Ljubljana related

09 Nov 2019, 10:35 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 8 November

Mladina: Govt, Left must find common ground or face demise

STA, 8 November 2019 - The left-leaning weekly Mladina warns in its latest commentary that if the minority coalition and the opposition Left fail to come to a new agreement in the coming weeks, the government will not even survive until the spring, with Janez Janša of the Democrats lurking from behind and waiting for a snap election.

If the heads of the coalition parties and the Left do not start to actually talk to each other, instead of flexing muscles and promoting their own importance and self-confidence, the "government will fall, loudly," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Risky Game.

Opposition leader Janez Janša, who has a (malicious) historical memory, is probably watching the elbowing within the coalition with a smile on his face, and he will definitely "help" bring the chaos in a few months to the point when snap election will be an option.

And if election is to be held soon, no party of the current coalition would gain from it, and would instead be severely punished by voters. The same is true for the Left, as voters will not care about details, having voted for a coalition and stability for the next four years.

According to Repovž, the absence of memory in the coalition party and the Left is astounding: they do not remember that the promise of normality was what attracted voters who did not want a coalition of hatred, but a normal government.

"And after one year they are not capable of talking to each other, everybody praises only themselves, and pointing finger at others? The only person who has managed to control himself ... is [DeSUS president Karl] Erjavec. Everybody else are throwing spanners in the works."

In the eyes of voters, including their own, the Left could become the party which has brought the government down and undermined stability, and made it possible for Janša to take over the government in a few months, with or without an election.

"They can ease the tensions and make a new agreement. But they can also destroy what looked like an achievement after the 2018 election in the increasingly nationalist Europe. They are putting a lot at stake. Of course, everybody has the right to miss their own historic opportunity," concludes the commentary.

Reporter: Petrol management resignation political move

STA, 4 November 2019 - Energy company "Petrol has always smelled not only of oil and petrol but also of politics," the weekly Reporter says in its commentary on Monday, more than a week after the company management resigned at a marathon supervisory board session.

The state owns a controlling 30% stake in Petrol and there is no point in pretending that the tentacles of politics do not reach the company, the magazine says under the headline Smell of Oil and Gunpowder.

The company's most recent CEO Tomaž Berločnik was appointed to the position because this was decided by the ruling politicians, in February 2011 this was the government of Borut Pahor, the then president of the Social Democrats (SD).

Berločnik was considered a key link in the network of Borut Jamnik, the wonder boy of the SD, who has been making staffing decisions in state-owned companies for a decade.

"Jamnik's clan has become a state within the state, a network that has grown over-ruling politicians' heads. The only thing above them was the blue sky.

Berločnik is likely not the angel the media is making him out to be. Apparently, there is a binder full of documents relating to allegedly harmful moves and plans, say sources close to the supervisory board.

The question remains the reason for the management's resignation. Innocent people do not just leave their jobs in a haste, allegedly also without severance.

There are many rumours: from Berločnik's links to Croatian tycoon Emil Tedeschi to contentious businesses in Russia. Maybe more details will surface in the future throwing more shadows on Berločnik's management and Jamnik will be even paler in his TV interviews.

After Telekom, this is the second blow to Jamnik's clan in the war among party networks in state companies. A political dimension cannot be denied in Petrol resignations, although all politicians have been denying involvement.

All our posts in this series are here

01 Nov 2019, 13:11 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 1 November

Mladina: Problems with staffing in state firms

STA, 30 October 2019 - Mladina draws parallels in its latest commentary between the staffing policy in state-owned companies of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and that of the government of Janez Janša, arguing that the LMŠ is not being serious when it comes to managing state assets, and that it could be dangerous in the long run.

"When the management of Petrol stepped down last week, it was clear that the replacement took place because the management did not want to fulfil certain, actually very open wishes of the ruling party for staffing expansion."

Under the headline The Ides of October, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly Grega Repovž adds that the energy company Petrol, one of the largest companies in Slovenia, was not the only one faced with such a manner of staffing lately.

Actually, reporting of this soft (or even hard) pressure are numerous companies, and some of them have already been restructured. Management and supervisory boards have already been expanded in the motorway company DARS and the railway operator Slovenske Železnice, among others.

"Prime Minister Šarec claims that he has nothing to do with that, but he is not being credible, as at the same time he complains that his party has fewer of its people in companies than other parties do."

According to Repovž, there is no doubt whatsoever that his people, cabinet officials and ministers are making order in state-owned companies.

The management of Petrol is stepping down, but neither the prime minister, Slovenian Sovereign Holding nor the finance minister have explained this. "This is done when there is only one goal: to put someone of yours in a position, regardless of the cost."

Repovž argues that this is "completely unhealthy, suspicious and smelly. Even more: there are methods present that we witnessed during Janša' rule between 2004 and 2008."

This is how important companies, including Petrol, were managed. New managements of these companies usually put them into difficult situations with their lack of knowledge. Petrol barely managed to pick itself up after Janša's venting out."

A few exceptions excluded, Šarec's government is not putting strong staff in state-owned companies either, but its people, most of them with little knowledge and experience, concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Slovenia is in a swamp of a deep state

STA, 30 October 2019 – The right-leaning Demokracija argues in its latest commentary that it is because of the favourable attitude of the media towards the "holders of the former totalitarian authority" that Slovenia is where it is today - "in a swamp of a deep state".

One of the persons referred to is former Slovenian President Milan Kučan, the usual target of the right-leaning weekly, who is labelled as a key person who had initially "intimately" opposed Slovenia's independence.

"Later on, this person made plots to hinder Slovenia on its way to a truly free and democratic society," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Alligators in a Swamp and Pterodactyls in the Sky.

According to him, Kučan is still a deity for a majority of the journalist, editorial and managerial staff of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, "about whom it is literally prohibited to utter any criticism, let alone connect him with human rights violations."

It is also because of this attitude of the media that Slovenia is "in a swamp of a deep state, where the leftists elites are protected, sitting at the top of the food chain like predatory alligators and pterodactyls."

A pile of nonsense which has been uttered by these people and which should be exposed to serious criticism has gone by, and even deserved an applause, the commentator says, adding that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is leading the pack.

Šarec recently said in parliament that "taxes finance public services" with a straight face. "If this was true, it would mean that taxes grow on trees. That the government picks them and fills the budget basket. But this is not true."

Public services are largely financed by taxpayers, the mass of completely ordinary people who, without any connections or acquaintances, work hard in the private sector, which is increasing feeling the tax wedge.

"Because of the large amount they need to earmark to the state, we can say that they live in a kind of a state-controlled slavery, where it is completely clear who is the slave and who is the master," concludes Biščak.

All our posts in this series are here

26 Oct 2019, 10:21 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 25 October

Mladina: Student work debate shows MPs out of touch with reality

STA, 25 October 2019 - Mladina, the lef-leaning weekly, is critical in its commentary on Friday of MPs and their disparaging comments about students as they were debating a rise in hourly wage for student work. Criticising students, while failing to make it easier for them to afford going to university, shows that MPs have no clue about the social reality of the country.

The weekly praises the coalition for increasing hourly wages for student work to EUR 4.56 nett, albeit by less than initially planned.

However, the discourse during the plenary debate was barely acceptable. If they had been talking about women, it would be chauvinism, if it were foreigners, it would be racism, Mladina editor-on-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Students? A Pest?

MPs do simply not understand what a child, or two, at university means for an average Slovenian family. It calculates that two children studying in Ljubljana cost about EUR 1,000 a month, which is a lot of money even for a middle-class family.

Students work and they have expenses besides just housing and food. This is 2019 and there is nothing wrong with the notion that student life should not be complete misery.

Many MPs likely had to sacrifice a lot and work hard manual jobs in exchange for poor pay, while they were studying. "But this society has advanced, GDP has grown to EUR 22,000, and the standard of living has increased for students, just like for everybody else."

Most students do not work 170 hours a month, most work between 60 and 70 hours a month and make about EUR 300. Saying they represent unfair competition is obscene.

They are hired because they are more flexible, they can work weekends, when most full-time employees need to get childcare. What is more, students do not get paid extra for working weekends, nights and holidays, like full-time employees.

While a family with average income can barely afford to send two children to university, those leasing apartments to students in Ljubljana will on average make an additional EUR 2,400 in the coming year as a result of growing rents, the weekly says.

Of course, these rents are off the books so that flat owners can avoid paying tax. While MPs were not short on words in their criticism of students, did they take any measures against Airbnb to reign in the growth of rents?

"How many student dorms will be built next year? Hasn't the coalition given up on a property tax? Didn't the coalition just now lower tax on labour, especially for those with highest pay?"

Reporter: SOVA should be rebuilt from scratch

STA, 21 October 2019 – Reporter, the right-leaning weekly, takes the opportunity of the controversial hiring of an acquaintance of PM Marjan Šarec in SOVA (Slovenska obveščevalno-varnostna agencija)  to say in its latest commentary that the national intelligence and security agency should be rebuilt from scratch as it has been completely discredited by politicians.

"SOVA should be demolished to the ground and then built anew," Silvester Šurla, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly says under the headline From a Target to Death.

Politicians who have been in power in the last three decades have completely "plucked and discredited this mysterious bird", he adds in reference to SOVA meaning an owl in Slovenian.

The secret service which should protect the interests of the state has been the grounds for political battles, with SOVA being hit by scandals under every government. Its agents have even been on strike and the agency has become a "caricature of itself, a disgrace for the country."

Each government has been employing their people in the agency following the party affiliation or family lines, with the first public call for applications being published only this year. "A bunch of rotten eggs have ended up in SOVA's nest."

In this "spy brothel", there are few innocent politicians who would be without a sin, and the battle for SOVA, for who will use it and (probably) abuse it for their political goals, is actually a battle for power.

"Politicians who should act from the position of statesmen towards SOVA, they engage in politicking. And then everybody are surprised by intelligence information produced by SOVA having practically no applicable value."

All our posts in this series are here

24 Oct 2019, 21:45 PM

STA, 24 October 2019 - David Tasić, a former journalist of the weekly Mladina, a publisher and one of the four political convicts in the JBTZ trial, a key event in the mosaic of Slovenian independence, has died, the newspaper Delo reported on Thursday.

Tasić was born in Kurševac, Serbia, in 1962. Between 1981 and 1989 he was a journalist and editor for Mladina.

He covered political events in Slovenia and Yugoslavia, and opened up topics that were considered taboo at the time. His feuilleton on Goli Otok, an island in Croatia where Yugoslav authorities deported political prisoners, raised a lot of dust.

On 31 May 1988, Janez Janša, a Mladina journalist at the time, and private Ivan Borštner were arrested for leaking a military document. Four days later, on 4 June 1988, Tasić and the magazine's editor-in-chief Franci Zavrl were also arrested.

The arrests led to the formation of a committee for the protection of Janša's rights, which later evolved into the Human Rights Committee, which organised mass protests against trying civilians in a military court and against the trials being held in the Serbian language, the language used in the Yugoslav People's Army.

At the end of June 1988, the Yugoslav People's Army court sentenced Borštner to four years in prison, Janša and Zavrl to 18 months, and Tasić to five months.

In mid-October 1988, the Military Supreme Court in Belgrade upheld the sentences and raised the punishment for Tasić to ten months, but none of the defendants served out their full sentences.

Apart from energising the fight for human rights, the JBTZ trial - named after the initials of the four defendants - spurred pluralisation and speeded up Slovenia's transition to independence and democracy, which is known as Slovenian Spring.

Tasić left Mladina in 1989 and went on to set up one of the first independent private publishers in Slovenia, Založba Karantanija. Since 1999, he focussed on studying phaleristics and kept a low public profile.

Taking to Twitter, Janša, who now leads the opposition Democrats (SDS), said Tasić "was a hero of the Slovenian Spring in 1988 and 2014, a good and upright man, and a fighter for freedom and light".

Zavrl told the STA that Tasić "was extremely honest and uncorrupted, and did not tolerate injustice. As a journalist he was always polite, yet also critical."

He sees Tasić's role in the JBTZ scandal as extremely important: "He was at the very centre of developments. He had the courage to take this little stone - which the

19 Oct 2019, 08:54 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 18 October, 2019

Mladina: Puzzled by inaction in corruption cases

STA, 18 October 2019 – Mladina, the left-wing weekly, takes a look at several cases of alleged corruption and wrongdoing, wondering how it is possible that none of the involved politicians has been found guilty, while an ordinary citizen would definitely be punished or at leased fined for similar crimes.

The weekly's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž lists on Friday a number of cases related to Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič, SDS leader Janez Janša, former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler and former Koper Mayor Boris Popovič after TV Slovenija has recently run a story about Janković's old suspicious cases.

"Entire Slovenia has been witnessing these developments for years, and we all have a clear picture of things. We are also all aware that the destiny of an average Joe would have been sealed long ago, either with a prison sentence or at least a fine."

Repovž wonders why nothing has happened in these cases. Is it because of judges, are there too few of them and are they busy with other trivial cases, is it how the courts are organised, are there two few specialised prosecutors and experts on corporate crime, corruption and political corruption, do judges and prosecutors lack proper training.

Is it the fact that the professions of judge and prosecutor are ever less prestigious, or is it poorly written and dated legislation, the magazine wonders.

Meanwhile, the defendants are usually well off and can afford the best of lawyers and advisers who can dedicate hours and hours to their case, whereas for a prosecutor or a judge, this is just one in hundred cases and court hearings. Mladina also points a finger at the Constitutional Court for having annulled, to the benefit of the defendants, any attempt to tighten up legislation.

"This is all true and remains the basic challenge for Slovenian society, in which it is increasingly hard to believe. But for a society to be fully functioning, people have to believe in it," says Repovž.

He wonders how people should decide in such cases - along political lines or personal alliances. "Should people turn a blind eye to Janković because he is allegedly a good mayor or simply because he is at the helm of Ljubljana, because having an SDS mayor would make everything automatically worse?"

Repovž also wonders in his editorial headlined First-Rate what one should think when no other than Janša and Kangler attack Janković in a rally in the centre of Ljubljana saying he gets a preferential treatment by courts "because he is a first-rate citizen".

Demokracija: Reputation of Slovenia's top court compromised

STA, 17 October 2019 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija argues in the latest commentary that constitutional judge Matej Accetto should step down because he undermined the court's reputation and authority after it transpired that he failed to disqualify himself for decision-making despite his ties with the Modern Centre Party (SMC).

Under the headline the Case of Judge Matej Accetto, editor in-chief Jože Biščak writes that the e-mails released this week prove that Accetto made extensive proposals and opinions in the creation of the SMC's platform in 2014 and acted as a "tacit supporter" for the party of Miro Cerar.

Biščak notes that Accetto has been involved in decision-making on two political cases, the 2017 referendum on the Koper-Divača rail track and the foreigners act, both of which had to do with what was the ruling party in the previous term.

The Constitutional Court rejected a request for the judge's recusal at least two times, satisfied with his explanation that he was not involved in the work on the SMC platform.

Biščak notes the Constitutional Court's key role for the country's rule of law, freedom and democracy, saying that the public's trust in its rulings depends on the judges' ethical conduct, and its belief that the judges are unbiased, independent and fair.

"Judge Matej Accetto trampled all that, he tarnished the reputation of the Constitutional Court. No one would take a grudge against him if he had recused himself in the mentioned (political cases). He would have demonstrated the high standards he abided by himself and could have expected the same from his colleagues.

"As it is, he lied not only to fellow judges but also to parties in procedure and the entire public. Now that it has all come to light he should resign. Irrevocably ... His is not just a case of likely bias but of political and ideological bias par excellence."

All our posts in this series are here

12 Oct 2019, 08:20 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 11 October

Mladina: The government moves to the right

STA, 11 October 2019 - There is little chance the Left does not pull out of its cooperation deal with Marjan Šarec's minority government, the left-wing weekly Mladina says in Friday's editorial, as it takes a look at how the government will turn right as it tries to justify its break with the opposition party.

"It has been clear since the early summer that the reactionary and neoliberal views will prevail in the coalition over the progressive views promoted by the Left."

Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says the Left's views could hardly be labelled extremist, saying they are aligned with contemporary trends in Europe.

The only difference is that in Europe, such views are also promoted by conservative governments, which understand the role the state must play to secure long-term stability.

However, the Šarec coalition is starting to go down a similar path like Eastern European governments.

It has started with an economic policy cutting taxes for the rich and for companies and leaving industries and companies of national importance to the mercy of market forces.

This will be followed by an ideological shift towards the right, Repovž says under the headline Political Shift to the Right.

The funny thing is the shift will not happen for political or ideological reasons, but because this is the easiest way, enabling the government to avoid a conflict with centres of power and the public.

The more the government assumes neoliberal views in the coming months and the more it tries to justify its break with the Left, the more populist and conservative rhetoric it will use, resembling ever more those on the right.

This will bring it exactly to the point where the previous Miro Cerar government had found itself. Šarec's government will continue to avoid change, while neglecting the contemporary political agenda, which also includes the climate crisis.

Demokracija: Support for Save Slovenia protest in the face of “great replacement”

STA, 10 October 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija expresses support in its commentary on Thursday for the Save Slovenia protest, a rally to be held in Ljubljana this afternoon.

Under the headline Rebellion, its editor-in-chief Jože Biščak draws parallels between Slovenia and "ominous" regulation planned in New York that might spark a civil war in the US "which might be much bloodier than the one a century and a half ago".

The magazine refers to reports that New York is to ban the use of words "illegal alien", saying that this would encroach on the 1st amendment. This, alongside the 2nd amendment, which allows US citizens to carry weapons, is the last bulwark of freedom in the US, Biščak says.

Things are even worse in Europe, where "a 'great replacement' scheme is taking place right before our eyes" in which European natives are being replaced by Arab and African immigrants, with the latter enjoying increasingly more rights than the natives.

"European taxpayers are forced to pay for their integration. I use integration here because the intention of illegal immigration is not assimilation. At the same time, the all-encompassing climate change hysteria is leading to measures that go against common sense, and above all, raise taxes."

This sparked the yellow vests protests in France, while Dutch farmers have also taken to the streets because the "politically correct want to lower animal production, because farm animals are supposedly one of the main culprits for nitrogen emissions".

"The globalist elites have crossed the Rubicon and sparks of rebellion are flying across Europe. Slovenians are joining this trend with the all-Slovenian protest Save Slovenia."

The state has been drowning and the leftist elite, while stealing from the people, has been responding [to the criticism] with attacks about racism, xenophobia and fascism.

"They are spreading fear among people, nobody dares to say what they think and how they want to live any more. The right to self-defence has been criminalised and tyranny has become embedded everywhere."

The weekly hopes that protests for the rule of law, freedom and protection of the people will become regular weekly events. "There is still time to destroy the seed of evil sawn by the devastating cultural Marxism without a civil war, which has already broken out in some parts of Europe."

"I truly hope that I never have to start this commentary with the words: 'Slovenians, patriots, brothers and sisters, time has come'."

All our posts in this series are here

05 Oct 2019, 08:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 04 October

Mladina: Slovenia reduced to periphery as key companies sold

STA, 4 October 2019 – The left-wing weekly Mladina criticises governments for lack of reflection and long-term vision when selling companies key to Slovenia's economic independence and sovereignty. "All serious countries take special care of certain sectors, and infrastructure is the first among them," the weekly writes in Friday's editorial Periphery Country.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž also notes that Slovenian managers and politicians like to brag about knowing the Balkans very well, but the truth is much more miserable.

He says there are only few Slovenian investments in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and elsewhere in the region, whereas Austria is a strong player there.

What is more, Croatian and Serbian companies have taken over a number of Slovenian flagships, such as retailer Mercator, food companies Droga Kolinska and Žito, soft drinks maker Fructal and bank Gorenjska Banka.

Nevertheless, the true big players on the Slovenian market come from others parts of Europe, chiefly Austria and Germany, says Repovž.

Taking a look at the case of Slovenian airline Adria Airways, Repovž says there was no doubt Germany's Lufthansa would try to take over Adria Airways.

And it goes without saying that Europe's leading airline has an advantage because the government sold Slovenian airport operator Aerodrom Ljubljana to Germany's Fraport.

But while Austria, Switzerland and Belgium had set Lufthansa strict conditions when selling it their airlines, Slovenia's prime ministers Alenka Bratušek, Miro Cerar and Marjan Šarec "were obviously not thinking about these dimensions of their country's statehood, independence and sovereignty".

"Countries are no longer being conquered with armies, they are being conquered economically. And small countries which can easily become dependent are very careful [about this possibility]."

However, Slovenia has sold almost the entire food and retail sectors, all key banks and the national airport. It has avoided by a notch Hungary's becoming a co-owner of port operator Luka Koper, allowed a Chinese investor to buy home appliances maker Gorenje, sold one of its few tech gems, Fotona, for small change, and left the aviation market to the mercy of foreign airlines.

"Is this enough to prove that we are good students of those who then buy our companies? In the Balkans they call it 'voluntary sacrifice'. This is how Slovenia goes about strategic decisions. And a special credit for this goes to Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek," concludes Repovž.

Demokracija: Bojan Požar’s advertising deals not corruption

STA, 3 October 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija comes to the defence of Bojan Požar, the editor of online tabloid Pozareport who tried to enter politics, in its latest editorial, rejecting the premise that signing advertising deals with state companies while running for office entails serious corruption risks.

While only using the first names, Demokracija's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak compares Požar's campaign situation to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who campaigned while he was serving as mayor, and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) head Karl Erjavec, who has served in ministerial posts for years.

The two politicians enjoyed stable funding by taxpayers and were constantly in the public limelight without having to spend almost any funds on campaigning, whereas Požar has to fight for his survival on the market.

"Because he has a media company, he needs to sign advertising deals with companies. If he fails, there will be no wages the next month. Bojan wanted to become a politician, but he failed. He is not an official, not part of the power structures, he works with his own money, for his own account."

According to Biščak, the question at the heart of the matter is "in which case the corruption risk is bigger ... with Marjan, Karl or Bojan?".

"In normal countries, where the dividing lines between state-owned, public and private are very clear, the answer would be clear: with Marjan and Karl. But because Slovenia is not normal (yet), let alone free, the (socialist) mainstream media are sending the Court of Audit and the Corruption Prevention Commission after Bojan (Požar)," Biščak says in the commentary entitled Other Side of the Mirror.

All our posts in this series are here

28 Sep 2019, 09:39 AM

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

Mladina: If Germany can rescue its companies, why can't Slovenia?

STA, 27 September 2019 – Mladina, the left-wing weekly, criticises Slovenian governments for failing to protect the interests of Slovenian companies, including Adria Airways, saying they usually give EU rules as an excuse not to act, whereas engines of capitalism such as Germany always help their companies. What is more, they are indirectly buying Slovenian companies.

Due to the government's inactivity, nearly 600 Adria staff will lose their jobs and at least another 600 jobs will be lost indirectly, while the budget will suffer a loss of EUR 20 million, the weekly says in its editorial on Friday.

When Economy Minister Zdarvko Počivalšek met on Wednesday a group of Adria workers who are seeking a solution, he said the state was not indifferent to its troubles, and mentioned Adria's irresponsible owner, which had put at stake the company's operating licence.

But it is surprising he became aware of Adria's troubles only now when the rest of Slovenians realised how deeply in trouble it was much earlier, and that he forgot to mention he was the economy minister in the Miro Cerar government, which sold Adria to Germany's 4K Invest in 2016.

At the time, the government argued the sale would enable Adria to "develop, expand and provide for Slovenia's new links to the world", and those who warned this would not be the case because Adria was sold to a speculative venture capital fund were said to be ignorant of the very basics of capitalism.

When Počivalšek visited Adria, Germany announced it would help the airline Condor get a loan to prevent its bankruptcy. Two days before the German rescue effort, former Adria director Peter Grašek proposed a similar solution for Adria to the Slovenian government.

But the government is actually not seeking a solution, it is waiting for the situation to calm down so that it may start pointing fingers and complain about its hands being tied by EU rules. Yet, the same rules do not prevent Croatia or Estonia to help their airlines, or Germany to immediately rescue an airline or car factory when in trouble.

Mladina says that Slovenia's national airport operator Aerodrom Ljubljana was not sold just to any company in 2014, it was sold to Germany's Fraport, which is indirectly in majority ownership of Germany.

"Isn't it strange that we are being constantly told it is vital to sell companies and banks for the state to be successful and efficient, while at the same time it always turns out that the countries which are considered the culmination of capitalist efficiency and success, are buying our companies and banks?"

What is more, they purchase our companies in collaboration with their private companies, Mladina says, noting Fraport is partly owned by Lufthansa, the airline which will most certainly take over Adria's business.

Mladina says it is clear Počivalšek knew Adria was sold to speculative funds which would drain it. And as prime minister, Alenka Bratušek also knew airport operator Aerodrom was actually bought by the German state.

"She also knew that as soon as the national airport is sold, there will be an end to the complementarity between the airport and Adria, which will be fateful for Adria in five years' time," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in They Knew.

Reporter: Bratušek attempting power grab in corrupt energy sector

STA, 23 September 2019 - The right-wing weekly Reporter says in Monday's commentary that a recent failed attempt by Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek to be given the final word in the appointment of executives at two state-owned energy companies had not been about wanting to end rampant corruption but merely about trying to seize control over it.

While managing to subjugate SODO, the state-owned electricity distribution system operator, to the government in this way, Bratušek failed to get same statue change proposals passed by the government last week for ELES, the transmission system operator, and for power market operator Borzen.

While Reporter's editor-in-chief Silverster Šurla says that Bratušek, whose proposal had been rejected by Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) president and Defence Minister Karel Erjavec while the remaining ministers abstained, should in fact be believed when she speaks of rampant corruption in the sector.

However, in any normal state accusations of such gravity as the ones issued by her would immediately be examined by authorities specialised in the prosecution of organised crime.

"The minister should report these things to the police immediately and share everything she knowns, including with all the names," Šurla says.

He argues Bratušek has not done that because she is part of one wing of the energy lobby herself. The two wings are engaged in a struggle for the executive posts and thereby for control over the bountiful money flow in state-owned energy companies.

Šurla says under The Fox and the Sour Grapes that Bratušek "is a cunning political fox, who will stop at nothing to reach her goals and is possibly even ready to bring down the government".

All our posts in this series are here

14 Sep 2019, 12:03 PM

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

Mladina: Energy sector suffers from excessive pay

STA, 13 September 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the government does not want to make order in the energy sector and reduce the excessive wages there as the sector is highly politicised, with each political party having their piece of the pie.

"The world of energy in Slovenia is a distinctively political matter. The entire sector could be called a small political paradise," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline EUR 100,000 a Month.

According to him, energy should be a competitive business in which the state does not and must not have any connection, because otherwise it does not function under the economic principles.

"It is supposed to be a serious business, with competition, market, large players, fierce fights for every consumer. But it is not. In reality, it is a completely state-owned system, but excluded enough from the state that the public sector rules do not apply to it."

At the same time, it is included in the state enough that politics can influence it. When it comes to distributing influence in the energy sector, political parties are able to make agreements and they cooperate well.

"There is a code of silence among parties and each new party which enters the government quickly gets its own 'energy district'," Repovž adds.

As energy companies in Slovenia are mainly public companies, it would be right if they get completely subordinated to the rules of public sector "in the field of wages for starts. Slovenia has one unusual feature: the highest wages are not paid out in the banking sector, but in energy."

However, Mladina does not believe that the current government has the courage or even the intention to do something about that. "It seems that a majority has already forgotten about their high-flying election promises," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Slovenia should learn from Estonia

STA, 12 September - The right-wing weekly Demokracija praises Estonia for its break with Communism, while Slovenia opted for a gradual transition and never really broke with the regime. "Communism was an occupation and Slovenia will not be able to step out of its shadow by ignoring its remnants. The snake needs to be decapitated or it will bring us down once more."

The weekly comments on Thursday on an interview Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid gave the broadcaster TV Slovenija last week in which she specifically said that the country had been occupied by the Soviet Union and did not join the union willingly.

Slovenia and Estonia are similar in many ways, sharing similar fates after World War II. "Both had been occupied, in both countries the Communists first killed most of the bourgeois intelligentsia, industrials and entrepreneurs, and sent the rest to labour camps."

In both countries, power was in the hands of foreigners: in Slovenia in the hands of Serbs and in Estonia in the hands of Russians. They experienced Communist dictatorship and the countries stagnated for half a century.

But after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the independence of the two countries, their ways diverged. Slovenia opted for a gradual transition to market economy and never got rid of its socialist mindset, while Estonia broke off with Socialism overnight.

Slovenia could learn a lot from Estonia. The latter was a much poorer country when it became independent, but is now on Slovenia's tail, the paper says under the headline Why Estonia Became E-stonia.

The different mindsets were the most pronounced in the 2008 crisis, when Slovenia decided for Keynesian measures, while Estonia let the market sort itself out.

Although unemployment in Estonia was higher than in Slovenia during the crisis, the levels are similar now. But Estonia's debt amounts to only 8% of GDP, while Slovenia's is at over 70% of GDP.

All our posts in this series are here

06 Sep 2019, 18:11 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 06 September

Mladina: Health insurance a difficult problem

STA, 6 September 2019 - The left-leaning weekly Mladina argues in its latest editorial that the system of top-up health insurance in Slovenia is an example of systematic corruption par excellence. It is clear that the lobbies and politicians involved will not give up this money easily, the paper says.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž is very sceptical of the message coming from the coalition and the Left - that they have found common ground on abolishing top-up health insurance by folding it into mandatory health insurance.

It is not that their intentions are not sincere, it is simply that health insurance is very much an ideological issue, linked with the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) and its predecessors, SKD and SLS, and the opposition Democrats (SDS), he notes.

Since its introduction the top-up health insurance has been an "additional contribution or tax for healthcare" and health insurers have been acting as "some kind of private tax administration collecting only this tax".

Citizens can seemingly choose which insurer they want - initially there were just two insurers, Adriatic Slovenica and Vzajemna, Triglav entered the marked much later. Adriatic Slovenica was initially let into the game only to disguise the true nature of Vzajemna.

The system, conceived by long-term head of the ZZZS national public health insurance fund, Franc Košir, has subsequently turned out to be one of the worst cases of privatisation of public money ever.

"Vzajemna seemed like the best idea in the world. Its founding was overseen by ZZZS itself." It was conceived as a company whose manager and shareholder becomes anyone who pays the insurance and thus becomes a member. And formally, this still holds true today. "Can anyone even object to this concept?"

But in fact, the legislation was amended already when Vzajemna was founded to allow a group of people manage a part of public funds and it has remained so until this day.

"Vzajemna is controlled by the same lobbies today only the people who run things are different."

Its powers expand beyond any political borders today and stretch into the business world, with the former CEO of poultry producer Perutnina Ptuj, Roman Glaser, holding a great deal of power.

Vzajemna also has some EUR 100 million of reserves in deposits and other financial investments and can invest them in line with the wishes of those who have power.

"It is therefore clear that all these lobbies and lobbyists, hired consultants and also politicians and public office holders work against any government that attempts to sort out this issue. It has been so for the last sixteen years. It is such easy money that nobody will give it up easily," Repovž says under the headline It's Systemic Corruption.

Reporter: Gov’t staffing scandal deserves a closer look

STA, 2 September 2019 - Looking at the downfall of Brane Kralj, the secretary general of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the right-leaning weekly Reporter says that this is Šarec's first serious mistake since taking office and a signal from networks of power that he should not be too single-minded.

"Nobody is innocent in the political drama that unfolded last week. But it appears this was a carefully planned skirmish involving networks that control state property, whereby Šarec received a rap on the knuckles for the first time," the paper says in Final Warning.

The scandal shows that the government is engaged in the same sort of political staffing as its predecessors. "Prime Minister Šarec cannot say any longer that he is different, that such things do not happen under his watch."

Delving into the details of the fateful call Kralj made to the chief supervisor of the Official Gazette, Irena Prijović, Reporter says DeSUS president Karl Erjavec soliciting the call is less likely than the theory that the chief supervisor of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), Karmen Dieter, told Kralj to contact Prijović directly.

"Irena Prijović is not a woman that would falter as soon as she gets a call from the secretary general of a ruling party, and neither is she a flawless Virgin Mary. Her statements about 'brutal pressure' have to be taken with a dollop of salt: Prijović is considered the right hand of Borut Jamnik, the greying wonder boy of the (para)state sector, the nephew of the once influential SocDem politician Breda Pečan."

The commentator describes Jamnik and Prijović as having "literally kidnapped corporate governance", weaving a web of power that has political backing from the SocDems. "They are both political appointees and for years they have been wandering from one post in state-owned companies to the other."

"Since Jamnik has grown over politicians' heads, they have clipped his wings and now he is striking back. The Official Gazette scandal is probably revenge for loss of influence at Telekom Slovenije," Reporter says.

Looking at the uncertainty in autumn, with the looming passage of the budget bills and the Left making its support for the minority government conditional on health insurance reform, the paper says the Official Gazette scandal was "a warning of sorts to the prime minister that networks will bring down his government if he is too single-minded".

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