Ljubljana related

21 Mar 2019, 16:20 PM

STA, 20 March 2019 - Twenty-five years to the day, undercover police agent Milan Smolnikar was brutally arrested action-movie style by four Defence Ministry agents, an instance of military interference with the civilian sphere and an event that continues to affect Slovenian politics to this day.

 

The incident known as the Depala Vas scandal (Afera Depala vas), for the village not far from Ljubljana in which it took place on 20 March 1994, invited differing interpretations and eventually into a fully-fledged conspiracy theory.

It was followed by months of tensions between the defence and interior ministries, deepening political divisions only three years after Slovenia gained independence.
A day after the incident, the Defence Ministry explained Smolnikar, a former Defence Ministry employee, was suspected of divulging a military secret.

An inquiry ordered by then Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek found on 23 March that by arresting Smolnikar the Defence Ministry had overstepped its powers.

Based on this, Drnovšek assessed the Smolnikar case amounted to a military interference with the civilian sphere and asked parliament to dismiss Defence Minister Janez Janša, a prominent independence figure.

Nine days after the incident, Janša was dismissed by parliament and replaced by Jelko Kacin, presently Slovenian ambassador to NATO.

Janša rejected all allegations, stance he has never changed, arguing the government inquiry was but a cover for a long-planned politically-motivated decision to replace him.

He also claimed Smolnikar, who ended up in hospital after the attackers took him to the seat of the military intelligence service, was no ordinary civilian.

Once Janša was dismissed, his party, which has since been renamed the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), moved into the opposition.

His dismissal made his supporters take to the streets, while Smolnikar's arrest prompted protests due to military interference in the civilian sphere.

Fuelling divisions in the country in general, the scandal deepened the already bitter antagonism between Janša and then President Milan Kučan.

Janša believes Kučan, the leader of the Slovenian Communist Party before Slovenia's independence, was the mastermind behind the scandal and the attempt to get rid of him.

This is also a view held by TV Slovenija journalist and historian Jože Možina, the author of a 2014 documentary on Depala Vas.

Možina sees it as a way of curtailing the growing influence of the democratic forces which had spearheaded independence efforts and which Janša symbolised.

"Now we know the manner in which Janša was to be removed was made by a special agent of the Yugoslav secret military service KOS Radenko Radojčić, whom Slovenian military intelligence agents had brought from Belgrade," he told the STA.

According to Možina, it is unclear whether Kučan was the only one behind the scheme "and to what extent he had been encouraged to remove Janša by plottings and insinuations about a military coup d'etat ... fabricated by agents loyal to the nomenclature".

"With the Depala Vas scandal, 1994 was a milestone in that the structures of the former regime managed to stop the process of losing power in all spheres of society, which started with the first democratic elections in 1990," he said.

Meanwhile, Ali Žerdin, the editor of Delo's Saturday Supplement and commentator, said the scandal "was and still is important to understand key principles of political culture" in Slovenia.

"It became clear in 1994 that part of the Slovenian defence system did not understand that the army should not engage with civilians," he told the STA.

The Depala Vas scandal eventually made it to court. In 2003, Smolnikar's attackers were cleared of the charges of having arrested him in a horrendous manner.

Smolnikar's car had been stopped by three vehicles, and since he had locked himself in it, the attackers smashed the car windows with guns. He was then handcuffed.

Marred by a series of appeals, the Depala Vas case fell under the statute of limitations on 20 March 2004 without justice being served.

This is one reason why the circumstances of the event remain moot, creating space for speculations and feeding into the persistent divide between the left and the right.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

19 Mar 2019, 10:17 AM

STA, 17 March 2019 - Opposition Democrats (SDS) president Janez Janša has told the Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list that the Slovenia-Croatia border arbitration decision is legally binding but that it still allows for a bilateral agreement on a section of the border or its entirety. He also argued Hungary's Victor Orban "has a historically correct stance on migration".

 

Janša, whose SDS won the 2018 general election but was not able to form a government, said that the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia, two newly created states, is "one of the most specific situations in history".

He argued that "according to all realistic assessments", the international arbitration tribunal's June 2017 decision on the border "is in Croatia's favour and to the detriment of Slovenia".

"Still, Croatia is rejecting it and Slovenia is insisting on it," Janša said.

He said the SDS and "almost half of Slovenian voters" had rejected the arbitration agreement, "because we predicted things would evolve the way they did".

"I believe two wise governments could find a relatively elegant way out of this situation in the future," the former prime minister added.

Janša feels that some manoeuvring space exists that would allow Croatia to get a bilateral agreement and Slovenia a border that would make more sense than the one determined in arbitration.

On Slovenian politics and Europe

Commenting on the political situation in Slovenia, he said the minority government was fully dependent on "the extremist Left" and labelled the revised 2019 budget too wasteful.

As for the EU, he urged stabilisation and a greater voice for small member states like Croatia and Slovenia.

Janša expressed support to European People's Party (EPP) Manfred Weber as the EPP's spitzenkandidat, while arguing he preferred the EU development vision of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) head Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to that of "socialist and liberal" French President Emmanuel Macron.

Janša is convinced that the label of populism is being abused due to large coalitions at the German and European level that are looking "for some kind of third enemies", while adding nationalism can also present a problem.

Moreover, Janša believes that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who he feels should not be interfering in party politics, has started a conflict with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban within the EPP.

He highlighted the strong support for Fidesz in Hungary and argued that Orban "has a historically correct stance on migration".

As for a potential Fidesz exclusion from the EPP, Janša compared the gay rights efforts of EPP members from the north of Europe to Fidesz's policies. While the SDS is opposing LGBT adoption, it is not demanding that parties supporting it should be excluded from the EPP.

The EPP needs both the Christian socialists from Luxembourg and Hungary's Fidesz, since this is the only way for it to be strong and influential, Janša added, saying most serious EPP members expected a compromise solution and a fully preserved EPP.

All our stories on Slovenian politics can be found here

12 Mar 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 9 March 2019 - Addressing a ceremony marking 30 years since the formation of the Democrats' (SDS) precursor, Janez Janša said the SDS had stayed true to itself, its values and Slovenia even in the most challenging times. "The SDS stands for democracy and is against any totalitarianism," the party head stressed in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Janša said the party was therefore always ready to cooperate with anyone who shared this view for the benefit of Slovenia. "A party that votes against the European Parliament's resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism is not a democratic party," he added.

In the light of the EU elections, Janša stressed the importance of the EU and its future. "Perhaps never in the years since independence in 1991 have we celebrated our birthday in a time when the future ahead was so open and unpredictable. So many different possibilities lie before us. Not all of them are good," he said.

According to Janša, there is a time for every community, every nation when they need to reconsider their place in the world and such a time has come for Europe.

"The EU is strong because it gives priority to rules and the rule of law and not the rule of the stronger," Janša said, adding that the biggest threat to the rule of law were double standards.

One of such example is when EU institutions very quickly detect "actual or imaginary violations in some member states, especially in those where conservative or Christian democratic parties are on power," he said.

Janša believes it is time to opt for "a Europe that Slovenians voted for in the 2003 referendum, a Europe of European civilisation and culture that protects human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The SDS head believes that the key challenge of the new European Parliament after the economic and migration crises and Brexit will be political stabilisation, which will entail upgrading the EU's defence system and monetary policy.

Touching on the EPP's threats that Hungary's Fidesz may be expelled from the group, Janša expressed hope that "this argument in our family will be resolved as soon as possible with a smart compromise, without using force."

He believes the EPP should focus on ways to ensure prosperity for all in Europe, protect the borders and provide for the security of Europeans.

The SDS celebrates today the anniversary of the founding of the Slovenian Democratic Union (SDZ) and the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia (SDZS), which are considered its precursors.

The two parties emerged from the so-called spring movements, calling for democratisation and Slovenia's independence.

Janša said that when the two parties merged the "biggest and the most successful party in Slovenia's history" had been formed, which had so far won eight elections.

For three decades, the party has been "the main pillar of Slovenia's independence, an indivisible part of the fight for democratic transformation and Slovenia's inclusion in the European civilisation's flows," Janša said.

The event at the Cankarjev Dom centre was also addressed by the European People's Party (EPP) Spitzenkandidat for the EU vote, Manfred Weber, who warned against the danger of nationalism in Europe.

Europe is much more than just laws and must provide concrete answers to concrete challenges, including migrations, he said. He also stressed the importance of a shared culture that is based on Christian values.

All our stories on politics in Slovenia are here, while those on Janez Janša are here

11 Mar 2019, 19:00 PM

STA, 8 March 2019 - The Ljubljana Local Court has slapped the opposition Democrats (SDS) with a fine of EUR 20,000 for violating the political parties act in the hiring of two loans, the commercial broadcaster POP TV reported on Friday. SDS head Janez Janša was slapped with a EUR 2,000 fine. The party has reportedly already announced an appeal.

The SDS was indicted by the Court of Audit in March 2018 over two contentious loans it took out in 2017.

The party came under fire in January 2018 for closing a deal on a EUR 450,000 loan from a Bosnian national at the end of 2017, and borrowing EUR 60,000 from the publisher Nova Obzorja in August 2017.

This runs contrary to the provision that parties can only borrow from banks, savings banks and a limited amount of money from individuals.

Under the loan agreement with Bosnian Diana Đuđić, the 32-year-old was obligated to pay out the loan in three instalments of EUR 150,000.

The law puts the ceiling for party loans from individuals at ten times the value of the average gross monthly pay or around EUR 15,800 per year.

Less than two weeks after the scandal broke out, media reported of the loan the SDS took from Nova Obzorja, in which the party holds a 44.2% stake. The stake was also put up as collateral in the loan secured with Đuđić but was later put up for sale.

Nova Obzorja issues the weekly Demokracija and tabloid Škandal24.

The SDS returned the first instalment it received from Đuđić with interest in January 2018 but this did not stop the procedure against the party.

All our stories on politics in Slovenia can be found here

https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/news/politics

09 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 8 January 2018 - The Celje Higher Court has upheld a court ruling under which Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša has to pay RTV Slovenija journalist Mojca Šetinc Pašek 6,000 euro in damages for an offensive tweet. The damages are now final and he will also have pay the costs of the appeal procedure.

In a civil lawsuit brought against Janša by Šetinc Pašek, the Velenje Local Court ordered Janša in November 2016 to pay her the 6,000 euro, setting a 15-day deadline.

In March of the same year, Janša posted a tweet labelling editor Šetinc Pašek and journalist Eugenija Carl "washed up prostitutes" who offered their "cheap services" to the public broadcaster.

This was after Carl run a report on the SDS, which Janša found "containing a bunch of despicable lies about SDS members".

The latest ruling comes after a tug-of-war in which Janša had claimed he had missed the deadline to respond to the lawsuit because it was not handed to him in the standard procedure.

He had also disagreed with the sum he should pay, arguing the tweet could not have caused such anguish to Šetinc Pašek to warrant such high damages.

The Higher Court has now upheld the original ruling and also established that the lawsuit had been handed to Janša in the right manner.

It also agreed the tweet was offensive and going considerably beyond the freedom of speech, with its only intent being "insulting the claimant in the general public".

A similar lawsuit had been brought against Janša by Carl, but in her case, the Celje Higher Court sided with Janša's appeal, ordering a retrial last November.

Both journalists had also filed criminal lawsuits against Janša over the tweet.

In November, the Celje District Court sentenced Janša to a three-month suspended prison sentence on one-year probation for defamation and ordered him to pay for the costs of the trial. Janša's lawyer Franci Matoz announced an appeal.

All our stories about Janez Janša are here

21 Dec 2018, 12:00 PM

STA, 20 December 2018 - The National Assembly formed on Thursday a parliamentary inquiry into financing of political parties from abroad on an initiative from the coalition and the opposition Left. It will focus on the allegedly suspicious financing of the centre-right opposition Democrats (SDS), which believes it is an attempt to hamper its work.

The commission is to determine possible violations of the law prohibiting financing of parties from abroad and the role of the media in the financing.

The parties based their request on a report by the Court of Audit with the SDS, the only implicated party for the moment, but Jani Möderndorfer of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), who is to be appointed commission chair at its next session, said that the inquiry could be expanded if there were indications of other parties' questionable actions.

According to Möderndorfer, there was controversy about the financial support that companies with alleged ties to Hungarian ruling parties provide to some Slovenian media and its effect on the election campaign.

Möderndorfer mentioned the media house Nova24TV, magazine Škandal24 and the weekly Demokracija, whose ownership is linked to the SDS and Hungarian investors.

Related: New York Times examines Orban’s media allies in Slovenia

The commission will focus on the events between 2012 and 3 June 2017. The provisions on the financing of political parties stepped into force in 2012.

Robert Pavšič of the Marjan Šarec List (MLŠ) said on behalf of the initiators that the potential result of the inquiry could be thorough changes of legislation regulating money laundering prevention, financing of parties and election campaign and issuing and financing of media during election campaign.

Möderndorfer said that the inquiry had been endorsed because the issue had been dealt with already in the previous term and that the findings of the inquiry on suspected money laundering in the NKBM bank would also be included in the investigation.

He said that the SMC would propose at the first session of the commission that the Court of Audit be called to inform the MPs whether any party other than the SDS had "problems with financing".

Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD) said that it should be established what was wrong with the system which allows for suspicious financing of parties.

Koprivc added that the loan given to the SDS by Bosnian citizen Dijana Đuđić, who appears to have used NKBM accounts to extend millions in suspicions loans in Slovenia, and the suspicious manner of financing of the media owned by the SDS should be finally investigated.

Related: Politico on Janša and Orban

Franc Jurša of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said that the inquiry could indirectly help strengthen the system of prevention of money laundering, financing of terrorism and tax evasion.

Nataša Sukić said that the law and supervision of transparency and lawfulness of financing of parties and election campaigns cannot keep up with the increasingly innovative and complicated financial flows, with the SDS being a leader in this department.

"The funds being transferred between foreign countries and the party are increasing. We are talking about a propaganda machine financed from Orban's Hungary, about money laundering suspicion, illegal transactions and interference in Slovenia's internal matters."

The SDS meanwhile believes that it is about the left-leaning coalition attacking the SDS. "It is more than obvious that the purpose of the inquiry is to get insight in the guts of the SDS, discredit it maliciously, try to paralyse it and hamper its work," deputy Dejan Kaloh said.

Kaloh added that the subject of the inquiry should be expanded with the question of how much foreign capital was involved in the promotion of the five coalition parties and the Left and "what share of the commission the leading officials in the LMŠ received from the EUR 1bn laundered for Iranian terrorists through the state-owned NLB bank."

24 Nov 2018, 16:34 PM

STA, 23 November 2018 - The Celje District Court sentenced the Democrats (SDS) head, Janez Janša, to three-month suspended prison sentence on one-year probation for defaming two TV Slovenija journalists. He is also to pay for the costs of the entire procedure related to his 2016 defamatory tweet.

Judge Barbara Žumer-Kunc said in announcing the decision that the contents of Janša's twit had been insulting to the two journalists on a personal level. She added that such a way of expression was not becoming of a senior political official.

Janša, known for his fierce criticism of the media, attacked journalists Mojca Pašek Šetinc and Eugenija Carl in his March 2016 tweet, which read: "The FB page of the public house is offering cheap services by washed up prostitutes Evgenija C and Mojca PŠ. One for 30 euros, the other for 35. #PimpMilan,".

At today's hearing Janša said he did not have sexual prostitution in mind but media prostitution, while the two journalists insisted that the tweet was demeaning and insulting to them both as women and journalists.

Janša remains unrepentant

The judge offered Janša a settlement but he refused to properly apologise to the two journalists.

In his defence speech, he labelled the lawsuit absurd, saying that the tweet had been a reaction to Carl's report "containing a bunch of despicable lies about SDS members." The tweet was seen by a few hundred people, while more than 100,000 people watched Carl's report, he said.

Carl called the tweet brutal, adding that Janša had more than 1,000 followers on Twitter.

Janša also said that Pašek Šetinc had been insulting him with her reporting for more than 25 years, which the journalist denied.

Janša was not present when the ruling was announced and his lawyer Franci Matoz has already announced an appeal. He argued that many violations had happened during the proceeding and that the court had misjudged the tweet and the context in which it had been written.

Meanwhile, the two journalists are happy with the ruling, which they believe sends the message to Slovenian journalists that the judiciary respects and protects them.

"The court has sent a clear signal that nobody, not even top-level politicians like the accused, can and should rise above moral, social and legal postulates," said Carl.

All our Janez Janša stories are here

22 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 21 November - Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša announced his party would seek an advisory referendum on the UN Global Compact for Migration as discussion in parliament reaffirmed the divide among parties on the matter. At the same time, around 200 protesters gathered outside the parliament in opposition to the deal.

 

Parliament discussed in an emergency session on Wednesday the UN global compact at the behest of the conservative opposition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS), which consider the compact dangerous for Slovenia and believe the government should reject it.

MP Branko Grims, the SDS's chief migrations bullhorn, reiterated their stance that the agreement, which is to be adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco, next month, was misleading and would not tackle the root causes of migrations.

Conservatives also took issue with the way the decision to back the deal was made in Slovenia, with Janša saying that parliament should have discussed it first and only then the government instead of vice-versa.

Related: Šarec - Slovenia supports UN Compact, but opposed to illegal migration

"You did not leave us any other choice but to file for an advisory referendum," he said and added that the name of the deal was misleading.

In a reference to the decision of the US not to take part in the compact, Janša said that no deal that was not supported by all members of the UN Security Council was global.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated that it was key for Slovenia to remain in the group of more than 150 countries by joining the compact. "This way, we will manage together the thing that no country can manage alone - mass migrations and illegal migrations."

He told the press that the opposition was "scaring people by misleading them, telling numerous nontruths and intentional lies".

"There are a few hundred refugees in Slovenia. Our borders are controlled," he stressed.

But this view is not shared by around 200 protesters in front of the parliament building carrying banners such as Slovenia for Slovenians. Protesters, who were also invited to join by Janša, are urging the government to reject the UN compact.

The session has been suspended, but it will end without any decisions anyway, because the proposal of the conservative parties was voted down by parliamentary committees last week.

UPDATE: The STA also reports that the Democrats (SDS) filed a demand for an advisory referendum on the UN Global Compact for Migration on Wednesday following a parliamentary session on the document. For the vote to take place, the motion needs to be endorsed by a regular majority in parliament.

 

A statement from the SDS said after the session that the motion was filed together by the SDS and the National Party (SNS).

The debate at the plenary indicated today that the only other party opposing the the government's decision that Slovenia support the document in Marrakesh in early December is the conservative New Slovenia (NSi).

Together, the three parties have 36 seats in the 90-member legislature.

If endorsed, the referendum question will read: Are you in favour of Slovenia joining the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that equates legal and illegal migrations?

SDS head Janez Janša called on other parties to support the motion and give the people a chance to voice their position after reading the compact. The Slovenian translation of the document has been available as of yesterday.

Janša indicated that the SDS would file the referendum motion during the plenary, saying that the process in which the document was approved in Slovenia was anti-constitutional and illegal. The government decided to endorse the document without political or legal discussions.

All our stories on immigration and Slovenia are here

A statement from the SDS said after the session that the motion was filed together by the SDS and the National Party (SNS).

The debate at the plenary indicated today that the only other party opposing the the government's decision that Slovenia support the document in Marrakesh in early December is the conservative New Slovenia (NSi).

Together, the three parties have 36 seats in the 90-member legislature.

If endorsed, the referendum question will read: Are you in favour of Slovenia joining the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that equates legal and illegal migrations?

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.

13 Sep 2018, 14:08 PM

STA, 13 September - The head of the Democrats (SDS) Janez Janša told parliament on Thursday that leading a coalition of "six parties, one of which with supra-coalition status" will be a nightmare for PM Marjan Šarec and that each day under such a government would be a day lost for Slovenia. 

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