Ljubljana related

23 Feb 2020, 11:08 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 21 February 2020

Mladina: SDS puts autocratic tendencies on open display

STA, 21 February 2020 - The left-wing weekly paper Mladina argues in its latest editorial that unlike in the past, the Democrats (SDS) do not even bother to conceal the wolf hiding under their sheep's clothing, immediately revealing their revenge-driven, arrogant and autocratic view of politics and the state.

Things got real much sooner than expected, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says, highlighting the threat issued by SDS MP Žan Mahnič to Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar as well as SDS head Janez Janša's statement that the SDS was discussing the editorial policy at the left-leaning daily Dnevnik.

"Coming from any other politician, this would perhaps be understood as a (bad) joke. But not with Janša. Because he already did this. And is doing it," Repovž says in Has the Election Campaign Already Begun?.

"He is interfering in the media all the time, if needed he will sell the nation's silverware (retailer Mercator in exchange for influence on the papers Večer and Delo) or even his own political sovereignty (he did it when he took millions from Hungary to build a media empire)," Repovž says.

Mladina's editor speaks of Janša's obsession with the media and his blaming of allegedly exclusively left-oriented media for his failures, while pointing out that Janša's term at helm of the SDS has been the longest among any heads of serious political parties in Europe.

Repovž argues that the latest developments are only a repeated demonstration of what makes the SDS a party that no serious democratic party is able to cooperate with.

He then turns to the Modern Centre Party (SMC), which he says will make the unoriginal mistake of entering an SDS-led coalition only to gradually disappear while giving absolutely everything to Janša - the latter will in turn say thank you and go to an early election.

Reporter: Deep State & Janša

STA, 17 February 2020 - Reflecting on Janez Janša's chances to form a government this term, the latest editorial of the right-leaning weekly magazine Reporter speculates that a short-lived Janša government may be in the interest of the deep state.

Under the headline Coincidental Prime Minister-Designate, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla writes that Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), probably has a better chance forming a government now than after an early election unless the balance of power between the left and right changed substantially.

Being that the ballot to appoint PM-designate is secret and that many MPs are "trembling about where to find new jobs", Janša should not have difficulty securing 46 votes.

"The problem could emerge later; the new government, like the Šarec cabinet would be in the draught all the time. Janša (...) is probably aware of that. It is obvious he desires immensely to be prime minister, the question is whether also at all cost.

"Even more than Janša, a new government is desired by SMC [Modern Centre Party] leader Zdravko Počivalšek (...) polls show it would be hard for the SMC to make it to parliament in a snap election, so Počivalšek is hoping to enhance the party under Janša."

Šurla finds that the biggest problem for a new Janša coalition is the SMC because it is still not clear how many MP votes the party can secure with at least two or even half of the SMC's ten MPs rumoured to be opposed to a Janša-led coalition.

The paper notes that the Marjan Šarec minority government saw the start of its end when the Left denied its support, wondering whether the leader of the Left Luka Mesec might have been ordered to make the move because of a new master plan ready in the background.

"Considering that the opportunity for a new government literally landed in Janša's arms even though parties left of the centre have as many as 52 members in parliament this term, the potential role of the so-called deep state should not be overlooked.

"What if it is in the interest of the uncles behind the scenes to have Janša return to power for a short while so that his government take some urgent, unpopular measures, which would spark off a revolt in the form of 'popular uprisings' that would bring new faces of the 'transition left' back to power?"

All our posts in this series are here

15 Feb 2020, 11:27 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 14 February 2020

Mladina: Parties should reject SDS-led government

STA, 14 February 2020 - Mladina, the left-leaning magazine, appeals to MPs and parties to refrain from joining a coalition led by the Democrats (SDS), arguing in Friday's commentary headlined All the Masks Have Fallen that now is the time to stand up for democratic standards.

"All the masks have fallen, all faces have been revealed. It is no longer possible to debate who stands for what kind of policies or democratic standards, the political parties have already made that plain," reads Mladina's editorial.

The leaders of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) have no qualms about SDS's democratic standards.

"They don't care if this party spreads intolerance, if its propaganda machine calls for the lynching of those who think differently, if it threatens journalists and politicians who disagree with them, they don't care if this party is connected to lobbies and is an ally of the Hungarian government and the Fidesz party."

Whether or not SDS leader Janez Janša forms a government now depends solely on individual MPs in the SMC, NSi and DeSUS. "How many MPs leave the SMC if these parties agree coalition is the only issue that remains open and will determine the course of events to come."

Mladina sees Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Labour Minister Ksenija Klampfer, both senior SMC members, who oppose cooperation with the SDS, as examples of politicians who have stood up for democratic standards and who have created an opportunity for SMC lawmakers to reject party leader Zdravko Počivalšek's "Machiavellian stance".

It also suggests Slovenia should look to Germany, where the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had to step down "due to inconsistency about cooperation with the Alternative for Germany (AfD)".

"In Slovenia, a young democracy where MPs and ministers are seen as some kind of party soldiers, this was received with amazement... Yes, it is democratic for an MP or politician to follow their conscience. And in the coming days, when perhaps another MP decides in a similar fashion, this would be a feast of democracy."

Demokracija: The left's violent streak

STA, 12 February 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija condemns death threats against politicians interested in forming coalitions with right-wing parties, saying that violence has always been in the left's domain. "Any death threat is a deplorable act... But it is all the more serious if it comes from the radical left because we know from history that it is usually carried out."

Demokracija editor-in-chief Jože Biščak points to the recent events in Thuringia, with the newly appointed state premier Thomas Kemmerich stepping down a day after he was sworn in.

His family received death threats after Kemmerich, a member of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), was appointed with the support by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the "patriotic" Alternative for Germany (AfD).

"The coalition with patriotic Germans caused unease among the Christian Democrats, even aggravation, but the leftists, unable to come to terms with the legitimately elected Kemmerich, immediately activated ANTIFA, a radical left group prone to violence."

Biščak notes that in Slovenia Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) head Aleksandra Pivec received a threat against her life last week, after she said the party would continue speaking to the Democrats (SDS) about a potential coalition.

Moreover, he says that back in 2012 somebody broke the window on the car of People's Party (SLS) leader Radovan Žerjav as he was negotiating a coalition with the SDS.

When the left fails to achieve what it wants in the legitimate and legal way, they start intimidating. ANTIFA is the left's violent background, a paramilitary unit. It responds to calls by a variety of NGOs nurturing the same ideology.

The Peace Institute is one of them, Biščak says under the headline Born for Violence. In one of its annual reports, the institute said that it helped to topple the second SDS government and the then Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler.

We all know how that happened: through violence (granite pavement cubes), threats (life-size human dummies suspended from a bridge) and betrayal (Gregor Virant), the commentator says about the protests that ultimately led to the fall of the SDS government in 2013.

All our posts in this series are here

08 Feb 2020, 11:43 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 7 February 2020

Mladina: SMC should not join SDS-led government

STA, 7 February 2020 - Looking at the prospects of a coalition led by the Democrats (SDS) being formed after the demise of the Marjan Šarec government, the left-wing weekly Mladina argues in Friday's commentary that the Modern Centre Party (SMC), seen as key to an SDS-led government, should not join forces with the SDS since this risked undermining democracy.

Recalling the policies of SDS and its leader Janez Janša, Mladina says that the party has been "driving the nation mad for thirty years" by creating a state of emergency all the time, recently leveraging a "special propaganda machine financed by the 'friend' Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, who is not concealing his desire to first economically and then politically subjugate Slovenia."

"The SDS made this pact with Orban to ascend to power with his help. In 2018 it did not succeed, making Orban angry. Now Janša has a new opportunity to carry out what he is expected to do," Mladina says in its editorial.

Arguing that this is the framework, the "political ring" in which Slovenian parties operate, the paper says that this game is destructive for everyone who engages in it. It destroyed former SMC president Miro Cerar and, to a significant extent, Marjan Šarec.

"Is it possible, then, that the SMC enters a government led by this man and this party, after what they have been through because of him? And with the awareness of what kind of historical burden they are taking on," the paper wonders.

"Janša needs SMC deputies to complete his mission, just like Orban needs Janša to carry out his plan to economically subjugate Slovenia to Hungary. Does the SMC really think they can stop this from the inside? In the five and a half years they have spent in Slovenian politics, have they not seen and grasped the dimensions of the politics that Janša represents?

"There is no good reason why after all this the SMC should buy into his latest provocation and allow itself to be used as the horse on which his ostracising policy and money from his master in Hungary will be brought to Slovenia.

"MPs are not in parliament to form governments. Yes, they do that as well. But the reason why we vote for them in general elections is because they are the guardians of democracy. These are their toughest moments. But this is exactly why we call them representatives of the people," the paper concludes in Guardians of Democracy.

Reporter: Politics revolves around Janša

STA, 3 February 2020 - Looking at the political situation in Slovenia following the resignation of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, the right-leaning weekly Reporter speculates it will all revolve around Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša again if an attempt is mounted to forge a new coalition to avert a snap election.

It has long been known that the only thing Janša is interested in domestically is the office of the prime minister. It is also clear he is not willing to step aside in favour of another SDS politician to make it easier to forge a coalition, the paper says in Monday's commentary Shock Doctrine.

"Janša would enter a coalition with anyone just to become prime minister for the third time. Two years ago almost everybody rejected him, now the situation is different," the commentator says, singling out the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) as the most likely coalition partners alongside New Slovenia (NSi).

"Janša's chance of becoming prime minister is definitely better than two years ago, perhaps it is in fact his last opportunity. If he fails yet again, his SDS may suffer in the event of a snap election. The additional voters that Janša badly needs to supplement his loyal base may wonder why he should get their vote if he cannot put together a coalition."

"But if a snap election is held, it will be yet another election against Janez Janša. And this is what Marjan Šarec is counting on - fear of Janša," Reporter concludes.

All our posts in this series are here

01 Feb 2020, 12:14 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 31 January 2020

Mladina: Rejection of health insurance changes disgraceful

STA, 31 January 2020 – The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the rejection of the proposal to abolish top-up health insurance in parliament was a disgrace, and that the result of the vote should be saved for future reference. What is even more problematic is that the vote has automatically become the foundation for a possible new coalition.

In the commentary headlined Someone Said Corruption?, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly Grega Repovž notes that once it had become clear that a majority in parliament supported the bill, commercial insurers had launched a wide lobbying campaign.

Although it is not clear whether a new government will be formed, it is clear that one of the "largest lobbying campaigns in modern Slovenia has taken place in front of our eyes, and the formation of a new and the collapse of the current government is closely connected with this campaign."

Commenting on the vote, Repovž notes that the Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) have been advocates of private health insurers for years, and the National Party (SNS) too, although not as openly.

"This week, the interest of private insurers was also publicly supported by three more parties: the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the party which relies on ethics, the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), which fights for common people, and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which fights for pensioners. This says it all."

The result of the vote should thus be put up on the wall because it is a list of people who voted that taxpayer money is transferred every month to some accounts, that someone there take their cut, and then transfer the money forward.

"The vote on the abolition of top-up health insurance has automatically become the foundation for the formation of a potential new government. This is what has brought them together. A good start. And it's only the beginning!"

Demokracija: Šarec alone to blame for coalition problems

STA, 30 January 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its commentary on Thursday that it was clear from the beginning that the government of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec would not last a full term, and that the fault is Šarec's alone, although he pretends to be the victim, blaming coalition partners for the coalition's problems.

Under the headline The Slovenian Patient, Demokracija says that Šarec was the one who let himself be drawn into a game of exclusions even before the election of 2018, he was the one who (officially) put together the coalition, approved the ministers and was responsible for the government's work.

What is more, Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj, who resigned shortly before Šarec, and Health Minister Aleš Šabeder, who was also set to resign at any moment, were both "from the same nest".

"Šarec did not have problems only with coalition partners, but also with ministers nominated by [his own party] LMŠ. But above all, he had problems with himself, his narcissism and his tongue, which he used to create a smokescreen and hide his incompetence."

While he failed to do anything reform-wise, he was very brutal in political staffing, fighting ideological opponents, abusing power and spending budget funds, the paper says, liking the 16 months Šarec was in power to a long, dark winter.

During this time, the state has been worn out in the face of programmed social justice, socialist mythology and threats to people who think differently, as well as political correctness.

All of this was dictated by progressive activists who always found the right "partners" for Šarec, who was interested only in preserving the status quo and protecting his position.

As a result, ordinary people, patriots who work for a living and fear for safety, have been "covered with a layer of radioactive contempt".

"They say that bad governments are chosen by good people who do not vote," the weekly says, expressing hope that people will not be fooled by "leftist frauds" and fall for "stand-up comedians from the transition left's closet", ahead of the likely snap election.

All our posts in this series are here

18 Jan 2020, 11:58 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 17 January 2020

Mladina: Health bill vote may be behind attempt at govt destabilisation

STA, 17 January 2020 - "It is unclear what or who causes hysteria in Slovenian politics," the left-wing weekly Mladina says as it analyses peculiar events before the congress of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and opposition Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša's latest attempt to destabilise the government.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž accuses the media for helping create the hype around tomorrow's DeSUS congress by demanding senior DeSUS members reveal who they will support in the leadership battle between incumbent leader and Defence Minister Karl Erjavec and his most serious challenger Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec.

"Is it really unusual that not all DeSUS MPs are behind Erjavec," wonders Mladina on Friday. "Since when is it normal for all MPs to have the same opinion and since when one has to say it loud and clear before a secret ballot which candidate one supports".

What is wrong if there are challengers to the party leader at a congress, Repovž says, but points to the fact that there are many "personal" parties in Slovenia which have the party leader's name in their name so it is hard to imagine them being led by anyone else.

He implies that "such a perception of democracy probably stems from at least some fascination with the only orderly party in Slovenia, namely the SDS, which does not wonder who would stand for party president even if Janša's name in nowhere to be found in the party's name".

However, it is clear that this fire is being kindled by those who would like to destabilise the government - the opposition, says Repovž, but adds there is nothing wrong what that, this is something the opposition does.

Janša's intention is clear, he wants to make coalition parties and the prime minister nervous, Repovž says in reference to his Sunday interview in which he said the government coalition was clinically dead.

But there could also be more substantive reasons to undermine the government, Repovž says, noting a bill to abolish top-up health insurance and stop further privatisation in healthcare will go into third reading at the end of January.

Neither the SDS nor the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) or DeSUS hide their connections with the health insurance lobby, which is trying to undermine the bill at all cost. This could perhaps be the reason for trying to destabilise the government before a key vote, according to Mladina.

Demokracija: Iran-NLB case comes with an inconvenience

STA, 16 January 2020 - While the investigation into the contentious transactions worth US$1 billion by a British-Iranian citizen through the NLB bank is still ongoing, the "inconvenient" thing is that the head of the National Bureau of Investigation is actually investigating himself and "protecting political godfathers", the right-wing Demokracija says in its latest commentary.

The right-leaning weekly refers to Iraj Farrokhzadeh, who is suspected of laundering Iranian money through his NLB accounts in 2009-2010 in breach of anti money-laundering legislation, while Iran was subject to international sanctions.

The commentary comes after the Specialised State Prosecution announced earlier this month it had abandoned a part of the investigation related to abuse of office by bankers at NLB.

The announcement came "at the moment when the democratic world was being appalled by Iran, when new sanctions and similar investigations of money flows from Tehran to cells around the world were being announced".

"The matter is not innocent. Farrokh, the Iranian company owned by Iraj Farrokhzadeh, laundered a billion dollars through NLB between 2008 and 2010, during the government coalition under the Social Democrats (SD) and Borut Pahor."

In the commentary Length of the Shadow of a Dollar Banknote, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak adds that there is suspicion that the money was used to purchase goods that could be used for nuclear armament.

"In other words, at the time of international sanctions against the regime in Tehran, the Slovenian state-owned bank helped Iran break through the embargo."

The investigation is still ongoing, but the "inconvenient" thing is that Darko Muženič, the head of the National Bureau of Investigation, is actually investigating himself and protect political godfathers.

Demokracija refers to Muženič serving as the head of the Office for Money Laundering Prevention when the scandal broke out in 2017.

"He apparently became the boss of the National Bureau of Investigation only to steer the investigation so that only pawns on the chessboard are (possibly) eventually found guilty," it adds.

But those who think that foreign intelligence services (US in particular) are not informed in detail about the true perpetrators and that they do not know what the modus operandi was, are so wrong.

"If nothing happens and perpetrators do not get punished, sanctions against Slovenia, formally still an ally of the US and western democracies, will not be visible and public, but they will be very painful."

All our posts in this series are here

11 Jan 2020, 11:17 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 10 January 2020

Mladina: Pahor is undermining government

STA, 10 January 2020 - In Friday's editorial, the left-leaning Mladina analyses two of President Borut Pahor's recent public appearances only to draw the conclusion that he is undermining the Marjan Šarec government to pave the way for Janez Janša of the opposition Democrats (SDS). The party won the 2018 election.

In his 30 December interview for TV Slovenija, Pahor clearly indicated that he does not like Prime Minister Šarec and that Šarec should leave the premiership to Janša.

"This was harsh manipulation by the president and an attempt to picture the situation in the country as strained and abnormal," says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

His attempt to fuel uncertainty and question the government's legitimacy has failed, having had no response, but the president nevertheless behaved oddly.

Pahor hinted at his discontent a few days earlier in his Independence Day speech, in which he presented his view that consensus politics was in a serious crisis.

Repovž admits Slovenia has a far-right party which spreads intolerance, namely the SDS, various militias have been popping up and hate speech is a problem.

"But this is not what Pahor meant. On the contrary, he wanted to say that he does not find it right that political parties refuse to cooperate with the SDS and Janša."

In the interview Pahor took a step further; while admitting the coalition has secured political stability, he indicated the government should now embark on reforms even at the cost of its own collapse.

Mladina says in the editorial headlined Pahor, the Manipulator that the president's statements are full of manipulation and deceit.

He pictured political stability as a source of instability, and said reforms were needed for Slovenia's revival, but Repovž wonders what revival he had in mind when Slovenia has one of the highest GDP growth rates and one of the lowest public debts in Europe.

Repovž believes Pahor's manipulation is aimed at creating the impression that Slovenian politics is in an emergency situation which needs to be stopped right now, so he in effect advised Šarec to cause his government'collapse by himself.

Mladina admits neither the government not Šarec is ideal, and ministers do not deserve As, which should provide Pahor with enough material for justified criticism.

"But Pahor is not interested in content, he is bothered by Šarec and by the fact the government is not led by his favourite politician Janša. This is the bottom line.

"He is thus willing to portray the situation as an emergency. What is most worrying is his superiority and his attempt to show that it is not legitimate if the government is run by this coalition, which is something a serious president cannot afford."

Demokracija: How the rich help the poor

STA, 9 January 2020 - As first consumers of very expensive goods, the rich have in fact helped reduce social inequality, so there is no need to raise taxes for them to channel more money towards the poor, the right-leaning weekly Demokracija argues in its editorial on Thursday.

It was an invaluable experience to listen to all sorts of leftists before the New Year saying they would continue their fight against exploitative capitalism, says the editor-in-chief Jože Biščak.

Wicked capitalism, as opposition Left leader Luka Mesec termed it, is apparently also reflected in social inequality measured by wealth.

Since we are not as far as redistributing it by looting, Mesec is reciting his mantra of "fair taxation" under which the rich should pay more.

It is of course typical of socialists to fight against capitalism with other people's money, which defies the logic of market economy.

But the statistically-corroborated fact is that never in the world have so few people lived under the poverty threshold and have goods been more available to everyone.

"And the credit goes solely to the rich, who play the role of 'food tasters in royal courts'," the magazine's editor-in-chief says in the eponymous commentary.

They can be credited with having been able to afford a terribly expensive innovation such as a TV set or a mobile phone at a certain moment in history, and their response enabled producers to assess the future demand.

Them being pioneer consumers benefits all, making goods more accessible also for the poorer classes. "So eventually, if I use the speak of the leftists, this helps reduce social inequality," Biščak concludes.

All our posts in this series are here

04 Jan 2020, 10:33 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 3 January 2020

Mladina: Change ahead for the global economy in 2020

STA, 3 January 2019 - The trade war the US started three years ago could get a new development in 2020 which will be caused by Europe as it is transiting to cleaner technologies. To promote clean technologies as it pursues its CO2 commitments, Europe will have to resort to customs and taxes, "which changes everything", the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday.

Europe is rushing the change especially because of the interests of Germany, its No. 1 economic power which wants to be the leader, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž, noting the German industry is expected to roll out this year many new materials and products, which will not be competitive at least in their first years.

The editor says there is some historical irony and a lot of symbolism in Europe starting the transition to cleaner industries and a new way of protecting its interests with steel.

Firstly, steel epitomises the old and dirty industry which used to turn entire regions in deserts, and secondly, the EU was in 1950 formed to protect its steel industry.

Ursula von der Leyen included the introduction of a CO2 tax in Europe in the programme of the new European Commission, thus highlighting a new/old way of protecting European interests in order to adapt to the climate crisis.

She believes Europe should not allow its market getting flooded by cheap Chinese steel which is possibly subsidised and produced in an environmentally contentious manner.

"This announcement clearly shows that Europe will change its economic behaviour, while other superpowers will not be just watching what is going on.

"The global economy could thus change significantly due to the climate crisis ...," Repovž says, adding that things may well not develop as Europe would like it.

The transition will cost a lot at first and there is no doubt that European countries and the EU itself will have to help companies financially.

Industries are thus in for several difficult years as production and markets gets adapted to new environmental standards.

This is not just an economic issue, but also a political one because such developments can cause political turmoil, Repovž concludes the editorial A Fight for New Economy.

Demokracija: Doubts about the multiplier effect of state investment

Ljubljana, 3 January - The right-wing weekly Demokracija disputes the argument that state investment in infrastructure projects has a multiplier effect on the national economy and economic growth, rubbishing an op-ed article in which economist Jože P. Damijan argued against the selection of Turkey's Cengiz as the contractor to build the Karavanke motorway tunnel.

In the latest editorial, headlined Jože P. Damijan's Voodoo Economics, Demokracija editor-in-chief Jože Biščak notes that the article appeared in Delo, the newspaper owned by the industrial concern Kolektor, whose construction arm was one of the bidders in the tender to built the Slovenian section of the tunnel.

"Since the deep state is facing the threat of a similar outcome in other public infrastructure tenders (...) Jože P. Damijan set out to 'scientifically' prove why the state should renounce (cheaper) foreign contractors (in particular the Turks), and explained to the executive how to get rid of them.

"Damijan is not just anybody, in a decade and a half the man went from being a young free market economist to an advocate of the command economy, becoming the darling of Forum 21 and the leading left economist," writes Biščak.

He says that in his "zeal Damijan applied his strongest weapon - the multiplier effect", which Biščak denounces as a myth, quoting economists Federic Bastiat and Friedrich von Wieser.

"This is not to say the national and local governments should not invest money into infrastructure (...) but they should do so with utmost care. Including by seeing to the cheapest possible implementation of an infrastructure project.

"Governments do not produce a market value (...) Even less has their investment multiplier effects. This has also been established in a working document of the IMF for 2014 (which Damijan often refers to) by economist Andrew M. Warner, who found few (empirical) pieces of evidence that infrastructure projects had multiplier effect or generated economic growth.

"The state can do most for the domestic economy by ensuring a functional rule of law and by allowing freedom to people. That should be Slovenia's reality if it wants to be a successful country."

All our posts in this series are here

29 Dec 2019, 10:07 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 27 December

Mladina: Decline in reading shows intellectual regression

STA, 27 December – The left-leaning weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the Slovenian nation as a whole has received a slap in the face with the results of a recent reading culture survey, which actually does not speak about reading of books, but is a cruel report about intellectual regression of the nation.

The survey shows that Slovenians have continued to regress when it comes to reading habits in the last five years, with half of the nation failing to read a single full book in a year.

"No, the trends are not similar in other countries and even our trends were not such in the post-independence period," Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly, says in State as a Company.

He notes that Slovenia has also fared very poorly comparatively, with five more books per capita being sold in Norway than in Slovenia.

The survey is actually a cruel report about intellectual regression of the nation, as reading of books is one of the indicators showing the state of intellect and power of thought in a country.

The situation is a result of mistakes made in state politics in a longer period of time, and the current government will have no impact. "But alarms should be blaring all over the country, from the academy of sciences and arts to the prime minister's office."

The survey clearly shows that "we are in the phase in which the nation is becoming stupid - which is something that we do not feel, something we are not aware of, but which is happening and showing only in the long run."

Reporter: Snap election unlikely

STA, 23 December - Despite the tight result in the vote on the appointment of Angelika Mlinar as cohesion minister last week, the right-leaning magazine Reporter argues in the latest editorial that the opposition does not hold the key to a snap election.

In a piece headlined Pre-Christmas Drama, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla notes that the minority government's tally of votes in the National Assembly has been reduced to just 42, which even when adding the two minority MPs, does not make a simple majority in the 90-strong National Assembly.

Šurla also notes that after an MP defected from the National Party (SNS) to the opposition Democrats (SDS), the largest opposition party increased its tally of votes to 26, twice as many as the LMŠ party of PM Marjan Šarec.

"The question is, however, whether the SNS defector will get Janez Janša any closer to a new centre-right government in this term or at least a snap election he likes predicting so much."

Šurla remembers similar "manoeuvring" two decades ago when an SNS MP and one from the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) defected to the centre-right bloc, which made it possible for the late Andrej Bajuk to form a centre-right government, but it only lasted half a year, after which the right bloc lost the election.

Wondering who holds the key to a snap election today, Šurla says that the right bloc does not, nor does the Left, but the key is held by the coalition party leaders, who "could leave the Šarec boat early out of their own calculation or on the advice of uncles from behind the scenes.

"Primarily the prime minister, whose LMŠ party could probably enhance its position considerably judging by opinion poll results (...). However, Šarec is not (yet) prepared to risk such a move."

Šurla agrees with economist Matej Lahovnik, who expects that Šarec will wait until after Slovenia's spell as president of the Council of the EU, that is until early 2022 just a few months ahead of a regular election, to pull a "Cerar", that is do as Miro Cerar did when he stepped down shortly before the 2018 election.

"There is no other 'hero' in sight within the coalition for the time being because the leaders of all other parties are trembling with fear about their political survival. In a snap election they could be swept away to the scrapheap of history."

As for the Left, Šurla says that even if the party is trying hard to prove its position in the opposition, the party would back the government if there was a risk of Janša returning to power. "That is, if the uncles from behind the scenes ordered them so".

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22 Dec 2019, 09:28 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 20 December

Mladina: Chinese-owned Gorenje seen as threat by Germany

STA, 20 December - The left-wing weekly Mladina is concerned about whether the Slovenian government is aware of the geostrategic interests involved in Gorenje becoming a Chinese company, predicting that Germany will make an all-out effort to prevent Hisense from making a foray into the European market through Slovenia.

In the latest editorial, headlined Angela Merkel Watching Gorenje, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž writes that Hisense has been unsuccessfully trying to get into the German market for almost two decades as all its attempts have been blocked by Germany and its industry, in particular the Bosch - Siemens group.

He says that this complicates the situation for the Slovenian household appliance company, because the moment it was acquired by Hisense, Gorenje became the company that the European industry and countries, in particular Germany, will do everything to stop in its expansion efforts.

"This is a big game that is not necessarily bad. Wise countries, especially small ones play at several sides, cooperate with various global superpowers thus establishing its power internationally.

"The German government does not feel any true sympathy for Slovenia, we are part of its interest but not its friends. To them, Hisense Slovenija is in fact a more important player than Slovenia," writes Repovž.

He goes on to say that China cares equally little about Slovenia, except when its geostrategic interests are concerned, wondering whether the Chinese government is extorting Slovenia over Gorenje into adopting Huawei's 5G technology, which he infers from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit.

He wonders whether the Slovenian government and intelligence services think ahead far enough, including how Slovenia's position in the eyes of the German government has changed and what will the consequences be for Gorenje.

"It is intriguing that Slovenia is getting involved in these big geostrategic games, but the fundamental question is whether it is fit to play. We are a country without long-term alliances, we do not have an ally of our own like the Croatians, who have Germany, or the Serbs France (and Russia)."

Repovž also notes the geostrategic interests related to retailer Mercator, where it says Slovenia has become vulnerable against Russia, which controls Mercator.

Or Ljubljana airport, where Lufthansa, one of the shareholders of the German operator of the airport, has now taken over most of the air traffic to and from Slovenia. "There was no coincidence in Adria Airways's collapse, only a clear business plan on the part of the competition."

Reporter: Poor governance at state-owned companies

STA, 16 December 2019 - The right-wing weekly Reporter writes about corporate governance at Slovenian state-owned companies in the latest editorial, finding that the executives affiliated with former President Milan Kučan are on their way out.

"Members of Kučan's table on the front page of the latest issue of Reporter (...) are the part of the deep state that is on its way out, their businesses are being taken by a new guard, rift apart into several networks that fight each other ruthlessly for control of the (para)state sector," writes editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla.

He writes that, 20 years ago, three close "adjutants of Kučan ruled" in the energy company Petrol, which "has always been and will continue to be a political company, as long as the state has a major say there. A big sack of money that many of the chosen ones feed from (...)

"Two months ago Petrol saw a showdown between 'red' networks, the losing side being the Borut Jamnik clan, an important member of which was Tomaž Berločnik, who rose to the post [of Petrol CEO] eight years ago with the help of politics and will now likely leave the same way."

Šurla offers Petrol as well as retailer Mercator and household appliances maker Gorenje as examples of how deep in the doldrums Slovenian corporate governance at state-owned companies is.

He says that Mercator and Gorenje were driven to such a poor state by domestic owners and managers that they are now being salvaged by foreigners.

"These days it is priceless to hear and watch how representatives of Russian Sberbank and Chinese Hisense are trying to drive home to the Slovenian public that socialism is over."

Šurla goes on to say that a person from China, the cradle of Communism, had to come to Velenje to spell it out that socialism is over once and for all, that there will be no future for Gorenje without a profit.

Under the headline Thin Red Line, the editor concludes that Mercator and Gorenje are "paying the toll of the notorious 'national interest'. Other 'flagship' state-owned companies are bound to face a similar fate in the future. Once they have turned into a heap of rust and politics is forced to sell them."

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14 Dec 2019, 11:04 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 December

Mladina: Refugees will eventually tell their stories

STA, 13 December 2019 - Much like Europe's responsibility for developments during the war in former Yugoslavia is being discussed today, the horrors that refugees are experiencing now will surface in the years to come, the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday. The story will be told by people who will be fully integrated into European society, it notes.

"It's winter, a time when we become aware of refugees again. It has been so since 2015. That is when tents collapse because of snow and sleeping outdoors means sickness and death.

"When winter comes, we see footage of children and adults freezing in camps - this year the media and humanitarian workers were attracted by the Vučjak camp in Bihać, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last year it was Lesbos, Greece. In 2016 it was the Calais camp in France," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.

Every year, this prompts people and countries to join forces and help this one particular camp - this year, it is Vučjak - to make Europeans feel a little bit better. "But in fact nothing has changed. There are plenty other tents and camps."

According to Repovž, everyone knows what is happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "We know very well that Vučjak was abandoned because European countries have 'paid' Bosnia-Herzegovina to make this disgrace go away."

"We know exactly what is happening along our wire and around it. We know exactly what Croatian police are doing. We know exactly what the situation is in Greece. We know what is going on in Macedonia."

And this is the story we will not be able to get away from. It will be told in the future by different people, completely integrated into our society, from a basketball star, writer, to perhaps a popular TV anchor or a leading doctor, perhaps a minister.

They will speak about the millions living in camps, including hundreds of thousands of children growing up without education, without basic necessities and in total misery, closed in fact and under the supervision of guards, Repovž says.

Their peers will listen to these stories and they will suddenly see their countries in a completely different light, and they will want to talk about it, Repovž says under the headline “Past Always Catches Up With You”.

Demokracija: Leftists hypocrites on climate change

STA, 12 December 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija accuses leftists of hypocrisy when it comes to climate change. It says the UN climate change meeting in Madrid is "not only a get-together of harmful tragic comedians, it is also a meeting of characters more bizarre than even Graham Chapman could imagine".

The magazine highlights people like US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who liberally uses her private jet, and entrepreneur Elon Musk, "a hypocritical bird" who left US President Donald Trump's advisory board after Trump abandoned the Paris climate agreement but "flies so much each year he could circle the Earth six times and each of his SpaceX rockets uses over 130,00 litres of fossil fuel".

"These people, who do not trigger even minimum moral outrage on the left, trade in and get rich off apocalyptic climate change stories - naturally under the UN banner," says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak, who goes on to accuse the UN and its various climate change endeavours of attempts to "create a global centrally managed society that would control all facets of life of each individual in the world".

Nevertheless, Demokracija, which is co-owned by the climate change-denying Democratic Party (SDS), still sees hope. An increasing number of people are sceptical about climate change and turnout at climate conferences is declining, says the commentary “Haydn's Symphony No. 45 in Madrid”.

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