Ljubljana related

09 Feb 2022, 12:50 PM

STA, 9 February 2022 - Prime Minister Janez Janša self-tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. He posted a photo of a positive test result on Twitter, saying he had all the symptoms typical of Covid-19, although mild.

Janša said that his family had successfully avoided coronavirus for two years until Tuesday, when his two sons had self-tested positive, while his test had been negative.

See the latest data on COVID and Slovenia

03 Jan 2022, 12:08 PM

STA, 3 January - Prime Minister Janez Janša has managed to subjugate several media this term, most notably the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, and the consequences of that were on display last week when the broadcaster interviewed first him and then the opposition, Reporter magazine says in Monday's commentary The Mollycoddling of Janez Janša.

"While Lidija Hren 'butchered' the presidents of parties, the prime minister was having a friendly chat with Jože Možina. Janša probably cannot remember ever having such a fanning interviewer and we have not seen him so smiling and relaxed on TV Slovenija for a long time," the paper says.

"Televised debates start in a few months and Janša is certain to participate in a few. Will he once again answer Možina's questions, or will they have the courage to 'plant' someone like Hren? ... If anyone, the prime minister deserves a nagging interviewer, not mollycoddling that is an affront to the viewers."

Reporter mentions another media development in the making, alleged plans by the state-owned Telekom Slovenija to boot the biggest commercial channels, POP TV and Kanal A, from its TV offering, a move it says would be "drastic but not unprecedented" given that Telekom already removed a package of sports channels offered by a rival provider a few years ago.

"Wrath by sports fanatics had undoubtedly led many to cancel their subscriptions, but that was a hit Telekom was able to take. The most watched Slovenian television going dark would make many more people irate."

"Whatever you may think about POP TV or Kanal A content, their cumulative reach is so large its exclusion would constitute yet another attempt by Janša at subjugating the media. The viewers would not just grumble and then concede to the new situation," the paper says.

20 Dec 2021, 14:56 PM

STA, 20 December 2021 - The Information Commissioner has launched an investigation against the prime minister's office in regard to the vaccination promotion letters citizens received from Prime Minister Janez Janša. The office will have to explain the way personal data was obtained in order to address the letters and the legal basis used for this.

The inquiry is based on the cornerstones of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation under which any processing of personal data must be lawful, fair and transparent, said Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik on Monday.

The procedure, launched on Friday, comes after the data protection watchdog received numerous reports by citizens inquiring about the legal framework used by the prime minister's office to access their personal data to send the letters, which were addressed to specific individuals.

The large number of reports reflects a high level of awareness of the importance of personal data protection among individuals, said Prelesnik.

Citizens have recently received letters in which Janša thanked those who have been vaccinated for getting jabbed as well as urged the unvaccinated ones to reconsider this.

"Let this be your free but responsible choice," he wrote ahead of the nationwide campaign Vaccination Days that is currently underway and aims to boost vaccination rates amid Omicron concerns.

Responding to the inquiry, the prime minister's office told the STA the letters had been sent to all adults in Slovenia without any kind of selection or access to any records. To well-meaning people, Janša's reasons for such a gesture are clear in the letter itself, it added.

The office said that "there is no doubt about what the coming weeks will hold for us if we continue to be the sixth least vaccinated country in the European Union".

It attached forecasts for the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Europe which show that the strain could become dominant in January, with rising numbers of the infected followed by higher hospital admission rates.

16 Dec 2021, 12:14 PM

STA, 16 December 2021 - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) has launched an investigation against Prime Minister Janez Janša on suspicion of a conflict of interest in management reshuffle at the bad bank.

The procedure was launched based on the watchdog's initial findings in regard to appointments at the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), which confirmed suspicion of a breach of the integrity and prevention of corruption act.

The investigation was launched to determine whether there has been indeed a conflict of interest in the appointment of a non-executive director at the bad bank, the KPK said on Thursday.

The prime minister has been notified of the developments and will have all the rights during the investigation procedure in line with the relevant regulations and will be able to explain his actions, said the watchdog, adding that it could not give more details as the investigation is ongoing.

The BAMC board of directors includes executive and non-executive directors. The board's chairman is Franci Matoz, who is also a non-executive director. Other non-executive officers are Gregor Planteu, Aleksander Lozej and Alenka Urnaut Ropoša.

The bad bank published an open call today seeking applications for an executive director post.

Matoz, a prominent lawyer, was appointed the chairman in July. Planteu was named a non-executive director on the same day. Matoz is known as a long-time legal representative of Janša and his Democratic Party (SDS).

The watchdog confirmed for the STA in August that it was looking into the circumstances of Matoz's appointment as the chairman of the bad bank's board of directors and other recent management reshuffles there. The inquiry was based on a report that the anti-graft body received in May.

Responding on Twitter, Janša accused the KPK of double standards, saying it did not deem the moonlighting by Court of Audit boss Tomaž Vesel for FIFA for EUR 20,000 corruption while it did find as such EUR 200 on the account of former Agriculture Minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec when the need arose to bring down the government.

"Kos-Klemenčič-Štefanec-Šumi is a chain of double standards," the PM tweeted referring to the people who have so far headed the KPK.

14 Dec 2021, 20:01 PM

STA, 14 December 2021 - Centre-left opposition MPs clashed with PM Janez Janša during Tuesday's question time in parliament over what they claim is mafia-style governance of the country by Janša, his SDS party and the government. Janša dismissed the allegations, while saying mafia-style governance indeed exists, has very deep roots, yet comes from the transition left.

According to the Left's Matej T. Vatovec, when Janša is in opposition he bills himself as the one who will eliminate corruption, but once in power, "the story flips upside down and in a few years or months, we have enough corruption scandals for a decade".

He pointed to scandals that broke out since Janša's government assumed office in March 2020, such as face masks, rapid antigen tests, purchases of ventilators from Janša's brother, the scandal involving the environment minister, etc.

The MP claimed that most of the cases become statute barred because the Democrats (SDS) know how to exert pressure on judges and take over the police force to "make sure everything is swept under the rug".

Dismissing all the allegations as "lies and insinuations", Janša said "you have actually more or less made up or twisted all this to avoid discussing the actual behind-the-scene criminal doings in this country".

As deputy groups presented their views, Robert Pavšič from the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) criticised the government for violating the constitutions and encroaching on laws, while he also took issue with "brutal staffing and interference in a number of the country's vital subsystems".

The Social Democrats' (SD) Marko Koprivc said anything is possible "under Janšism, including the dissolution of the rule of law", as he pointed to pressure on the media and attempts to undermine NGOs.

Unaffiliated MP Janja Sluga highlighted the complications with the appointment of European delegated prosecutors, Janša meeting medical suppliers and their lobbyists, the role of his lawyer Franci Matoz in state-owned companies, Hungarian millions spent on advertising in the SDS-owned media and the construction of the Koper-Divača rail track.

Marko Bandelli from Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said this government "is drenched in corruption and applies mafia approaches, which is revealed in every scandal."

On the other hand, coalition MPs said Slovenia has seen mafia doings since its very beginning. "Even before the country became independent, the leftist political forces tried to prevent its independence," said Danijel Krivec from the ruling SDS.

Listing what he sees as mafia doings, Krivec highlighted former President Milan Kučan allowing in the spring of 1991 the Yugoslav People's Army to disarm Slovenia's Territorial Defence, the launch of the Patria defence scandal against Janša, a billion dollars in Iranian money laundered at the NLB bank to finance terrorism, etc.

Similarly, the SMC's Monika Gregorčič blamed it all on the non-transparent privatisation after Slovenian became independent, saying it resulted in a privileged elite, the so-called transition left, gaining political power.

This elite enabled systemic solutions to its liking to be adopted, while the economic power acquired in this way opened the door to all social subsystems, including the media. "The circle was thus completed, producing a system that could be termed a para-state or a deep state," said Gregorčič.

New Slovenia's (NSi) Andrej Černigoj also pointed to the TEŠ power station being overpaid by half a billion euro and to the bank shortfall of EUR 5 billion under centre-left governments.

Janša commented on many of the scandals mentioned by the coalition, criticising the opposition for not criticising violations when perpetrated by people from their own ranks. He dismissed the criticism about the judiciary saying candidates without experience or a graduation diploma could be appointed judges. "This is the state being run mafia-style."

A heated debate followed also after Janša left the session, with the LMŠ's Pavšič suggesting the session be closed to the public to present some confidential documents, which the MPs did not endorse in a secret vote. Finding it unimaginable the MPs would not want to discuss specific criminal dealings, he said the vote "proves we live in a mafia state".

12 Nov 2021, 07:48 AM

STA, 11 November - Prime Minister Janez Janša dismissed the opposition's allegations about government misconduct during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, telling a parliamentary inquiry on Thursday that its decisions were based on opinions by experts.

Opposition MPs quizzed Janša about multiple aspects of government actions, ranging from the decision to roll out mass rapid testing, to the purchase of vaccines and the rationale behind measures that some MPs said had been put in place overnight without giving people adequate time to prepare.

He said mass rapid testing has been rolled out based on the advice of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the Health Ministry and the ministry's Covid-19 expert group.

Asked whether he had known about rapid antigen tests being unreliable, which is supposedly evident from minutes of meetings of the Covid-19 expert group, Janša said it was general knowledge that rapid tests are more unreliable, which is why all positives are double-checked with PCR tests.

There was a scandal early on involving the supply of rapid tests by Majbert Pharm, some of whose owners had ties to Janša's Democrats (SDS) in the past and had bragged on social media what a "killer deal" they had signed with the state.

Questions have been raised about how their tests were verified, including by a doctor who used to work at the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food and recently came out with accusations that the process was not up to standard.

"I did not write the criteria, the competent services did," said Janša, who also denied having personally decided that the Majbert Pharm tests would be verified at that specific lab.

Janša did acknowledge that there may have been abuses in hazard pay received by public sector employees, but he said the heads of institutions were in charge of determining the bonuses and they were responsible for their actions. Abuses that have been detected have already been sanctioned, he said.

One opposition MP alleged that Slovenia had initially opted to prioritise the AstraZeneca vaccine because it was cheaper than the jab produced by Pfizer, but Janša said this was not the whole story.

"It was not just because this vaccine is significantly cheaper, it was also because it seemed at the time that this would be the first vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)."

Then, when he provisionally took over as health minister after the resignation of Tomaž Gantar, he learnt that the EMA would probably approve the Pfizer vaccine first.

"The same day I ordered the ministry to change the strategy and that Slovenia should order all vaccines available, regardless of the price."

As for allegations that the government is taking measures overnight, Janša said experts were always consulted, and sometimes decisions were not adopted the same week even when experts proposed that they should be.

This was Janša's second testimony in front of the commission. Chair Robert Pavšič said he would be invited to testify again.

11 Nov 2021, 11:19 AM

STA, 10 November 2021 - The Slovenian Association of Journalists (Društvo novinarjev Slovenije - DNS) has come out in defence of fellow journalists with the news portal Necenzurirano.si who are facing increasing pressure from a tax advisor.

Rok Snežič has brought 39 defamation suits against three journalists of the outlet over their articles about his business dealings and his role in a loan taken out by the Prime Minister Janez Janša's Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2017.

The DNS notes that this was the first example in Slovenia of a form of pressure known abroad as Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), actions designed to silence criticism and dissent.

However, Snežič, who Necenzurirano claims has close ties with Janša, has now stepped up his pressure, reporting the journalists to the National Bureau of Investigation and the Financial Administration.

"He alleges they conduct their business unlawfully, are supposedly funded with money of suspicious origin, get paid in cash and other irregularities which the journalists say are false accusations and fabrications with no basis in facts," the DNS said.

The association does not wish to deny those who are hurt by journalists' articles their legitimate right to defend their good name, but it believes the latest "is only a new, graver form of pressure".

The association believes that Snežič has ties to the police as well as to the Financial Administration in what they see as "potential abuse of repressive institutions with the intention to silence journalists".

"Such manoeuvres are frequent in European countries with authoritarian governments and seek to silence critical journalists by criminalising their work and personalities. The goal of such pressure is to suppress all critical media and other critical voices in society."

The association will notify its international partners and relevant institutions of the matter, arguing that such continued stepping up of pressure on journalists jeopardises media freedom.

The case of the Necenzurirano journalists was also mentioned in the latest annual report by the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, issued in April.

03 Nov 2021, 11:07 AM

STA, 3 November 2021 - The business daily Finance says a new lockdown would mark a defeat for the Janša government as it argued in Wednesday's commentary that Slovenia should have been well past the point where lockdowns are needed given that vaccines are now abundant and that much more about the virus is now known.

The paper dismisses the argument that hospitals are filling up and comparisons with the Italian city of Bergamo, as it notes that in October 2021, the health system should be capable of withstanding corona shocks or at least of dealing with more cases than a year ago.

"Forgive me for over-generalising a little bit, but the government has spent a billion euro over the past year for hazard pay in the public sector. It threw the money around everywhere, many if not most of the recipients were never even near hospitals.

"A billion euros is a lot of money and with prudent management a lot could have been done. Should nurses have been better compensated to they don't run away to other jobs?"

Turning to vaccination, the commentator says that some simply do not want to get vaccinated, other associate vaccines with aversion to the Janša government, and some have decided to believe conspiracy theories.

"True, everyone is individually responsible for vaccination. But nearly a year since vaccination started, we must ask this: has the Janez Janša government, with its expert group and vaccination coordinator, done enough to popularise vaccination. Would it have made sense to have a somewhat more positive approach to vaccination?"

The bottom line, according to the paper, is that it is unclear what the purpose of a new lockdown would be given the experience with last year's lockdown, which was supposed to last seven days but ended up dragging into spring.

"The impression is that people will respect rules set by the Janez Janša government even less than they did last year, and the fear that kept people at home in March 2020 is long gone. And mind you, if there is a lockdown, it will apply to everyone. This is far from being a good selling point for vaccines," the paper concludes in New Lockdown = New Defeat for the Janša Government [Novi lockdown bi bil novi poraz Janševe vlade].

29 Oct 2021, 11:22 AM

STA, 28 October 2021 - The Slovenian Association of Judges has expressed protest after Prime Minister Janez Janša accused the court that ordered him to pay damages in a defamation suit brought by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) of political bias. The Supreme Court called for more decent communication between the branches of government.

"This is the practice of the Velenje court, which is packed with a cronyist assortment of members or supporters of the Social Democrats and which hands out judgements without hearings and without affording the option of defence," Janša stated yesterday.

This was after the Velenje Local Court upheld the party's EUR 10,000 damages claim against him for claiming the party was headquartered in a "stolen Jewish villa". In a default judgement issued because Janša failed to pick up court mail and respond to the lawsuit, the court also ordered Janša to apologise for the claim on Twitter within 15 days.

The Association of Judges finds Janša's comment about the court "unacceptably scornful toward the court's judges and the court as the basic institution of the rule of law".

They say that each party in procedure is guaranteed equal protection of their rights under the constitution and laws, including through legal remedies in civilian procedures.

The rule of law must be based on mutual cooperation, respect and trust in institutions, the release reads, adding that the highest state officials should set an example and refrain from attempts to discredit courts as a cornerstone of the rule of law.

The Supreme Court also noted in a press release that "judges and courts in Slovenia are obliged to administer justice in accordance with the constitution and applicable law, and all parties in court proceedings have equal legal means to enforce their rights."

"The inappropriate attitude of some representatives of the executive towards the judiciary, which is often manifested in public labelling, belittling or even insulting of judges, is unacceptable, undignified and increasingly tiresome," it added.

In the court's view, the constant inappropriate comments come from those who are "incapable of understanding the meaning of the judicial branch of power, even though the principle of separation of powers is one of the key principles in any democratic state".

28 Oct 2021, 11:10 AM

STA, 27 October - The Velenje Local Court has ordered Prime Minister Janez Janša to pay EUR 10,000 in damages and apologise to the opposition Social Democrats (SD) for claiming the party operated from a "stolen Jewish villa". The default judgement, in which the court fully upheld the party's damages claim, is not yet final.

The decision, which was announced by the party on Wednesday, comes in response to a lawsuit filed in early July by the SD, which argued Janša "deliberately propagated a malicious lie" about the ownership of the Ljubljana villa housing the party's headquarters although it "can be proven he knew the ownership was not disputable".

According to the SD, the court has now issued a default judgement saying Janša should post within 15 days an apology on Twitter for his "untruthful Twitter posts about the SD operating from a stolen Jewish villa in Levstikova 15, Ljubljana".

Apart from paying the damages, Janša was also ordered to cover the litigation costs of just over EUR 800.

"The villa has not been stolen and the SD acquired the ownership of it in a lawful way," the party said in a press release.

They say the court issued a default judgement because Janša failed to pick up mail from the court and consequently failed to respond to the lawsuit within 30 days. Janša still has 30 days to appeal against the judgement.

The court held that while political parties need to show a higher degree of tolerance of criticism, Janša crossed the line of respect for the rights of others by knowingly and deliberately writing down untruthful insulting claims.

Janša commented on the judgement for the STA by suggesting the court was biased. "This is the practice of the Velenje court, which is packed with a cronyist line of members or supporters of the Social Democrats and hands out judgements without hearings and without affording the option of defence," he wrote.

"To make the farce complete, the court in this concrete case judged a lawsuit brought by the Social Democrats. This is something that even courts martial in the former Yugoslavia did not do," he added.

SD leader and secretary general Dejan Levanič noted the significance of the judgement for holding Janša accountable for his untruthful claims.

"The court has ascertained that Janša knew about the deceitful content of his claims, but still would he maliciously post them. By failing to pick up writs from court, Janša demonstrates his contempt for the state and the rule of law," Levanič wrote, which was later echoed by Fajon.

He announced that the party would donate the whole amount received in damages to charity.

The claims made by Janša had a strong effect as the European Jewish Association subsequently called on the party to right a historic injustice and return the villa to the Slovenian Jewish community. It alleged the property had been sold "under questionable conditions, nationalized, and then used by high-level communist party organizations during the Yugoslav era."

However, the SD said at the time the villa had been owned by the state before the party took ownership in exchange for another building that the party had owned before.

The villa used to be owned by Jewish merchant Felix Moskovic, who was killed in a German extermination camp. A woman who bought it from a heir of the family sold it to the state in 1961.

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