Ljubljana related

11 Apr 2020, 09:33 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 10 April 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Mystery of Janša’s attack on Čeferin after mild criticism of govt

STA, 10 April 2020 - The latest editorial of the left-wing weekly Mladina reflects on what it sees as a rage reflex that seems to be triggered in PM Janez Janša by even a hint of criticism. It looks at the attacks mounted against Aleksander Čerefin after the Slovenian UEFA head said he was tired of hearing the constant apocalyptic coronavirus comments by Slovenia's leading officials.

The weekly paper's editor in chief Grega Repovž argues that Janša's comment about greed causing football matches not being cancelled also after the WHO had declared an epidemic, made during Tuesday's special address to the nation, was a jab at Čeferin meant to suggest UEFA could have prevented the fateful 19 February Milan match between Atalanta and Valencia.

Repovž points out that a potential cancellation of the match had been in the domain of Italian authorities, which had recorded three coronavirus cases in the county by that point.

While also highlighting other demonstrably false statements made by Janša in a part of the address targeting the former government, Repovž says the criticism by Čeferin, who just argued he would prefer a less bleak and more encouraging tone from Slovenian officials, should have been easy to swallow for those in power.

"But no, no. Janša cannot allow that. An attack followed. A fierce attack. Janša's propaganda machinery jumped first, followed by his twitter trolls. There was no mercy," Repovž says, adding that this was still not enough for Janša to later at least hold back in his address to the nation.

"What kind of person do you have to be to accuse somebody of what Čeferin was actually accused of by Janaša, through his media directly and in his speech indirectly? What to think of a man who has so much power and responsibility, but invests so much energy and anger into a single critical remark and even brings it up in an address to the nation," Repovž wonders in the commentary entitled Rage.

Demokracija: Beware of WHO's Advice!

STA, 9 April 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija rebukes the World Health Organization (WHO) for its action in the Covid-19 crisis. "Even if it was probably set up with good intentions, the WHO has turned in a politicised and corrupt organisation."

The WHO first long insisted on the stance that "general use of protective masks is not necessary", but then made a U-turn this week, starting to support the countries which encourage their citizens to wear them.

Editor-in-chief Jože Biščak finds it hard to believe the medical reasons have changed in the meantime, saying WHO staff simply want to keep their well-paid jobs, blowing hot and cold depending on where money comes from.

It recalls several cases of its "odd" action, ranging from a cheap purchase of malaria vaccine, which caused thousands of child deaths in Africa, to its complete inefficiency in fighting tuberculosis, Ebola and Covid-19, wondering if it was deliberate.

When some started warning that flights from China to Europe should be suspended, the WHO said there was no evidence the virus is transmitted with contact among people.

"When the moment of truth came, it was already too late. The number of victims is nearing 100,000 and the number of those infected goes into millions."

Demokracija blames "the belated and totally misplaced reaction" to the virus spread on the WHO and its national offices in the form of public health institutes, in reference to Slovenia's National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ).

"So when you listen to the WHO advice in the next crisis, mind your money and use common sense if you want to do best for you and your family.

"When the WHO is giving advice, people are often dying, which Spain, Italy and France are realising as they mourn their deceased." The situation would be similar in Slovenia if the new government had not taken the necessary measures and advised people, unlike the NIJZ, to wear masks.

All our posts in this series are here

19 Mar 2020, 21:17 PM

STA, 19 March 2020 - Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik announced on Thursday what amounts to a raise of the pay for the ministers and state secretaries of the new government to the highest possible allowed for these posts in the public sector pay system.

Koritnik, who argued this was not a pay increase but the determining of wage brackets, said the 61st wage bracket will be used for all state secretaries at ministries and the 64th for all ministers.

Prime Minister Janez Janša defended the decision on Twitter: "Nobody raised wages. For the duration of the crisis I placed the ministers, state secretaries and their closest teams into the highest possible wage brackets, and I recommend leaderships do the same everywhere where people are overburdened due to #COVID19. Those carrying a double burden will be additionally paid for this time. Everywhere."

In the previous government, led by Marjan Šarec, all ministers bar the finance minister were ranked in the lowest possible bracket for the post, meaning the 62nd bracket. The same applied for all state secretaries, which meant the 59th bracket.

The law stipulates that the wage bracket for ministers is determined - within a predefined scope - by the prime minister and for the state secretaries by the government upon the proposal of the public administration minister.

The highest, meaning the 65th wage bracket in the public sector, is reserved for posts that include that of the prime minister, the country's president and the speaker of parliament.

Meanwhile, the government agreed on a special wage provision for public servants working closely with officials in the office of the prime minister, of the government's secretary general, of ministers and heads of government services. The wage bracket determined for them can be five brackets above that reserved for their post.

14 Mar 2020, 09:50 AM

STA, 13 March 2020 - Slovenia got its 14th government at the height of the coronavirus epidemic as the National Assembly confirmed the centre-right cabinet of Janez Janša at a session Friday at which the fight against coronavirus and the previous government's inaction in the face of the outbreak dominated the debate.

Jump to Police, army and defence intel chiefs dismissed

 Janša, the president of the Democrats (SDS), came out in force against the previous government's efforts, accusing it of having missed the best time to take action and announcing that the new cabinet would hold its first session an hour after parliament goes into recess to discuss new measures to fight the epidemic.

He promised the government would take concerted and far-reaching measures. The virus can no longer be stopped, but its spreading must be slowed. "This is a battle with time, a battle that has to be won inasmuch as this is possible," he said.

The debate touched on little else except the epidemic, which is not surprising given that the new government will take over a day after Slovenia officially declared a coronavirus epidemic due to a surging number of new cases.

Janša said the outgoing government had "flunked the test in recent days", likening the response of the authorities to the reaction to the migration crisis in 2015, when "what was coming was underestimated and reactions were chaotic".

This was despite health professionals warning that immediate tough measures must be taken to contain the disease, he said, noting that Slovenia should have followed the example of countries such as South Korea, which it had had enough time to do given that there was a month's advance warning from the situation in China.

Given the national emergency, the new centre-left opposition pledged to be constructive in helping the government fight the epidemic, but it also stressed that it would keep close watch on any actions that may be deemed excessive.

The Left in particular warned about Janša's "autocratic potential" with MP Matej Tašner Vatovec saying that the circumstances - the coronavirus epidemic and the looming new migration wave - practically "put the state of emergency into your hands". "He will not have to create a state of emergency like he did in the past, it is practically here already."

The coalition said once the situation normalises the government would focus on its priorities, in particular demographic policy, regional development, infrastructure investments, housing policy and healthcare, and presidency of the EU in 2021.

SDS deputy Eva Irgl said the overarching goal was to ensure the "fair and effective functioning of the state" by tackling pensions and health insurance, establishing a balance between welfare and the market economy, strengthening Slovenian and European identity, and protecting borders.

Irgl said it was impossible to put all priorities of the coalition partners in the coalition agreement given that the government will have only two years, but it would "invest the time and effort to together support solutions that citizens urgently need."

The session lasted a mere two and a half hours as procedural rules were used to limit formalities and all but a handful of MPs refrained from debate after the deputy groups presented their positions.

The entire process of building the government has been fast by Slovenian standards. The vote came just two weeks after Janša was endorsed as prime minister designate and a month and a half after Marjan Šarec stepped down as prime minister.

Several coalition MPs today stressed it was fortuitous that the partners had decided against a snap election, the outcome favoured by Šarec, and in favour of building a new government; if snap election had been the chosen path, Slovenia would now be in the midst of an election campaign.

Police, army and defence intel chiefs dismissed

STA, 14 March 2020 - The Janez Janša government dismissed the heads of the police force, the armed forces and of the Defence Ministry's intelligence and security service OVS at its maiden session early on Saturday.

Addressing reporters after the session, Defence Minister Matej Tonin announced the decision on the dismissals of Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, Chief of the General Staff Major General Alenka Ermenc and OVS director Dejan Matijevič.

Ermenc's successor is yet to be appointed with her deputy, Brigadier Robert Glavaš, 58, taking over for the interim period.

Anton Travner, a security expert who has served with the Geneva Centre for Security Centre Governance (DCAF) as head of Border Security Programme for Southeast Europe, was appointed acting police commissioner.

Ermenc and Bobnar were the first women to head the army and police force. They were both appointed by the Marjan Šarec government.

Andrej Osolnik was appointed OVS director for a five-year term.

The government also made several other appointments with Božo Predalič returning as government secretary general. He will also represent Slovenia as a sole stakeholder in state-owned companies, according to a press release issued after the government session.

Kristina Plavšak Krajnc was dismissed as director of the Government Communication Office (UKOM) with Miro Petek, a former MP and press officer for Janša's Democratic Party (SDS) named as acting director.

As is usual, the heads of junior coalition partners, who also serve as ministers, were named deputies to the PM; Zdravko Počivalšek (Modern centre Party), Matej Tonin (New Slovenia) and Aleksandra Pivec (Pensioners' Party).

Several state secretaries have also been appointed with diplomat Igor Senčar, SDS MP Žan Mahnič and Vinko Gorenak, a former SDS MP and interior minister, appointed as state secretaries in the PM's office.

Franc Kangler, the former Maribor mayor, was named state secretary in the Interior Ministry, while Gašper Dovžan and Tone Kajzer were appointed state secretaries at the Foreign Ministry, and Damijan Jaklin and Uroš Lampret will be state secretaries at the Defence Ministry.

Peter Ješovnik and Kristina Šteblaj were named Finance Ministry state secretaries and Aleš Cantarutti was reappointed one of the state secretaries at the Economy Ministry along with Simon Zajc, who has so far served as environment minister.

Andrej Možina, the former head of the Medical Chamber, was named state secretary at the Health Ministry, and Blaž Košorok, the former CEO of the power utility HSE, was appointed state secretary at the Infrastructure Ministry, among others.

Lilijana Kozlovič, who was appointed justice minister last night, is being replaced as the head of the Environment Agency by Iztok Slatinšek as acting director.

All our stories about the new government can be found here

12 Mar 2020, 12:39 PM

International attention rarely turns to Slovenian politics, but whenever it does there’s been at least one constant for more than three decades – Janez Janša, the man who will soon become Slovenia’s Prime Minister for the third time. What’s more, at a robust and vigorous looking 61, he’s likely to be on the scene for years to come.

Janša is, to put it mildly, a polarising figure. Starting public life as writer for Mladina, and going to jail for his actions against the Communist authorities of Yugoslavia, he was, like Orbán in Hungary, widely seen as a force for good in the years around the end of the Iron Curtain. Indeed, if you want to see how cool he was in the late 1980s then check out this 1989 clip from the UK’s Rough Guide to Slovenia, with more clips from the show here.

In that segment on Mladina you’ll also see Marcel Štefančič Jr., a familiar face on television with his long grey hair and ponytail, both absent at the time of filming. And it’s Štefančič that Politico turn to for some context in their profile of Janša, titled “Slovenian strongman back at EU top table”, a reference to the fact that Slovenia will hold the EU Presidency in the second half of the year (for the second time, with the first being in 2008, when Janša was also Prime Minister, and Europe also faced a crisis).

Facebook - SDS - Orban and Jansa.jpg

Orbán and Janša at an SDS rally. Facebook

As all non-Slovene articles about Janša seem to do, the emphasis is put on his relationship with Viktor Orbán, as well as the similarities and differences between the two men. The overall statement is that Janša “plays to win”, with Štefančič claiming that his former co-worker is “a little bit of Trump, a little bit of Boris Johnson, a little bit of Orbán.” Štefančič goes on to express some concern that Slovenia could follow Hungary down the path of “illiberal democracy”, noting that if Janša decided to do so “I don’t think the other parties that are in coalition with him would stop him.”

However it’s that coalition that Ali Žerdin, of the newspaper Delo, sees as a limiting factor on any great changes to society. Žerdin claims that the parties joined the coalition for fear of being wiped out in a snap election, and thus they preferred to help Janša gain power, keep him in check, and position themselves for the next elections, due in mid-2022 at the latest.


The art world in particular likes playing with Janša, and Janša finds much to excite his supporters with in the art world. There are actually three artists known as Janez Janša, while the Prime Minister himself was born Ivan Janša.

The article goes on to give more background on Janša, and why those in the centre and on the left who have followed his career for decades have some concerns about what’s coming next, particularly with regard to interference in the media. You can read the whole thing here, and – if you’d like to get some idea of what the next Prime Minister is like then you can see his very active, in English and Slovene, Twitter account here.

All our stories on Janez Janša can be found here

07 Mar 2020, 16:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 6 March 2020

Mladina: Šarec, Mesec not to blame for Janša's rise to power

STA, 6 March 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that blaming the Left and the Marjan Šarec List for Janez Janša's rise to power would be easiest. But the fact is that the two parties acted exactly as they were expected.

Luka Mesec of the Left and Marjan Šarec could have kept the outgoing coalition alive for a while longer to prevent the forming of the Janša government by making constant concessions to capital, but in the end, they would undoubtedly be the losers.

What happened now would happen at the next election at the latest, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž under the headline Šarec and Mesec Are Right.

What caused the collapse of the outgoing coalition was the August 2019 proposal to abolish top-up health insurance. "The minute the Left proposed the law that would actually implement what was written in the coalition agreement, the entire coalition was up in arms.

"That was when not only the coalition but also the LMŠ fell apart, as both most important ministers from Šarec's party (finance minister and health minister) opposed the law. Because they deemed it ideologically unacceptable."

The neo-liberal parties in government immediately voiced opposition to the proposal: the SMC, SAB, even the SD complained, but hopefully only because the Left tabled the proposal, Repovž says.

Parties started calculating and MPs realised they might lose their jobs. The government did not collapse because of stubbornness of Mesec or Šarec's incompetence but because of clear ideological differences within the coalition and the LMŠ, Repovž claims.

It was a typical clash between the left and right, those who favour public health and those who want to privatise healthcare.

Parties picked sides very clearly: the SDS, NSi, SAB, SMC, DeSUS and the SNS stood to defend capital and the wealthy. "Yes, the SAB is on the list too and is not in the SDS-led coalition today only because Janša will never forget that he had to hand over the PM post to Alenka Bratušek in 2013."

The LMŠ closely escaped being put on this list as well, mainly thanks to its deputy group. People such as outgoing Finance Minister Andrej Betroncelj could have easily prevailed in the party but when they did not, departures started and Šarec was left in a position when all he could do was to resign.

"It is without a doubt terrible that Slovenia got a government led by a far-right politician. The price will be high. But in the last election we simply elected mostly the parties and MPs that see politics merely as a means to satisfy their own interests and the interests of the capital ... But at least now they are together and are no longer hiding behind the Left and the LMŠ."

Demokracija: Centre-right alliance will last for years

STA, 5 March 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija is confident in its latest editorial about the firmness of the new centre-right coalition, saying cooperation between centrist and right-wing parties is "much more natural than an alliance between far-left radicals, socialists (masked as socdems), and alleged liberals".

Demokracija's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says coalition infighting had indeed been among the reasons for the resignation of outgoing PM Marjan Šarec, but the changes at the helm of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) were crucial for what followed.

Biščak says their former Presidents Miro Cerar and Karl Erjavec "were increasingly openly flirting with socialists ideology, while Zdravko Počivalšek and Aleksandra Pivec immediately started moving their parties back to the centre and liberal values".

Thus Biščak believes Počivalšek and Pivec's claims "that the time lost with an election would have had disastrous consequences for Slovenia over media assertions that they are saving their parties from being erased from the political arena in a snap election".

While criticising last Friday's rally organised against the new coalition as a sign "we are sinking back into a totalitarian world", Biščak is confident that the new coalition is ideologically firm, up to the task, and has a good chance of making it until the end of the term.

"Even more. There are signs emerging on the horizon of a firm coalition between liberal and right-wing parties after the 2022 election," Biščak says in the commentary entitled Sorry for Even Existing.

All our posts in this series are here

04 Mar 2020, 09:02 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Veteran politician Janez Janša, the long-time leader of the Democratic Party (SDS), has been appointed prime minister of Slovenia's 14th government, his third stint at the helm of the executive. His stable base of supporters finds him charismatic, capable and effective, his opponents say he is resentful and radical.

The 61-year-old has been at the helm of the SDS since 1993 and enjoys unbridled support among party members, having ran unopposed for the position of party leader for two decades and successfully deflecting all challenges to his primacy. Being the party's unrivalled leader, his political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the SDS.

The party has been holding steady at or just below the top of party rankings for years. It won the 2018 general election but Janša was unable to put together a coalition because most parties refused to work with him, quoting the radical anti-immigrant rhetoric modelled on his close friend and ally, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

After Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister in late January, Janša got another chance, as leadership change at the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) made the former Šarec coalition partners less averse to working with Janša, and mindful of the uncertainty that a snap election brings.

His biggest success had been the 2004 election, in which the SDS got 29% of the vote. The SDS went on to build a stable government widely seen as capable, but also one that laid the groundwork for problems in final years of the economic crisis with policies that increased public spending even as they reduced government revenue.

Janša capped his first term by presiding the EU Council in 2008, and although his leadership was applauded across the EU, it was not enough to build up support domestically: in the 2008 general election, the SDS held steady at 29% but was overtaken by the Social Democrats (SD).

If the government serves out its full term Janša will do the cherished job once more as Slovenia is slated to preside the EU in the second half of 2021.

By 2008, Janša was also facing serious allegations of bribery from Finnish defence contractor Patria in exchange for a EUR 278 million purchase of armed personnel carriers, a transaction agreed in 2006.

The trial started in autumn of 2011, just months before Slovenia was about to hold the first snap election in its history and Janša remains convinced that the scandal was fabricated by his political rivals to undermine his chances of winning.

Despite his legal woes, the SDS came second in the 2011 election and Janša became prime minister once again in February 2012 after Zoran Janković, the head of the winning Positive Slovenia (PS), failed to put together a coalition.

The second time around Janša lasted only a year in the prime minister's office, but the policies adopted during that term had profound consequences as the government introduced a number of austerity measures in the wake of the 2008 economic and financial crisis.

The measures were in line with the dominant economic thinking at the time, which focused on the soundness of public finances, but in retrospect they have come to be seen as having contributed to the sluggish recovery of the economy by depressing demand due to wage cuts in the public sector and trimming of investment spending.

The government collapsed after all coalition partners, with the exception of New Slovenia (NSi), left in the wake of accusations by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption about assets Janša could not account for.

In the Patria trial, Janša was found guilty of corruption by the court of first instance and went to jail for several months in 2014 before being released after the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial. The case became statute-barred before a retrial could begin.

While he was in prison, his supporters held regular weekly protests in front of the Ljubljana Courthouse, criticising the judiciary and portraying Janša as a victim of the system.

The protests created a strong grassroots movement that Janša has been able to count on to support his policies and ideas. They were also a manifestation of a long-held belief, going back to the time when he, then a journalist for the weekly Mladina, was first arrested in the late 1980s for divulging classified information, that the "deep state", remnants of the Communist-era centres of power, is dead set against him.

Janša's supporters see him as a strong fighter against remnants of the old political forces. A large part of the public, in particular voters on the left, see in him a shrewd political strategist and demagogue who is very good at playing into the fears of voters, does not chose his means, and continues to deepen divisions in society.

Despite being in prison in the aftermath of the Patria trial at the time, Janša was once again elected MP in 2014, with the SDS coming second to the then newly established Miro Cerar Party (SMC), which was later renamed the Modern Centre Party and will now be a partner in his coalition.

By 2016, cracks had started to show in the SDS, as several senior members had left the party, among them Janša's former Interior Minister Dragutin Mate and long-serving Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The latter, when he left in 2015, said that Janša had deemed him "not orthodox enough", while Mate said that the party's internal democracy had declined.

In terms of relations with foreign politicians, Janša seems to be close to Orban, while he borrowed the slogan Slovenia First for the 2018 election from US President Donald Trump. And like Trump, Janša likes to communicate via Twitter, where he has more than 50,000 followers, more than any other Slovenian politician.

While the judiciary has been a persistent target of criticism by the SDS and Janša, their relationship with the media is testy as well. The most recent wave of criticism came following reports that two media outlets launched by the SDS, ostensibly to counter unfair coverage by mainstream media, had received funding from Hungarian businesses close to Orban.

The SDS has denied allegations that the financial transactions amounted to illegal funding for the party from abroad, and it has dismissed criticism that the Hungarian money makes Janša and the SDS beholden to Orban.

This alleged funding took place after the SDS found itself in crossfire in late 2017 for taking out a EUR 450,000 loan from Dijana Đuđić, an entrepreneur from the Republic of Srpska. The party immediately repaid the loan after this made the news.

Janša was born on 17 September 1958, he graduated in defence sciences in 1982. Soon after, he became the head of the defence commission of the then Association of Socialist Youth of Slovenia, starting to criticise the authorities.

In the 1980s, he was a writer for the weekly Mladina, and was arrested in 1988 and court-martialled on suspicion of leaking military secrets. The protests that accompanied the trial of Janša and three other co-defendants are seen as one of the key milestones in Slovenia's path to independence.

In 1989, he was one of the co-founders of the Slovenian Democratic Alliance, a predecessor of the SDS and one of the first opposition parties in Slovenia. He became a member of the National Assembly in 1990 and is the only MP who has been elected in every single general election since then.

He served as defence minister in successive governments in the early 1990s, including during Slovenia's ten-day independence war in 1991, until he was sacked as a result of a high-profile dispute over the use of military force against a civilian, and in 2000, during the short-lived government of Andrej Bajuk.

Janša has authored several books. His best known works deal with his early political career in the 1990s and the political situation at the time, while in recent years he has also tried his hand in fiction. While in prison in 2014, he wrote the historical novel Noric Kingdom, which imagines an ancient kingdom on present-day Slovenian lands.

He has four children, two with his first wife and two with his current wife, and three grandchildren.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

04 Mar 2020, 08:49 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Janez Janša, the 61-year-old leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), was elected prime minister-designate on Tuesday, receiving the mandate to form his third government after joining forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS).

Having forged a centre-right coalition with the three partners a month after Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister, Janša won 52 votes in a secret ballot in the 90-member legislature with 31 MPs voting against, six abstaining and one invalid ballot.

Biography: Janez Janša - Independence Hero, Former Prisoner, Veteran Politician, Now Slovenia’s PM for 3rd Time

After he was sworn in, Janša said the incoming coalition faced important challenges but he expressed the conviction that it would be able to address them with responsible management.

Janša now has 15 days to put to parliament his candidates for ministers. "The first step was made today. I expect that I will be able to bring the list of candidates for the new government to this assembly in a relatively short time."

The SDS will put forward candidates that have experience in government as well as Slovenia's 2008 presidency of the EU since Slovenia will preside the bloc again in 2021, according to him.

In an hour-long address to the National Assembly prior to the vote, Janša acknowledged that the government would not be able to achieve everything it wants to given that it has only two years to serve until the next scheduled election.

Its term would therefore be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with emphasis on the things that bring the parties together and measures that do not require significant outlays.

Some of the priorities include cutting red tape and decentralisation, including by basing any newly established institutions outside Ljubljana.

Other measures planned in the coalition agreement will have significant fiscal consequences, including higher pensions and a series of family-friendly measures the government plans to take such as expansion of free kindergarten and a universal child allowance.

One of the key policy priorities is the establishment of a "demographic fund", a pension support fund in which state assets would be pooled to help finance public pensions.

"It is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," he said.

The new government plans to liberalise the economy and introduce competition in education and healthcare. As least as a temporary measure to improve national security, it also plans to re-introduce military conscription.

Janša has often been accused of being too radical, in particular due to his anti-immigration sentiment in recent years, but his statements suggest he has softened his stance on migrations.

He said that migrants would be welcome if invited, provided they accepted the fundamental tenets of the "majority culture". "They cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

The debate in parliament saw the members of the new coalition pledging to work for the benefit of the entire society and rejecting criticism by the new opposition about the prospects of the new government being too far to the right.

"The experience from recent years makes us justifiably doubt that someone can become wise, tolerant, respectful, just and inclusive over night," said Brane Golubović, the head of the deputy group of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

The new opposition spent a significant portion of the allotted time arguing about who and what caused the Šarec government to collapse, with the Left, whose termination of a cooperation deal with the minority government was a major milestone, often in the focus of criticism.

Slovenia may have a new government with full powers within three weeks, the third led by Janša after stints in 2004-2008 and in 2012-2013.

The undisputed leader of the Slovenian conservative bloc, Janša is considered the most experienced politician in Slovenia, his career spanning over three decades.

Aside from having served as prime minister twice already, he was defence minister in three governments in 1990-1994, and again in 2000, during the interim Andrej Bajuk government.

All our stories on the new government and it's proposed policies are here

03 Mar 2020, 16:04 PM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša addressed the National Assembly ahead of the vote to appoint him prime minister-designate, stressing that the four parties entering a new coalition would focus on what brought them together. He said he would seek consensus while tackling challenges, adding that the opposition was also invited to cooperation.

 Janša, who in addition to the SDS has secured support of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), presented the guidelines of the future four-party coalition ahead of Tuesday's secret ballot.

He said that in the coalition agreement, the parties had used the current situation in Slovenia - the fact that the outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has caused a government crisis with his resignation, as reference point.

According to Janša, the parties have agreed on a coalition contract which would also be the basis for the government programme, to be presented along with the minister line-up when and if he is confirmed as PM-designate.

As the new government has only two years left before the new election, the term will be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with the things that bring the parties together being emphasised.

When addressing challenges, the parties will try to reach agreement by looking for consensus, Janša said, adding that he would also invite the opposition and the two minority MPs to participate in the creation of solutions.

"Our door for cooperation for the common good stays open to everybody else as well. We exclude nobody," he said.

Janša noted that the main guideline of the new government was that Slovenia could do much better with measures which did not require additional financial investments, including debureaucratisation and decentralisation.

"There is a segment in the administrative part of the public sector which employs too many people, including quality staff," he said, suggesting that a "certain reassignment" should be made as businesses lacked quality staff.

Janša said that the number of regulations had increased ten-fold since 1992, resulting in an unconstitutional situation in which a citizen "is allowed to do only what is expressly prescribed". The excessive bureaucracy also generates huge state administration costs and protracts procedures.

As for decentralisation of Slovenia, he said that the emerging coalition had pledged that new institutions, if established, would be located outside the capital.

An ambition for the next term is to distribute certain institutions currently located in Ljubljana around the country, he said, adding that provinces should also be established so that the state is better organised when it came to investing EU funds.

Among the measures which require a considerable financial investment, Janša mentioned a public pension support fund, with the population ageing being a strategic problem. He admitted that these problems could not be solved in one term.

"But it is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," so that pensions in the future are no longer an exclusive cost for the working population.

While speaking of demographics, Janša touched on migration, saying that those who came to Slovenia, if invited, were welcome, and if they were in trouble, they would also be helped.

"But they cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

Janša also announced measures to create a better environment for economic growth, as this is a permanent basis for prosperity. He added that public education and healthcare needed competition, which ensured quality.

"Slovenia will never replace public education and healthcare with a private system, like some countries have, but it needs to be said that neither of the two would work if it is a given, if there is no competition and if there is no possibility of choice."

Janša believes that problems in healthcare are solvable, but not without some order being made there and without the wage system being changed, upgraded. This is also true for some other sub-systems, he added.

He noted that not only highly qualified experts, but highly profitable companies too were leaving Slovenia, and that many more would follow suit if competitive conditions were not created at home.

Janša believes that certain contribution rates would have to be raised, including for health insurance and long-term care. "But this raise will be unnoticed if we create more, if economic growth is higher, if we eliminate all these obstacles."

Turning to security, he said that the current structure of the defence system did not allow for its basic task, national defence, to be performed.

"If nothing changes, in two years we will not even be able to bluff," Janša said, adding that for this reason it was necessary to at least temporarily reintroduce mandatory conscription and military service.

As for international challenges, he pointed to Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2021, and added that Brexit was a "strategic catastrophe for the EU, by far the largest since its formation", and that it was not time for experiments.

While large countries are pushing for the decision-making system in the EU to be changed, the Lisbon Treaty enables small countries to win equality, especially if they are skilful enough and if they are able to rally around common interests, Janša concluded.

A series of stories on the new coalition is here

03 Mar 2020, 14:17 PM

STA, 2 March 2020 - Miro Cerar, Slovenia's outgoing foreign minister, announced on Monday he was quitting the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre (SMC) lost its face after joining a coalition led by Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing Democratic Party (SDS).

Speaking in parliament, Cerar said he did not wish to be party member any longer, let alone "an honorary member of a party that has ended up without honour".

Cerar had been staunchly opposed to the SMC joining a Janša-led coalition since before the 2018 general election, but the party changed its mind under its new leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

However, despite his decision "in principle not to take part in the Janša government, I seriously considered Zdravko Počivalšek's proposal to head the National Assembly".

"The SMC could thus protect the principle of the division of power and serve as a liberal corrective to a right-wing government."

Cerar said that he had been encouraged by many within and outside the SMC to bid for the post of the speaker, but that after his discussion with Počivalšek last night he realised "it's all manipulation, empty rhetoric and private ambitions of individuals."

Meanwhile, Počivalšek suggested his decision not to put Cerar forward as candidate for the speaker under the Janša government was the reason behind Cerar's quitting the party.

Unofficially, the candidate for the post is Igor Zorčič, the leader of the SMC faction in parliament.

Cerar said that by opting to join the Janša-led coalition, the party had lost credibility to implement its founding values.

He said the party leadership did not see beyond themselves, not even as far as party members, let alone as far as their voters.

Cerar, a jurist and constitutional law expert, founded the SMC shortly before the 2014 election, leading it to victory and going on to serve as prime minister until 2018.

After the party's poor showing in the following general and EU elections, he stepped down as SMC leader, handing over to Počivalšek in September 2019.

Cerar said SMC MPs had forgotten not only who invited them to the project, but mainly who elected them, so he urged them to start thinking with their own heads.

"If this doesn't happen I appeal to party members who want to remain true to the SMC's founding values, democracy, rule of law, human rights and the freethinking liberal stance not to betray those values and leave the party that no longer deserves to be called Modern Centre Party".

"The SMC long ceased to be the party of Miro Cerar, and sadly even the Modern Centre Party, unless modernity is understood as following the latest fashion and turning the way the wind blows," he said.

Cerar would not say whether he will return to serve as MP after his ministerial job ends.

Looking back on the past six years as party leader, PM and party member, Cerar admitted that he may have made some mistakes.

"What hurts the most is that I was wrong about certain people that I proposed for senior positions: from ministers to the head of the deputy faction and others," he said.

In response, Počivalšek said that he had set out the situation in the party to Cerar; unofficial information suggests that they met on Friday morning and again on Sunday evening.

He said that after a long period of turbulence the party needed to undergo a consolidation, which he said could not happen if the party kept returning into the past.

This is why he told Cerar that he would not put him forward for the speaker once he returned to parliament, a decision that Počivalšek said was hard but required for the party to go forward.

Počivalšek, who has served as economy minister in the governments of Marjan Šarec and Miro Cerar, said that the SMC was keeping its social, liberal and sustainable profile.

29 Feb 2020, 14:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 28 February 2020

Mladina: Public will keep a close eye on Janša

STA, 28 February 2020 – The left-wing weekly Mladina puts the pending power shift in Slovenia in the context of a nationalist-populist wave that gripped Europe in 2015. It issues a scathing criticism of the Democrats (SDS) and those about to enable a Janez Janša government, saying they are foolish to think Janša has changed his ways and that the Slovenian public will stand by quietly.

The weight of the decision that MPs face next week as parliament will vote on the new government "is much bigger than they are willing to admit to themselves", the weekly's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in the commentary entitled The Public is Watching and Remembering.

"They are being calculated in their actions, but it seems they are not really aware they will carry the consequences of their decision for the rest of their lives," he says, arguing the MPs know very well what Janša's Democrats (SDS) are about.

Repovž equates the SDS with "hatred, a giant factory of lies, constant and grave elimination of those not sharing their views, overt racism and exclusion".

"Many people and institutions have for years been living under this pressure and this has left Slovenian democracy deeply wounded," Repovž says, speaking of year after year marked by inciting of hatred, attacks on scholars, culture workers, media, individual journalists.

"Of course there was also abuse of power, the circumvention of laws (for instance those governing the funding of parties from abroad), and last but not least corruption and all kinds of dodgy manoeuvres with cash, including the inability of the party's president to explain the origins of his."

Repovž says that statements by MPs and party leaders show they know exactly who they are putting in power and thus they also know what Slovenian society will go through because of their decision.

He argues that they may be trying to convince themselves that there will be no culture war and ideological attack on society this time around, but notes that these already started before the coalition agreement was signed and that there has been too much of this for any politician serious about democracy to swallow.

"There is one habit that Slovenian politicians are simply incapable of losing: they keep underestimating the public and treat citizens as small children that can be fooled with stupid tricks. Well, these citizens have shown too often now how they feel about this arrogant attitude of the elite and how to demonstrate this sentiment."

Reporter: "Deep state" wants Janša in power

STA, 24 February 2020 - Reporter, the right-leaning political magazine, believes the "deep state" is the force slotting the pieces together to result in a new Janez Janša government. "Janša is literally being gifted his third government by the deep state," it says in Monday's commentary.

Arguing that the Left, "the party most strongly led by the deep state", is the main reason why the Marjan Šarec government came crashing down, Reporter says that "if it was in the interest of old networks to prevent Janša's renewed ascent to power, they could probably have done that."

"Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back to then take two steps forward. The Communists had successfully deployed these tactics thirty years ago, during the change of political system and independence, when they temporarily gave up power so that two years later, dressed up as social democrats and liberals, they could return," the commentator says.

Now the deep state wants to let Janša carry out some urgent but unpopular measures, just like his government did eight years ago, counting on people rebelling for "a new episode of pan-Slovenian popular uprisings". Two years later, the left can then return to power even stronger, the paper says in Gift by the Deep State.

All our posts in this series are here, while all our stories on Janez Janša are here

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