Who Are the Ministers in Slovenia’s New Govt?

By , 01 Jun 2022, 22:22 PM Politics
Who Are the Ministers in Slovenia’s New Govt? Source: Twitter, Vlada Republike Slovenije

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STA, 1 June 2022 - Below are the biographies of ministers in Slovenia's 15th government. The cabinet line-up will change once the law on the government is amended as planned by the coalition to add several more portfolios. Some of the ministries will be renamed. 

Tanja Fajon, Social Democrats, minister for foreign affairs

Born in Ljubljana in 1971, Fajon graduated in journalism from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences before going on to complete a post-graduate course in international politics at the College of Interdisciplinary Studies in Paris.

Beginning her career as a radio and newspaper journalist, she went on to work at public broadcaster RTV Slovenija from 1995 to 2009, serving for several years as its Brussels correspondent.

She was first elected to the European Parliament on the SD ticket in 2009 and then again in 2014 and 2019. She gave up her MEP seat after being elected to the National Assembly in April. As MEP she was member of the Socialists and Democrats Group, her priority being the Western Balkans. She has served as SD leader since 2020.

She speaks English, German, French and Croatian.

Presenting her vision to MPs, she said that as minister she would be committed to the rule of law and common EU values. She stressed the importance of good relations with neighbouring countries and expressed support to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

She announced Slovenia would return to the "EU's core" and be committed to multilateralism and international law.

Succeeding Anže Logar as the first Slovenian female foreign minister, she plans to modernise the Foreign Ministry to reflect global challenges.

Luka Mesec, Left, minister of labour, the family, social affairs and equal opportunities

Born in Kranj in 1987, Mesec graduated in European studies from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences in 2012. He has been active politically since his student years and served as director of the Institute for Labour Studies from 2013 to 2014.

He was a founding member and coordinator of the party called Initiative for Democratic Socialism, a precursor to the Left, and was first elected to the National Assembly in 2014 as a candidate for the United Left to become the head of the deputy faction.

He is currently what the Left calls "coordinator" of the party, staying in the post after offering resignation following the party's sup-par performance in the April election, but won a vote of confidence.

Mesec announced that as minister he would advocate welfare of all and put an emphasis on fighting poverty and precarious forms of work, and cutting red tape in welfare procedures.

He said the ministry would work to ensure that pension for full-time pensionable service is at least EUR 700 net. The minimum wage would be raised to at least EUR 800, as written down in the coalition agreement.

The post is a placeholder for Mesec, who will become the minister for a solidarity-based future once the government is expanded, in charge of housing and intergenerational solidarity.

Klemen Boštjančič, Freedom Movement, finance minister

Boštjančič is a 50-year-old economist. He served as chief supervisor at construction company Vegrad, which went into receivership in 2009. In 2011 and 2012 he was the CEO of the now defunct flag carrier Adria Airways, from 2013 to 2017 he was a supervisor at hardware retailer Merkur and between 2014 and 2017 at logistics company Intereuropa. Between 2016 and 2017 he was the CFO of Montecristo SL.

Since December 2016 he has served as the chairman of the state-controlled tourism company Sava and since 2017 also as the chief supervisor of Sava's key subsidiary Sava Turizem. Boštjančič is the sole owner and head of the consultancy Brio Svetovalni Center.

As minister he is expected to be in the spotlight over the announced new property tax. He would not say during his presentation in parliament when the bill could be expected but mentioned the year 2023. A precondition is that ownership, possession, and other rights in land are formally recorded "otherwise we will have a serious problem", he said.

He also indicated that he did not plan to rush with legislative tax changes although he has quite a few proposals. Regarding the changes to the income tax act implemented this year, which the new government would like to partly annul, he said it would take months to prepare changes.

He will strive for restructuring public spending, especially raising productivity and reducing structural deficit, which he sees as the main public financial issue.

Danijel Bešič Loredan, Freedom Movement, health minister

Hailing from Izola, Bešič Loredan became a doctor in 1999 and an orthopaedic surgeon in 2006. Starting his career at Ljubljana's UKC hospital, he proceeded to work for 13 years at the Orthopaedic Hospital Valdoltra in Ankaran. He has also worked in Switzerland and ran the orthopaedic department at the Nova Gorica Hospital in 2016- 2021.

The 50-year-old's current employers are the private medical centres Bitenc in Ljubljana and Šalara in Koper. Bešič Loredan has attracted public attention for highlighting corruption issues in the healthcare system.

Before the election he had indicated that he wished to remove politics from healthcare and "change what is understood under 'public healthcare'". "Public healthcare is the right of people to receive treatment ..., which needs to be secured by the state and it is through politics that fair, social and accessible healthcare can be attained".

After the coalition agreement caused a stir, saying that doctors and dentists in the public sector will be banned from working for private providers and that a non-compete clause will apply to them, Bešič Loredan downplayed the plans by explaining that both measures were planned for 2024, when the health system would be different and comparable to the systems of western countries.

During his hearing in parliament, he announced a clear strategy to deal with possible new waves of the Covid-19 epidemic by 15 September and plans to boost the primary level of healthcare to relieve the burden on the secondary level, including with an additional EUR 500 million in the next 18 months.

He also announced efforts to engage all capacities, including concessionaires and private providers, to shorten waiting times, with one of the first steps of the new team at the ministry being paying for all healthcare services performed this year and in 2023.

Tatjana Bobnar, Freedom Movement, interior minister

Bobnar, born in 1969, was the first woman to become the head of the Slovenian police force when she was appointed police commissioner under the Marjan Šarec government in late 2018. She was replaced by the next, Janez Janša government in March 2020 and assigned to a newly-established task force for migrations, in what was widely seen as an attempt to sideline her.

When it was announced that she was a candidate for interior minister, several civil society groups denounced her candidacy over pushbacks police conducted while she was the commissioner. Bobnar has said that if appointed, the basic tenet of her work will be a definitive strengthening of the rule of law, respect for human rights and basic freedoms.

Bobnar holds a master's degree from the Ljubljana Faculty of Law, but started her career at the Ljubljana Police Department as an investigator of juvenile crime, also investigating sexual abuse of children. Among the senior posts she has held are deputy police commissioner and Criminal Police Department deputy director.

As she presented her vision for the ministry at the parliamentary committee, she stressed efforts to restore trust in police work, independence and depoliticisation. She plans to pay special attention to femicide, and replace the border fence with cameras and drones, while also including the civil society, NGOs and local communities in efforts to tackle migrations.

She announced changes to the appointment of the police commissioner and chief of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and potentially an internal overhaul of the NBI, which has been criticised for becoming too politicised during the Janša government.

Marjan Šarec, Freedom Movement, defence minister

Šarec, born in 1977, became Slovenia's prime minister in 2018 after entering the national political arena as a newcomer in 2017 when he made it to the run-off of the presidential election in late 2017 with incumbent Borut Pahor. He had been a prominent TV and radio comedian before entering politics by winning the mayorship in Kamnik.

Having obtained a university degree in acting in 2001, he started working for public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and soon made a name for himself as a voice imitator on the broadcaster's flagship satirical show Radio Ga-Ga and its several TV offshoots, excelling as the voice of two Slovenian presidents and several party leaders.

Elected mayor in 2010, he served two terms before entering the presidential race, and formed a minority government after the June 2018 general election. He stepped down two years into the job hoping for an early election, a move which backfired and led to the formation of the Janez Janša government. His LMŠ party failed to enter parliament this year and is merging with the Freedom Party, hence his ministerial candidacy.

He has announced that he will re-introduce the concept of territorial defence, and transfer the power of deploying Slovenian troops abroad to the National Assembly.

As the coalition agreement prioritises updating the concept of defence policy, he intends to revise some key documents that are considered outdated or inadequate.

Within NATO, he wants to open a discussion on target capabilities and assess whether the concept of building a medium-sized battalion group and a reconnaissance battalion goes in the right direction.

He announced changes to the long-term programme of development and equipment for the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF), the law on investments in the SAF for 2021-2026, and the defence programme until 2026.

Dominika Švarc Pipan, Social Democrats, justice minister

Born in 1978, Švarc Pipan graduated from the Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 2003, and in 2011 she earned the PhD degree in political sciences at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences.

Švarc Pipan has worked as specialised assistant at the International Court of Justice and as defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

She was a state secretary at the Justice Ministry between 2018 and 2020. Currently, she runs a legal and business consultancy company. She is a vice-president of the Social Democrats (SD).

Appearing before the relevant parliamentary committee, she expressed her commitment to the rule of law as an ideal that everyone should aspire to and an essential element to restore trust in society.

Setting out her priorities, she pledged to focus on ensuring quality cooperation between the prosecution and the police in the phase of investigation not yet run by the court.

Among measures that would go beyond one government term, she listed a project to reform the court network, remove politics from appointments of judges and reform the system of the national bar exam.

Matjaž Han, Social Democrats, economy minister

Born in Celje in 1971, Han graduated from the Celje Secondary School of Trade and Commerce. He has been been a member of the National Assembly since 2004, doing double duty as the mayor of Radeče from 2006 to 2011.

He is considered one of the most influential senior members of the Social Democrats and headed the party's deputy group from 2013 through to the end of the previous parliament's term.

His family have a company, M&M International, that he ran between 1992 and 2004 before his spouse took over. He plans to divest his stake.

Han announced robust social dialogue but said there would be no cap on social contributions under the new government. He believes businesses should be helped in other ways, for instance through funds for development-oriented jobs.

His priorities will be better access to sources of financing, a more efficient business environment and more efficient administrative procedures, also for building permits.

Regarding the mini tax reform of the outgoing government, he said he would keep the solutions that have little impact on budget revenue.

Once the reform of the government portfolios is completed, Han will also take charge of sport.

Bojan Kumer, Freedom Movement, infrastructure minister

Born in July 1974, Kumer has a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering. His first job was with the power distributor Elektro Celje. His most recent job was at energy trader GEN-I in 2009, where he was a close associate of Robert Golob.

He was a state secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2013-2014 and in 2018-2020, in between the terms and after he served as director of Elektro Energija, a power provider affiliated with GEN-I.

Once amendments to the government have been endorsed, Kumer is to take over as minister of climate and energy, and Alenka Bratušek is to return as infrastructure minister, a post she held in 2018-20. Until then Bratušek will serve as one of the state secretaries at the ministry.

In his presentation on the parliamentary committee, Kumer pledged to make green transition the guiding principle of energy and infrastructure policies. He promised further investment in railways and renewables, digitalisation of traffic flows and measures to mitigate soaring energy prices.

The cornerstones of energy policy would be stimulating investment in renewable energy, mitigating the impact of rising energy prices and creating a basis for a fair transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

He announced a special law to ease the siting of renewable energy sources in locations where this is possible. He sees potential in self-supply, community supply, and plans to promote development of agrovoltaics to give farmers the chance to self-supply.

Rising energy prices would be mitigated by means of targeted-measures to help vulnerable individuals and the businesses which contribute responsibly to development, as well as farmers. If necessary prices for all vulnerable consumers would be regulated. Kumer also mentioned emergency gas supply.

Uroš Brežan, Freedom Movement, environment and spatial planning minister

Brežan, born in 1972, is coming to the ministerial office from his fourth four-year term as Tolmin mayor, a post he was first elected to in 2006. He holds a university degree in economics from the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business.

Brežan served as a vice-president of the Slovenian Youth Party (SMS) in 2004-2014 and as a member of the upper chamber of parliament in 2012-2017. He entered this year's election race on the slate of the newly-formed Freedom Movement.

He announced changes to the recently passed environment protection act as well as action in water management, climate and housing policies while stressing the importance of environment protection. He plans to tackle degraded areas and improve oversight over emissions.

He will seek a broad social consensus and promote circular economy. He thinks a limited amount of waste could be processed in Slovenia in line with the highest environment standards.

In spatial planning, Brežan will give priority to the public and common interests over private interests, while he promised to draft a spatial development strategy until 2050.

Once the government is expanded, Brežan is slated to take over the new ministry of natural resources and spatial planning.

Igor Papič, Freedom Movement, minister of education, science and sport

Papič, born in 1966, holds a PhD from the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering and served one term as the rector of the University of Ljubljana in 2017-2021. He is currently a professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

During his career he has also worked at Siemens in Germany, was a visiting professor at the University of Manitoba, Canada, in 2001, while also lecturing at various other universities. He has also served as dean of his faculty, and has led a number of projects, including international ones.

Before the parliamentary Education Committee, Papič announced a white paper on education would be compiled to set guidance for a decade, repeated the new coalition's pledge to raise science and research funding to 1.5% of GDP over the next four years, and pledged to assess the impact remote schooling has had on students.

As for public schools having private competition, he said "no-one opposes concessions, but the rules must be clear for everyone". Competition should be enhanced by having more quality universities, he said, adding that Slovenian public universities had fierce competition abroad but not at home.

Papič also wants changes to the national exams at primary schools, whose results should be one of the criteria for admission to the secondary school of choice, announced free textbooks and school meals, and said the workload on teachers should be reduced through recruitment of additional staff and less paperwork.

Papič will take over as minister of higher education, science and innovation when the current education ministry is split under the government's plans.

Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, Freedom Movement, public administration minister

Born in 1977, Ajanović Hovnik has a master's degree from the Ljubljana Faculty of Public Administration. She has served as a secretary of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) deputy group and worked at the Agency for Agricultural Markets and Rural Development.

She has also served as deputy director of the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy. Most recently she has been CEO of the company Smart Centre. She is the head of the Freedom Movement programme committee.

Appearing in parliament to present her vision, Ajanović Hovnik announced she would name a team to start talks with trade unions to reform the public sector pay system as soon as she gets appointed. The talks, which she expects to start this month, will be conducted in two-tier-way, to negotiate wages and the pay system.

She also identified as her priorities a reorganisation of administrative units to ensure greater flexibility of their services and changes to the administrative procedure act. The act would be reformed within two years to become a modern procedural rulebook to apply to both general and individual administrative decisions.

Irena Šinko, Freedom Movement, minister of agriculture, forestry and food

Šinko, who holds dual bachelor's degrees in zootechnics and law, has so far served as a senior adviser at the department for environment and spacial planning at the Murska Sobota administrative unit, a job she took after two stints as the director of the Farmland and Forest Fund between 2010 and 2018.

Before 2010, she was the head of the department for agriculture and economy at the Murska Sobota administrative unit.

She started her career as a technologist at the food company ABC Pomurka, and then went on to become an agriculture inspector at the inspection service of the Gornja Radgona, Lendava, Ljutomer and Murska Sobota municipalities, and a teacher of animal husbandry at the Rakičan secondary school for agriculture.

Šinko stressed the need for sustainable farming, environment protection and social sustainability in her presentation at the relevant parliamentary committee.

As minister she will strive to strengthen fair partnership among stakeholders, while paying special attention to producers. She announced measures to improve food self-sufficiency and adjusting to climate change.

Asta Vrečko, Left, culture minister

Born in Celje in 1984, Vrečko got a bachelor's degree in art history from the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, where she also got her PhD in 2014 following a stint as early-stage researcher at the Faculty of Education in Ljubljana. She is currently an assistant professor there.

She has also done extensive curatorial work, including at the Božidar Jakac Gallery, and has conducted research at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana focusing on Slovenian and Yugoslav 20th century art.

Vrečko has long been politically active, first as a member of the informal Workers' and Punks' University and then as a founding member of one of the precursors of the Left. She is a local councillor for the Left and vice-president of the party.

She has announced that her priorities as culture minister will be a development-oriented, modern and inclusive culture policy. She plans to overhaul media legislation and the status of the self-employed, and promote systemic investment in culture.

She also intends to review the decisions taken by her predecessor and restore dialogue with all stakeholders.

Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Freedom Movement, minister without portfolio for digital transformation

Stojmenova Duh was born in Macedonia in 1985 and emigrated to Slovenia as a 16-year-old. In 2009, she graduated in electrical engineering from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Maribor, where she also earned her master's and PhD.

She is currently an associate professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, where she also heads the digital innovation hub 4PDIH, having previously founded the national network of innovation labs FabLab Slovenija and headed the Digital Innovation Hub between 2014 and 2016.

Long a gender equality activist, Stojmenova Duh rose to public prominence as a vocal advocate of students arrested during protests against school closures during Covid and for publicly clashing with the Janez Janša government over digital spending and appointments at the National Research Agency. She ran for parliament on the Social Democratic ticket but has since left the party.

In presenting her vision to the parliamentary Committee for Interior Affairs, Public Administration and Local Government, she said she would strive to promote education of the young, especially women, in technical fields.

One of her first steps will be an analysis of the situation in digital transformation and continuation of measures that have proven successful so far. Her priority will be to reduce the digital gap and form a basis for efficient digital transformation of the society.

After the law on the government is amended as planned, the Government Office for Digital Transformation is to be transformed into a ministry.

Aleksander Jevšek, Social Democrats, minister without portfolio for development and European cohesion policy

Jevšek, born in 1961, started his career in the police force, where he rose to the rank of director of the Criminal Police Department in 2007. After leaving the force, he was elected mayor of Murska Sobota in 2014 as a member of the Social Democrats (SD), the office from which he is coming to the new ministry.

Jevšek has said that as a great advocate of Slovenia's decentralisation, he would like his ministry to be headquartered in Maribor, a city much closer to Murska Sobota than Ljubljana. He would also support proposals to transfer some other ministries from the capital.

He announced a bill on balanced regional development and a new development strategy. Jevšek advocates decentralisation with the creation of provinces; redefinition of general development tasks at regional level; and creating new business opportunities for less developed and border areas.

He urged introducing two principles in regional development policy - subsidiarity and the state providing funds when imposing a new service on municipalities.

He is confident Slovenia will fully draw funds from the 2014-2020 EU budget until the deadline at the end of 2023.

Matej Arčon, Freedom Movement, minister without portfolio for Slovenians abroad

Arčon is a 49-year-old electrician who started his political career early, as president of the Nova Gorica students' club. He went on to become city councillor in Nova Gorica and deputy mayor before serving two terms as mayor starting in 2010.

Previously a prominent member of the now defunct Liberal Democrats (LDS), he became the secretary of the Freedom Movement on its founding as a close ally and confidante of Robert Golob.

He won more than 15,000 votes in two districts in the last general election, more than any other candidate by far.

He believes his coming from the border area, with Italy, helps him understand the challenges Slovenians abroad face.

He plans to strive for cross-border cooperation, cooperation of ethnic communities, the Slovenian language and digitalisation, as well as providing Slovenian minority associations abroad with adequate information and funding.

* The indication of party does not necessarily mean that the candidate is a member of the party, they just fill quota assigned to the coalition party under the coalition agreement.

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