STA, 27 July 2020 - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec has defended her conduct after questions were raised about potential ethics breach over her appearance in a wine maker's promotional video and uncertainty over who paid for her family's trip to western Slovenia at the end of June.
Pivec said in a Facebook post on Sunday she had paid for the accommodation for herself and her sons during the 25-26 June visit to Kras region. If necessary, she will show the receipts to the competent institutions.
As for her starring in a promotional video for Vinakras, she said that as minister she had committed to visiting people and companies working in the agri-food chain since she became minister.
"I'll always be proud to wear T-shirts, badges, aprons ... of farms, associations, organisations and companies in my sector," she said, adding that all Slovenians should be proud of domestic food producers.
She said she would continue to "proudly represent our farmers, farms, associations and companies".
The statement comes after Dnevnik reported last week that she had visited Vinakras and starred along with her family in the company's promotional video, wearing a T-shirt with the company's logo.
The minister later explained the first day of the visit had been private and on the second day she was a guest at Vinakras, where she attended several meetings and launched a renovated courtyard in the evening.
POP TV later presented leaked emails showing a vice-president of Pivec's party had arranged the details of both the official and private parts of the visit.
Prime Minister Janez Janša yesterday defended Pivec, saying on Twitter that "It is expected of members of the government of the Republic Slovenia like everywhere else in the normal world that they will promote domestic companies, entrepreneurs and farmers, their products and destinations. The more the better."
The cooperative Vinakras today issued a press statement in which it rejected in the strongest terms the allegations of corruption as unacceptable and ill-willing.
It said the minister's visit had never been planned as the cooperative's promotion but rather for her to inaugurate a refurbished traditional farmyard, and to present the state of agriculture in Kras and the need to link agriculture and tourism.
Vinakras noted that the minister had also met the local mayors and farmers, viewed the farmyards and visited several other spots.
The release said that the video shot during the minister's visit featured several companies, young farmers and sights in the Kras area. "Our desire was in good faith to combine the recordings into a video presentation for remembrance and to present the actual state of agriculture and tourism in Kras."