“The quality of life, the numbers on the bills we’re paying and ultimately the atmosphere which indicates whether we’re moving in the right or the wrong direction” will be affected crucially by the turnout and distribution of votes at the parliamentary and local elections in 2018, according to the president of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), Janez Janša. “We just need to be aware of the power, the crucial power of every individual in the democratic process. That is, the power of one vote,” says Janša, who emphasises that the government of the Republic of Slovenia “must consider how any measure will affect the well-being of Slovenian citizens. How it’ll affect the living generation and also the fifth generation of our descendants. Who knows how to form a coalition, who knows how to lead a coalition has been shown.” Janša explains that SDS, with the promotion and detailed presentation of programmes for all 16 ministerial departments, also wants to encourage others to engage in dialogue and substantive debate.
The SDS president, Janez Janša, who has served as Slovenian prime minister twice and who was one of the key people in the fight for Slovenian independence, talked exclusively to Nova24TV about 2017, the current situation in the domestic and international socio-political environment, the programme of SDS for the upcoming election year 2018, and the key challenges that await Europe, or rather the EU, and Slovenia.
Let’s start by outlining the situation in the country. Driven by a favourable climate in the EU and exports, the Slovenian economy is recovering, and GDP is predicted to grow by a little less than 5%, but this is also one of the few pieces of data that is encouraging. Waiting times in health care are no shorter, quite the contrary. People responsible for the bank liquidity gap of several billions in the Slovenian banking system haven’t been held accountable, and the only threat to them is the commission of inquiry led by Dr Anže Logar. There was a money-laundering scandal in the largest Slovenian state bank, NLB, a bank which the government doesn’t want to sell. The ideological battle continues as the government isn’t complying with the decision of the constitutional court of the Republic of Slovenia on the financing of private elementary education. The Slovenian judiciary maintains its continuity, and the vicious circle in which Slovenia is led by networks from the background remains uninterrupted. What’s your assessment of the situation in Slovenia, from politics, economy and education to justice?
The same thing is happening that’s been happening during the last few periods, the last few terms. The economic growth that Slovenia is seeing at the moment has arrived here with a delay of at least three years due to a wrong response to the crisis in 2009 and 2010, and because of a completely incompetent government in the last term, Slovenia is simply on some lake, some surface, like a boat that goes where the European wind is blowing. Considering the favourable situation in Europe, and considering that the Slovenian economy consists mostly of exports – around 70% – it was only the strength of this wind, travelling on this European sea, European surface, that launched this economic growth. Everything that we were supposed to do ourselves, or rather, that the administration of the country, the creator of the environment in which the economy operates and in which individuals live was supposed to do in order for the growth to be reflected in the standard of living, in the pockets of citizens – there was simply none of that, and the growth could’ve been stronger and faster as well.
In less favourable circumstance in the term from 2004 to 2008, Slovenia experienced a higher economic growth, employment was higher, Slovenia’s debt was three times smaller, and there was a significantly greater growth in the personal standard of life. And today, the current growth is apparent, on average, in an increase of around €10 a month in the salary of the average Slovenian, which is relatively negligible. It’s of course better than stagnation or a downturn, but given the percentage of general growth and potentials, it’s negligible. That’s why everyone says, with the exception of a few individuals – for example, bosses in the public sector, whose salaries the government raised first – that they don’t feel this growth. And here, in this situation, the first part of the problem is that the true feeling concerning this improvement, this improved situation, is much too small. And the other problem is that usually after such a “boom” a cooling down occurs in the European economy, sometimes even a crisis. And considering that in this period the risk factors, which act negatively during a crisis, are just increasing, we can justifiably fear that possibility.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the recent increase in the number of employees in the administration of the public sector, not so much in the service part, but in administration. New offices and agencies are being established, the salaries of the management are increasing etc. This isn’t just an expense for one year – it’s an expense that continues from year to year and thus increases the structural deficit. I’m talking about the fact that restructuring, which is easiest to do in times of economic growth and when it’s also possible to finance some reorganisations and restructuring for a short period of time, even pay out redundancies, isn’t happening and during the next term, at least from the middle onwards, we’ll be confronted with surprises that no one today can imagine.
In addition to failed projects – the main ones, also with regards to public attention, were the second Divača–Koper track, which brought about a referendum, and the Magna Steyr project – 2017 has definitely been marked by the money laundering in the biggest Slovenian state bank – NLB. This isn’t just a Slovenian story, but an affair with an international dimension. How has the IranNLBgate affair marked Slovenia and what do you expect to happen in this area in the coming months and in the next year?
The effects will mostly be negative. It’ll have a positive effect for those that have already received or will receive commissions from this crime, and this concerns hundreds of millions of euros – enormous funds. It’s a sum that can buy an election in Slovenia. It’s happened before, and we fear it’ll also affect the next election. Experts say that for a billion of laundered money for a country which is blacklisted due to national terrorism and proliferation, due to the manufacture of nuclear weapons despite international sanctions, that for a billion of laundered money, commissions amount to half of that sum or even more. All the media in Slovenia aren’t worth that much. That’s a lot of money. It can be used to interfere with any sphere – bribe judges, prosecutors, police officers, investigators, the prime minister, ministers …
Has Pandora’s box been opened? The work of the commission of inquiry is being impeded at every step.
Of course, that’s also the reason for these reactions, the attempts to disparage the work of Logar’s committee, and the establishment of a new committee, which is now trying to portray this as a minor crime of some bank employees, in the worst case bank administrations, but avoids the question of how it’s possible for this to have continued after it’d been revealed – hundreds of millions in Iranian money for terrorists were laundered after the Slovenian president, the Slovenian prime minister, all key ministers, the chief of police, all competent people and the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) had already been informed about it – and nothing happened. No one was convicted, no one was charged, no charges were filed and there wasn’t even an investigation.
If SDS wins at the elections in 2018, can you promise to Slovenian citizens that those responsible for stealing the many billions of taxpayers’ money over the years will be held accountable? How do you plan to achieve this?
I can promise that. But it’s obvious that anyone who takes election rules and the democratic process seriously would have a much easier time winning the election if such things weren’t happening, if they were investigated sooner. Instead you have to fight against hundreds of millions in criminal money in the background, and in a country with two million citizens that’s enough to bribe anyone. If I give an example – at the last election those who received commissions from this transaction, a criminal transaction, could’ve invested as much per voter as our party could invest per candidate. That’s to say, for 1.7 million voters they could’ve invested as much funds per person from these commissions as we could for 88 candidates. And now call this a fair game, and to top it all off, they misuse the judiciary and thwart the campaign of the party that would’ve won.
Let’s take a look towards the coming year, which will be a turning point for Slovenia as both parliamentary and local elections are ahead of us. Before the elections, there’s usually a lot of talk about forming a government coalition, some already start forming it before the elections. This time we can also, with all likelihood, expect movements between parties and perhaps also some “alliances”. I’m interested in the position of the Slovenian Democratic Party with regards to forming the government of the Republic of Slovenia. Who will you invite to coalition negotiations?
The Slovenian Democratic Party has always been open to cooperating with those that earn a certain amount of trust from voters at an election. We’ve formed a government twice, and we’ve always invited virtually everybody. We’ve never rejected conversations or negotiations with anybody, and we’ve always formed a coalition with those that wished to cooperate.
Exclusions and rejections usually came from the other side. I remember what happened in 2004, when we talked with the then president of the Social Democrats, Mr Pahor. In front of our offices, where the conversation was taking place, his deputies told the cameras waiting there that they’d leave the party if it joined a coalition with us. So much about who led the Social Democrats in 2004 – they weren’t led by their president but by someone in the background, and that person then used other connections to prevent a bigger coalition from being formed.
Let me emphasise two more things here. For now, the Slovenian Democratic Party has been the only Slovenian party that formed a coalition which persevered through a whole term. Others haven’t even come close. We’ll see what happens with the current coalition. For now, I must say that even though it’d be better for the term to end and for regular elections to be held in June, I fear that they’ll fall apart sooner since the situation in the coalition is chaotic and media only report about how they’re attacking each other instead of solving current problems. The second thing that should be emphasised here is that SDS is the only party that also managed to form a coalition when it hadn’t come first in the elections. Who can form a coalition and who can lead a coalition has therefore been shown, regardless of any articles by people like Meta Roglič at Dnevnik or Potič at Delo.
On Friday (22 December 2017), the higher court confirmed the sentence of Dr Milko Novič. He’ll have to spent 25 years in prison.
From what I know about these proceedings, and I’ve read a lot, this confirmation of the judgement is a scandal. They’re keeping a man in prison even though there’s no serious evidence that he was the murderer. And the case is also full of suspicious circumstances. The judgement, as it was rendered at the first instance court and is now confirmed, will certainly be overturned, either by one of the higher Slovenian instances or by the European court. Convicting a person for murder on the basis of some expert opinion from some state institution that isn’t even accredited for such an opinion – someday this will definitely dearly cost those that were involved in the process, and above all, this drastically reduces the already low reputation of the Slovenian judiciary, where obviously great crimes can happen without the judiciary even noticing them. And in cases where it’d be necessary to assess things carefully, they’re judged carelessly.
I hope that at least part of the Slovenian public will think very carefully about this case and consider that we’re not far from the situation in which Mr Uhernik was falsely convicted. A while ago, there was documentary about this. In fact, nothing has changed since then, the same methods, the same principles, the same abuses are still there, partly also the same people or people who’ve been raised by those that set up such a system decades ago.
We continue with the international environment. Slovenia is also part of a big European family – the EU, and in the last few years, particularly due to the migrant crisis and the open-door policy, but also the naivety of some politicians, the EU has been severely tested, and only two paths remain open – disintegration or a return to its starting point, its fundamental values. What future lies ahead for the EU, also in connection with the upcoming Brexit, and what role does Slovenia have in this community?
In the last few decades, the European Union has also played a very positive role for Slovenia. This is still a project that is worth keeping, protecting and worth fighting for. However, in the last 10, 12, 13, 15 years, I have closely watched various developments, and some generational shifts have occurred in this time. The leaders that knew why the EU was formed – the leaders that knew that this wasn’t an economic project but a political peace project to ensure that the old continent would avoid battles between its countries and bloodshed and other dangers – these leaders aren’t at the forefront any more. People who kept this in their minds have either retired or, unfortunately, died. There are now generations of politicians who’ve grown up in prosperity, particularly in the western part of the EU, and above all they’re concerned with the euro and don’t understand that there are deeper reasons for the existence of the EU. These reasons are seen a little clearer in the east, in new member states, which includes Slovenia. This is also the reason for some of these tensions between the so-called old and new Europe, and I must say that the views of the so-called new Europe are much soberer, also when it comes to the issue of migrations.
Let’s also touch upon Slovenian foreign policy, which is moving away from the EU, moving away from the developed west, from the USA, and is making agreements with Russia, with the eastern bloc …
It’s a disaster, and here it’s, I must say, simply hard to watch the – I apologise for the expression – stupidity of some Slovenian politicians who in the same statements swear to respect international law and commitments that have been given but also demand from the European commission that the NLB bank isn’t privatised. In the same breath. Or when in the same breath they expect support from key international actors in this dispute with Croatia over the implementation of the arbitration agreement, and then they vote against something which has no vital significance, which doesn’t even relate to any principle of justice – I refer to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – they vote against the USA. Croatia abstained. Here, Cerar and Erjavec flexed their diplomatic muscles at a point that can only harm Slovenia.
The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and its council of experts actively participates in all key areas in Slovenia (health care, justice, finance, economy, education, employment, family and social affairs, public administration, agriculture, internal and foreign affairs, defence, culture, affairs outside Slovenian borders …). SDS has established a so-called “shadow government” which has in the past few months developed and presented to the Slovenian public comprehensive programmes for all Slovenian ministerial departments. You’ve also begun with the active promotion of many individual concrete solutions, and they’re above all structurally focused, in a way that would ensure a higher quality of living for Slovenians.
It’s important for politics to work for the people, for the well-being of the individual and for the prosperity of Slovenia. This is what our program is aimed at. We don’t make empty promises, our programmes have been developed by people, who’re already acquainted with these matters, who know how to run the departments, who know how to introduce measures in real time, who know that you can only spend as much as you collect or earn. By promoting the programme, we also wish to free it, or this entire approach, of empty words in the final month of the pre-election campaign, i.e. the formal pre-election campaign, when matters are treated very superficially, and there’s no time for parties or lists to face programmes for health, economy, finance, social affairs, traffic, infrastructure, and so on. By presenting the programme to the public as intensively as possible, we wish to encourage others to start a dialogue, to present these programmes and also, in a way, to silence those electoral or pre-electoral theoreticians on duty who begin asking three weeks before the election: “Do you even have a program?”
The SDS council of experts has been presenting the programmes for a year and a half already, focusing on a different apartment each month. I must say that the Slovenian national television, which everyone must pay for, whether compulsorily or voluntarily, covered only two topics out of 16, and at the same time reported on the proposal for a shops act from our former deputy Mr Čuš three times more often than on all our 16 programmes for 16 departments. If there were a proper media coverage, at least by those bound by duty, who are a national media, then there would already be a discussion in Slovenia about how, during the next term, things should be steered towards serving the people, the individual, and about how to work on the development of municipalities, local communities, town communities, villages, the country side, Slovenia as a whole, and not only a particular centre, which has received an additional €300 million for various programmes during this term.
What we’re doing isn’t a pre-election campaign, it’s an attempt to hold a serious discussion on how we’ll live during the following term; and it’s also an attempt to encourage others to present their suggestions.
To summarise today’s dynamic and interesting conversation with a final thought aimed towards the future. Mr Janša, Slovenia faces great challenges and tests. What decisions lie ahead in the election year 2018?
In 2018, we’ll be summoned to the polls twice – for the parliamentary elections as well as for municipal and city council elections and elections of mayors. This means that there’ll be parliamentary and local elections. Much in the future depends on how many people will vote at these elections, what the turnover will be like and who’ll receive the votes – the quality of life, the numbers on the bills we’re paying and ultimately the atmosphere which indicates whether we’re moving in the right or the wrong direction. These very votes will determine whether we’ll continue to “export” the young people who finish their education in their home country and would like to work there for a decent salary but are forced to go abroad to earn a living, which includes commuters and the like, and instead import people from Syria, Pakistan and Libya, which is what the government is doing at the moment, and give them, or spend on them, almost €2,000 a month – for a single asylum seeker. Or we’ll put a stop to this and say “no, thank you” to quotas and other insanities, even if they come from the most hallowed cries, and instead make sure to provide enough properly paid work at home, make sure that the economy will invest normally in development and create new positions, and that we’ll, based on this added value, also take care of our mutual needs, and at the same time get rid of all these burdens, which additionally weigh down every person who pays bills in Slovenia. Laundering money for terrorists, overpaying infrastructural investments three times over – all of this negatively effects the quality of living and the well-being of people.
Personally, I’m an optimist, and I wish a lot of optimism for everybody else. Next year, this new hope, this optimism, is needed. This leap into something new and great, into whatever we wished for, when, almost three decades ago, we voted for an independent Slovenia; it’s within reach. We just need to be aware of the power, the crucial power of every individual in the democratic process. That is, the power of one vote. In the end, we all have one vote, and if we don’t cast our vote at the election, we’re in fact voting for something we don’t want and then unjustifiably and vainly regret it. Therefore, in 2018, I wish everyone a lot of courage, especially when it’ll be necessary to make two visits to the polls.
You can watch the whole conversation with the SDS president, Janez Janša, on our YouTube channel: