul 2019, 09:35 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 26 July 2019

Mladina:  Croatia's reported tourism decline should worry Slovenia

STA, 26 July 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the reports on an alleged decline in the number of tourists in Croatia is not something Slovenia should be happy about, not least for the sake of decency. If this is true, this is actually a reason for concern, as Slovenian tourism is closely connected to tourism in Croatia.

Slovenia bets on tourism and a possible decline in tourist visits in Croatia could reflect on Slovenia, because it generates a lot of its tourism-related revenue with people who only make a stop in Slovenia while on their way to Croatia.

Even those who are in Slovenia for a couple of hours at least buy a motorway toll sticker, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in the commentary Damn Croatians.

"In other words: we are at least partly tied to Croatia's success in tourism economy-wise. This is why we actually should wish that Croatian tourism is as successful as possible, because this will make us more successful too."

When Germany announces a decline in economic growth, everybody in Slovenia (justifiably) speak about and analyse the possible consequences on the Slovenian economy. The same response should be expected to the reports from Croatia, as Slovenia is much more connected with the success of its tourism than Slovenians are willing to admit.

Mladina thus notes that it is detrimental for both countries that they have not been able to make alliances after gaining independence. It would be easier for Slovenia and Croatia to better control and direct migration, and to act as allies within the EU.

In the fields of science, art and tourism development, Croatia is a country Slovenia should connect with. For example, the university medical centres in Zagreb and Ljubljana could cooperate fruitfully because both countries are too small to develop many fields of medicine alone.

"Of course, the most tempting thing at this point is to debate what share of the blame individual countries and politics bear for this situation. But this debate, running almost thirty years since the two countries gained independence, has led us nowhere."

Repovž notes that in Europe, both Slovenians and Croatians are perceived as immature, quarrelsome and nitpicky, which is why normalising the relations with Croatia should be a serious objective for Slovenian politics.

Demokracija: Right under siege by a Left bent on destruction

STA, 25 July 2019 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija claims in Thursday's commentary that the right in Slovenia is under siege, as evidenced from a series of charges the magazine and its editor face due to incitement of hatred.

"They are cultural and just, we on the right are the source of all evil. This is evidence of a cult of hatred. The characters and acts that they are fabricating and projecting onto us are created in their heads, not ours. We are rotten persons for them, instigators of hatred and xenophobes because we love our country."

"Of course we're not any of what they make us out to be. All these horrible shows and horrible things planted on us take shape in them, in the twisted psyches of progressive evildoers," the commentator says in Us and Them.

It argues that this hatred is very palpable and felt at every step. "First they brand us with words, then comes violence, which is then leveraged by politicians, their officials and bureaucrats, their hereditary allies, the travelling mafia in the form of Antifa."

"In fact, they are the most intolerant group of people ... they have sent a tsunami of evil upon us and taken the right to be the sole arbiters not just of their thoughts and actions but also our thoughts and conduct. The result is always the same, regardless of circumstance: we are evil, they are not."

The commentator concludes that the right has been tolerant for too long which is why violence against is has become commonplace. "For us violence is a horrible thing, the idea about armed coup against the government unimaginable, but they have revolution and violent coups in their blood. There is us. And there is them."

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

26 Jul 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 25 July 2019 - After annulling legislative amendments that allow the police to use equipment for automatic license plate recognition, the Constitutional Court has now cleared provisions that allow them to use drones.

The use of drones and systems for automatic license plate recognition were introduced into law through amendments to the police tasks and powers act, passed by parliament in February 2017.

These and some other changes, including those on collection of air passenger data, have been challenged by Human Rights Ombudsman at the Constitutional Court on grounds of invasion of privacy.

Deliberating on each sets of changes separately, the court annulled the provisions on automatic license plate recognition last week, but now found the use of drones in police work does not breach the constitution.

The ombudsman argued that the law defined the application of drones "in such a generalised fashion that it can no longer satisfy the demand for being proportional with the benefits as following from the constitution".

The ombudsman was bothered in particular by the provision that allows the use of drones for collection of evidence of criminal acts and for identification of perpetrators.

The ombudsman argued that the technology would allow continuous and and all-encompassing surveillance, a technology that would become ever more sophisticated, advanced and capable.

However, the court held that the petitioner grounded the alleged unconstitutionalities in insufficient detail, setting out the risks of drones for personal data protection only in general terms.

The court will deliberate on the provisions governing collection of air passenger data separately.

Earlier this week, the court imposed a temporary injunction on the use of IMSI catchers, devices that mimic mobile phone towers to intercept mobile traffic.

These were introduced into law by amendments to the criminal procedure act in March. The amendments have been challenged by the opposition Democrats (SDS) and Left with the court's decision still pending.

25 Jul 2019, 11:33 AM

STA, 24 July 2019 - Slovenia and Austria are the first EU countries to have started exchanging social security data as part of the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) IT system, which provides European social security institutions with comprehensive electronic exchanges and thus speeds up procedures.

 

Slovenia's ZZZS health insurance institute and the Main Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions have been cooperating in setting up the electronic exchange since the beginning of 2018.

The cross-border EESSI project aims to speed up and simplify administrative procedures as well as facilitate faster calculation and payment of social benefits. The IT system will also enhance data protection, said the ZZZS.

The institute expects to exchange more than 80,000 electronic documents with other countries per year, including some 30,000 with Austria.

In January the ZZZS started exchanging with Austria information pertaining to the sector of drawing up legislation, while at the beginning of July it launched a data exchange including in sectors dealing with work accidents and occupational diseases as well as compensation recovery.

The EESSI system assists EU social security institutions as well as those in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

All our stories about Austria are here

25 Jul 2019, 09:23 AM

STA, 24 July 2019 - Hans Peter Doskozil, the governor of the Austrian state of Burgenland, met Minister of Development and European Cohesion Policy Iztok Purič as he continued his visit to Slovenia on Wednesday for talks about the future of cross-border cooperation projects.

 According to a press release from the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, Doskozil and Purič noted the importance of cross-border cooperation and preservation of good relations.

These are manifested in cross-border projects, partnerships between institutions in Slovenia and Burgenland, and results that help boost competitiveness, research, innovation, effective use of energy sources and preservation of natural and cultural heritage.

Burgenland is being involved in 12 projects in the Slovenia-Austria Interreg cross-border cooperation programme in the period between 2014 and 2020.

One of them, COOP4HEALTHCARE, is a project partnership between the University of Ljubljana, the Burgenland University of Applied Sciences, Premiqamed clinic, the company Evolaris, Ljubljana Technology Park and the Murska Sobota Innovation Technology Cluster, which seeks to improve the selection of services in healthcare, in particular at retirement homes.

The Slovenian minister and the Burgenland governor also discussed future cooperation. First activities for the cross-border programme beyond 2020 are already under way.

Doskozil arrived in Slovenia on Tuesday, accompanied by a delegation. He met President Borut Pahor and National Assembly Speaker Dejan Židan yesterday.

Today, he also paid a visit to the Health Ministry for an exchange of views on topical issues and challenges in healthcare with State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek.

Doskozil also met Justice Minister Andreja Katič with the ministry reporting that the pair noted good and efficient cooperation in justice affairs between Slovenia and Austria.

Katič spoke about Slovenia's experience in the system of probation and resocialisation of convicts, while the meeting also touched on the use of Slovenian language at courts in bilingual areas in Austria.

Doskozil also met Culture Ministry State Secretary Petra Culleta.

All our stories about Austria are here

22 Jul 2019, 11:16 AM

STA, 20 July 2019 - Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša hailed the opposition party's election results in the past year and criticised the current government as he addressed the starting gathering of the SDS's traditional two-week summer camp near Bovec.

The largest get-together for the party's rank-and-file, held at Bovec airport, heard Janša celebrate the SDS's results in the last general, local and European elections.

"It is hard to be unhappy if you post three victories in three elections," he said, while acknowledging that only the local elections truly resulted in the party participating in decision making.

The government was formed after the general election by the losers of the election, he argued, suggesting that this was not usual "in normal democracies".

"Slovenia is not at that stage yet," he said, saying the government should be in the hands of the one who earned the most trust in the election.

Janša nonetheless believes that the party has emerged out of these developments stronger, saying it got 2000 new members, including many young people.

Meanwhile, he also touched on the situation in the European political arena. He said that while the cards are being mixed anew there, Slovenia is again showing too little ambition and is not being considered a serious player on the European map.

"This also has negative consequences when it comes to securing projects, seats in European institutions, for the country's reputation and for foreign investment," Janša said.

Moreover, he was critical of the choice of Slovenian's Ambassador to the EU Janez Lenarčič as the Slovenian candidate for EU commissioner.

He said the choice was mostly guided by the wish to put forward somebody who would not endanger anyone at home, irrespective of their prospect for benefiting Slovenia in any way in the EU.

The SDS's camp involves various activities, including several hikes, among them to Mt. Triglav on 27 July.

All our stories on the SDS are here

20 Jul 2019, 09:14 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 19 July 2019

Mladina: New social order key to tackling climate change

STA, 19 July 2019 - Reflecting on efforts against climate change, the left-wing weekly Mladina says the current piecemeal measures - raising awareness about plastic, car and air transport, meat etc.- are welcome. However, to truly tackle the situation, it will be necessary to change the social order and dethrone work as the concept central to everybody's identity and survival.

The weekly paper's editor in chief Grega Repovž points to preliminary findings that many forms of work, consisting of the workers driving to work, executing their tasks and returning home, entail higher costs - environmental expressed in material costs - than the workers' wages.

As long as work continues to have its current social status, as long as it is a source of survival, a measure of an individual's success in life, their social status, as long as it stays on the pedestal where it was put by both capitalism and socialism, truly meaningful change that would reduce the burdens placed on the environment is not possible.

While deciding to reduce the temperature in one's flat in the winter by one degree, to adopt a zero waste approach when buying fruits and vegetables, to only use air transport twice a year etc. are all very positive steps, they are not truly radical in the sense needed to really tackle climate change.

"It is necessary to become more radical, to demand a new social order ... One thing is clear: redefining the position of work means a redefinition of society. As soon as an individual's life fulfilment will no longer be tied to work, everything will change.

"The worst thing here is that work mostly does not deliver this much expected fulfilment to the everyday individual, it only offers a future promise (it is in fact all a kind of faith in work), only to lead at one point in life to the resigned acceptance of things as they are: working in exchange for pay ... in a way that determines the rhythm and manner of the life of individuals, of families, of society."

Demokracija: Labelling Identitarians Extremists a Horrific Attack on Freedom

STA, 18 July 2019 – The right-wing weekly Demokracija takes issue in its latest editorial with Slovenian mainstream media reporting widely on the Identitarian movement being classified as right-wing extremist in Germany. It expresses shock at why people problematise charity being made conditional on ethnicity, and issues what amounts to a call to arms against the left.

While ignoring Europol reports on terrorism showing that "(far)leftists are a bigger threat to Europe than (far)rightists", the "mainstream media (MSM)" pushed the news from Germany and served a whole load of nonsense in the process, says Jože Biščak, the editor of the right-wing magazine co-owned by the opposition Democrats (SDS).

He highlights a report by the website of RTV Slovenija that "sees a security threat in the Identitarian movement 'offering food to the homeless that contains pork, whereby it excludes Muslims'".

"Večer meanwhile says the Slovenian Identitarians have been showing increasing support for the National Bloc group, 'which is following the model from abroad to highlight its support to the vulnerable and poor - but only if they have the right national, religious and ethnic background.'"

"Anyone who loves freedom at least a little, was horrified. Attention! The Identitarians use their own money to buy food and help, they do this at their own expense and in their own free time, but because the leftists have no influence over whom the former help and what kind of food they distribute, they designate this group as far-right."

Biščak says the leftists are unable to comprehend that they cannot interfere with the right of "individuals...to help whom they wish" and are thus "sending the state after the Identitarians", "having it in their DNA to want to control other people's property, which is unconstitutional".

While arguing that unconstitutional actions have also become an everyday affair under the Marjan Šarec government, Biščak says the right had been passive for too long, allowing the left to do as it pleased.

He points to those killed in summary executions after WWII and the silencing of their families, to people who remain judges despite having violated human rights in the past, while he also speaks of "the importing of new voters from the Balkans" and of "opening the door widely to illegal migrants as if our fate as a nation is sealed, a collapse inevitable, and a victory of the primitive hordes at our door unavoidable".

"We were as if under a spell and seemed mad, but let us not forget that, once we count the number of people among our ranks, there are still more of us, the good, than them, the bad, in this beautiful part of the old continent.

"We only need to wake up and push back the left, which is destroying all that we found sacred and allowed us to survive as a nation. Let us for once show, for god's sake, that we can do more than just pull in our horns and squeal, that we can also bark loudly and what is more, bite strongly," Biščak says in the commentary entitled A Dog that Barks Also Needs to Bite.

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

19 Jul 2019, 12:57 PM

STA, 18 July  2019- Twelve new ambassadors have been formally appointed as part of a regular rotation at Slovenian diplomatic missions. Embassies in countries including France, Greece, Italy and the Holy See will get new leaderships this summer under orders signed by President Borut Pahor this week. The vast majority of the appointees are career diplomats.

The new ambassador to France is Metka Ipavic, a Foreign Ministry employee since 1992 who used to serve on the Slovenian mission to the EU and headed the ministry's sector for Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, the Foreign Ministry said.

Tomaž Kunstelj will be the new ambassador to Italy. He is currently Slovenia's envoy to the Holy See and used to serve as ambassador to Canada and secretary general at the Foreign Ministry.

Jakob Štunf, a Foreign Ministry employee since 2002, was named the new ambassador to the Holy See. Štunf had in the past served as deputy ambassador in Prague and a Foreign Ministry spokesman for EU affairs.

Matjaž Longar will take over at the embassy in Athens. He was previously the Ljubljana-based ambassador to Portugal and served as consul general in Klagenfurt.

Primož Šeligo will assume duties as ambassador to Turkey. A Foreign Ministry employee since 1992, he has served as ambassador to Russia and Ukraine.

Slovenia's embassy in Israel will be headed by Andreja Purkart Martinez, who currently heads the Eastern Europe sector at the Foreign Ministry and used to serve as deputy ambassador to Russia and held diplomatic postings in The Hague and Washington.

Gorazd Renčelj will take over in Brazil. A Foreign Ministry employee since 2004, he has previously served as national OECD coordinator and Finance Ministry state secretary.

His predecessor in Brasilia, Alain Brian Bergant, has been named ambassador to Argentina, his fourth ambassador posting after stints in Skopje and Tirana.

Gregor Presler is the new ambassador to Montenegro, having previously served as deputy ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina and held a number of mid-level positions at the Foreign Ministry.

Slovenia's permanent missions to international institutions will also be overhauled.

Erik Kopač, who served as the top foreign policy aide to the prime minister in the Miro Cerar government, will take over the permanent mission to NATO.

Andrej Slapničar, currently serving as ambassador to France, will head the mission to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, while Barbara Žvokelj will head the Vienna office in charge of liaising with the UN, OSCE and other organisations in the Austrian capital.

The appointments are a part of a regular rotation that will include a total of 26 diplomatic missions and come after new ambassadors to Ukraine and the UN office in Geneva have already been named.

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