Ljubljana related

27 May 2019, 19:23 PM

Milan Zver says EU should do more to fight terrorism

Milan Zver, turning 57 the day before the election, has won his third term in the European Parliament as the lead candidate on the joint slate of the opposition Democrats (SDS) and non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS). The head of the Slovenian EPP delegation has been a member of the EU parliament's committee for culture and education and a member of the delegation for relations with the US in 2014-2019. He is particularly happy that as the rapporteur for Erasmus+ he has managed to increase funds for the EU's programme for education, youth and sport to EUR 45 billion. He is also proud that one of the European Parliament halls was named after Jože Pučnik (1932-2003), a central figure of Slovenia's independence, to whom Zver served as an advisor in the early 1990s when Pučnik was a deputy prime minister. Since he entered politics in the early 1990s he has become one of the most prominent SDS politicians of the past 15 years. An SDS vice-president, Zver, a holder of a PhD in sociology, was elected MP in 2004, but left parliament shortly after to serve as education minister. He was elected to the EU parliament for the first time in 2009. He has written several books, including one on the SDS's history, which was published under the auspices of the EPP in English in 2009. Zver is married to historian Andreja Valič Zver and has two daughters from a previous marriage.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - In the new term, the re-elected MEP Milan Zver of the Democrats (SDS) will continue with his work in the security and defence policy, while also focusing on education. He has told the STA that the agenda in the European Parliament will also include fight against terrorism, where he believes the EU should make a step forward.

Zver, 57, expects that security issues and illegal migration will remain high on the agenda in the next five-year term of the European Parliament. He sees cybersecurity and the fight against terrorism as the most important points.

He believes that there is a need for a common EU policy in the field of security, either in the form of common armed forces or a common security and intelligence service.

"It is not enough any more that autonomous intelligence services cooperate and coordinate their work. We should make a step forward if we want to be more effective in fighting terrorism and reduce security risks in the EU generally."

Zver is currently a member of the Special Committee on Terrorism, and the other fields he is the most familiar with are youth policy, culture, education and sport, in which he has also been active as a member of the Committee on Culture and Education.

He expects to continue with the Erasmus+ project as "one of the most successful stories in the EU", which has been "sold very poorly" in the political campaign.

Zver also expects that he will lead the national delegation in the European People's Party (EPP), which he labelled as responsible work, especially at the beginning, when new bodies are being established.

Commenting on the emerging social union, he said that "some common standards need to be established as soon as possible so that the social and development differences between the east and west are reduced".

On the other hand, there are fields which Brussels could transfer to member states and give them more powers and independence. "Common agricultural policy should not necessarily be a completely regulated system."

Zver also commented on the situation in which the EU has found itself after the election of British MEPs, who are mainly Eurosceptics. "This is a big problem for the European Union, coming right at the time when it needs to get stabilised."

If the British went to another Brexit referendum, the result could perhaps be different, but the result of the EU election shows that the "Eurosceptic reflex in the United Kingdom is still very strong".

According to Zver, Brexit has become a second-rate topic in the UK, as the British "care more about which party will win a majority in the early election".

Ljudmilla Novak to work for benefit of Slovenia and European integration

Ljudmilla Novak, 59, is returning to the European Parliament after she served as MEP in 2004-2009 together with Lojze Peterle, who today failed to get re-elected for what would be his fourth term. A graduate of Slovenian and German, Novak abandoned her teaching career to enter politics in 2000 by joining the NSi's predecessor, the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SDK), and being elected Moravče mayor in 2001. When the NSi failed to make it to parliament in 2008, she replaced Andrej Bajuk at the helm of the party, where she stayed until resigning in January 2018 to give way to younger-generation Matej Tonin. It was rumoured she stepped down in exchange for being placed high on the slate for the EU election, which she has denied on several occasions. Novak took the NSi to the general election in 2011 and to the surprise of many, the party managed to return to parliament. Given that no party had managed to make it back to parliament before, this is considered her major achievements. In the second Janez Janša government (2012-2013), Novak served as minister for Slovenians abroad, but later distanced herself from the Democrats (SDS), chiefly due to Janša's ill-disposed policies. Novak, currently an MP, is seen as a moderate conservative willing to engage in dialogue. She is married and has three children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - Ljudmila Novak, who is returning to the European Parliament after a ten-year hiatus to join the ranks of the European People's Party (EPP) as the sole MEP for New Slovenia (NSi), would like to focus on culture and education in her new term.

Talking to the STA about her plans and commitments in the European Parliament, Novak pledged to dedicate her "heart to work for the benefit of Slovenia and integration in Europe".

The first topics she will take up as MEP would depend on the agenda, she said, while noting that in her first term as MEP between 2004 and 2009, she spoke out when something went wrong with respect to Slovenia's borders, minorities and similar issues.

In the past, she was active in the fields of culture and education, the fields she would also like to focus on in her second term in the European Parliament. However, since four of the eight Slovenian MEPs are EPP members "we will need to agree yet who represents which field".

The other three Slovenian MEPs from the EPP ranks - Milan Zver, Franc Bogovič and Romana Tomc - have served as MEPs this term so they will probably want to continue their work in the field they committed themselves to, Novak said. It will all be a matter of agreement. "I'll see what I get to choose from."

The 59-year-old former NSi leader says she is aware of the challenges of reconciling her work as MEP, her family life and her political activity in Slovenia. She did note though that MEPs tended to return home on a weekly basis because they needed to keep in touch with the Slovenian citizens.

All the articles in this series are here

27 May 2019, 17:25 PM

Tomc a lot needs to be done for pensions and demographics

An economist by profession, Romana Tomc, 53, was re-elected to the European Parliament as the second-placed on the joint SDS+SLS slate. She was first elected MEP in 2014, which marked the peak of her political career and a rapid rise through the party's ranks at the time, giving rise to rumours she could take the party leadership while Janez Janša was shortly serving time in the Patria corruption case. As an MEP, she has been a member of the committee for employment and social affairs, and a member of the delegation for relations with Japan. She was the rapporteur for the Youth Employment Initiative, one of the main EU financial resources to help fight high unemployment rates among the young, and has fought, though in vain, against Austria's efforts to cut child benefit for Slovenian parents working in Austria but living in Slovenia. MEPRanking.eu, a quantitative analysis of MEP activity, however, shows she has been one of the three least active Slovenian MEPs in this term. In 2017, the SDS fielded her as a presidential candidate, but she failed to advance to the run-off, placing third after Borut Pahor and Marjan Šarec. Drawing on her rich experience from the private sector and employer organisations, Tomc joined the Labour Ministry in 2007, first as the head of the labour directorate and later as a state secretary in the SDS-led government. In 2011-2014, she served as MP, of which two years as deputy speaker. Tomc has a partner and two adult children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - The freshly re-elected MEP Romana Tomc of the Democrats (SDS) has told the STA that a lot of work remains to be done in the EU in the fields of pensions, older people and demographic trends. She intends to keep focusing on these fields in the next term, hoping that she will manage to "put some wheels in motion".

Tomc (53), who was re-elected to the European Parliament as the second-placed on the joint SDS+SLS slate, said her priorities would be connected with the work she had been already performing.

She noted that although she had worked a lot with young people in the outgoing term, she had paid the most attention to pensions, pension systems, demographic changes and population ageing.

She thinks that the EU owes a lot to its citizens in terms of demographic policy and pensions. "If we dealt with things such as clock changes, I think that we can also deal with serious things such as problems in the pension systems in all member states, not only in Slovenia."

Considering that all EU member states have problems in this field, Tomc believes that it is time for the EU institutions to commit to deal more intensively with the challenge.

In countries where governments are not being responsible, these systems are bursting at their seams, assessed the member of the largest opposition party, adding that Slovenia was among them. This is an issue that needs to be regulated anew.

"We discussed the issue of ageing, but did not adopt any measures. I think that we could adopt some binding commitments in this field," she said, while noting she was inclined to setting minimum standards.

Such standards would leave enough manoeuvring space to individual member states, while being means for Brussels to control whether a member state is taking measures they should be taking in order to make its pension system stable.

According to Tomc, the EU has dedicated a lot of money to projects such as bridges and other infrastructure, and now it is time to start investing in people.

As a case of good practice, she pointed to the youth guarantee scheme, for which the EU has earmarked EUR 9 billion. "Why wouldn't we have a guarantee scheme for older people," she wonders.

Milan Brglez will commit himself to human rights

Milan Brglez, 51, was elected MEP with preferential votes despite having just recently joined the SD after defecting from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) of former PM Miro Cerar, which he helped found just before it won the 2014 general election. It was then that Brglez, who has a PhD in international relations, entered politics, before which he was known mainly in academic circles. He was elected MP in 2014 and became parliamentary speaker, a post he held until 2018. During this stint, parliament stripped opposition SDS MP Janez Janša of his term as MP as he was serving time in the corruption Patria defence case, in what was perceived as a rather controversial move. As an expert on foreign relations, Brglez was also a member of the advisory group involved in the preparation of Slovenia's case for the tribunal arbitrating on the border with Croatia. In 2018, he was re-elected to the National Assembly on the SMC ticket, but defected soon over a dispute about the new parliamentary speaker with SMC leader Cerar during the talks on the coalition formation. He is a father of two children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - Milan Brglez, an international law professor who was elected one of two MEPs for the Social Democrats (SD) on Sunday, says he will dedicate his term to things he knows best, that is issues linked to international relations, international law and human rights, including social rights.

"This is such a surprise that I haven't given it much thought yet," Brglez, who made it to the European Parliament as No 4 SD candidate owing to preference vote, told the STA when asked about his future work.

However, Brglez, who served as the National Assembly speaker in the previous term, said that value added he would bring to the EU parliament was his "commitment to human rights and the rule of law", two topics that he believes are underrated and neglected in the EU.

Having defected to the Social Democrats from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) after the 2018 general election, Brglez says that in the European Parliament he will work toward a clearer social democratic profile, and will also dedicate his time to social rights, where he believes Europe should do much more.

He would like for "certain minimum standards to be adopted in the future so we don't compete for money when it comes to social security". However, a more detailed distribution of tasks will also depend on distribution of European Parliament seats between groups, he noted.

Brglez, who currently serves as deputy in the National Assembly, plans to first complete the work he has started in the Slovenian parliament before devoting his time fully to how he operates within the European Parliament. "Some expertise from this field will certainly help," he added.

Brglez is happy to have won his term with a preference vote. "I gather these are the votes of those new voters who supported social democracy and this was the basic goal that was behind our joint decision for me to stand," said Brglez.

As a result of his election to the European Parliament, the SMC will gain back Brglez's seat in the national legislature, considering that Brglez was elected on the SMC ticket before defecting to the SD last summer.

"That's the logic of parliamentarism, which I believe is right in principle, but as far as the SMC and I are concerned this part of the story is now over," said the 51-year old.

All the articles in this series are here

27 May 2019, 16:30 PM

Klemen Grošelj will work for solidarity and security

Klemen Grošelj, 43, holds a PhD in defence studies from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Studies. He entered politics last year when he was appointed a state secretary at the Defence Ministry after the general election, and has since authored a new resolution on the national security strategy designed to beef up the national security system at a time of changing global security threats. Elected as the second-placed on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ, Grošelj said during the campaign that EU members should reach agreement on its new strategic areas to be added to the existing ones. He has also said in a recent interview: "I believe in a EU which will have common policies and where the European identity and national identities do not exclude each other." Before turning to politics, Grošelj was best known for his analysis of global geostrategic developments.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - State secretary at the Defence Ministry Klemen Grošelj (LMŠ/ALDE), who has been elected to the European Parliament for the first time, has told the STA that as an MEP he would strive for solidarity and security, as highlighted in his campaign.

"I believe that the EU must remain a place of security where internal cohesion and solidarity among EU member states and citizens will be built," Grošelj said after the partial official results were released.

Asked about his future MEP career, the newly-elected Grošelj did not elaborate further, saying he had not considered possible committee engagements yet.

The 43-year-old was pleased that voters had placed trust in him and the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ). Prior to starting his MEP term, Grošelj said he would like to complete certain duties at the Defence Ministry.

Elected as the second-placed on the LMŠ slate, Grošelj said he welcomed the positive trend of the liberal democracy idea, describing it as striving for "an open society which is not based on exclusion and intolerance" and counterweighting certain extremist or populist forces on the rise.

"A strengthened European centre indicates the strengthening and further development of the European idea, which, as we should keep in mind, is essential for the European peace and prosperity enjoyed by us today," pointed out Grošelj.

Tanja Fajon will fight against intolerance

Fajon, 48, won her third term in the European Parliament as the party's leading candidate after leapfrogging in 2014 SD leader Igor Lukšič with the help of preference votes. The only SD MEP in 2014-2019, Fajon has been a member of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and a member of the delegation for relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. MEPRanking.eu, a quantitative analysis of MEP activity, shows she has been overall the busiest Slovenian MEP and one of the 101 most active ones. In her first term, she strongly advocated visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, which earned her the title of honorary citizen of the Sarajevo canton earlier this year. As one of the vice-presidents of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), she was mentioned in 2018 as a potential successor to S&D president Gianni Pittella. Fajon graduated in journalism in Ljubljana and continued her studies at the University of Paris, where she obtained a master's degree in international politics in 2005. She joined the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija in 1995 and was posted to Brussels as a correspondent for eight years before she entered politics in 2009 to successfully run for a seat in the European Parliament. She is married, but has no children.

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Tanja Fajon will fight against intolerance

Fajon, 48, won her third term in the European Parliament as the party's leading candidate after leapfrogging in 2014 SD leader Igor Lukšič with the help of preference votes. The only SD MEP in 2014-2019, Fajon has been a member of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and a member of the delegation for relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. MEPRanking.eu, a quantitative analysis of MEP activity, shows she has been overall the busiest Slovenian MEP and one of the 101 most active ones. In her first term, she strongly advocated visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, which earned her the title of honorary citizen of the Sarajevo canton earlier this year. As one of the vice-presidents of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), she was mentioned in 2018 as a potential successor to S&D president Gianni Pittella. Fajon graduated in journalism in Ljubljana and continued her studies at the University of Paris, where she obtained a master's degree in international politics in 2005.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - Tanja Fajon (SD/S&D), who has won her third term in the EU Parliament, would like to continue the work she was doing in her previous terms, fighting for human rights and against intolerance, xenophobia, hatefulness and fake news. "I will strive for a socially fair Europe," she told the STA.

After the announcement of the partial official EU election results on Sunday, Fajon thanked voters who, according to her, provided a lot of support to her.

Being asked about the future of her political career, the 48-year-old MEP replied that she would gauge the situation upon her return to the Parliament.

Fajon was also pleased that she would be joined there by another candidate from the Social Democrats' (SD) slate, Milan Brglez, since together they will constitute "a bit stronger delegation than in the past".

The re-elected MEP wishes for a socially fair Europe, a goal she said she was already pursuing in her previous term as a member of the Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties and Committee on Tax Rulings.

"I assume I will remain active in the same areas in my new term, but that will, of course, be determined by the leadership of the S&D political group," said Fajon, one of the vice-presidents of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

Looking back at the EU election campaign, she estimated that Slovenians were mostly concerned with how to maintain their standard of living.

"We're talking about decent life, social justice, tax justice and protection of the environment, which has turned out to be important especially through young people's actions, actively supported by myself," said Fajon.

She plans to continue to strive for achieving sustainable equality in Europe. She believes Europeans are facing numerous issues, including political, economic and social ones, which will have to be addressed and tackled.

All the articles in this series are here

27 May 2019, 15:31 PM

Joveva will promote the interests of young people in EU Parliament

Irena Joveva, 30, is a political newcomer and the youngest of all Slovenian MEPs. Leaving a career in journalism to stand in this year's EU elections, she has been criticised for lack of experience in politics, but defended herself by saying it is time for new faces and new approaches. Joveva, who holds a master's degree in international relations, started her career at the Slovenian Press Agency's home policy desk and received the Slovenian Journalists' Association's award for best young journalist in 2014. She then moved to private broadcaster POP TV to cover home affairs. Although many know her from the TV screen, she admitted the invitation to headline the ticket of the party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec came as a surprise. She says experience is not the only thing that matters in politics, as those criticising her for the lack of it have many experiences but have failed to bring change for the better. Joveva, of Bulgarian and Macedonian descent, is a basketball fan and cheers for North Macedonia, except when they play against Slovenia.

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STA, 27 May - Irena Joveva, a former journalist who was elected MEP as the frontrunner of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), plans to promote social issues and the youth in the European Parliament. She would like to cooperate with parties and political groups that share LMŠ's views and are foremost pro-European.

Joveva is a political novice and the youngest Slovenian MEP to date. The 30-year-old former journalist called for a new mindset during the campaign.

Being the LMŠ's lead candidate, Joveva told the STA she had been relieved when she heard the election results. "It was very nice to see our percentage and especially the number of our MEP seats," she said.

The second candidate on the LMŠ's list, Klemen Grošelj, was also elected MEP in what was the first EU election for the party.

"I'll need some time to fully grasp what actually happened," she said.

She will not have a lot of time to process things though, as her first meeting with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) is scheduled for Tuesday.

She thinks it is too early to talk about her work in committees but she will be active in social affairs and the youth.

Being young herself, she feels she will be in a better position to advocate the interests of young people. But she will also promote the interests of the elderly, and deal with environmental issues, and common foreign and security policy.

She is open for cooperation with everyone and hopes Slovenian MEPs will be more united in this term. She would like new faces in politics to attract more people to the polls in five years.

The LMŠ won 15.58% in what was the first EU election for the party, which was founded just before the 2018 general election.

Franc Bogovič to focus on smart villages

Franc Bogovič, 56, was re-elected as the fourth-placed on the joint list of the opposition SDS and his People's Party (SLS). He was first elected MEP in 2014 on the joint New Slovenia (NSi) and SLS slate with preference votes from last place on the list. At the time, he was the SLS leader and an MP. As MEP, Bogovič, who has a degree in agronomy, has been active in promoting digitalisation in agriculture. Although he led the SLS for just over a year, he is a party stalwart as a founding member of the SLS's predecessor, the Slovenian Farmers' Union, established in 1988. Before being elected Krško mayor in 1998, a post he held for 13 years, he served as local councillor for nearly a decade, but first came to national prominence as a member of parliament in 2008-2011. After the snap election of 2011, he served as agriculture minister on Janez Janša's short-lived government for a year. When he took over the SLS in March 2013 from Radovan Žerjav, he steered it back to its rural roots and pursued a conciliatory policy that helped the party forge close ties with the NSi. He is married and has three children.

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STA, 27 May 2019 - MEP Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS), who was elected for another term on the joint slate of the Democrats (SDS) and the People's Party (SLS), says he will continue his line of work in Brussels. "It takes a while before you get connected, before people get to know you and trust you," he said, adding that he would stay true to himself.

Bogovič would like to continue his work in the committee on agriculture and rural development, and on regional development. He would also like to join the transport and energy committee.

Apart from participating in the three committees, he plans to promote the project of smart villages, which he thinks sums up his efforts in the European Parliament so far.

According to Bogovič, funding for this project has been secured in the next multi-annual financial framework, and now these funds need to be phased. Slovenia should be a pioneer in this field, he believes.

He is confident that pro-European parties - the European People's Party (EPP), Socialists (S&D), liberals and the greens - will successfully form a coalition that will have a majority in the new parliament, form the new commission and continue with European projects.

"Together we will make sure Europe will be doing well and that those who come to the European parliament only to break the EU will remain marginalised."

Asked whether Brexit could still be prevented, he said this was a question primarily for the British. "There has been so many twists already that Europe does not understand them any more. I think they don't know what they're doing themselves and all this is not good for anyone."

Noting that the UK is one of the largest and most important economies, he expressed hope that it changes its mind about leaving.

All the articles in this series are here (if they're not online yet, come back soon, as this is just part one)

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