Politics

12 Mar 2019, 16:28 PM

STA, 11 March 2019 - Simon Zajc, who currently serves as a state secretary at the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry, is the candidate for new environment minister, Miro Cerar, the leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), announced on Monday.

Addressing reporters in Ljubljana, Cerar said Prime Minister Marjan Šarec agreed with the party's proposal for Zajc to succeed Jure Leben, who resigned in late February after becoming embroiled in allegations that he was involved in a tender rigging in his previous capacity as Infrastructure Ministry state secretary.

In the previous term, Zajc served as MP for the SMC, but failed to get re-elected in the 2018 general election. If appointed, he will become the tenth Slovenian minister of the environment and spatial planning.

Cerar said that the candidate would be able to continue on the course set by outgoing Minister Leben, ensuring continuity at the ministry.

Noting that Zajc had been picked for a state secretary by Leben, Cerar said that the candidate was "surely capable of coordinating people", adding that he had proved himself as an MP and vice-chair of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee.

Before being elected an MP in 2014, Zajc, 38, who graduated from the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, also worked as a radio and TV host.

He also managed car fleets of large companies and headed a video production and mobile app company, hosted events, wrote for the Slovenian edition of the Cosmopolitan magazine and performed as a stand-up comedian.

Before the formation of the SMC in 2014, Zajc was a member of the Slovenian Youth Party (SMS). He also unsuccessfully stood in the 2018 local elections for a member of the Ljubljana city council on the SMC's ticket.

The prime minister's office quoted Šarec as saying that Zajc was an optimal choice for the new environment minister at the moment "if we want the work that has been started to be continued".

The remaining coalition partners have responded positively to the nomination or said the name had been expected.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said it wished for Zajc to understand the connection of his ministry with the Infrastructure Ministry, headed by SAB leader Alenka Bratušek.

Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Karl Erjavec said supporting Zajc in the vote in parliament would not be a problem, adding that "the current state secretary is acquainted with the content and issues in the field, which makes him an appropriate staffing solution".

Social Democrats (SDS) head Dejan Židan believes the SMC had given a thought to proposing Zajc. "Prime Minister Marjan Šarec will also give the proposal a thought before nominating him, and we support such proposals."

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) expects that the new minister will continue Leben's work, saying that the "issues that have piled up in the field of environmental protection ... demand quick and thoughtful response and opposition to certain lobbies which only pursue their own interests".

Zmago Jelinčič, the head of the opposition National Party (SNS), said that "emergency replacements" would not result in solving the issues Leben had started to tackle.

These issues are the reasons for Leben's resignation in the first place, Jelinčič said, expressing doubt that the new minister will be able to do anything.

All our stories on the environment and Slovenia can be found here

12 Mar 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 11 March 2019 - The Western Balkans and regional initiatives were at the centre of talks between President Borut Pahor and his visiting counterpart from Bulgaria Rumen Radev in Ljubljana on Monday. The presidents confirmed good relations between the countries, underlining that they could still be improved.

 

Talking to the press after the meeting, Pahor said that political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries were "very lively".

Slovenia considers Bulgaria a strategic partner and the countries have good bilateral relations that are not burdened by anything, he said. Contacts between the countries at the top political level are relatively frequent, he added.

Slovenia opened an embassy in Sofia last year, while Adria Airways has launched a regular route between Ljubljana and the Bulgarian capital, the president noted at their joint press conference.

According to Radev, Slovenia and Bulgaria, located on different sides of the Balkans, each represent stability and security, they steer dialogue and cooperation policies in the interest of security and peace in the Balkans.

"We share the same values and we want peace for the future of our region," Radev underlined.

Pahor presented to Radev Slovenia's preparations for the next Brdo-Brijuni Process Summit scheduled in Tirana, Albania, for May.

Although Bulgaria is not part of this initiative it does have its own, influential, positions about developments in the region, Pahor said.

He added that the atmosphere, cooperation and trust in the region were not ideal at the moment. He wants the summit to send out a message that would be encouraging for the nations in the region and that would obligate the EU to find together solutions to bilateral and multilateral issues in this part of southeastern Europe.

According to Pahor all Balkan leaders are set to come to Tirana, including Serbian and Kosovo presidents, Aleksandar Vučić and Hashim Thaci, although temperature is running high between Belgrade and Prishtina.

"I can't imagine one of the leaders not coming. This in itself would be a political message. One of the worst possible imaginable at the moment," said Pahor.

Radev moreover underlined that accession of Balkan countries to the EU and NATO was the key to stability, security and progress in the region.

Pahor expressed satisfaction that Radev confirmed today that he would take part in the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Ljubljana in early June.

He believes that the event will be an opportunity for countries in central and eastern Europe to freshen up on their list of priorities in the presence of high representatives of Germany, the EU and the US.

The Bulgarian president also said that cooperation should not only be limited to transport, energy and communication but it should also include science, education, culture and the youth.

Radev is accompanied in Slovenia by a business delegation which attended a business forum at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Due to restrictions, the group of executives is smaller than Bulgaria would have wanted. This indicates a great amount of interest in doing business with Slovenia.

Thus a business forum taking place at the sidelines of the Three Seas Initiative will serve as an opportunity for a visit by a bigger delegation.

Economic cooperation between Slovenia and Bulgaria is good, with trade amounting to EUR 385m in 2017. The figure was 25% higher than the year before. Bulgaria is Slovenia's 24th biggest exports market.

You can find all our stories on politics and Slovenia here

12 Mar 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 9 March 2019 - Addressing a ceremony marking 30 years since the formation of the Democrats' (SDS) precursor, Janez Janša said the SDS had stayed true to itself, its values and Slovenia even in the most challenging times. "The SDS stands for democracy and is against any totalitarianism," the party head stressed in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Janša said the party was therefore always ready to cooperate with anyone who shared this view for the benefit of Slovenia. "A party that votes against the European Parliament's resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism is not a democratic party," he added.

In the light of the EU elections, Janša stressed the importance of the EU and its future. "Perhaps never in the years since independence in 1991 have we celebrated our birthday in a time when the future ahead was so open and unpredictable. So many different possibilities lie before us. Not all of them are good," he said.

According to Janša, there is a time for every community, every nation when they need to reconsider their place in the world and such a time has come for Europe.

"The EU is strong because it gives priority to rules and the rule of law and not the rule of the stronger," Janša said, adding that the biggest threat to the rule of law were double standards.

One of such example is when EU institutions very quickly detect "actual or imaginary violations in some member states, especially in those where conservative or Christian democratic parties are on power," he said.

Janša believes it is time to opt for "a Europe that Slovenians voted for in the 2003 referendum, a Europe of European civilisation and culture that protects human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The SDS head believes that the key challenge of the new European Parliament after the economic and migration crises and Brexit will be political stabilisation, which will entail upgrading the EU's defence system and monetary policy.

Touching on the EPP's threats that Hungary's Fidesz may be expelled from the group, Janša expressed hope that "this argument in our family will be resolved as soon as possible with a smart compromise, without using force."

He believes the EPP should focus on ways to ensure prosperity for all in Europe, protect the borders and provide for the security of Europeans.

The SDS celebrates today the anniversary of the founding of the Slovenian Democratic Union (SDZ) and the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia (SDZS), which are considered its precursors.

The two parties emerged from the so-called spring movements, calling for democratisation and Slovenia's independence.

Janša said that when the two parties merged the "biggest and the most successful party in Slovenia's history" had been formed, which had so far won eight elections.

For three decades, the party has been "the main pillar of Slovenia's independence, an indivisible part of the fight for democratic transformation and Slovenia's inclusion in the European civilisation's flows," Janša said.

The event at the Cankarjev Dom centre was also addressed by the European People's Party (EPP) Spitzenkandidat for the EU vote, Manfred Weber, who warned against the danger of nationalism in Europe.

Europe is much more than just laws and must provide concrete answers to concrete challenges, including migrations, he said. He also stressed the importance of a shared culture that is based on Christian values.

All our stories on politics in Slovenia are here, while those on Janez Janša are here

11 Mar 2019, 19:00 PM

STA, 8 March 2019 - The Ljubljana Local Court has slapped the opposition Democrats (SDS) with a fine of EUR 20,000 for violating the political parties act in the hiring of two loans, the commercial broadcaster POP TV reported on Friday. SDS head Janez Janša was slapped with a EUR 2,000 fine. The party has reportedly already announced an appeal.

The SDS was indicted by the Court of Audit in March 2018 over two contentious loans it took out in 2017.

The party came under fire in January 2018 for closing a deal on a EUR 450,000 loan from a Bosnian national at the end of 2017, and borrowing EUR 60,000 from the publisher Nova Obzorja in August 2017.

This runs contrary to the provision that parties can only borrow from banks, savings banks and a limited amount of money from individuals.

Under the loan agreement with Bosnian Diana Đuđić, the 32-year-old was obligated to pay out the loan in three instalments of EUR 150,000.

The law puts the ceiling for party loans from individuals at ten times the value of the average gross monthly pay or around EUR 15,800 per year.

Less than two weeks after the scandal broke out, media reported of the loan the SDS took from Nova Obzorja, in which the party holds a 44.2% stake. The stake was also put up as collateral in the loan secured with Đuđić but was later put up for sale.

Nova Obzorja issues the weekly Demokracija and tabloid Škandal24.

The SDS returned the first instalment it received from Đuđić with interest in January 2018 but this did not stop the procedure against the party.

All our stories on politics in Slovenia can be found here

https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/news/politics

11 Mar 2019, 14:15 PM

STA, 8 March 2019 - Zoran Poznič, a 59-year-old cultural manager and new media curator, was appointed as Slovenia's new culture minister by the National Assembly on Friday by 47 votes in favour and 19 against.

Poznič has been heading Delavski Dom Trbovlje, a progressive cultural centre in the mining town of Trbovlje, for almost a decade.

He joined the junior coalition Social Democrats (SD) after offering himself as a candidate to the party, and now succeeds Dejan Prešiček, who was forced out of office in January amid bullying allegations.

In his hearing before the parliamentary Culture Committee, Poznič said one of his priorities would be to have a national culture programme for the period between 2020 and 2026 adopted this year.

He also pledged to seek to tackle the status of the self-employed and NGOs in the culture sector, and see to digitalisation of cultural heritage, among other things.

He expects that the culture euro law could become operational by the summer, considering that the draft proposal is all but ready.

Poznič also called for new media legislation, for curbing hate speech in the media, and opening up the room for new media that would support quality criticism in culture and investigative reporting.

Prime Minister Šarec said during today's debate that he expected a lot from Poznič and expressed the hope that stakeholders in culture would give him an opportunity to prove himself.

"Unlike many, I personally perceive the culture department as equal to others, as a field which must not lag behind in its ambitiousness," the prime minister added.

Šarec expects solutions from the new minister, pointing to the culture euro law, a new media law and a new national programme for culture.

"To put it short, I expect a new momentum and proposals for how to make the necessary breakthrough," Šarec said, adding that he expected the relationships at the ministry under the new boss to be appropriate.

Šarec hopes that the employees at the ministry had given the entire situation a thought and that they would "prefer work to complaining and replace the stories about the undermined trust with diligence."

While the coalition MPs endorsed Poznič, the opposition Democrats (SDS) had announced they would vote against, and the opposition Left, New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS) said they would not oppose Poznič.

Alenka Jeraj (SDS) took issue with Poznič offering himself as a candidate, saying that one would expect from a serious party like the SD to find an appropriate candidate within its own ranks.

Violeta Tomić of the Left said that culture in Trbovlje had entered a new era with Poznič, whom she labelled a good manager and a person who has a feel for workers' rights.

Ljudmila Novak (NSi) noted that Poznič would be facing problems not becoming the the Culture Ministry, as he first had to improve the damaged personal relationships in the institution.

Zmago Jelinčič (SNS) said that the candidate had said nothing about the protection of the Slovenian language and Slovenian cultural heritage.

Growing up in a mining family, Poznič graduated in sculpture from the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts in 2007, obtaining a master's degree in video and new media two years later.

He was appointed director of DDT, a worker's home-turned cultural centre, in 2008, setting out a new vision of the town under the slogan Trbovlje New Media Town.

The project brings together creative potential of people in the local and broader communities, combining with global trends in new media. Its central feature is the new media culture festival Speculum Artium.

09 Mar 2019, 09:12 AM

STA, 8 March 2019 - Health Minister Samo Fakin has notified Prime Minister Marjan Šarec that he is stepping down because of ill health, after being on sick leave since 18 February. Šarec told the press that he would inform the public about Fakin's successor in the coming days.

In his resignation note to Šarec on Friday, Fakin said he was resigning because his recovery had not been progressing quickly enough. Šarec, who visited Fakin at home yesterday, said today that "this move was necessary at this moment".

Šarec also said that the outgoing minister's illness was "nothing that can't be treated, but things have piled up. He suffered an extended bout of bronchitis, followed by pneumonia."

Fakin told the newspaper Finance over the phone that "changing health legislation is very demanding. It requires a healthy person and I am not. When deciding what to do, health took priority."

"I haven't thought about a successor and I'm leaving that up to others," he told Finance. While he remains on sick leave, State Secretary Pia Vračko will continue to stand in for him, the Health Ministry said.

When asked how the change at the ministry will affect the reforms planned by his government, Šarec said that the goals remained unchanged.

He also said that he was happy with Fakin's work. "The minister is one of few people who know the entire system. He identified the real problems and addressed them. There can be no quick solutions in this ministry."

"Because he set such high goals, he now realised that he will not be able to see it through, being ill. We need a person capable of seeing things through."

But this will be no easy task. The next minister will have their work cut out for them. "The tasks are really tough," said the prime minister.

Fakin is the fourth minister in the Šarec government to step down after Environment Minister Jure Leben, Cohesion Minister Marko Bandelli and Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček.

Health ministers who last an entire government term are few and far between in Slovenia. Several said after leaving the position that they gave up on health reform, a project in the works for many years, due to strong pressure from various lobbies.

08 Mar 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 7 March 2019 - The Ljubljana District Court acquitted Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković of bribery charges in the Gratel case on Thursday. The prosecution sought a three-year prison sentence and a EUR 50,000 fine for Janković. It also wanted the Ljubljana municipality to return the donation it received from the company Gratel.

The ruling is not final yet and prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar announced an appeal.

The case concerns EUR 500,000 which the mayor demanded from construction company Gratel in March 2007 to allow it to dig roads to install optic cables.

Gratel then transferred two EUR 250,000 instalments to the municipality as a donation for the renovation of Ljubljana Castle.

This enabled it to resume its work under a new development permit after Janković had initially banned Gratel from digging on public premises.

Janković argued that the payment had been made in compensation for the damage incurred by the city because Gratel had dug up wider conduits and installed more cables than agreed.

He maintained throughout the trial there was nothing wrong with a company making a donation to a public institution, saying it caused no harm to anyone and nobody except the prosecutor was claiming anything back.

Gratel owner Jurij Krč backed up his story, saying the donation to Ljubljana Castle was not a bribe but a payment in line with the contract, while former Gratel CEO Drago Štrafela said he did not understand why the money should be paid to the municipality, arguing the city suffered no damage.

In presenting closing arguments today, prosecutor Žgajnar said Janković had used his power to pressure Gratel into the donation. "When they did that, he allowed them to continue the work," she said.

"Donations are not forbidden if they are voluntary," she stressed, adding that three witnesses had confirmed that the defendant had demanded money. She believes that the one witness who did not confirm this was not telling the truth.

But Judge Vladislava Lunder said today that the evidence presented had not corroborated the claim that Janković had demanded a bribe and that none of the witnesses had confirmed this.

"None of the witnesses confirmed the claim that Janković made obtaining the permit conditional on the payment of the damages," the judge said.

The problems of the project as part of which Gratel was building an optical network for operator T-2 had started in 2006, which is before Janković became mayor. According to Lunder, not only testimonies of witnesses but also documents presented as evidence showed this.

The judge was not convinced by the prosecutor's claim that Janković had revoked the permit to Gratel only to allow it to continue work once it paid a bribe.

Žgajnar moreover said that Štrafela had softened his statements compared to those he had given to police during the investigation. She believes it was him who had made the deal with Janković.

Janković's lawyer, Janez Koščak, said that no proceeding had been filed against the person who allegedly paid the bribe so technically there was no bribe to be accepted by Janković or the municipality.

He said Janković was on trial for acting with due care and diligence by demanding compensation after a contract partner had violated the contract. "If he hadn't done that he could be indicted for negligence."

Janković said today the had been the target of a political campaign by four persons, including Žgajnar, for the last four years. He believes this attack had been triggered by a "pamphlet of the parliamentary enquiry which was led by Alenka Jeraj of the SDS."

Jeraj of the opposition Democrats led between 2009 and 2011 a parliamentary inquiry into major public construction projects and other major investments funded from the Ljubljana or state budgets.

The final report of the inquiry commission, which had also investigated construction deals of companies owned by Janković's family members, suggested that Janković abused his power to allow his sons to profit from a re-zoning plan that opened agricultural land for construction.

All our stories on Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković can be found here

08 Mar 2019, 10:30 AM

STA, 6 March 2019 - Transparency International Slovenija (TI) has reported the director of the Agency for Commodity Reserves Anton Zakrajšek to the state prosecution over suspected abuse of office in the procurement of what is currently a 179-km fence on the border with Croatia.

 

Following allegations that the procurement of the fencing favoured a specific contractor, TI obtained part of the documentation after almost three years of efforts, receiving a nod from the Information Commissioner and engaging in a tug-of-war with the agency in courts.

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Screenshot from YouTube

TI believes Zakrajšek abused his powers when signing a razor wire contract with Minis in 2015 which included the provision of an advance payment of EUR 860,832 or 70% of the contract's total value.

Minis has been the main supplier of "technical obstacles" that Slovenia started erecting on the Croatian border during the migration crisis. It has received more than EUR 9.3m from the agency, while the remaining suppliers have been paid a total of EUR 6m, the newspaper Dnevnik reported today.

TI says the agency would have required special consent from the finance minister for the advance payment, which it does not appear to have received, while Zakrajšek is arguing the payment had never been executed.

The official, who is adamant that Minis was always picked as the cheapest bidder, argues the advance payment had been conditional on the supplier securing a bank guarantee in the full amount of the payment, which it failed to do.

What is more, the Finance Ministry said this provision only applied to direct budget users, while the agency is not defined as a budget user at all.

TI responded by saying "the alleged advance payment is only one of the suspicions elements, while confirming or rejecting the suspicion is in the domain of the relevant authorities". The NGO told the STA it saw no reason to withdraw its report.

TI only asked for a portion of the documents, as much of the fence procurement documentation remained classified as internal. The STA has not yet received an answer from the government about whether it planned to declassify them.

The agency said in a press release in the afternoon that the documents were classified because their contents could put in jeopardy the government's objectives to regulate migration flow.

Moreover, Zakrajšek said in the press release that the agency had asked Minis for a bid because the company had already been cooperating with the Interior Ministry at that point and the department had no complaints. The Interior Ministry also provided the specifications for the fence, the press release said.

The fencing contracts, signed under special provisions governing procurement in cases labelled classified, have been raising eyebrows for some time.

Alenka Bratušek, the head of the SAB party who was an MP at the time, caused waves after a 2017 session of the parliamentary Commission for Public Finance Oversight, when she claimed the documents studied had been manipulated with and that the chosen bidder had not been the cheapest.

SAB secretary general Jernej Pavlič said today that Bratušek had forwarded her findings at the time to the prosecution.

Zakrajšek insists the chosen bidder had been the cheapest and fastest and claims Bratušek is misleading with her accusation, which he says is based on a mistake that occurred in one of the minutes.

Media have also been wondering about the choice of Minis, with POP TV reporting on Tuesday that the company and a local office of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the senior coalition party between 2014 and 2018, shared the same address for a while.

SMC leader Miro Cerar responded to the reports by saying the intensive migration pressure in 2015 required the decision to protect people and property.

"This was the task I put to the ministers," he said, expressing his belief the decisions followed professional criteria and legal obligations. "I believe Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek acted in due fashion."

All our stories on corruption and Slovenia are here

07 Mar 2019, 16:30 PM

March 7, 2019

With regard to the name that will compose party lists in the upcoming European parliamentary elections, we know now that at least four major parties chose women as heads of their lists of candidates. Since the voting system allows voters to also cast a preferential vote to one of the candidates on the list they are choosing, being no. 1 on the list doesn’t necessarily mean you are first to get a parliamentary seat but rather that you serve as a face of that list, and will almost certainly participate in election debates.

So far the lists have been presented by Nova Slovenija (NSi), Socialni demokrati (SD), Levica and most recently also the Prime Minister’s Lista Marjana Šarca (LMŠ), who surprised with some very fresh faces, a bit too fresh, some might say.

Soon Slovenska Demokratska Stranka (SDS) is expected to present their list of candidates, and if they decide to put the current European Member of Parliament Romana Tomc at  the head of the list, this would be the fifth woman in such a position so far.

Although women are usually allowed to lead in times of crisis (the so-called “glass cliff”, as seen with Alenka Bratušek becoming prime minister during the peak of the last financial crisis, of Theresa May taking charge after the Brexit vote) or when no chance of winning is in sight (five women were pushed into the race against the incumbent and very popular President Borut Pahor who was running for a second term in 2017). With few exceptions this time the female candidates are strong and experienced politicians, with, hopefully, good chances of winning their European Parliament seats, which continues to be seen as an honorable and well-rewarded job.

ljudmila novak dz rs.jpg

NSi: Ljudmila Novak, one of the strongest female politicians in the country and former party president, managed to beat her party colleague, current member of the European Parliament and one of independent Slovenia’s first generation of politicians, Lojze Peterle, at the top of the list. With Ljudmila at the top, Lojze fell to no. 3.

Tanja_Fajon_wiki.jpg

SD: Tanja Fajon, current Member of the European Parliament. One of most active and recognisable Slovenian politicians serving in Brussels.

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Levica: Violeta Tomič. The former actress is one of the strongest female politicians in Slovenia, and also one of the two transnational spitzenkandidaten of the oppositional “European Left”.

joveva.jpg

LMŠ: Irena Joveva, a 30 year-old journalist without any political experience.

While recent polls suggest strong popular support for Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) it remains to be seen how this latest choice might affect the party’s popularity. So far the group’s success has been mainly based on the charisma of its leader and the current Prime Minister, Marjan Šarec.

At the press conference on Monday Šarec explained his party’s choice of candidates with the following words: “This is like sending a song to the Eurovision song contest. It is difficult to know what the winning formula might be.”

07 Mar 2019, 12:45 PM

STA, 6 March 2019 - The government managed to get the revised budget for 2019 through parliament on Thursday with the help of the opposition Left. But the vote does not end uncertainty over this year's spending, as the upper chamber has indicated a veto was possible and the Left may make its support in a re-vote conditional on additional spending.

The supplementary budget sets expenditure at EUR 10.16bn, a rise of EUR 463m or 4.8% from the original budget. Revenue is to go up even more, by 6.2% or EUR 599m to EUR 10.35bn, exceeding EUR 10bn-mark for the first time, mostly due to significantly higher public sector wages.

The adjustments increase funding for almost all ministries despite warnings from the centre-right opposition and the Fiscal Council that such spending hikes risked setting up Slovenia for trouble now that economic growth had started to cool down.

The government has rejected criticism with the argument that the spending blueprint was treading a middle path between exclusive focus on welfare and excessive austerity. It insists the budget is fiscally sustainable.

The budget was passed without the support of the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi). The former argued that the government had ignored warnings of the Fiscal Council, while the latter was bothered by the rejection of the amendments filed by the SDS, NSi and the National Party (SNS).

The three opposition parties had filed 34 amendments, mainly concerning the funding of infrastructural projects, but all of them were rejected.

But the SNS nevertheless supported the budget. According to party head Zmago Jelinčič, this was only to see how the European Commission will respond.

To secure passage, the government has had to reach a deal with the Left that entails additional spending potentially running into several hundred million euro on policies including precarious work forms, housing, corporate tax, wages, pensions and healthcare.

The initial plan was that the pact would be signed before today's vote, but due to apprehension by some coalition partners, in particular the Social Democrats (SD) and the Modern Centre Party (SMC), it was merely initialled after a half-hour recess in which the final details were hammered out.

The leader of the Left, Luka Mesec, said the deal was very similar to the one that was initialled with the government last summer. He expects it to be signed in the coming days.

In line with the deal, the leader and the secretary of the Left will from now on be invited to the meetings of coalition deputy groups every Tuesday.

The head of the deputy group of the ruling Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ), Brane Golubović, rejected criticism that the agreement had not been coordinated with other coalition parties, saying that all ministries concerned had participated in the talks, including those led by ministers of the SMC and SD.

There has been some speculation that the pact with the Left may be sidelined after the budget is confirmed, but this would leave the budget vulnerable in the event of an upper chamber veto, which is possible given the balance of power in the chamber.

The National Council recently denied support to the budget, with councillors voicing complaints about government plans in the area of local government and regional development.

Any vetoed legislation would requires confirmation by 46 MPs in the 90-member National Assembly. The coalition only has 43 votes.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said he was not surprised by the threat of the veto. "I only hope to hear some solid arguments, because the ones I heard today are very shaky considering the wishes of those presenting them and are reminiscent of horse-trading," the PM said.

05 Mar 2019, 10:23 AM

https://english.sta.si/2612119/pahor-promises-slovenias-support-for-albania-on-way-to-eu

Pahor: Slovenia Will Support Albanian Membership of EU

STA, 4 March 2019 - President Borut Pahor started his two-day official visit to Albania on Monday by meeting his counterpart Ilir Meta and promising continued Slovenian support for Albania's efforts to join the EU. Pahor and Meta also confirmed the interest of both countries to expand political and business cooperation.

The two presidents agreed that bilateral political cooperation is good, and that bilateral relations are friendly and without open issues, Pahor's office said in a press release.

The Slovenian president believes that there are numerous opportunities for further cooperation, especially in business, where it has been relatively modest so far.

Albania was only the 58th Slovenian trade partner in 2017, with the countries exchanging EUR 53.1m in goods. Bilateral trade picked up somewhat last year.

Meta acquainted Pahor with the progress Albania has made in implementing the key priorities required to open the EU accession negotiations. He expects that Albania will get the green light to launch the talks in June.

Pahor said that Slovenia would continue to support Albania in these efforts and promised assistance in and support for the reform process in Albania.

He stressed that the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans should be treated as a geopolitical and not a technical issue.

The two presidents also discussed Albania's preparations to host a meeting of a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process on 8 and 9 May. They agreed that the regional cooperation initiative had resulted in numerous positive shifts.

On the first day of the visit, Pahor also met Prime Minister Edi Rama, and is also scheduled to meet Lulzim Basha, the head of the Democratic Party of Albania, the main opposition party in the country.

On Tuesday, Pahor Pahor will meet with Chairman of the Parliament of Albania Gramoz Ruci and Mayor of Tirana Erion Velia.

He will visit the nearby town of Kruje, the home town of national hero Skenderbeg (1405-1468).

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