Ljubljana related

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".

All our posts in this series are here

31 Aug 2019, 14:55 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 30 August

Mladina: Support for the Left’s spending proposals

STA, 30 August 2019 - The left-leaning weekly Mladina criticises the government's dismissive attitude towards the Left's (Levica) spending proposals, saying that instead of preparing for the global economic slowdown and possible recession as numerous other countries are doing, Slovenia has been recklessly ignoring indicators of the coming downturn.

The draft budget for 2020 is lacklustre and "threatens the country's stability in the short run if the international situation changes", editor-in-chief Grega Repovž writes in Friday's editorial The Government's Grave Mistake.

So instead of wondering if the draft budget will be endorsed in parliament or not, the question that should be asked it how to improve it.

The Marjan Šarec government has been haughtily rejecting any ideas that would prepare Slovenia for the worst-case scenario, including investments in new social housing.

"Apart from supporting the construction of the second rail track - which benefits only the port of Koper - the state has not planned any major investments or secured any safety net for companies which will be affected by Germany's economy cooling down.

"In the government's first year in power there has been no considerable progress in any key areas, not a step has been taken to enable society and the economy to start keeping up with growing new climate standards which actually constitute an industrial revolution."

Saying that the 2020 budget draft would be appropriate for 2019, but not for the year of economic downturn, Mladina notes that all the progressive parts of the coalition agreement have been left forgotten - healthcare privatisation has not been curbed, on the contrary, insurers are raising premiums with the government turning a blind eye.

It seems that the state will continue down this path in 2020, while Germany, on the other hand, is getting ready for the possibility of another financial crisis by investing in education, social housing, digital technologies, infrastructure and jobs of the future.

It is only right that the Left has decided not to support the budget bill for 2020 and 2021 if the coalition does not endorse its proposal to abolish top-up health insurance.

The government's dismissive attitude towards the Left's proposals for ideological reasons needs to stop since those plans are the projects currently carried out by progressive and prudent countries.

Slovenia still has time to change course and prevent its economic and political collapse, but the magazine concludes on a rather pessimistic note, saying that the faces in politics are new, but their attitudes and deeds have been seen before and do not inspire trust.

Reporter: When Slovenia will get access to the White House?

STA, 26 August - Wondering where Slovenia is on the global map, the right-leaning weekly Reporter says in its latest commentary that Slovenia would perhaps get the opportunity for one of its officials crossing the doorstep of the White House now that PM Marjan Šarec has announced plans for a second reactor at the NEK nuclear power plant.

In the commentary headlined Washington-Beijing-Moscow, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla initially notes that Šarec will pay in the autumn an official visit to Moscow, not Washington.

"It is probably also because of Slovenia's pro-Russian foreign policy that no Slovenian politician crossed the doorstep of the White House in the last eight years."

Even in the last three years, with the US being presided by Donald Trump, and him having as many as four Slovenians by his side - his wife Melania, son Barron and his father-in-law and mother-in law Viktor and Amalija Knavs - the door has remained firmly shut.

But Šurla wonders if Trump, who is always ready to do business, will change his mind now that Šarec has announced the construction of a new reactor at NEK, which operates with US technology.

"If the deal gets won by their Westinghouse, Slovenia would probably get something in return. Something more concrete than just a courtesy visit to the White House?", concludes the commentary.

All the posts in this series can be found here, while all our stories on Slovenian politics are here

24 Aug 2019, 09:00 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 23 August

Mladina: Catholic Church Should Not Promote Domobranci

STA - Mladina takes a look at the emergence of organisations celebrating quislings after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Eastern Europe, saying the Catholic Church is behind them to cover up its own collaboration with the Nazi and Fascist occupying forces before and during World War II.

The left-leaning weekly takes as a starting point for Friday's editorial an invitation to a commemoration organised by "New Slovenian Testament, an association which promotes the doings of the Domobranci home-guard during WWII".

In the majority of European countries, with the exception of Austria and Italy, which have not undergone denazification, such associations "do not and cannot exist".

"Eastern Europe is quite another story. After the fall of Communism, associations promoting quislings emerged in many countries," says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

He notes that Croatia's ruling party HDZ does not hide its fondness of the Ustashe, and Slovenia's right is firmly connected with organisations celebrating the quislings.

In both Slovenia and Croatia, the Church was the most responsible for the emergence of the quislings - the Domobranci and the Ustashe and for collaboration.

Repovž says that 80 years on, it needs to be clearly said that the Church is behind organisations such as New Slovenian Testament.

"The Church is again abusing the Domobranci and their descendants, their pain, the actual pain, which results from the Communists' post-WWII doings, and also the pain which comes from the inability to face historical facts".

"The Domobranci soldiers were national traitors, but they were also the victims of the Church and politics at the time."

And just as it used to lure innocent people into the Domobranci home-guard and the Catholic militias through its power as institution, the Church is now similarly abusing them to conceal the historical facts, says Repovž.

Just like its role during WWII cannot be limited to Bishop Gregorij Rožman (1883-1959) attending the Domobranci oath to Hitler in Ljubljana, its role at commemorations such as the one organised by New Slovenian Testament is not innocent.

"The leadership of the Slovenian Church abuses religion, believers, Domobranci survivors and their descendants so that it can continue to blur historical facts.

"It is doing the same in dealing with sexual abuse. It simply ignores facts, abusing the power of faith and the trust of believers," Repovž says under the headline In the Name of Mary, the Queen of Slovenians.

Demokracija: Private property in peril as socialism makes comeback

STA - Expressing indignation over the comeback of socialist ideas, including in the west, the latest editorial of  Demokracija points to the state supervision of privately-owned forests as proof that "the worm of socialism remains nested deep in the brains of Slovenians".

The right-leaning weekly paper's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak takes the ongoing issues with the culling of wild animals and the protests against the increasing use of off-road vehicles in forests as examples to argue that private property as a basic tenet of capitalism is under attack.

While over 75% of forests in Slovenia are in private ownership, the government is using a number of regulations to claim the right to serve as the only righteous guardian of forests as a common good, a typically socialist supposition.

"The framer, who is also the owner of the forest, does not have the right to settle his accounts with wolves that are slaughtering his sheep and goats ... He is not even allowed to set wild animal traps on his own property."

The same applies when it comes to forest visitors, who need to be granted free access to walk, and pick mushrooms and fruits no matter if the owner agrees or not.

The owners merely have duties, Biščak says, arguing it would not be surprising if things once get to a point when "an ecosocialist will file charges against the owner for getting bitten by a tick".

Meanwhile, off-road vehicles are reportedly destroying the forests, endangering the hikers, scaring game etc., but the only ones that do not get asked for an opinion are the forest owners who may perhaps be using such vehicles to supervise their property, Demokracija's editor says.

Biščak, who claims that "this government is blurring the line between what is state-owned, public and private", goes on to point "to the loud cheering of the media mainstream when inspectors mount an offensive an announce how many private entrepreneurs they have fined".

"One needs to have a sick mind to celebrate something like that. If the share of the 'swindlers' is high, this means something is wrong with taxation and regulations. Disregard for laws is a phenomenon that accompanies any unjust state," Biščak says.

He argues under Don't Steal, the State Does Not Like Competition that people who get robbed by the state should only be expected to look for ways to do the same to the state in order to survive.

17 Aug 2019, 10:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 16 August

Mladina: Slovenia missed opportunity to thrive on elderly care

STA, 16 August 2019 - The latest editorial in the left-wing magazine Mladina blames politicians for Slovenia missing the chance to make elderly care a business opportunity as a result of which the system is falling apart, while the initiative is being taken by foreign multinationals.

In a piece headlined Old Age is Business, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž recalls how a decade ago Mladina proposed Slovenia take up the business called old age, turning care for a quality life of an ageing population into a whole new industry.

"That we should have started building adjusted housing developments, created a supply and care sector, developed specialised hospital services and healthcare centres. This way we would have created a whole new business and job sector, which unlike tourism lasts throughout the year and not just a few summer months."

Repovž argues that even less qualified workers could find jobs in such a sector, which would create high value added and provide a boost to the architecture and construction business as the country could become a specialist in construction for the elderly, a sizeable, active and financially strong population, especially in places like Germany or Austria.

He says that Slovenia has plenty of lovely spots where residential estates for senior citizens could be built, giving an impetus to the services industry catering for a "very agile population, incredibly inquisitive and brave".

Instead, Slovenia is a country in which 25,000 people are waiting for a room in a pension home, while nurses and carers are leaving for better paid jobs abroad, poor pensioners are leaving for pension homes in Croatia and foreign multinationals are building pension homes in Slovenia.

"This is because our politicians are ignorant, tending their own little garden patch and incapable of a single ambitious act outside their safe zone of the existing (...)

"Slovenia has done nothing in the field for more than 20 years. The last pension home was erected by the state 15 years ago, which piece of information is horrifying, but telling."

Demokracija: Worried about social surveillance

STA, 14 August 2019 - Governments in Western democracies, including Slovenia's government and NGOs, would be happy to legislate the ghastly Chinese system of social surveillance termed Social Credit System, the right-wing magazine Demokracija argues in its latest commentary.

It says totalitarianisms have always wanted to have total control of their citizens' lives, which was technically impossible until the end of the 20th century.

But this has changed with the dawn of artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras and social networks, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Wednesday.

"Although the situation in Europe is not as bad as in China yet, there are signs that citizens are being pigeonholed to bad and good ones."

The Slovenian government rewards, that is pays with taxpayer money, those NGOs which spy on co-citizens and report on them, says the weekly.

It notes the Faculty of Social Sciences is already tasked with reporting on people on social media, and recalls that those taking part in the ZLOvenija portal during the 2015 migration crisis were labelled racists, Nazis and xenophobes.

Biščak also takes issue with the recent broad interpretation of hate speech by Supreme Court judges, saying it is worrying, whereas the left welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

"What is missing is a public government system which will record heretic deviations of free-thinking individuals and undermine the bad ones in everyday life.

"The Chinese reality is not far from Slovenia any more, with a public and government-approved black list of disobedient and too freedom-loving people as state enemies already knocking on the door."

If such surveilance is put in place, "there will be no place to hide, even the panic room will be under surveillance", Biščak says under the headline Panic Room, wondering whether "we will let this happen".

Other articles in this series can be found here

10 Aug 2019, 10:45 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 09 August

Mladina: Socio-economic divide feeding irrationality in US, Britain

STA, 9 August 2019 - Reflecting on the reasons behind the irrational choices of voters in developed countries like the US and Britain, the latest editorial of the left-leaning weekly paper Mladina highlights the neoliberal dismantling of public healthcare and education. It also expresses serious concern about the future ramifications of aggressive individualism and hate speech.

Drawing on Willaim Davies's book Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž speaks of a coalition between an impoverished and ill-educated class and an increasing number of elderly people experiencing psychological and physical pain.

The exploitation of this anger and pain by populists with fascist tendencies and the disastrous consequences this leads to shows how important it is for societies to fight poverty and above all preserve a high level of public education and healthcare, Repovž says in the commentary entitled Consequences.

Also belonging on this essential list is the need to ruthlessly fight hate speech. While the US and Great Britain are already paying a high price, politically and socially, for the neoliberal destruction of public education and healthcare, "the long-term consequences of hate speech are not clear yet".

"We can't even begin to imagine what kind of society lies in store for us once the majority will feature generations which are growing up with a language that is hateful and brutal and which see this brutality as something entirely normal."

Repovž also speaks of an extremely ego-driven new generation growing up on social networks, "which is not a reproach, since this is truly becoming a condition for an individual's social positioning, this is the way friendships and love are made today, this how jobs and life goals are sought".

Reporter: Staffing at state-owned enterprises

STA, 5 August 2019 - The right-wing magazine Reporter writes about staffing at state-owned companies in the latest editorial under the headline Dream Job, arguing that dream jobs in Slovenia are still those at state-run enterprises.

Silvester Šurla writes that no government has been unable to resist the temptation to name its people to top positions in state-owned companies.

"The supervisory board gets replaced, then the management and new positions and jobs are given to the loyal and deserving."

As one case in point Šurla names Telekom Slovenije, which it says involves too many interests to be privatised; the company will obviously remain state-owned until the government is forced by the strained situation in the market, to sell it, as was the case with Gorenje.

He writes that the upcoming shareholders' meeting on 30 August will appoint two new supervisory board members, and the supervisory board will appoint the new CEO.

"Even though an UAE tax resident, the notorious businessman Andrej Vizjak, whom his ex-wife is accusing in the media of not paying alimony for their daughter, is very keen on becoming a new supervisor or even the chief supervisor, the proposal for his appointment has been withdrawn.

"This way the plan fell through to appoint as new Telekom boss Matej Potokar, formerly the CEO of the Slovenian subsidiary of Microsoft."

Šurla goes on to write about Petrol CEO Tomaž Berločnik's dealings and recent replacements at the Bank Assets Management Company, Slovenian Sovereign Holding and the energy group HSE, among others.

"Since the government coalition comprises as many as five parties and each one of them wants its share of the pie, this makes the staffing jigsaw puzzle quite complicated. Apart from politicians', there are also the interests of lobbies, various PR agencies such as Pristop and other influential big shots like Gregor Golobič ... There are more similar opportunists, also on the right. These are people who cannot survive in the market and depend existentially on dealings with state-owned companies."

03 Aug 2019, 11:14 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 02 August

Mladina: Dnevnik-Večer Merger

STA, 2 August 2019 - The weekly Mladina comments on the merger of the publishers of the daily newspapers Dnevnik in Večer, both welcoming and regretting the move which it sees as means to preserve the printed media in Slovenia, which are facing numerous challenges brought by new trends.

The merger is a reasonable decision by the publishers' owners, which was carried out surprisingly wisely and thoughtfully, and which strengthens the position of both Dnevnik and Večer at least in the medium term, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says on Friday.

On the other hand, he also regrets the move because it comes as a consequence of the declining readership of the printed media and changed lifestyle in modern societies.

"Although the media compete with each other, it is very important for all of them that as many people as possible continue to read serious media. Decline of any serious media is bad for the rest of them, as it impacts the reading habits of the nation."

Mladina argues that the Slovenian state has done practically nothing for the media in the last 30 years. "They simply did not want to see the importance of (critical) media for the normality of the society."

Politics has treated the national broadcaster mostly badly, and it is almost incredible that something has been left of it at all. But journalists are not blameless either, as they raised their voice only when they were personally threatened, Repovž adds.

Actually, the government of Marjan Šarwec was the first one to make a move, introducing lower taxes for the media and books, and announcing a new system for distributing state subsidies, which have so far been ending up in the hands of harmful media.

It is very hard for serious media to survive on the small market like Slovenia, but this is also true for culture, sport and education. A large part of the surplus generated in these fields is a consequence of personal altruism.

"Problems in all fields are also a consequence of the unwillingness to admit that we are a small country. All fields which are limited by the language are in a very difficult situation. These, of course, include the media," concludes the commentary headlined Dnevnik and Večer.

Reporter: Who benefits from big infrastructure projects?

STA, 29 July 2019 - The right-leaning magazine Reporter writes about delays in public contracting for large infrastructure projects in the latest editorial, asserting that PM Marjan Šarec should take action to prevent a new TEŠ6.

"They want to rob us blind again," writes editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla under the headline Red Alarm, arguing that the attempts to overturn the chosen contractor in the public calls for the construction of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel and the Koper-Divača rail project show Slovenia has not learned anything from the 1 billion-plus project to build generator 6 at the Šoštanj coal-fired plant.

Šurla says that the only goal of the delays in the public calls is that the right people get the job in the end - that is construction companies controlled by Stojan Petrič, Janez Škrabec and Stanko Polanič.

"Why public calls if everything is said to have been agreed behind the scenes? As long as it is pro forma, a public call because there has to be one? In two construction projects alone, (Karavanke and the Glinščica bridge) local cronies could bleed us of EUR 25 million, the difference to the two other cheapest bids."

Šurla quotes rumours saying that the management of the state-run motorway company DARS could be dismissed if Petrič's Kolektor is not chosen as the contractor in the end.

"The Idrija mogul is exerting huge pressure through his lobbyists, and Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek is said to have succumbed to his charm. A replacement of DARS supervisors has been announced for late August, which could lead to the management's replacement.

"If in exchange for keeping their posts, DARS yields in to pressure in the end and pick Kolektor despite the much higher cost, this would also augur ill for the taxpayer in the case of the second rail track, at a project at least ten times larger in value."

Šurla says that the developments should send alarm bells ringing at least in the office of PM Marjan Šarec. "Unless he pounds the table and keeps pretending he is not in charge like Borut Pahor did in the same office, we will see a new TEŠ 6."

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

27 Jul 2019, 09:35 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 26 July 2019

Mladina:  Croatia's reported tourism decline should worry Slovenia

STA, 26 July 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the reports on an alleged decline in the number of tourists in Croatia is not something Slovenia should be happy about, not least for the sake of decency. If this is true, this is actually a reason for concern, as Slovenian tourism is closely connected to tourism in Croatia.

Slovenia bets on tourism and a possible decline in tourist visits in Croatia could reflect on Slovenia, because it generates a lot of its tourism-related revenue with people who only make a stop in Slovenia while on their way to Croatia.

Even those who are in Slovenia for a couple of hours at least buy a motorway toll sticker, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in the commentary Damn Croatians.

"In other words: we are at least partly tied to Croatia's success in tourism economy-wise. This is why we actually should wish that Croatian tourism is as successful as possible, because this will make us more successful too."

When Germany announces a decline in economic growth, everybody in Slovenia (justifiably) speak about and analyse the possible consequences on the Slovenian economy. The same response should be expected to the reports from Croatia, as Slovenia is much more connected with the success of its tourism than Slovenians are willing to admit.

Mladina thus notes that it is detrimental for both countries that they have not been able to make alliances after gaining independence. It would be easier for Slovenia and Croatia to better control and direct migration, and to act as allies within the EU.

In the fields of science, art and tourism development, Croatia is a country Slovenia should connect with. For example, the university medical centres in Zagreb and Ljubljana could cooperate fruitfully because both countries are too small to develop many fields of medicine alone.

"Of course, the most tempting thing at this point is to debate what share of the blame individual countries and politics bear for this situation. But this debate, running almost thirty years since the two countries gained independence, has led us nowhere."

Repovž notes that in Europe, both Slovenians and Croatians are perceived as immature, quarrelsome and nitpicky, which is why normalising the relations with Croatia should be a serious objective for Slovenian politics.

Demokracija: Right under siege by a Left bent on destruction

STA, 25 July 2019 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija claims in Thursday's commentary that the right in Slovenia is under siege, as evidenced from a series of charges the magazine and its editor face due to incitement of hatred.

"They are cultural and just, we on the right are the source of all evil. This is evidence of a cult of hatred. The characters and acts that they are fabricating and projecting onto us are created in their heads, not ours. We are rotten persons for them, instigators of hatred and xenophobes because we love our country."

"Of course we're not any of what they make us out to be. All these horrible shows and horrible things planted on us take shape in them, in the twisted psyches of progressive evildoers," the commentator says in Us and Them.

It argues that this hatred is very palpable and felt at every step. "First they brand us with words, then comes violence, which is then leveraged by politicians, their officials and bureaucrats, their hereditary allies, the travelling mafia in the form of Antifa."

"In fact, they are the most intolerant group of people ... they have sent a tsunami of evil upon us and taken the right to be the sole arbiters not just of their thoughts and actions but also our thoughts and conduct. The result is always the same, regardless of circumstance: we are evil, they are not."

The commentator concludes that the right has been tolerant for too long which is why violence against is has become commonplace. "For us violence is a horrible thing, the idea about armed coup against the government unimaginable, but they have revolution and violent coups in their blood. There is us. And there is them."

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

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