Politics

26 May 2022, 11:39 AM

STA, 25 May 2022 - Prime minister-elect Robert Golob is a former energy executive who will helm the government at a time of energy and climate crisis. The first businessman in Slovenia to win a mandate to form a government, he spent 15 years running a company that made big profits buying and selling energy, being one of the first to bet on renewables.

Golob, a 55-year-old electricity system expert from the western region of Primorska, decided to challenge outgoing Prime Minister Janez Janša at the polls after he failed to win support late last year for his sixth term as CEO of GEN-I even as the indirectly state-owned energy trader posted record sales and profit.

Linking up with several other professionals who like him lost or quit their careers under the Janša centre-right government, he took over a small green party formed by Jure Leben, the environment minister in 2018-19, and renamed it Freedom Movement at a congress in late January.

Campaigning on the promise to work hand-in-glove with the civil society to restore freedom, democracy and the rule of law, repeal controversial measures and appointments made by the Janša government, tackle the ailing healthcare, and reform the country through a green and digital transformation that will work for everyone, Golob's party won 41 seats in the 90-strong parliament, more than any other to date.

It has become a tradition in Slovenia that a party is formed by a prominent figure shortly before the election and then goes on to emerge as the winner or runner-up by picking up the protest vote and capitalising on the left-leaning electorate's aversion to Janša, who has led three governments so far.

All those parties have since fragmented, disintegrated or been pushed to the political margin. Golob says he is aware of the risk and has indicated he will apply methods that have been tested well in the corporate sector to manage it.

Indeed, the manner in which he has set to form a government with the Social Democrats (SD) and the Left indicates he will try to run the government with business efficiency. He has signalled a departure from politics of finger-pointing and ideological bickering and a willingness to attract talent beyond his party or coalition.

He has shown his ability to efficiently respond to an obstacle as Janša's party filed a motion for a referendum to foil his attempt to restructure the government. Sticking to his plan to form the government by 3 June, he adapted his cabinet line-up fast and announced he would reshuffle it to his original design once the referendum motion can be voted down.

Golob is not hiding the ambition that he would like to step in the shoes of Janez Drnovšek (1950-2008), his erstwhile boss who served as Slovenia's prime minister for a decade between 1992 and 2002 as the leader of the Liberal Democracy (LDS), the kind of party Golob is seeking to form himself.

Under the Drnovšek government Golob served as state secretary for energy at the Environment Ministry from 1999 to 2002. Before that he headed Slovenia's negotiating team on energy policy in accession talks with the EU.

Golob than moved back home and in 2002 founded a startup called Strela-G, which at a time when this was not popular yet did business investing into renewable sources of energy. The eventually evolved into GEN-I through a series of transactions involving major state-owned companies. Golob remained at the helm of the multi-billion company for 15 years.

He ventured into politics in 2011 when he became a vice-president of Positive Slovenia, a party founded by Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković that won the 2011 general election but failed to form a government. Instead, a government was formed by Janša, who was ousted after a year in office over Janša's failure to account for his assets.

Janković, who at the time faced similar accusations from the anti-graft watchdog as Janša, says Golob was his "first choice" to succeed Janša as PM then. However, Golob allegedly changed his mind and Alenka Bratušek took over as prime minister. After Positive Slovenia split, Golob sided with Bratušek and became vice-president of her party for a while, before leaving politics again.

Golob has now invited Bratušek to join his government, as he has Marjan Šarec, who served as prime minister from 2018 to 2020, although neither of their parties made it into parliament. It is part of his plan to consolidate the liberal bloc with a view to the upcoming local and presidential elections and in line with his bid to try to stay in government for two terms.

Little is known about Golob personally and he has been careful to keep his family away from the public eye. This he gave as the reason why he would not disclose his income tax return in response to questions and allegations about his excessive salary, which was the main accusation against him during the election campaign.

The allegations did little to upset his bid and even what at first seemed as a setback appeared to have turned in his favour as he tested positive for coronavirus a week ahead of the election and had to resume his his campaigning remotely.

Golob was born on 23 January, 1967, in Šempeter pri Gorici in the west. He graduated from the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering in 1989, and then went on to earn a master's and doctor's degree, after which he won a Fulbright scholarship for a visiting position at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, US.

In 1997 he got a job as an assistant professor at his old faculty. His areas of expertise include the functioning and deregulation of the electricity system, and the restructuring of the electricity industry and electricity markets.

A father of three, Golob has also been active in local politics, stepping down in early May as a city councillor in Nova Gorica for his own list. Proud of his region, he speaks with a strong accent, and many of the people he has attracted into his party and government come from Primorska.

In a video posted before the election, he admitted that he is a fan of the 1980s rock music and loves the sea and basketball, even though he used to be kayaker himself. He says he has kept his hairstyle of longish curls almost unchanged since the age of 14. Unlike Janša, he does not have a Twitter account and has said he does not plan on tweeting.

25 May 2022, 11:56 AM

STA, 24 May 2022 - The Celje Higher Court upheld on Tuesday a three-month suspended prison sentence with one year probation against outgoing Prime Minister Janez Janša for calling two journalists "washed up prostitutes" in a 2016 tweet. The verdict is final, but Janša's lawyer has announced a point of law appeal at the Supreme Court.

The decision, reached one day before the case would become statute barred, confirms the February ruling of the Celje District Court in a retrial held upon a successful appeal by Janša, who was not in court today.

Janša, the leader of the largest opposition party at the time, tweeted in March 2016: "The FB page of the public house is offering cheap services by washed up prostitutes Eugenija C. and Mojca P.Š. One for 30 euros, the other for 35. #PimpMilan".

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TV Slovenija reporters Mojca Šetinc Pašek and Eugenija Carl each responded by filing defamation lawsuits, both criminal and civil.

Following an appeals conundrum - Janša for instance filed the final appeal on the last possible date - and other administrative delays, including reportedly over repeated failed attempts by the court to serve Janša, the case looked on track to becoming statute barred.

In a turn of events after it seemed that Janša had not been served with a summons, the Celje Higher Court decided to announce a verdict today upon the insistence of Janša's lawyer Franci Matoz that his client had been acquainted with the matter.

The judge, Andrej Pavlina, said today that, Janša, who must also pay the court fees, tweeted a crude and sexist statement that was political. Thus the court rejected the appeal against the ruling of the lower court and made the verdict final.

Matoz however insisted today that the District Court had violated the penal code and that its panel of judges had not been impartial. He argued the tweet in question did not make it possible to conclude which reporters were being referred to specifically.

Matoz, who moreover disagreed with the view of the Higher Court that tweet was offensive, also said that reports Janša was not picking up his mail and delaying proceedings had been fake news.

"The first annulment was due to a clear irregularity in the empanelling of the jury, which prolonged the case for two years. We did not agree with the case becoming statute barred, that was never our intention. We wanted a decision on the merits and now we will take the case to the Supreme Court ... I am confident we will succeed in the end," he said.

Judge Zinka Strašek meanwhile explained that several attempts had been made to serve Janša with the summons for the appeal hearing via a detective, but without success.

Therefore, the judges first adopted a decision today not to hold the session. When Matoz said he had personally informed Janša that today's appeal session would take place, the judges reversed the original decision and held the appeal session anyway, she added.

Šetinc Pašek, who has since become an MP, was pleased today that the High Court was able to bring the case to a conclusion in a very short time. She had expected Janša to be found guilty, saying the tweet had been disgusting, ugly and insulting. "Such an offensive tweet cannot be tolerated in our society," she added.

The Supreme Court has already adopted decisions in this case as regards the civil lawsuits in which the Velenje Local Court as well as the Celje Higher Court ordered Janša to pay EUR 6,000 in damages to Šetinc and Carl.

Ruling separately and with slightly different panels, it upheld in 2020 Janša's appeal when Šetinc is concerned, while rejecting it in 2021 in Carl's case.

24 May 2022, 16:21 PM

STA, 24 May 2022 - The leaders of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats and the Left signed the coalition agreement on Tuesday, exactly a month since the general election, with Prime Minister-designate Robert Golob commenting that the "speed that many envy us in forming the coalition proves the decision was simple because the people's will was clear". 

Golob said the election outcome made the decision who to form the coalition with simple. "Had people's will not been as clear, we couldn't have agreed so fast on the directions, projects and values that we will pursue together in the future government."

The signing comes just a day before the National Assembly will take a vote to confirm Golob as the prime minister. The three coalition parties have 53 seats in the 90-strong legislature with the Italian minority Felice Žiža announcing yesterday him and his Hungarian counterpart will also back Golob.

Golob's Freedom Movement won 41 seats in the 24 April general election, the highest number ever won by a party since independence. The SocDems won seven seats and the Left five.

Golob said the coalition agreement also provided for the new way in which his government would be organised, but which they cannot implement yet because the opposition Democrats (SDS) have submitted a motion for a referendum on the relevant amendments to the government act.

The increase in the number of ministers to 19 plus one without portfolio, from 14 plus three without portfolio is but seemingly increasing the government's complexity, he said.

The new ministries, responsible for solidarity-based future, climate and energy and higher education, science and innovation were aimed at creating new opportunities, projects and knowledge, which would set the new government apart from its predecessors.

Healthcare ranks prominently in the coalition agreement. There were many questions whether the coalition partners would reach a consensus on how to address key challenges with the Left advocating a clear division between public and private healthcare and the end of top-up insurance that is collected by private insurers, and the Freedom Movement arguing that private practitioners should be involved to reduce wait times.

However, Golob said it was measures in healthcare that they managed to agree on the most swiftly. The key priorities would be to set out an exit strategy for Covid-19 and an emergency bill that would reform healthcare. The bill is to be presented by Danijel Bešič Loredan, the candidate for health minister, at the hearing in parliament.

As other key priorities Golob identified coping with rising energy and food prices. In dealing with energy prices he said it would make sense taking measures aimed at all citizens, and in the case of food the measures would be selectively targeted.

Golob also listed public appearances and political culture as areas where the coalition wanted to introduce changes.

"I haven't said anything about the outgoing government and I won't because we're not here to use anyone as an excuse, but to put into practice what we've promised to the people. This change of political culture, which should be respectful but also determined and directed into the future, is also my personal pledge," he said.

Tanja Fajon, the SocDem leader, said theirs would be a government of change, something that voters had asked for. "Our joint goal is to ensure a strong economy, social security for all, an even regional development and Slovenia's position at Europe's core".

Fajon, who will take over as the foreign minister, referred to the coalition's plan to reposition Slovenia after the outgoing government sought alliances with countries such as Hungary and Poland.

Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said today's signing marked the end of a lost decade and a half, an era that saw Slovenia crawling from one crisis into another. "Bottom line is, the coalition agreement that we've signed is the line that separates us from the lost decade and a half and the hard work ahead of us," he said, pledging for the government to work for the future of all, not just a few.

Golob said the coalition would examine their agreement every six months in order to see whether the circumstances had changed so much that adjustments were needed.

He said the coalition partners had already agreed on their common goal before the election, which was where they wanted to take Slovenia by 2030. "We know where we are and where we want to get, the path is known and we'll then respond appropriately according to the circumstances."

Golob will focus on staffing the prime minister's office once he is endorsed as prime minister. He would like for the office to act horizontally, linking together the ministries that deal with the same topics.

23 May 2022, 17:35 PM

STA, 23 May 2022 - President Borut Pahor announced he would nominate Robert Golob, the head of the election-winning Freedom Movement party, for prime minister-elect after holding consultations with the deputy groups on Monday. He said he had established during the consultations that Golob undoubtedly enjoyed the necessary support to be elected. 

Pahor congratulated him and wished him good luck in "forming, appointing and leading the government". He expressed hope for "excellent cooperation".

The president noted Golob would be the fifth prime minister and his government the sixth with which he had cooperated in almost ten years in office, and stressed he had the same standards for all. He added he had always let each prime minister set the amount and intensity of their cooperation.

Golob thanked Pahor for his constructive attitude and for understanding their motive for forming the government as soon as possible. The main reason is that the summer could thus be used for preparations for the autumn, which will bring energy price hikes and potentially a new wave of Covid, Golob said.

He pointed out that the Freedom Movement truly wanted to change the political culture and remove hate speech from politics. Respectful dialogue is the main change he announced for this year. "If this means we have to give up a politician, we will," he asserted.

He moreover called for broad cooperation, including with parties in the opposition, and said he would like to have a two-thirds majority, which will be needed to change the election legislation, by autumn.

"I believe that if we build a truly broad programme coalition, we can address the most fundamental issues of the future," said the prime minister-designate.

Cooperation with the opposition will be programme-based, independent from the ruling coalition, which must start its work as soon as possible, he said.

Among the issues which Golob wants to tackle with support of the opposition he mentioned the pension reform and simplifying the government appointment procedure.

Golob said he would talk cooperation with those opposition parties that would prove with their deeds that they are constructive.

Pahor has not commented on the opposition filing over 30 legislative proposals and referendum motions to at least temporarily prevent the announced expansion of the cabinet. He believes that if the proposals were in line with the law, this was a matter of political culture.

The Freedom Movement is expected to present its new deputy head on Wednesday, Golob said, adding that the party's deputy group will remain divided into eight smaller groups of four MPs.

He would like ministerial candidates to be quizzed by parliamentary committees this week. Responding to criticism that the opposition will not have time to prepare for the hearings, he said the candidates had been known for a while.

Commenting on cooperation with the two minority MPs, who are hoping to sign an agreement with the government, Golob said that in the past they had been put in an "unenviable position" of tipping the scales. An agreement on cooperation might be concluded in the autumn, he said, adding though that this was not a government priority.

After the president held consultations with the Social Democrats (SD) and Left, the prospective coalition partners to the Freedom Movement, the heads of the parties' deputy groups said they would endorse Golob as the prime minister-designate.

SD's Jani Prednik said that the voters had clearly said in the 24 April election that they wanted change, including at the top of the government.

Left's Matej T. Vatovec meanwhile noted that the party leadership had been given the mandate to enter a government led by Golob, adding that the Left MPs would endorse him as the National Assembly holds the vote, expectedly on Wednesday.

Also expressing support for Golob were the representatives of the Italian and Hungarian minorities in parliament, Felice Žiža and Ferenc Horvath, respectively.

Žiža said that the MPs had already discussed with Golob the manner of cooperation with the new government and possible individual projects, adding that detail would be sorted out at a meeting next week.

On the other hand, the head of the Democrats (SDS) deputy group Jelka Godec, while noting that the Freedom Movement has support of 53 deputies, said that the SDS would not endorse Golob. The same decision was made by New Slovenia (NSi).

21 May 2022, 10:31 AM

STA, 20 May 2022 - The government adopted on Friday a bill on emergency measures to regulate the situation of displaced Ukrainians and to help Slovenian business cope with the consequences of the war in Ukraine with favourable loans.

The bill was adopted to enhance the implementation of the government's March regulation that activated, based on EU law, Slovenia's temporary protection of displaced persons act to help Ukrainians leaving their homes after Russia's 24 February invasion of Ukraine, the government said after its correspondence session.

The bill aims to intensify the mechanisms introduced by the March regulation in a bid to implement temporary protection for Ukrainian citizens in Slovenia.

It envisages changing certain regulations governing temporary protection to effectively and comprehensively address the situation of persons enjoying temporary protection.

Measures are also planned to disburden state institutions overwhelmed by displaced Ukrainians and speed up temporary protection procedures so that persons with the status can enjoy the assigned rights promptly.

Government data shows that until 12 April, 4,733 Ukrainian citizens filed applications for temporary protection. Unofficial figures from early May were meanwhile by around 1,000 higher.

The bill is thus designed to ease the burden on all related public services - social care, healthcare, public security etc, and eliminate some of the shortcomings that have proved to be a problem in practice.

To help Slovenian companies that have been affected by the Ukrainian crisis, a temporary measure of providing liquidity funds for companies in the form of favourable loans will be introduced.

The loans will be given out through the Slovenian Enterprise Fund, but the government did not say how much money will be available.

The government said that the companies are also faced with rising energy prices and interrupted supply chains, which requires rapid action to prevent the hard-to-repair consequences for the Slovenian economy and the state.

The bill, drafted by the Defence Ministry, was sent to the National Assembly to be fast tracked through parliament.

21 May 2022, 06:43 AM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 13 May
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's new parliament opened with the confirmation of the terms of all 90 MPs and the election of former judge Urška Klakočar Zupančič as speaker in what is the first time that a woman MP will lead the National Assembly. The new opposition - the SDS and NSi - meanwhile tabled more than two dozen bills, a move that will delay the passage of legislation crafted by the new coalition.
        LJUBLJANA - The government asked parliament to terminate several bilateral agreements with Russia as a means of increasing political pressure on the country and contribute to peace. The initiative was formally tabled on the opening day of the new parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - A majority of RTV Slovenija trade union members opted to stage a token strike on 23 May in protest at a situation they describe as "unbearable" due to policies pursued by the management and the Programme Council. The strike demands include editorial and institutional autonomy and resignation of senior management and editorial staff.
        LJUBLJANA - A new regulation entered into force increasing the amount of state aid for the payment of social security contributions of religious staff. The figure has gone up from 48% to 100% of the average pay provided that religious communities meet some conditions. The bulk of the money will go to the Catholic Church.
        LJUBLJANA - The Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) announced it had revoked a decision to initiate the sale of two tourism companies, Istrabenz Turizem and Thermana, citing the recent change of the national tourism strategy. The government adopted a new seven-year tourism strategy on 11 May to stipulate that equity stakes in tourism companies in the BAMC portfolio remain in state ownership.

SATURDAY, 14 May
        LJUBLJANA - The presidency of the Social Democrats (SD) got acquainted with the content of the coalition agreement. The Freedom Movement and the Left having already endorsed the pact, the coalition agreement is now formally initialled.
        VIENNA, Austria - Ambassador to Austria Aleksander Geržina criticised Austria's decision to extend checks on the border with Slovenia, telling the Austrian news agency APA that the measure had not been properly justified by the authorities.

SUNDAY, 15 May
        LJUBLJANA - Senior officials spoke in favour of increased defence spending, in the face of heightened security risks at a ceremony marking Slovenian Armed Forces Day. "No matter how much Slovenia sincerely strives for the peaceful resolution of all disputes, it may not turn a blind eye to the current tense circumstances," said President Borut Pahor.

MONDAY, 16 May
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani hailed the good relationship between their countries and expressed the hope that Qatari investors would invest in Slovenia as the emir started a two-day visit to Slovenia, accompanied by a large delegation featuring the ministers of foreign affairs, finance and trade. Slovenia's SPIRIT agency and Qatar Holding LLC signed a memorandum of understanding on the occasion.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's economy expanded at an annual nominal rate of 9.8% in the first quarter of this year driven by household spending and capital expenditure. The seasonally adjusted rate was 9.6%. At the quarterly level GDP was up by 0.8%, a significant slowdown compared to the 5.3% recorded in the previous quarter, the Statistics Office reported.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission has downgraded its economic growth forecast for Slovenia by 0.1 percentage points to 3.7% for this year and by half a point to 3.1% for 2023. The rates are still substantial above those forecast for the eurozone. Inflation is projected to run at 6.1% in Slovenia and the rest of the eurozone this year.
        LJUBLJANA - Economist Marko Pahor assessed that the coalition agreement of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats and the Left is much more leftist than centrist. He sees many of the priorities as expensive and thus unrealistic. Mitja Kovač expressed shock and disappointment, as the agreement "mostly deals with massive rearranging of funds and extreme increase in spending."
        LJUBLJANA - Doctors expressed strong opposition to the announcement in the draft coalition agreement that doctors in the public sector will be fully banned from working for private providers. Nurses, on the other hand, welcomed an announcement of better pay and of a new set of standards and norms for staffing and workload.
        LJUBLJANA - The MPs of the emerging coalition have filed a request to form a parliamentary inquiry that will look into alleged illegal financing of "party political propaganda in the media with funds of state-owned companies, state institutions or foreign institutions or entities."
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana city council endorsed the energy strategy for 2022-2030, envisaging a 40% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 2008 and zero net greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century. Three hydro power plants on the Ljubljanica river are planned along with a waste-to-energy plant and number of solar power plants.

TUESDAY, 17 May
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Defence Minister Matej Tonin acknowledged that talks with Germany for a swap under which it would send Yugoslav-era tanks to Ukraine in exchange for more modern German armoured vehicles have stalled, but he said negotiations were continuing. He said the equipment Slovenia intend to send to Ukraine was ready for transport and Germany had been notified what kind of equipment Slovenia expects in return.
        LJUBLJANA - The names of the remaining nominees for ministers were revealed. The Left confirmed that the party's vice-president Asta Vrečko was slated for the culture portfolio and Simon Maljevac, the party's secretary general, for labour, the family and social affairs. Irena Šinko, a senior civil servant, is the Freedom Movement's candidate for agriculture ministry.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Five Slovenian MEPs sent a public letter to Austria and the European Commission criticising the recent decision of Austria to again extend police controls on the border with Slovenia, labelling the move as unjustified and disproportionate. They argue that this is confirmed by the valid EU law and the recent decision of the EU Court of Justice.
        LJUBLJANA - After the announcement in the draft coalition agreement that doctors in the public sector will be banned from working for private providers was met with pushback from doctors' organisations, Danijel Bešič Loredan, the candidate for health minister, said that such work would not be prohibited for now and was a more distant part of the coalition agreement that is planned to be in place by 2024.
        LJUBLJANA - Andrej Grah Whatmough, director general of the Slovenian public broadcaster, has put forward for director of the broadcaster's TV arm Natalija Gorščak, whom he himself dismissed from the job in August last year. RTV Slovenija said Gorščak was the only candidate to apply for the job in line with the terms of the call by the 13 May deadline.
        LJUBLJANA/ŽIRI - The Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) announced it had sold its outright stake in footwear maker Alpina to K&H, a Czech company that is part of the Franco de Poisd'eau & CIE group, for an as yet undisclosed amount reported to be EUR 20 million. The buyer has been picked not just because it submitted the best financial offer but also because of a thorough development strategy, BAMC said.
        LJUBLJANA - Prevent & Deloza, the Celje-based protective clothing manufacturer, has taken over Askö, the German maker of fire-resistant gloves for what the newspaper Delo reports is roughly EUR 2 million. The company plans subsequent takeovers to form a group that will offer a comprehensive range of equipment for firefighters, police and the military.
        MARIBOR - A memorandum of understanding between the SPIRIT agency and the Office of the Governor of Nevada was signed to help Slovenian companies enter the US market, a priority market for Slovenian companies as defined in a government strategy. The memorandum was signed on the sidelines of the PODIM conference.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission approved the re-introduction of a Slovenian scheme, including an EUR 150 million budget increase, to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the development of coronavirus-relevant products. The original scheme was approved in August 2020 and expired on 31 December last year.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor decorated four individuals for humanitarian work. Robert Waltl, a theatre director and leader of the Jewish Cultural Centre, received the Order of Merit, as did Ivica Žnidaršič, who heads the Association of Slovenian Deportees 1941-1945. The husband and wife team of Valerija and Ivo Čarman, founders of the Golden Bow Institute, a charity for children with cancer, received a Medal of Merit.

WEDNESDAY, 18 May
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) tabled a motion to call a referendum on amendments to the government act proposed by the incoming ruling coalition to accommodate for the changes they plan in the government makeup. The move was to delay the formation of a new government, but the prospective prime minister, Robert Golob, said he would stick to the plan to form a government by 3 June, albeit with the existing number of ministries, not the structure of departments he set out to have.
        LJUBLJANA - Robert Golob, the leader of the Freedom Movement and the likeliest new prime minister, said the incoming coalition sought to ensure employee involvement as he responded to criticism that the coalition agreement would push businesses into a corner. "A system under which the employer is the master ... and under which the worker has no say is a system of serfs. We do not want to be a country of serfs."
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry expressed Slovenia's full support for the decision of Sweden and Finland to join NATO, labelling the two countries as the closest partners of the alliance. NATO's door must remain open to European countries that want to join and meet the criteria for membership, it said.
        LJUBLJANA - The outgoing government proposed the recall of Slovenia's ambassadors to Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, Australia, Japan and Poland in what continues to be a series of replacements at some of the country's top diplomatic posts. The proposal will be now considered by President Borut Pahor.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) filed a motion to call a consultative referendum on the amendments to the RTV Slovenija act that the party submitted itself on Friday. The motion will delay the final decision on the amendments as parliament cannot vote on the referendum motion in less than 30 days.
        LJUBLJANA - National Assembly Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič told the STA she knew how to "leave her political convictions at the door" and pledged to be the first among equals to listen to all MPs. She believes that MPs should realise they are in parliament to serve people, not to "put on reality shows".
        MARIBOR - DEM, the company managing power stations on the river Drava, has been granted a building permit for a geothermal power plant at a wellbore in Čentiba in Prekmurje, the only Slovenian region reserves of gas and oil. The plant will serve as a demonstration project encouraging the production of geothermal energy.

THURSDAY, 19 May
        LJUBLJANA - The partners in the emerging ruling coalition will work hard to reach consensus both within the government and parliament, but when it proves elusive the Freedom Movement as the largest partner will tip the scales and Robert Golob as the PM will have the final say, reveals a protocol to be signed along with the coalition agreement.
        LJUBLJANA - The government revoked a deal to sell Yugoslav-made mechanised infantry combat vehicles in order to donate them to Ukraine, the newspaper Dnevnik reported. S Lux, the company commissioned to sell the vehicles, brought legal action with the Administrative Court asking for a temporary injunction.
        LJUBLJANA - Russia demanded that Slovenia reduce the number of staff at its embassy in Moscow by four within ten days, a move that comes a month and a half after Slovenia demanded an 80% cut in the number of staff at the Russian Embassy in Ljubljana due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Slovenia said it was negatively surprised by the move.
        WARSAW, Poland - President Borut Pahor began his official three-day visit to Poland at the University of Warsaw, discussing Europe's future with the students, and calling for a new convention on the future of Europe that would gradually lead to a United States of Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) continued to file legislative proposals after being relegated to the opposition, with the latest proposals dealing with two healthcare laws, the healthcare and health insurance act and the health services act.
        LJUBLJANA - Several civil society groups dealing with migrants, including the NGO Infokolpa Civil Initiative, denounced the candidacy of Tatjana Bobnar for interior minister due to pushbacks that police conducted while she was the police commissioner in 2018-2020. Bobnar responded by saying she understood the protest statement.
        NOVO MESTO - The Krka group posted EUR 432.5 million in sales revenue in the first quarter of the year, up 9% year-on-year. Net profit rose by 5% to EUR 90.7 million, the highest ever for a first quarter, the drug maker said.
        LJUBLJANA - Zavarovalnica Triglav, Slovenia's largest insurance company, posted a group net profit of EUR 33.2 million for the first quarter of 2022, a year-on-year increase of 25%.
        LJUBLJANA - One of the two persons treated in hospital for severe injuries sustained in last week's explosion at chemical company Melamin died, raising the death toll of what the worst industrial accident in Slovenia's history to six.

20 May 2022, 11:15 AM

STA, 19 May 2022 - Russia demanded on Thursday that Slovenia reduce the number of staff at its embassy in Moscow by four within ten days, a move that comes a month and a half after Slovenia demanded an 80% cut in the number of staff at the Russian Embassy in Ljubljana due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Slovenia said it was negatively surprised by the move.

Slovenia's charge d'affairs was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday and presented with a note, demanding that Slovenia reduce the Moscow embassy staff by four people, Russian press agency Tass reported today.

"In response to unfriendly steps, taken by Ljubljana earlier, on reduction of staff of the Russian diplomatic mission ... the Slovenian diplomat was presented with a note demanding to reduce the diplomatic staff of the Slovenian embassy in Moscow by four people within 10 days," Tass quoted the ministry as saying.

"Based on the principle of reciprocity, a decision was also made to correct the conditions of operation of the Slovenian diplomatic mission, considering the situation that our embassy in Ljubljana has found itself in," the ministry reportedly added.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry responded to the development in a written response labelling it as "a negative surprise".

It announced it would study the Russian decision from all aspects and consult with the EU countries that are in a similar situation before adequately reacting in due course.

In early April, the Slovenian ministry reduced the number of staff at the Russian Embassy in Ljubljana from 41 to 8. Unlike some other EU countries, it did not expel the diplomats.

Instead, it invoked article 11 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, which states that the receiving state may require that the size of a mission be kept within limits considered by it to be reasonable and normal.

19 May 2022, 14:40 PM

STA, 19 May 2022 - The partners in the emerging ruling coalition will work hard to reach consensus both within the government and parliament, but when it proves elusive the Freedom Movement as the largest partner will tip the scales and Robert Golob as the PM will have the final say, under a protocol to be signed along with the coalition agreement.

The protocol sets out that the three parties - the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats and the Left, are equal partners in trying to smooth out their differences on proposals and will aspire to unity in communication and coordinated action.

By signing the document, the partners will commit to implementing the policies agreed by the government consistently and comprehensively, taking into consideration the prime minister's decisions, views, proposals, instructions and recommendations.

They will be required to refrain from making statements in public "in contradiction to those of the prime minister and other government members".

Appearing abroad and in contacts with foreign officials, they will not be allowed to make personal remarks about members of the government or their parties, or make comments that could harm the country. Nor will they be allowed to publish authorised texts based on information that is not publicly available.

Communication on government material will be through official e-mails and the ministers will be required to notify the coalition partners with all legislative proposals and other documents in the pipeline even before they are submitted for inter-departmental talks.

Those proposals will not be put on the government agenda until they are agreed or the deadlines for adjustment expire. Bills and proposals of implementing regulations will need to be agreed with coalition partners as well as with stakeholders such as trade unions or civil society.

If the coalition partners fail to reach consensus despite talks, the head of the respective government committee will be able to put the item on the committee's agenda but only if it is considered a priority.

If consensus is still elusive, the prime minister will call a meeting of top coalition officials in an attempt to resolve the issues. He will be able to put such open item on the government's agenda or withdraw it at any time.

The head of the deputy group of the Freedom Movement will be responsible for the coalition's coordinated action at the National Assembly. Decisions will as a rule be taken by consensus among the heads of coalition deputy factions and will be binding.

If coalition deputies do not want to back proposals agreed within the coalition in parliament, they will need to inform of their intention their deputy group head, who must in turn notify the other coalition partners.

If they want to support the opposition's proposals, they need to notify the minister in charge and coalition partners of their intention and try to reach consensus in coalition talks. If consensus is not reached, coalition MPs will vote against opposition-sponsored proposals.

Coalition partners also commit to refrain from submitting or supporting motions of a vote of confidence or non-confidence in ministers or the government, or proposals to dismiss the speaker or deputy speakers from the coalition ranks.

Another annex to the coalition agreement is a document that sets out programme priorities as intergenerational cooperation, climate policy, health and Slovenia in the core EU. As values of coalition cooperation it lists respect, freedom and responsibility.

As the country's key goals by 2026 it sets out a new social pact to ensure intergenerational alliance with emphasis on a strong social and housing policy, a green breakthrough, top-quality healthcare for all, a strong economic and regional development, accessible and quality education for all ages, and development of science and sport.

If a partner should decide to quit the coalition, they need to inform the prime minister and the leaders of other coalition partners, only then they can formally resign and the public shall be the last to be let known about the move.

19 May 2022, 12:13 PM

STA, 18 May 2022 - The Democrats (SDS) have tabled a motion to call a consultative referendum on the proposed changes to the government act, the National Assembly said. The SDS opposes an increase in the number of ministries and would like to give the government more "time to think about" government formation. This could delay the process by a month.

Under the proposed changes, the new government would have 19 ministries and one minister without portfolio, which would according to the emerging coalition of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and the Left boost efficiency and responsiveness.

The incumbent government of Janez Janša has 14 ministries and three without portfolio.

Freedom Movement MP Tamara Vonta said during today's debate in parliament on the changes that the new government would have three ministries more but that did not mean more spending.

There will also be no additional hiring in contrast to what the incumbent government is doing by offering a few hundred jobs in public administration just before leaving office, she said.

SDS deputy group head Danijel Krivec said the number and division of ministries had been made "based on the interests of parties and individuals" from the future coalition.

He said certain ministries were being "artificially divided, merged and transferred". He was particularly critical of the ministry for solidarity-based future, which he finds "artificially created and confusing".

This was echoed by Vida Čadonič Špelič from New Slovenia (NSi). She said every coalition had the right to form a government but that the NSi still disagreed with such increase in the number of ministries.

Lena Grgurevič from the Freedom Movement replied that the majority of voters had supported the party's programme and the proposed changes were a step towards implementing the desired model of managing the state.

Commenting on the referendum motion, the head of the SD deputy group, Jani Prednik, said this was "blatant misbehaviour" and a negation of the will of the people, who "said no to such politics in the April general election".

Speaking on the sidelines of today's parliament session, Prednik noted that every emerging coalition had the opportunity to form a government, pick the number of ministers and set its course, which was what the first 100 days were for.

"The current opposition is misbehaving and is already showing the modus operandi it had been displaying for four years, which we find unacceptable, and probably they are showing they are not happy with the election result, but sooner or later they will have to accept it."

The three coalition partners would like to form the government by 3 June, but now that the referendum motion has been filed, 30 days must pass before the National Assembly can vote on the motion and only then can changes to the government act be put to a vote.

According to Prednik, this could mean that the formation of the government will be delayed or that it will be formed under the existing government act and then rearranged later in line with the proposed changes.

Prednik thinks it is not very likely that President Borut Pahor would be asked to put forward the prime minister candidate later than planned, so the National Assembly is expected to vote on the prime minister next Wednesday as planned.

The coalition partners are yet to decide on future steps, he said.

This move is similar to the 33 legislative motions that were filed at the parliament's maiden session, said Mojca Šetinc Pašek, an MP for the Freedom Movement.

She believes these procedural blockades are something constitutional experts should deal with.

Freedom Movement head Robert Golob is scheduled to comment on the matter later this afternoon.

The head of the Left deputy group, Matej Tašner Vatovec, said stalling was the plan of the outgoing government to "buy time to continue its corrupt conduct". He also pointed to "staffing that is under way".

19 May 2022, 12:06 PM

STA, 18 May 2022 - Under amendments to the RTV Slovenija act sponsored by the opposition Democrats (SDS), the public broadcaster's license fee would no longer be mandatory. The new coalition opposes the proposal, saying it would ruin RTV Slovenija, whereas the other opposition party, New Slovenia (NSi), supports it.

Since the SDS filed a motion today to call a referendum on the changes to the legislation, the bill's consideration will take more time than initially thought.

In addition to the license fee becoming voluntary, the amount payable would be determined by citizens themselves, said Alenka Jeraj from the SDS as she presented the proposal at Wednesday's session of the National Assembly. According to her, the broadcaster is not as credible and objective as it should be and has lost 200,000-250,000 viewers in the past ten years.

The emerging coalition of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and Left finds the proposal an attempt to undermine RTV Slovenija in a financial sense as well.

They agree that the RTV Slovenija act needs to be changed, but in a way to depoliticise the broadcaster and ensure editorial autonomy, said Predrag Baković from the SD in parliament. They have also tabled their own version of the bill to achieve this, he added.

18 May 2022, 17:11 PM

STA, 18 May 2022 - Red pumps, red sandals and red trainers could be seen a lot in parliament today as female members of the future coalition parties decided to express solidarity with Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič, who became the target on insults on social media over her outfit at Friday's maiden session of parliament. 

Klakočar Zupančič wore a black mid-size dress, a black jacket and red pumps at Friday's parliamentary session at which she was elected speaker.

But her choice of shoes triggered insulting, sexist and vulgar comments on social media, web portal N1 reported.

As a result, a kind of red shoe movement emerged among female users of social media, urging women to support Klakočar Zupančič by wearing red shoes.

MPs of the future coalition parties, especially the Freedom Movement, responded by appearing in all types of red footwear in parliament today.

"I'm glad that women have recognised red shoes as a symbol of resistance to extreme chauvinism," Klakočar Zupančič was quoted as saying by N1.

"It's time for women to stop being judged by their looks and outfit," said Deputy Speaker Meira Hot. "It's inadmissible in 2022 that a parliamentary speaker is a target of such insults," she added.

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