Ljubljana related

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.

19 Jan 2020, 11:21 AM

STA, 18 January 2020 - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec surprisingly defeated Defence Minister Karl Erjavec for the presidency of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). Erjavec announced he would resign as minister.

Pivec, 47, won 145 votes at Saturday's congress to Erjavec's 80 to end his 15-year tenure at the helm of the party, having ran an insurgency campaign that offered an alternative vision of the party's future in a desire to make it more inclusive and collaborative.

Erjavec, one of the most seasoned politicians in Slovenia, had meanwhile pledged to stay the current course of focusing on pensions, brushing off allegations that his leadership style and substance were eroding the party's approval rating.

After the results were revealed, Erjavec immediately announced he would resign from government. "I expected confidence but did not get it ... I followed my conscience and worked to the best of my abilities. The time has come for a new generation and I wish it all the best," he said.

Erjavec, 59, led the party for 15 years, the second longest tenure of any current party president in Slovenia, and has been a minister in successive left and right governments, holding the environment, foreign affairs and defence portfolios.

Pivec said she had expected to win but by a narrower margin and was "humbled" to take over the leadership of DeSUS.

She urged the party to close ranks after the bitter contest, even going as far as implying that Erjavec may have announced his resignation prematurely since she saw no problem in continuing to work with him in government.

"Let's forget bad feelings and some overly emotional statements," she said, as the party has a lot of work ahead and would need the experiences of its senior members.

Addressing the party's core constituency, Pivec said that demographic change required Slovenia to take measures to prevent the older population from falling into poverty and social exclusion.

But she said it was also necessary "to remember the younger generation".

Outlining her leadership plans, Pivec said DeSUS would no longer be so willing to compromise. "We will not accept alliances without assurances of clear measures," she said.

Erjavec had been criticised for a while for the party's low public approval ratings, and Pivec said she would make sure the party is not merely around the threshold to enter parliament.

Under Erjavec's leadership, DeSUS has been in successive left and right governments for two decades, a natural position for a party that had a single issue at its core - pensions. But it performed dismally in the last two national elections and its ratings have stagnated.

In the general election in 2018 it saw its share of the vote more than halved to under 5%, barely past the 4% threshold to enter parliament.

In the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, it won under 6% of the vote and no longer has an MEP.

The congress capped weeks of very public campaigning in the media focusing on Pivec's alleged misdeeds in a period shortly before she became minister, when she was making a significant amount of money consulting for a state-funded tourism project that are now the subject of a police investigation.

She also forgot to report the funds to the anti-graft commission as required by law, a transgression that raises ethical issues but is unlikely to be serious enough to warrant action by law enforcement.

Erjavec, meanwhile, has been under pressure in recent days due to his handling of the withdrawal of Slovenian troops from Iraq after Iran attacked two bases there, with media accusing him of turning a serious matter into a PR stunt to shore up support within party ranks.

The leadership race has also had reverberations in government, with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec seen as implicitly favouring Pivec over Erjavec, leading Erjavec to accuse him of trying to take control of the party by proxy.

Šarec has denied the accusation and said he was ready to work with Erjavec or Pivec as party presidents, but many pundits believed he would have had to take some kind of action against Erjavec over the troop withdrawal in any case.

The election result makes Pivec one of the fastest rising stars in Slovenian politics.

Before she was named agriculture minister in the Šarec government in 2018, she served as state secretary at the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad, a fairly low-key government position that does not provide much public exposure.

But as minister, she has proved to me media-savvy and has made it a point to appear at agricultural events large and small across the country, even as her ministry has so far not produced major new legislation.

Pivec holds a PhD in chemical engineering and had previously worked 17 years at the Scientific Research Centre Bistra in Ptuj, of which six years as director. She comes from a well-known wine making family.  

08 Oct 2019, 09:30 AM

STA, 7 October 2019 - Former Health Minister Tomaž Gantar stepped down as vice-president of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) in September. In today's statement for the STA, Gantar was critical of the way Karl Erjavec is leading the party, saying his leadership style was less and less democratic.

Gantar, who has been a prominent member of DeSUS for years, is returning to his medical profession.

The former health minister said he was unhappy with the party's work recently. He said vice presidents did not have clearly defined roles and subsequently had no significant influence on the work of the party.

He will, however, remain a member of the party.

Erjavec would not comment on Gantar's resignation or his statements about party leadership today.

Meanwhile, DeSUS deputy group head Franc Jurša said that everyone was entitled to make assessments about anybody's work. "I would not assess Erjavec at this point," he said.

Juša also said that he did not sense any friction among top party officials but that messages did come on a daily basis from the field. Many think the party should do more, he added.

DeSUS, which has been on a downward trajectory for some time, will hold an extraordinary election congress on 17 January.

The party won only five seats in the National Assembly in 2018 and failed to secure a single MEP post in the May EU election.

Erjavec offered his resignation already after the general election, but the party council rejected it. After the EU election, however, the party decided it was time for an election congress.

The long-serving party head and current Defence Minister Erjavec announced he would run for another term. So far, no other candidates have announced their bids.

Asked whether it would be good if Erjavec had a rival at the congress, Jurša did not give a straightforward answer. He said that multiple candidates made election more interesting from the democratic point of view.

"But being a party president is not a rewarding job and I don't know if any of those who would be capable of running the party will decide for it."

Gantar said today he would not run for any posts at the congress.

23 Sep 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 21 September 2019 - Modern Centre Party (SMC) members elected unanimously Zdravko Počivalšek new leader at a congress in Ljubljana on Saturday. Počivalšek, the economy minister, is taking over from Miro Cerar, the SMC founder who currently serves as foreign minister.

More than 400 participants, including 210 SMC delegates, gathered at the congress. Before the election, Cerar once again backed Počivalšek, the only candidate for the SMC top position.

In his keynote address before the election, Počivalšek highlighted the importance of being committed to social dialogue, saying that "concern for development is the responsibility of parties, industry and trade unions".

He called for economic stability, a fair welfare state, liberal approach and sustainability, urging the party to go "neither left, nor right, not backwards, only forward".

Commenting on the fact that the party has been having low support for a while, he said that current opinion polling is not to be trusted completely. Remaining optimistic, he said the party should not feel dismayed by its past election results since they still trumped opinion poll figures.

According to him, the party's core is strong, consisting of its members, innovative ideas, breakthrough visions, useful know-how and ambitious targets - everything that is needed "to improve the party's opinion poll indicators".

Moreover, at the congress, Cerar was elected honorary leader of the party at Počivalšek's initiative and accepted this honour upon stepping down.

In his keynote after the election, Počivalšek highlighted the importance of progress for the party and the well-being of all Slovenian citizens as well as the importance of cooperation between parties.

He said he would lead the party in cooperation with its deputy group, local committees, secretariat and ministers, adding that a rejuvenated local network will make the party less dependant on opinion polling.

Počivalšek believes the SMC is about to transform itself and regain voters' trust. He has decided to run for the top position upon realising he had support of the entire party.

He thanked Cerar for his support and accomplishment including in bringing the SMC to life at a turning point in Slovenia's political history, saying that he had an affinity with the party because of its centrist views and lack of interest to rehash historical events.

Moreover, Počivalšek pointed out before the election that he only became the SMC member last year because he had been delusional before, thinking he could take action alone. "Nonsense. It's hard to play for a team if one is not wearing its kit," he said.

"I wish to only upgrade the party's successful work so far," Počivalšek told the congress, highlighting the party's consolidated role in the coalition and parliament.

As one of his top priorities, the economy minister listed economic stability and rejected the imposed divide between booming industry and welfare state, saying the two were interconnected.

Pointing out that in times of healthy economy people vote left-wing parties, whereas in time of financial crises they turn to the right, he said his goal was then "to maintain economic stability since this ensures people are considering the well-being of every individual".

Another target of his is a just welfare state - fair pay for fair work, elderly care, including in letting the elderly decide between active or more peaceful autumn years, decent pensions, as well as youth empowerment.

He will also focus on a liberal approach since, according to him, liberal parties are agents in the fight against inequality, exclusion and other extremist stances.

Another mainstay of his leadership will be sustainable economy and environmental efforts, including promoting circular economy in terms of waste management.

Počivalšek will also strive to strengthen the role of the SMC local as well as programme committees. He also wishes this government would continue doing its work until the end of its term.

The 61-year-old entered the Slovenian political arena at the invitation of the then Prime Minister Cerar at the end of 2014, taking over as the economy minister. He has kept this position in Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's government and has been a strong advocate of a prudent privatisation principle.

Cerar said he believed in Počivalšek's vision for the party, which was in sync with its values. He trusts that the new leader will rejuvenate the social-liberal party and make it more popular.

The first SMC leader pointed out that the party had ten MPs and four ministers upon his departure from the top position but also conceded that the party had been having low support in opinion polls and that this would have to be tackled.

Commenting on the view by some that the SMC was politically dead, he noted the party's important role in Slovenia's political arena. "We're here today to show Slovenia and Europe that the SMC is and will remain an active and constructive part of Slovenia's politics."

Cerar said he would remain a loyal member of the party, but he would also like to focus even more on his work as the foreign minister.

Leaders or representatives of almost all parliamentary parties attended the congress as well, with both Počivalšek and Cerar pointing out that this meant the party was willing to cooperate.

What stood out was that the event was attended by representatives of opposition parties as well, including Franc Breznik of the Democrats (SDS) and Jožef Horvat of New Slovenia (NSi).

Moreover, Počivalšek confirmed that he had been in contact with SDS leader Janez Janša, who excused himself for not attending the congress due to his being away for work.

Šarec, also in attendance, highlighted the importance of cooperation between parties, particularly those in the coalition, in his keynote as well. He thanked Cerar for all his work so far as the first SMC leader, foreign minister and the previous prime minister.

Related: Elections 2018, Party Profiles: SMC – “Lukewarm Centrists” (Feature)

11 Aug 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 10 August 2019 - Slovenia is in for a hectic autumn as PM Marjan Šarec intends to peg the vote on the crucial 2020-2021 budget bills to a confidence vote, with the opposition Left saying it could withhold support for his minority government. But analysts see no reason for a no-confidence vote, which would trigger an early election that practically no party wants.

The Left, which the opposition considers a radical leftist party, has accused the government of "rightist policies", urging it to drop them if it wants to continue counting on its support.

But it is particularly unhappy with the slow fulfilment of commitments the cabinet made in an agreement with it featuring 13 projects the Left wants implemented.

By tying the budget and confidence votes, Šarec would test the coalition's trust and the support of the Left, which has had only one of the planned projects realised.

Without the Left, the government does not have an absolute majority in parliament, which is needed if legislation is vetoed by the upper chamber and put to a re-vote in the lower chamber.

If the Left indeed withdraws support, Šarec could potentially seek new alliances with the National Party (SNS), which voted for the revised 2019 budget, or with New Slovenia (NSi).

The conservative NSi has recently said it would be willing to work closer with the government on a project-to-project basis, an option also seen as viable by analysts.

Andraž Zorko from pollster Valicon believes the confidence vote resulting in no-confidence is highly unlikely, doubting Šarec would dare to propose it if there were any signs he could lose the vote.

"There is no reason for anyone to vote for the government's dismissal because there are only two scenarios after it: an alternative, centre-right government, which is rather unlikely, or an election."

Judging by opinion polls, Šarec is perhaps the only one interested in an early election, according to Zorko, whereas Alem Maksuit believes no matter how strong Šarec feels, he would not risk toppling his own government.

Zorko notes the prime minister's LMŠ party does better in opinion polls than in elections, saying "it enjoyed 26% in polls in February, but won only around 12% in the EU vote four months later".

Compared to the many parties that have emerged over the past decade in Slovenia, Zorko considers Šarec a survivor, with his "LMŠ doing everything smoothly for now".

"Šarec is a nice combination of a new politician with elements of populism adapted to the Slovenian milieu, which is more left than right, although he is faring well on both sides."

Maksuti from the Institute for Political Management says Šarec is using his polls-based legitimacy to exert pressure on his partners, "but things can change very quickly in Slovenia".

Noting an early election is in no party's interest at the moment, Maksuti believes "the only possible change is the NSi replacing the Left in cooperation with the government".

The NSi "is willing to compromise because it is aware how politics works and because it is not that radical", he says.

Zorko, on the other hand, sees the NSi's willingness to support the government "to distance itself from the Democrats (SDS) and narrow the Left's wiggle room".

Maksuti says the Left will most probably extend the period in which it expects its projects to be implemented, or terminate the pact with the government.

But he believes the Left is actually harming itself by further cooperating with the government.

Zorko does not expect the Left to change its tactics either, noting it is quite successful in navigating between the government and its electorate's (dis)satisfaction.

Another change to the political relations could come in October as the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the second strongest coalition party, changes leadership.

Miro Cerar, the SMC's leader and founder, said he would no longer stand for re-election after the party fared poorly in May's European elections.

He is expected to be replaced at a congress by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, a member of the party's executive council.

Zorko has just recently told the STA that with Počivalšek as SMC leader, many cards are open because he is in a way a new face, somewhat peculiar and strong-willed.

However, if the SMC, which lacks a clear ideological profile, positions itself slightly more to the right economically-wise, this could well win it new votes.

Maksuti has begged to differ, asserting the SMC, which was set up just before the 2014 election, which it won in a landslide, is a political corpse and Počivalšek politically illiterate.

06 Aug 2019, 09:45 AM

STA, 5 August 2019 - Opposition New Slovenia (Nova Slovenija - NSi) head Matej Tonin presented on Monday the party's plans for the autumn congress, announcing an "overhauled and fresh" platform, and noting that the party was still willing to cooperate with the minority government. The party wants to position itself in the centre as it feels this is where it belongs.

Speaking at a press conference which also marked the 19th anniversary of the party, Tonin again expressed the readiness of the right-leaning conservative party to cooperate in projects with the ruling minority coalition.

The party is expected to confirm an overhauled platform in November. "The change will be directed towards positioning the NSi in the centre," Tonin said, adding that it would refer to the European system of content-based positioning of parties.

According to him, the party advocates centrist views both in terms of the economy and ideologically. "Of course, we are aware that our power depends on our roots," he said in reference to local committees of the party.

Touching on the programme, Tonin said it was inspired by the wish to create a new Slovenia, in which rules will be the same for all and where people will be able to live a decent life.

The 36-year-old, who took over at the helm of the party from Ljudmila Novak in January 2018, reiterated that the NSi was a connective party ready to cooperate. "But we will also accept the government coalition continuing with the set course."

Tonin said that he was in touch with the office of the prime minister, and that him and Prime Minister Šarec communicated when it came to major things in parliament.

The party, which was briefly in talks with the minority coalition before withdrawing to see the role of the coalition supporter assumed by the Left, sees possibilities for cooperation with the government on "a one law at time and one project at a time" basis.

"We don't want to sign any agreement, because the current coalition partners and the Left have the problem of the signed agreements not being implemented. Even the coalition MPs speak openly about this in parliament," Tonin said.

He assessed that the current cooperation between the government and the Left does not enable structural reforms and a development breakthrough. The NSi want reforms and cooperation mostly in healthcare, labour market and state investments.

Tonin would like to see a kind of a "partnership for development", which means that the opposition would be able to see and comment on proposed laws before they enter the formal procedure.

He nevertheless thinks that the Marjan Šarec government will be able to finish the term without major problems. "You can see that despite all the tensions, everybody is going forward peacefully and diligently," he added.

Tonin also said at the press conference that the NSi had prepared an interpellation motion against Education Minister Jernej Pikalo over the government-sponsored legislative changes cutting funds for private primary schools.

The changes stipulating that the state-approved curricula in private schools be 100% state-funded, while additional activities and services would get no state funding whatsoever, failed to get enough support in a re-vote in parliament in mid-July after being vetoed in the National Council.

Tonin said that the motion was shelved for the time being and said he had proposed to the minister to get back to talks with parties on how to implement the 2014 Constitutional Court decision ordering that funding be equalised with that for public schools.

While he said that the NSi would invite Pikalo for talks, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport told the STA that the "minister is not acquainted with the content [of the interpellation motion], so he cannot comment on it."

When the changes to the act on organisation and financing of education failed to pass the re-vote, Pikalo said he would mount a new attempt at achieving consensus. But he thinks it will be difficult to get a majority in this parliament.

Tonin said today that if the talks were not successful, the NSi would file a legislative motion of their own. "Perhaps things will change now, because this is a new circumstance," he said in reference to the failed re-vote.

Keep up with Slovenian politics here

24 Apr 2019, 16:23 PM

STA, 24 April 2019 - The Social Democrats (SD) became the latest party to formally enter the EU election race on Wednesday. Party officials said their campaign would focus on restoring trust in Europe by highlighting jobs, climate change, security and migrations as the main issues.

"These European elections will be a landmark for the future of Europe. Either we go down the path of dangerous disintegration, or the path of a strong Europe," the party's top candidate, MEP Tanja Fajon, said as the candidacies were submitted to the National Electoral Commission.

A strong and united Europe is of paramount importance for Slovenia, she said, noting that two decades of conservative dominance in the EU parliament had resulted in unfair taxations and multinational corporations and the rich not paying their taxes.

The party's goal is to have two MEPs in the next parliament - Fajon is currently their sole representative - and it has recently also started promoting the idea that Slovenia's next commissioner should be picked from the ranks of candidates contesting the election.

"The next commissioner from Slovenia ought to go through European elections. The people have the right to know who the commissioner will be," Fajon said.

Slovenia does not have strict rules about commissioner nominations. It is up to the government to pick a candidate, who then has to undergo a hearing at the European Parliament.

United Slovenia to campaign against EU membership

STA, 24 April 2019 - The far-right United Slovenia, led by the self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško, who is fresh out of prison for attempts to subvert the constitutional order, fielded its candidates for MEPs on Wednesday. The party will be campaigning for Slovenia's exit from the EU.

Only three candidates will contest the election: Šiško, Joško Joras, a self-styled defender of the south border, and the party's co-president Anica Bidar.

Šiško, the party's front-runner, said United Slovenia was the only party that would protect the Slovenian Constitution in the election and advocate for Slovenia to leave the EU.

Learn more about the colourful Andrej Šiško here

"The EU in its current form is unacceptable for Slovenian citizens. The kind that the gentlemen from European elites want to build is even more unacceptable," Šiško said.

The United Slovenia movement promotes cooperation with European nations and countries, and wants a Europe of free and independent nations and countries that would also include Russia.

Calling on citizens who want change to turn out for the election, Šiško said that if their candidate got elected they would not join any of the European political groups but work on a project basis.

DeSUS campaign centred around top candidate, MEP Šoltes

STA, 24 April 2019 - The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) plans to focus its EU election campaign on their top candidate, MEP Igor Šoltes. Their slogan will be Šoltes, Our Man in Brussels, the party said as it formally submitted the candidacies to the National Electoral Commission on Wednesday.

DeSUS is counting on the base to help it retain its sole MEP seat, party leader Karl Erjavec said, noting that turnout would be low, which was getting party members and supporters to vote would be decisive.

Šoltes joined DeSUS after winning his MEP seat with an independent list in 2014, and after the party's current MEP, Ivo Vajgl, decided to retire.

He said he would be the voice of those who are ignored and sidelined, focusing on issues such as longevity of society, standard of living for the elderly, the environment, healthy food and social justice.

DeSUS plans to spend roughly EUR 30,000 on the campaign. The emphasis will be on field work and social networks.

Looking ahead, Erjavec said that the vote would be followed by a "very turbulent period" on the domestic scene as parties that have their representatives in the EU parliament gathered strength.

He predicts that there will be consolidation on the left sooner or later since "it is difficult to run the country so fragmented."

All our stories on the EU elections are here, while those on the many and varied political parties in Slovenia are here

08 Apr 2019, 15:15 PM

STA, 6 April 2019 - Some 200 delegates gathered for the founding congress of the new far-right party in Ljubljana on Saturday. The first project of the Homeland League (Domovinska Liga), using the acronym DOM (home), will be standing in the EU election.

Bernard Brščič, a former senior aide to opposition Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Janša who works as an economist for power grid operator Eles, was elected president today.

Lucija Šikovec Ušaj, a lawyer who ran on the SDS ticket in the general election but later left the party because she thought it was too soft on migrations, was elected vice president.

Brščič told the press after the congress that DOM had no "uncles from behind the scenes". "This is not a project of Milan Kučan nor Janez Janša nor Vladimir Putin. It's an own-grown project that has emerged because the situation in the Slovenian political arena and in Europe is mature for the kind of platform DOM offers," he said.

The motto of the new party is Forward Slovenia. "We will always claim that the mission of the Slovenian state is to provide for the safety and well-being of Slovenian citizens. We also see the EU as a means to this end and not a goal, and we judge it by the way it contributes to the safety and well-being of Slovenian citizens."

"We claim that Slovenia is our homeland and we will not share it with anyone," said Brščič, a leading ideologue of the Slovenian alt-right.

The party, which was officially registered on 26 February, has already started collecting signatures of support for its candidacy in the upcoming EU election. The party's list of candidates will include Brščič and Šikovec Ušaj, but no other candidates have been revealed.

According to Brščič, DOM does not plan to join the European People's Party (EPP) but offer a new platform. The party is modelled on the Italian League and Fidesz in Hungary.

The party also elected an eight-member executive board and the secretary general today.

12 Mar 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 9 March 2019 - Addressing a ceremony marking 30 years since the formation of the Democrats' (SDS) precursor, Janez Janša said the SDS had stayed true to itself, its values and Slovenia even in the most challenging times. "The SDS stands for democracy and is against any totalitarianism," the party head stressed in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Janša said the party was therefore always ready to cooperate with anyone who shared this view for the benefit of Slovenia. "A party that votes against the European Parliament's resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism is not a democratic party," he added.

In the light of the EU elections, Janša stressed the importance of the EU and its future. "Perhaps never in the years since independence in 1991 have we celebrated our birthday in a time when the future ahead was so open and unpredictable. So many different possibilities lie before us. Not all of them are good," he said.

According to Janša, there is a time for every community, every nation when they need to reconsider their place in the world and such a time has come for Europe.

"The EU is strong because it gives priority to rules and the rule of law and not the rule of the stronger," Janša said, adding that the biggest threat to the rule of law were double standards.

One of such example is when EU institutions very quickly detect "actual or imaginary violations in some member states, especially in those where conservative or Christian democratic parties are on power," he said.

Janša believes it is time to opt for "a Europe that Slovenians voted for in the 2003 referendum, a Europe of European civilisation and culture that protects human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The SDS head believes that the key challenge of the new European Parliament after the economic and migration crises and Brexit will be political stabilisation, which will entail upgrading the EU's defence system and monetary policy.

Touching on the EPP's threats that Hungary's Fidesz may be expelled from the group, Janša expressed hope that "this argument in our family will be resolved as soon as possible with a smart compromise, without using force."

He believes the EPP should focus on ways to ensure prosperity for all in Europe, protect the borders and provide for the security of Europeans.

The SDS celebrates today the anniversary of the founding of the Slovenian Democratic Union (SDZ) and the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia (SDZS), which are considered its precursors.

The two parties emerged from the so-called spring movements, calling for democratisation and Slovenia's independence.

Janša said that when the two parties merged the "biggest and the most successful party in Slovenia's history" had been formed, which had so far won eight elections.

For three decades, the party has been "the main pillar of Slovenia's independence, an indivisible part of the fight for democratic transformation and Slovenia's inclusion in the European civilisation's flows," Janša said.

The event at the Cankarjev Dom centre was also addressed by the European People's Party (EPP) Spitzenkandidat for the EU vote, Manfred Weber, who warned against the danger of nationalism in Europe.

Europe is much more than just laws and must provide concrete answers to concrete challenges, including migrations, he said. He also stressed the importance of a shared culture that is based on Christian values.

All our stories on politics in Slovenia are here, while those on Janez Janša are here

18 Feb 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 16 February - Alenka Bratušek was unanimously re-elected to lead the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), as more than 200 delegates got together for an electoral congress in Ljubljana on Saturday, four and a half years after the party was established. She was the only candidate for the post.

Addressing the delegates before the vote, Bratušek said the packed Old Power Station was proof the SAB was there to stay after it had already made a mark in politics.

"We're proud of our achievements ... nothing was given to us, what is more, many have tried to undermine us. That's why we are still here and even stronger."

She also reiterated the coalition party would insist on the government taking measures to improve the pensioners' financial standing and the situation in healthcare.

The party, which has three ministers and five MPs, will also push for improving the situation in public education, for a successful economy and human rights.

Bratušek said that as party president she "will always put first the state, people and our common goals which will make Slovenia a better place".

She recalled the time when she entered politics, including when she took over as prime minister (March 2013-September 2014) at the time of the deepest economic crisis.

Thanking all who had helped her and contributed to Slovenia's exiting the crisis, Bratušek could not avoid mentioning the massive bank bail-out in late 2013.

She admitted it had not been easy to decide to inject five billion euro into the banking system, "yet it was necessary if we wanted to avoid the troika and bankruptcy".

However, she was critical that those who had caused the massive bank shortfall had not yet been brought to justice.

She said those who should have been punished were now using the media to divert attention from the bank shortfall to those who had helped save the country.

"We're talking about those who solved the problem instead of those who became rich due to the bank shortfall or sank our flagship companies," she said.

The congress also elected four vice-president; MP Maša Kociper was re-elected and joined by Tatjana Voj, Slavko Šterman and Cohesion Minister Iztok Purič.

Marko Bandelli, who had had to step down as cohesion minister because of interference in the campaign for local elections last year, did not stand for re-election.

To support the fellow coalition party, senior representatives of three coalition parties attended the congress: SD leader Dejan Židan, and the SMC and LMŠ vice-presidents, Lilijana Kozlovič and Jerca Korče.

Židan recalled the times when Bratušek led the government, a member of which was also his Social Democrats (SD), noting they worked together during the hardest of times.

"We had the courage to rescue Slovenia, and this means we respect each other," said Židan.

Several of the speakers at the congress highlighted Bratušek's strong personality, notably her determination, self-confidence and courage, especially when had led the country.

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