April 9, 2019
Last week ended with news of a strange diplomatic move on the side of Hungarian government, whose diplomatic representative to Slovenia, Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi, sent a verbal note of protest (an official diplomatic tool of interstate communication) to the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia, demanding it “prevent” further “politically irresponsible” “incidents” on the side of the Slovenian media. The note was prompted by the cover of Mladina magazine depicting Hungarian president Viktor Orbán in a Nazi salute, guarded by three Slovenian SDS party members, all in presumable reference to the SDS’ struggles to prevent Orbán’s Fidezs from being kicked out of the European People’s Party. “We give up Europe, but we don’t give up Orbán”, read the title.
Over the weekend, media outlets in Slovenia that are part-owned by Hungarian interested that were established and run by sympathisers of the Janez Janša and members of his SDS party, issued a series of articles, that praise the formal and informal Hungarian protests and criticise the Slovenian government and Slovene Association of Journalists (SAJ) for having double standards with regard to media freedom. As a proof of the latter, Demokracija reminds readers of its own cover, which was not that long ago a target of criticism by both the SAI and the government for “spreading hate speech”, since, according to Demokracija, “these terms are arbitrarily defined by the left political pole”. Furthermore, Demokracija emphasised that following a “really tasteless depiction of a foreign country’s prime minister”, Mladina then “instead of normal communication, which would become a supposedly serious news media” went on to make jokes on account of the Hungarian ambassador’s protest.
Before news of the official diplomatic note of protest broke, it was only known that the ambassador had sent an awkwardly assertive letter to the magazine, expressing “a protest against the way in which Prime Minister of Hungary was depicted”. Also in this letter the Hungarian ambassador wondered whether Mladina’s goal was to “stoke hatred among nations”, reminded the editor that such “distortions of truth” are “especially severe and unacceptable in times of election campaigns”, and concluded with an appeal to Mladina “to stop the negative campaign against Hungary”, since “you offend millions of people by doing so”.
Mladina then responded with another, “corrected” version of the cover and an “apology” letter by the cover’s author, Tomaž Lavrič. Lavrič, the no. 1 Slovenian comic book artist who received a Medal of Merit for his Exceptional Contribution in the field of Slovenian Illustration, as presented by President Borut Pahor in 2015, along with the Prešeren Foundation Award in 2017, has collaborated regularly with Mladina as its “house caricaturist” since his first Diareja strip in 1988.
Much Honourable Madam Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary,
Accept my sincere and profound apology for a rude and completely untruthful depiction of your president Mr. Orbán on the cover of Mladina, which justifiably instigated your feelings of indignation and sadness.
After reading your concerned letter, I turned inside myself and realised my fault. I know that the anguish caused cannot be erased, but in my defence allow me nevertheless to explain that I myself am also just an innocent victim of objective circumstances. Let me point my finger at the real culprits of this undesirable scandal. These are:
I am urging you, madam, not to give up on us, but to continue to kindly help us with your advice and benevolent criticism, so that we too can achieve an exemplary state of objectivity and speak in one voice, as you have managed to establish in the Hungarian media, and that one day we too can live our lives under the rule of order and peace, national purity and Christian love for all the people behind the wire fence, as commanded by your mild and righteous beloved leader V. Orbán.
With all due respect,
Tomaž Lavrič, house caricaturist
To explain the main problem behind the “outrageous” cover of Mladina, Demokracija also quoted the Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács: “It’s an outrage and unacceptable first and foremost to the memory of the victims of that horrible period [World War 2]. Little surprise that the leftist editors at Mladina dislike the policies of the Orbán Government, but comparing the events of today’s Europe with the Nazi era trivialises what really happened in that dark time. (…) According to the author, Hungary’s firm opposition to immigration under the Orbán Government and our determination to protect European culture, which is deeply rooted in Christianity, is akin to the notorious German concept of Lebensraum.”
To understand the line of deduction here one might perhaps begin with the premise outlined by Milan Zver, MEP (depicted kneeling on the cover of Mladina) in his 2017 speech at the Pan-European Memorial for the Victims of Totalitarianism in Brussels: “Slovenia is the only state in the EU that has survived all three totalitarianisms: Fascism, Nazism and Communism. While the first two have practically disappeared, the process of the degradation of Communism has been too slow.” To paraphrase, we should not worry much about Nazism and Fascism, they are history. The Nazism of today is Communism, everything else is freedom fighting.
Furthermore, Kovács writes that “while everyone has the right to express an opinion, there’s also the matter of discretion and professionalism” and notes that Mladina’s function used to be the one of a “mouthpiece of the youth wing of the Communist Party”. Surely the Hungarian government spokesperson is aware of the fact that the lack of “discretion and professionalism” on the side of Mladina’s editors allowing for “juvenile and cynical” behaviour of its journalists has a long history which includes the imprisonment of three of its journalists (and one YPA sergeant) by the Yugoslav People’s Army in 1988, one of whom being no other than the leader of the SDS and admirer of Viktor Orbán’s policies, Janez Janša. At the time the arrests sent people onto the streets and launched Janez Janša’s career as a hero.
Another article by Nova24TV that followed on Monday, takes a similar path with regard to newspeak on contemporary sources of totalitarian danger. The author finds the Hungarian diplomatic protest “reasonable” since “if you were labelled Nazi by the media in the former Eastern bloc, which also included Hungary and Slovenia, it meant you were already on your way to gulag or being covered by soil. Also in Slovenia. The reaction [to the Hungarian reaction] bares a witness that this tradition is still alive. When a leftist weekly calls you a fascist, you aren’t even allowed to express your disagreement.”
If we may interrupt this narrative with a little correction – while Hungary was part of the Eastern Bloc and one of the Soviet satellites, Slovenia was not really, and certainly not since the Tito-Stalin split of 1948. Nova24TV then continues with a speculation on possible reasons behind the “panic on the left”, caused by the Hungarian diplomatic note of protest: “it is probably a combination of pre-election time, when the left is hoping for new voters with the use of an old policy of attacking external and internal enemies (fascists and such) and fear, because Orbán in fact exposes their modes of handling and controlling the media.”
Following this, Nova24TV published another article in full support of Generation Identity, a far-right movement associated with the recent “lone wolf” terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, titled “The Truth is our Weapon Against the Mainstream Media Lies”.
Mladina: Hungary's attempts to control the Slovenian media
STA, 5 April 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina, which put a cartoon of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán performing the Nazi salute on its cover two weeks ago, discusses in its latest commentary the Hungarian ambassador asking the Slovenian government to prevent Mladina from portraying Orban in such a way in the future.
The verbal note, which is how such a letter is called in diplomacy, and which was addressed to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, was "not very diplomatic, but unusually sharp," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Slovenia's Sovereignty Threatened.
"We asked for explanation and confirmation from the ministry, which said that it had received the note. The ministry answered it by saying that it consistently respected the principle of freedom of the press and expression and that it neither interfered in editorial policy of the Slovenian media, nor it assessed it."
Repovž notes that the response of the ministry headed by Miro Cerar was a response "of a serious country - cold and not allowing any debate."
The revealed diplomatic note shows how serious the situation is and who are we dealing with - not only Slovenia, but the entire Europe. "A country which dares to demand from another country's government to act against journalists means a serious security threat to the entire region."
Mladina goes on to say that Hungary is a "country which does not hide that it tries to encroach upon the autonomy of the Slovenian state with capital and all other ways."
With no reservations, Hungary has encroached upon the Slovenian political space and subordinated the opposition Democrats (SDS) of Janez Janša, whose acts have been following Hungarian political interests for quite a while.
"Through the SDS, the Hungarian state has acquired a part of the Slovenian media, which are now associated into a Hungarian national propaganda company. Of course, they represent Hungarian interests and attack the Slovenian state and its institutions."
The Hungarian government also systematically awards citizenship to the residents of the bordering region of Pomurje, makes business investments there and finances social activities. It also wanted to get an outlet to the sea through investing in the port of Koper, Mladina adds.
There are many other examples - for instance a photograph of Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi taken at the embassy in Ljubljana. Behind her is a historical map of a Greater Hungary, in which Pomurje is a part of it.
"They don't even bother concealing their aspirations. No serious country in Europe would tolerate such a shameless and revisionist boasting by a representative of a neighbouring country," concludes the commentary.
Demokracija: Šiško's sentencing will fall at ECHR
STA, 4 April 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the sentencing of self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško to eight months in prison for trying to subvert the constitutional order will fall at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), if not earlier, at the Constitutional Court.
Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said that the sentencing was a win for the rule of law, but he is wrong. A win for the rule of law will be when Slovenian courts stop violating the Constitution and human rights and fundamental freedoms.
"Šiško's sentencing will fall at the ECHR at the latest, and probably already at the Constitutional Court," says Jože Biščak, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly under the headline When Orwell Meets Slovenia.
"If someone who parades in a forest in the middle of the day, who wants change of the authorities and who wants to establish a Štejerska Land records all of it and publishes it on the internet subverts the constitutional order, then we are really pathetic."
If the police and prosecution react before anything happens at all, everything is probably a show for the public, if not paranoia. "Now think about the numerous (also publicised) cases of violence when the state was able to intervene in schools and families only after the fact."
This is why the question why the Šiško case was given a different treatment while practically nothing happened is not only a rhetorical one, concludes the commentary.
All our posts in this series can be found here
STA, 5 April 2019 - The weekly Mladina revealed that the Hungarian embassy had protested with the Foreign Ministry asking it to intervene over a Mladina cover portraying Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán as a Nazi. The news prompted condemnation from journalists and a joint session of the parliamentary culture and foreign policy committees is to be held to discuss the issue.
The ministry confirmed it had received a verbal diplomatic note from the embassy protesting a "politically irresponsible cover of Mladina" from 22 March and asking the ministry for "assistance in preventing similar incidents in the future".
The cover shows cartoons of the Slovenian Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša, SDS deputy Branko Grims and SDS MEP Milan Zver snuggling with the towering Orban, who performs the Nazi salute in front of a Hungarian flag with the Slovenian coat of arms.
The note says that the "cover violates the principles of freedom of the press and expression and that the acts such as the publication of the cover harm the otherwise excellent bilateral cooperation of our countries".
The ministry answered by saying it "consistently respects the principle of freedom of the press and expression and that it neither encroaches upon editorial policy of the Slovenian media, nor assesses it."
The weekly said that the note followed a letter sent to Mladina by Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi, in which she said that Mladina did not strive for friendship between the two nations and that its articles did not reflect facts.
Also writing about the cover this week was Orbán's spokesman Zoltán Kovács, who said he was "not surprised by the historically confused and unprofessional stance of Mladina", which he labelled the "former mouthpiece of the Communist Party".
The weekly attributes Hungary's reaction to the cartoon going viral last week in the public, with "almost all of the remaining independent Hungarian media reporting on it".
The embassy's note was condemned by the Slovenian Journalist Association (DNS), which said the embassy wanted the ministry to "encroach upon the editorial autonomy of a media outlet", and that it was "proof of the seriousness of the situation in the so-called democratic Europe."
The association said that the embassy's comments were not only completely unacceptable, but also an "unheard-of expression of a conception of complete control and disciplining of the media by the authorities".
"At the same time, the note is another concrete example of how the government of an officially democratic country, a member of the EU and NATO, perceives the role of the media in society," the DNS added.
A joint session of the parliamentary culture and foreign policy committees is to be held to discuss the note.
The session was requested by coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) deputy Gregor Perič, who welcomed the "determined response by the ministry", labelling the Hungarian embassy's request as "completely unacceptable".
"It points to a huge departure of the Hungarian authorities from freedom of the press as it is generally understood by the majority in the joint European family," added the member of the EU Affairs Committee.
The chair of the Foreign Policy Committee, Matjaž Nemec of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), welcomed the initiative and said he expected the joint session to be called within the shortest possible time.
"Such inadmissible (non-)diplomatic pressure should be opposed in the most determined manner possible," Nemec said, adding that freedom of the press was one of the fundamental values of Slovenian society.
The chair of the parliamentary Culture Committee, Violeta Tomić of the Left, also supports the idea of the joint session. She said that in Hungary critical and free media had virtually disappeared under Orbán.
Mladina said that many tenured diplomats said they had never seen such a note. Roman Kirn, the former foreign policy advisor to the prime minister, said "such notes are unusual for countries where freedom of the press is respected."
The weekly said Hungary's influence on Slovenian politics was not negligible. "The largest Slovenian parliamentary party, the SDS, is today the biggest debtor to Orban, whose regime controls a part of internal affairs in Slovenia."
"We had the opportunity to learn this during the debate within the European People's Party (EPP) on the expulsion of Orban's Fidesz from the group: the Slovenian representatives defended him the most," added Mladina, which also dedicated today's editorial to the issue.
In the commentary, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž said the protest note was "not very diplomatic, but unusually sharp," and added that the response from the ministry was a response "of a serious country - cold and not allowing any debate."
Referring to Hungary, Repovž said that the entire Europe was dealing with "a country which dares to demand from another country's government to act against journalists", labelling it a serious security threat to the entire region.
He went on to say that Hungary was a "country which does not hide that it tries to encroach upon the autonomy of the Slovenian state with capital and all other ways."
Regular readers of Mladina, the left-leaning review whose editorials we summarise each weekend (along with those of the right-leaning Demokracija, and – on occasion – Reporter) may have noticed the arresting advertisements that appear on page 3, and yet which don’t seem to promote any company or product.
Theme Ecological Disasters. Author: Studio Marketing; Petja Montanez, Matej Kodrič
Theme: Genetic engineering. Author: Studio 360, Agencija Tovarna vizij, Vladan Srdić, Dragan Arrigler
Theme: Greed. Author: AV Studio
Theme: AIDS. Author: Studio Marketing; Janez Čadež, Radovan Arnold, Jerneja Trbuha Kukec
Theme: Greed. Author: SOZD
The page, known as Proglas and edited by Viva Videnovic for almost two decades, has been a feature of the magazine since 1997. It was introduced to provide a platform for Slovenian creatives to use the tools of their trade to engage in social commentary, enabling them to demonstrate their ingenuity and wit to a degree that’s not always possible with regular advertising.
Theme: Extremism. Author: Yin + Young
Theme: EU. Author: New Moment Ljubljana
Theme: Loneliness. Author: Pristop
Theme: Child abuse. Author: Mediamix; Toni Tomašek, Miha Bevc, Aleksandar Jordačevič
Theme: Success. Author: Yin + Young
In exchange for working pro bono, Mladina gives the contributors total freedom to create whatever they want, as long as it addresses that month’s theme. These have included all the pressing or passing social issues of the day, such as AIDS, mental health, over-consumption, social media, feminism, genetic engineering, economic imperialism, ecological catastrophes, fascism, tourism, sexual harassment, the precariat and so on.
"Enjoy drinking water" Theme: Water. Author: Blaž Razpotnik
(How much a space the size of a page of Mladina - 291mm x 215mmwould cost in Ljubljana). Theme: Apartments. Author: Pristop
Theme: Greed. Author: Studio 360, VladanSrdić
"Star Wars" Theme: War. Author: Yin + Young, Domen Husu, Samo Muhič, Marin Bulog, Jure Ljubeljšek
What you see in this story are thus just a few of the more than 1,000 works that have been published over the years. If you’d like to see more of Proglas, and what the Slovenian advertising industry is capable of when allowed to do what it wants, then follow the related page on Facebook, or see the whole archive on Mladina.
Mladina: Who is opposed to changing the system of supplementary health insurance, and why?
STA, 29 March 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina looks into the reasons for the opposition to the idea to abolish supplementary health insurance in its latest commentary, noting that it is more than 15 years old, much older than the Left, which usually gets credit for the idea.
"The people who are screaming about excessive public spending are also screaming about the Left (and the coalition) wanting to take EUR 500m away from healthcare by forcing the idea," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Crazy World.
"The idea to abolish supplementary health insurance is much older than the Left. It is more than 15 years old. It has been present since it was revealed that some lobbies are using it to literally cut away a part of public money they collect instead of the state."
According to Repovž, these lobbies are turning this money around on financial markets, take their 10% and then return it to the state. "This would have been abolished everywhere long ago. But not in Slovenia. Let's see why this is. Because the reasons are actually very banal, shallow and evil."
The coalition is not actually proposing abolition of supplementary health insurance, but its merging with compulsory insurance. The catch is that people with lower income would pay less, up to 20 euros a month, and those with higher income would pay more, up to 70 euros.
A majority of the decision-making MPs, officials, directors - the entire upper class, would pay more, and the thing is that they do not want to pay more. They instead let three private insurers to get their EUR 60m every year from the people.
In short, the entire upper class is pretending ignorance and does not want to shoulder its share of costs for healthcare, the share proportionate to their income. This is why they are willing to lie that the coalition (and the Left) wants to take EUR 500m away from the healthcare sector.
"Well, the question is on whose side the new health minister is. He has not been convincing so far, but he belongs to the party of the prime minister, who has committed to implementing this objective in the agreement with the Left."
It is very easy to explain the reasons for abolition of supplementary health insurance to the public, for example with the situation of general practitioners, concludes the commentary.
Demokracija: Fidesz helps EPP ahead of EU election
STA, 28 March 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the European People's Party (EPP) members made the right decision in not expelling the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and thereby diminishing EPP leader Manfred Weber's chances of becoming the next president of the European Commission.
Last week, Weber faced the serious threat of a discord in the EPP right ahead of the EU elections, and a possible break-up of the group was not excluded either, as some parties had announced they would leave the EPP if Fidesz was expelled or forcedly suspended.
At first, it seemed that a majority of the EPP members were leaning towards such a proposal from 13 members, as this was supposed to be the key to success of Christian democrats in the May elections, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says in EPP's Training Day in Brussels.
But after the speech by Janez Janša, the head of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), who seriously warned that such a decision could cause irreparable damage, the scales tipped to the other side and Orban's proposal for a six-month suspension was accepted.
A continuation of the dispute would mostly benefit the political groups on the left, as socialist Frans Timmermans would easily beat Weber, Biščak says, noting that the solution was temporary, as everybody is waiting for the election result.
The compromise between the EPP and Fidesz is the best solution for European conservatives at the moment, as they remain (at least seemingly) unified, and one can say that Orban did a favour to Weber.
As projections suggest, Orban will be a great winner of the EU elections in Hungary, and Weber's chances of becoming the next president of the European Commission would have dropped drastically had Fidesz left the EPP, as it would be followed by more parties. Actually, it would be mission impossible, concludes the commentary.
All our posts in this series can be found here
Mladina: The Left bring important issues to the table in government
STA, 22 March 2019 - Arguing that the minority coalition's agreement with the Left is an overdue measure restoring certain aspects of social welfare, the left-wing Mladina magazine points out in its Friday's editorial that Slovenian politicians being offended by the agreement seem to be out of touch with reality.
The cooperation with the opposition Left enabled the government to confirm the revised budget implementation act for 2019 on Wednesday and left several coalition partners believe that the opposition party was enjoying special treatment.
The editorial comments on the leader of the Social Democrats (SD) Matjaž Han's "unfortunate wisecracks" about the Left's alleged privileged status, saying that he was probably provoked by statements released by the opposition Democrats (SDS) and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, opposing the agreement and meant to create cracks in the government's facade.
"Parties' deputy group leaders should be the wisest MPs, not the most reckless and irascible ones. But just as the Left has Miha Kordiš, the SD has Han - the only difference being that Kordiš is not the leader."
The deputy group head being so easily provoked is the party's problem, but the editorial finds it more disturbing that he actually seems to believe the opposition party could have a higher status in the Slovenian political arena than his coalition one.
Referring to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Han proclaimed his party to be the overlooked, taken-for-granted, live-at-home daughter, while the Left was the prodigal one. According to the commentary, his allegations seem immature and reflect how out of touch with actual reality many representatives are.
Instead of acting like a "spoiled daughter", Han's party and all the others who were offended by the supposed preferential treatment should rather welcome all the social benefits the agreement advocates.
It focuses on Slovenians who have in fact been overlooked in the past decades, tackling precarious forms of employment, providing affordable housing, introducing a minimum capital gains tax, and re-employing cleaners and doormen who were let go due to the delegation of those tasks to external service providers.
What is even scarier than politicians moaning about the current political hierarchy is the strong suspicion that they might find the above measures "insignificant, marginal, and on top of that expensive" since they do not address issues relevant to them.
Signing the agreement, Han and like-minded representatives should have noted the necessary changes the Left's contribution proposed and welcomed them with open arms, concludes the commentary entitled The Parable of the Prodigal Daughter.
Demokracija: Greta Thunberg's environmental protests are just good marketing
STA, 21 March 2019 - The right-wing weekly compared Greta Thunberg to the myth of Mother Theresa in its editorial on Thursday, stressing that the revival of environmental activism centred around the Swedish teenager serves as just another platform for green activists' marketing.
The paper draws a comparison between Thunberg and Mother Theresa, who was an extremely popular person among conservatives and progressives alike despite her or perhaps precisely because of her conflicting words and actions.
Being against abortion and once allegedly describing AIDS as "God's punishment", Saint Teresa of Calcutta also wore the red bow, the solidarity symbol for people living with this disease, to be "trendy" and referred to homosexuals as "Jesus' friends".
The magazine does not doubt the authenticity of her calling, but it does refer to her work as the Vatican's "greatest marketing victory of the last 100 years", filling their coffers through people's contributions.
"Greta Thunberg is the current Mother Theresa. The Swedish teenager is becoming the icon of global environmental activism," stresses the commentary, pointing out that the myth created around Thunberg serves the interests of those "who live off spreading fears" about global warming.
Without questioning the teenager's good intentions, Demokracija finds her to be a new mascot for climate change activists, who prefer money to the planet's well-being.
Commenting on the 2013 study of the Climate Policy Initiative, which addressed climate risk and estimated global investments in mitigating climate change at USD 359bn, the editorial believes those funds could be used for other purposes instead of appeasing "money-hungry saviours of the Earth".
Environmental activists though maintain that "such resources are far from sufficient" to tackle global warming issues.
On the other hand, the commentary mentions Patrick Moore, the former president of Greenpeace Canada, who has been criticising the climate change movement since leaving Greenpeace over policy differences claiming that global warming is "fake news" as well as "fake science".
Greenpeace denied such allegations, arguing that Moore was on the payroll of climate change denying lobbies, but the editorial portrays him as an example of an individual going against the machinery of green greed.
All our posts in this series can be found here
STA, 1 March 2019 - The latest editorial of the left-leaning weekly Mladina tears apart the Finance Ministry's tax reform proposal as yet another taxation tweak to primarily benefits the rich.
Only two years have passed since the last changes that brought the biggest tax burden reduction and greatest gains for those who already have high wages.
While Prime Minister Marjan Šarec now stands to gain almost EUR 1,000 a year, his predecessor Miro Carar saw his wage rise by EUR 2,000 net at the annual level or to EUR 3,457 net a month, effective on 1 January 2017.
The argument keeps repeating - "we are doing this because of those who are the most productive", editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says, labelling this as despicable deceit by those working for the benefit of their own class.
It is true that high wages are taxed more in Slovenia, but on the other hand property is not subject to any serious taxation and the bulk of the income of the wealthiest stems from property.
Meanwhile, the taxation of the average wages of those in whose name the wealthiest would get even more after this reform is comparable to that in similar countries in Europe and is for instance lower than in Austria, Repovž says in the editorial entitled New Tax Cuts for the Rich.
At the same, the government is shying away from a real estate tax or from heavier taxation of those letting out several apartments, while it has also avoided reforming the compulsory health insurance system that continues to channel large sums of public money to private insurers.
This is an arrogant and offensive tax reform proposal that benefits the wealthy and should be withdrawn, Repovž says, adding PM Šarec dismissed the wrong minister this week.
STA, 28 February 2019 - In its latest commentary, the right-leaning weekly Demokracija is flabbergasted by the fact that a majority of the Slovenian media dedicated almost no attention to the warnings from the Fiscal Council that the general government expenditure planned for 2019 should be EUR 270m lower.
The warning about the need for the country to preserve a structural balance in compliance with the fiscal rule was buried quickly, ending up somewhere "on the dark side of the internet", editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.
Is the expansive fiscal policy, which could cause a headache in the autumn, really a marginal topic, he wonders. It obviously is, as the media are busy "inflating the popularity of the prime minister," he adds in the commentary entitled It's Good to Be Marjan Šarec.
Šarec is really happy because, as the global economic situation is getting increasingly unpredictable, and forecasts more pessimistic than optimistic, the media do not bother him with questions about what to do if the economic growth happens to be lower than expected.
The fear of the 2008 crisis repeating has made the smart countries (Germany, Norway) start accumulating surpluses and creating reserves, while others are reducing general government debt (Estonia, the Czech Republic).
The only solution for the Slovenian government, if it wants to keep the public sector in the current size and meet the obligations given to the sector "either blindfolded or drunk on power", will be to increase the already high taxes.
The problem is not in taxes themselves, but what you get in return. According to an analysis by the Quality of Government Institute, Slovenia belongs to the countries which spend much, while giving back little to the citizens.
All our posts in this series can be found here
STASTA, 22 February 2019 - The weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that the growing popularity of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, his party and the government is a success of an ideology which avoids declaring the state of emergency and portraying leaders as messiahs.
The high popularity "deserves a serious analysis: what we can see is not popularity, not someone being sympathetic, but a success of an ideology of a certain authority, which is fitting very well with the state of society."
In order to understand what is going on, one needs to use political and ideological glasses, not marketing or some other glasses used by the media. "It is about politics and ideology," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž adds in Victory of an Ideology.
He notes that Šarec has, probably not deliberately, abandoned certain concepts which had marked the work of governments for a long time, including in particular portraying the situation as catastrophic while at the same time playing messiahs.
"Up to and including the government of Miro Cerar (2014-2018), all governments were building their image on attempts to normalise allegedly horrific situations which they had inherited, to prevent the worst from happening, to save us, the country and the world, to be our saviours."
This concept is always comfortable and comes in handy, but people actually do not like to live in an abnormal state, as this causes stress and anxiety. What is more, they feel it as a threat, an actual political mobbing of the nation, Repovž writes.
He argues that the Šarec government has not significantly changed the ideological framework of operation, it is still a slightly leftist government, but predominantly neo-liberal. The essential difference is that it does not harass the citizens and create a state of emergency.
"What people feel and how they respond is the ideological framework of that government. Only when one acknowledges this enables the understanding of the political changes we are witnessing. This is why the first catastrophist in the country is losing support," Repovž says in reference to Democrat (SDS) president Janez Janša.
STA, 21 February 2019 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija claims in the latest issue that the only real danger to Europe at the moment is the "multi-cultural axis Berlin-Paris", arguing that the only way for the EU to survive is as a formation of nation states whose sole interest is to create prosperity based on economic cooperation.
Writing under the headline Sixth Reich, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak dismisses the controversy provoked by Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, in his Foibe Victims Remembrance Day address, asserting that no one in the EU truly cares about what he said.
Instead, Biščak is more concerned about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's stating that "Nation states must today be prepared to give up their sovereignty".
He says that few expressed indignation or protest at her statement and that "no one warned that they will not push their nation into dependence from a new, so far still imaginary sixth reich ... which would give rise to new Europeans, a mix of natives, camel shepherds and Negroids."
Biščak launches an attack on the Brussels bureaucracy, European Council President Donald Tusk and French President Emmanuel Macron, whom he says the nationally minded French consider to be a German vassal.
"Macron is a man who, without asking anyone, put Germany in a position to lead the EU. And the European army. This means that he will hand over to it nuclear arms that only France and the UK among EU countries posses."
Biščak says that the obstacle to these plans is Brexit, arguing that the UK saw through it on time and decided to leave the EU. He says that it will be no disaster for Britain regardless of whether it will be a hard or soft Brexit.
"They can merely encourage to leave the countries which are resisting the senseless EU bureaucracy even now. These are Italy, Hungary and Poland, the targets of the strongest desire for control.
"Only a thorough change of priorities and a rethink about the future can save the EU. It can only be a formation of free nation states whose sole interest is to create prosperity based on economic cooperation."
All our posts in this series can be found here
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, February 15, 2019
STA, 15 February 2019 - The magazine Mladina says the coming EU elections will be a clash, yet not a clash for a united Europe but a clash within Europe, of one nation against the other, as it comments on European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent revisionist statements at a foibe commemoration in Italy.
Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Friday's editorial that superpowers America, Russia and China will also get involved because a weak EU is in their interest.
"These elections will be much more ground-breaking than we have hoped," Mladina says under the headline Tajani, Just a True European.
"We can he grateful to Antonio Tajani for his speech at Basovizza, since the majority of people has overlooked the fact that with a few exceptions, most European parties have started resorting to nationalist rhetoric over the past four years."
Nationalist populism has become s staple of political success in the West, even moderate politicians use it for fear of being accused no not being patriotic enough.
"This is of course a way to hell, but also the European political reality," says Repovž, recalling that in fear of losing the race against nationalists, some have gone as far as erecting razor wire on the border during the recent migration crisis.
Just before the elections to the European Parliament, Tajani showed very clearly that the election campaign will be pervaded by nationalist rhetoric. "Nobody will dare avoid it in order not to fall behind."
It adds that Tajani is no radical extremist, but a calculating politician with short-term goals in his mind who also has to adjust to the rhetoric of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini which dominates Italy.
But his statements also show he apparently cares little about Europe currently being a fragile institution with an uncertain future where it can easily happen that European institutions themselves start using nationalist populism.
"Let us not be fooled by his apology," Repovž says, noting Tajani did not think his words would resound from a small village on the far east of Italy all the way to Brussels.
STA, 14 February 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija disputes the quality of Slovenian arts in response to the Culture Day ceremony address by Vinko Möderndorfer, the chairman of the Prešeren Fund board. It argues Slovenia should introduce a voucher system as proposed by James Heilbrun and Charles M. Gray in The Economics of Art and Culture.
"In his speech, Möderndorfer degraded and insulted Slovenians and Slovenia as few before him in a long while ... The recurring theme was the same: badmouthing the state over its stepmotherly attitude to culture despite an extra 30 million euro for culture in this year's budget.
"But it is not enough. It is never enough. Even if the Culture Ministry's budget increased by 100 or 200 million euro, they would still demand an increase in public spending; most on their own behalf," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak writes.
He agrees that Slovenian culture is in the doldrums. However, he says the reason is not underfunding but rather that "a bunch of people, self-styled artists have learnt that they can get money without trying at least a bit to justify it and satisfy the needs of culture consumers".
"Their works, whatever they are, are mostly an aim in itself, no one ever even thinks of fighting for the reader, viewer or buyer. Also because the taxpayers are forced to pay for something they are not interested in even in their nightmare," Biščak writes, offering Möderndorfer's latest film as a case in point.
He says that the only cure is market economy, but he also offers vouchers as a compromise that would suit those who believe culture should be financed from public funds and those who favour market logic.
He proposes that the roughly EUR 380m or EUR 190 per capita that is allocated for culture from the national and local budgets should be distributed among Slovenia's citizens so that everyone gets a EUR 190 voucher a year to spend it on culture of their own choice. The artists who get the vouchers would then exchange them for money from the budget.
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STA, 1 February 2019 - One of Slovenia's foremost media experts has called for far-reaching reform of media legislation and state subsidies for media outlets struggling in the current business climate, arguing that Slovenian journalism needs strong support from the state.
"The media pluralisation fund, which has EUR 2m available and spends EUR 1.3m on radio stations of special importance, is not enough. It was not enough years ago and is even less so now: journalism globally faces existential problems and is struggling to survive," Faculty of Social Sciences professor Marko Milosavljević told the latest edition of Mladina.
He said a range of measures should be employed, from tax subsidies for media outlets to incentives for hiring young reporters, preserving the networks of foreign and local correspondents.
The government should increase funding for the media to at least EUR 20m per year, he said, arguing that this was still low compared to what some other countries are spending to prop up their media.
Professor Marko Milosavljević. Photo: www.fdv.uni-lj.si
"And don't forget, just one of the major Slovenian owners, who also owns many media outlets, received EUR 7m in subsidies for his non-media companies last year.
"If we can spend that amount of money on certain sectors of the economy, we can easily earmark EUR 20m for the entire Slovenian media industry," Milosavljević said.
As for the legislative side of things, Milosavljević is in favour of an in-depth reform of all media-related laws, including the act on AV services and legislation governing the public broadcaster and the STA.
The view puts him at odds with the government's stated plan to implement minor tweaks of the media law, but Milosavljević says the government has enough time for true reform given that it has just started its term.
"What's required is a strategic meeting by the prime minister and key departments that affect media in any way, at which those responsible would clearly determine that they must cooperate and come up with comprehensive solutions."
Only this way can pressing issues such as the prevalence of hate speech and intolerance, poor media literacy and digitisation be addressed. "It is essential that they start looking for and proposing solutions, technologies and markets are changing radically," he said.