STA, 31 January 2019 - The Ljubljana District Court heard Gratel owner Jurij Krč back Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič on Thursday in a case in which the mayor stands accused of taking a bribe to the benefit of the city. Much like Janković last week, Krč said the donation to Ljubljana Castle was no bribe but a payment in line with the contract.
The indictment says that soon after becoming mayor in late 2006, Jankovič demanded that Gratel pay a donation of half a million euro to the municipality to be allowed to continue digging roads to install optic cables for telecommunications company T2.
The prosecution argues Jankovič had unjustifiably revoked the permit for temporary road closures Gratel had received from his predecessor just before the 2006 local elections and then made a new contract with the company.
But he added a damages clause, thereby assuming powers of the city's traffic department, which is in charge of issuing permits for road closures, according to the prosecution.
Janković told the court last week he had annulled the permit signed by his predecessor Danica Simčič because it was illegal, as it should have been issued by the city's traffic department. He said legal expert Rajko Pirnat confirmed this.
"We had an agreement on how to come to the site, whom to inform, who must be present. The deal also had a provision on damages for making a spatial intervention that exceeds the one outlined in the permit for temporary road closures," Krč said today.
"We had an agreement with the mayor to pay the damages and we did," he added.
According to Krč, Janković did not set the donation as a condition for the continuation of works. As Gratel owner Krč said he did not feel there was something wrong with the payment because it was in line with the contract. "We would have to pay one way or another," he said.
Janković said the deal was that the company either pays damages or makes a donation. The money was allocated to the same purpose any way, he said.
Former T2 adviser Miran Kramberger also took the stand today, saying that T2 was in the middle of negotiations for a loan with a consortium of banks at the time and that any interruptions in the construction works would have affected the process.
All our stories on Mayor Janković can be found here
STA, 22 January 2019 - Having pleaded not guilty in the Gratel case last November, Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič presented his view of events as the trial opened at the Ljubljana District Court on Tuesday. He labelled the indictment, which accuses him of taking a bribe from the company Gratel to the benefit of the city, a plot against him.
The indictment says that soon after becoming mayor in late 2006, Jankovič demanded in early 2007 that construction company Gratel pay a donation of half a million euro to the municipality to be allowed to continue digging roads to install optic cables for telecommunications company T2.
Prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar told the court Jankovič had unjustifiably revoked the permit for temporary road closures Gratel had received from his predecessor just before the 2006 local elections.
He had then concluded a new contract with the company, but added a damages clause, thereby assuming powers of the city's traffic department, which is in charge of issuing permits for road closures.
Presenting his side of the story, Jankovič denied all charges as unfounded, saying Žgajnar was prosecuting him because she did not like him.
"The documents which the police obtained as part of the investigation don't substantiate the claims in the indictment. This was not a donation, it was an agreement on damages," he said.
He said he had annulled the permit signed by his predecessor Danica Simčič because it was illegal, as it should have been issued by the city's traffic department.
The mayor said the municipality had commissioned a legal opinion from legal expert Rajko Pirnat which confirmed the permit should not have been signed by Simčič.
He explained that soon after becoming mayor he had received many complaints from locals and public companies about how Gratel was installing optic cables in Šiška borough.
Janković said the damages Gratel had paid were lower than what it had for instance paid the Kranj municipality for the same job of installing optic cables.
He stressed the amount had been set in talks with Gratel, which was in no way the weaker party, having strong lobbyists on its side.
What is more, the company decided on its own to pay the damages to the company running Ljubljana Castle, he stressed and called on Žgajnar to withdraw the indictment.
The next hearing is scheduled for 31 January, when Gratel owner Jurij Krč and former T2 boss Miran Kramberger take the stand.
All our stories on Mayor Janković can be found here
STA, 29 November 2018 - Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković pleaded not guilty as he appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing on Thursday in the Gratel case, in which he is charged with taking a bribe from a company to the benefit of the city.
"I think I'd be guilty if I hadn't done what I'm charged with," he told judge Vladislava Lunder at the Ljubljana District Court.
The case concerns EUR 500,000 which the mayor demanded from construction company Gratel in March 2007 to allow it to dig roads to install optic cables.
Gratel then transferred two EUR 250,000 instalments to the municipality as a donation for the renovation of Ljubljana Castle.
This enabled it to resume its work under a new development permit after Janković had initially banned Gratel from digging on public premises.
The payment was compensation for the damage incurred by the city because Gratel had dug up wider conduits and installed more cables than agreed.
Janković had already denied the allegation of bribery when the police raided the offices of the municipality and several other locations in February 2014.
His defence counsel Janez Koščak demanded today that evidence obtained in the 2014 house searches be excluded, arguing it had been obtained by violating human rights.
The lawyer explained the relevant court order had not specified the suspected crimes, which made the house searches unlawful.
Upon leaving the courtroom, Janković said he did not understand what prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar wanted to achieve with the indictment.
"A private company has paid compensation because it assessed it had installed too many cables," Janković repeated his view of the case.
He reiterated there was nothing wrong with a company making a donation to a public institution, saying it caused no damage to anyone and nobody except the prosecutor was claiming anything back.
Janković is convinced he is innocent: "I believe I'll prove my justice. They cannot sentence an innocent person."
He told the judge he had came to the courtroom "out of respect for the court", having had a business trip scheduled for today, which means he could have avoided it.
The main hearing in the Gratel case will start on 3 January.
Janković has another trial coming up soon, where he faces allegations of fraud concerning EU funds for the Stožice sports complex project.
While the trial starts next week, the pre-trial hearing for him is scheduled for 12 December.
Jankovič, who has led Ljubljana since late 2006, is also subject to criminal proceedings in several other cases.
STASTA, 23 November 2018 - The left-wing weekly magazine Mladina analyses on Friday Slovenia's conduct towards Hungary regarding its participation in the Koper-Divača rail expansion. It wonders what was behind the former Miro Cerar government's push for Hungary's involvement and its lenient treatment of the neighbour's plans to extend influence in Slovenia.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has pulled out of the rail expansion because he changed his mind when realising he bet on the wrong horse, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under From Hungary to Koper, noting Orbán counted on his EPP "comrade" Janez Janša, into whose media outlets he has invested a lot of money.
If Janša was in power, Orbán would probably already be buying ships to create a Hungarian fleet, Repovž says in reference to Orbán's statement that he wanted to make the Slovenian port of Koper Hungary's gateway to the world.
He also made it clear, as he visited the Hungarian minority in the Slovenian town of Lendava last week, that Cerar's government had promised Hungary 50,000 sq. meters of land in Luka Koper, that is a position which would enable it to form its own fleet.
What Repovž finds particularly intriguing is former Prime Minister Cerar's conduct in relation of Orbán's "attack" on Luka Koper, which operates the port of Koper.
He finds Cerar's enthusiasm about the rail expansion towards Koper incomprehensible in the first place, saying expanding the port on the small Slovenian coast is not the only development option.
The editor notes that with 200 million euro, the amount Hungary would contribute for the rail expansion, miracles could be made with more environment-friendly projects.
Nevertheless, Cerar was pushing for the port's expansion despite potential environmental issues.
He also insisted on Hungary's participation despite being aware that Orbán was betting on somebody else in Slovenia and that by sponsoring Janša and his Democrats (SDS), he was in fact undermining Cerar.
Cerar's conduct was "totally illogical", even more so because he in fact supported the potential of a country which is Slovenia's competitor.
What is also puzzling is that Cerar's government silently accepted Hungary's extending its influence in the Slovenian region of Prekmurje, where it is making investments and granting citizenship to members of the Hungarian ethnic minority.
Repovž wonders what was behind the Cerar government's benevolent treatment of Orbán's plans and why he was so outraged when Orbán announced to pull out of the rail project.
STASTA, 22 November 2018 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija deplores the election victory of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković in the latest editorial, expressing concern about an emerging "kleptocratic axis" between Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper.
The editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says that Janković is running the capital city in a kleptocratic, corruptive and morally perverted way; "by awarding some kind of LGBT certificates to schools and kindergartens he indoctrinates the youngest with an ideology that defies common sense and Catholicism".
Biščak is also critical of the Catholic Church for not publicly endorsing Janković's challenger in Sunday's election, Anže Logar of the Democratic Party (SDS), suggesting this would be appropriate because of Janković's "arrogant and contemptuous attitude to Catholics".
"It would be too cheap to point the finger at the Church for making a new victory possible for Janković. No. Ljubljana remains the breeding ground of organised criminal rings and corruption, the city of the sheriff 10% who is distributing bread among parasites, consultants and the leftist city elite.
"This company, including the non-natives who have turned the capital into a little Yugoslavia, was obviously large enough for a victory at the given turnout."
However, Biščak also says that Anže Logar activated more of the electorate than anyone would expect and that the proportion of the vote he won indicates an inevitable end to Janković's parallel economy.
Biščak also expresses concern about what he terms a kleptocratic north-south axis in the headline of his commentary. He is concerned the run-offs in Maribor and Koper may be won by "persons who have the same mindset as the Ljubljana sheriff. Boris Popović has 'proved' himself, and Saša Arsenovič (if he defeats Franc Kangler) certainly will as he has said it publicly that Zoran Janković is his mayoral role model."
Referring to the poor showing of the ruling coalition, Biščak says that such a result would send party heads rolling in developed democracies. He also rebukes the left bloc for failing to file top-tier mayoral contenders in Ljubljana and Maribor.
However, he offers the higher turnout as proof that "political apathy is over and that a large part of the country that is not related to urban municipalities is healthy and not yet infected with the immoral leftist agenda".
Other articles in this series can be found here
STA, 19 November 2018 - Zoran Janković won his fourth straight term as mayor of Slovenia's capital as voters overwhelmingly endorsed his vision of Ljubljana's development in Sunday's local elections and his list regained majority in the local council.
According to incomplete results, Janković secured 61.4% of the vote, which is slightly more than in the 2014 election (57.3%).
Anže Logar, the candidate of the Democratic Party (SDS) who enjoyed the support of the entire right-wing bloc, won 28.8% of the vote, more than any other candidate challenging Janković in his 12-year stint as Ljubljana mayor.
Janković's list won 23 seats in the 45-seat city council to regain the majority he held in his first two terms, after winning 21 seats in the 2014 election.
The SDS will be the second strongest faction with ten councillors, three more than in the current council, followed by the Left, which gained one seat to four. The conservative New Slovenia (NSi) and the Social Democrats (SD) will have two seats each.
The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), which together with the SD make up the minority national government, secured one seat each.
In his first comment on the election victory, the 65-year-old Serbian-born manager said the outcome showed the people of Ljubljana "want the kind of development they have seen so far".
Over the past 12 years, Janković and his team transformed Ljubljana through a series of projects, including a complete makeover of the city centre, large sections of which have been pedestrianised.
However, Janković has been facing recurring allegations of corruption, cronyism and shady ways in which the city has been awarding contracts to private partners, as well as criticism of his autocratic style of leadership.
Janković said that the people of Ljubljana showed they wanted an open, solidarity-based and comrade-like town, a reference to Logar's party, which has been promoting anti-migrant views, and Longar's statement that he would not attend a gay pride parade.
Both Janković and Logar said they were glad that the turnout was higher than four years ago. Data available so far show that 29.86% of the voters turned out in Ljubljana until 4 PM, which compares to 22.06% four years ago when the final turnout was 35.92%.
Janković said he would have wanted the turnout to be even higher, but that the outcome had obviously been clear beforehand. "Many reckoned that I'll win in the first round and they chose to stay at home or take a trip."
Looking at his new term, Janković announced 500 more projects in Ljubljana, which he said would bring greater quality of life and more global awards. Ljubljana won the title of the European Green Capital in 2016. He dismissed criticism as talk devoid of argument and populism.
Janković congratulated Logar on his showing, saying that he unified the right bloc. But he also said that the voters in this election was split along the left-right divide and that the proportion won by Logar was obviously as much as the right could count on winning in Ljubljana.
Commenting on the outcome of his list, he pledged to build a coalition even though his list won a majority, "with those who support the development programme. But I won't engage in dealing out."
Logar expressed his satisfaction that more people turned out in Ljubljana than four years ago, which he suggested was thanks his "agile election campaign" which "woke the electoral base from sleep".
Logar said considering that he and Janković won 90% of the vote, the question was that meant for the government coalition parties. He also said that if the ruling coalition "offered one strong candidate, we would have a run-off".
Logar's party boss, Janez Janša commented that Janković's "method appears to be more effective than a classic approach to democracy", while he would not say whether Logar was his successor.
Asked who could defeat Janković, Janša said it was the people of Ljubljana. "I doubt though that anyone of potential political competition in a position to apply the same methods as he [Janković] does".
Of the remaining eight mayoral contenders, Milan Jakopovič, the candidate of the Left, came in third with 3.8% of the vote.
The best result among the candidates of the government coalition parties appears to have been secured by Dragan Matić of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) in fifth with 1.5%.
Born in a village near Serbia's Smederevo on 1 January 1953, Janković moved to Ljubljana with his family when still a child. He graduated from the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics and in 1984 took his first executive post as he was appointed acting director of Mercator Investa.
In 1997 he was appointed chairman of Mercator, which he built into a market leader in the region before being served a government-sponsored no-cause dismissal by Mercator owners in 2005, at the time of the centre-right government of Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša.
Ever since he has been portrayed, and treated, as an arch-rival of Janša's even though they appear less dissimilar as they are willing to admit.
They both suffered heavy political setbacks; despite winning this year's general election, Janša was unable to form a government, which was exactly what happened to Janković during his foray into national politics in 2011.
They have both had run-ins with law enforcement and they both faced revelations by the anti-graft watchdog in early 2013 that they misreported their assets.
All our stories on Zoran Janković can be found here
STA, 14 November 2018 - A majority of voters in Ljubljana may dislike the incumbent mayor or his uncompromising and often dodgy leadership style, yet Zoran Janković is likely to win his fourth term in office by a landslide on Sunday, even though his closest challenger is a rising star of the party that won this year's general election.
The latest poll commissioned by Dnevnik, the newspaper focused on Ljubljana, gives Janković a 56% to 18% edge ahead of Anže Logar, the candidate of the Democratic Party (SDS) who enjoys unanimous endorsement from all right-wing parties.
With almost 20% respondents still undecided, the other eight contenders are far behind. While turnout projections are not available, the trends suggest it will likely fall further below the 36% recorded in the 2014 mayoral election in Ljubljana.
Like the last time around, it appears that many of Janković's opponents will vote with their feet, in particular left-wing voters who would not want to benefit the opposing bloc's candidate by supporting one of the contenders from the left.
Janković, a 65-year-old Serbian-born economist who first made a name for himself as chief executive of Slovenia's largest retailer Mercator, has been campaigning on what he says is a proven track-record, a series of projects that his team implemented over the past 12 years.
Even his opponents will give him the credit for the makeover given to the centre of the capital city, large sections of which have been taken over by pedestrians and cyclists. The greening of public spaces and steps taken in green mobility earned Ljubljana the title of the European Green Capital in 2016.
By tapping into EU funds, the city has renovated and expanded its public infrastructure, schools and kindergartens, and acquired new sports and cultural infrastructure, modernised the country's biggest waste management facility, and committed to a zero-waste and zero road traffic fatality goals.
However, Janković has been facing recurring allegations of corruption, cronyism and shady ways in which the city has been awarding contracts to private partners. He has also been reproached for his autocratic, know-it-all style of leadership and unwillingness to give an ear to those who object to his plans.
With a series of criminal cases open against him, Janković is about to be put on trial over alleged EU funds abuse in the flagship project of his first term, the construction of the Stožice sports complex. The half-built mall attached to it has been falling into ruin.
While the Ljubljana centre is sparkling bright after the facelift, its central coach and train station are hardly fit for a capital city. The public transportation system is not efficient enough and too many people still resort to cars for their commute with up to 100,000 cars driving into Ljubljana daily.
Ljubljana's tourism has been booming, but skyrocketing property prices and rents are making the city increasingly unaffordable for residents, not least because new construction is targeting high-end buyers.
A recent study by the Institute of Spatial and Housing Policies showed that residential construction in Ljubljana had been seriously outpaced by population growth, and pointed to an acute shortage of social housing.
A recurrent piece of criticism is that Janković has been neglecting the city beyond the centre, although he says that of the 2,000 projects implemented, 1,700 have been in the outer boroughs.
Anže Logar, for eight years the mayor's major antagonist in the city council, has placed reduction of waiting times in primary healthcare in the centre of his platform. Campaigning under the motto Cure Ljubljana, he is also promising to rid the city of corruption and traffic bottlenecks.
While the city does not have the power to expand the network of health service providers, Logar proposes it should buy health services on the market for the benefit of residents. He is also promising a modernisation of the public transport system, smart traffic lights and free bus rides for pensioners.
"If until now we have been hearing about the supposedly the most beautiful city - the centre is pretty indeed - we'll be hearing more about the best city from now on," Logar said, promising to make Ljubljana exceptional not only for tourists but also for those who live in it.
Logar, who has been backed by a series of civil initiatives that have been fighting against Janković's grand development plans, is also promising a participatory budget and more say to the city's boroughs. Participatory budget is also being advocated by Dragan Matić, who runs for the Modern centre Party (SMC).
Janković says that if the city followed people's sentiment it would have never closed the city centre to traffic and that no one would agree to have a waste management facility or a park-and-ride facility in their backyard.
After hosting a campaign debate between Logar and Janković, Dnevnik noted that even though many of Logar's ideas may appeal to the centre-left electorate, few will trust him that he would in fact deliver better than the current mayor, who knows the city inside out.
Janković never neglects to remind the people of Ljubljana that Logar's party took away millions from the city during its two stints in the government and that as SDS MP Logar voted against a bill that would secure more funds for the capital.
Logar, a 42-year-old who rose to prominence as the spokesman for the Slovenian presidency of the EU in 2008 and who grilled Janković as the head of a parliamentary inquiry into the 2013 bank bailout, says he had decided to run five years ago.
Even if defeated, the right-leaning Reporter magazine says that Logar has nothing to lose, because the party may reward him with a chance to get elected into European Parliament next year, a job that the weekly says Logar always wanted.
While Janković is looking at a fresh victory, his power in the city council may be further depleted after his list lost an absolute majority by a whisker in 2014. Even if it is not, new councillors from the ranks of left-leaning parties may be less accommodating than his old allies.
All our stories about the local elections can be found here
STA, 15 October 2018 - Anže Logar, the Democratic Party's (SDS) candidate for the Ljubljana mayor, formally submitted his bid on Monday, indicating that he would challenge incumbent Zoran Janković by exposing the flaws of his 12-year rule in Ljubljana.
STA, 8 October 2018 - Reporter, the right-leaning magazine, predicts in Monday's commentary that Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković will easily secure another term, but it says the campaign will nevertheless be a battle now that the Democrats (SDS) will field MP Anže Logar.
STA, 14 September 2018 - Zoran Janković has announced he would seek his fourth term as Ljubljana mayor with an investment drive that he says would be "cherry on the cake" of projects that he has brought to fruition in the last twelve years.