Ljubljana related

14 Mar 2020, 09:50 AM

STA, 13 March 2020 - Slovenia got its 14th government at the height of the coronavirus epidemic as the National Assembly confirmed the centre-right cabinet of Janez Janša at a session Friday at which the fight against coronavirus and the previous government's inaction in the face of the outbreak dominated the debate.

Jump to Police, army and defence intel chiefs dismissed

 Janša, the president of the Democrats (SDS), came out in force against the previous government's efforts, accusing it of having missed the best time to take action and announcing that the new cabinet would hold its first session an hour after parliament goes into recess to discuss new measures to fight the epidemic.

He promised the government would take concerted and far-reaching measures. The virus can no longer be stopped, but its spreading must be slowed. "This is a battle with time, a battle that has to be won inasmuch as this is possible," he said.

The debate touched on little else except the epidemic, which is not surprising given that the new government will take over a day after Slovenia officially declared a coronavirus epidemic due to a surging number of new cases.

Janša said the outgoing government had "flunked the test in recent days", likening the response of the authorities to the reaction to the migration crisis in 2015, when "what was coming was underestimated and reactions were chaotic".

This was despite health professionals warning that immediate tough measures must be taken to contain the disease, he said, noting that Slovenia should have followed the example of countries such as South Korea, which it had had enough time to do given that there was a month's advance warning from the situation in China.

Given the national emergency, the new centre-left opposition pledged to be constructive in helping the government fight the epidemic, but it also stressed that it would keep close watch on any actions that may be deemed excessive.

The Left in particular warned about Janša's "autocratic potential" with MP Matej Tašner Vatovec saying that the circumstances - the coronavirus epidemic and the looming new migration wave - practically "put the state of emergency into your hands". "He will not have to create a state of emergency like he did in the past, it is practically here already."

The coalition said once the situation normalises the government would focus on its priorities, in particular demographic policy, regional development, infrastructure investments, housing policy and healthcare, and presidency of the EU in 2021.

SDS deputy Eva Irgl said the overarching goal was to ensure the "fair and effective functioning of the state" by tackling pensions and health insurance, establishing a balance between welfare and the market economy, strengthening Slovenian and European identity, and protecting borders.

Irgl said it was impossible to put all priorities of the coalition partners in the coalition agreement given that the government will have only two years, but it would "invest the time and effort to together support solutions that citizens urgently need."

The session lasted a mere two and a half hours as procedural rules were used to limit formalities and all but a handful of MPs refrained from debate after the deputy groups presented their positions.

The entire process of building the government has been fast by Slovenian standards. The vote came just two weeks after Janša was endorsed as prime minister designate and a month and a half after Marjan Šarec stepped down as prime minister.

Several coalition MPs today stressed it was fortuitous that the partners had decided against a snap election, the outcome favoured by Šarec, and in favour of building a new government; if snap election had been the chosen path, Slovenia would now be in the midst of an election campaign.

Police, army and defence intel chiefs dismissed

STA, 14 March 2020 - The Janez Janša government dismissed the heads of the police force, the armed forces and of the Defence Ministry's intelligence and security service OVS at its maiden session early on Saturday.

Addressing reporters after the session, Defence Minister Matej Tonin announced the decision on the dismissals of Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, Chief of the General Staff Major General Alenka Ermenc and OVS director Dejan Matijevič.

Ermenc's successor is yet to be appointed with her deputy, Brigadier Robert Glavaš, 58, taking over for the interim period.

Anton Travner, a security expert who has served with the Geneva Centre for Security Centre Governance (DCAF) as head of Border Security Programme for Southeast Europe, was appointed acting police commissioner.

Ermenc and Bobnar were the first women to head the army and police force. They were both appointed by the Marjan Šarec government.

Andrej Osolnik was appointed OVS director for a five-year term.

The government also made several other appointments with Božo Predalič returning as government secretary general. He will also represent Slovenia as a sole stakeholder in state-owned companies, according to a press release issued after the government session.

Kristina Plavšak Krajnc was dismissed as director of the Government Communication Office (UKOM) with Miro Petek, a former MP and press officer for Janša's Democratic Party (SDS) named as acting director.

As is usual, the heads of junior coalition partners, who also serve as ministers, were named deputies to the PM; Zdravko Počivalšek (Modern centre Party), Matej Tonin (New Slovenia) and Aleksandra Pivec (Pensioners' Party).

Several state secretaries have also been appointed with diplomat Igor Senčar, SDS MP Žan Mahnič and Vinko Gorenak, a former SDS MP and interior minister, appointed as state secretaries in the PM's office.

Franc Kangler, the former Maribor mayor, was named state secretary in the Interior Ministry, while Gašper Dovžan and Tone Kajzer were appointed state secretaries at the Foreign Ministry, and Damijan Jaklin and Uroš Lampret will be state secretaries at the Defence Ministry.

Peter Ješovnik and Kristina Šteblaj were named Finance Ministry state secretaries and Aleš Cantarutti was reappointed one of the state secretaries at the Economy Ministry along with Simon Zajc, who has so far served as environment minister.

Andrej Možina, the former head of the Medical Chamber, was named state secretary at the Health Ministry, and Blaž Košorok, the former CEO of the power utility HSE, was appointed state secretary at the Infrastructure Ministry, among others.

Lilijana Kozlovič, who was appointed justice minister last night, is being replaced as the head of the Environment Agency by Iztok Slatinšek as acting director.

All our stories about the new government can be found here

09 Mar 2020, 12:08 PM

STA, 7 March 2020 - Below are short biographical notes on candidates for ministers in the Janez Janša government. Most have previous experience in government or have served in senior parliamentary roles, just a handful are new to national politics.

Anže Logar - candidate for foreign minister

Born in 1976, Logar earned a PhD degree at the School of Advanced Social Studies in 2016. He worked in the European Parliament as an adviser to the European People's Party (EPP) and headed the Government Communication Office (UKOM) in both governments of Janez Janša. During Slovenia's EU presidency in the first half of 2008, he was the official spokesperson of the presidency. First elected an MP in 2014, in his second term he currently chairs the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission. He unsuccessfully ran for the mayor of Ljubljana in 2018.

Matej Tonin - candidate for minister of defence

Tonin, a 36-year-old with a degree in political sciences from the University of Ljubljana, has been in politics since joining New Slovenia (NSi) in 2001. Between 2007 and 2008, he was employed in the National Assembly as a public relations advisor, after which he established his own company. At the end of 2010, he was elected a vice-president of the NSi, and in 2011 as an MP on the party's slate. He was elected for his second MP term in 2014, heading the NSi deputy group during both terms. In 2018, he succeeded Ljudmila Novak as the NSi president following Novak's resignation. In the same year, he was re-elected MP and served as the parliamentary speaker for two months, until the appointment of the minority government of Marjan Šarec. He is the chair of the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services.

Aleš Hojs - candidate for interior minister

The 58-year-old construction engineer started his political career in the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD), and after the party merged with the People's Party (SLS) he joined New Slovenia (NSi). In the 2011 parliamentary elections, he was an MP candidate for the party, and in 2012 he took over the defence department in the second government of Janez Janša. He was expelled from the NSi in 2016, and then unsuccessfully ran in the 2018 parliamentary elections on the list of the Democrats (SDS). He chairs the defence committee of the SDS expert council, presides the Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence and is the director of Nova24TV, a broadcaster co-owned by the SDS.

Andrej Šircelj - candidate for finance minister

Šircelj is a seasoned MP for the Democrats (SDS) who started out as a teacher at the Ljubljana Secondary School of Economics to later also work as a tax and business consultant. He is already familiar with the Finance Ministry, having worked there as a state secretary in the second half of the 2004-2008 Janez Janša government. The 61-year-old has been elected to parliament three times - in 2011, 2014 and for the current term in 2018 - and has mostly been known for his work on the parliamentary public finance oversight and finance committees. In this term has also served as the deputy chair of the Foreign Policy Committee.

Zdravko Počivalšek - candidate for economic development and technology minister

If appointed, Počivalšek would be heading the same department in three consecutive governments. After having spent three decades in senior management, half of which as the boss of the spa operator Terme Olimia, the 62-year-old agronomy engineer entered politics in 2014, when he joined the government of Miro Cerar. He kept the post in the government of Marjan Šarec, and last autumn he also took over the presidency of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) from Cerar. As minister, Počivalšek he has focused on the development and consolidation of the tourism sector, support for domestic and foreign direct investments, and the fate of the retailer Mercator after the demise of its Croatian owner Agrokor.

Tomaž Gantar - candidate for health minister

The 60-year-old urologist is slated to become health minister for a second time. He already held the post in the second Janez Janša government and in the Alenka Bratušek government between February 2012 and November 2014 as a member of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). He resigned as the coalition at the time was not able to push through a healthcare reform. In the next term as an MP, he chaired the parliamentary Health Committee. He was also active locally, as the mayor of the coastal municipality of Piran between 2006 and 2010, while he surprisingly lost the local election in 2018. He was the director of the Izola hospital between 2000 and 2004.

Andrej Vizjak - candidate for environment and spatial planning minister

Vizjak is a long-standing member of the Democrats (SDS) who served as minister under both Janez Janša governments. He was the economy minister from 2004 to 2008, and labour, family and social affairs minister in the 2012-2013 cabinet. The 55-year-old holds a masters in electrical engineering and worked at heavy machinery manufacturer Litostroj and as a young researcher at the Jožef Stefan Institute. In 1994 he started working at the Krško Labour Inspectorate before being appointed a state secretary at the Labour, Family and Social Affairs Ministry in 2000. While also being the mayor of Brežice from 2002 to 2004, he served two terms as MP, including as the head of the SDS deputy group. After failing to get elected to parliament in 2014, he was put in charge of development and investment at hydroelectric power plant operator HESS, part of state-owned Gen Energija.

Jernej Vrtovec - candidate for infrastructure minister

Vrtovec, born in 1985, is a young but experienced politician who established a municipal committee of New Slovenia (NSi) while still in secondary school. Vrtovec, who graduated at the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology, became the president of the NSi's youth wing in 2009 and also served as the party's public relations officer. He was first elected to parliament in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Since the beginning of 2019 he has been chairing a parliamentary inquiry into suspected abuse of office at the bad bank.

Janez Cigler Kralj - candidate for minister of labour, the family, social affairs and equal opportunities

Cigler Kralj, 41, has a degree in political sciences and served as the New Slovenia (NSi) deputy group's public relations officer between 2006 and 2008, when he left to work for Infonet Media, a network of radio stations, for two years, followed by a two-year stint at the Public Fund for Human Resources Development and Scholarships. In 2012 he returned to the National Assembly as a staffer for the deputy group.

Lilijana Kozlović - candidate for justice minister

Kozlović, born in 1962 holds an MA in law and headed the Koper Administrative Unit for nine years before entering politics in 2014, when she was elected MP for the Modern Centre Party (SMC), of which she was also a deputy president. In 2016 she became secretary general of the Miro Cerar government and was deeply involved in the border arbitration procedure with Croatia. Just before the end of the government's term she was named director of the Slovenian Environment Agency against the backdrop of severe criticism from the right, a post she still holds.

Simona Kustec - candidate for minister of education, science and sporty

Kustec, born in 1976, holds a PhD in political sciences and is a tenured professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana. She joined the Modern Centre Party (SMC) in 2014 and became its vice-president. After she was elected MP, she went on to become the deputy group leader. After the end of the term she left politics and returned to academia.

Aleksandra Pivec - candidate for minister of agriculture, forestry and food

Pivec, a 47-year-old who holds a PhD in chemical engineering, led the department during the Marjan Šarec government, after serving as a state secretary at the Office for Slovenians Abroad. She previously worked as early stage researcher at the Ljubljana Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology and on the research team at the Bistra Ptuj Science and Research Centre. When taking over in September 2018, Pivec set access to safe food, measures to adapt to climate change and preparations for the EU's next financial perspective as her main priorities. Her work in the previous government was overshadowed by suspicions of wrongdoing in an EU-funded tourism project, which did not hurt her, however, as she defeated the long-serving Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) president Karl Erjavec at the January congress to become the new DeSUS leader.

Boštjan Koritnik - candidate for minister of public administration

Koritnik, 40, is an a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, secretary general of the Association of Slovenian Jurists and editor of the law journals Pravna Praksa and Javna Uprava. He started out as a journalist for GV Založba, a publisher specialising in law and business, where he went on to become editor and legal counsel before he was appointed director and editor-in-chief in 2010. After the company was merged with legal information provider IUS Software, he was co-director until 2015.

Vasko Simoniti - candidate for culture minister

Vasko Simoniti, 69, spent most of his career at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, where he earned his PhD in history and where he was professor of modern history until his retirement. He entered politics in 2000 along with several prominent conservative writers and was among the founders of the Assembly for the Republic, a conservative think-tank. He served as culture minister in the first Janez Janša government in 2004-2008 and remains the head of the Democrats' (SDS) culture committee.

Zvonko Černač - candidate for development and European cohesion policy minister

Černač is coming to the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy from the National Assembly, having served as an MP of the Democrats (SDS), with some interruptions, since 2004. In the meantime, he served in 2012 as minister of infrastructure and spatial planning in the second government (2012-2013) of Janez Janša. After the Civic List (DL) left the then coalition, he was also in charge of the justice and public administration department for a while. The 57-year-old graduate of the Ljubljana Faculty of Law previously worked in the ZSSS trade union confederation, the municipality of Postojna, the operator of the Postojna Cave, the Kobilarna Lipica stud farm, and the Postojna municipal housing fund.

Helena Jaklitsch - candidate for minister for Slovenians abroad

A historian and author born in 1977, Jaklitsch has a PhD in history from the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts. She worked at the Justice Ministry between 2005 and 2014 and was in charge of logistics preparations for Slovenia's EU presidency in 2008. Since 2014 she has worked at the Culture Ministry, first at the department for Slovenian language and most recently at the directorate for creativity.

All our stories on Slovenia’s new government can be found here

07 Mar 2020, 16:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 6 March 2020

Mladina: Šarec, Mesec not to blame for Janša's rise to power

STA, 6 March 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that blaming the Left and the Marjan Šarec List for Janez Janša's rise to power would be easiest. But the fact is that the two parties acted exactly as they were expected.

Luka Mesec of the Left and Marjan Šarec could have kept the outgoing coalition alive for a while longer to prevent the forming of the Janša government by making constant concessions to capital, but in the end, they would undoubtedly be the losers.

What happened now would happen at the next election at the latest, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž under the headline Šarec and Mesec Are Right.

What caused the collapse of the outgoing coalition was the August 2019 proposal to abolish top-up health insurance. "The minute the Left proposed the law that would actually implement what was written in the coalition agreement, the entire coalition was up in arms.

"That was when not only the coalition but also the LMŠ fell apart, as both most important ministers from Šarec's party (finance minister and health minister) opposed the law. Because they deemed it ideologically unacceptable."

The neo-liberal parties in government immediately voiced opposition to the proposal: the SMC, SAB, even the SD complained, but hopefully only because the Left tabled the proposal, Repovž says.

Parties started calculating and MPs realised they might lose their jobs. The government did not collapse because of stubbornness of Mesec or Šarec's incompetence but because of clear ideological differences within the coalition and the LMŠ, Repovž claims.

It was a typical clash between the left and right, those who favour public health and those who want to privatise healthcare.

Parties picked sides very clearly: the SDS, NSi, SAB, SMC, DeSUS and the SNS stood to defend capital and the wealthy. "Yes, the SAB is on the list too and is not in the SDS-led coalition today only because Janša will never forget that he had to hand over the PM post to Alenka Bratušek in 2013."

The LMŠ closely escaped being put on this list as well, mainly thanks to its deputy group. People such as outgoing Finance Minister Andrej Betroncelj could have easily prevailed in the party but when they did not, departures started and Šarec was left in a position when all he could do was to resign.

"It is without a doubt terrible that Slovenia got a government led by a far-right politician. The price will be high. But in the last election we simply elected mostly the parties and MPs that see politics merely as a means to satisfy their own interests and the interests of the capital ... But at least now they are together and are no longer hiding behind the Left and the LMŠ."

Demokracija: Centre-right alliance will last for years

STA, 5 March 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija is confident in its latest editorial about the firmness of the new centre-right coalition, saying cooperation between centrist and right-wing parties is "much more natural than an alliance between far-left radicals, socialists (masked as socdems), and alleged liberals".

Demokracija's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says coalition infighting had indeed been among the reasons for the resignation of outgoing PM Marjan Šarec, but the changes at the helm of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) were crucial for what followed.

Biščak says their former Presidents Miro Cerar and Karl Erjavec "were increasingly openly flirting with socialists ideology, while Zdravko Počivalšek and Aleksandra Pivec immediately started moving their parties back to the centre and liberal values".

Thus Biščak believes Počivalšek and Pivec's claims "that the time lost with an election would have had disastrous consequences for Slovenia over media assertions that they are saving their parties from being erased from the political arena in a snap election".

While criticising last Friday's rally organised against the new coalition as a sign "we are sinking back into a totalitarian world", Biščak is confident that the new coalition is ideologically firm, up to the task, and has a good chance of making it until the end of the term.

"Even more. There are signs emerging on the horizon of a firm coalition between liberal and right-wing parties after the 2022 election," Biščak says in the commentary entitled Sorry for Even Existing.

All our posts in this series are here

04 Mar 2020, 09:02 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Veteran politician Janez Janša, the long-time leader of the Democratic Party (SDS), has been appointed prime minister of Slovenia's 14th government, his third stint at the helm of the executive. His stable base of supporters finds him charismatic, capable and effective, his opponents say he is resentful and radical.

The 61-year-old has been at the helm of the SDS since 1993 and enjoys unbridled support among party members, having ran unopposed for the position of party leader for two decades and successfully deflecting all challenges to his primacy. Being the party's unrivalled leader, his political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the SDS.

The party has been holding steady at or just below the top of party rankings for years. It won the 2018 general election but Janša was unable to put together a coalition because most parties refused to work with him, quoting the radical anti-immigrant rhetoric modelled on his close friend and ally, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

After Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister in late January, Janša got another chance, as leadership change at the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) made the former Šarec coalition partners less averse to working with Janša, and mindful of the uncertainty that a snap election brings.

His biggest success had been the 2004 election, in which the SDS got 29% of the vote. The SDS went on to build a stable government widely seen as capable, but also one that laid the groundwork for problems in final years of the economic crisis with policies that increased public spending even as they reduced government revenue.

Janša capped his first term by presiding the EU Council in 2008, and although his leadership was applauded across the EU, it was not enough to build up support domestically: in the 2008 general election, the SDS held steady at 29% but was overtaken by the Social Democrats (SD).

If the government serves out its full term Janša will do the cherished job once more as Slovenia is slated to preside the EU in the second half of 2021.

By 2008, Janša was also facing serious allegations of bribery from Finnish defence contractor Patria in exchange for a EUR 278 million purchase of armed personnel carriers, a transaction agreed in 2006.

The trial started in autumn of 2011, just months before Slovenia was about to hold the first snap election in its history and Janša remains convinced that the scandal was fabricated by his political rivals to undermine his chances of winning.

Despite his legal woes, the SDS came second in the 2011 election and Janša became prime minister once again in February 2012 after Zoran Janković, the head of the winning Positive Slovenia (PS), failed to put together a coalition.

The second time around Janša lasted only a year in the prime minister's office, but the policies adopted during that term had profound consequences as the government introduced a number of austerity measures in the wake of the 2008 economic and financial crisis.

The measures were in line with the dominant economic thinking at the time, which focused on the soundness of public finances, but in retrospect they have come to be seen as having contributed to the sluggish recovery of the economy by depressing demand due to wage cuts in the public sector and trimming of investment spending.

The government collapsed after all coalition partners, with the exception of New Slovenia (NSi), left in the wake of accusations by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption about assets Janša could not account for.

In the Patria trial, Janša was found guilty of corruption by the court of first instance and went to jail for several months in 2014 before being released after the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial. The case became statute-barred before a retrial could begin.

While he was in prison, his supporters held regular weekly protests in front of the Ljubljana Courthouse, criticising the judiciary and portraying Janša as a victim of the system.

The protests created a strong grassroots movement that Janša has been able to count on to support his policies and ideas. They were also a manifestation of a long-held belief, going back to the time when he, then a journalist for the weekly Mladina, was first arrested in the late 1980s for divulging classified information, that the "deep state", remnants of the Communist-era centres of power, is dead set against him.

Janša's supporters see him as a strong fighter against remnants of the old political forces. A large part of the public, in particular voters on the left, see in him a shrewd political strategist and demagogue who is very good at playing into the fears of voters, does not chose his means, and continues to deepen divisions in society.

Despite being in prison in the aftermath of the Patria trial at the time, Janša was once again elected MP in 2014, with the SDS coming second to the then newly established Miro Cerar Party (SMC), which was later renamed the Modern Centre Party and will now be a partner in his coalition.

By 2016, cracks had started to show in the SDS, as several senior members had left the party, among them Janša's former Interior Minister Dragutin Mate and long-serving Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The latter, when he left in 2015, said that Janša had deemed him "not orthodox enough", while Mate said that the party's internal democracy had declined.

In terms of relations with foreign politicians, Janša seems to be close to Orban, while he borrowed the slogan Slovenia First for the 2018 election from US President Donald Trump. And like Trump, Janša likes to communicate via Twitter, where he has more than 50,000 followers, more than any other Slovenian politician.

While the judiciary has been a persistent target of criticism by the SDS and Janša, their relationship with the media is testy as well. The most recent wave of criticism came following reports that two media outlets launched by the SDS, ostensibly to counter unfair coverage by mainstream media, had received funding from Hungarian businesses close to Orban.

The SDS has denied allegations that the financial transactions amounted to illegal funding for the party from abroad, and it has dismissed criticism that the Hungarian money makes Janša and the SDS beholden to Orban.

This alleged funding took place after the SDS found itself in crossfire in late 2017 for taking out a EUR 450,000 loan from Dijana Đuđić, an entrepreneur from the Republic of Srpska. The party immediately repaid the loan after this made the news.

Janša was born on 17 September 1958, he graduated in defence sciences in 1982. Soon after, he became the head of the defence commission of the then Association of Socialist Youth of Slovenia, starting to criticise the authorities.

In the 1980s, he was a writer for the weekly Mladina, and was arrested in 1988 and court-martialled on suspicion of leaking military secrets. The protests that accompanied the trial of Janša and three other co-defendants are seen as one of the key milestones in Slovenia's path to independence.

In 1989, he was one of the co-founders of the Slovenian Democratic Alliance, a predecessor of the SDS and one of the first opposition parties in Slovenia. He became a member of the National Assembly in 1990 and is the only MP who has been elected in every single general election since then.

He served as defence minister in successive governments in the early 1990s, including during Slovenia's ten-day independence war in 1991, until he was sacked as a result of a high-profile dispute over the use of military force against a civilian, and in 2000, during the short-lived government of Andrej Bajuk.

Janša has authored several books. His best known works deal with his early political career in the 1990s and the political situation at the time, while in recent years he has also tried his hand in fiction. While in prison in 2014, he wrote the historical novel Noric Kingdom, which imagines an ancient kingdom on present-day Slovenian lands.

He has four children, two with his first wife and two with his current wife, and three grandchildren.

All our stories on Janez Janša are here

04 Mar 2020, 08:49 AM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Janez Janša, the 61-year-old leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), was elected prime minister-designate on Tuesday, receiving the mandate to form his third government after joining forces with the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS).

Having forged a centre-right coalition with the three partners a month after Marjan Šarec resigned as prime minister, Janša won 52 votes in a secret ballot in the 90-member legislature with 31 MPs voting against, six abstaining and one invalid ballot.

Biography: Janez Janša - Independence Hero, Former Prisoner, Veteran Politician, Now Slovenia’s PM for 3rd Time

After he was sworn in, Janša said the incoming coalition faced important challenges but he expressed the conviction that it would be able to address them with responsible management.

Janša now has 15 days to put to parliament his candidates for ministers. "The first step was made today. I expect that I will be able to bring the list of candidates for the new government to this assembly in a relatively short time."

The SDS will put forward candidates that have experience in government as well as Slovenia's 2008 presidency of the EU since Slovenia will preside the bloc again in 2021, according to him.

In an hour-long address to the National Assembly prior to the vote, Janša acknowledged that the government would not be able to achieve everything it wants to given that it has only two years to serve until the next scheduled election.

Its term would therefore be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with emphasis on the things that bring the parties together and measures that do not require significant outlays.

Some of the priorities include cutting red tape and decentralisation, including by basing any newly established institutions outside Ljubljana.

Other measures planned in the coalition agreement will have significant fiscal consequences, including higher pensions and a series of family-friendly measures the government plans to take such as expansion of free kindergarten and a universal child allowance.

One of the key policy priorities is the establishment of a "demographic fund", a pension support fund in which state assets would be pooled to help finance public pensions.

"It is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," he said.

The new government plans to liberalise the economy and introduce competition in education and healthcare. As least as a temporary measure to improve national security, it also plans to re-introduce military conscription.

Janša has often been accused of being too radical, in particular due to his anti-immigration sentiment in recent years, but his statements suggest he has softened his stance on migrations.

He said that migrants would be welcome if invited, provided they accepted the fundamental tenets of the "majority culture". "They cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

The debate in parliament saw the members of the new coalition pledging to work for the benefit of the entire society and rejecting criticism by the new opposition about the prospects of the new government being too far to the right.

"The experience from recent years makes us justifiably doubt that someone can become wise, tolerant, respectful, just and inclusive over night," said Brane Golubović, the head of the deputy group of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

The new opposition spent a significant portion of the allotted time arguing about who and what caused the Šarec government to collapse, with the Left, whose termination of a cooperation deal with the minority government was a major milestone, often in the focus of criticism.

Slovenia may have a new government with full powers within three weeks, the third led by Janša after stints in 2004-2008 and in 2012-2013.

The undisputed leader of the Slovenian conservative bloc, Janša is considered the most experienced politician in Slovenia, his career spanning over three decades.

Aside from having served as prime minister twice already, he was defence minister in three governments in 1990-1994, and again in 2000, during the interim Andrej Bajuk government.

All our stories on the new government and it's proposed policies are here

03 Mar 2020, 16:04 PM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša addressed the National Assembly ahead of the vote to appoint him prime minister-designate, stressing that the four parties entering a new coalition would focus on what brought them together. He said he would seek consensus while tackling challenges, adding that the opposition was also invited to cooperation.

 Janša, who in addition to the SDS has secured support of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), presented the guidelines of the future four-party coalition ahead of Tuesday's secret ballot.

He said that in the coalition agreement, the parties had used the current situation in Slovenia - the fact that the outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has caused a government crisis with his resignation, as reference point.

According to Janša, the parties have agreed on a coalition contract which would also be the basis for the government programme, to be presented along with the minister line-up when and if he is confirmed as PM-designate.

As the new government has only two years left before the new election, the term will be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with the things that bring the parties together being emphasised.

When addressing challenges, the parties will try to reach agreement by looking for consensus, Janša said, adding that he would also invite the opposition and the two minority MPs to participate in the creation of solutions.

"Our door for cooperation for the common good stays open to everybody else as well. We exclude nobody," he said.

Janša noted that the main guideline of the new government was that Slovenia could do much better with measures which did not require additional financial investments, including debureaucratisation and decentralisation.

"There is a segment in the administrative part of the public sector which employs too many people, including quality staff," he said, suggesting that a "certain reassignment" should be made as businesses lacked quality staff.

Janša said that the number of regulations had increased ten-fold since 1992, resulting in an unconstitutional situation in which a citizen "is allowed to do only what is expressly prescribed". The excessive bureaucracy also generates huge state administration costs and protracts procedures.

As for decentralisation of Slovenia, he said that the emerging coalition had pledged that new institutions, if established, would be located outside the capital.

An ambition for the next term is to distribute certain institutions currently located in Ljubljana around the country, he said, adding that provinces should also be established so that the state is better organised when it came to investing EU funds.

Among the measures which require a considerable financial investment, Janša mentioned a public pension support fund, with the population ageing being a strategic problem. He admitted that these problems could not be solved in one term.

"But it is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," so that pensions in the future are no longer an exclusive cost for the working population.

While speaking of demographics, Janša touched on migration, saying that those who came to Slovenia, if invited, were welcome, and if they were in trouble, they would also be helped.

"But they cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

Janša also announced measures to create a better environment for economic growth, as this is a permanent basis for prosperity. He added that public education and healthcare needed competition, which ensured quality.

"Slovenia will never replace public education and healthcare with a private system, like some countries have, but it needs to be said that neither of the two would work if it is a given, if there is no competition and if there is no possibility of choice."

Janša believes that problems in healthcare are solvable, but not without some order being made there and without the wage system being changed, upgraded. This is also true for some other sub-systems, he added.

He noted that not only highly qualified experts, but highly profitable companies too were leaving Slovenia, and that many more would follow suit if competitive conditions were not created at home.

Janša believes that certain contribution rates would have to be raised, including for health insurance and long-term care. "But this raise will be unnoticed if we create more, if economic growth is higher, if we eliminate all these obstacles."

Turning to security, he said that the current structure of the defence system did not allow for its basic task, national defence, to be performed.

"If nothing changes, in two years we will not even be able to bluff," Janša said, adding that for this reason it was necessary to at least temporarily reintroduce mandatory conscription and military service.

As for international challenges, he pointed to Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2021, and added that Brexit was a "strategic catastrophe for the EU, by far the largest since its formation", and that it was not time for experiments.

While large countries are pushing for the decision-making system in the EU to be changed, the Lisbon Treaty enables small countries to win equality, especially if they are skilful enough and if they are able to rally around common interests, Janša concluded.

A series of stories on the new coalition is here

03 Mar 2020, 14:17 PM

STA, 2 March 2020 - Miro Cerar, Slovenia's outgoing foreign minister, announced on Monday he was quitting the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre (SMC) lost its face after joining a coalition led by Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing Democratic Party (SDS).

Speaking in parliament, Cerar said he did not wish to be party member any longer, let alone "an honorary member of a party that has ended up without honour".

Cerar had been staunchly opposed to the SMC joining a Janša-led coalition since before the 2018 general election, but the party changed its mind under its new leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

However, despite his decision "in principle not to take part in the Janša government, I seriously considered Zdravko Počivalšek's proposal to head the National Assembly".

"The SMC could thus protect the principle of the division of power and serve as a liberal corrective to a right-wing government."

Cerar said that he had been encouraged by many within and outside the SMC to bid for the post of the speaker, but that after his discussion with Počivalšek last night he realised "it's all manipulation, empty rhetoric and private ambitions of individuals."

Meanwhile, Počivalšek suggested his decision not to put Cerar forward as candidate for the speaker under the Janša government was the reason behind Cerar's quitting the party.

Unofficially, the candidate for the post is Igor Zorčič, the leader of the SMC faction in parliament.

Cerar said that by opting to join the Janša-led coalition, the party had lost credibility to implement its founding values.

He said the party leadership did not see beyond themselves, not even as far as party members, let alone as far as their voters.

Cerar, a jurist and constitutional law expert, founded the SMC shortly before the 2014 election, leading it to victory and going on to serve as prime minister until 2018.

After the party's poor showing in the following general and EU elections, he stepped down as SMC leader, handing over to Počivalšek in September 2019.

Cerar said SMC MPs had forgotten not only who invited them to the project, but mainly who elected them, so he urged them to start thinking with their own heads.

"If this doesn't happen I appeal to party members who want to remain true to the SMC's founding values, democracy, rule of law, human rights and the freethinking liberal stance not to betray those values and leave the party that no longer deserves to be called Modern Centre Party".

"The SMC long ceased to be the party of Miro Cerar, and sadly even the Modern Centre Party, unless modernity is understood as following the latest fashion and turning the way the wind blows," he said.

Cerar would not say whether he will return to serve as MP after his ministerial job ends.

Looking back on the past six years as party leader, PM and party member, Cerar admitted that he may have made some mistakes.

"What hurts the most is that I was wrong about certain people that I proposed for senior positions: from ministers to the head of the deputy faction and others," he said.

In response, Počivalšek said that he had set out the situation in the party to Cerar; unofficial information suggests that they met on Friday morning and again on Sunday evening.

He said that after a long period of turbulence the party needed to undergo a consolidation, which he said could not happen if the party kept returning into the past.

This is why he told Cerar that he would not put him forward for the speaker once he returned to parliament, a decision that Počivalšek said was hard but required for the party to go forward.

Počivalšek, who has served as economy minister in the governments of Marjan Šarec and Miro Cerar, said that the SMC was keeping its social, liberal and sustainable profile.

02 Mar 2020, 09:52 AM

STA, 29 February 2020 - If endorsed in parliament, the Janez Janša centre-right coalition government is planning to overhaul the public sector pay system to make it more performance-based, as well as reform justice legislation.

The coalition would like to establish order in the public administration by setting up central databases of all employees and their responsibilities and of all state-owned assets.

It plans to reorganise and streamline various state offices, bodies and services, and reduce costs by introducing paperless administration and reducing costs of outsourcing.

The savings are to go toward rewarding above-preforming employees. The pay system is to stimulate above-average achievers by pegging part of pay to performance.

The coalition agreement calls for stepping up digitalisation of the public administration, courts and the whole country.

Plans in the judiciary include making court rulings fully public and giving judges on panels the option to pass dissenting opinions, part of a long-standing centre-right agenda to improve the transparency of the judiciary.

The coalition would like to put in place a system in which courts of higher instance would in fact rule on cases rather than return them for retrial to courts of lower instance.

As things currently stand, higher courts rarely weigh in on the substance matter of cases and most often just uphold them or order retrials while focusing on technicalities.

Judges' work would be appraised by court presidents rather than the Judicial Council, while the head of the prosecution service would have to sign their name on rejected criminal complaints.

The plans also include establishing specialised courts to handle the gravest forms of organised corporate crime and gross damage to public funds.

The coalition has pledged to examine the option to introduce a trial period for judges, and to make assignment of cases to judges coincidental.

Both priorities reflect long-standing qualms by the Democrats (SDS), the senior partner in the incoming coalition, who have made several attempts to change the rules so as to make judges more accountable for their work and believe the current system of assigning cases is marred in corruption.

This is part of a series on the new government’s plans, with the whole set here

02 Mar 2020, 09:47 AM

STA, 29 February 2020 - Like several ruling coalitions before it, the incoming centre-right coalition is promising to deal with red tape and create conditions conducive to business, and step up infrastructure and energy projects.

The coalition agreement lists measures such as reducing red tape for acquiring development permits, simplifying public procurement procedures and those for hiring foreign labour force, and "rationalising" demands on company reporting.

The coalition would like to enforce responsible management of state assets by imposing clear goals on managements and supervisory boards at state-owned companies and holding under-achievers to account.

It pledges to decentralise the country and to promote balanced regional development, as well as reform housing policy to increase the fund of rental housing for youth and young families.

The coalition agreement also places emphasis on investment in infrastructure and information infrastructure with plans to speed up modernisation of the rail infrastructure and expand the motorway network, while making public passenger transportation system friendlier and more affordable.

The plans include measures to reduce congestions, and CO2 emissions, and replacing the motorway toll stickers for cars with electronic vignettes.

The coalition will examine the possibility of transferring 2TDK, the state-owned company managing the Koper-Divača rail project, to the national rail operator.

One of the goals is energy self-sufficiency with a view to Slovenia's long-term energy independence.

Consensus will be sought of Slovenia's long-term energy concept, to ensure responsible resource management and cleaner energy sources to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This includes exploitation of nuclear and tackling exploitation of geothermal energy. The only concrete energy project set out is the construction of the Mokrice hydro power station on the Sava.

The coalition is more reserved about plans for tax changes. It does plan to further reduce tax on business performance bonuses, increase the threshold for entrepreneurs eligible for flat-tax rate and form a competitive excise policy for oil products.

The coalition agreement does not mention plans to return VAT to pre-crisis rates or reduce personal income tax, both of which the Democratic Party (SDS) as the senior coalition partner have advocated in the past.

This is part of a series on the new government’s plans, with the whole set here

01 Mar 2020, 11:26 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The security apparatus of the state will be a major priority for the incoming centre-right coalition, according to the coalition agreement, which suggests asylum procedures will be tightened, the police force strengthened, and army conscription reintroduced.

The agreement makes "efficient protection of the state border" the no. 1 priority in the chapter on security and defence. Asylum procedures will be "consistently respected" and "mandatory integration of foreigners" instituted.

The priorities are broadly in line with the agenda of the Democrats (SDS), who have long advocated a tougher stance on migrations and called for stronger border security.

The police force gets several mentions, with the coalition pledging to "sort out the situation in the police" and "sort out the status, staffing and operation of the police". Consideration will also be given to the re-establishment of a secondary school for police officers, which was shut down in 1999 and transformed into a police academy.

While other details have not been disclosed, some media have speculated that a thorough overhaul of the police may be in the works. The speculation is borne out by a point from the SDS's election platform from 2018, which states that "during the transition from the former totalitarian regime to a democratic society, the criminal police has not been entirely purged by ideologically blinded officers".

One major priority that has captured the imagination of the public is the idea to gradually phase in conscription military service, which was abolished in 2003 and replaced with a professional force; the idea was floated by the SDS in January and was immediately endorsed by the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), one of the partners in the emerging four-way coalition.

The army has for years had problems enlisting enough soldiers and some see conscription as a good way of increasing the potential pool of professional soldiers.

Critics say introducing conscription will not improve the performance of the military until there is sufficient funding since the conscription system is potentially even costlier than a professional military. Some have also questioned whether conscription makes sense from a military perspective given the advanced technological requirements of modern warfare.

The incoming government also plans to develop cyber-defence capabilities and beef up measures to protect critical infrastructure.

This is the first in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

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