A slightly different conversation with the Prime Minister: On the current political situation, in the heart the mountains

Prime Minister Janez Janša in an interview with Nova24TV.

In an interview with Nova24TV, Prime Minister Janez Janša emphasized that the coalition agreement is the most important to him. He assured that after the latest meeting of the coalition, the DeSUS party is remaining a strong member of the coalition. He sees the divisions in the pensioners’ party as a problem within the party, which the party must resolve on its own. He highlighted the importance of establishing a demographic fund and a demographic office, as the most important challenges of the current government.

The Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša, attended the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the new mountain lodge at Okrešelj. One of the oldest mountain lodges, the Frischauf lodge (Frischaufov dom), burned to the ground in November 2019, due to a fault in the electricity grid. The host of the show Topic of the day (Tema dneva), Luka Svetina, took the opportunity and asked the Prime Minister of Slovenia about the renovations of mountain lodges in Slovenia, the situation concerning the DeSUS party in the coalition, the interpellation of the Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs, anonymous criminal charges, the supplementary budget, and Fridays’ illegal cycling protests.

At the beginning of their conversation, Janša said that there are several programmes for the ecological rehabilitation of mountain lodges currently operating in Slovenia. The state can help rebuild mountain lodges with the use of European funds. Unfortunately, there are some problems with the legislation, as some regulations are very rigid. He believes that certain regulations should be stricter, while others should be a bit softer. “It is not the same thing to build in the high mountain range or in the medium mountain region, as it is to build in the middle of Ljubljana. We are now trying to harmonize this so that construction will be easier and faster.” Furthermore, the interlocutors touched on the political tensions within the DeSUS party.

Janša assures that DeSUS continues to be a stable member of the coalition
Janša emphasized that the coalition agreement is the most important for him. He assured that after the latest meeting of the coalition, the DeSUS party is remaining a strong member of the coalition. He sees the divisions in the pensioners’ party as a problem within the party, which the party must resolve on its own. “This is not a matter for the coalition; they can solve this as a sovereign party. When a new president of the party will be elected at the Congress, he or she will become the new deputy prime minister, as part of the coalition agreement. Until then, this issue is being put on hold,” Janša said when Svetina asked him about the status of the current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Aleksandra Pivec. The Slovenian Prime Minister said that as a temporary representative of the smallest government party, Tomaž Gantar would take part in the important upcoming decisions of the coalition. “This is their decision. The coalition accepted this. The coalition does not determine who will represent the party. Each party decides that on its own, by its own statutes and rules.”

On Friday, the coalition also had to vote in the interpellation against the Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs. As Svetina, the host of the show said, the DeSUS party said that not all deputies would vote against Hojs’ interpellation. Janša is not burdened by this, as it has already happened in previous coalitions, that not all coalition deputies voted unanimously. He did warn that if any of the coalition parties went against the rules written in the coalition agreement, it would mean that this party would lose the status of a coalition party. But Janša is not worried about the DeSUS deputies helping overthrow Minister Hojs. “I believe that the DeSUS parliamentary group will act accordingly. That is what they publicly stated after our last meeting,” he stressed.

The reason for Minister Hojs’ interpellation is stupid
When asked if the interpellation makes sense, even though it was filed because the Ministry of the Interior followed the ruling of the Administrative Court and allowed for a concert by the Croatian rock musician Marko Perković Thompson to happen, the Prime Minister said: “That is exactly it. Various settlings of the political accounts. I have no problem with what happened. I am sure the Minister has all the answers. On a formal level, the reason for the interpellation is stupid. The Minister is being accused of not influencing the administrative procedure. There are certain facts, as far as the interpellations are concerned. An interpellation is filed or requested if the Minister breaks the law. He would be breaking the law if he got involved in this process. However, he did not break it, as this procedure was carried out in accordance with the decision of the Administrative Court. The Minister did not even know that this procedure was ongoing. He did not interfere in the proceedings. I have to use that word – it is downright stupid of those who constantly shout about the rule of law, to file an interpellation against the Minister, for respecting the law.”

The left-wing parties of the opposition and the related media, as well as the civil society representatives, were causing quite the commotion because the Prime Minister did not accept the, in their opinion, irrevocable resignation of the Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs. But as Janša pointed out, Hojs simply offered his resignation. However, in the situation in which Slovenia has found itself, it is necessary to have an operational Minister of the Interior; therefore, the Prime Minister did not accept Hojs’ resignation and did not send his resignation statement to the National Assembly. According to Janša, in addition to the epidemic, Slovenia is also facing illegal migrations. “We cannot afford to look for a new minister, as in the meantime, things would have been very loose. So, I told him at the time that I would consider it. I asked him to remain the Minister until then. That’s it. In short, the resignation did not formally occur. I did not forward his message to the National Assembly, with his consent. We had another conversation, and that is what happened.”

The Demographic Fund and the Demographic Office are one of the most important challenges of the current government coalition
During the current government’s term, certain prominent government officials are also facing mass anonymous criminal charges. Janša pointed out that there are actual criminal charges, in the true sense of the word, and then there are the anonymous ones. This is being exploited by certain Slovenian media outlets in the media fight against the current government. “Various anonymous letters without even a signature, are being treated as criminal complaints. But most people can7t tell the two apart.” Slovenian Prime Minister warns that a criminal complaint is an act that can be filed by an individual or the police. “It has to be signed. Somebody has to stand behind it. If someone files a false criminal complaint, he or she is also criminally liable for the false accusation.” And when it comes to the majority of the Slovenian media landscape, which is fighting against the government of Janez Janša, the Prime Minister said that “a media outlet considers itself to be a serious media outlet, and then claims an anonymous letter is a criminal complaint – this is total manipulation and mockery of the credibility of the journalists and editors.”

One of the most important challenges for the current government is the setting up of a Demographic Fund and a Demographic Office. The Prime Minister said that these are two separate things. The Demographic Office is very important, as it addresses more than just the issue of pensions and pensioners. “This is primarily a question at the beginning of the family birth policy, ensuring the strategic stability of the pension system. This can work if there are more and more of us contributing to the pension fund. We have a solidarity system. Part of this money is raised through good asset management.”

The Demographic Fund also recently received the final approval, after months of coordination, at the last meeting of the leaders of the coalition. The current Slovenian Prime Minister pointed out that the necessary procedures will now begin, while talks and coordination with other stakeholders are still needed. “Then, it will go to a formal hearing. I anticipate that this fund will be increasing in value, will grow… The coalition has cut off negotiations on what took years, decades, on what will be transferred to this fund. This was the key reason for the slow operating of the left-wing coalitions, as they agreed on absolutely nothing. And now, all state property will be taken care of responsibly, clearly. The opposition will also have a member on the supervisory board, as well as the representatives of the retirement organizations.” Janša pointed out that the fund will have very strict control, so that there will be no machinations, like the ones that are happening at the Slovenian Sovereign Holding or the Bank Assets Management Company.

Compared to other countries, Slovenia has a low budget deficit
The adoption of the supplementary budget will be another important challenge for the current government. As Janša pointed out, the public financial situation had also been discussed at the recent coalition summit. Andrej Šircelj, Minister of Finance, presented the data for the last eight months at the coalition summit. The Prime Minister is optimistic, as revenues for July and August show that they are at the level of the year 2019. In his opinion, Slovenia has now recovered from the epidemic. The Prime Minister pointed out that Slovenia had a low deficit, compared to other countries in Europe. During the worst part of the crisis, the government took care of the retirees, the sole proprietors, and others by borrowing.

Among other things, they paid certain members of the population a solidarity allowance. Janša assures that the government knows how it spent every single euro. Unlike in the past, when Slovenian taxpayers had to recapitalize the banking system with billions, this time, the banks understood the situation and the crisis. Thus, the banks contributed, among other things, by postponing loans, the Slovenian Prime Minister mentioned. “For the first time in the history of Slovenia, the government can actually tell you where the money, which is recorded as a budget deficit, has gone. For every single euro.”

 At the end of the interview, the host of the show, Luka Svetina, asked the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša what he thinks of the Fridays’ illegal cycling protests. Janša said that he and the other members of the government team have so much work to do that they do not pay any attention to the protests against the government. He said that this is the main topic in the mainstream media every week, but he does not follow what is going on at the protests himself. He is much more concerned about the so-called second wave of the coronavirus. “These gatherings endanger people’s health. An increase in infections, especially in the city centres where the protests are being held, show that the police and the health inspectorate will have to monitor the implementing of all adopted government decrees that apply to the control of the coronavirus more closely and strictly,” Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša concluded his interview with Luka Svetina on the show Topic of the day (Tema dneva).

Luka Perš