Politics

29 Feb 2020, 10:43 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The Slovenian web portal Oštro published on Friday along with two more investigative journalism groups in the region a report alleging that a Slovenia-based company was used to launder illegal Hungarian government money and finance media propaganda in North Macedonia.

The story - coming after reports showing entrepreneurs close to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban helped fund Slovenian media with ties to the Democrats (SDS) and Macedonian media associated with the country's VMRO-DPMNE party - is based on an investigation that had been started by Macedonian financial police in 2018.

The file of the Macedonian police, which allegedly acted after receiving a hint from Slovenian colleagues, is also said to contain documents obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and shared with its local centres in Slovenia (Oštro), North Macedonia (Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia, IRL) and Hungary (Direkt36).

The centrepiece of the investigation is a EUR 2.94 million advertising campaign contract signed in 2017 by Hungarian entrepreneur Peter Shatz both on behalf the contracting party, his Slovenian publishing company R-POST-R, and the contractor, Macedonian company Target Media.

orban jansa slovenia hungary media politics.JPG

Screenshot ostro.si. You can see the story referred to here

Shatz, who has also been heavily engaged in dealings around Slovenian media associated with the SDS, used Target Media to buy the Macedonian Alfa TV and establish the Macedonian web portal ripostmk.com, both of which were publishing the ads stemming from the dubious EUR 2.94 million contract that ran from August 2017 to February 2019.

According to the findings of the Macedonian financial police, the marketing involved products by two small Hungarian companies - one of them purporting to sell olive oil from Croatia's Dalmatia region - that "do not exist on the Macedonian market" and whose import into Macedonia was not recorded before or after the ads were ran.

Moreover, indicating that the value of the contract was overblown, IRL quotes a Macedonian marketing expert as pointing out that the biggest client of a marketing agency in Skopje pays less than half a million euro annually for prime time ads at six TV and radio stations and web portals.

Macedonian police is said to suspect that the funds originated from illegal sources and that the aim had been to "legalise" them through Macedonian companies, meaning that money laundering is suspected.

The investigation is led by the director of the Macedonian financial police Arafat Muaremi, who suspects the money came from the Hungarian state budget.

Muaremi told IRL the police had informed the Macedonian prosecution of its findings in August 2019 but that no indictment had been filed. The prosecution said it was acquainted with the case but failed to explain why no action had been taken.

Muaremi added the investigation was started on the basis of a hint from Slovenian colleagues, who also "informed us that the money came from Hungary". According to Muaremi, Hungarian authorities have "not been willing to talk or cooperate with us in any way".

Slovenian police have not commented, but they did repeat that they had been conducting since March 2018 an investigation "of a suspected criminal offence whose perpetrator is prosecuted ex officio".

The Slovenian web portal necenzurirano.si has reported that this investigation pertains to the contentions EUR 450,000 loan taken out by the SDS in 2017 with Bosnian citizen Dijana Đuđić.

All our stories about Hungary and Slovenia are here

29 Feb 2020, 10:26 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The arson of the Trieste National Hall (Narodni dom) by the Fascists a century ago marked the start of a painful period for the Slovenian community that ended up on the Italian side of the border. A documentary shedding light on that event and what followed will premiere in Ljubljana tonight. 

"It's a painful and often overlooked and too often simplified story about our western border and about Primorska. The arson of National Hall was the start of that cruel story and I dear say the beginning of Fascism in Europe," the author of Arson (Požig) Majda Širca has told the STA in an interview.

The Trieste National Home was built in 1904 to the design of architect Max Fabiani (1865-1962). It was commissioned by the Trieste Savings and Loan Society; as a Slovenian cultural centre, it was home to a theatre, hotel, savings bank, a ballroom, a print shop; most Slovenian associations.

"Trieste at the time of Austria-Hungary was a multi-cultural city in which various nations and cultures lived together. By building the National Hall, Slovenians made it clear they weren't going to build churches like other nations. They decided to build a space of multi-cultural dialogue (...)"

"Slovenians knew they needed a representative, visible and effective place in the middle of Trieste. Slovenians at the time lived on the city's outskirts, in small villages. They were a rural population that supplied Trieste but they didn't have their visible place in the city centre," Širca said.

The project was a thorn in the flesh of bigots who looked down on Slovenians, calling them schiavi (Italian for slaves). After the end of First World War, tensions escalated in Trieste, with a number of rallies held.

On 13 July 1920, one of those rallies escalated into a violent conflict in which shouts were heard that a Slav had killed an Italian. A mass of people then stormed the National Hall and torched it, historian Kaja Širok says in the film. Witnesses say that police and army officers stood by watching.

"That event later went down in history as 'the Slavic Crystal Night'. On that day several stores, print shops and buildings owned or managed by Slovenians were torched," the historian said.

Badly damaged in the fire, the National Hall was rebuilt between 1988 and 1990 and now houses the headquarters of the college of modern languages for interpreters and translators, part of the University of Trieste, as well as a Slovenian information centre.

The Slovenian community has been unsuccessfully trying to get back the building, with their hopes placed in this year's centenary when the presidents of Slovenia and Italy, Borut Pahor and Sergio Mattarella, are expected to meet in Trieste to mark the anniversary.

The film Arson also features excerpts of old comments by Boris Pahor, the 106-year-old Slovenian writer from Trieste who witnessed the National Hall arson and has often spoken out about the issue and has often said that Fascism in Europe started with that arson.

The year the National Hall went up in flames Slovenian territory was subject to barter, Širca says. Under the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in November 1920 by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) and the Kingdom of Italy, a third of Slovenian ethnic territory was awarded to Italy.

Ethnic Slovenians were put under huge pressure, faced assimilation attempts, denial of their language and territory, turbulence which Širca seeks to portray in her documentary, although she believes each of the key events included would merit a film of its own.

The film traces individuals' stories to the Basovizza victims, the Slovenians that were the first victims of fascism in 1930, the Fascist and Nazi occupation, the concentration camps and executions, the 1975 Treaty of Osimo and the establishment of a new border between Slovenia and Italy.

The documentary also touches on the foibe, the Karst pits where the victims of post-WWII reprisals by Yugoslav Communists were thrown.

"If you visit Basovizza, there are two monuments there not far from one another. One is an Italian monument to foibe, where every year the complex and complicated history of this space is sadly drastically simplified and abused, and the other a monument to the Basovizza victims.

"There's 15 years of history between the two, but I believe it always needs to be read in the context of that space. You cannot isolate one event from the other, just like you cannot but link the things together," said Širca, who served as Slovenia culture minister between 2008 and 2011.

She is concerned about what she sees as a dangerous loss of memory in Slovenia and elsewhere: "We know the past is being adapted, history is being horse traded and facts are being dressed in new clothes. Like in the past the new clothes are better worn trendy and we know how hard such simplification of history hits the Slovenian community."

The film, which will premiere at the National Museum of Contemporary History before being shown on TV Slovenija on Sunday night, is her contribution so that younger generations should learn about that difficult and multi-layered history: "If someone drums but one truth into their heads, it sticks. It's what is happening in the world today."

27 Feb 2020, 15:24 PM

STA, 27 February - The outgoing cabinet adopted on Thursday measures to contain the new coronavirus in case it spreads to Slovenia. It released strategic commodity reserves to ensure enough protective gear but noted that borders with neighbouring countries remained open and that there was no reason for panic.

No coronavirus infection has been recorded in Slovenia as yet, but the country has been preparing for it as neighbouring Italy, Austria and Croatia all have patients with COVID-19.

According to Health Minister Aleš Šabeder, protective masks, glasses, gloves, coats and hospital shoe covers will be available in case of emergency.

Equipment in the total value of EUR 200,000 will be made available, including 48,000 protective masks, 5,000 hazmat suits, 500,000 gloves and hand sanitizers, the Economy Ministry said.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec added the strategic commodity reserves were intended for medical staff not citizens. "First we must protect public workers, so that they can help citizens efficiently," he said.

UKC Ljubljana gets masks for coronavirus

Meanwhile, the UKC Ljubljana hospital received 100,000 protective masks today, a donation from the company Labena. The hospital said the masks from state reserves would be used only if existing supplies and further orders would not be enough to cover the hospital's needs.

Based on an agreement with the neighbouring countries, borders remain open. Experience from Italy has shown that fierce measures did not stop the spreading of the disease while they could cause substantial economic damage, Šarec said.

Croatia is conducting checks at the border crossings, which is causing long tailbacks of traffic. "Such measures are not efficient. Tailbacks on the borders are causing economic damage," Šarec warned.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in response that the measure was necessary. "Croatia acts as it should, peacefully and prudently, without panic, in order to protect public health and its citizens."

Hinting at Slovenia's measures at the Schengen border causing tailbacks in the past, Plenković said that "now we have a true reason to raise preparedness on the border, which is good both for us and for Slovenia".

Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who is meeting Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor in Otočec, said that the Croatian government probably had reasons to take such measures, adding that panic was unwarranted.

Pahor said that measures should be coordinated. "It's about our people's health and we have to do everything in our power to help each other find solutions which would preserve health," he added.

Šarec also stressed that responsible action was needed otherwise the side effects of the protective measures could be more harmful than the virus itself.

The outgoing PM listed the problems that could emerge if people started withdrawing their money from banks in panic or buying supplies in abnormal quantities, which is already happening.

The civil protection will get involved in case of multiple infections, and so will the army, sanitary service and others, he asserted. "But we'e not there yet. So those who have called for closing of the borders are merely spreading panic."

Both Šarec and Šabeder rejected claims by the Medical Chamber that health institutions were not informed of the situation and measures.

Šabeder called on the chamber to "immediately stop sowing fear and panic among the people and medical staff".

Presenting the agreements reached at a meeting of health ministers of Italy and neighbouring countries in the face of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, Šarec said countries had agreed not to close the borders and to exchange information about the virus. They will hold regular videoconferences to agree on protective measures.

As yet, no major events cancelled

As regards cancellations of public events, decisions will be made on a case-to-case basis, with Šarec noting that Slovenia would also host some major events in the near future such as the Ski Jumping World Cup events in Planica.

Šabeder said that protective gear was being inventoried in all hospitals and community health centres, and that no institute was without it. This week, Slovenia will join a European public order for more protective gear.

Full protective gear is required only during swab taking, Health Ministry State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek explained. She added that there was no need for healthy people who come from countries where infections have been recorded to be taking sick leave.

Presenting the scenario for action if case of a positive test, she said the first infected patient would be hospitalised and their family members or those living with the person would be isolated while other would not be affected.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

27 Feb 2020, 12:15 PM

STA, 26 February 2020 - Three local communities in the north-eastern region of Prekmurje are upset after a cable operator announced it was expanding its TV package in the area with programmes catering for the Hungarian minority, which does not in fact live in the three municipalities. The development comes amid concerns about Hungary's expanding influence in the region.

Telemach said it would include five Hungarian programmes in its package in Lendava, Odranci, Velika Polana and Črenšovci, in response to the wishes of the Hungarian community in the area. The latter three communities are not bothered by the new programmes, but rather by the reason given for the move.

Jožef Horvat, the head of the parliamentary faction of the conservative party New Slovenia (NSi), has alerted the government in a letter that Hungary's influence in the municipalities with exclusively Slovenian population is expanding through the programmes.

"We are not bothered by the programme scheme and business decisions of a private subject even when it comes to bilingual programmes, but it does bother us that in its official release the company stated that this was in accordance with the wishes of our municipalities' residents and labelled them as bilingual, which they aren't," Velika Polana Mayor Damijan Jaklin said.

In his letter, MP Horvat said that it was commendable that the Pomurje Hungarian community was aspiring for Hungarian programmes, but that it was unacceptable that in public explanations Črenšovci, Velika Polana and Odranci were listed as mixed ethnicity areas populated by a sizeable Hungarian minority. "This is simply not true and it is common deceit."

Horvat, whose party has just agreed to be part of a new government formed by Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), accused the outgoing government of silently watching developments in Prekmurje, asking what it was planning to do to protect the majority nation and language in the region.

Črenšovci Mayor Vera Markoja says that Telemach has apologised to the community for declaring it is home to a Hungarian minority. The company told the STA its purpose was not to cause discord or "declare ethnically mixed areas", but rather to offer a choice of quality content to all viewers across the country.

Telemach said that as part of its switch to the digital programme scheme new Hungarian programmes would be available throughout the country. The company has one TV signal for Lendava, Odranci, Velika Polana and Črenšovci, which means separating the programme scheme by municipalities impossible.

Prekmurje has in recent time seen extensive Hungarian state and private investment, which has sparked considerable attention. While some see the investment as welcome aid benefiting the entire population of the underdeveloped region, others see it as Hungary expanding its influence in a region what used to be part of the Hungarian empire.

Hungarian investments in the region include the acquisition of the spa Terme Lendava, unofficially at the cost of EUR 9 million, EUR 6 million investment in the Lendava football academy as well grants distributed to individuals and entrepreneurs commanding Hungarian language.

Opinions on the Hungarian aid are also divided within the Hungarian ethnic community in the region with some arguing that the investments do not generate economic effects and questioning the motives behind them, suggesting that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was trying to assert his ways also in Slovenia.

Hungarian MP Ferenc Horvath believes that the aid is welcome. "Slovenia too should give as much here. Aid is welcome in the region. These are public funds, we know where they are destined, and they are also a contribution to Slovenia because money is spent here and taxes are paid here as well."

A similar view was taken by the SDS, which is facing allegations that media with ties to the party have received funds from Hungary.

The SDS believes that the Slovenian government is neglecting Prekmurje as well as the Slovenian minority in Hungary, "which is why the Hungarians help both". "If our investment was sufficient, the Hungarians would have nowhere to invest".

All our stories on Hungary are here

26 Feb 2020, 17:26 PM

STA, 26 February 2020 - President Borut Pahor on Wednesday formally nominated Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), for prime minister after four parties reached an agreement forming a centre-right coalition.

New Slovene Govt Announces Policies on Conscription, Borders, Housing, Health, Taxes, Cannabis, EU & More (Feature)

Having joined forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) Janša can count on a slim but comfortable majority in the 90-member parliament, which has to vote on the nomination in seven days at the latest.

Janša said the coalition agreement showed the four parties were willing to seek compromise solutions and would work to tackle the most pressing issues that Slovenia faces, even as he acknowledged that it was impossible to achieve everything that had to be done in the two and a half years until the next scheduled election.

He highlighted tackling healthcare, environmental issues and the elderly situation as top priorities. The coalition agreement envisages establishing a government demographic fund to deal with the issue of population ageing.

Moreover, decentralisation and debureaucratisation are expected to be among the potential coalition's main targets.

Janša believes that it goes without saying the parties will also implement any Constitutional Court ruling, including the decision mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, even if the latter is not written down in the agreement.

He added that he would seek cooperation with the opposition and national minority MPs as well. The coalition plans to sign an agreement outlining national minority issues with the latter.

The likely new prime minister said that the coalition did not initially plan any changes to the government act due to shortage of time. He did say though that amending the budget would be necessary.

Pahor said he was glad the period of political uncertainty following the resignation of Marjan Šarec as prime minister in late January had been so short.

He called on political stakeholders to engage in dialogue and refrain from excluding anyone, while pledging to work together with the government in his capacity as president. "I want this cooperation to be constructive and for the benefit of our country and all the people."

The president expects every one to refrain from any offensive statements or actions and to strengthen trust in the constitutional system.

Asked about alleged intimidation tactics used during coalition formation, Janša said that threats meant the line had been crossed. He deems this kind of pressure illegitimate.

Pahor meanwhile added that public figures were faced with pressure on a regular basis and as long as such pressure was expressed in an appropriate way, that was acceptable. However, he warned against spreading hatred.

Prompted by the press, Janša also touched upon his media relations and Twitter communication, saying "what do you think influences public opinion more? A public accusation in a media outlet watched by 400,000 people or a tweet read by a few thousands? When this is measured in the same way, then we could have a serious discussion about that".

Profile: Janez Janša – Constant Player and Bête Noire of the Left

26 Feb 2020, 12:13 PM

STA, 26 February - The coalition government that is being formed by Janez Janša is planning to reintroduce military conscription, effectively secure the border, decentralise the country and increase local government funding, as well as introduce a general child benefit.

This follows from a 13-page draft coalition agreement obtained by the STA. The draft was initialled on Monday by Janša's Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi), Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners Party (DeSUS), but unofficial information indicates the parties have already signed the agreement.

Under the draft, the partners plan to gradually reintroduce conscription, which Slovenia abandoned in 2003, and a six-month military service. They also pledge to "tackle the situation" in the police force and consistently implement asylum procedures.

More on the conscription plans here

The parties have also committed to implement the Constitutional Court ruling mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, and complete the system to fund science and research.

The per-capita funding of municipalities is to be raised to EUR 623.96 in 2020 and EUR 628.20 in 2021, which compares to EUR 589.11 and EUR 588.30, respectively, under the valid budget implementation act.

The coalition pledge to put in place a housing scheme for young families, build rental flats and establish a demographic and pension fund, headquartered in Maribor. Slovenia's second city will also host a government demographic fund. Pension rights are not to be changed.

The coalition also plan to reform social transfers policy and introduce free kindergarten for second or more children simultaneously enrolled in pre-school care and education. Family-friendly policies also include plans to introduce a universal child allowance.

The coalition pledge to secure extra financing from pubic and other funds in order to establish a financially sustainable and stable financing of the national health system and long-term care, and take effective measures to cut short waiting times in healthcare by engaging all staff resources.

The commitments include adopting legislation on long-term care and reforming the healthcare and health insurance act to change the management and functioning of the Health Insurance Institute and transform top-up health insurance.

Under the plans, employees will be able to take three days of sick leave without seeing a doctor, but only up to nine days a year. Measures are also planned to increase the vaccination rate and to set up an agency for quality of medical services.

The coalition have also committed to reduce taxes on performance bonuses and to reform the public sector wage system by pegging part of pay to performance.

Plans in the judiciary include making court rulings fully public and giving judges the option to pass dissenting opinions. Legislative changes are to affect the Judicial Council, state prosecution service, insolvency law and penal procedure.

The foreign policy agenda includes a pledge to support Western Balkan countries in their integration in the EU and NATO.

Other concrete projects include introducing e-motorway toll stickers and considering the option to transfer the Koper-Divača railway project and its manager 2TDK to the national railways operator.

The coalition would also like to reform land policies and the Farmland Fund, amend the co-operatives act and regulate production and use of cannabis in medicine and industry.

The coalition agreement sets out that the partners are taking the responsibility to manage the state according to voters' will, constitutional values, and rights and obligations as set forth in the agreement, based on the principles of equality and partnership.

The coalition pledges to focus on what connects and unites people in the country, and to advocate cooperation based on the willingness to work for the common good.

Under the draft, the SDS will be responsible for the departments of home and foreign affairs, finance, culture, which includes media, as well as the environment, diaspora and cohesion. The SMC was allocated the briefs of education, economy, public administration and justice, the NSi labour, infrastructure and defence, and DeSUS health, agriculture and the demographic fund.

This is the first in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

26 Feb 2020, 08:57 AM

STA, 25 February 2020 - Providing a key seal of approval for a new centre-right government in Slovenia, the executive councils of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi), the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), and the Democrats (SDS) all backed on Tuesday the entry into a coalition led by SDS president Janez Janša.

Profile: Janez Janša – Constant Player and Bête Noire of the Left

The nods came after weeks of talks held following the 27 January resignation of PM Marjan Šarec, who had formed a minority centre-left government in September 2018.

The draft coalition agreement was initialled by the four parties on Monday, while consultation talks were held today with President Borut Pahor, who is likely to nominate Janša for his third stint as prime minister on Wednesday.

The parties, which have 48 votes in the 90-member National Assembly, have already divided the ministerial posts among them.

Several media reported that SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek would stay economy minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec would remain in charge of the Agriculture Ministry, while NSi head Matej Tonin would become defence minister.

Other names circulated include the SDS's Anže Logar as foreign minister, the SDS's Zvonko Černač as interior minister, the SDS's Andrej Šircelj as finance minister, DeSUS's Tomaž Gantar as health minister, the SMC's Igor Zorčič as justice minister, the NSi's Cveto Uršič as labour, family and social affairs minister, and the NSi's Jernej Vrtovec as infrastructure minister. The SDS will allegedly also head the culture ministry.

Tonin indicated after the NSi's executive council session that the party had expected a little more from the coalition agreement, in particular bolder steps in healthcare.

56 of the NSi's 88 executive council members cast their vote today, all voting in favour.

Tonin confirmed the NSi had gotten the three departments mentioned by the media and that he would be put forward for defence minister. The candidates for the two remaining NSi cabinet posts are on the other hand still being discussed.

The second party to reveal its decision was the SMC, where Jani Möderndorfer, one of the SMC 10 MPs, was the only to vote against.

RTV Slovenija reported that some of the SMC's MPs allegedly received an offer from Marjan Šarec's LMŠ to vote against today and instead join the LMŠ to get favourable treatment on the party's slates in the next general elections.

SMC head Počivalšek told the press after the vote that "Slovenia needs an operational and mature government, capable of facing the challenges ahead".

"It is important to say that this will not be a coalition of one party... of one [party] president, this will be a coalition of four parties operating in consensus.

"This will also be a government for which 47% of voters voted in the last election and I am confident that such a government will work for the good of all of us," said Počivalšek.

Pivec of DeSUS revealed her party's decision shortly after, saying DeSUS was content with what it secured in the coalition negotiations.

Along with the agriculture and health minister, DeSUS is also expected to head the planned government demographic office. The vote on the executive council was 12:1 and on the council 45:5.

Addressing the press on behalf of the SDS was the party's MP Anže Logar, who explained that 219 of 219 SDS executive council members had voted in favour today.

He hopes the decisions adopted today will also be reflected in the parliamentary votes on the PM nominee and the ministerial team, which he hopes will proceed promptly.

Keep up with Slovenian politics here

25 Feb 2020, 16:06 PM

STA, 25 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS), Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) have reached an agreement on forming a coalition, the head of the SDS deputy group Danijel Krivec announced on Tuesday.

He said the SDS's proposal to appoint party head Janez Janša prime minister had already been forwarded to President Borut Pahor.

The four parties have found common ground and the final decisions of the executive bodies of the SMC, NSi and DeSUS are expected this evening, Krivec said.

He noted that the SDS had secured 26 MP votes for the appointment of the new government while the number of additional votes would be clear this evening.

The SDS deputy head did not confirm unofficial information that the draft coalition agreement was initialled on Monday.

He also said that staffing decisions were yet to be finalised and did not confirm unofficial media reports on the distribution of ministries among the four parties.

He said this would depend on the decision of parties' bodies.

According to unofficial reports, SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek would stay economy minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec would remain in charge of the Agriculture Ministry, while NSi head Matej Tonin would become defence minister.

Pahor is conducting a second round of talks on the coalition building with the heads of SMC, NSi and DeSUS deputy groups today.

SMC deputy group head Igor Zorčič told Pahor that a draft coalition agreement among the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS had been agreed on Monday evening.

He said the agreement met the SMC's demands and dispelled fears about some SDS policies that had been raised by the civil society.

He also said that an agreement had been reached on the distribution of government posts but he would not go into detail.

Both was confirmed by NSi deputy group head Jožef Horvat after his meeting with Pahor. But Horvat stressed that the final decision would be made by the party council this evening.

Horvat said it had been agreed that the NSi would nominate the defence, infrastructure and labour ministers. The party has not picked the candidates yet.

DeSUS deputy group head Franc Jurša said the coalition agreement included the establishment of an office for demographics, which the party would lead along with the ministries of agriculture and health.

If all three deputy group heads express support to Janša as prime minister, Pahor will hold an official meeting with him on Wednesday. If they do not, Pahor will notify the National Assembly that he will be not putting forward a PM-designate.

The deadline for his decision is this Friday.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

23 Feb 2020, 11:08 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 21 February 2020

Mladina: SDS puts autocratic tendencies on open display

STA, 21 February 2020 - The left-wing weekly paper Mladina argues in its latest editorial that unlike in the past, the Democrats (SDS) do not even bother to conceal the wolf hiding under their sheep's clothing, immediately revealing their revenge-driven, arrogant and autocratic view of politics and the state.

Things got real much sooner than expected, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says, highlighting the threat issued by SDS MP Žan Mahnič to Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar as well as SDS head Janez Janša's statement that the SDS was discussing the editorial policy at the left-leaning daily Dnevnik.

"Coming from any other politician, this would perhaps be understood as a (bad) joke. But not with Janša. Because he already did this. And is doing it," Repovž says in Has the Election Campaign Already Begun?.

"He is interfering in the media all the time, if needed he will sell the nation's silverware (retailer Mercator in exchange for influence on the papers Večer and Delo) or even his own political sovereignty (he did it when he took millions from Hungary to build a media empire)," Repovž says.

Mladina's editor speaks of Janša's obsession with the media and his blaming of allegedly exclusively left-oriented media for his failures, while pointing out that Janša's term at helm of the SDS has been the longest among any heads of serious political parties in Europe.

Repovž argues that the latest developments are only a repeated demonstration of what makes the SDS a party that no serious democratic party is able to cooperate with.

He then turns to the Modern Centre Party (SMC), which he says will make the unoriginal mistake of entering an SDS-led coalition only to gradually disappear while giving absolutely everything to Janša - the latter will in turn say thank you and go to an early election.

Reporter: Deep State & Janša

STA, 17 February 2020 - Reflecting on Janez Janša's chances to form a government this term, the latest editorial of the right-leaning weekly magazine Reporter speculates that a short-lived Janša government may be in the interest of the deep state.

Under the headline Coincidental Prime Minister-Designate, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla writes that Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), probably has a better chance forming a government now than after an early election unless the balance of power between the left and right changed substantially.

Being that the ballot to appoint PM-designate is secret and that many MPs are "trembling about where to find new jobs", Janša should not have difficulty securing 46 votes.

"The problem could emerge later; the new government, like the Šarec cabinet would be in the draught all the time. Janša (...) is probably aware of that. It is obvious he desires immensely to be prime minister, the question is whether also at all cost.

"Even more than Janša, a new government is desired by SMC [Modern Centre Party] leader Zdravko Počivalšek (...) polls show it would be hard for the SMC to make it to parliament in a snap election, so Počivalšek is hoping to enhance the party under Janša."

Šurla finds that the biggest problem for a new Janša coalition is the SMC because it is still not clear how many MP votes the party can secure with at least two or even half of the SMC's ten MPs rumoured to be opposed to a Janša-led coalition.

The paper notes that the Marjan Šarec minority government saw the start of its end when the Left denied its support, wondering whether the leader of the Left Luka Mesec might have been ordered to make the move because of a new master plan ready in the background.

"Considering that the opportunity for a new government literally landed in Janša's arms even though parties left of the centre have as many as 52 members in parliament this term, the potential role of the so-called deep state should not be overlooked.

"What if it is in the interest of the uncles behind the scenes to have Janša return to power for a short while so that his government take some urgent, unpopular measures, which would spark off a revolt in the form of 'popular uprisings' that would bring new faces of the 'transition left' back to power?"

All our posts in this series are here

22 Feb 2020, 14:04 PM

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

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

FRIDAY, 14 February
        MUNICH, Germany - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec rebuked the EU over excessive self-absorption and inefficiency as he spoke on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Illustrating, he said the bloc was not even capable of agreeing its expansion to the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec urged for the chairs of "relevant parliamentary committees" to start actively discussing potentially problematic foreign funding of Slovenian parties and their media outlets. This followed media reports that Hungarian companies were financing media outlets close to Janez Janša's Democratic Party (SDS). Šarec also warned against a potential new Janša-led coalition government.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor announced he would hold a second round of consultations with parliamentary parties on 24 and 25 February to determine whether there is sufficient consensus for him to nominate a prime minister-designate.
        KOMEN - Addressing a World War II commemoration, President Borut Pahor expressed sadness over the "abuse of 10 February, the Foibe Remembrance Day," and regret that senior Italian officials ignored the historical truth Slovenia and Italy established together.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office reported that the value of construction work put in place in Slovenia increased by 3.3% in 2019, a significant slowdown compared to the 20% expansion in 2018.

SATURDAY, 15 February
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Addressing an event marking the 31st anniversary of the Democratic Party (SDS), its leader Janez Janša said a new early election was likely close despite the SDS being in talks with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and New Slovenia (NSi) to form a government.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democratic Party (SDS) polled at 20.1% in a survey commissioned by broadcaster Nova24TV, up 1.8 percentage point from a week ago, followed by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) at 12.8% (down 4.4pp) and the Social Democrats (SD) at 6.5%.
        LJUBLJANA - Stojan Nikolić, the CEO of the power group HSE, indicated in an interview with Dnevnik that TEŠ6, Slovenia's newest coal-fired generator, was likely to close down early because its supplier, the Velenje mine, was unlikely to be viable after 2045.
        KRANJSKA GORA - Local Meta Hrovat paced third at the Alpine Ski World Cup giant slalom event for the Golden Fox Cup along with Swiss Wendy Holdener, following Alice Robinson of New Zealand in first and Slovak Petra Vlhova in second. Vlhova secured the Golden Fox trophy by finishing first in the slalom on Sunday. The two-day event attracted 10,000 spectators.
        PTUJ - The 60th Kurentovanje carnival, Slovenia's largest, got under way, bringing together more than 2,200 traditional costumed figures or 44 groups from across the world, including four costumes protected by UNESCO.

SUNDAY, 16 February
        MUNICH, Germany - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended panels on the Western Balkans and the Three Seas Initiative and held a number of bilateral meetings at the 2020 Munich Security Conference.
        BAD MITTERNDORF, Austria - Timi Zajc placed third at the Ski Jumping World Cup event to secure a second podium at the same venue after finishing second the day before for his third podium finish this winter.
        CHICAGO, US - Luka Dončić scored 8 points in the 2020 NBA All Star Game, contributing four passes for the winning Team LeBron, headed by the legendary LeBron James of the LA Lakers. Team LeBron won the game 157 to 155 against Team Giannis, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

MONDAY, 17 February
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, attending the Foreign Affairs Council, assessed that European Council President Charles Michel's proposal for the EU's 2021-2027 budget was still inadequate for Slovenia despite slight improvements in cohesion policy.
        LJUBLJANA - Jernej Pavlič, secretary general of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), denied the speculation that the party was considering joining a potential centre-right government that is being formed by Janez Janša.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) gained 2.6 percentage points to 19.6% in the Vox Populi poll to overtake the LMŠ party of the outgoing PM Marjan Šarec, which slipped back 2.3 points to 17.1%. The poll, commissioned by the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer, also showed over half the respondents favoured a snap election.

TUESDAY, 18 February
        LJUBLJANA - A delegation of the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services, headed by vice-chair Žan Mahnič (SDS), made an unannounced visit to the National Bureau of Investigation examine the allegation that outgoing PM Marjan Šarec and his state secretary Damir Črnčec had abused intelligence and security services to "influence, threaten and extort MPs and leaderships of parties of the potential future coalition". Šarec and Črnčec denied the allegation as fake news propagated by the SDS. Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar denied any police spying, accusing Manhič of threatening her as she refused to hand over documentation she said exceeded the commission's powers. In response, parties urged for the allegations to be investigated. The police and the Information Commissioner are looking into the matter.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Donald Tusk, the head of the European People's Party (EPP), pleaded with the Slovenian members of the EPP not to waste the chance to take "leadership in both the parliament and the government", after meeting New Slovenia (NSi) head Matej Tonin. NSi is one of the parties in talks to form a government led by the fellow EPP member Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Health Committee and the government were briefed by health officials that Slovenia was well prepared for early diagnosis in case of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. However, MPs were also told that hospitals could not handle a great number of patients.
        LJUBLJANA - A petition addressed to PM Marjan Šarec and backed by 12,700 individuals and 255 organisations called for the government to take more resolute action to decarbonise the energy, transport and agriculture sectors.
        LJUBLJANA - Police statistics showed the number of cases of illegal border crossing nearly doubled (+85%) year-on-year to 595 in January. Most of the migrants were returned to Croatia.
        LJUBLJANA - The Pension and Disability Insurance Institute (ZPIZ) endorsed a regular annual adjustment of pensions to wage and consumer prices growth as a result of which pensioners will get a 3.2% rise at the end of the month. Higher pensions will cost the pension fund EUR 172 million a year.
        LJUBLJANA - 2TDK, the state company managing the construction of the new railway between the port of Koper and Divača, announced it would ask Markomark Nival, the bidder that won the subsequently annulled tender for the first of several bridges on the planned track, to change its subcontractor which cited flawed reference in the bid. This was after the National Review Commission said 2TDK had been right to doubt the reference but should not have annulled the tender.
        LJUBLJANA - The Trade Union of Journalists and Journalists' Association protested against layoffs at Delo, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, saying the management was demolishing the newspaper and Slovenian journalism by shedding a quarter of its workforce within three years.
        LJUBLJANA - The energy company Petrol confirmed that it had been chosen as the best bidder to acquire E3, the subsidiary of the power distributor Elektro Primorska which is one of the largest electricity sellers in the country. The newspaper Finance reported that Petrol would pay EUR 15 million for E3, which would raise its share in the electricity retail market to 20%.

WEDNESDAY, 19 February
        LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs successfully challenged the decision of the Environment Agency that no environmental impact assessment is necessary for the 20-year life-span extension for Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant.
        LJUBLJANA - Tourism companies and tourism and hospitality trade unions signed an annex to the collective bargaining agreement to increase the lowest basic wages; these will go up by 5% on 1 March and 5.25% more on 1 July, and the holiday allowance will increase by EUR 100 to EUR 1,150.
        SLOVENJ GRADEC - The 14th annual auction of valuable timber saw a record EUR 2 million worth of logs change hands. More than half of the wood was sold abroad with the biggest buyer coming from China. A 100-year old sycamore maple log was sold to a German buyer for EUR 29,160 or EUR 14,414 per cubic metre, which the organizers described as an absolute record.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology announced Slovenian companies were now able to do business on Amazon Europe. This was after the US tech company made technical adjustments to include Slovenia among supported countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Culture Committee called on the corruption watchdog to look into appointments of heads of culture institutions made by the Culture Ministry due to suspicions of politically-motivated staffing. Culture Minister Zoran Poznič denied the allegations.
        LJUBLJANA - Film director Ema Kugler was declared the winner of this year's Štiglic lifetime achievement award in film and theatre directing. She will receive the accolade given out by the Association of Slovenian Directors at an award ceremony on 27 February.

THURSDAY, 20 February
        LJUBLJANA - Two of the six Slovenian passengers quarantined for over a fortnight on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Japanese port of Yokohama tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The other four tested negative. Two of arrived in Slovenia on a commercial flight and were placed under a 14-day quarantine, while two are still waiting to return.
        BRUSSELS - Arriving for an EU summit aiming to reach a consensus on the bloc's budget for 2021-2027, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia could not accept the latest compromise proposal under which it would lose 24% in cohesion funds. He said negotiations would be tough.
        LJUBLJANA - RTV Slovenija, the public broadcaster, warned of escalating attacks on its journalists, editors and other staff in recent days in the form of threatening and offensive phone calls, e-mails, letters and social network posts, condemning them in the strongest terms as an attack on journalism.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest bank, NLB reported its group net profit decrease by 5% to EUR 193.6 million last year. The core bank's profit rose by 6.5% to EUR 176.1 million.

All our posts in this series are here

22 Feb 2020, 13:44 PM

STA, 21 February - Coming out of an EU summit dedicated to the bloc's next seven-year budget, which ended without an agreement, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told reporters on Friday that the European Commission had presented a technical proposal for the 2021-2027 budget which the cohesion countries rejected. Šarec called the proposal a provocation.

"There is still no deal and we didn't expect it," said Šarec after the two-day negotiations.

He blamed the four net payer countries - Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria - for the failed talks.

Šarec believes the four countries, which are insisting on 1% of the EU's gross national income (GNI) for the first post-Brexit EU budget, want to cut the budget and are not ambitious enough. "The negotiations came to a standstill because of them ..." he said.

The other group of countries comprises of 17 net receiver countries known as friends of cohesion, which according to Šarec want an ambitious budget and claim that it is impossible to do more with less funds.

"We had two meetings today and we were united on both of them that this does not make any sense at the moment," the PM said.

The cohesion countries agreed that the latest proposal is unacceptable, because it is not ambitious enough and does not allocate enough funds for cohesion. "In addition, Slovenia cannot be certain whether it would get what it wants."

The plenary session, which was postponed several times during the day, was very short. The technical proposal, presented by the Commission, was not even discussed, according to Šarec "because we saw it as a provocation after everything we have witnessed in the last 24 hours".

Šarec said the cohesion countries had been united that there was no point in opening a new round of talks today and that it was better to "go home and make all the calculations again".

"We have to start fresh," Šarec said, adding that no talks were possible until a better proposal was on the table.

The outgoing prime minister reiterated that Slovenia would insist that a 24% cut in cohesion funds compared to the current budget was unacceptable.

EU leaders are expected to convene another meeting in March. It is not clear yet, however, whether this will be a regular meeting or another extraordinary meeting. 5 March is being mentioned unofficially as a possible date for a potential extraordinary summit.

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