Ljubljana related

21 Sep 2020, 15:02 PM

STA, 21 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša announced more oversight over the system of social transfers as he responded to an MP question from Zmago Jelinčil from the opposition National Party (SNS) on Monday about the status of immigrants from third countries and their social transfers. Janša said the coalition agreement envisaged a reform of social transfers.

Janša noted that in some towns, more than a hundred persons are registered at a single address, so the relevant ministry should investigate this.

In some cases, hundreds of people are registered at a property of a hundred or two hundred square metres, he said, adding that people were being exploited, having to pay a lot of money to the real estate owners to be registered there.

There are no such irregularities in most towns, but in some there are, and Maribor stands out, he said.

Janša said inspectors should not have a hard time investigating the matter, starting by comparing data.

Many of the loopholes in the current legislation will be fixed with changes to the foreigners act, the PM said.

Jelinčič proposed the National Assembly debate the matter, which MPs will decide on Thursday.

14 Sep 2020, 12:06 PM

STA, 14 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša told the Austrian TV ORF that Slovenia had no intention of committing to any fixed alliances such as the Visegrad Group. Instead, he stressed the importance of cooperation among neighbouring countries.

"We feel no need to say that we will always support a country or a group of countries within the EU. We always look at what is good for our citizens, who elected us," Janša was quoted as saying in the interview by the Austrian press agency APA.

The prime minister also stressed the importance of neighbourly relations, which he said had proved crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic. "In extraordinary times we know exactly who we can rely on."

Referring to restrictions and closing of the borders during the epidemic, Janša said the situation seemed like Europe had returned to the dark ages and that bilateral cooperation with neighbouring countries had been essential.

Janša rejected criticism of the planned new media legislation that would cut the revenue of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, saying this would be a "minimal re-distribution" of funds that would benefit regional media which are struggling because of strong centralisation in Slovenia.

Janša said his critics wanted to hide behind the EU in order to preserve their monopoly, which they had been holding on to since communism. Since virtually nobody in Europe speaks Slovenian, this is a "battle for interpretation", he told ORF correspondent Christian Wehrschütz.

"I always say: whoever wants to pass judgements about the political situation in Slovenia should come to Slovenia and learn Slovenian or at least find a credible person to talk to," Janša said in the interview, which was conducted in Slovenian.

13 Sep 2020, 10:48 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 11 September 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Janša creating chaos, offering impressions without content

STA, 11 September 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina is critical in its latest editorial of what it sees as a policy of hollow impressions pursued by Janez Janša-led governments. It argues Janša is all about chaos, in which he can pursue an ideological agenda, while true content in terms of effective measures is absent.

Accusing Janša of scaremongering during the refugee crisis and during the last financial crisis, Mladina editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that similar behaviour can be witnessed again in the fight against coronavirus.

"A lot of wind, and above all a large number of measures that create the impression of a government working around the clock, moving from one extreme to the other, closing municipal borders and all the way to a dramatic end of the epidemic and the flypast by US aircraft," Repovž says under Chaos.

He goes on to list a number of crucial measures against Covid-19, saying they have all remained unimplemented, all the way down to the quarantine orders, which are still without legal validity.

The government has also failed to convince people that masks are effective, Repovž argues, saying officials often do not wear them, including not Janez Janša when receiving Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz with whom he moreover shook hands.

"We are not saying that the situation is alarming at this point. But one thing is clear: the good results of the fight against coronavirus are mostly the result of responsible behaviour on the part of the residents of this country. They are really tough and patient, having had to observe the double-faced behaviour of politicians for months."

Reporter: Police force politicised

STA, 7 September 2020 - "The police force has been more or less politicised under every government," says the right-wing weekly Reporter on Monday, arguing that if the police were truly independent and professional, then they would be more successful in cracking white-collar crime and corruption.

However, only a few thieves have been caught among those who were stealing and capitalising on the transition period, "but nothing happened to the rest, who had good connections, including political ones".

The editor-in-chief Silverster Šurla notes in the editorial that the Janez Janša government has replaced a number of persons holding top posts, just like any other government, including in the tax office, police, military and the intelligence agencies.

"The new government has not yet taken complete control over the police though, particularly not in case of the elite National Bureau of Investigation," says Reporter, pointing out that information about what is going on at the Interior Ministry and police is leaked to media almost daily.

The police should be independent of politics, but that has not been seen in Slovenia yet and probably would not be ever since the force is a major tool for the authorities, either left-wing or right-wing.

Since Slovenia's independence, there have been a number of cases of political interferences in the work of the police, either to drag the procedures or to speed them up. "However, it is true that the police have been longer and more controlled by the political left than the right."

Both sides of the aisle are finger pointing and proclaiming efforts to depoliticise the police when they are ruling though, says the editorial under the headline Danger in the House at the End.

All our posts in this series are here

08 Sep 2020, 19:16 PM

STA, 8 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have climbed the North Face of Mount Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak, following talks in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

The government has posted three photos of the two leaders in climbing gear on its Twitter profile. In one they are pictured with helmets on their heads, in another with helmets in their hands.

Two photographs appear to have been taken at the start of the ascent and a third one shows them higher up the rock from below.

Janša also posted several photos of the feat on his Twitter profile. "The Slovenian route in Triglav North Face climbed. Glorious weather on top. Fine company of excellent mountaineer Sebastian Kurz and substantive discussions," Janša tweeted.

One of the photographs shows Kurz in the wall, and in two others the pair are pictured in high spirits "above the clouds", just below the summit.

Triglav North Face is the highest, broadest and most magnificent of Slovenia's rock walls. It is criss-crossed with climbing routes.

Mount Triglav (2,864 metres) is Slovenia's most popular peak as well as the national symbol.

Kurz met Janša earlier during his first bilateral trip abroad since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Addressing reporters after talks, they called for a joint approach in combating the novel virus and illegal migration.

Asked how he felt about the climbing venture ahead of the attempt, Kurz said that the Slovenian prime minister was an experienced climber and he had no worries ahead of the climbing test.

05 Sep 2020, 09:43 AM

STA, 4 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša dismissed at the annual meeting of Slovenian diplomats on Friday concerns Slovenia is drifting away from the EU's core countries, saying the "saga about a core Europe" was a false dilemma that testified a lack of confidence. However, Slovenia does not have an inferiority complex, added Janša.

"When we were deciding on EU accession in the referendum, we did not vote for an EU that would feature first- and second-class countries," Janša said in his address at Brdo pri Kranju.

"We believed in equality and equal standards for everybody," Janša added in the wake of debates that have included President Borut Pahor expressing concern over an emerging east-west divide in the EU and opposition criticism about Slovenia deepening ties with countries accused of regressing in terms of democracy, human rights and media freedom.

The prime minister said Slovenia was looking for various alliances in the EU, since the EU "is an alliance of compromises". Excluding certain alliances in advance would be imprudent, he argued.

Janša pointed out that Slovenia unsuccessfully backed the idea of so-called eurobonds to help finance Europe's recovery after the coronacrisis. The idea had strong support in Italy in Spain, hit the worst, he added, while stressing Slovenia would never forget that it was the Czech Republic that first came to Slovenia's aid with a shipment of face masks.

Continuing on the topic of the Covid-19 pandemic, Janša expressed hope a vaccine or cure would come soon. The forecasts are upbeat "but we are in for few more difficult months".

He hopes for a more harmonised EU approach to measures aimed at containing the virus, even though countries are again acting in a fairly individual fashion.

Janša was critical about the EU failing to coordinate reactions to the pandemic even at the level of experts. This is already happening the second time in a year. "But neither Slovenia nor other European countries can afford another lockdown of public life," he said.

Janša argued some time had been bought at the July EU summit and praised the fast reactions of European financial institutions as well as the IMF.

Europe is meanwhile also facing a tough future because of Brexit, which Janša labelled a strategic disaster that will hurt the EU for a long time to come. "We who are staying on will have bigger problems than those who are leaving," he added.

New balances are now being sought in the EU, but the coordination and search for joint decisions has not become easier because there is one member fewer, Janša argued.

Slovenia meanwhile remains a proponent of European coordination and a deepening of integration. It supports the expansion of the Schengen and euro areas.

It moreover supports enlargement to the Western Balkans. The stability of the region is of strategic importance for both the EU and Slovenia and EU membership prospects remain the best method in this respect, Janša said.

In the coming days the EU also faces discussions on Belarus and the oil- and gas-related territorial tensions between Greece and Turkey.

Janša said that given Slovenia's EU and NATO memberships there could be no dilemma as to which side Slovenia will take. It is necessary to share both the benefits and problems, while compromises must be sought too," he said.

02 Sep 2020, 16:57 PM

STA, 2 September 2020 - The International Press Institute (IPI) has analysed the state of mass media in Slovenia since the new, Janez Janša government took over in mid-March, saying that "few countries in Europe have experienced such a swift downturn in press and media freedom after a new government came to power".

Headlined New Administration, Old Agenda: Press Freedom Strained Again in Slovenia under Veteran PM Janša, the report, posted on IPI's website on 1 September, says that in the last six months, Janša "has immediately renewed long-standing grievances with the press and denigrated critical media outlets".

It adds that experts say he has launched a series of attacks on reporters on Twitter, enabling a wider increase in digital harassment from online trolls and contributing to an increasingly hostile climate for watchdog journalism.

Janša's attacks and willingness to denounce critical reporting as fake news have also drawn parallels with other leaders and brought Slovenia to the attention of press freedom groups, the OSCE and top EU bodies, IPI, headquartered in Austria's Vienna, says in its introduction to the report.

It points out that the ruling right-wing Democratic Party (SDS) is trying to exert greater influence over the country's small media market as part of what it claims is an effort to promote greater media pluralism.

It notes the government plan to introduce legislation to de-fund public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and Janša's attempt to expand his party's pro-government media system, chiefly NovaTV24.si, much of which are funded by Hungarian media linked to Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The report says these developments raise concerns the Orban system of media control could be exported to Slovenia, although it believes it is premature to believe that Slovenia will become another illiberal democracy similar to Hungary.

Nevertheless, the export of Hungarian methods to Slovenia and other Central and SE European countries should worry EU leaders, so the report says the OSCE, the EU and the Council of Europe should carefully follow the developments in Slovenia and react to possible new violations of media freedom.

The media organisation says that while Slovenia was previously considered a relative safe haven for independent journalism, it is now witnessing "a worrying decline in press freedom" in a rather short period of time.

IPI says that journalists are now working in a far more antagonistic climate, one in which staunch criticism of the prime minister risks immediate rebuke, while Janša's attacks on journalists and media outlets are according to observers corroding public discourse and worsening polarisation.

Should only few changes be made to the draft amendments to the RTV Slovenija act and to Slovenian Press Agency act after the public consultation period for them expires on Friday, "the overhaul of the country's media space will have gained considerable momentum" in the coming weeks, says IPI.

Its report in English is available at https://ipi.media/new-administration-old-agenda-press-freedom-strained-again-in-slovenia-under-veteran-pm-jansa/

19 Jul 2020, 12:22 PM

STA, 19 July 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša described the EU summit negotiations that are currently underway in Brussels as a test of perseverance on his Twitter on Saturday evening as the second day of EU leaders' talks on the next EU budget and recovery package wrapped up. He also deemed on Sunday the third day of the negotiations a day of truth.

"The EU is once again demonstrating the entire complexities of its differences, its smallness and greatness, selfishness and solidarity," Janša wrote in his Saturday's post, adding that for some the EU was granted by their fathers, whereas the others won it out.

In the early hours of Sunday he also wrote that he missed the 2004-2008 EU Council "when there was less daily politics and more strategic thinking".

Moreover, the prime minister has retweeted Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn's post which warned that the corona crisis was not over and that it was "high time to reach an agreement which allows us to provide the urgently needed support for our citizens and economies".

On Sunday, Janša also dismissed claims that Hungary, Poland and Slovenia are resisting the system that would tie the financial aid to respecting the rule of law and basic human rights, saying that Slovenia wanted the "same standards regarding independent judiciary, media, freedom of speech" to be used for all.

The first in-person summit of EU leaders after the start of the coronavirus pandemic started on Friday and so far a compromise on the 2021-2027 financial framework and the relief package designed to shore up Europe's economies has not yet been reached.

The negotiations will be resumed at noon on Sunday. A new proposal by EU Council President Charles Michel is expected to be presented to broker an agreement.

According to unofficial sources, under the new proposal the EUR 750 billion recovery fund is to provide EUR 450 billion in subsidies and EUR 300 billion in loans. The volume of subsidies would be therefore reduced and the volume of loans increased to cater to the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden.

Under the previous proposal, which was opposed by the frugal four and Finland, two thirds of the fund would be available in subsidies and a third in loans.

13 Jul 2020, 14:46 PM

STA, 13 July 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša defended his statements regarding the Srebrenica genocide on Monday as the opposition Left and Social Democrats (SD) walked out of the National Assembly session over his refusal to apologise for his comments that have been met with criticism in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Janša wrote a series of posts on Twitter over the weekend to the effect that the Srebrenica genocide would not have happened if the United Nations had condemned Communist crimes the same way they had condemned the Holocaust.

He argued that the perpetrators of the Srebrenica genocide, helmed by Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladić, had drawn from lessons they had learnt in Yugoslav military schools - that the enemy must be not just defeated but destroyed.

Clarifying his position at the National Assembly today, Janša noted how he had written a study in 2009 analysing the events after the fall of the Berlin Wall, including the developments in the former Yugoslavia in the run-up to the Srebrenica massacre.

Based on this study he had been selected to lead an international initiative to amend the United Nations resolution on genocide, which received the backing of 100 world leaders in 2012.

Since 2009 he says he has referred to this study every year on the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, and he continues to insist that the UN resolution should be amended.

"There would be no Srebrenica, no Rwanda or many similar genocidal acts around the globe if the world was able to condemn all crimes regardless of which ideology prompted them," he said.

"And this is the shortcoming of the world order, this is why we are striving to appropriately amend the UN resolution. As long as it is possible to kill with impunity in the name of one ideology and be condemned when doing it in the name of another ideology, genocides will happen in the world.

"There is consensus about that in the civilised world, nobody objects to that, except in Slovenia," he said.

Janša also pointed out that when he was defence minister in the early 1990s, Slovenia had helped Bosnia diplomatically, by training their troops and by supplying arms. If that had not been the case, "there would be five times more Srebrenicas, at least," he said.

Janša made the statement after he was called upon by the Left and SD to apologise for his comments. Because he did not, MPs of both parties walked out of the parliament's chamber.

The opposition criticised the Twitter comments as inappropriate and insulting.

Left MP Miha Kordiš said Janša was in fact pursuing the same policies that led to the Srebrenica massacre, while LMŠ leader Marjan Šarec warned his statements would tarnish Slovenia's reputation abroad.

Even some coalition MPs were critical, including parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), who said such reinterpretation of history could damage Slovenia's reputation.

Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) MP Franc Jurša said it was not right to use the anniversary of the genocide to speak about something "related to a different matter in history".

Janša was critical later on Twitter of the MPs who walked out of the session. "They left the session because they are incapable of facing their racism. Because they are not capable of condemning all crimes, but only those that were not perpetrated by their role models," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Janša's tweets prompted two MEPs of the LMŠ, Irena Joveva in Klemen Grošelj, to write to European Parliament President David Sassoli, asking him to take the necessary political initiative and start a serious political debate on what is a wider issue.

They argued "the abuse and politicisation of the Srebrenica genocide for exclusively internal ideological and party purposes of Slovenia's PM Janša is only the top of the iceberg of what is a wider and very worrying trend of historical revisionism and relativism brought by the worrying rise of far right and populist force across the EU".

13 Jul 2020, 10:20 AM

STA, 12 July 2020 - Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has become the target of criticism in Bosnia-Herzegovina after implying on Twitter that the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred had post-WWII summary executions been adequately condemned.

Janša published a tweet on Saturday, the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica, stating that the massacre "would not have occurred if Communist ideology had been done away with in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and post-war killings in Slovenia and elsewhere condemned."

A few hours later he tweeted that "the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred if the United Nations had condemned Communist genocides the same way they condemned the Holocaust. Because this did not happen, the JLA [Yugoslav People's Army] doctrine that the opponent must be physically destroyed sprung to life again during the break-up of Yugoslavia".

Both tweets came with a link to a story about an article he wrote in 2009 entitled "Did the Berlin Wall really come down on both sides?".

Oslobođenje, a major Bosnian newspaper, said that "while the whole world talks about the genocide in Srebrenica, this politician is diverting public attention to something else, by expressing messages that may be interpreted as fascist. Is this an attempt by Janez Janša to amnesty criminals who perpetrated one of the biggest genocides in this region?"

Slobodna Bosna, a news portal, said the statement was a "morbid provocation not becoming of a statesman". It said only an "ignorant or malevolent and unhinged mind is capable of this. And as far as we know, Janez Janša is not ignorant."

Several other Bosnian news outlets carried similar reactions.

Janša expounded on his views with several more Twitter posts on Sunday.

In one tweet, he quoted a statement by an unnamed Bosnian-Serb soldier, apparently from a documentary film on Srebrenica, saying that Yugoslavia had killed hundreds of thousands of prisoners and nobody was held accountable, which led them to believe that the graves around Srebrenica would not be uncovered for another fifty years,

In another post, he said that the genocide in Srebrenica had been "conceived by the evil raised in the Communist JLA academy under the red star (and not in a nationalist religious school). #JLA generals and officers were taught that the fundamental goal of armed struggle was to liquidate the opponent. Mladić and his ilk are products of that school."

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Bosnian-Serb general Ratko Mladić, a convicted war criminal, wearing a Yugoslav army uniform with a red star on his side cap.

11 Jul 2020, 10:36 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 9 July 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Government communication on coronavirus “dumb”

STA, 10 July 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina is critical in Friday's editorial of the government's communication related to the coronavirus situation. Rather than presenting recommendations to the people as for example the German or Austrian government, the Slovenian government is being "rude, disrespectful and simply dumb", says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

Not only is the government blaming the people for the situation, making threats and patronising them, its communication is even becoming "extremely harmful".

According to Repovž, the main problem is government spokesperson Jelko Kacin.

His statements about Slovenians not understanding that 50 people means 50, not 50 plus another 50, is sending the message to the people that they are idiots and irresponsible.

"Anyone familiar with the basics of communication knows that such threats may be efficient for a (very) short time, but in the long run they lead only to the loss of credibility and authority of the person making them."

Repovž is particularly bothered by Kacin's statements about young people, describing them as "irresponsible and also a little bit dumb beings".

But the most disturbing according to Repovž was Kacin's statement about picnics he made on Tuesday, when he urged people not to invite "people from other cultural and national environments" to their picnics.

He says "such open xenophobia" should not be allowed.

"Wise governments are building bridges of trust with citizens nowadays, asking them, addressing them as partners, co-citizens, presenting them recommendations. Others have Jelko Kacin as the official spokesperson," Repovž says under the headline Main Pest.

Demokracija: Janša's letter to Šketa not controversial

STA, 9 July 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija argues in its latest editorial that the letter that Prime Minister Janez Janša sent to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa over the anti-government protests is in no way controversial. What is controversial is the investigation of Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, it says.

Elaborating on the claim about Šketa, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says that one must distinguish between the justice system and judiciary.

"The justice system is a much broader notion, encompassing state prosecutions, lawyers and notaries; so next to judges also those performing duties related to court activities who definitely are not part of the judicial branch.

"The prosecution thus definitely falls under the executive branch of power, which means that it is autonomous but not independent (as for example justice) or untouchable."

It is clear who is in charge of the executive branch of power, so Janša's letter to Šketa in which he expressed criticism over the passivity of the prosecution in the face of inciting to violence during protests is no interference in the other branch of power but a warning of a superior to an inferior.

"With this letter Janša did not interfere with the prosecutors' independence or conduct political pressure," Biščak argues.

What is controversial, however, is the house searches that were conducted at Minister Počivalšek's home last week and him being placed in custody.

This clearly shows how alive the deep state is and that it is choosing no means in its efforts to bring down the government.

Počivalšek was suspected on misusing public funds in the procurement of protective equipment during the epidemic. But the public funds could not have been misused yet.

He was placed in custody due to the risk of flight but where could he possibly go, Biščak wonders. Another argument was that he might repeat the crime, but where is the guarantee that he will not repeat it after release.

And the third argument was that public broadcaster RTV Slovenija had reported about it. "RTV Slovenija as a key reference for an investigation, are you out of your mind?"

All this can mean only one thing: that the National Bureau of Investigation and the prosecution in cooperation with investigating judge Mojca Kocjančič (former wife of Aleš Zalar and the judge who saved Zoran Janković by excluding key evidence) have come up with a scheme that serves the interests of known political groups.

"Why Počivalšek was picked to be the scapegoat was even publicly stated in the 'official gazette' of the deep state (Mladina): because he is the weakest link on the way to the SDS and Janez Janša. It is hard to imagine a clearer laying out of the principle 'first discrediting then liquidating'", Biščak says under Dear Prosecutors, Are You Serious.

All our posts in this series are here

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