Ljubljana related

27 May 2021, 11:27 AM

STA, 26 May 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša survived an impeachment vote in parliament on Wednesday as 42 deputies voted in favour and 44 against after nearly ten hours of debate. A 46-vote majority would have been required to impeach him.

The voting record shows the coalition parties as well as the National Party (SNS), two MPs of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and both minority MPs voted against the impeachment, which had been expected from the debate.

The impeachment motion was sponsored by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Left and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), who accused Janša of violating several articles of the Constitution and laws pertaining to healthcare, media, prosecution and human and constitutional rights.

They said the government co-opted the management of the Covid-19 epidemic and failed to order Slovenia's share of Covid-19 vaccines in full, and exerted pressure on the media, including the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), and the prosecution.

Jani Möderndorfer (LMŠ) said that as interim health minister Janša failed to get Slovenia to buy its full share of Covid-19 vaccines, and as prime minister was responsible for the government failing in its legal obligation to finance the STA for its public service, and in the obligation to get formally acquainted with the names of candidates for European delegated prosecutors.

"He acts against the laws and constitution, and international instruments which Slovenia - like it or not - has committed to respecting," said Möderndorfer, describing Janša's conduct as "arbitrary, authoritarian, harmful and dangerous" and "in ridicule of democracy and his own country and people".

He said the reason for Janša's unlawful and unconstitutional conduct was his personal war on everything that was independent and autonomous in any democratic country. The media were his first target and the STA the easiest of them.

Speaking for the SocDems, Bojana Muršič said Slovenia was being ruled by an authoritarian government which had no regard for laws, the Constitution, let alone people in pursuing its goals. "Blatant violations have come to become an everyday practice."

"We have a clique in power who will dare do anything and all the others have been subjected for a year to completely arbitrary attempts to delegate laws, norms, decrees and even punishments," said Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, blaming not only Janša but all those in parliament who allowed him to do what he did.

Similarly, Maša Kociper from the SAB talked about Slovenia sinking into an autocracy and a second republic. The prime minister "is systematically abolishing our political and democratic order, helped by the coalition and its sidekicks, who either don't see it or won't see it because they are intoxicated with power".

Janša dismissed the claims in general terms saying the impeachment motion contained "so many absurd things that it does not make sense to answer all of them, and it does not make sense to quarrel about that".

Slovenia was not in for a disaster as claimed by the opposition, but very optimistic times, he said. "We can see a year of recovery ahead of us that will be faster than the average for EU member states and that will take Slovenia back to pre-crisis levels in record time."

He said that, given the situation, it could be expected that the state of epidemic, in force until mid-June, would be suspended thereafter and that Slovenia could enter a transitional period when a majority of measures would be eliminated as Slovenia reaches the required level of vaccination by the summer.

He blamed the 4,000-plus Covid-19 deaths on the previous government failing to prepare for the epidemic.

As for the media, he claimed EUR 400 million had been invested in Slovenian hospitals in the last ten years, while more than a billion had been invested in the national broadcaster RTV Slovenija and the STA in the same period.

The figure probably referred to the licence fee for RTV Slovenija, which is not paid by the state but by taxpayers, and the public service fee for the STA, which has amounted to roughly 22 million euro over ten years.

A short history of impeachment in Slovenia

15 May 2021, 12:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 14 May 2021. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Bitter EU presidency for Janša

STA, 14 May 2021 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in Friday's editorial that Slovenia's EU presidency later this year could prove a bitter experience for PM Janez Janša, as it anticipates that senior EU officials might not be willing to come to Slovenia because Janša's actions are not in line with EU values.

EU presidency has been reduced to a show of protocol, except if a powerful member state, such as Germany, is at its helm.

When a weak member state is presiding, the presidency is relatively unnoticeable, which also goes for Slovenia, no matter who would be in power at that moment.

Nevertheless, the eyes of all politicians start glowing when they think of all the photo sessions they will get during visits by foreign officials.

And while "Janša wants to pin the EU presidency on his wrinkled coat", he has started realising the EU could punish him by depriving him of the much-desired photo sessions.

"Today it is already clear that European politicians find our prime minister repulsive, to use this harsh word that can be heard in Berlaymont's corridors, at the seat of the European Commission."

Whatever he does is base and disgusting for Europe, which is based on the Enlightenment. EU institutions see the story about the STA as a Putin-styled political concept which represents everything Europe is not and does not want to be.

If this regime does not collapse before, Janša will preside the EU, Mladina says. But it seems it will be a bitter experience for him, because senior representatives of EU institutions and statesmen could be cancelling their participation.

The weekly says that every meeting will be marked by counting who has come to Ljubljana, and who has instead sent a lower-ranking official with a kind letter explaining that urgent matters have kept them in their own country.

Reporter: Coalition's move on Zorčič a bluff

STA, 10 May 2021 -The right-wing weekly Reporter says in its latest commentary that parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič would not let himself be bluffed by the coalition into resigning. His current reputation as a person who stubbornly resists Prime Minister Janez Janša is of key importance for his current recognisability and greater popularity in the public.

The coalition had called on Zorčič to resign honourably as it claimed it had enough votes to dismiss him, but the alleged 47 votes dwindled to only 38 in only two days.

"It is not clear what had prompted the coalition parties to go after Zorčič with such an apparent bluff," the weekly adds under the headline Bluffers.

The clumsy move by the coalition that is difficult to understand had been doomed in advance, and even without the fiasco with MP signatures, the stunt was unnecessary, because Zorčič had no reason whatsoever to resign himself.

"Because this is hygienic, as his predecessors Dejan Židan and Matej Tonin resigned themselves? But the two knew that they have no chance of remaining at the post, while Zorčič made a calculation that says that they cannot replace him."

Zorčič has realised that standing up to the coalition brings him points, as those who had criticised him for not supporting the KUL coalition in its attempt to overthrow Janša are now applauding him.

Reporter wonders whether Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, because of the lack of votes in parliament, will be "really forced to swallow the humiliation and return to parliament for the sake of the majority in the National Assembly."

Although Počivalšek likes to brag that the economy badly needs him, Janša would quickly find a replacement for him at the ministry. "At this moment the prime minister needs deputy Počivalšek more than Minister Počivalšek."

All our posts in this series are here

14 May 2021, 13:37 PM

STA, 13 May 2021 - A group of NGOs and research institutions has condemned incitement of "racist and ethnic hatred" after Jasminka Dedić, the head of the Slovenian Bosniak Cultural Association, came under attack from right-wing media for comments she made for the Sarajevo-based newspaper STAV.

In an interview that STAV run under the headline Jasminka Dedić: Bosniaks and Migrants for Slovenians, Dedić spoke about Slovenia's attitude to people of different ethnic backgrounds, saying that Prime Minister Janez Janša did not tolerate any criticism and attacks were likely to follow.

In response the weekly Demokracija and the broadcaster Nova 24 targeted Dedić, an employee at the Government Office for Development and Cohesion Policy, in an article headlined Leftist Quislingism: Employed and Paid by Slovenian Government that She is Slandering Abroad!

Some media have reported that Minister Zvonko Černač, who heads the Office for Development and Cohesion Policy, has allegedly been collecting signatures from his subordinates to sack Dedić. The STA turned for comment to the office latest week but has unable to get one yet.

Now several organisations, headed by the Chair of Social Justice and Social Inclusion at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Studies, issued a public letter to condemn what they say is "obviously an orchestrated incitement of racist and ethnic hatred" in some media and government services.

"We understand the minister's conduct as pejorative and malicious ethnic and racist labelling of Slovenian citizens who are being denied the right to express political views as representatives of minority cultural associations," reads the letter, referring to Černač.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the incitement of intolerance and a purge among public employees that is also supposed to serve as a form of disciplining other public employees and Slovenian citizens who have views different from the ruling party or minority ethnic backgrounds," reads the letter.

The signatories, which include three institutes affiliated with the Science and Research Institute of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Ljubljana Jewish Cultural Centre and several other research institutions and chairs affiliated with the universities of Ljubljana and Primorska, expect a public apology from the media outlets that slandered Dedić's good name, and an end to attacks at her workplace.

Concern was also expressed by the Bosniak Cultural Association, which pointed to untruthful claims in the Demokracija article. "We are deeply concerned because you gravely encroached on the integrity of Dr Dedić, in particular because of strong indications that due to your manipulative and untruthful accusations she will become the target of retaliatory measures from her employer."

The association says it will not let be intimidated and will report media attacks and smear campaigns to the relevant Slovenian, European and international authorities.

12 May 2021, 11:57 AM

STA, 12 May 2021 - The newspaper Dnevnik reports that the Ljubljana District Court has resorted to hiring a detective to try to deliver court mail to Prime Minister Janez Janša, who is not picking up mail related to the Trenta case.

The case involves a piece of land in the Trenta Valley that Janša bought in 1992 and sold in 2005 for nearly nine times the price he paid, and for which an indictment against him and another two defendants was filed last autumn over abuse of office.

Related: Janša Formally Indicted for Abuse of Office in Property Deals

Until Janša receives the mail, the court cannot continue to decide on the defence's request to exclude members of the judging panel.

The documents the court would like to deliver to Janša are related to the request for exclusion of the judges.

Following its first request, Janša's defence counsel filed another two requests, so the court must successfully deliver all three replies before proceeding.

The Specialised Prosecutor's Office filed an indictment against Janša over abuse of office last October, after five years of investigation.

Also indicted are Branko Kastelic, a former chairman of Imos company, and Klemen Gantar, a former director of Eurogradnje.

According to the unofficial information obtained by Dnevnik, the court had no problems delivering the mail to Kastelic and Gantar.

12 May 2021, 10:40 AM

STA, 11 May 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša denied on Twitter on Tuesday media reports that he had been sidelined from the inauguration ceremony of the conference on the future of Europe held in Strasbourg on Sunday. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan told reporters in Brussels Janša could have attended the ceremony if he wanted to.

The newspaper Delo reported on Monday that the government had proposed in writing that the leaders of all three EU countries that will be presiding the EU Council during the conference - Portugal, Slovenia and France - take part in the ceremony, including the Slovenian prime minister.

Being a member of the conference's executive committee, Dovžan addressed a letter to the other two countries from the trio in April.

Given that the EU Council has a rotating presidency, it will be represented by the leaders of the presiding countries - Portugal, Slovenia and France, he wrote. "That is why I firmly believe leaders of all three countries should have the opportunity to be present at the ceremony," he added.

But according to Delo, the co-chair of the executive committee, Guy de Verhofstadt, allegedly did not want Janša to be invited to the ceremony, which sources in the European Parliament confirmed for the paper.

Dovžan, who took part in a session of the EU General Affairs Council in Brussels today, told reporters that leaders had received no invitations and that if the Slovenian prime minister wanted to attend the ceremony the French authorities had been prepared, and that if his obligations allowed it he could have attended it.

Janša wrote on Twitter that the EU Council was represented at the conference by the prime minister of the current presiding country, which was Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa until the end of June. "From 1 July 2021 Slovenia will be the presiding country and the co-chair of the conference on the future of the EU will, next to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, be Janez Janša. Guy has not influence on this."

08 May 2021, 07:28 AM

STA, 7 May 2021 - Delo says in Friday's front-page editorial that the systematic tweeting by Prime Minister Janez Janša is part of a carefully devised political and communication plan to keep his constituency mobilised at a rate that will secure a relative win for his Democrats (SDS) in general election at any time.

For Janša, Twitter has become a key multi-functional tool with which he communicates with his constituency and with the public at the same time, while also attacking political opponents and discrediting critical journalists.

On this platform, the prime minister is also waging "war with the media, which now targets public media by financially draining the Slovenian Press Agency, before it is RTV Slovenija's turn".

According to Delo, the objective of Janša's war with the media is to destroy the traditional public space, which has already been undermined, and to solidify a parallel para-party media ecosystem supported by Hungarian capital.

The final objective is to establish Twitter as the key public media, where it is much easier to manipulate with public opinion than in the established media world, where information is checked systematically and passes through several filters.

The newspaper notes that the use of techniques of astroturfing in connection with the media linked with the SDS has helped establish the increasingly negativist political agenda in the country.

"For the SDS's interests to be fully solidified, public media need to be crushed, for which he does not need 46 votes in the National Assembly, only early elections must be prevented," concludes the commentary “A Systematic Plan is Behind the Yelping of Marshal Tweeto”.

07 May 2021, 10:38 AM

STA, 7 May 2021 - Bojan Veselinovič, the director of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), has announced legal action against Prime Minister Janez Janša after he implied on Twitter that Veselinovič had been involved in the "murder" of a former STA editor-in-chief more than a decade ago.

What Janša wrote exceeds all boundaries, Veselinovič told the TV Slovenija current affairs show Tarča Thursday evening.

The decision comes after Janša wrote on Twitter today: "Incredible for 21st century EU that an accomplice in the murder of a journalist still leads the STA and gets EUR 8,500 per month. More than the president of the republic."

Veselinovič said he would press criminal charges as a private plaintiff and a civil defamation suit.

Responding to Veselinovič's announcement, Janša tweeted today: "Finally. Bullying a journalist who then died must get a closure in court."

Janša added a link to excerpts from a 2009 news conference at which Meško, at the time still STA editor-in-chief, said Veselinovič resorted to all forms of bullying.

Veselinovič meanwhile also sent a cease and desist letter to Uroš Urbanija, Government Communication Office (UKOM) director, who has alleged in several tweets that Veselinovič had taken it out on Meško.

Yesterday, Urbanija tweeted that Veselinovič had sent Meško a termination letter "while he was on his death bed" after "a brutal settling of scores and long-time bullying".

Meško was the editor-in-chief in 2007-2009 and was handed a termination notice on 3 November 2009 due to his failure to draw up strategic plans despite a prior warning. He died in May 2010.

Veselinovič has often come under fire from conservative journalists for firing Meško just before his death, a financial settlement with Meško's family having been used as proof of wrongful termination.

But Veselinovič has insisted he had not known about Meško's illness, a point raised in the cease and desist letter sent to Urbanija yesterday.

The law firm representing Veselinovič said he had not been informed about the illness until May 2010, when he received a letter from Meško's legal representative.

And this letter came with medical documentation that Meško's terminal illness had not been diagnosed until December 2009, a month after he was fired.

This means "it would have been impossible for our client to carry out any of the acts that you allege," said the law firm, which also dismissed all allegations about bullying.

23 Apr 2021, 21:25 PM

STA, 23 April 2021 - The wife of Prime Minister Janez Janša, Urška Bačovnik Janša, has received a death threat targeting her and the couple's children. The letter was sent to the hospital in Celje where she works as a doctor, and has been handed over to police, Večer newspaper reported.

Celje police said they had been informed about an anonymous threat and had launched an investigation. "We are vigilant and react carefully to threats against the most senior representatives of the state," the police said.

The prime minister and his family enjoy police protection by default according to regulations on the protection of senior state officials.

The deputy group of the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) strongly condemned all types of violence and threats in response to the news. The group said that children aged only 9 and 7 should never be the targets of any kind of violence or threats.

It also warned that there was only one step from threats to actions and urged the law-enforcement to take serious action in such cases no matter who is the target.

The Celje police station processed eight cases involving threats to the most senior representatives of the state last year. In five cases criminal charges were filed against five perpetrators, while in two cases, in which the victims did not request prosecution, the police forwarded reports to the Celje district state prosecutor's office. In one case, the investigation is still under way.

19 Apr 2021, 12:14 PM
Updated 18:20

STA, 19 April 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has condemned extremism after members of a radical Islamist group in Bosnia and Herzegovina protested in front of the Slovenian embassy in Sarajevo Sunday over an alleged non-paper linked to Slovenia that speaks about the breakup of Bosnia along ethnic lines.

"Slovenian and other extremists who sow chaos are only causing damage," he said on Twitter after noting that Slovenia had stopped dealing with the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, when it became independent.

"We wish peace, progress and EU perspective to the remaining countries left on its territory," he said Sunday evening in response to news of the protests.

Media reports suggest a few dozen members of the movement Religion, Nation, Country (Vera, narod, država), formed by a radical cleric, gathered in front of the Slovenian embassy in Sarajevo chanting "Bosnia".

The rally came in the aftermath of multiple media reports implying that Slovenia had circulated a non-paper in the EU on the redrawing of borders in the former Yugoslavia.

In talks with a member of the Bosnian presidency on Friday, Janša said there was no non-paper containing border changes or efforts to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina's territorial integrity that could be linked with the Slovenian government.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama confirmed the existence of a non-paper in a TV appearance on Saturday. While he did not say this non-paper was authored by Slovenia, he said he had discussed it with Janša a while ago.

"I have seen the document and discussed it ... with the Slovenian prime minister," he said, adding that he would not comment further on that.

Responding to Rama's statement, Janša tweeted that "we have not discussed any maps of a divided Bosnia, neither with the Albanian PM nor with anyone else."

"The last time I had in front of me a map of a divided BiH was during a visit to the Pentagon in 1993, when we were looking for solutions to stop the armed conflict."

Foreign Minister Anže Logar also commented on Rama's statement as he spoke to the press after today's online meeting of EU foreign ministers, advising journalists to carefully read it once again; he said Rama's words were better subtitled or translated on commercial broadcaster POP TV than on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

What Rama said is just that he had discussed the issue of the Western Balkans with Janša, which is logical, said Logar, adding that reviving a debate on the alleged non-paper benefited neither Bosnia-Herzegovina nor Slovenia. The debate is in fact "very harmful to Slovenia".

"In this respect everyone should see for themselves what is more in their interest - to engage in political propaganda or make the best they can for Slovenia to do its EU presidency well and achieve progress in the Western Balkans field."

He believes those engaging in "spreading non-truths and half-truths" should ask themselves what consequences that could have. He pointed to the Sarajevo protest, which brought together extremists, while groups demanding a boycott of Slovenian goods are emerging online.

The minister said that both Prime Minister Janša and President Borut Pahor had denied the existence of any such document, so he had nothing to add to that.

He however avoided answering directly the question about Slovenia's stances on changing the borders in the Western Balkans when asked whether Slovenia agreed with the solutions in the alleged non-paper.

He said Slovenia's stance is very clear - it wants to do all in its power to achieve progress towards the EU as fast as possible under the condition that Western Balkan countries met membership criteria. As part of its EU presidency, Slovenia also wants to highlight the strategic importance the region's integration in the EU has.

As for the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, Logar said the five EU members which had not yet recognised Kosovo said clearly that a solution which both sides would agree with would mean the reason for non-recognition had been eliminated. Logar said he did not wish to speculate any further, leaving diplomacy to do its job.

He said any statement would be premature and could harm the dialogue between the two entities, but hailed the fact that both Kosovo and Serbia had strong governments, while adding that no progress could be made without the US and EU's consent.

More stories on Slovenia and the Western Balkans

16 Apr 2021, 16:43 PM

STA, 16 April 2021 - President Borut Pahor rejected "naive and dangerous" ideas of redrawing borders in the Western Balkans as he addressed reporters on Friday in response to a non-paper floating the idea, arguing the EU's accelerated enlargement to the region would best to silence such ideas.

Pahor said that "wherever and whenever" he got the opportunity he expressed his resolute support for the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans, arguing it would be best if the EU decided "to include, in a sensibly short time, all Western Balkan countries in the EU and adapt its enlargement strategy accordingly".

While saying that he was regularly calling on leaders in the region to sped up the reform process, Pahor said the slow pace of the enlargement process "is cooling trust" in the European prospects in these countries, which boosted nationalisms and an "increasingly engaged influence" by third countries.

"The EU's faster expansion to the Western Balkans would reduce the significance of naive and dangerous ideas of a redrawing of borders, which due to the complicated situation I believe cannot happen in a peaceful way, which is why I reject all such ideas on changes to borders," Pahor said.

He added that "a faster process of including all Western Balkan countries in the EU would importantly enhance the principle of territorial integrity of the countries, resolution of their bilateral issues and vitally enhance the stability and security of the region and Europe as a whole".

Pahor called the press conference after a Bosnian portal reported that Prime Minister Janez Janša had handed an unofficial document to European Council President Charles Michel in February or March proposing the "finalisation of the breakup of Yugoslavia" as a topic of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Bosnian media also reported that Željko Komšić, the Croatian member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, had confirmed Pahor had said during his visit to the country in March that voices in Europe were getting louder about the need to finalise the breakup of Yugoslavia, and that he asked whether people in the country were capable of going their own separate ways peacefully.

Asked about the non-paper today, Pahor said he had not been acquainted with the alleged non-paper either before his visit to the country or later, nor had he discussed it with Janša, so his talks in Bosnia-Herzegovina could not be understood as probing the sentiment about the ideas therein.

Explaining on his opposition to the idea of finalising the break-up of Yugoslavia, which he said had appeared before, Pahor said it was naive to expect a redrawing of borders would end peacefully even though it would start that way.

He said he had already expressed his concern about such ideas in September last year in his address to the North Macedonian Parliament, so his words could not be linked to the alleged non-paper that came half a year later.

Pahor would not provide a concrete answer when asked who was spreading ideas on changes to the borders, but he hinted that that kind of ideas had started to gain traction after first such ideas had been discussed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Pahor may have been initially inclined in favour of considering ideas of peaceful change to borders in the Western Balkans but later gave them up, also after talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "Such a process, even if begun in good faith, will not end peacefully. There're too many heaped up issues."

Pahor offered the Brdo-Brijuni process, which he initiated, as a show of his own and Slovenia's commitment to the region.

He said his visit to Sarajevo in early March, his seventh as president to the country, was aimed at expressing Slovenia's support for the country's progress on the path to the EU, emphasizing his commitment to the country and its territorial integrity.

He said the visit was also aimed to highlight the significance of reconciliation, something that he said was obviously still too early for.

The non-paper, which among other things proposes for most of the Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegivina to be annexed by Serbia, the majority-Croatian cantons to Croatia, and for Kosovo to merge with Albania, was released by the Slovenian portal Necenzurirano on Thursday.

It is not clear who authored it, but the portal said its information indicated parts had been written in Budapest.

Janša denied handing the alleged non-paper to Michel, saying he last met him last year. Pahor said today it would be useful if Janša addressed the public on the issue as well.

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) today demanded an emergency session of the parliamentary intelligence oversight commission over the potential impact of the non-paper on the security situation with the party's Rudi Medved saying Janša had never denied his involvement in the non-paper's emergence.

Earlier this week, the opposition Social Democrats (SD) have demanded for the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee to quiz Janša and Pahor about the alleged non-paper.

As officials across Europe are expressing their support for keeping borders in the region intact, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) Party urged Slovenian coalition parties and in particular the Modern Centre Party (SMC) as ALDE member to distance themselves "from these divisive plans".

"@ALDEParty is shocked by the irresponsible suggestions to redraw map of the W Balkans [...] @JJansaSDS must stop his divisive policies," tweeted ALDE leader Hans van Baalen.

Janša reacted with a tweet saying: "We are all shocked that @ALDEParty and @hansvanbaalen are spreading this #fakenews story, created in Slovenia by his Slovenian friends for internal political fights". He added a hashtag #embarrassing".

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