Ljubljana related

20 Oct 2021, 12:11 PM

STA, 20 October 2021 - The newspaper Finance suggests in Wednesday's editorial that Slovenia is ill prepared for the crisis that the world has entered into because the government has failed to deliver on its promise that it will lay the foundations for a good business environment.

The piece headlined Promises, Taxes and Electricity (Obljube, davki in elektrika) notes that Slovenia is to hold a general election in half a year and parties are making all kinds of promises, but the question is how realistic those are considering the looming global crisis.

"The world is in crisis. Like it was between 2008 and 2013. Slovenia is no exception. However, will we walk the crisis side by side with the eurozone or will we - like in the above-mentioned crisis - emerge from it worse off than most of Europe?"

"The government has namely failed to lay the foundations for a good business environment in the long term. We have not got either tax or anti-bureaucratic changes. Nothing. Why?"

"Because the government does not have support. It has distributed Covid bonuses without any oversight, given us a curfew, restricted our movement to the small Slovenian municipalities, flexed its muscles too often during protests (including Friday's) instead of promoting and organising vaccination better, while PM Janša still prefers to tweet and provoke scandals," writes the paper.

"It is thus no wonder it has not got sufficient support even for the laws that would benefit all. We are unlikely to get higher general tax credits and thus higher net pay to increase or at least maintain our standard, which would also make it easier for the economy to live, invest, grow, create jobs and pay taxes.

"It appears we will not even get slightly more stimulating taxes to rent real estate or invest in shares. The government has been unfit to get through parliament even the simplest amendments to the VAT that would eliminate the need for retailers to issue paper receipts except at the buyer's demand."

15 Oct 2021, 16:28 PM

STA, 15 October - There is no room for anti-Semitism in the EU and social networks are no place for personal attacks, the European Commission said on Friday in response to a tweet by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, which sparked an avalanche of criticism from leading representatives of EU member states and institutions.

"We do not comment on comments, but let me make a few points clear. Social media should be a space for constructive and respectful debate, it should not be a place for personal attacks against individuals, as was the case with the tweet you mentioned," EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said on Friday when asked to comment.

"The commission's position on anti-Semitism is very clear - it has no place in the EU. As laid out in the recent anti-Semitism strategy, it presents a threat not only to the Jewish communities, but to an open and diverse society," he added.

In a tweet that was later deleted, PM Janša posted an image with the heading "13 of the 226 known Soros puppets in the EU parliament," referring to the MEPs as puppets of Jewish Hungarian billionaire George Soros.

One of the MEPs in the image was Sophie in 't Veld (Renew), who is currently on a fact-finding mission in Slovenia with the European Parliament's committee on civil liberties examining Slovenia's compliance with the rule of law and media freedom covenants.

Since Thursday evening, Janša has been engaged in online confrontations with leading representatives of EU member states and institutions.

President of the European Parliament David Sassoli urgently called on Janša to cease the provocations against members of the EU Parliament.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte described the tweet as tasteless, adding that "the government just conveyed this same sentiment to the Slovenian ambassador in The Hague".

Janša retorted that Rutte should not "waste time with ambassadors and media freedom in Slovenia. Together with Sophie in 't Veld, protect your journalists from being killed on the streets," referring to the killing of Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries in July.

Meanwhile, President of the European Council Charles Michel wrote, without directly referencing Janša's tweets, that members of the European Parliament should be able to do their work free from any form of pressure and called for mutual respect.

14 Oct 2021, 22:05 PM

STA, 14 October - Prime Minister Janez Janša has faced heavy criticism after publishing a tweet implying that many members of the European Parliament are "Soros puppets", including Sophie in 't Veld, the chair of a fact-finding mission currently examining Slovenia's compliance with rule of law and media freedom covenants.

"We urgently call on Janša to cease the provocations against members of the European Parliament. Attacks on members of this house are also attacks on European citizens," European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter.

"A constructive collaboration with the rotating Council Presidency can only be based on mutual trust and respect," he said.

The statement came after Janša tweeted an image with the heading "13 of the 226 known Soros puppets in the EU parliament", a reference to Hungarian billionaire George Soros.

Janša, who has often accused political opponents of being on Soros's payroll, has since deleted the tweet.

The image he tweeted has been traced by Twitter sleuths to a radical hate blog. Some of the people in the image are no longer MEPs and one passed away earlier this year.

Some accused Janša of anti-Semitism, including the Dutch MEP Malik Azmani, who described the image as a "despicable, anti-Semitic trope", and vice-president of Renew Europe, and German Green MEP Daniel Freund, who said Janša "peddles Orban-style anti-Semitic conspiracy theories".

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte described Janša's tweet as "tasteless" and condemned it "in the strongest possible terms". "The government just conveyed this same sentiment to the Slovenian ambassador in The Hague," he said.

Janša retorted that Rutte should not "waste time with ambassadors and media freedom in Slovenia. Together with @SophieintVeld, protect your journalists from being killed on the streets."

This was just one of the tweets referencing the fact-finding mission in recent days.

This afternoon, he responded to a tweet by the European Socialists and Democrats, who said Janša refused to meet with the European Parliament's fact-finding mission.

"Who are you? How many times have you visited a German chancellor, a Dutch PM or a French president?" Janša said.

"By the way, it's Netherlands where the last journalist was killed in the #EU. In Slovenia, such attempts were executed only during the regime of your comrades" from the ranks of the Social Democrats (SD), he said.

SD president Tanja Fajon, herself an MEP, said she felt ashamed. "I hope my colleagues understand Slovenia is much more than Janez Janša."

Slovenian Renew MEP Irena Joveva described Janša's tweets as "vile provocations" and in a joint statement with fellow Renew MEP Klemen Grošelj rejected the "anti-Semitic message in the prime minister's post".

MEP Milan Zver, a member of Janša's Democrats (SDS), meanwhile hit back at Sassoli saying his statement was "politically motivated and indicates ignorance of the situation in Slovenia."

07 Oct 2021, 13:22 PM

STA, 7 October 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has accused the European Commission of exceeding its powers and of political abuse of the rule of law in an interview with Euronews, saying in its efforts to get member states to comply with the EU's fundamental values the Commission is "close to breaking the rule of law" itself.

"We have the UN Charter of Human Rights. We have a European charter of human rights, but in political language, especially in the European Parliament, everyone can add to this list whatever he or she wants. So it's politically abused term and used for political battle," Janša said in the interview on the sidelines of the EU-Western Balkans summit at Brdo.

He said that while the European Parliament is a political body, the European Commission should under the EU treaty stay out of political battles. This had been the case until the Commission was led by Jean-Claude Juncker, but it changed as Ursula von der Leyen took over, he said, adding: "I think this is close to breaking the rule of law because the Commission has to be an honest broker."

Janša also took aim at Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, who alongside Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, has become the most public face of the Commission's effort to ensure compliance with the rule of law.

He accused Jourova of "issuing statements which are a clear violation of the treaty. But she's supported by the European press. So she is continuing with this. If this would have happened 15 years ago, I think she wouldn't stay as a member of the Commission for one week. At that time, the rules were clear," Janša said.

Commenting on the EU's relations with Western Balkan Countries, Janša noted that the EU is not the only investor in the region, but has competitors such as China, Russia and Turkey.

While they are not setting conditions for investment, the EU does, Janša said, listing European standards, rule of law reforms. Such conditioning "is OK, if there is a light at the end of the tunnel".

"There is one big advantage on our side: the EU membership [...] But if this perspective is not real, then we are losing momentum and we are at a crucial moment."

Discussing the EU's strategic autonomy and its global role, Janša argued for continued partnership with the US, including within NATO, but also said that NATO and the US "will not solve the problems and conflicts in our backyard, in our neighbourhood," that is the Western Balkans, the Mediterranean and Africa.

He believes the bloc should be more focused on securing its own external borders instead of "sending money and humanitarian aid, which is then finishing in the hands of the terrorists or the warlords".

About Afghanistan he said: "Our obligation is to help those who helped us", but added that "there is no place in Europe for 10 million Afghanistan people," and asserting that the EU "will not repeat the mistake some member countries made in 2015".

02 Oct 2021, 09:14 AM

STA, 1 October 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša met senior representatives of the Identity and Democracy (ID) Group in the European Parliament to discuss topics related to the EU and the post-Covid situation in Europe, his office said on Friday.

The meeting, which focussed on the Conference on the Future of Europe as well as the EU-Western Balkans summit, was held in Ljubljana on Friday as a delegation of the ID group is in Slovenia on a study visit.

The far-right ID group has 71 MEPs from ten parties, including Italy's League, France's National Rally (RN) and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The Slovenian opposition Left party was critical of the group on the occasion, highlighting its far-right positions.

However, the party said in a press release that it was not surprised by the meeting between European right-wingers and Janša.

24 Sep 2021, 09:30 AM

STA, 23 September 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša attended on Thursday the Demographic Summit in Budapest, which he labelled as one of the most important events in the debate on the future of Europe, as demographics is one of the most important issues in the EU.

He emphasised the importance of the family and said that the EU needed a bolder family policy, the prime minister's office said in a press release.

Janša participated in a panel on family as a key to sustainability alongside his Polish, Czech and Hungarian counterparts Mateusz Morawiecki, Andrej Babiš and Viktor Orban, ex-US Vice President Mike Pence and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

"Due to the negative trends, demography is one of the important issues faced by the entire Europe. There is currently no country in the world that does not depend on demographic issues," the Slovenian prime minister said at the panel.

Slovenia had a negative natural increase last year, and the same is true for other European countries.

"When trends in the economy are worsening, we immediately hold a lot of crisis meetings. And when we have a demographic crisis, the numbers are bad and this lasts for years or decades, almost no one notices."

Janša stressed that the EU needed a bold family policy, as financial issues, while having an impact on the creation of family, were only a part of the picture.

"We cannot talk only about the economic circumstances for starting a family, because family policies of individual states also affect this," he said, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic had also contributed to the declining birth rates.

Janša argued that young people should be assisted in creating a family, which should be supported as the fundamental cell of society, because "family needs to be in the forefront, as families are the core of a state and string society."

He welcomed the European Commission creating a demography and democracy portfolio and a European commissioner dealing solely with these issues in the current term. "We are still waiting for bold decisions that would put family first," he added.

The Demographic Summit was also attended by Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, who participated in a panel on best practice in demography and family policy, the release adds.

21 Sep 2021, 11:41 AM

STA, 20 September 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has dismissed allegations about improper lobbying contacts, telling MPs on Monday that businessmen do not lobby with him "because they know I'm not a target" for lobbying.

"Whenever we are in the opposition, all your media write that the SDS will never be in government again, that Janez Janša will never be prime minister again. Why then should they lobby with someone who will not have any power," he said during questions time in parliament.

Janša was quizzed about contacts after several media released photos of Janša playing golf with lobbyist Božo Dimnik and businessman Andrej Marčič in 2003. Subsequently released photos showed both Janša and Dimnik on Marčič's yacht, reportedly in 2016, and Dimnik hanging around with Janša in Janša's home.

PM Janša Reported to Have Been Vacationing in Mauritius with Healthcare Lobbyists for Almost 20 Years

Left leader said MPs entitled to explanations given that Janša has held a number of senior posts in the past twenty years, in particular contacts with Marčič and Dimnik given their extensive deals with public institutions.

Janša said he had met with Dimnik several times in the past but had never discussed business with him, noting that Dimnik had helped Slovenia win international recognition during independence efforts and had chaired the Association of Slovenian-Croatian Friendship during his first government.

He pointed out that companies with links to Dimnik and Marčič had concluded the biggest deals with the state during the terms of leftist governments, and urged the opposition to back a coalition-sponsored bill on public procurement in health that he said would systemically preclude the kinds of accusations levelled at him now.

Healthcare Lobbyist Claims Repeated Meetings With Janša Were Accidental

"The gentlemen who used to be respected businessmen and have become tycoons now that you have published photos of them with me have never concluded any deals with me... I have spent perhaps ten hours on various yachts in my life. I think I also spent half an hour on a sailboat with [former president] Milan Kučan, but there was no lobbying involved."

Janša also accused the opposition of dwelling on the past instead of focusing on the future. "A lot of things are going on in Slovenia and I think given that important elections are coming up next year, it is time we start competing with platforms and concepts."

And given Slovenia's rapid GDP growth and low unemployment, it is time to "start competing in who will best leverage these opportunities that have been created instead of wasting time," he said.

Janša was also criticised for failing to attend sessions of the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Public Finances, which has been discussed the lobbying accusations twice.

"Your persistent silence, your avoidance of inconvenient questions, your dismissive attitude to the National Assembly and its constitutional role - all this has forced us to ... face you with at least one question today," Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) deputy Robert Pavšič said.

Janša retorted that he had no problem attending commission sessions and that he had never avoided that. "I received the invitation for Friday and am working on being able to attend. But my calendar is full. I have more European and international obligations in a week than your prime minister had in a year."

18 Sep 2021, 07:51 AM

STA, 17 September 2021 - Anti-government protestors gathered in Republic Square in Ljubljana on Friday evening, announcing they had filed a criminal complaint over corruption against PM Janez Janša earlier in the day, to coincide with his birthday.

Every Janša government has been marked by corruption and nepotism, which has reached new dimensions in the last year and a half, said the Protest People's Assembly, as the organisers term themselves.

Referring to the recently published photos of Janša and lobbyist Božo Dimnik and businessman Andrej Marčič, the group said Janša abused power for its own interests and for lucrative deals of his friends.

The group also said it will not use violence to fight against this practice but it will use all legal means available.

16 Sep 2021, 11:58 AM

STA, 15 September 2021 - Božo Dimnik, a lobbyist whose meetings with Prime Minister Janez Janša have been the subject of media scrutiny in recent days, has denied ever talking business with Janša, describing their meetings as "accidental".

"These were far from lobbying contacts, they were accidental meetings," Dimnik told Kanal A on Wednesday, adding that they never discussed business and that lobbying with a representative of the government would be "disrespectful".

The statement comes after POP TV released photos showing Dimnik and Janša playing golf on the island of Mauritius, reportedly in 2003.

Dimnik said he has been holidaying in Mauritius for forty years and had met Janša at the hotel reception.

A more recent report showed Dimnik on a yacht owned by the businessmen Andrej Marčič, reportedly in 2016. Another report showed Dimnik visiting Janša at home at an unknown date.

Dimnik said both meetings were "accidental", adding that they did not involve the planning or conclusion of any transactions.

Dimnik is a prominent lobbyist and his daughter owns a major supplier of medical equipment that has done millions of euros worth of business with public hospitals.

He told Kanal A that his daughter's company had won all the deals in public tenders.

Janša's and Dimnik's 2003 meeting in Mauritius has already been investigated by the Corruption Prevention Commission, which did not find any irregularities with respect of the duty of public officials to report lobbying contacts, but the commission only checked his contacts ten years back.

A commission spokeswoman told Kanal A that the watchdog had now initiated a new preliminary inquiry based on the new facts. If they detect any irregularities, they will launch a full investigation.

Janša's lobbying contracts will also be the subject of a debate by the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Public Finances, which continues on Thursday after Janša did not show up for the first session. It is unclear whether Janša will attend this time.

10 Sep 2021, 09:02 AM

STA, 10 September 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has received the award for person of the year in Central and Eastern Europe at the Economic Forum in Karpacz, Poland. In his speech, he underlined the region's key role in the bloc and its Christian heritage.

"Central Europe is defined by Christianity. In this the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity as core ideas of European integration were born from Catholic teachings. What is more, Central Europeans have defended the European way of life through history," he was quoted as saying by his office.

Invoking the Polish Solidarity movement and Pope John Paul II, Janša said the culture shaped by Christianity had inspired freedom fighters despite the repression and totalitarianism that Central Europe suffered during the conflict between the superpowers.

He said solidarity was what bound members of a community and should be "the eternal goal or motto of European integration," but the EU had departed too much from the fundamental principles of European integration - consensus, mutual respect, subsidiarity and solidarity - in its political debates and actions by some of its institutions.

According to Janša, there is "no strong Europe without a strong Central Europe. In fact, there is no truly European union without the countries of Central Europe. Central Europe is becoming more and more what the name of our part of the continent suggests: central, both in terms of economics and values."

Janša also appeared at a panel on post-Covid recovery along with the Polish and Ukrainian prime ministers, Mateusz Morawiecki and Denys Shmyhal, at which he argued that the geopolitical situation had changed and that the EU had to learn tough lessons from the latest developments.

According to him, it is necessary to transform the European economy and strengthen its resilience, processes in which he sees Slovenia playing a major role as the currently presiding country.

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