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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.

15 Feb 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 14 February 2019 - Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a paramilitary unit whose footage stirred Slovenia in mid-2018, pleaded not guilty to inciting to violent subversion of the constitutional order at a pre-trial arraignment held in Maribor on Thursday.

Šiško, who was apprehended last September after a video surfaced of a para-military group parading in the woods of north-eastern Slovenia, argued he was the only one in Slovenia who had actively called for the preservation of the constitution.

The 49-year-old former ultras leader announced he would present the reasons for his provocation during the trial, to start on 6 March.

All our articles on this story can be found here

Šiško, who had also called for the formation of other militias around the country and uttered a threat against then Prime Minister Miro Cerar in January 2017, is to be tried together with the man allegedly responsible for the footage, Matej Lesjak. The latter also pleaded not guilty.

The defendants' lawyers requested today that President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Cerar as well opposition leader Janez Janša appear for testimony during the trial.

Šiško's lawyer Lucija Ušaj argued Pahor, as commander in chief, could explain if Slovenia's Armed Forces could really be defeated by a "sports club whose members use airsoft guns", Cerar could say how threatened he really felt, while Janša could speak about his past proposals to form a national guard.

As to Šarec, the defence claim that his public calls constituted direct interference in the criminal prosecution of the defendants. Only after Šarec's calls were the conterminous actions labelled as a crime, one for which no case law exists in Slovenia.

This was rejected in the strongest terms by prosecutor Tilen Ivič, who hopes "nobody really believes that interfering" in the judicial branch of power is possible.

Šiško, the head of the nationalist non-parliamentary party United Slovenia, has been in custody since September because all his appeals for release failed.

He was apprehended on 6 September, three days after a video emerged of him lining up several dozen men, some allegedly armed, wearing balaclavas and conducting what appeared to be basic military training.

08 Dec 2018, 08:00 AM

STA, 7 December 2018 - The Maribor Prosecution Office has filed an indictment against Andrej Šiško, the leader of a para-military unit that call themselves the Štajerska Guard, who has been in custody since early September.

Darko Simonič, the head of the prosecution office, said the indictment, alleging instigation to the subversion of the constitutional order, was filed with the Maribor District Court on Thursday.

The prosecution also proposed for Šiško to be remanded in custody. The last monthly extension of his detention would expire on 12 December.

Once an indictment is filed, the court's pre-trial panel of judges may extend detention for up to two years.

"Considering that the court has always supported us on custody, except for the first investigating judge, there's probably no dilemma about custody. Nothing that would warrant a different conduct has happened in the meantime," Simonič said.

An armed militia was filmed in September

Šiško was apprehended on 6 September, three days after a video emerged of him lining up several dozen men, some armed, wearing balaclavas and conducting what appeared to be basic military training.

After extending his 48-hour detention twice, the investigating judge released him, but he was brought back into custody on 12 September after a court panel reverted the judge's decision.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal against detention, upholding the lower courts' reasoning that there were reasonable grounds to believe the suspect formed a para-military unit and called for the formation of other militias across Slovenia that would, when the time was right, bring down the highest authorities of the state.

Šiško and his counsel Viktor Osim argued that Šiško's conduct did not amount to instigation to the subversion of constitutional order.

A colourful past, including jail time for attempted murder

Šiško, a former ultras leader who has served prison for attempted murder, argued the line-up was a provocation meant to disclose how Slovenian media work. However, he had called for the establishment of other such militias around the country.

The Supreme Court noted his past conduct, from the utterance of a threat against then Prime Minister Miro Cerar in January 2017 to the formation of the para-military unit.

Osim said today he was not surprised by the timing of the indictment, arguing that it would help the prosecution to avoid the decision on custody being taken by the Supreme Court.

He plans to appeal against the indictment at any case, although he had not yet been formally notified of it being filed.

Information available to him indicates that the indictment also concerns co-defendant Matej Lesjak, a former member of the youth wing of the Democratic Party (SDS) who allegedly filmed the paramilitary formation's training, but his lawyer Mihael Jenčič could not confirm the information for the STA because he had not yet received the indictment.

Osim had proposed taking witness statements from PM Marjan Šarec, his predecessor in office Miro Cerar and President Borut Pahor so they will be able to tell whether they felt threatened by Šiško.

Osim also proposes hearing Janez Janša, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party (SDS), who he said publicly proposed forming a national guard or a para-military formation back in 2015.

Šiško is the head of the non-parliamentary party United Slovenia. He stood in the 2017 presidential election, winning 2.21% of the vote. He also ran for Maribor mayor from detention last month, securing 1.43% of the vote.

All our stories on Andrej Šiško can be found here

05 Nov 2018, 11:22 AM

STA, 3 November 2018 - Andrej Šiško, the leader of a self-proclaimed local para-military formation, will remain in custody after the Supreme Court upheld the argument of lower courts that he represents a danger to the constitutional order.

"There are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect formed a para-military unit and called for the formation of other militias across Slovenia that would, when the time is right, bring down the highest authorities of the state," the Supreme Court.

The decision, announced on Friday, comes in response to an appeal by the defence, which argued that Šiško's conduct did not amount to instigation to the subversion of the constitutional order, the crime Šiško is suspected of.

Save for a brief intermission, Šiško has been in detention since early September, a week after video surfaced of him lining up several dozen men, some armed, wearing balaclavas and conducting what appeared to be basic military training.

Šiško, a former ultras who served prison for attempted murder, has argued that this was a provocation meant to disclose how Slovenian media work, but at the same time he called for the establishment of other such militias around the country.

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

The Supreme Court said the suspect's conduct, from the utterance of a threat against then Prime Minister Miro Cerar in January 2017 to the formation of the para-military unit, was sufficient at this point in proceedings to warrant his detention.

In making the decision, the court went against the argument of the prosecution, which held that whether Šiško should be remanded in detention should be re-examined by lower courts.

The prosecution's 27 September opinion caused uproar. It was penned by Supreme State Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar, who has for years been close to the opposition Democrats (SDS) and once ran for president with their support; one of Šiško's co-defendants was a member of the SDS's youth wing.

While Šiško is in detention, the investigation continues. Darko Simonič, the head of the Maribor branch of the State Prosecution, told the STA earlier this week that additional witnesses would be interviewed next week.

Šiško has been active in politics for years and ran in last year's presidential election. This year he is one of 18 candidates for mayor of Maribor.

Related: Football Fans, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis & Militias, a Brief Look at Far-Right Groups in Slovenia

17 Oct 2018, 13:00 PM

An article on the website European Eye on Radicalization, written by Matteo Pugliese, does a good job of putting in context the recent sight of Andrej Šiško and his armed militia, as reported here last month, whose Štarjerska Guard identified themselves with the idea of a “Greater Slovenia”, as seen in the 19th century map by Peter Kozler shown below.

14 Sep 2018, 13:00 PM

A look at the editorials in news weeklies from the left and right in Slovenia. 

12 Sep 2018, 11:47 AM

STA, 12 September 2018 - Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a local militia, was brought into custody again on Wednesday morning after a panel of judges reversed the investigating magistrate's decision to let him walk free. Šiško's lawyer Viktor Osim told the STA he would appeal. 

10 Sep 2018, 12:41 PM

STA, 10 September 2018 - After an investigating judge ordered the releasee of the self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško last night having found there was no risk of re-offence, the decision will now be re-examined by a judging panel of the Maribor District Court. The panel needs to decide with 48 hours.

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