STA, 4 February 2019 - Slovenia believes it can achieve sustainable public finances without having to hinder economic growth, the Finance Ministry told the European Commission on Monday, as it sent clarifications of its 2019 budgetary plans to Brussels.
The government sent to the Commission the draft supplementary budget for this year after it adopted it on 24 January.
However, last Friday the Commission requested clarifications about whether the 2019 budget plans were in line with EU rules.
In the document sent to Brussels today, the Finance Ministry said the government would carry on with activity designed to keep public finances sustainable, which would be done so as not to hinder economic growth.
The ministry explained that the fiscal rule had been the main guiding principle the government had taken into account in forming economic policies.
In doing so, it strived to preserve a nominal surplus, and consequently sustainable public finances in the medium term.
In this sense, Slovenia pursues an adequate ratio between the stability of public finances, and the care for its citizens and the country's development.
Slovenia will therefore continue with the activity designed to achieve long-term sustainability of public finances in line with the rules so that it does not hinder economic growth.
It will not lower expenses nor investments, but at least keep them at the current levels, at the same time facilitating a certain level of social security.
"For Slovenia, it is vital to preserve economic activity and raise productivity while keeping the general government debt at an adequate level."
In asking Slovenia to provide clarifications about its 2019 budget plans, Brussels acknowledged the planned surplus was to stand at 0.55% of GDP and that due to solid economic growth public debt was to drop to 66% of GDP by the end of the year.
But what worried it was the fact that the budget also envisaged a 4.5% nominal growth in public spending, which exceeds the recommended 3.1% growth ceiling.
The 0.55% of GDP figure refers to all public finances - the state budget, the health and pension purses and municipal budgets, whereas the surplus for the state budget alone is planned at 0.4% of the GDP.
Brussels said today it had received the Slovenian response, but would respond to it as part of the European semester winter package, expectedly at the end of the month.
STA, 4 February 2019 - Most public sector employees will benefit from a rise as they get their January payslips this month. However, the pay deal struck at the end of last year will also result in costlier public services.
Citing higher labour costs, some of the retirement homes and kindergartens have already hiked up the prices of their services, while higher wages may yet translate into higher supplementary health insurance premiums and in-home support services. However, not all hikes can be blamed on higher wages.
Prices of services at retirement homes are as a rule adjusted once a year, that is on 1 March. An additional adjustment is possible if labour costs have gone up by more than 1.5% since the last adjustment.
The Labour Ministry says that labour costs resulting from annexes to collective bargaining agreements increased by about 4% from 1 January on. These costs "represent about 50% in the price structure, which at 4% pay rise translates into 2% higher price of services".
According to ministry data, 60% of service providers opted for adjustment of prices of their services as of 1 January, following the ministry's recommendation that the average price increase should not exceed 2%.
However, they will be able to introduce additional hikes on 3 March due to changes in other elements of the price such as the costs of material, services, investment maintenance, amortisation and financing.
The ministry expects that the providers who did not adjust their prices at the beginning of the year, will do so now by an average of between 2% and 3%. Those who did would be able to increase prices by a further 1% on 1 March.
Nursery school fees are also going up. City councils in municipalities such as Ptuj, Velenje and Kranj, have already given the go ahead for price hikes of between 3% and 10%.
Ptuj Mayor Nuška Gajšek has linked the rises directly to the public sector pay deal, noting that labour costs represent more than 80% of the fee at nursery schools.
She says that municipalities are underfunded even without the burden of the latest pay rise, so part of the increase in costs would have to be covered by parents.
"If we wanted to subsidise the increase in prices, it would cost the municipality more than 400,000 euro a year, on top of the 3.4 million we already allocate for the purpose."
Velenje will allocate an additional EUR 500,000 for the increase in the cost of nursery schools. The increase in fees affecting the parents will depend on their income and the age of their child.
Parents in the median wage bracket will be paying EUR 14.92 more a month for first age group children, EUR 11.67 more for children in combined age groups classes and EUR 11.08 more for oldest children. The lowest income parents will pay EUR 3-4 more and top income parents up to EUR 32.84 more.
Several other municipalities are considering raising nursery school fees, while Maribor and Ljubljana will wait for calculations after the kindergartens have paid out January pay, before taking decisions.
The Education Ministry says prices of nursery school fees go up at different rates from one municipality to another and that they are not affected by higher wages alone.
The ministry is thus considering amending the pricing rules to "align individual elements of the price and thus prices", however it will also need to consider the position of local communities and nursery schools.
Similarly, one of the trade unionists who agreed the pay rises, Branimir Štrukelj of the KSJS confederation, says that some of the providers have used the pay rise to increase the prices of their services in order to deal with their problems.
He told the STA that some private providers used the increase in the minimum wage to hike up their prices by 20%. He rejected the reasoning that trade unions could be responsible for the growing prices in any way.
Fellow trade unionist Jakob Počivavšek noted that the government had committed to cover the higher pay costs for the services which are paid for from the budget directly or indirectly.
The Labour Ministry said it was seeking to agree an increase in the funds that the public health insurer pays to retirement homes for health services.
Local communities also urged the government to secure additional funds to municipalities to cover for higher labour costs. They want the per capita funding to increase beyond the EUR 20 agreed in November 2018.
The government responded by saying that the November agreement included a commitment for the government and municipalities to assess the impact of the public sector pay rise on municipality finances in mid-year.
The government has also appointed a taskforce comprising representatives of government departments and municipality associations to examine municipality legislation and their responsibilities and to draw up measures to reduce their costs.
STA, 31 January 2019 - The Ljubljana District Court heard Gratel owner Jurij Krč back Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič on Thursday in a case in which the mayor stands accused of taking a bribe to the benefit of the city. Much like Janković last week, Krč said the donation to Ljubljana Castle was no bribe but a payment in line with the contract.
The indictment says that soon after becoming mayor in late 2006, Jankovič demanded that Gratel pay a donation of half a million euro to the municipality to be allowed to continue digging roads to install optic cables for telecommunications company T2.
The prosecution argues Jankovič had unjustifiably revoked the permit for temporary road closures Gratel had received from his predecessor just before the 2006 local elections and then made a new contract with the company.
But he added a damages clause, thereby assuming powers of the city's traffic department, which is in charge of issuing permits for road closures, according to the prosecution.
Janković told the court last week he had annulled the permit signed by his predecessor Danica Simčič because it was illegal, as it should have been issued by the city's traffic department. He said legal expert Rajko Pirnat confirmed this.
"We had an agreement on how to come to the site, whom to inform, who must be present. The deal also had a provision on damages for making a spatial intervention that exceeds the one outlined in the permit for temporary road closures," Krč said today.
"We had an agreement with the mayor to pay the damages and we did," he added.
According to Krč, Janković did not set the donation as a condition for the continuation of works. As Gratel owner Krč said he did not feel there was something wrong with the payment because it was in line with the contract. "We would have to pay one way or another," he said.
Janković said the deal was that the company either pays damages or makes a donation. The money was allocated to the same purpose any way, he said.
Former T2 adviser Miran Kramberger also took the stand today, saying that T2 was in the middle of negotiations for a loan with a consortium of banks at the time and that any interruptions in the construction works would have affected the process.
All our stories on Mayor Janković can be found here
STA, 29 January 2019 - Peter Svetina, a 53-year-old special education expert and social entrepreneur, was overwhelmingly endorsed as Slovenia's fifth human rights ombudsman in parliament on Tuesday as 89 MPs voted in favour and none against. He succeeds Vlasta Nussdorfer, whose five-year term ends on 23 February.
"I never expected such strong support," Svetina commented on the vote, pledging to perform this important and responsible job to the best of his abilities to serve humaneness.
He would not say what his priority areas would be because "they are all equally important and interconnected, so it's hard to set one of them apart". But he said his priority would be the cases open at the ombudsman's office.
He said the team working at the Human Rights Ombudsman's office numbered many able professionals, while he would also consult members of the civil society.
In endorsing Svetina, deputy factions invariably praised his wealth of experience and professional background that allowed him to learn really well about the needs of vulnerable groups of the population.
Svetina is a social entrepreneur who has been working with persons with special needs for all his professional life both practically and theoretically.
He graduated in special education from the Ljubljana Faculty of Education in 1989, and after graduation worked as a primary school teacher for several years.
He moved to Austria's Klagenfurt in 1995 to work as a teacher in a Slovenian minority association to get acquainted with the issues of the Slovenian community in the province of Carinthia. He was also a member of the local association of teachers.
Svetina returned to Slovenia in 1999 to work in institutions for persons with physical and mental disabilities, also cooperating with their parents, relatives, caretakers and NGOs. In 2007-2008 he was an adviser in the office of the minister of the environment and spatial planning.
Since June 2015, he has been running Grunt, a social entrepreneurship establishment in the countryside, based in Komenda, north-west of Ljubljana. He is also a co-founder of the non-profit, established in 2014.
Since 1999 he has also been mentoring students at various colleges in Ljubljana and Maribor. He has co-authored several handbooks on work with persons with special needs and participated in the drafting of legislation in the field of their employment and work.
When President Borut Pahor opted to nominate Svetina as one of nine candidates, his office said he had "a lot of practical and life experience in working with vulnerable groups and is characterised by compassion to fellow human beings".
"He is firm in his beliefs, but ready to accept arguments which manage to convince him. He is a person of dialogue, but he is relentless when people suffer injustice," the office added.
Pahor said that Svetina was a person with a high degree of integrity and public reputation, and with proper expertise, arguing that he would "perform the post honourably, responsibly, professionally and independently."
Before the vote in parliament, Svetina presented his vision for the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman to the media, saying would be a proactive ombudsman. He said that in his jobs so far, he had always pursued one goal - respect for human beings.
The newly-appointed human rights ombudsman said he had dedicated his entire life and career to working with vulnerable groups, mostly people with mental and physical disabilities.
"I've always made an effort to give people dignity," he said, noting he had tried to enable people to be as independent as possible, including financially.
Svetina said he had constantly stumbled upon violations of human rights of vulnerable groups and their families, fighting small battles against the violations.
He believes he will be able to continue on this path, but he does not think the ombudsman should protect only the rights of vulnerable groups, so he pledged to promote humanity and justice for all.
Svetina mentioned the link between labour rights and poverty, and pointed to environmental issues or children's rights. He stressed though that those who had been waiting to be tackled for a long time should be addressed first.
He also believes the ombudsman needs to speak up against violations, at the same time being open to different proposals and opinions and not shying away from criticism.
Svetina also deems it very important to work closely with the civil society and experts from various fields, so he would like to take the cooperation to a higher level.
STA, 28 January 2019 - President Borut Pahor and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić confirmed the friendly relations between their countries as they met in Belgrade on Monday, highlighting the good business cooperation. Pahor expressed Slovenia's support for Serbia's efforts to join the EU.
Addressing the press after their meeting, the pair stressed that Slovenia and Serbia had friendly relations which were developing well, in particular in business. Annual trade went up from EUR 500m to EUR 1.3bn in the last ten years, they noted.
Pahor asserted Slovenia supported Serbia's efforts to join the EU, for which Vučić expressed gratitude. Vučić noted that the relations between Belgrade and Prishtina would be crucial in this context, while Pahor urged leaders to further "reconciliation, trust and respect" irrespective of how difficult relations were.
Vučić was asked by the press to comment on last week's statement by Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar that the latest events in Serbia - a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and weeks of anti-government protests in Belgrade - raised questions in the EU about whether Belgrade was still persisting on a European path.
"I couldn't believe that he said that. Who knows what got into him that morning, perhaps he got up on the wrong side of the bed," Vučić said about the statement made at a session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee.
He stressed that Serbia stayed on a European path while it simultaneously maintained good relations with Russia, which it would continue to do.
"As you can see, I answer to you, who come from the EU, the same way I answer to Putin, to the Americans and all the rest. Serbia doesn't have two policies, only one, and this is the policy of Serbian interests ... which are being on the European path and speeding up our development, our economy," Vučić said.
The presidents also discussed the summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process which is to be held in Albania's Tirana on 7 and 8 May. According to Vučić, this will be an important meeting for the entire region.
Moreover, the pair touched on the status of the Serbian community in Slovenia, with Pahor saying that "Slovenia will do all it can to allow these citizens of Slovenia to preserve their identity".
He said Slovenia was big enough to be a homeland to everybody but added that "changing the constitution because of this is neither necessary nor possible".
While suggesting this was not an issue in bilateral relations, Vučić said Serbia would of course wish for Serbs in Slovenia to have more rights, pointing out that - contrary to Serbs in Slovenia - the 4,033 Slovenians living in Serbia are recognised as a national minority, with Serbia "striving to help them feel well".
V izjavi sta predsednika poudarila, da so odnosi med državama prijateljski in da verjameta, da bo obisk dodal nov zagon poglabljanju odnosov na vseh področjih. Posebno pozornost sta sogovornika namenila srečanju voditeljev držav procesa Brdo-Brijuni, ki bo maja v Albaniji. pic.twitter.com/Fg8b5SL8SF— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) January 28, 2019
Meanwhile, Pahor is accompanied by a business delegation featuring around 100 representatives of companies interested in digitalisation of business and administration.
They met Serbian executives at a business forum, which featured around 600 participants and was opened by Pahor and Vučić after their meeting.
Boštjan Gorjup, the president of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the STA that the forum, focusing on SMEs and the fields of digitalisation, the circular economy and tourism, had been a success.
Elaborating on cooperation in the circular economy, Gorjup pointed in particular to Slovenian waste processing companies, which see an opportunity in the additional EU funds headed to Serbia to improve this field.
"Our companies can be good partners in the exchange of best practice, in joint investment and sale of technologies," Gorjup told the STA.
The tourism debates revolved a lot around positive experiences with glamping, another field where Slovenian and Serbian businesses could join forces.
Meanwhile, Pahor also met National Assembly Speaker Maja Gojković as well as representatives of all parliamentary parties and addressed Serbian MPs at a session held especially in his honour.
In his address, he urged cooperation and trust among all the countries in the Western Balkans and those on its edge, saying in the context of the region's EU ambitions that "no other power or even super power can do this in our place".
Pahor understands Serbia's right to independently choose its security policy and thus also respects its cooperation with Russia.
However, he added that such circumstances meant that the pace and success of Serbia's negotiations with the EU would also depend on the settling of relations between the EU and Russia.
As to the Belgrade-Prishtina situation, Pahor said negotiations needed to be conducted peacefully, without threats or use of force and bring a result that will allow peaceful implementation without collateral security consequences in the region.
The Serbian press agency Tanjug reported that several opposition MPs boycotted the session, protesting not Pahor but the manner in which the session was convened as well as some of the statements made by Vučić after the meeting with the Slovenian counterpart.
Pahor will wrap up the official visit on Tuesday by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Mt Avala.
STA, 28 January 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's decision to accept the resignation by Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček triggered mixed responses on Monday. Welcoming the move, trade unions warn that the resignation alone will not be enough, while Prešiček's supporters regret his departure. Coalition parties respect Šarec's decision.
The Glosa trade union of culture and the Trade Union of State Bodies believe that Prešiček's resignation alone will not be enough for the situation to return to normal. More action is needed both at the ministry and wider in culture, they said.
Glosa head Mitja Šuštar said that Prešiček "is definitely not responsible for the old problems, but he is responsible for what was going on when he came and for maybe not tackling the situation as he should have, because we have something called subjective and objective responsibility."
It is essential that the situation at the ministry and wider improves and this will be the task for the new minister, according to Šuštar.
He also hopes that the new minister will tackle the issue of the status of the self-employed in culture and the drawing up of a new collective bargaining agreement.
According to Frančišek Verk of the Trade Union of State Bodies, Prešiček was "obviously just the tip of the iceberg." Some things had been heading in the wrong direction for a while, but now somebody took their own life, he said in a reference to the suicide of a ministry employee which triggered an avalanche of accusations against the minister.
Verk believes Prešiček handing in his resignation was the right thing to do. But he also pointed to "some employees at the ministry, who have been there for decades, enjoying certain privileges they would not have in the private sector."
The head of the Culture Ministry's in-house trade union, Gregor Lesjak told the STA he saw Šarec's decision as a sign that the government would help tackle the situation at the ministry.
"Employees are relieved. Indeed, we must make an effort to improve our relations ourselves, but the understanding and support of the leadership is important in this process. We wish that the new leadership would lend an ear and help tackle all the problems that have piled up in a dignified way," he wrote in a statement.
Several acclaimed figures from the world of arts and culture who had expressed support to Prešiček in the face of bullying and abuse of office accusations regretted his departure today.
The head of the Kapelica Galley, Jurij Krpan, told the STA that the relations at the Culture Ministry had been poor for a decade and that Prešiček had "started putting things right again."
"He created hope that these relations could start changing," he said.
A similar line of thought came from the coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), with MP Maša Kociper saying that it was not completely clear yet whether Prešiček was indeed a man with a quick temper or somebody who wanted to make changes at the ministry and faced resistance from interest groups.
Other coalition parties said they respected the prime minister's decision and would like the situation at the ministry to be thoroughly investigated.
Prešiček's Social Democratic Party too said it respected the prime minister's decision and was already looking for a new minister.
The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) and the Left, which see Šarec's move as sensible, were critical of the SD, suggesting it had not been not resolute enough when the scandal erupted.
The National Party (SNS) head, Zmago Jelinčič, said he would have kept Prešiček and tackled the situation at the ministry and public broadcaster instead. The Democrats (SDS) would not comment on the matter.
Two journalists' associations, the DNS and ZNP, commented on the resignation by expressing fear that the replacement at the helm of the Culture Ministry would delay the planned overhaul of the media legislation.
"Putting the factors and circumstances that led to Prešiček's resignation aside and looking at the culture sector as a whole, we can see that the minister's resignation and replacement suggests that the much needed changes to the media legislation cannot be expected any time soon," DNS head Petra Lesjak Tušek said.
Political analyst Andraž Zorko meanwhile said that the course of events leading up to today's announcement made the prime minister look like a "winner" because he made the seemingly hard final decision in accepting Prešiček's resignation.
While Šarec's refusal to comment on the affair while in Davos last week made it seem like he was indecisive, Zorko believes that he was trying to give time to Prešiček to hand in his resignation before being dismissed.
Zorko was however not surprised with the move, saying that the dismissal of former Cohesion Policy Minister Marko Bandelli set a high standard and that Šarec had no other option but to let Prešiček go.
STA, 28 January 2019 - The Party of the European Left has nominated Slovenian MP Violeta Tomić of the opposition Left as one of the party's two Spitzenkandidaten for the European Parliament election in May.
What’s a Spitzenkandidaten? According to Wiktionary, “the first candidate on an electoral list, who is often the leader of the respective political party, or the person designated to lead the government in the event of the party winning the election”
In addition to Tomić, the European Left has nominated Nico Cue, the former secretary general of the Metalworkers' Union of Belgium, as the other front runner.
Tomić and Cue were announced as the top candidates on the party's list at a session of its executive committee in Brussels last weekend, the European Left said in a press release on Monday.
Only recently, Tomić was appointed rapporteur on the rights of the LGBT community by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE).
"With these two candidates, we want to make a clear offer to the people of Europe, because we are on the side of those who do not accept the growing contradiction between wealth and poverty," the European Left said in the release.
The Slovenian Left said it saw the nomination as an acknowledgement to the party's work in the European context, adding that it would promote a different Europe, which would not be undermined by neo-liberalism of the centre and populism of the right.
Tomić, who is the deputy coordinator of the Left, could not say if she would also top the Slovenian party's list for the European Parliament election.
Speaking to the press today, she said that the registering of the candidates was still under way, adding that she would make her name available.
The European Left will run in the May election with the slogan "For a progressive exit from the crisis. Vote left in the European Elections".
Elected MEPs from the member parties of the European Left sit in the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament, which currently has 28 seats in the 751-member legislature.
STA, 28 January - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec on Monday accepted the resignation tendered by Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček, saying that interpersonal relationships at the Culture Ministry were broken to such an extent he could not imagine the current team continuing its work.
The prime minister would therefore like the junior coalition Social Democrats (SD), which put forward Prešiček as minister, to present new candidates for minister and two state secretaries as soon as possible.
Šarec said he believes the entire leadership at the Culture Ministry must be replaced so that the whole situation could be cleared up.
He said he expected concrete results from the new team and the ability to manage interpersonal relations.
The Culture Ministry is a very important ministry in the sense that it preserves this nation's identity, language and culture and makes sure that money is spent efficiently, he said.
Acknowledging the achievements that Prešiček listed in his letter of resignation yesterday, he said that he accepted his resignation so that the situation at the ministry could normalise.
Prešiček managed to raise culture spending and "move things that were in the drawer for a long time." He published a call for applications that was in the making for a decade and had General Rudolf Maister's library in Maribor declared national monument, Šarec noted.
The prime minister said that he had received letters in the past week blaming Prešiček for virtually everything that was wrong as well as those praising the minister to the skies. "I don't feel it's my place to judge on this."
Neither the trade unions nor the employees should celebrate today, Šarec said, calling for self-reflection among all those involved, "including Culture Ministry employees who have been working there since 1990."
He pointed to that fact that 74 reports of bullying or mobbing had been filed at the ministry in the previous term, saying this was cause for concern.
Prešiček, who offered his resignation yesterday in the face of bullying and abuse of office accusations following the suicide of a Culture Ministry employee, would not comment on the PM's decision today.
In the letter of resignation, Prešiček said he was offering resignation because the "public lynch that happened did not hurt just me and my co-workers but also those in culture who - as Prešeren would say - 'are kind-hearted'."
He said he had decided for the move to show that he was "not an insensitive person as some (media) have tried to portray me."
While denying having bullied the employee, Prešiček admitted to misusing the ministry car. He admitted to using the ministry car for the transporting of his instruments to the Music and Ballet Conservatory, where he served as director until his current job between 2010 and 2018, and where he continues to teach.
Prešiček is the second minister to leave the government after Marko Bandelli was forced to resign as minister without portfolio in charge of development and cohesion policy in mid-November over meddling in the local elections and delays in producing a report on EU funds phasing.
Prešiček is leaving the ministry after just over four months. He was sworn in on 13 September 2018. Nine other ministers have been forced out of the office even quicker so far. The shortest term had Klavdija Markež, who had to leave the Education Ministry in 2015 after only five days on the job following revelations that her master's thesis was plagiarised.
STA, 27 January 2019 - Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček offered his resignation in a letter to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec on Sunday, the Culture Ministry said. Šarec is to announce his decision on the fate of the minister who has been accused of bullying and abuse of office on Monday.
"I would not wish to anyone what I have been through in the last week. The public lynch that happen did not hurt just me and my co-workers but also those in culture who - as Prešeren would say - 'are kind-hearted'. And that I cannot allow, because I am not an insensitive person as some (media) have tried to portray me," Prešiček wrote in the letter.
"Having said that, dear prime minister, I see only one possible solution, and that is to offer you my resignation as culture minister," he said, noting that a lot of work had been done during his term, some of which would only be noticed in the future.
Prešiček has recently been the target of accusations of bullying employees at the ministry and abusing his office.
He denied having bullied an official who recently committed suicide, while admitting to the accusations of misusing the ministry car.
Being a minister put forward by the coalition Social Democrats (SD), the party leadership discussed the situation on Saturday but would not reveal any conclusions of the debate.
The SD has shown support for Prešiček in the past week, but also said that the decision about his future as minister lies in the hands of the prime minister.
Šarec is expected to announce his decision at a press conference tomorrow morning. According to unofficial information obtained by the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, he will not accept Prešiček's resignation.
Prešiček said in the letter he had taken on the job in the government with the desire and responsibility to make positive change in the Slovenian culture.
"I believe I have done my job in line with the oath I took in front of the National Assembly."
Among his achievements he highlighted a further rise in culture spending, better drawing of EU funds and "steps to optimise public spending".
He also pointed to the problems he inherited, saying they "erupted in the recent days".
Regretting the "premature and unexplained death of a Culture Ministry employee", Prešiček said it was yet another reminder that ministers must devote more time to human relations on all levels.
He also thanked all those who expressed support to him publicly in the face of the scandal.
The Slovenian Writers' Association (DSP) responded to the situation earlier today by saying that the "chaos we are seeing with the current minister and other officials is a result of the political attitude to culture," a consequence of years of political underestimating and neglecting of culture, which had led to shortages of staff and funds.
"The conflict was inevitable and in a way expected, as the situation reached rock bottom in many areas." The association expects the government to tackle the situation as soon as possible with radical and efficient measures.
STA, 26 January 2019 - President Borut Pahor will pay an official visit to Serbia on Monday and Tuesday for talks with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić aimed at enhancing bilateral political relationship and diverse cooperation between the two nations. He will also speak in the Serbian National Assembly and attend a bilateral business forum.
Pahor will discuss topics like Serbia's progress in its efforts to join the EU, the situation in the region and other topical international issues related to migration, security and the future of the EU.
In addition to Vučić, the president will also meet National Assembly Speaker Maja Gojković, with the visit to parliament also including a meeting with representatives of all parliamentary parties and an address to the MPs.
Pahor will be accompanied by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Simona Leskovar and Economic Development and Technology Ministry State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogarm and a business delegation.
The president's office said that the visit was an opportunity for Pahor to get acquainted with the political situation in Serbia and with the expectations for the country's progress in the accession talks with the EU.
Attention will also be devoted to the summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Albania in May.
Pahor irked Serbia last year by saying that Slovenia would try to get the EU countries which had not yet recognised Kosovo to do so. At the time he also said that the Kosovo issue was a major one that Serbia and Slovenia disagreed on.
Pahor had also said that Slovenia would support Kosovo provided it met the requirements such as complying with the agreement on the normalisation of relations with Serbia, forming an association of Serb municipalities in the north of Kosovo and ratifying the agreement on the border with Montenegro.
The president's office said that in addition to bilateral cooperation, the visit was also an opportunity to discuss the political situation in Serbia and the country's progress in its efforts to join the EU.
Serbia, which launched EU accession talks in January 2014, has opened 16 out of the 35 chapters. The main obstacle are the relations with Kosovo, as the country cannot conclude the negotiations without a comprehensive and binding agreement on the normalisation of the relations between Belgrade and Prishtina.
The relations between Serbia and Kosovo have been tense lately, as Kosovo introduced last November 100% excise duties on goods from Serbia and then established an official army. Kosovo is making abolition of the excise duties conditional on Serbia's recognition of Kosovo.
Serbia has also been facing mass anti-government protests, which are spreading across the country from Belgrade. The protesters demand Vučić step down, accusing him of autocratic rule. They also demand more media freedom.
The accompanying business delegation will feature around 100 representatives of companies interested in digitalisation of business and administration, the circular economy and tourism, according to the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce (GZS).
The Slovenian-Serbian business forum will be held on Tuesday, to be addressed both by Pahor and Vučić. It will feature a debate on digitalisation of business and administration and bilateral meetings featuring more than 400 participants.
Serbia is Slovenia's 10th most important trading partner. Merchandise trade has been exceeding EUR 1bn for a number of years with Slovenia posting a substantial surplus. In 2017 the volume of trade topped EUR 1.3bn and in the first three quarters of 2018 Slovenia's exports rose by another 9% and imports by 26%.
Slovenia's direct investment in Serbia exceeds EUR 1bn, while Serbia's investment in Slovenia has already topped EUR 200m. The biggest Serbian investments in Slovenia are IT company Comtrade, fruit juice producer Fructal, hotels Kempinski and Intercontinental, Portorož Airport and the bank Gorenjska Banka.
This will be the fist visit by Pahor in Serbia since he was re-elected last November, coming after he met Vučić in June 2017 for his inauguration in Belgrade. Pahor's last official visit to Serbia was in 2014, which was also the first official visit by a Slovenian president in the country.
STA, 25 January 2019 - The left-leaning weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the European Parliament election will be the first serious test for Prime Minister Marjan Šarec as the Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša has come out from his hiding and started throwing "bombs", which include his attempt to portray Šarec and his government as an elite.
But in the commentary That Crazy Dance, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž notes that contrary to popular belief, Janša is not a great tactician at all.
"No. Janez Janša has no clue about political tactics - otherwise he would not be the most alienated politician, with whom no-one wants to cooperate. Everybody avoids him."
A detailed look at Janša's latest post on Facebook reveals that he has launched a pre-election attack on his main political opponent Šarec, who is leading all popularity lists, the commentary says, noting that the election campaign has already started.
The strategy is to present Šarec and the government as an elite. "Janša knows that he does not need to go after Šarec individually, he only needs to present the entire government as an elite."
When it comes to the impeachment motion filed against Šarec over the failure to implement the Constitutional Court decision on financing of private primary schools, Mladina says that the matter should be given a closer look.
"What private education we are talking about? Church education. What is therefore Janša's goal? It is to take away from Šarec the aura of a man who can sing Partisan songs and read at a liturgy."
This is a great advantage for Šarec, as he is reconciliation personified, which people like. Janša, on the other hand, wants to show that Šarec is not that, that he is actually a member of the elite, a first-class new man of the old forces.
"This is stupid, of course, but it has never been about truth and facts when it comes to Janša."
STA, 24 January 2019 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija says in its latest commentary that judging by his behaviour and statements, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has started to believe that he is Janez Drnovšek reincarnated, but he is actually a socialist who is pretending to be a saviour with imagined supernatural powers.
Portraying him as a Janez Drnovšek or even more favourably are mostly the media inclined to the left, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Back to the Future.
"In a nutshell - Šarec is a superman, who will solve all problems of Slovenians with the help from the extremist Left. Just look what wonders the latest raise of the minimum wage does," he says in reference to the steep rise in Šarec's popularity.
"Because of the project which is being praised to the skies and which has raised the minimum wage by an unbelievable 29 euros, people to whom it is intended will pay a higher income tax and will get lower child benefits. You really have to have supernatural powers to achieve that."
But Biščak notes that when socialists wanted to determine prices and what people need and what not, shortages usually followed, which was "miraculously never felt by the elite of the saviours", but by common people.
"Every measure taken by any socialist government turned out to be detrimental. Socialism has never worked and has left only devastation and tens of millions of victims behind. You don't need supernatural powers for that, you need to be wicked and evil."
In socialism, the only way to convince people is to limit their freedom and make them poor, and this is what the Šarec government is doing. The socialist logic is that people always need socialist saviours with imagined supernatural powers, concludes the commentary.
All our posts in this series can be found here