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06 Jan 2020, 11:28 AM

STA, 6 January 2020 - US First Lady Melania Trump remains the most influential Slovenian, according to a list compiled by the right-leaning magazine Reporter, ahead of PM Marjan Šarec and UEFA boss Aleksander Čeferin.

The Reporter Top 100 list takes into account formal influence associated with the person's post or job, as well as their informal influence.

Reporter says that there is no doubt about Melania Trump being by far the most influential Slovenia, and that she will stay so as long as she remains in the White House.

All our stories on Melania Trump are here

PM Marjan Šarec this year replaced Aleksander Čeferin in second spot, with Reporter commenting that along with the powers associated with the executive post, Šarec has also gained informal influence.

Čeferin, who the magazine says as EUFA boss has access to both the Pope and Russian President Vladimir Putin, is followed by Slovenian President Borut Pahor and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

The most influential aides of Šarec, according to the magazine, are Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj in 6th spot, and Šarec's national security adviser Damir Črnčec in 8th place.

Janez Lenarčič, the European crisis management commissioner, ranks 7th.

Rounding off the top ten are Janez Janša, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party (SDS), and the man widely perceived as his nemesis, Milan Kučan, Slovenia's first president.

Silvester Šurla, the Reporter editor-in-chief, writes that Kučan, who slipped from 6th place a year ago, wields the biggest informal power of all people on the list, along with Gregor Golobič, the former long serving secretary general of Liberal Democracy (LDS), the party that ruled Slovenia for more than a decade until 2004. Golobič ranks 11th on the list.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, "the main uncle working in the open and behind the scenes", as Šurla writes, is Janez Janša, his formal and informal power being greater than Kučan's.

"Janša has managed to politically subjugate virtually all of the right bloc, from [Marjan] Podobnik's SLS [People's Party] and [Matej] Tonin's NSi [New Slovenia] to a number of civil society organisations in the right ideological pole.

"As a former prime minister he still has a network of loyal people at state institutions and enterprises with millions of euro flowing in regularly from Orban's Hungary allowing him to manage his propaganda machinery, packed into (party) media," writes Šurla about Janša.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

After Melania, the second highest ranked woman on the list is former PM Alenka Bratušek in 12th spot.

She is followed in 13th by Zmago Jelinčič, the leader of the National Party (SNS), whose influence increased now that his party secures majority to the Šarec minority government.

The politician whose influence declined the most is Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, while the NBA superstar Luka Dončić climbed 50 spots to rank 50th in the biggest leap on the list since last year.

The list includes 22 new names, including Andrej Šiško, the leader of the paramilitary Štajeska guard, in 100th spot.

04 Jan 2020, 17:36 PM

Andrej Šiško, president of the United Slovenia political party and a leader of Štajerska varda paramilitary group, was arrested at the Pohorje Battalion Commemorative Ceremony this Saturday.

Šiško has already been sentenced to eight months in jail for incitement to subversion of the constitutional order (see here), but he and his lawyer believed that time served while in remand would suffice, and that Šiško would not be called back to jail after sentencing. The court decided otherwise, and called the militia leader to complete his sentence in December 2019 by issuing an arrest warrant.

This Saturday Šiško and several members of Štajerska varda showed up at the annual ceremony on Osankarica, with the keynote speaker being the Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Jernej Pikalo. Šiško was allegedly apprehended when he attempted to approach President Borut Pahor.

President Pahor responded to the incident with the following comment: “We have the right to express our opinions, but also to respect the dignity of other people as well as of the commemorative events. Especially when these are solemn events.”

The annual ceremony by the Three Nails memorial commemorates the last battle of the Pohorje Battalion, which occurred on January 8, 1943. Only one of the partisans in the battle survived, but he was later executed.

pohorski batalijon.jpg

All our stories about Andrej Šiško are here

08 Dec 2019, 12:49 PM

STA, 5 December 2019 - The government has adopted a national strategy on the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism which provides a basis for a systemic approach to reducing Slovenia's vulnerability to terrorism and violent extremism. The document is aligned with the recently passed resolution on national security.

The strategy aims to prevent radicalisation which leads to terrorism and violent extremism, and to protect residents against acts of terrorism and violent extremism, the Government Communication Office said after the government session on Thursday.

The document, which is largely preventive in nature, also aims to improve preparedness to take measures in the wake of an act of terror and to prosecute terrorists.

Its goals will now be specified in an action plan, the drafting of which will be coordinated by an inter-departmental anti-terrorism task force.

The same task force drafted the strategy, after it was tasked to do so by the National Security Council already in its previous term.

Activities and exchange of information in the field of terrorism and violent extremism prevention are coordinated by the country's national coordinator for the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism and the national coordinator for the prevention of radicalisation.

Intelligence agency SOVA director Rajko Kozmelj has just recently been appointed the national coordinator for the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism.

The Government Communication Office explained that Slovenia was one of a few EU members without a basic systemic document setting down a coordinated fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

The National Security Council, a government advisory body, also called on the government last month to draft legislation that would allow law enforcement to prosecute paramilitary militias which have recently sprung up and started to patrol the border to keep illegal migrants out.

The appeal came in the aftermath of increased activity by militias including the Štajerska Guard (Štajerska vlada), whose leader Andrej Šiško was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year for attempting to subvert the constitutional order.

Štajerska vlada stajerska guard militia facebook logo.png

The logo of Štajerska vlada, from the group's Facebook page

Militia leader requests deferral of jail sentence

STA, 6 December 2019 - Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a militia that calls itself the Štajerska Guard (Štajerska vlada), has requested a deferral of a prison sentence that he received for incitement to subversion of the constitutional order.

Šiško told the STA he was to report to prison on Friday but submitted a formal request for deferral on Wednesday.

While sentenced to eight months in prison in March, Šiško had spent almost seven months in detention before and during his trial, time which counts towards his overall sentence.

Since the trial, Šiško and his militia have stepped up their activities, most notably by patrolling the border with Croatia in fatigues and faux weapons.

While their activities do not constitute criminal conduct under existing law, the government has already proposed legislative changes that would make it a crime for individuals or groups to imitate police border patrol activities.

Activities that impede the police in conducting border surveillance will also be banned.

27 Nov 2019, 09:13 AM

STA, 26 November 2019 - The government adopted legislative amendments on Tuesday designed to crack-down on the activity of self-styled village guards and militias patrolling the border with the intention to stop illegal migrants.

The government proposes for parliament to pass amendments to the protection of public order act and to the state border control act as a matter of urgency.

The government says securing the border is in the sole jurisdiction of the police, while the so-called guards are trying to interfere in police powers and duties, obstruct police work and are upsetting the public.

The proposed amendments would ban any conduct by an individual or group conducted with the intention of controlling the border in the same or similar way as conducted by police in controlling the border.

Also banned are activities that impede the police in conducting border surveillance.

Violations of the ban carry a fine of at least EUR 1,000 for an individual or at least EUR 1,500 when the act is committed by an individual as part of a group.

The government also proposes banning the carrying, display or use of decorative weapons, imitation weapons, signalling weapons or other objects that look like weapons, in a way as to make it look as if police or army members perform their duties.

The ban would not apply when the objects are used as props by performers at events organised in accordance with the public assembly act.

A breach of this latter ban carries a fine of between 500 and 1,000 euro when committed by an individual or between 1,000 and 2,000 when the individual commits the act as a member of a group.

The government also proposes introducing a new offence for the use of camouflage clothing, uniforms or clothing that looks like police or army uniform, when the person wearing such a piece of clothing appears as if they are performing the duties of police or army personnel.

The use of such clothing as props by performers is again exempt from the ban, which carries fines of between 500 and 1,000 euro when committed by an individual or between 1,000 and 2,000 euro when committed as a member of a group.

The amendments come in the aftermath of increased activity by militias including the Štajerska Guard, whose leader Andrej Šiško was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year on the charge that he attempted to subvert the constitutional order.

Presenting the amendments to reporters, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar declared "zero tolerance of any initiative by individuals or groups to assume the duties in the jurisdiction of the state".

He expects that the amendments will meet with approval, saying that shortcomings in the valid law caused concern among the public and hindered police work.

Police have been reporting on their findings on militia activity to prosecutors but these have not established any crime in any of the cases. The government is now giving the police the tool to punish the perpetrators, he said.

Poklukar announced that the Interior Ministry would also draw up amendments to legislation dealing with associations, and the Justice Ministry proposed amendments to the penal code provisions on impersonating a police or army force member and on taking the law in your hands.

The United Slovenia movement, which is headed by the leader of the Štajerska Guard Šiško, responded to the changes by saying Slovenia was seeing "fascism and unconstitutional actions by an important segment of the very top echelons of the state and the state apparatus"

It argued MPs should do all in their power to "prevent such unacceptable conduct and to restore the rule of law and constitutional order of the Republic of Slovenia".

25 Nov 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 24 November 2019 - Slovenian police appear to have stepped up activities against a self-styled militia that says it wants to protect the border from migrants. In an encounter Saturday near Krško, a group of officers confiscated seven pieces of weapons from 41 members of a militia known as the Štajerska Guard.

The weapons will be sent for analysis and the individual will be prosecuted if they are found to have broken the law. The encounter was also reported to the prosecution but the prosecutor did not detect elements of criminal activity, said the head of the border department at the Novo Mesto police, Anton Štubljar.

The encounter comes days after the government said it was in the process of changing legislation to be able to tackle the activities of groups such as the Štajerska Guard, a paramilitary formation led by Andrej Šiško, who has already served prison time for trying to subvert the constitutional order.

Andrej Šiško – Football Fan, Attempted Murderer, Presidential Candidate and Paramilitary Commander

In recent weeks the group has spent weekends at camps along the border, patrolling the border area in fatigues and carrying weapons that its members says are replicas.

While their activities have raised concern about the possibility of violent altercations with migrants, they cannot be prosecuted under existing law since nothing they do is technically illegal.

The legislative changes under consideration, strongly opposed by politicians on the right who see the militia as a harmless attempt by citizens to protect themselves, would make it illegal for such groups to present themselves as a type of a military structure trying to imitate the actions of the police or the army.

Štubljar said police support changes that would make it possible to "effectively detect and prevent such deviations, which constitute a security threat".

All our stories on militias in Slovenia are here

14 Nov 2019, 14:18 PM

STA, 13 November 2019 - The Slovenian National Security Council has called on the government to table legislation that would allow law enforcement to prosecute paramilitary militias, which have recently sprung up and started to patrol the border to keep illegal migrants out.

Changes to the penal code and misdemeanour regulations are needed to "appropriately sanction association and activities by various organisations that encroach on the powers of state authorities", the National Security Council said after Wednesday's session.

The appeal comes in the aftermath of increased activity by militias including the Štajerska Guard, whose leader Andrej Šiško was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year for attempting to subvert the constitutional order.

Šiško is no longer in prison, having served out most of his sentence in pre-trial detention, and in recent months his group has stepped up activities.

When he was arrested in September last year, his Štajerska Guard had only gathered for training in the woods near Maribor; in recent weeks they have been patrolling the border with Croatia in fatigues and wearing airsoft rifles, posing as defenders of the southern border.

This is the same area, along the river Kolpa, where a local family has taken it upon themselves to "protect the border" by patrolling the riverside.

Concern about their activities has been rising, with the police, which have been keeping an eye on militia activities, for example writing on Tumblr today that they were opposed to such militias, whose activities "constitute a certain degree of security risk".

The Interior Ministry said it had "zero tolerance" to such actions, noting that "the law gives the state monopoly over the use of force". It said the police would immediately act on suspicion of criminal activity and misdemeanour.

The statements by police and the Interior Ministry suggest the authorities think they cannot crack down on such conduct under existing law, hence the appeal for tougher regulation.

The fact is that the court did not find Šiško guilty of any unlawful conduct of his militia, he was convicted for trying to subvert the constitutional order by calling for a coup against the government.

All our stories on militias in Slovenia are here

17 Sep 2019, 18:01 PM

Numerous outlets are carrying a report from the Associated Press about armed individuals – carrying knives – now patrolling Slovenia’s border with Croatia. These are part of Andrej Šiško’s Štajerska varda (“Home Guard”), the anti-migrant movement led by the former football hooligan, presidential candidate and recent prison inmate. Šiško is quoted as saying his goal is “to train people to defend their country and help the military and police at a time of massive migrations from the African and Asian states, mostly Muslims.”

One member of the group is Blaž Židar, a “47-year-old former Slovenian army soldier, dressed in camouflage trousers with a long knife hanging from his belt” who  goes on daily patrols near his village of Radovica. The story quotes him as saying “I would prefer to enjoy my retirement peacefully, but security reasons are preventing this.” He goes on to say that his six children often join him on patrol, along with his wife, “because they have to learn how to protect their nation from intruders.”

Related: 1 in 8 Slovenians is an immigrant

The reporter, Dušan Stojanović, goes on to interview Miha Kovač, a Slovenian political analyst and professor at the University of Ljubljana, who describes such anti-migrant groups as made up of “guys with big beer bellies who don’t have much of an education, who didn’t have much of a career, who don’t know what to do with themselves in the contemporary world. They find their meaning in this kind of movement and this kind of hatred toward migrants.”

While Kovač doesn’t see the movement as an immediate danger, he says the problem would get worse if Slovenia had significant numbers of immigrants, from 20-50,000.

Meanwhile, the story claims the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to the patrols, as long as they stay within the law. As France Bozicnik, the head of criminal police at a police station near the border, states: “People call us on the phone every day and give us information about suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons, and we sincerely thank them for this information.”

You can see the full story here, while all our stories on Andrej Šiško are here

 

24 Apr 2019, 16:23 PM

STA, 24 April 2019 - The Social Democrats (SD) became the latest party to formally enter the EU election race on Wednesday. Party officials said their campaign would focus on restoring trust in Europe by highlighting jobs, climate change, security and migrations as the main issues.

"These European elections will be a landmark for the future of Europe. Either we go down the path of dangerous disintegration, or the path of a strong Europe," the party's top candidate, MEP Tanja Fajon, said as the candidacies were submitted to the National Electoral Commission.

A strong and united Europe is of paramount importance for Slovenia, she said, noting that two decades of conservative dominance in the EU parliament had resulted in unfair taxations and multinational corporations and the rich not paying their taxes.

The party's goal is to have two MEPs in the next parliament - Fajon is currently their sole representative - and it has recently also started promoting the idea that Slovenia's next commissioner should be picked from the ranks of candidates contesting the election.

"The next commissioner from Slovenia ought to go through European elections. The people have the right to know who the commissioner will be," Fajon said.

Slovenia does not have strict rules about commissioner nominations. It is up to the government to pick a candidate, who then has to undergo a hearing at the European Parliament.

United Slovenia to campaign against EU membership

STA, 24 April 2019 - The far-right United Slovenia, led by the self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško, who is fresh out of prison for attempts to subvert the constitutional order, fielded its candidates for MEPs on Wednesday. The party will be campaigning for Slovenia's exit from the EU.

Only three candidates will contest the election: Šiško, Joško Joras, a self-styled defender of the south border, and the party's co-president Anica Bidar.

Šiško, the party's front-runner, said United Slovenia was the only party that would protect the Slovenian Constitution in the election and advocate for Slovenia to leave the EU.

Learn more about the colourful Andrej Šiško here

"The EU in its current form is unacceptable for Slovenian citizens. The kind that the gentlemen from European elites want to build is even more unacceptable," Šiško said.

The United Slovenia movement promotes cooperation with European nations and countries, and wants a Europe of free and independent nations and countries that would also include Russia.

Calling on citizens who want change to turn out for the election, Šiško said that if their candidate got elected they would not join any of the European political groups but work on a project basis.

DeSUS campaign centred around top candidate, MEP Šoltes

STA, 24 April 2019 - The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) plans to focus its EU election campaign on their top candidate, MEP Igor Šoltes. Their slogan will be Šoltes, Our Man in Brussels, the party said as it formally submitted the candidacies to the National Electoral Commission on Wednesday.

DeSUS is counting on the base to help it retain its sole MEP seat, party leader Karl Erjavec said, noting that turnout would be low, which was getting party members and supporters to vote would be decisive.

Šoltes joined DeSUS after winning his MEP seat with an independent list in 2014, and after the party's current MEP, Ivo Vajgl, decided to retire.

He said he would be the voice of those who are ignored and sidelined, focusing on issues such as longevity of society, standard of living for the elderly, the environment, healthy food and social justice.

DeSUS plans to spend roughly EUR 30,000 on the campaign. The emphasis will be on field work and social networks.

Looking ahead, Erjavec said that the vote would be followed by a "very turbulent period" on the domestic scene as parties that have their representatives in the EU parliament gathered strength.

He predicts that there will be consolidation on the left sooner or later since "it is difficult to run the country so fragmented."

All our stories on the EU elections are here, while those on the many and varied political parties in Slovenia are here

06 Apr 2019, 09:46 AM

Mladina: Hungary's attempts to control the Slovenian media

STA, 5 April 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina, which put a cartoon of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán performing the Nazi salute on its cover two weeks ago, discusses in its latest commentary the Hungarian ambassador asking the Slovenian government to prevent Mladina from portraying Orban in such a way in the future.

Related: A Round-up of news on Mladina’s “Nazi Orban” cover

The verbal note, which is how such a letter is called in diplomacy, and which was addressed to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, was "not very diplomatic, but unusually sharp," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Slovenia's Sovereignty Threatened.

"We asked for explanation and confirmation from the ministry, which said that it had received the note. The ministry answered it by saying that it consistently respected the principle of freedom of the press and expression and that it neither interfered in editorial policy of the Slovenian media, nor it assessed it."

Repovž notes that the response of the ministry headed by Miro Cerar was a response "of a serious country - cold and not allowing any debate."

The revealed diplomatic note shows how serious the situation is and who are we dealing with - not only Slovenia, but the entire Europe. "A country which dares to demand from another country's government to act against journalists means a serious security threat to the entire region."

Mladina goes on to say that Hungary is a "country which does not hide that it tries to encroach upon the autonomy of the Slovenian state with capital and all other ways."

With no reservations, Hungary has encroached upon the Slovenian political space and subordinated the opposition Democrats (SDS) of Janez Janša, whose acts have been following Hungarian political interests for quite a while.

"Through the SDS, the Hungarian state has acquired a part of the Slovenian media, which are now associated into a Hungarian national propaganda company. Of course, they represent Hungarian interests and attack the Slovenian state and its institutions."

The Hungarian government also systematically awards citizenship to the residents of the bordering region of Pomurje, makes business investments there and finances social activities. It also wanted to get an outlet to the sea through investing in the port of Koper, Mladina adds.

There are many other examples - for instance a photograph of Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi taken at the embassy in Ljubljana. Behind her is a historical map of a Greater Hungary, in which Pomurje is a part of it.

"They don't even bother concealing their aspirations. No serious country in Europe would tolerate such a shameless and revisionist boasting by a representative of a neighbouring country," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Šiško's sentencing will fall at ECHR

STA, 4 April 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the sentencing of self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško to eight months in prison for trying to subvert the constitutional order will fall at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), if not earlier, at the Constitutional Court.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said that the sentencing was a win for the rule of law, but he is wrong. A win for the rule of law will be when Slovenian courts stop violating the Constitution and human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"Šiško's sentencing will fall at the ECHR at the latest, and probably already at the Constitutional Court," says Jože Biščak, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly under the headline When Orwell Meets Slovenia.

"If someone who parades in a forest in the middle of the day, who wants change of the authorities and who wants to establish a Štejerska Land records all of it and publishes it on the internet subverts the constitutional order, then we are really pathetic."

If the police and prosecution react before anything happens at all, everything is probably a show for the public, if not paranoia. "Now think about the numerous (also publicised) cases of violence when the state was able to intervene in schools and families only after the fact."

This is why the question why the Šiško case was given a different treatment while practically nothing happened is not only a rhetorical one, concludes the commentary.

All our posts in this series can be found here

29 Mar 2019, 14:20 PM

Our earlier stories on this case can be found here

STA, 29 March 2019 - Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a militia called the Štajerska Guard, has been sentenced to eight months in prison for trying to subvert the constitutional order. Matej Lesjak, charged with aiding Šiško, received a three-month suspended sentence. The ruling is not final yet.

The sentence was handed down by the Maribor District Court on Friday after a trial that lasted only five weeks on the first ever charges brought for the crime of inciting to a violent subversion of the constitutional order.

Judge Vanja Verdel Kokol ordered that the 49-year-old Šiško be released from custody today after more than six months in detention. The time he has spent in detention will count as part of the sentence.

According to the judge, Šiško attempted to subvert the constitutional order with various moves, including by threatening the then Prime Minister Miro Cerar in January 2017 and founding the Štajerska Land and then a para-military unit, the Štajerska Guard, in September 2018.

Verdel Kokol said Šiško had gone too far and that history thought us that such actions must not be underestimated.

She noted that the defendants started claiming the whole thing was but a provocation only after criminal procedure had been filed against them.

"A democratic society should not be taken for granted and it can be jeopardised. This is why clear boundaries must be set to prevent undermining its foundations."

Šiško, the leader of the non-parliamentary United Slovenia Movement, and Lesjak, a former member of the opposition Democratic Party's (SDS) youth wing were apprehended in September after a video was posted on social media of a para-military group parading with airsoft rifles in the woods in north-east Slovenia.

While Šiško is considered to have organised the exercise, Lesjak is believed to have filmed it and posted the video on the internet.

Both claimed the campaign was but a provocation designed to bring to the public's attention the problematic workings of Slovenia's politics, mass media and security system.

Bot the judge dismissed this, wondering why Šiško had gathered information about the militia members' blood type if it was all a joke.

The state has a monopoly over national security and there is no space for para-military groups. "Incitement to a violent subversion of the constitutional order may encroach on the fundamental rights of Slovenian citizens," she said.

According to the judge, the intention of the exercise was to spread ideas propagated by Šiško in order to attract more followers angry with the current government.

It is therefore unimportant whether they carried real weapons; even display of weapons similar to real weapons achieved its purpose, the judge said.

Šiško, reacting in his signature fashion, said the ruling confirmed that Štajerska had been established as an independent land. He now expects a meeting with the prime minister and home minister to set down the details of his militia's cooperation with the police and the army.

He also rejected the notion that he incited to violence, "but what others understand is another thing altogether. I speak Slovenian, but obviously the prosecutor and the judge have trouble understanding."

The prosecutor had proposed that Šiško spent 16 months in prison - the maximum sentence would be five years - but was nevertheless satisfied with the sentence. The defence said the ruling was expected.

Šiško's lawyer, Lucija Šikovec Ušaj, framed the trial in free speech terms, arguing that Slovenia will have to come clear once and for all about whether people have the right to free speech.

"If they say we don't, we'll have to stick to it. Such dictatorships do not last long, though. It is true, however, that Europe is gravitating towards limiting free speech and the judge has joined this bandwagon," she said.

The five-week trial saw a fair share of unusual scenes, from Šiško spending days delivering his defence to his supporters at one point appearing in front of the Maribor Courthouse with a white stretch limo to salute their leader.

Šiško, the leader of the far-right party United Slovenia, has long been active politically and he even ran for Maribor mayor from detention in the November 2018 local elections, securing 1.43% of the vote.

He has also announced his intention to stand in the May elections to the European Parliament, while his lawyer Šikovec Ušaj is among the founding supporters of a new far-right party, the Homeland League, which plans to field her in the EU election.

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