Politics

10 May 2019, 19:55 PM

The cover and editorial from the leading weekly of the Left for the work-week ending Friday, May 10, 2019. Note that the only reason we’re not providing a summary of the editorial from Demokracija or Reporter is that STA didn’t provide on, and – in the interests of balance – we might stop this feature if something from the Right isn’t available in future.

STA, 10 May 2019 - The weekly Mladina rejects in its latest editorial the idea that doctors should work for public health institutions as sole proprietors. It argues that this would only benefit a handful of doctors, who would be able to negotiate good working terms for themselves, while the rest would be pushed into precarious work.

The idea allegedly comes from developed countries, but in reality the role model is Croatia and other Balkan countries, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.

According to him, the situation in Croatia now, after this system was introduced, shows how ill-conceived the proposal actually is.

Rather than solving the problems of doctors, the contract work only allowed a handful of doctors, who have good connections, to negotiate not only their pay but also their free time.

As a result, they now work only three days a week, shifting the workload onto the doctors who are still employed in the public sector, as community health centres are only allowed to hire a limited number of doctors on contracts.

In Croatia, another category of doctors emerged because of the new system: those who are hired by the sole proprietors. They are a new category - precarious doctors.

They cannot get a job in the public sector because of financial restrictions there, and cannot become sole proprietors because they have no connections. So the only other option is for them to be hired by their colleagues but for much lower pay.

In Slovenia, journalists went through the same process 25 years ago, when they thought subcontracting would be better because they could put a price on their work and decide on their working hours.

And for 10% of journalists this worked out fine, but the rest were screwed, Repovž says. Now the genie is out of the bottle and there is no way this can be fixed. "It a price of greed."

The Left recently proposed legislative changes to prevent this type of privatisation in healthcare, but the motion was voted down by the parliamentary committee on Wednesday. Only the Left and the Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) voted in favour.

But the fiercest opponent turned out to be the Health Ministry. It argued that the article preventing such contract work would also prevent hiring contractors for utility services, dental services, lab services etc.

But this is not true, Repovž says. The allegedly controversial article has been in place since 2017 and health institutes have been hiring contractors for these specific services since the 1990s.

This leads Repož to conclude that Health Minister Aleš Šabeder is not being sincere. He is "actually making a fool out of the prime minister, as he is clearly playing for the opposite team," says Repovž under the title Whose Is Minister Šabeder?

All our posts in this series can be found here

10 May 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 9 May 2019 - With a number of countries within the Schengen zone continuing to carry out internal border checks, including neighbouring Austria, a majority of the parties standing in the 26 May European election claim such checks are unwarranted. Some perceive them as an expression of a lack of trust in Slovenian politics.

The coalition parties generally share the opinion that internal border checks are not warranted, as passing borders without checks is one of the most tangible advantages of EU membership.

The ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) believes that the rules on temporary border checks within the Schengen zone should be redefined to prevent abuse of the system.

The Social Democrats (SD) think that checks on internal borders are unwarranted, except in extraordinary situations. Any obstacles to the free flow of people, services, goods and capital are unacceptable, the party says.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) finds Austria's border checks unacceptable. "We don't want a future in which counties make unilateral decisions about such fundamental values and treaties, such as the Schengen Agreement."

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) sees Austria's decision as a violation of the fundamental principles of the EU, arguing that Slovenia is protecting the Schengen border responsibly. It sees the political situation in Austria as the main reason for border checks.

Also stressing that the checks on the Slovenian-Austrian border are unwarranted is the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), which says it is a mere "implementation of cheap nationalist politics".

The opposition Democrats (SDS) and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS), who are running on a joint ticket, believe that internal border checks are a result of the increasing threat of terrorism and illegal mass migrations.

Internal border checks run counter to the idea of free movement of people, but only effective protection of the external border would make internal checks unnecessary, the parties says.

While noting that internal border checks undermine one of the fundamental freedoms in the EU, the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) believes that these are an obvious sign of distrust among EU member states, a problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

The Left, an opposition partner to the minority ruling coalition, warns that checks on internal borders run against the concept of open borders as one of the fundamental EU values. The measure is unlawful and undermines the principles on which the EU is based.

The opposition National Party (SNS), meanwhile, believes that Slovenia should seal its Schengen border with Croatia and let only people with valid documents in the country. Controls on the border should be constant and strict.

Similarly, the Homeland League (DOM) thinks that Austria's measure is self-explanatory, as Slovenia has failed to protect its border since 2015. "If border protection is not effective, the Schengen border will be moved from the river Kolpa to the Karavanke mountain range."

On the other hand, the Let's Connect list believes that such checks are no longer warranted from either the security or customs aspects. It is propaganda aimed at creating the false feeling of an outside threat, it says.

Good State believes that Austria is using the situation for political purposes. Internal checks are unwarranted and the Slovenian government should take counter-measures and check people coming to Slovenia from Austria.

10 May 2019, 09:59 AM

STA, 9 May 2019 - The EU heads of state, including Slovenia's Borut Pahor, have issued a joint call ahead of the EU election, urging the people on Europe Day to vote and making a case for a strong, integrated EU. Pahor presented the initiative on Thursday with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who started a two-day official visit to Slovenia.

"European integration has helped to realise a centuries-old hope for peace in Europe after unbridled nationalism and other extreme ideologies led Europe to the barbarity of two world wars.

"To this day, we cannot and should not take peace and freedom, prosperity and well-being for granted. It is necessary that we all engage actively for the great idea of a peaceful and integrated Europe."

The statement is carried today by major European newspapers, including three dailies in Slovenia.

It was also presented in Ljubljana today by Pahor and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who thus started an official visit to Slovenia.

Pahor, who was, according to his office, among the first signatories of the appeal, stressed that this was the first time in 40 years since European election are being held that all presidents of member states had issued a joint call to EU citizens to support Europe by turning out for the election.

"I think this shows that we all share the view that we have reached an important crossroads regarding our joint European future and that perhaps it will be the European election that will decide the future course of our beloved European Union," Pahor said.

"Usually we ask what we can get from Europe, but now we can give something to Europe - our vote that any one of us can cast," he added.

Steinmeier said that the 21 signatories of the statement agreed that Europe needed a political debate in order to determine its future course.

"Together with other partners, Slovenia and Germany want to make sure not only that the cooperation in Europe continues but also prevent Europe from taking a step backwards, where we would perceive each other as rivals or even opponents."

In the statement, the presidents stress that this year's elections are particularly important, and urge the people to vote since the elected members of the European Parliament, along with the Council, decide which rules should apply in Europe and how Europe's budget should be spent.

The statement acknowledges that the EU is facing profound challenges, with some people "talking about rolling back one or more integration steps, such as freedom of movement or abolishing joint institutions" even as others call for more integration or for a multi-speed Europe.

"Views on these matters differ among the citizens and governments of the member states, as well as between us heads of state. However, we all agree that European integration and unity is essential and that we want to continue Europe as a Union. Only a strong community will be able to face up to the global challenges of our time.

"The effects of climate change, terrorism, economic globalisation, and migration do not stop at national borders. We will only meet these challenges successfully and continue on the road to economic and social cohesion and development by working together as equal partners at the institutional level."

The presidents thus make an appeal for a strong EU that has "joint institutions, a Union that constantly reviews its work with a critical eye and is able to reform itself, a Union that is built on its citizens and on its member states as a vital base."

"This Europe needs a vibrant political debate on the best path forward into the future ... Europe is able to withstand a very wide range of opinions and ideas. But there definitely must not be a return to a Europe in which countries are no longer equal partners but opponents.

"Our united Europe needs a strong vote by the peoples. This is why we call on you to exercise your right to vote. It is our common European future that is on the ballot," the statement concludes.

The statement was signed by all EU heads of state except from countries that are monarchies, since by convention monarchs do not sign such statements.

09 May 2019, 10:31 AM

STA, 8 May 2019 - The opposition Democrats (Slovenska demokratska stranka, SDS) have initiated a motion to exclude healthcare and the army from the uniform system covering wages across the entire public sector, in what could be the dismantling of a complex scheme put in place by an SDS-led government in 2008.

 

A decade after it was established the system is causing dissatisfaction, in particular when it comes to incentivising the best performers and those with the biggest workload, SDS deputy Jelka Godec told the press on Wednesday. "The most severe anomalies, discrepancies and warnings come from defence and healthcare," she said.

The SDS demands an emergency session of parliament to debate its motion. It proposes that the government prepare an analysis of the system complete with a set of proposals on how to tackle them, which should include the possibility of excluding healthcare and soldiers from the single system.

Janez Janša, the leader of the SDS, wrote on Twitter yesterday that "after 11 years you can see from the Moon what works and that doesn't". He said the single pay system should be preserved for the public administration but "healthcare, the army, police... must go their own way".

The motion comes in the midst of one of the most severe crisis in healthcare, which is faced with the prospect of dozens, perhaps even hundreds of general practitioners leaving the public system due to what they claim are unreasonable workloads.

At several community health centres around the country most if not all GPs have handed their notices in a final escalation of tensions with the government and the public health insurer ZSSS.

In Kranj, one of the areas hit the worst by the doctors' action, almost all GP offices are closed as the doctors use up their remaining holiday days before their notices become effective, leaving the emergency service to do the work of GPs, which has led to long waiting times.

In recent weeks the government has been scrambling to come up with a solution that would be financially sustainable while also placating the doctors, but at this point a solution is not in sight.

The SDS motion dovetails with the demands of doctors, who have long argued that the single pay system is too restrictive, even as they managed to win considerable pay rises in the last few years above what other public sector employees have received.

One trade union of doctors, Praktikum, was even found to have egged on doctors to quit in order to force community health services to hire them as sole proprietors, which would liberate them from some of the bureaucracy while removing any pay restrictions.

But many in government fear any one portion of the public sector leaving the single pay system would lead to its collapse and trigger unbridled pay demands across the public sector that may jeopardise the stability of public finances.

Alenka Forte, who heads the SDS's health committee, however said today that exclusion of healthcare from the single pay system would be "a condition without which it is impossible to start improving Slovenian healthcare."

"Those who want improvements in healthcare must stop with ideology, they should not compare us to Venezuela. We need to look at best practices in the EU and start working on making healthcare serve the patients," she said.

The Public Administration Ministry said in a response that individual profession groups or parts of the public sector leaving the uniform system was not a guarantee that their pay would be regulated in a more appropriate way.

The ministry said that the SDS probably assumed that partial negotiations would make it easier for an individual profession group to get higher pay.

It meanwhile believes that the uniform system provides better possibilities for rewarding best performers and those with the biggest workload. It will soon present to public sector trade unions and negotiate relevant changes to the system.

The ministry also noted that Public Administration Minister Rudi Medved and PM Marjan Šarec had stressed on several occasions that the exit of one or more profession groups from the system could cause it to collapse.

The system would become non-transparent and hard to manage, it said, adding that the "assessment that the wage bill for public sector employees would increase even further is justified."

08 May 2019, 12:52 PM

STA, 8 May 2019 - The parties standing in the upcoming EU election have very different views on the issue of migration, which the EU has been struggling with in recent years. While coalition parties mostly advocate for a common EU migration policy and sharing the burden, the opposition, bar the Left, want better border protection.

 

The senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) as well as the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) believe in solidarity.

The SMC thinks quotas are one of the possible solutions to the current situation, while the LMŠ believes a balance between solidarity towards migrants and the safety of Slovenian citizens should be found.

Both parties believe the problem of people leaving their countries should be tackled at its source, with the LMŠ noting a clear distinction should be made between legal and illegal migrations.

The coalition Social Democrats (SD) have told the STA that a united pacifist foreign policy of the EU would be crucial to deal with migration, along with protection of external EU borders.

Also important will be fair trade and a high level of environment protection and labour standards, the SD believes.

The party thinks countries share the responsibility for the situation and should also share the burdens.

The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) agrees. "No country will be able to deal with this challenge alone and border fences will not stop immigration."

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), another ruling coalition party, thinks the migration influx has caught the EU completely unprepared.

"Each country took its own steps and what we witnessed at the end of 2015 is a disgrace for all of us who believe that Europe is a humane and civilised community," it says.

The opposition Left thinks the EU's foreign policy and its policy towards neighbouring countries need a thorough overhaul. Rather than building fences, buying weapons and gathering troops, the EU should invest in peace building in its neighbourhood, the party stresses.

"These people are fleeing from hunger, poverty, wars, ecological disasters," the Left has said about migrants.

In contrast, the opposition Democrats (SDS) and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS), running on a joint ticket, think the EU has made the right call when it recently decided to send 10,000 police officers at its external borders.

The SDS+SLS alliance believes the migration issue should be tackled in source countries and opposes obligatory refugee quotas for EU member states.

The opposition National Party (SNS) has even more radical views, calling for immediate closure of EU borders for all migrants.

The party also thinks all those who are already in the country and do not meet the criteria for residence should immediately be sent back to their countries.

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) thinks the main problem is the lack of dialogue between central and western Europe.

"We need a European solution that will not breach the sovereignty of countries. We cannot have one Europe and two migration policies and two interpretations of the rule of law."

The issue of migration should primarily be addressed by tackling economic and social problems in source countries, the NSi believes.

Among the non-parliamentary parties and lists, the Homeland League (DOM) holds the most radical view, demanding that the EU protect its borders using all means available and prevent illegal migration from the Middle East and Africa.

The far-right United Slovenia, led by the self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško, even talks of a "planned genocide against European nations" which started with the 1975 Strasbourg resolution. It claims that with the resolution, the EU predecessors agreed to accepting Arab immigrants in exchange for access to oil.

All our stories on the EU elections are here, while those on immigration are here

07 May 2019, 16:36 PM

STA, 6 May 2019 - A series of regional military exercises are getting under way in Slovenia on Monday involving the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and troops from 25 NATO and partner countries. The goal is to make them better prepared to provide security and preserve peace in the region.

Running until 22 June, the exercises will get under way with the tactical exercise dubbed Immediate Response, held under the leadership of United States Army Europe and Slovenian and Croatian armed forces. This will feature close to 3,000 troops from Slovenia, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Germany, North Macedonia and Poland.

Slovenia will also host Adriatic Strike, Astral Knight and Immediate Response exercise, designed to build more effective and responsive forces to provide security and maintain peace.

The exercises will also provide an opportunity to build personal, professional, technical and tactical links, the SAF said in a press release.

During the exercises, increased traffic of military vehicles, aircraft and vessels is expected en route to and in the vicinity of the Cerklje ob Krki airbase, the airstrips in Divača and Rakičan, at the SAF's main training grounds in Poček near Postojna, and in and around the Maribor and Ankaran army barracks.

Military convoys will move to the locations mostly by motorways, from border crossings with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, in a way to cause the least possible disruption to traffic, the SAF said.

All our stories on Slovenia and NATO are here

07 May 2019, 10:41 AM

STA, 6 May 2019 - A soldiers' trade union has urged MPs to file an ouster motion against Defence Minister Karl Erjavec for his recent dismissal of the army's force commander and his unacceptable attitude to the army. PM Marjan Šarec, on the other hand, expects Erjavec to produce a report on related abuse of the military intelligence service.

In late April, the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission found Erjavec had abused the Defence Ministry's Intelligence and Security Service (OVS) to spy on Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc, the force commander, before sacking him.

Erjavec had asked the OVS to spy on the officer after hearing rumours he had spoken ill of the health of the chief of the general staff, Maj Gen Alenka Ermenc.

The OVS then on 3 April talked to 25 troops only to find out Škerbinc had not gossiped about Ermenc, but the commission said the OVS had no legal basis to do so.

The prime minister's office told the STA on Monday Šarec expected Erjavec to produce a report on the commission's findings and Škerbinc's 5 April replacement.

Commenting for the STA, Erjavec said he would send a report to Šarec and President Borut Pahor as the supreme commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) tomorrow or on Wednesday.

He reiterated Škerbinc's dismissal was lawful and the right decision, saying he had dismissed him upon Ermenc's proposal after the brigadier general had lost her trust.

Erjavec added the late-night shooting at the Poček training area which upset the Postojna local community in late March and the alleged gossiping had probably been among the reasons for the dismissal.

He is also convinced he did the right thing to ask the OVS to interview the soldiers about the alleged gossiping about the chief of the general staff's health.

A similar view was expressed by Marjan Miklavčič, a former OVS director, who believes Erjavec did not abuse his powers in the OVS case.

He told private broadcaster POP TV that slandering Ermenc as the chief of the general staff was not innocent gossiping but should be seen as slandering an institution within the SAF.

Erjavec was today again accused of having unlawfully dismissed Škerbinc by the soldiers' trade union, which said in a press release Erjavec had lost their trust.

The union also urged the chair of the parliamentary Defence Committee to call an emergency session to take a stance on Erjavec's "unacceptable conduct".

It would like the committee to engage in a serious debate on the situation in the SAF to avert the negative staffing trends.

Although the union has been pointing to the unbearable conditions in the SAF for several years, there has been no change for the better, it said.

When more funds for the SAF are approved, politics always first thinks about new military equipment, whereas the union believes "it is high time for SAF troops to be put first, alongside a systemic solution to the situation and relationships in the defence system".

Even if Erjavec had identified understaffing as the SAF's most serious problem when he presented his ministerial bid in parliament, "this acute situation has severely deteriorated since he was appointed", the union added.

It labelled Erjavec's actions and attitude detrimental to Slovenia, adding that not even the Slovenian president had responded adequately to the union's warnings.

The union thus expects the committee to condemn Erjavec's conduct and adopt the resolutions it has proposed to improve the government's approach to the defence system.

Meanwhile, Erjavec, who believes he enjoys the trust of Šarec and the coalition, expressed surprise at the union's appeal, saying it went beyond its powers.

All our stories about the military in Slovenia are here

06 May 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 5 May 2019 - One of the ways for small EU countries to wield influence in Brussels is to have enough staff at their permanent representations in Brussels, a survey by Danish think-tank Europa has shown. Slovenia's is the second smallest.

The think-tank ranked member states' permanent representations in Brussels according to their size relative to their population, how many of their diplomats are sent there from the national administrations and how long these diplomats stay in Brussels.

"We find that on these parameters, countries like Ireland and Finland appear overall in a better position to fight for their national interest than countries like Denmark or Latvia," say the authors of the study.

The two smallest representations belong to Latvia and Slovenia, which have populations of about two million each and, 69 and 70 staff, respectively. Cyprus with a population of 0.9 million, has 78 staff.

Slovenia and Latvia are also among the nine countries which have a smaller representation than their population rank would suggest, along with Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

The analysis was conducted between January and March this year, based an email enquiry about the size and status of staff among all 28 permanent representations, and phone interviews. The authors received complete replies from 18 member states: including Slovenia.

The report notes the presidency factor, considering that the countries holding, or about to hold, the EU presidency beef up their permanent representative offices, like in the case of Romania, which is holding the presidency at the moment, or Finland, which is due to take over afterwards.

The largest EU nations, Germany and France also have the biggest permanent representations in Brussels, with 200 and 190 staff, respectively.

The survey finds that there is no apparent relationship between country affluence and the size of its permanent representation, as two of the EU's richest member states, Luxembourg and Denmark, are both in the lower end of the spectrum.

Six countries have larger permanent representations than their population size would suggest: Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, and Luxembourg.

Slovenia has the largest share of its staff composed of home ministry officials, as opposed to locally-employed staff, with a secondment ratio of 99%. Slovenia, along with the Czech Republic, also has longer than average duration of secondment, at 4.5 years, which compares to four years typical for most countries.

03 May 2019, 16:27 PM

Mladina: Police found EU Commission dictated bank bailout in criminal fashion

STA, 3 May 2019 - Lies, Lies, It's All Lies, reads the title of the latest Mladina editorial, which comments on the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe into the 2013 bank bailout. According to the left-leaning weekly, the European Commission determined the value of Slovenia's allegedly bankrupt banks without any sort of methodology.

Commenting on what appears to be a leaked criminal complaint filed by the NBI last December against the entire former board of Banka Slovenije, Mladina's editor Grega Repovž says a long time has passed since the emergence of a document that would reveal the actual methods of the European Commission so clearly.

Repovž says the report of the NBI probe - over which Slovenia is being sued by the European Commission - into what was happening at the Slovenian central bank before the bailout reads like a conspiracy theory or a script for a bad movie and warrants a European investigation into the Commission's workings.

Repovž says officials in Slovenia were initially resisting pressure from the Commission to wind up recapitalisation needs but eventually caved in and started to focus on covering the tracks, thus becoming complicit in a crime.

The value of the banks was actually determined by the Commission, which ignored all the actual findings and failed to explain its methodology.

Slovenian police were hoping to find the contentious methodology that would explain the final figures but their eventual discovery was the worst possible - there was no methodology.

"We declared three banks, which were actually not in such a bad state, as bankrupt, pumped EUR 4.78bn into them ... and then accepted the commitment to sell these falsely bankrupt banks," Repovž says.

He argues that it seems Slovenia was truly being used as a guinea pig for enforcing the bail-in principle and for preventing a joint shouldering of the burdens of troubled countries.

However, while NKBM and NLB, stuffed with excess capital from the bailout, were privatised in line with promises given to the Commission, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec cannot continue pretending old commitments need to be honoured and ignore the findings of the probe as Slovenia is in the process of also selling Abanka.

Note – The STA didn’t provide a summary of Demokracja’s editorial this week, but the following is from last week’s Reporter, another right-wing weekly.

Reporter: Unlikely Homeland League will take away SDS votes

STA, 23 April 2019 - Commenting on the ongoing EU election race, the weekly Reporter says in its latest editorial that the newly-established party Homeland League (DOM) is not likely to eat away votes to the opposition Democrats (SDS).

According to the latest poll by Mediana, the Slovenian right will be defeated on the election Sunday, 26 May, as the lists of the SDS and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) as well as the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) are projected to win only three MEP seats, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says.

The joint SDS-SLS slate is expected to win the most votes, but only two of Slovenia's eight MEP seats. It could also win a third one by a hair's breadth, just like the SDS did five years ago.

Perhaps it will also manage to win three seats this year because of the alliance with the SLS. However, according to the latest polls, winning four MEPs is not likely, Šurla notes.

The NSi is also not likely to repeat its historic victory from 2004, when the first European election was held in Slovenia and the party won as many as two MEPs.

In the end, the left and right may very well each win four seats, just like ten years ago, Šurla says under the headline Race for Million Euro.

The centre-left has slightly more voters although they are inclined to change party preferences. Most of them currently favour the coalition Social Democrats (SD), which are projected to win two MEPs, while the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the opposition Left would each get one.

Meanwhile, voters of the centre-right, are much more decided. This is why Šurla expects no major flow of SDS voters to the Homeland League, which does not even appear in opinion polls yet.

Perhaps, DOM could cost the SDS-SLS list of candidates only the third potential MEP seat, Šurla concludes.

All our posts in this series can be found here, and our stories on the Institute of Chemistry are here

https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/tag/mladina

02 May 2019, 11:25 AM

STA, 1 May - President Borut Pahor urged Slovenians to cast their votes in the upcoming European Parliament elections in an interview with the STA ahead the 15th anniversary of Slovenia's joining the EU, observed on Wednesday. The vote will show whether more people support the union or oppose it, Pahor believes.

"All of us, who see the EU as brining a future of peace, security, prosperity and the future for our children have the obligation to do something ... It is our responsibility to encourage people to vote."

"Maybe some will vote differently than we would have wanted. That's democracy. But with it we lend democratic legitimacy to the European idea," he said.

The vote, scheduled in Slovenia for 26 May, will be a historic one, the president believes. This election will decide "whether we will hear of those who want more Europe or of those who want less Europe."

Pahor believes that the European Parliament will be "more colourful" after the vote. But he expects that pro-European forces will make up the majority. He is certain that Eurosceptics will not win the election.

It is crucial that MEPs vote according to their conscience, Pahor believes. He hopes that Slovenia's MEPs will "not only defend the interests of Slovenia but also join forces with those defending the same interests."

When asked what Slovenians could do for the EU 15 years since accession, Pahor said that casting their ballots would be the first step. "It is very important that the political forces which are in favour of further strengthening of Europe get more support."

"In the light of our upcoming presidency in 2021 it will be very important to be among the countries looking for a way out of the standstill." Overall, Slovenians should think more about the future of the EU not just their own country.

Whatever the result, Pahor hopes that turnover will be high for the sake of legitimacy. "Then we need to come up with new ideas. We need to use the next five years for a leap forward. I cannot imagine another five years of standstill."

When asked whether Slovenians have internalised their European identity, Pahor said he believed they did. "We have two identities: Slovenian and European. They are not conflicting, we mostly see them in harmony, nurturing each other."

The decision to join the EU was a logical step, according to Pahor, as the European idea was a part of Slovenians' aspirations for an independent state.

Slovenia showed a united position in both decisions. 95% of voters said yes to an independent country in 1991 and 90% said yes to EU accession in 2013.

"This legitimisation of decisions is very important for our life and our efforts for development in Slovenia as well as the EU."

"We need to realise that we have come to a situation in which the EU needs us, a position in which we are the ones who can give something to the EU. And that's our vote, to democratically legitimise the noble idea of a peaceful and joint Europe."

Several developments have caused the standstill the EU has found itself in. It was evident when the Lisbon Treaty was adopted that it was drafted in a hurry and on the wreckage of a failed attempt of an EU constitution, said Pahor.

"Those of us who are very pro-European want a step forward to be made after this election, to see a new constitutional process and a new constitution. I do not believe this can be done overnight, but I do believe this is the only way."

Many Europeans have come to believe that the EU is incapable of resolving problems. "For example the fear of migrants. The EU most certainly did not show the same wisdom, openness or the intensity in addressing this problem as it did in financial crisis, for example."

Once the new EU parliament and commission are formed, everything will have to be done to reach consensus on migration policy, the president said. "If we show that we can manage the problem, we will gain trust and anxiety will subside."

"One of the reasons why nationalists are calling for more national policies is the considerable ineffectiveness of EU institutions in tackling certain problems. Therefore it is a must to put an end to this absence of common migration policy."

When asked about Brexit, Pahor said it was a warning to all those who speak without thinking about leaving the EU, how rubbish it is. Brexit has shown that the EU is much more important to its big members than believed.

The extension of the Brexit talks was the least bad of all options, Pahor believes. However, this has led to the EU internalising the problem and this will affect the formation of the new parliament and commission, as well as life in general. "But this will still cause less damage than a hard Brexit would have."

All our stories about Slovenia and the EU can be found here, while our stories on the EU elections are here

 

02 May 2019, 10:12 AM

STA, 1 May 2019 - "The European Union is strong because it is united by its diversity and differences, big and small," Foreign Minister Miro Cerar tweeted on Wednesday. The minister, who is attending a ceremony in Warsaw, marking the 15th anniversary of the accession of ten countries to the EU, including Slovenia, congratulated Slovenians on the anniversary.

"On 1 May 2004, Slovenia celebrates 15 years in the European Union, along with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovakia, who joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The enlargement has benefited all member states and their citizens," Cerar said in another tweet.

In the last 15 years, trade between old and new member states had tripled. It increased five times, among new member states alone. The purchase power of Slovenians rose by 30%, exports doubled, foreign investments tripled, the Foreign Ministry tweeted.

"Slovenia is now co-deciding together with other EU countries on European projects and European future," Cerar wrote on the web site of his Modern Centre Party (SMC).

"Slovenia remains an eager supporter of the European enlargement in the Western Balkans," he said, stressing the importance of the upcoming EU election.

"This year's election is one of the most important elections in recent years. They will be held in a time when rallies honouring Benito Mussolini are being held in Milan, when an extreme rightist party returned to the Spanish parliament after 40 years, and when the voices of extreme rightists are becoming stronger in some other parliaments."

Cerar said that citizens must turn out for the election to defend the friendly, compassionate and liberal Europe and stand up to the attempts to demolish the European project.

The 15th anniversary of the enlargement is celebrated by high representatives of the ten countries in Warsaw today. The event is hosted by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The officials were also joined by Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban. The European Commission is represented by its Vice President Jyrki Katainen.

Cerar, who represents Slovenia at the celebration, also held bilateral talks with his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz on the sidelines of the event.

The pair talked about cooperation between Slovenia and Poland as part of the EU, according to Cerar.

Cerar also congratulated Slovenians on Labour Day, saying he wished everyone a decent job and pay.

Fifteen years after the big EU enlargement, the bloc is faced with Brexit and Euroscepticism, while the enlargement process has come to a standstill.

Western Balkan countries should be treated as a package if reconciliation is to be achieved in the region, analyst Stefani Weiss of the Bertelsmann foundation told the STA.

The enlargement process should be graduate and multilayered; there should be more intermediate steps before the final one - full-fledged membership, Weiss told the STA.

All our stories about Slovenia and the EU can be found here

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