Ljubljana related

09 Jul 2020, 15:02 PM

In an online event called Europe Uncensored: European Leaders on the Future of Europe, organised by the Foundation for a Civic Hungary, Slovenian PM Janez Janša joined with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in addressing what they believe are Europe's greatest challenges of the day.  

In short, according to Janša and Orban these seem to be mainly the “progressive liberal leftists”, as Orban has called the ideological problem one needs to fight on the inside, or “Cultural Marxism” as Janša has called the same thing, while on the outside the EU is facing immigration and other external threats. Vučić joined in by calling for the mutual respect of differences among the European countries and offered the Serbian army to join the prospective European armed forces.

Aleksandar Vučić during his speech
Main frame: François-Xavier Bellamy

The event’s moderator, the French philosopher, MEP and Deputy Mayor of Versailles. François-Xavier Bellamy, opened with a conceptual progression from the End of History towards the Clash of Civilizations, before the “special club of freedom fighters”, as Orban referred to the group, followed with a speech by Vučić, then Janša and finally Orban, the organiser of the event.

Orban however did not really organise the event himself, as he corrected his fellow participants after they thanked him for his efforts, and explained that the event was organised by the Foundation for a Civic Hungary , and he only contributed the names of the speakers he considered worth listening to.

The online meeting was also advertised on the official government website of the Republic of Slovenia, where the Slovenian translation of Janez Janša's speech with a commentary was also subsequently published. The speech of the Slovenian PM should therefore be understood as the official position of the Slovenian government.

Janša: Golden Age of Dreams of a Whole and Free Europe

Janša began with a statement of Brexit being a “strategic catastrophe” that threw Europe out of its balance of power. The future of Europe therefore, according to him, depends on the solution to the question of the balance of power.


He then described what he calls “the golden era”, the enlargement period when everybody was optimistically speaking of Europe being whole and free, the era of “leaving the old world behind during the democratic changes”.

Then, however, the reality struck and among the “challenges” we are facing today Janša lists problems with the adoption of the EU constitution, the financial crisis, 2015 migrant crisis and the latest Covid19 epidemic. These issues pointed to some “unfinished projects” within the EU and the inability of various institutions to tackle them.

Mishandling of the migration crisis in 2015 contributed a certain percentage of votes in support of Brexit, concludes Janša, offering a possible cause for the “strategic catastrophe” he opened his speech with.

Janša : Institutional Changes Should Not be Europe’s Greatest Priority

Institutions, international in this case, also failed us in the current pandemic. For example, continued the Slovenian Prime Minister in his speech, global institutions such as the WHO, which have been created to prevent such things, were caught completely unprepared and for several weeks the European Union looked as if “in the Middle Ages”, with fences, walls and curfews, confiscations of medical equipment, without any real cooperation in place. The crisis is not over yet and the only way to avoid another lockdown is to focus on measures that work. We can only maintain our relatively normal lives by an introduction of app to monitor the spread of the virus, one app for the whole continent first, then perhaps one for the entire world if there is still no vaccine available.

This is no time on having big dreams about European institutions, Janša claimed, as this would create new instabilities. We need to stabilize the EU, we need realistic pragmatic steps forward.

Janša then proceeded with a proposal that gave Vučić’ membership in the “freedom fighters’ club” some substance. The Schengen border should extend to match the borders of the  EU and the EU should expand and incorporate the Balkan countries who would like to join it. “This is the strategic answer made by Brexit and the fulfilment of the promise to make Europe whole and free.”

Janša: The Main Threat to Europe is “Cultural Marxism”

Main Frame: Janez Janša

Following his dismissal of the institutional changes being the main field in which we could tackle the problems of today, Janša then moved to the core point of his speech.

“Ideologically, the main threat to Europe is Cultural Marxism. I have been following what has been going on and I can clearly see the same formula, which was written in Communist Manifesto, written 200 and some years ago. To create a new world you need to dismantle family, private property, private schools, religion. And this is going on now. And it is obvious, there is massive offensive going on through mass media, universities, cultural industry, multinational institutions, some political parties. Everyone who stands against it is called a fascist, populist and heavily attacked from all sides. And we need a more united front against this, because this is the key issue, this is a battle for our way of life, this is the battle for Western civilization and in this battle much more is at stake than institutions only or EU only.”

According to Janša, the main problem within this “battle for Western civilization” is the demographic issue, as “if there are no Europeans, if there is no population which is sharing our values then everything is lost”.

With regard to immigration policy, Janša stated that he is against the migration policy as a “final solution” to the demographic problems of Europe. Immigration can only be treated as a demographic complement, since “cultural, economic and security considerations of migration need to be taken into account” or else the consequences can cause problems for all the partners inside of the European Union.

Janša: European Values are values of the European Christian Democrats

Janez Janša during his speech

If some ideas can be too old, others are never old enough in Janša’s search for an appropriate origin. Borrowing the term from the 18th century, when the world was ruled exclusively by men, and inserting it into the 20th century Europe, Janša stated that “the founding fathers, which were all Christian democrats” created the European Union in order to prevent the sad history from repeating itself. The European Union was created as a union of values, he said, and continues that it was the success of the early years of the European project which provided the “free world” with the power needed to dismantle the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall, thereby allowing for the unification of Europe.

This process has not yet been completed, warns Janša, and finds the answer to European problems in returning to the original European values, and then to “fight for our people, for our nations, for our freedom for our way of life and for our future” which is a “noble challenge” of today’s “European central right, the Christian Democrats”.

Although all three speakers emphasized the importance of respect for political and ideological differences, little space for understanding respect as a two directional position was left after Orban’s speech in which he praised Janša as “the bravest anti-Communist in Europe”.

Viktor Orban during his speech

Orban’s main concern was in Europe’s “retreat”, a statement he supported with data showing a decline in Europe’s global relative economic output, population and military spending. Furthermore, Orban repeated the “balance of power” issue, which has been dramatically changed by Brexit with Germany sitting on the European throne again after it was “bombed into the Middle ages 75 years ago.” And thirdly, European politicians have a tendency to tell others in the world how to run their countries while they cannot even solve their own problems at home.

As for the solutions at hand, Orban cited two contesting socio-political models, “conceptions of Europe” which are the “progressive liberal leftist” in which “they promote multiculturalism, they are pushing over pro-migration policy, they follow an anti-family policy, they want to get rid of the concept of nation and nation state and they consider irrelevant the Christian social teaching”. The other conception of Europe is the opposite image of the first and is, albeit not without traitors, according to Orban, the ideological foundation of the European People’s Party (EPP). That is “a concept of the future of Europe, which is based on Christian culture that we have inherited, which cherishes the Christian social teaching, deeply anti-communist, pro-family, and it treats national identity as a value, which needs to be preserved.”

So with these two contesting “conceptualisations” within Europe, what can we do, asked Orban, having such differences, how can we stay together?

In an answer to this question, Orban then made a great leap forward and suddenly ascribed the previously discussed internal ideological division to an external attack on sovereign states: “the West should not impose its views on the Eastern countries. We need to learn to tolerate our differences again. We the Central Europeans should not go and tell the Westerners how they should go and run their countries. So if we are ready to accept that kind of differences even in terms of the vision of the future we can manage to live together and keep together the Union as a whole.”

Main frame: Viktor Orban

In case someone is still missing the function of the reiterated issue of the change in balance of power within the EU, Orban concluded his speech emphasizing the importance of the European grand strategy over the minor matter of human rights. To the problem of who then is to be the one to design the European grand strategy? “On the birthday of the EPP i wish it was the EPP to be the one.”

The full event is available here.

06 Jul 2020, 14:57 PM

STA, 6 July 2020 - The State Prosecutors' Council condemned a letter PM Janez Janša recently addressed to the state prosecutor general, criticising alleged inaction in prosecuting death threats expressed at anti-government protests and attacks on the police taking place as part of them. It labelled the letter an "unacceptable and political pressure".

In the 19 June letter to Drago Šketa, Janša said the prosecution was neglecting its legal role in relation to the anti-government protests for failing to respond to incitement to violence.

Janša also said that Šketa would be responsible if the violence escalated. "You will be directly responsible for any potential victims of the organised threats," Janša wrote, referring to slogans and banners such as Death to Janšism.

The Prosecutorial Council sees the latter as unacceptable and political pressure by the most senior representative of the executive branch of power on the state prosecutor general.

It believes that by referring to Šketa's direct responsibility, the letter expects him to act in contradiction with his legal powers, or the systemic arrangement of the state prosecution in Slovenia, which would result in an unacceptable encroachment on the independence of state prosecutors.

The council stressed that state prosecutors were independent under the law, bound only by the law and the constitution, and that the head of the state prosecution could not force a state prosecutor to take a specific decision in a specific case.

The council moreover referred to the Constitutional Court arguing in one of its rulings that an arrangement enabling unacceptable pressure on a state prosecutor to act in a certain manner would be in contradiction with the Constitution.

A similar response came from Šketa, who said last week that the state prosecution and state prosecutors worked efficiently and in line with the law. Janša's letter was also criticised by part of the opposition, with the Social Democrats (SD) saying they could file an impeachment motion against the prime minister.

03 Jul 2020, 10:31 AM

STA, 2 July 2020 - PM Janez Janša has sent a letter to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa, saying the prosecution is neglecting its legal role in relation to the anti-government protests for failing to respond to inciting to violence. The letter in which he also says Šketa will be responsible if the violence escalates has been met with strong criticism.

Janša published the letter dated 19 June in full on Twitter today after the newspaper Dnevnik ran an article about it. Janša tweeted he had decided to publish the letter "because the unofficial Official Gazette of the deep state (globoka država), Dnevnik.si, published insinuations" about the letter.

In the letter, the prime minister says that "we have been witnessing stepping up of organised death threats" in recent months and that the prosecution was passively observing this despite the clear restrictions that the Constitution and the Penal Code impose on such behaviour. Janša says that in some cases the prosecution indirectly even encourages such behaviour.

"You will be directly responsible for any potential victims of the organised threats," Janša wrote Šketa, referring to slogans and banners reading "Death to Janšism".

He also says that members of different extremist organisations from neighbouring and other countries, which are known for the use of street violence and other types of violence, are taking part in the protests held on Fridays, calling for a violent bringing down of the existing constitutional order. "And the state prosecution is silent like a fish in the tank."

Janša notes that slogans such as Juden Raus or Death to Fascism have in the past led to the killings of first individuals and then to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The prime minister sees the events at the anti-government protests as "organised death threats to an entire democratic political bloc", and calls on Šketa to act before it is too late.

Šketa responded to the letter today by asserting that the prosecution was efficient and acting in line with the Constitution and law.

He said that he had been noticing a growing amount of intolerance and hostility in the public discourse for years. Noting that he never gave any guidelines or instructions to prosecutors, who must be fully independent in their work, Šketa said that reports on the work of the prosecution showed that prosecutors decided to act against inciting to violence or hostility only when they detect legally-set signs of a criminal act or offence.

According to Dnevnik, the State Prosecutorial Council discussed the letter on Monday and is expected to publicly respond to it next week.

A much stronger reaction meanwhile came from former State Prosecutor General Zvonko Fišer, who told Dnevnik that he had not witnessed such a move in his entire career as prosecutor, not even in Yugoslavia.

He finds this kind of pressure completely inappropriate and inadmissible.

Heavy criticism also came from the head of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), Tanja Fajon, who said the letter was "very inappropriate, presumptuous and unacceptable".

She sees it is yet another attack on independent institutions and a severe encroachment upon another branch of power, which is why the party plans to initiate an impeachment motion against the PM.

At least ten MPs can initiate the impeachment, so SD MPs alone could do it. Fajon said the party had not discussed the move with other opposition parties yet.

The Justice Ministry told Dnevnik that the law enforcement was in charge of passing judgements on individual actions and was completely independent and that the law enforcement must be allowed to do its job professionally. If it fails to do so, certain surveillance mechanisms are available.

This was echoed by Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič before today's government session. Asked whether she sees Janša's letter as a form of pressure on an independent branch of power, she said this was the PM's decision, which was why she would not comment.

She noted though that any kind of intolerance or hostility must be processed as part of a criminal or minor offence proceedings because too much of that was happening.

Asked to comment on the statements by the outgoing interior minister, Aleš Hojs, that the National Bureau of Investigation and the crime police were full of staff linked to the firmer Communist secret service UDBA and the Communist Party, Kozlovič said she had no such information.

The Office of President Borut Pahor, which also received a copy of the letter, said that the prosecution must be independent in its work.

Our stories on the protests in Slovenia

27 Jun 2020, 10:17 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 26 June 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: DeSUS aiding far-right

STA, 26 June 2020 - The latest editorial of  the left-wing weeklyMladina takes issue with the leader of junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) Aleksandra Pivec, arguing she lacks insight into the workings of politics and above all into Slovenian political history and the methods of Prime Minister and Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Janša.

The weekly paper's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž points to Pivec lashing out this week against a satirical paper that wrote she would be conferred the diamond order of the SDS, the party's alleged highest order of merit, at Wednesday's Statehood Day ceremony.

While Pivec accused the paper of propagating fake news and "humour that only they understand", Repovž says the reaction underlined that some of the highest positions in Slovenian politics are occupied by political amateurs without any knowledge of satire or of political history, meaning they also do not understand the weight and responsibility their office carries.

This fact is exposed time and again in Pivec, who Repovž says is not a person with bad intentions but is somebody who for instance does not understand that people do not oppose Janša today because of him allegedly being a right-leaning or conservative politician.

"She does not understand that the key problem is that Janša is neither a right-leaning or conservative politician but a man whose clique has in fact hijacked the Slovenian right or conservative politics", or that a major part of right-leaning intellectuals, still thriving in the 1990s, withdrew of their own accord, seeing that any steering away from Janša meant instant onslaught.

"The situation is even worse in the political arena itself. The only conservative party that managed to preserve itself - the reason being the wisdom of its former head Ljudmila Novak - is New Slovenia (NSi), a remnant of the Christian democrats."

Repovž says he is focusing on this aspect of Slovenia's political reality because it seems that Pivec is perceiving the current developments as opposition to a conservative government. Believing Pivec to be under the spell of Janša's charisma and fake mask, Repovž suggests she is failing to see "this not a conservative government, but the far-right posing as one".

While arguing Janša's misleading of exhausted and frightened people within a neoliberal system is only a response to the demands of the market that can also be seen in the US, Russia or Turkey, Repovž says this does not absolve Pivec of her responsibility.

It is also "in her name that people are being ID-ed on streets today, that fences are being erected, that people are being illegally filmed and subjected to face recognition software, that university professors are being removed from the central square while they are reading the Constitution".

This is the point the satirical paper was trying to make, Repovž concludes the commentary entitled Ignorance as a Political Concept.

Demokracija: Janša rejects claims he has authoritarian tendencies, says govt working hard

STA, 24 June 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has rejected in an interview for the right-wing weekly paper Demokracija accusations about authoritarian tendencies, saying the reproaches "are coming from those who left the country naked and barefoot before one of the hardest tests in this nation's history".

Arguing that unlike its predecessors the government is not only engaging in empty talk but is cooperating, Janša said all coronavirus crisis stimulus packages had been coordinated with stakeholders across the board and that the opposition had been invited to cooperate as well.

This is why "claims about plans for an authoritarian regime do not pass the test of rational thought", the prime minister and head of the Democrats (SDS) said.

Commenting on claims by former PM and LMŠ head Marjan Šarec that the government was left without legitimacy, Janša said it was sad that "even in such fateful times some cannot overcome their grudges, prejudice and anger".

"Instead of contributing according to their best abilities, they use the shield of cynicism and sow discontent, restlessness and divisions among people in a time, when they would mostly need hope and encouragement."

Also commenting on the SocDems' list of 10 + 100 mistakes committed by the Janša government, a major one among them being the methods of government and communication used by the PM and other cabinet members, Janša said it would be hard to find 100 mistakes with governments that involved the SD.

"They did not even adopt that many measures in three terms. 100 and more lost of wasted opportunities sounds more like it," Janša said.

As for the priorities of the current government, Janša said that although the term would regrettably be significantly shorter "because of Marjan Šarec's failed experiment, the government will try to overhaul social support systems, prepare the basis for long-term care, form the demographic fund, speed up zoning, simplify tax procedures and secure an effective protection of the state border.

Janša sees the ageing population as a key challenge, which is why he feels that it necessary to set up the demographic fund - which is expected to bring all state assets under one roof - as soon as possible. He said a draft bill was already on the table.

Turning to the Slovenian EU presidency priorities, he listed the need to improve the concrete capabilities of the EU and member sates to deal with global crises, such as a pandemic or an extensive cyber attack. Special attention will moreover be given to the situation in the Western Balkans, the European Neighbourhood Policy and enlargement.

All our posts in this series are here

24 Jun 2020, 10:57 AM

STA, 23 June 220 - The ceremony planned for the eve of Statehood Day (Dan državnosti)on Wednesday has once again proved divisive. After World War II veteran organisations had been excluded from preparations and included again upon an intervention by the president, an alternative event is being planned near the site of the official ceremony by artists critical of the prime minister.

On Monday, a group of artists who have been protesting in front of the Culture Ministry against its failure to help the sector in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, called for a boycott of the official state ceremony planned for Wednesday evening in Congress Square.

The group will organise its own event two hours earlier at the nearby Prešeren Square. It said in a press release last night that "the Republic of Slovenia has abused the plebiscite decision of its people to leave Yugoslavia for restoring outdated capitalism, plundering common property, erasing part of the population and for establishing the untouchable political class and its servants".

Albeit not naming him, they criticised Janša as being "the great leader" and "Independence Man" who is interested in nothing but power, accusing him of revising history, managing the present to his own liking and predicting a catastrophic future, offending and excluding, and persecuting those who think differently.

Responding to the call for boycott, Janša told the broadcaster Nova24TV last night that "calling for an anti-ceremony on Statehood Day was indecent, perverse and beyond anything the words 'normal' and 'civilisation' mean to us. I hope its organisers change their mind by Wednesday."

When Janša was still in the opposition, he often skipped official state ceremonies to attend the ones organised associations affiliated with his Democrats (SDS), including the Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence.

The boycott call was however not the only difficulty this time. Weeks ago, the government dismissed from the organising committee the representatives of the veteran associations, replacing them with representatives of the Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence, which is chaired by Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and where Janša is one of the presidency members.

The representatives of the other veteran associations were later included in the committee, following an intervention by President Borut Pahor.

Today, MEP and opposition Social Democrats (SD) leader Tanja Fajon addressed a letter to both Janša and Pahor, calling for an inclusive ceremony.

Fajon, who said she will attend tomorrow's official ceremony, believes that the pair must allow the nation to celebrate together by "including everybody, especially all veteran organisations, and above all with sincere regret of the deep division in society and reasons therefore".

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, head of the biggest opposition party LMŠ, said he would not attend the official ceremony, arguing attendance would give the government "legitimacy".

Commenting on the ceremony planned by the artists, Šarec said it would be a celebration by the people. He said he would attend his local Statehood Day ceremony in the town of Kamnik.

21 Jun 2020, 13:18 PM

STA, 21 June - Looking at the new government after its first 100 days in power, which have been marked by coronavirus measures and disputes related to them, analysts Andraž Zorko and Rok Čakš see the government firmly in the saddle, united in the face of persistent pressure that is however coming from a divided opposition.

What is usually a grace period for new governments is passing on Sunday. It has been unusually turbulent, a major factor being the coronavirus crisis and strong divisions in the political arena reflected in society at large.

The new centre-right government led by Janez Janša and his SDS (Democrats) has held a record 77 sessions so far, whose agendas have included three stimulus packages meant to mitigate the economic and social impact of the crisis, and lockdown measures, which included a ban on travel among municipalities.

Also making headlines were staffing changes at leading posts, including in the army, police, intelligence services, the supervisory board of Telekom Slovenije, the programming council of RTV Slovenija, as well as at the top of the Statistics Office.

Andraž Zorko from the pollster Valicon argued for the STA that the government looked stable after the first 100 days, "definitely more so than its predecessor", a minority centre-left government led by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and disbanded after Šarec's resignation in January.

Conservative columnist Rok Čakš feels the coalition partners are aware that any crack between them will trigger an attack and that they can only survive if they cover each other's backs, a case in point being the recent vote on Constitutional Court candidate Andraž Teršek, who failed to get appointed in the secret ballot even though some coalition parties had announced their support.

As regards potential future stumbling blocks for the government, Čakš mentioned projects that could be perceived publicly as ideological, for instance changes to media legislation. "We can also expect some behind the scenes jostling when it will come to securing influence in the emerging demographic funds and similar cost-heavy projects," he said.

Zorko on the other hand feels that the coalition partners - the SDS, New Slovenia (NSi) and the centrist Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and Modern Centre Party (SMC) - have divided up the spheres of influence in a way that precludes a serious conflict.

"The term is short, only half the usual duration, there will not be time for major projects, especially not if one considers the upcoming EU presidency, which will shortly be followed by the new election campaign," Zorko said, while pointing to the Constitutional Court-ordered electoral reform as the only potential apple of discord.

While noting that a failure to enact electoral system changes could be used as an excuse against calling an early election in the event of an unlikely clash in the coalition, Zorko said the changes should be adopted smoothly "if they wish to restore the trust of citizens in politics and elections". "However, a high turnout is indeed not equally desired by everybody," he added.

Čakš expects the borders of electoral districts will be redrawn by the end of the year to provide a minimum solution to the court ruling. He added the SDS had already gotten what it wanted as the proposal to abolish electoral districts and introduce the preferential vote failed to win the needed majority in parliament.

Meanwhile, commenting on the government cabinet, Zorko does not see any markedly weak links, although he did single out Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, "whose statements often interfere in spheres beyond the domain of the interior minister and do not help calm the heated atmosphere, but rather have the opposite effect".

Čakš, who feels it will take a while longer to be able to asses the work of some of the ministers who were less exposed during the crisis, argued "the current situation in the country and international comparisons suggest the PM and the front-line ministers did well in the battle against this dangerous battle". "However the war is not won yet," he added.

Čakš pointed to the high public support the government enjoyed at the outset of the crisis, adding that public attention was later gripped by the reports about dubious practices in the procurement of personal protective equipment and medical ventilators.

The reports, along with PM Janša's clashes with the media, his tweets, and the government's contentions changes to environmental legislation through the targeting of NGOs, have been a key galvanising force behind continuing protests, which have seen 5,000-plus cyclists taking the streets of Ljubljana as well as some smaller towns each Friday for two months now.

Zorko highlighted the record level of aversion to the ruling SDS among voters, with a poll showing 55% would not vote for this party no matter what the circumstances. "Things looked different at the beginning, but it was already clear after two weeks that the SDS and its president remain in their traditional trenches," he said.

As for the opposition, Zorko said it became active after struggling initially, but "the divisions created among the current opposition parties by Marjan Šarec's style of rule, are still clearly visible".

Zorko moreover does not share what he says is some people's puzzlement over the opposition Left now using the same strategies in parliament as the SDS and the LMŠ copying the SDS's communication approaches.

Čakš said the left opposition has been "exerting aggressive pressure on the centre-right coalition since the very first minute, irrespective of the difficult circumstances".

"The SDS has a well-earned reputation of a tough and merciless opposition, but it did not file ouster motions within the first 100 days of new governments," he said in reference to motions filed against Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek over PPE procurement and Interior Minister Hojs after the ministry overrode a ban on a concert by Croatian nationalist singer Marko Perković Thompson.

21 Jun 2020, 11:16 AM

STA, 21 June 2020 - Most opposition parties commented on the first 100 days of the Janez Janša new government very critically, highlighting opaque procurement of PPE, contentious staffing and what they perceive as inappropriate and divisive rhetoric by the PM. The coalition on the other hand is content with its handling of the crisis and is focused on future projects.

Several of the opposition parties did not mince their words when reflecting on the centre-right government, starting with the former ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which described it as "ideological, unfair and therefore also uncooperative and full of corrupt methods".

"It has used the epidemic to clash with the opposition and journalists and reacted to any criticism, even of the most benevolent kind, with discreditation attacks on Twitter and its party 'media outlet" that is financed from abroad. All of these bad party media practices have been transferred by the PM to official government communication channel too," the LMŠ told the STA.

While also criticising the coronavirus stimulus measures as too complex and ineffective, the LMŠ highlighted what it sees uneconomical and opaque purchases of medical and protective equipment during the epidemic, saying "the government enabled high margins and profits for selected companies".

The LMŠ moreover accused the government of fomenting ideological issues and attacking state institutions. It expressed concern over the silence or "only theoretical distancing of the [junior coalition] Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS)".

These points were largely also echoed by the SocDems and the Left, the former saying that "scandal followed scandal" and listing PPE procurement, the condoning of the Croatian Ustaša fascist movement, the deriding of Slovenia abroad, attempts to subjugate public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, attacks by top officials against individuals, and the sowing of divisions.

"We've never before had a prime minster that would use Twitter to divide people every day and erect culture war smokescreens to conceal his own and the government's incompetence," the leader of the Left, Luka Mesec, wrote.

Mesec also argued many of the government's crisis measures had been poorly thought through, while he praised the basic income for the self-employed and the subsidising of the unemployment allowances of temporarily redundant workers.

SAB's Alenka Bratušek meanwhile also had some words of praise for the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, an exception being equipment procurement, which she said needed to be investigated. She was moreover critical of what she sees as "completely unnecessary letters sent to European institutions".

Zmago Jeleničič of the opposition National Party (SNS) on the other hand argued this was the first government that had major results to show after only 100 days in power.

"The good work is reflected in the raging of a part of the opposition, which is filing no confidence motions and organising cycling tours," Jeleničič said in reference to the cycling protesters who have been taking to the streets each Friday.

Meanwhile, the four coalition parties feel proud of the tackling of the Covid-19 crisis, which was at the centre of their efforts. They are announcing a focus on the commitments in the coalition agreement, especially demographic and healthcare challenges.

"Slovenia has come out of this test victorious and was the first country in the EU to declare the end of the epidemic," the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) wrote, saying the coalition was firm and ready for new challenges.

The parties described the relations in the coalition as good, with the SMC, New Slovenia (NSi) and DeSUS rejecting allegations they were being subjugated by the SDS.

While some criticism of the PM's communication methods was voiced by DeSUS deputy group head Franc Jurša, he also spoke of the rhetoric of the political left moving to the streets, which he said was bad for Slovenia.

DeSUS would like to see fewer ideological topics, arguing this was a point that could destabilise the coalition in the future. He highlighted the issue of home guards, a type of paramilitary groups patrolling borders, and the lifting of a ban on a concert by a Croatian singer said to be glorifying the WWII Ustaša regime in Croatia.

Jožef Horvat of the NSi said the "spirit in the county hasn't been as poor as now in a long time", but he too pointed to the source of this being the level of communication in parliament, arguing it sometimes verged on criminal behaviour. Asked whether government officials were to blame as well, he said the NSi would also prefer "to see a tweet or two less".

Statements by the coalition partners indicated some pending changes at ministerial posts that will reflect the fact that the SMC lost two of its MPs in recent months to the LMŠ and SD. The coalition now has 46 MPs in the 90-member National Assembly, but its proposals are often backed by the three SNS MPs as well.

All our stories on the recent protests in Slovenia can be found here

21 Jun 2020, 10:24 AM

STA, 21 June 2020 - Taking stock of its first 100 days in office, the Janez Janša government is happy that the coronavirus epidemic was quickly contained, including with key and efficient measures it took just days after assuming office on 13 March, the Government Communication Office (UKOM) said in a written statement.

Despite a recent increase in the number of new coronavirus cases, the situation is calming down in Slovenia, which the government attributes to the tremendous efforts of healthcare staff, police officers, members of civil protection having in the past months and to all those who have consistently complied with the protective measures.

"Nobody would like to see those days repeat, hence a recent call by Prime Minister Janez Janša to consistently respect the measures which are still in place," said UKOM.

To mitigate the consequences of the epidemic, the government has adopted three stimulus packages, all aiming to cushion social distress of residents and help the economy survive the lockdown shock.

UKOM noted that with the first two packages, the government has preserved 260,000 jobs, while direct financial assistance has been provided to as many as 1.3 million people, or 65% of the population, through a temporary measure of basic monthly income, a one-off solidarity bonus and a number of other measures.

Although the measures are yet to produce their results in full, economic forecasts are relatively positive, showing the Slovenian economy will recover from the severe shock already next year and post significant growth in 2022.

Seeing investment as key to restarting the economy post-Covid, the government has endorsed a list of 187 key projects to launch a new economic cycle.

UKOM stressed that in setting the list of major investments, the government was guided, just like when it opted for holiday vouchers, by their multiplicative effects.

Looking further ahead, the government has two major challenges - keeping the epidemic in check and implementing the commitments from the coalition agreement, while preparations for Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2021 are also under way.

Improving Europe's resilience to crises and forming action plans for emergencies, such as pandemics, global cyberattacks and migration, are also among its priorities.

In foreign policy, the priority is an ambitious policy on Eastern and Southern Partnerships, and putting EU prospects for the Western Balkans back on the agenda.

UKOM also said the government will send a supplemented budget to parliament by 1 September, also taking into account coronavirus-related expenditure and the latest economic outlook by its macroeconomic forecaster IMAD.

Demographic challenges and long-term care will also be in the focus in the coming months alongside efforts to eliminate the shortcomings in healthcare infrastructure.

To be ready for a potential new migration wave, enhanced and efficient protection of the state border will be needed.

The government will also intensify drawing of EU funds and actively take part in EU talks on the bloc's new multi-annual budget for 2021-2027.

More focus will also be given to food self-sufficiency, while the elderly and some other groups will be eligible for free inter-city transport as of 1 July, in what the government sees as an important step towards a more friendly system of public transport.

Efforts to clean degraded areas such as the Mežiška Valley and the Celje area, will continue together with investments into flood safety, according to UKOM.

The government also plans to establish a demographic fund and a government office for demographic affairs, as well as take measures related to the pension system.

The army and the police are another two areas were the government intends to make some improvements.

09 Jun 2020, 13:26 PM

On May 21 2020 the Slovenian Government dismissed the director of the Statistical Office (SURS) Bojan Nastav, who was appointed for a five-year term in August last year. The decision took effect the next day and the acting director for a period of six months became Tomaž Smrekar. The media now reports the reason for replacement of the head of SURS was his refusal to submit confidential information to a non-authorised body of external government advisors in an unorthodox way.

Following his dismissal, Bojan Nastav told RTV Slovenia he had learnt about the decision from the government website’s session’s minutes, and that he was not familiar with the reasons for his firing.

The new acting director, Tomaž Smrekar, who began working immediately after Bojan Nastav was dismissed, explaining to RTV Slovenia that it was impossible for the around 300 SURS employees to properly analyze all the data, and that help will be needed from the government’s advisory group, headed by Matej Lahkovnik.

The Statistical Council of SURS demanded the government to present the reasons for the replacement of the head of the agency, and the government replied citing Article 83 of the Public Employees Act, which allows public officials to be dismissed within the first year of their office.

The Statistical Council then asked for another opinion from the attorney Rajko Pirnat, who claims that the head of SURS is not covered by this law, but rather under the jurisdiction of the National Statistics Act. For this reason, the Statistical Council has issued a request that the Constitutional Court decide which of the two laws applies in this case.

According news portal Necenzurirano.si, Nastav was dismissed on a request of Lahovnik’s advisory group, which approached SURS with a request for raw economic data. SURS then replied that the data can be accessed under certain circumstances prescribed by the relevant legislation. Access to the SURS database for research purposes is only allowed with prior approval, in a safe room and only after employees have anonymized the data - covering up names and other identifying data of specific companies, since SURS is obliged to protect statistical confidentiality.

Furthermore, reports necenzurirano.si, the Lahovnik’s advisory group is functioning as an informal association, which works pro bono and without any legal grounds for its activities. Its members are not responsible to anyone and therefore also not obliged to protect the data that they obtain from state bodies. Its members work for private companies and boards, which could use such data for their personal gain.

Because Nastav didn’t seem to respond to the group’s request, concludes Necenzurirano.si, Lahovnik called Prime Minister Janez Janša and Nastav was immediately replaced.

Since its inception the current Janša government has replaced most of the heads of the state security apparatus, including heads of the police and the army, National Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Police, and Office of the Republic of Slovenia for the Prevention of Money Laundering. The head of the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA), however stepped down on his own after Janša’s government excluded SOVA from the National Security Council.

According to Mladina, several of these heads were removed in order to stop investigations into the financing of Janez Janša’s SDS party.

23 May 2020, 08:08 AM

STA, 22 May 2020 - The cycling protests against the government's actions and policies continued for the fifth Friday running, with several thousand protesters reported again in Ljubljana. Signatures for the resignation of the government started to get collected, while one group also expressed support to the government.

Before the evening protest in parliament square - whose police-controlled section got a large 'our property' sign in the afternoon - a stream of cyclists occupied the streets around Parliament House, while the protesters also ventured to Ljubljana's main thoroughfare, Dunajska street, and the Environment Ministry located there.

The government's clampdown on environmental NGOs has been among the protesters' main grievances in recent weeks, after the protests were initially galvanised by revelations of alleged heavy political meddling in the purchases of PPE and ventilators during the coronavirus epidemic and PM Janez Janša's clash with the media.

The Ljubljana Anarchist Initiative, one of the unofficial organisers, wrote that millions of euros from the public budget continued to be appropriated by political and economic elites under the guise of a state of emergency.

"We've broken the curse of the epidemic, now we need to be break the virus of the holders of power," they wrote, while rejecting any kind of political meddling in the protests.

A novelty this week was the collecting of signatures for the government's resignation, while some of the participating groups also specified their demands.

The list by one of the more prominent groups includes the "end of corruption, of disrespectful public speech, fomenting of divisions, of hate and fear...end of attacks on civil society ...on independent media...the end of putting the interests of capital before the benefits of people and the environment".

Another new development was a group of a dozen men, allegedly motor-bikers, who formed a line in front of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija wearing yellow vests that spelled out "thank you government!"

PM Janša meanwhile lashed out against the protesters by comparing them to the self-styled paramilitary units or nationalist home guards that recently made headlines, arguing both were extremely offensive to the police.

The comment by Janša, who has also labelled the protesters as 'caviar socialists', came after 50 home guards in uniform visited a local police station last Sunday in protest over a police inquiry into a training camp they had held nearby.

Smaller cycling protests were again also held in some other cities. Several hundred protesters reportedly gathered in Maribor.

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