SDS Claim Slovenia’s New Budget Unconstitutional, Demands Review

By , 25 Mar 2019, 12:50 PM Politics
SDS Claim Slovenia’s New Budget  Unconstitutional, Demands Review Montage: JL Flanner

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STA, 22 March 2019 - Janez Janša has announced that his Democratic Party (SDS) will ask the Constitutional Court to review the supplementary budget for the year arguing that it poses a major risk for Slovenia.

Making the announcement via his Twitter profile, Janša said the revised 2019 budget is "evidently unconstitutional" and "structurally the worst since 2009 and 2010".

"It dangerously exposes Slovenia to great risk at a time of an economic downturn. We will demand a constitutional review," Janša tweeted, without disclosing any further details.

The revised budget, passed by the lower chamber in a revote on Wednesday following the upper chamber's veto, projects 6.2% higher revenue than in the original budget, at EUR 10.35bn, and 4.8% higher expenditure, at EUR 10.16bn. The surplus is projected to stand at EUR 193.6m.

The Fiscal Council issued a negative opinion on the budget due to excessive expenditure and a lack of reform measures. The general government expenditure for the year is budgeted EUR 1.13bn above last year's, while the fiscal rule law effectively caps the increase at EUR 870m.

Responding to Janša's tweet, Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj repeated his position that the budget was optimal given the circumstances, noting that the budget surplus was quite high at 0.6% of GDP.

He said that there was no need to beat the drum, something that he said was a view voiced by the Fiscal Council's chair Davorin Kračun.

"After the long years in which we generated a deficit of 24 billion euro, we have a budget surplus this year. We are also actively reducing public debt, and we are even the most successful country in the eurozone in doing so," the minister said.

He conceded that Slovenia had a slight structural deficit, which he said the government planned to tackle with structural measures over the next three years.

"If you have a surplus, if you are reducing debt and implementing structural measures and reforms, why would you need to beat the drum," Beroncelj wondered.

"Things are perfectly under control," said Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, commenting from Brussels, arguing that Janša was trying "to create political turmoil again", which he said made no sense.

A constitutional review as proposed by Janša may be initialled by the National Assembly or a third of deputies, the National Council or the government, and depending on the substance matter also by the human rights ombudsman, the information commissioner, the central bank and the Court of Audit.

Other qualified petitioners are the state prosecutor general, the representative body of a local community or a representative association of local communities or a representative trade union.

The petitioners cannot ask for a review of regulations or general acts that they have adopted themselves.

If the SDS was to file the request as a group of one third of deputies, it would need the support of at least one more opposition party, considering the party has 25 seats in the 90-member assembly.

Apart from the SDS, New Slovenia (NSi) also voted against the supplementary budget, while the National Party voted in favour.

In the parliamentary debate on the budget, the SDS noted that the government failed to heed the warnings by the Fiscal Council that expenditure was excessive, and that the document did not foresee reforms.

Commenting on the proposal for a constitutional review, the NSi said that it had already warned of the supplementary budget's unconstitutionality in parliament.

The party tweeted that it would discuss potential measures to deal with the unconstitutional situation with legal experts next week and decide on further steps.

SNS leader Zmago Jelinčič told the STA the party would not supply its signatures in support of a constitutional review of the budget.

"This is Janša's solo campaign, we haven't discussed that," said Jelinčič, adding that it was Janša's attempt to topple the government, which he said was not good.

According to constitutional jurist Lojze Ude, it is not very likely that the Constitutional Court would find the supplementary budget in breach of the constitution.

He does not think the budget is violating the fiscal rule, enshrined in Article 148 of the constitution, which provides that general government revenue and expenditure must be balanced over the medium term.

Jurist Matej Avbelj of the European Faculty of Law disagrees with the view. He told the Odmevi news show on TV Slovenija last night that the supplementary budget contravened the fiscal rule and thus the constitution.

He said that the general government expenditure exceeded the scope defined by the fiscal rule, while it also constituted a violation of Slovenia's commitments under the EU fiscal compact.

Fiscal Council chair Kračun told Odmevi that the supplementary budget did not comply with the article of the fiscal rule law which prescribed the formula for securing a mid-term fiscal balance, but that it was impossible to assume based on one year alone whether the government was in breach of the constitution.

He did say though that the risk of a breach of the constitutional provision was increasing. Ude told the STA today that he agreed with Kračun.

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