Politics

09 Mar 2020, 15:50 PM

STA, 9 March 2020 - The government is preparing a stimulus package worth a billion euro to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Short- and long-term measures such as tax deferrals, state guarantees and credit lines are planned, mostly from existing financial facilities, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said Monday.

The measures are designed to provide liquidity to businesses, preserve jobs, reduce losses and make sure companies' market position does not deteriorate, Počivalšek said after a session of the council for competitive and stable business environment, an advisory body.

Of the total amount, roughly EUR 600 million will come from existing financial mechanisms available at SID Banka, the state-owned export and development bank, which will also provide EUR 200 million for new measures.

The Slovenian Enterprise Fund will have EUR 115 million available for small and medium-sized companies, while the Slovenian Regional Development Fund will offer a scheme under which companies will be able to roll over debt.

An emergency law will be adopted to co-finance temporary lay-offs. Over EUR 51m will be set aside for companies that have to temporarily lay off more than half of their staff. The state would provide 40% of wage compensation in such cases, according to Počivalšek.

The Economy Ministry has EUR 6 million at its disposal to help companies in trouble and may activate EUR 20 million for guarantees.

The currently stringent rules on telecommuting may be relaxed in the event of emergency, but they will be additionally liberalised with a special emergency law. "We want to facilitate flexibility," said Tilen Božič, state secretary at the Labour Ministry.

There are already rules in place allowing companies to defer tax liabilities, but the currently stringent conditions will be relaxed.

The financing of tourism promotion will be stepped up to help an industry that is already among the worst hit by the global spread of coronavirus.

Počivalšek said it was necessary to be prudent without causing panic. "I'm an optimist and I am confident we'll be able to shield our economy to the maximum extent from major impacts of the coronavirus crisis."

Slovenia had 23 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday afternoon and the spread of the disease has already prompted some companies to advise workers to stay home if they suspect they or their family members may be sick.

Health insurance rules stipulate that workers ordered by the authorities to self-isolate because they are considered as high-risk persons are entitled to full compensation of pay that their employers must provide.

The same goes for persons who had recently visited areas strongly affected by coronavirus but are healthy. They may be asked by their employers to stay home, but they are entitled to full pay.

For persons confirmed to have COVID-19, the Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS) covers 90% of pay from the first day of absence from work, meaning that employers do not have to pay them wages.

Normally, employers cover the first 31 working days of sick leave, whereupon the ZZZS covers their sick pay.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia can be found here

09 Mar 2020, 12:08 PM

STA, 7 March 2020 - Below are short biographical notes on candidates for ministers in the Janez Janša government. Most have previous experience in government or have served in senior parliamentary roles, just a handful are new to national politics.

Anže Logar - candidate for foreign minister

Born in 1976, Logar earned a PhD degree at the School of Advanced Social Studies in 2016. He worked in the European Parliament as an adviser to the European People's Party (EPP) and headed the Government Communication Office (UKOM) in both governments of Janez Janša. During Slovenia's EU presidency in the first half of 2008, he was the official spokesperson of the presidency. First elected an MP in 2014, in his second term he currently chairs the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission. He unsuccessfully ran for the mayor of Ljubljana in 2018.

Matej Tonin - candidate for minister of defence

Tonin, a 36-year-old with a degree in political sciences from the University of Ljubljana, has been in politics since joining New Slovenia (NSi) in 2001. Between 2007 and 2008, he was employed in the National Assembly as a public relations advisor, after which he established his own company. At the end of 2010, he was elected a vice-president of the NSi, and in 2011 as an MP on the party's slate. He was elected for his second MP term in 2014, heading the NSi deputy group during both terms. In 2018, he succeeded Ljudmila Novak as the NSi president following Novak's resignation. In the same year, he was re-elected MP and served as the parliamentary speaker for two months, until the appointment of the minority government of Marjan Šarec. He is the chair of the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services.

Aleš Hojs - candidate for interior minister

The 58-year-old construction engineer started his political career in the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD), and after the party merged with the People's Party (SLS) he joined New Slovenia (NSi). In the 2011 parliamentary elections, he was an MP candidate for the party, and in 2012 he took over the defence department in the second government of Janez Janša. He was expelled from the NSi in 2016, and then unsuccessfully ran in the 2018 parliamentary elections on the list of the Democrats (SDS). He chairs the defence committee of the SDS expert council, presides the Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence and is the director of Nova24TV, a broadcaster co-owned by the SDS.

Andrej Šircelj - candidate for finance minister

Šircelj is a seasoned MP for the Democrats (SDS) who started out as a teacher at the Ljubljana Secondary School of Economics to later also work as a tax and business consultant. He is already familiar with the Finance Ministry, having worked there as a state secretary in the second half of the 2004-2008 Janez Janša government. The 61-year-old has been elected to parliament three times - in 2011, 2014 and for the current term in 2018 - and has mostly been known for his work on the parliamentary public finance oversight and finance committees. In this term has also served as the deputy chair of the Foreign Policy Committee.

Zdravko Počivalšek - candidate for economic development and technology minister

If appointed, Počivalšek would be heading the same department in three consecutive governments. After having spent three decades in senior management, half of which as the boss of the spa operator Terme Olimia, the 62-year-old agronomy engineer entered politics in 2014, when he joined the government of Miro Cerar. He kept the post in the government of Marjan Šarec, and last autumn he also took over the presidency of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) from Cerar. As minister, Počivalšek he has focused on the development and consolidation of the tourism sector, support for domestic and foreign direct investments, and the fate of the retailer Mercator after the demise of its Croatian owner Agrokor.

Tomaž Gantar - candidate for health minister

The 60-year-old urologist is slated to become health minister for a second time. He already held the post in the second Janez Janša government and in the Alenka Bratušek government between February 2012 and November 2014 as a member of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). He resigned as the coalition at the time was not able to push through a healthcare reform. In the next term as an MP, he chaired the parliamentary Health Committee. He was also active locally, as the mayor of the coastal municipality of Piran between 2006 and 2010, while he surprisingly lost the local election in 2018. He was the director of the Izola hospital between 2000 and 2004.

Andrej Vizjak - candidate for environment and spatial planning minister

Vizjak is a long-standing member of the Democrats (SDS) who served as minister under both Janez Janša governments. He was the economy minister from 2004 to 2008, and labour, family and social affairs minister in the 2012-2013 cabinet. The 55-year-old holds a masters in electrical engineering and worked at heavy machinery manufacturer Litostroj and as a young researcher at the Jožef Stefan Institute. In 1994 he started working at the Krško Labour Inspectorate before being appointed a state secretary at the Labour, Family and Social Affairs Ministry in 2000. While also being the mayor of Brežice from 2002 to 2004, he served two terms as MP, including as the head of the SDS deputy group. After failing to get elected to parliament in 2014, he was put in charge of development and investment at hydroelectric power plant operator HESS, part of state-owned Gen Energija.

Jernej Vrtovec - candidate for infrastructure minister

Vrtovec, born in 1985, is a young but experienced politician who established a municipal committee of New Slovenia (NSi) while still in secondary school. Vrtovec, who graduated at the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology, became the president of the NSi's youth wing in 2009 and also served as the party's public relations officer. He was first elected to parliament in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Since the beginning of 2019 he has been chairing a parliamentary inquiry into suspected abuse of office at the bad bank.

Janez Cigler Kralj - candidate for minister of labour, the family, social affairs and equal opportunities

Cigler Kralj, 41, has a degree in political sciences and served as the New Slovenia (NSi) deputy group's public relations officer between 2006 and 2008, when he left to work for Infonet Media, a network of radio stations, for two years, followed by a two-year stint at the Public Fund for Human Resources Development and Scholarships. In 2012 he returned to the National Assembly as a staffer for the deputy group.

Lilijana Kozlović - candidate for justice minister

Kozlović, born in 1962 holds an MA in law and headed the Koper Administrative Unit for nine years before entering politics in 2014, when she was elected MP for the Modern Centre Party (SMC), of which she was also a deputy president. In 2016 she became secretary general of the Miro Cerar government and was deeply involved in the border arbitration procedure with Croatia. Just before the end of the government's term she was named director of the Slovenian Environment Agency against the backdrop of severe criticism from the right, a post she still holds.

Simona Kustec - candidate for minister of education, science and sporty

Kustec, born in 1976, holds a PhD in political sciences and is a tenured professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana. She joined the Modern Centre Party (SMC) in 2014 and became its vice-president. After she was elected MP, she went on to become the deputy group leader. After the end of the term she left politics and returned to academia.

Aleksandra Pivec - candidate for minister of agriculture, forestry and food

Pivec, a 47-year-old who holds a PhD in chemical engineering, led the department during the Marjan Šarec government, after serving as a state secretary at the Office for Slovenians Abroad. She previously worked as early stage researcher at the Ljubljana Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology and on the research team at the Bistra Ptuj Science and Research Centre. When taking over in September 2018, Pivec set access to safe food, measures to adapt to climate change and preparations for the EU's next financial perspective as her main priorities. Her work in the previous government was overshadowed by suspicions of wrongdoing in an EU-funded tourism project, which did not hurt her, however, as she defeated the long-serving Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) president Karl Erjavec at the January congress to become the new DeSUS leader.

Boštjan Koritnik - candidate for minister of public administration

Koritnik, 40, is an a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, secretary general of the Association of Slovenian Jurists and editor of the law journals Pravna Praksa and Javna Uprava. He started out as a journalist for GV Založba, a publisher specialising in law and business, where he went on to become editor and legal counsel before he was appointed director and editor-in-chief in 2010. After the company was merged with legal information provider IUS Software, he was co-director until 2015.

Vasko Simoniti - candidate for culture minister

Vasko Simoniti, 69, spent most of his career at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, where he earned his PhD in history and where he was professor of modern history until his retirement. He entered politics in 2000 along with several prominent conservative writers and was among the founders of the Assembly for the Republic, a conservative think-tank. He served as culture minister in the first Janez Janša government in 2004-2008 and remains the head of the Democrats' (SDS) culture committee.

Zvonko Černač - candidate for development and European cohesion policy minister

Černač is coming to the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy from the National Assembly, having served as an MP of the Democrats (SDS), with some interruptions, since 2004. In the meantime, he served in 2012 as minister of infrastructure and spatial planning in the second government (2012-2013) of Janez Janša. After the Civic List (DL) left the then coalition, he was also in charge of the justice and public administration department for a while. The 57-year-old graduate of the Ljubljana Faculty of Law previously worked in the ZSSS trade union confederation, the municipality of Postojna, the operator of the Postojna Cave, the Kobilarna Lipica stud farm, and the Postojna municipal housing fund.

Helena Jaklitsch - candidate for minister for Slovenians abroad

A historian and author born in 1977, Jaklitsch has a PhD in history from the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts. She worked at the Justice Ministry between 2005 and 2014 and was in charge of logistics preparations for Slovenia's EU presidency in 2008. Since 2014 she has worked at the Culture Ministry, first at the department for Slovenian language and most recently at the directorate for creativity.

All our stories on Slovenia’s new government can be found here

07 Mar 2020, 16:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 6 March 2020

Mladina: Šarec, Mesec not to blame for Janša's rise to power

STA, 6 March 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that blaming the Left and the Marjan Šarec List for Janez Janša's rise to power would be easiest. But the fact is that the two parties acted exactly as they were expected.

Luka Mesec of the Left and Marjan Šarec could have kept the outgoing coalition alive for a while longer to prevent the forming of the Janša government by making constant concessions to capital, but in the end, they would undoubtedly be the losers.

What happened now would happen at the next election at the latest, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž under the headline Šarec and Mesec Are Right.

What caused the collapse of the outgoing coalition was the August 2019 proposal to abolish top-up health insurance. "The minute the Left proposed the law that would actually implement what was written in the coalition agreement, the entire coalition was up in arms.

"That was when not only the coalition but also the LMŠ fell apart, as both most important ministers from Šarec's party (finance minister and health minister) opposed the law. Because they deemed it ideologically unacceptable."

The neo-liberal parties in government immediately voiced opposition to the proposal: the SMC, SAB, even the SD complained, but hopefully only because the Left tabled the proposal, Repovž says.

Parties started calculating and MPs realised they might lose their jobs. The government did not collapse because of stubbornness of Mesec or Šarec's incompetence but because of clear ideological differences within the coalition and the LMŠ, Repovž claims.

It was a typical clash between the left and right, those who favour public health and those who want to privatise healthcare.

Parties picked sides very clearly: the SDS, NSi, SAB, SMC, DeSUS and the SNS stood to defend capital and the wealthy. "Yes, the SAB is on the list too and is not in the SDS-led coalition today only because Janša will never forget that he had to hand over the PM post to Alenka Bratušek in 2013."

The LMŠ closely escaped being put on this list as well, mainly thanks to its deputy group. People such as outgoing Finance Minister Andrej Betroncelj could have easily prevailed in the party but when they did not, departures started and Šarec was left in a position when all he could do was to resign.

"It is without a doubt terrible that Slovenia got a government led by a far-right politician. The price will be high. But in the last election we simply elected mostly the parties and MPs that see politics merely as a means to satisfy their own interests and the interests of the capital ... But at least now they are together and are no longer hiding behind the Left and the LMŠ."

Demokracija: Centre-right alliance will last for years

STA, 5 March 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija is confident in its latest editorial about the firmness of the new centre-right coalition, saying cooperation between centrist and right-wing parties is "much more natural than an alliance between far-left radicals, socialists (masked as socdems), and alleged liberals".

Demokracija's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says coalition infighting had indeed been among the reasons for the resignation of outgoing PM Marjan Šarec, but the changes at the helm of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) were crucial for what followed.

Biščak says their former Presidents Miro Cerar and Karl Erjavec "were increasingly openly flirting with socialists ideology, while Zdravko Počivalšek and Aleksandra Pivec immediately started moving their parties back to the centre and liberal values".

Thus Biščak believes Počivalšek and Pivec's claims "that the time lost with an election would have had disastrous consequences for Slovenia over media assertions that they are saving their parties from being erased from the political arena in a snap election".

While criticising last Friday's rally organised against the new coalition as a sign "we are sinking back into a totalitarian world", Biščak is confident that the new coalition is ideologically firm, up to the task, and has a good chance of making it until the end of the term.

"Even more. There are signs emerging on the horizon of a firm coalition between liberal and right-wing parties after the 2022 election," Biščak says in the commentary entitled Sorry for Even Existing.

All our posts in this series are here

07 Mar 2020, 14:00 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 28 February
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP expanded by 2.4% in 2019 after growing by 1.7% in the final quarter year-on-year, showed the first estimate released by the Statistics Office. The annual increase is slightly below what had been announced in projections.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs staged a rally against the emerging centre-right coalition, with protesters urging the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and Modern Centre Party (SMC) in particular to reconsider their decisions to join the "coalition of hate" led the Democrats (SDS). More than
thousand people - 3,000, according to the organisers - gathered. The organisers later filed two criminal complaints, one against an unidentified person who shouted "Kill [SDS leader] Janša" in the crowd and the other against SDS MP Zvonko Černač, who reposted a Twitter post that announced violence against he protesters before the rally.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian web portal Oštro along with two more investigative journalism groups in the region run a report alleging that a Slovenia-based company owned by a Hungarian entrepreneur with ties to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban was used to launder illegal Hungarian government money and finance media propaganda in North Macedonia.
        LJUBLJANA - Consumer prices in Slovenia were up by 2% on average in February over the same month in 2019, mostly due to higher prices of food and housing. More expensive holiday packages were the main factor in the monthly inflation, which stood at 0.7%.
        LJUBLJANA - Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port, reported its group net profit plunge by 32% to EUR 40.4 million in 2019 due to a slowdown of global trade.
        LJUBLJANA - The insurance group Sava reported collecting EUR 599.3 million in gross premiums last year, 9.7% more than in 2018, as its net profit rose 16.7% to EUR 50.2 million.
        KIDRIČEVO - The foreign-owned car upholstery maker Boxmark Leather announced it would lay off a total of 288 workers at its sole remaining Slovenian location, in Kidričevo, by the end of April.

SATURDAY, 29 February
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry welcomed the landmark peace agreement between the US and Afghanistan's Taliban, saying that only bilateral and inclusive dialogue striving for compromise solutions could ensure a successful agreement leading to sustainable peace and stability for all citizens of Afghanistan.
        LAHTI, Finland - The Slovenian men's ski jumping team placed second in the Ski Jumping World Cup event in Finland's Lahti, finishing behind Germany.

MONDAY, 2 March
        LJUBLJANA - Miro Cerar, the outgoing foreign minister, quit the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre Party (SMC) lost its face after joining the new coalition led by Janez Janša of the right-wing Democrats (SDS). His successor at the head of the SMC Zdravko Počivalšek said he had withdrawn an offer to Cerar to become parliamentary speaker before Cerar made the announcement.
        LJUBLJANA - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec announced in the face of a potential new migration wave that legislative changes granting additional powers to the army were ready and may be confirmed by parliament as needed.
        LJUBLJANA - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the Slovenian Association of Journalists in condemning the "intensive attacks" on journalists reporting about alleged funding from Hungary of media close to the Democrats (SDS).
        NOVO MESTO - Revoz, the Slovenian subsidiary of the French car maker Renault, suspended production for three days due to irregular supply of car parts from Turkey blamed partly on the coronavirus outbreak in China. Revoz also confirmed that it would produce the new electric version of the Renault Twingo, to be rolled out at the end of the year.
        LJUBLJANA - Triglav, Slovenia's leading insurance group, saw net profit increase 4% to almost EUR 84 million in 2019 on the back of an 11% increase in gross written premiums, which totalled EUR 1.18 billion, show unaudited results.
        LJUBLJANA - Ulay, a major contemporary visual artist best known as a pioneer of body art and collaborator of performance artist Marina Abramović, died aged 76.

TUESDAY, 3 March
        LJUBLJANA - Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Janša was appointed PM-designate, receiving the mandate to form his third government. Having forged a centre-right coalition with three more parties - the NSi, SMC and DeSUS -after Marjan Šarec resigned as PM, Janša won 52 votes in the 90-member legislature. The priorities listed by Janša include cutting red tape, launching a fund in which state assets would be pooled to help finance public pensions, liberalisation of the economy and more competition in education and healthcare.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar hosted his new North Macedonian counterpart Nakje Chulev for a meeting that focused on illegal migration, including the situation on the Turkish-Greek border. The pair agreed that the situation on the Greek-Turkish border required close monitoring and united response, with regular exchange of information being of essence.
        LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and six co-defendants pleaded not guilty in a case focussing on EU funds abuse and bank fraud in the construction of the Stožice sports park as they faced the Ljubljana District Court. A total of nine defendants are indicted of abuse of office, fraud of EU funds, fraud to acquire a loan and forgery of documents in the multi-million euro project.
        LJUBLJANA - Bojan Požar, the editor of news portal Požareport received a judicial admonition for writing in 2016 that Viktor Knavs, the father of US First Lady Melania Trump, had been in prison for tax evasion. This comes after Požar was ordered to pay damages to Knavs in a related defamation lawsuit last year.
        LJUBLJANA - Actor Bojan Emeršič won the Silver Thistle for the most sexist statement of 2019. "I don't like the excessive emancipation of the last 15 years ... This affects erotics, which is not right, because men and women are different. Man has always been a hunter but is now losing his primary role," he said in an interview with Delo.

WEDNESDAY, 4 March
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded the first infection with the novel coronavirus. The infected person, aged about 60, had been on a trip to Morocco and returned home via Venice airport. Four more cases were confirmed a day later, including two persons who had been in contact with the first individual.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar announced Slovenia was deploying 35 police officers as part of a Frontex rapid border intervention team sent to Greece to help the country deal with an increased influx of migrants after Turkey decided to open its border with Greece.
        DOBOVA - Thirty citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan were found by Slovenian border police hiding in sealed wagons of a train carrying clay. The foreigners, including 12 children aged between five and fourteen as well as a woman in a late stage of pregnancy, were literally buried in clay.
        LJUBLJANA - The Employment Service said it had registered 77,484 unemployed people in February, 3% fewer than the month before and 4.1% fewer than in February 2019.
        LJUBLJANA - Lotrič Meroslovje, a meteorology company, was declared the winner of this year's Business Excellence Award conferred by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology and the SPIRIT agency.
        MARIBOR - Hydro power plant operator Dravske elektrarne Maribor (DEM) is claiming EUR 6.5 million in damages from the state after the government suspended the construction of a hydroelectric power plant on the river Mura in the east in the face strong opposition by locals and environmentalists.
        VRHNIKA - Kemis, one of the two biggest hazardous waste management companies in Slovenia, was cut off power supply after building authorities found that much of the facility near Vrhnika had been rebuilt illegally following a May 2017 fire.

THURSDAY, 5 March
        LJUBLJANA - A bipartisan bill designed to reform electoral law by abolishing electoral districts and introducing a preference vote at the level of the existing eight electoral units, fell three votes short of the needed two-thirds majority of 60 votes to pass at the National Assembly.
        LJUBLJANA - Igor Zorčič, former deputy group leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), was elected parliamentary speaker by secret ballot in a 48:29 vote. He succeeds Social Democrat (SD) leader Dejan Židan, who stepped down as soon as Janez Janša was elected prime minister.
        LJUBLJANA - A proposal to reintroduce mandatory military service tabled by the Democrats (SDS) as one of the points on the agenda of the incoming ruling coalition was defeated in parliament in a 36:51 vote. The Modern Centre Party (SMC) and New Slovenia (NSi), the two of the four parties forming the new SDS-led coalition, did not back the bill, same as the newly-formed opposition.
        LJUBLJANA - The caretaker government endorsed a scheme for drawing funds from the national climate fund in 2020-2023. Some EUR 350 million is projected to be available. A total of EUR 106.3 million is to be allocated for tackling climate change this year.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed the national environmental protection programme for the period until 2030, whose implementation will cost an estimated 47 million to 53 million euro a year.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed the NSi-sponsored amendments to the penal code to extend the statute of limitations for gravest sexual offences to between 30 and 90 years, up from between 10 and 30 years. Parliament also endorsed an amendment to the property code law to introduce a new definition of animals as sentient living beings.
        LJUBLJANA - The Association of WWII Veterans, the Jewish Community in Slovenia and six victims of the WWII Home Guard militia have petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the recent decision of the Supreme Court to annual the 1946 treason verdict of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general.
        AJDOVŠČINA - The Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel signed a letter of intent with Australian company Eyre to There Aviation for the production of the electric two-seaters Alpha Electro. In the first phase 15 aircraft are to be exported to Australia, later the aircraft would be produced there.

All our posts in this series are here

07 Mar 2020, 10:51 AM

STA, 5 March 2020 - The Association of WWII Veterans, the Jewish Community in Slovenia and six victims of the WWII Home Guard militia have petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the recent decision of the Supreme Court to annual the 1946 treason verdict of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general.

Law firm Završek & Šnajder said on Thursday that the Supreme Court's decision to order a retrial was a grave interference in the dignity of its clients, "their right to safety, their personal rights, and a violation of international standards and treaties Slovenia must comply with".

leon rupnik with nazis 02.jpg

Leon Rupnik, leading the way for Nazis in Bežigrad Stadium, Ljubljana. Wikimedia

Rupnik (1880-1946) was sentenced to death by court martial and executed in September 1946 for treason and collaboration with the occupying forces.

In 2014, Rupnik's relatives challenged the verdict in Supreme Court, which recently annulled it for being insufficiently explained.

Rupnik's relatives could petition the Supreme Court on a point of law on the basis of changes to the penal code passed in the 1990s that introduced an extraordinary legal remedy to review the cases of those who were unlawfully or unjustly sentenced under the former communist regime.

Leon Rupnik saluting Nazi Flag youtube.JPG

Leon Rupnik, saluting the Nazi flag in Kongresni trg, Ljubljana. Screenshot

Meanwhile, public broadcaster Radio Slovenija reported today that the Ljubljana city authorities also decided to challenge the Supreme Court's decision at the Constitutional Court. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday.

The radio also reported that Maribor-based jurist Rok Lampe had filed a request for constitutional review. However, the request has been denied by the Constitutional Court because he failed to prove interest to bring proceedings.

All our stories on the Leon Rupnik case are here

07 Mar 2020, 10:43 AM

STA, 5 March 2020 - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed amendments to the penal code on Thursday to extend the statute of limitations for gravest sexual offences to between 30 and 90 years.

The amendments, proposed by New Slovenia (NSi) in a bid to establish a zero-tolerance policy on sexual offences, were backed by 86 votes to none.

Under the existing penal code, such criminal acts become statute-barred in 10 to 30 years, depending on the length of the prison sentence the offence carries.

The outgoing government, which had been planning more extensive changes in the area, agreed with the proposal as well.

Related: Shock Case Shows How Coercion Defines Rape in Slovenia, Not Lack of Consent

The legislators also backed the Democrats (SDS)-sponsored proposal to set down that the constitutional review procedure, launched by at least a third of MPs, would continue even if the MPs' terms are terminated in the meantime. Moreover, parliament

The amendment to the constitutional court act won the backing of 88 votes, with none against it.

Under the current solution, in case the procedure's initiators lost their MP status and the number of them fell below a third of all MPs (30), the Constitutional Court would put a stop to the procedure.

Many review claims had been thus dropped because the court did not hand down a ruling before the end of the National Assembly term.

Parliament also endorsed an amendment to the property code law in a 47:37 vote to introduce a new definition of animals - they are no longer things, but sentient living beings.

06 Mar 2020, 13:11 PM

STA, 5 March 202 - A proposal to reintroduce mandatory military service tabled by the incoming ruling Democrats (SDS) was defeated in parliament on Thursday in a 36:51 vote. Apart from the SDS, the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and National Party (SNS) were in favour of the proposal, but failed to convince the others.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) and New Slovenia (NSi), the two of the four parties forming the new SDS-led coalition, did not back the bill, same as the newly-formed opposition.

The SDS tabled the proposal in January before outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's resignation. It envisaged military service of six months or civil service of twelve months for conscientious objectors.

The first reading of the proposal took place on Wednesday, with the SDS highlighting that reintroducing conscription would reinforce Slovenia's standing army and military reserves.

The caretaker government did not support the amendment, with Defence Ministry State Secretary Nataša Dolenc saying that compulsory service was not warranted and that any changes to the system should be based on a comprehensive analysis.

Most critical were members of the Left, highlighting that instead the state should come up with actual solutions for the issues of the young and announcing that, should the proposal be adopted, the party would use any means available to fight its implementation, including a referendum.

05 Mar 2020, 11:09 AM

STA, 4 March 2020 - Slovenia is deploying 35 police officers as part of a Frontex rapid border intervention team sent to Greece to help the country deal with an increased influx of migrants after Turkey recently decided to open its border with Greece, said Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar as he attended an informal EU ministerial on Wednesday.

After today's meeting, called due to the emergency situation at the Greece-Turkey border, Poklukar highlighted that the police officers were already preparing for the task.

He said that the EU's reaction to the developments had been very rapid compared to the 2015 crisis. Greece has been handling the situation well so far, he added.

A total of 530 members of Frontex, the EU border protection agency, have been already deployed to Greece, including two Slovenians. Frontex is expected to mobilise an additional hundred experts as well as necessary vehicles.

The agency has also activated its rapid border intervention team or RABIT, which will be used for the first time ever.

Should the pressure on the Greece-Turkey border continue to build up and Greece be no longer able to cope with the situation, the minister will propose to deploy military forces as well in line with a defence act article which gives additional powers to the armed forces in such circumstances. Soldiers have been already assisting the police on Slovenia's south border under the legislation.

The proposal would need to get the endorsement of two-thirds of MPs if sent to parliament. Poklukar added that he had been in contact with his colleagues in the EU and Western Balkans to stay on top of the situation.

He has told them that the current situation on the external Schengen border in Slovenia is under control due to the police's efforts and highlighted that in the case of no joint EU solutions, the country is adamant to protect its border against a new influx of migrants single-handedly using the police and armed forces.

Poklukar said that the ministers did not discuss any plans for relocating migrants from Greece today, adding that Slovenia had not yet received any formal proposal to accept unaccompanied refugee minors from the Greek islands either.

He also pointed out that Slovenia was hesitant about a migration relocation scheme for those rescued in the central Mediterranean, agreed by four EU countries last year, since the country had been already dealing with the Western Balkans migration route, masses of asylum seekers and limited capacities.

04 Mar 2020, 14:33 PM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and six co-defendants pleaded not guilty in a case focussing on EU funds abuse and bank fraud in the construction of the Stožice sports complex as they faced the Ljubljana District Court on Tuesday. 

A total of nine defendants are accused of criminal acts, including abuse of office, fraud of EU funds, fraud to acquire a loan and forgery of documents in the multi-million euro project.

Janković argued that the criminal cases brought against him stemming from the Stožice project were a personal attack on him. Apart from his family, his coworkers have also been drawn into this, he said, adding that the company that built the complex went bankrupt.

"You won't be able to find anybody who would have done it cheaper or better," he said, also noting that the Stožice stadium and arena had opened their doors a decade ago and that they attracted a million visitors a year.

The defendants are former sports institute Zavod Tivoli president Roman Jakič, Uroš Ogrin and Zlatko Sraka, both of the bankrupt construction vehicle company Grep, and Samo Lozej, former director the municipal operator of parking lots and markets. Also among the accused are former construction overseers Borut Skubic and Milan Črepinšek.

Marko Kolenc, of the city's sports department, and project manager Andrej Lavrič did not attend today's hearing and are to make a plea next time. The charges will be presented in more detail at the beginning of the trial.

All our stories on Mayor Zoran Janković can be found here

04 Mar 2020, 09:02 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Veteran politician Janez Janša, the long-time leader of the Democratic Party (SDS), has been appointed prime minister of Slovenia's 14th government, his third stint at the helm of the executive. His stable base of supporters finds him charismatic, capable and effective, his opponents say he is resentful and radical.

The 61-year-old has been at the helm of the SDS since 1993 and enjoys unbridled support among party members, having ran unopposed for the position of party leader for two decades and successfully deflecting all challenges to his primacy. Being the party's unrivalled leader, his political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the SDS.

The party has been holding steady at or just below the top of party rankings for years. It won the 2018 general election but Janša was unable to put together a coalition because most parties refused to work with him, quoting the radical anti-immigrant rhetoric modelled on his close friend and ally, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

After Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister in late January, Janša got another chance, as leadership change at the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) made the former Šarec coalition partners less averse to working with Janša, and mindful of the uncertainty that a snap election brings.

His biggest success had been the 2004 election, in which the SDS got 29% of the vote. The SDS went on to build a stable government widely seen as capable, but also one that laid the groundwork for problems in final years of the economic crisis with policies that increased public spending even as they reduced government revenue.

Janša capped his first term by presiding the EU Council in 2008, and although his leadership was applauded across the EU, it was not enough to build up support domestically: in the 2008 general election, the SDS held steady at 29% but was overtaken by the Social Democrats (SD).

If the government serves out its full term Janša will do the cherished job once more as Slovenia is slated to preside the EU in the second half of 2021.

By 2008, Janša was also facing serious allegations of bribery from Finnish defence contractor Patria in exchange for a EUR 278 million purchase of armed personnel carriers, a transaction agreed in 2006.

The trial started in autumn of 2011, just months before Slovenia was about to hold the first snap election in its history and Janša remains convinced that the scandal was fabricated by his political rivals to undermine his chances of winning.

Despite his legal woes, the SDS came second in the 2011 election and Janša became prime minister once again in February 2012 after Zoran Janković, the head of the winning Positive Slovenia (PS), failed to put together a coalition.

The second time around Janša lasted only a year in the prime minister's office, but the policies adopted during that term had profound consequences as the government introduced a number of austerity measures in the wake of the 2008 economic and financial crisis.

The measures were in line with the dominant economic thinking at the time, which focused on the soundness of public finances, but in retrospect they have come to be seen as having contributed to the sluggish recovery of the economy by depressing demand due to wage cuts in the public sector and trimming of investment spending.

The government collapsed after all coalition partners, with the exception of New Slovenia (NSi), left in the wake of accusations by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption about assets Janša could not account for.

In the Patria trial, Janša was found guilty of corruption by the court of first instance and went to jail for several months in 2014 before being released after the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial. The case became statute-barred before a retrial could begin.

While he was in prison, his supporters held regular weekly protests in front of the Ljubljana Courthouse, criticising the judiciary and portraying Janša as a victim of the system.

The protests created a strong grassroots movement that Janša has been able to count on to support his policies and ideas. They were also a manifestation of a long-held belief, going back to the time when he, then a journalist for the weekly Mladina, was first arrested in the late 1980s for divulging classified information, that the "deep state", remnants of the Communist-era centres of power, is dead set against him.

Janša's supporters see him as a strong fighter against remnants of the old political forces. A large part of the public, in particular voters on the left, see in him a shrewd political strategist and demagogue who is very good at playing into the fears of voters, does not chose his means, and continues to deepen divisions in society.

Despite being in prison in the aftermath of the Patria trial at the time, Janša was once again elected MP in 2014, with the SDS coming second to the then newly established Miro Cerar Party (SMC), which was later renamed the Modern Centre Party and will now be a partner in his coalition.

By 2016, cracks had started to show in the SDS, as several senior members had left the party, among them Janša's former Interior Minister Dragutin Mate and long-serving Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The latter, when he left in 2015, said that Janša had deemed him "not orthodox enough", while Mate said that the party's internal democracy had declined.

In terms of relations with foreign politicians, Janša seems to be close to Orban, while he borrowed the slogan Slovenia First for the 2018 election from US President Donald Trump. And like Trump, Janša likes to communicate via Twitter, where he has more than 50,000 followers, more than any other Slovenian politician.

While the judiciary has been a persistent target of criticism by the SDS and Janša, their relationship with the media is testy as well. The most recent wave of criticism came following reports that two media outlets launched by the SDS, ostensibly to counter unfair coverage by mainstream media, had received funding from Hungarian businesses close to Orban.

The SDS has denied allegations that the financial transactions amounted to illegal funding for the party from abroad, and it has dismissed criticism that the Hungarian money makes Janša and the SDS beholden to Orban.

This alleged funding took place after the SDS found itself in crossfire in late 2017 for taking out a EUR 450,000 loan from Dijana Đuđić, an entrepreneur from the Republic of Srpska. The party immediately repaid the loan after this made the news.

Janša was born on 17 September 1958, he graduated in defence sciences in 1982. Soon after, he became the head of the defence commission of the then Association of Socialist Youth of Slovenia, starting to criticise the authorities.

In the 1980s, he was a writer for the weekly Mladina, and was arrested in 1988 and court-martialled on suspicion of leaking military secrets. The protests that accompanied the trial of Janša and three other co-defendants are seen as one of the key milestones in Slovenia's path to independence.

In 1989, he was one of the co-founders of the Slovenian Democratic Alliance, a predecessor of the SDS and one of the first opposition parties in Slovenia. He became a member of the National Assembly in 1990 and is the only MP who has been elected in every single general election since then.

He served as defence minister in successive governments in the early 1990s, including during Slovenia's ten-day independence war in 1991, until he was sacked as a result of a high-profile dispute over the use of military force against a civilian, and in 2000, during the short-lived government of Andrej Bajuk.

Janša has authored several books. His best known works deal with his early political career in the 1990s and the political situation at the time, while in recent years he has also tried his hand in fiction. While in prison in 2014, he wrote the historical novel Noric Kingdom, which imagines an ancient kingdom on present-day Slovenian lands.

He has four children, two with his first wife and two with his current wife, and three grandchildren.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

04 Mar 2020, 08:49 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Janez Janša, the 61-year-old leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), was elected prime minister-designate on Tuesday, receiving the mandate to form his third government after joining forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS).

Having forged a centre-right coalition with the three partners a month after Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister, Janša won 52 votes in a secret ballot in the 90-member legislature with 31 MPs voting against, six abstaining and one invalid ballot.

Biography: Janez Janša - Independence Hero, Former Prisoner, Veteran Politician, Now Slovenia’s PM for 3rd Time

After he was sworn in, Janša said the incoming coalition faced important challenges but he expressed the conviction that it would be able to address them with responsible management.

Janša now has 15 days to put to parliament his candidates for ministers. "The first step was made today. I expect that I will be able to bring the list of candidates for the new government to this assembly in a relatively short time."

The SDS will put forward candidates that have experience in government as well as Slovenia's 2008 presidency of the EU since Slovenia will preside the bloc again in 2021, according to him.

In an hour-long address to the National Assembly prior to the vote, Janša acknowledged that the government would not be able to achieve everything it wants to given that it has only two years to serve until the next scheduled election.

Its term would therefore be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with emphasis on the things that bring the parties together and measures that do not require significant outlays.

Some of the priorities include cutting red tape and decentralisation, including by basing any newly established institutions outside Ljubljana.

Other measures planned in the coalition agreement will have significant fiscal consequences, including higher pensions and a series of family-friendly measures the government plans to take such as expansion of free kindergarten and a universal child allowance.

One of the key policy priorities is the establishment of a "demographic fund", a pension support fund in which state assets would be pooled to help finance public pensions.

"It is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," he said.

The new government plans to liberalise the economy and introduce competition in education and healthcare. As least as a temporary measure to improve national security, it also plans to re-introduce military conscription.

Janša has often been accused of being too radical, in particular due to his anti-immigration sentiment in recent years, but his statements suggest he has softened his stance on migrations.

He said that migrants would be welcome if invited, provided they accepted the fundamental tenets of the "majority culture". "They cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

The debate in parliament saw the members of the new coalition pledging to work for the benefit of the entire society and rejecting criticism by the new opposition about the prospects of the new government being too far to the right.

"The experience from recent years makes us justifiably doubt that someone can become wise, tolerant, respectful, just and inclusive over night," said Brane Golubović, the head of the deputy group of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

The new opposition spent a significant portion of the allotted time arguing about who and what caused the Šarec government to collapse, with the Left, whose termination of a cooperation deal with the minority government was a major milestone, often in the focus of criticism.

Slovenia may have a new government with full powers within three weeks, the third led by Janša after stints in 2004-2008 and in 2012-2013.

The undisputed leader of the Slovenian conservative bloc, Janša is considered the most experienced politician in Slovenia, his career spanning over three decades.

Aside from having served as prime minister twice already, he was defence minister in three governments in 1990-1994, and again in 2000, during the interim Andrej Bajuk government.

All our stories on the new government and it's proposed policies are here

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