The Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Janez Janša, was the guest on a TV Slovenija 3 talk show hosted by Igor Pirkovič. He spoke about vaccination, those who have recovered from COVID-19, curbing the epidemic, vaccination coverage, the current political situation, the balance of political powers, the upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU and the planned priorities.
The Prime Minister began by talking about the curbing of the epidemic, with the conditional easing of measures for those who meet the Recovered-Vaccinated-Tested requirements. In Slovenia, more than 600,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while almost 250,000 have recovered from COVID-19 and are not in immediate need of vaccination. We are 350,000 vaccinated people away from reaching the target number of 1,200,000 people, which would mean sufficient vaccination coverage to overcome the epidemic. In the opinion of the Prime Minister, until that goal is reached we can gradually begin living in these new normal conditions. In spite of this, we will still need to take precautions for some time, which includes certain preventive measures. Sufficient vaccination coverage will put a final end to the epidemic; however, the virus will continue to be present in isolated cases for a long time. In the start of next year, an effective medicine to combat the virus will be available. Janez Janša’s answer to the question whether the “vaccinations for all” campaign was successful was that it will become clear when we reach the target level of vaccination coverage, which is sixty to seventy per cent of the adult population.
He further highlighted that Slovenia definitely had its own particularities, including its attitude towards the epidemic. “In Slovenia, you hear people saying how strict the measures are, but they were, in fact, much less stringent that elsewhere.” In other countries, such as France, where they had relatively fewer COVID-19 cases than in Slovenia, everyone wore masks outdoors and there were no complaints or protests. In Portugal and Greece, the situation was similar, and people had to notify the authorities on where they were going when they left their homes. In reply to the host’s question about the fact that allegations had emerged in Slovenia that the authorities had taken advantage of the epidemic to infringe on people’s rights, he responded that the measures taken in Slovenia were dictated by experts. The Government did not devise the measures on its own, but did adopt them later, in some cases, due to a variety of reasons and to ensure more balance. He also highlighted the fact that, over the past year, the Government had not been dealing only with the epidemic but also with events that were unique to Slovenia. Slovenia is the only country where the Constitutional Court imposed on the Government that it had to extend COVID-19 measures on a weekly basis, despite it being clear that they would have to be in place for months, considering the number of cases. “We experienced significant issues with the Information Commissioner. There were constantly hurdles to overcome, with the tracing app, with the vaccination app. The whole of Europe had already implemented certain solutions while our hands were still tied.”
Concerning the balance of political powers in Slovenia, the Prime Minister pointed out that the Slovenian parliament is relatively small and there is practically one party for every ten deputies – another situation unique to Slovenia – and that this lack of stability has surely cost the country around 20% of GDP over the past 30 years. “It could be much higher if we could achieve greater stability in a democratic way. We have made efforts to do so, recommended changes to the electoral system, but unfortunately it is in the interest of some people to ensure the legislative branch is weak, that the Government is weak, and that they can exercise their powers from the shadows. They did everything they could to ensure that the system was set up so that institutions are weak, with certain para-institutions taking centre stage and them dictating events from behind the curtain.” What we see happening in the Slovenian parliament is, in his opinion, only part of what is going on. Behind the scenes, deputies are being persuaded, threatened and, as we have seen, even bought. Janša drew attention to the severe media pressure taking place, where instead of the mainstream media advocating stability, it is supporting instability and the preservation of privileges to prevent the situation from changing. He believes that it is not unique to Slovenia for the opposition to want to bring down the Government. However, the problem is that they want to instate a new normal in this area, too. The Prime Minister also brought attention to the four unconnected deputies who want to take over not only the position of President of the National Assembly, but also a handful of other functions, declaring the Government a dictatorship if they do not get their way. “Name a country where four deputies control the function of the President of the National Assembly and the entire procedure, which must follow the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, the Constitution and laws, and the person who is technically in charge of this procedure is blocking it,” said Prime Minister Janša. It was also always the case that the position of President of the National Assembly belonged to the coalition and Janša recalled how Matej Tonin resigned from this position the same day as the coalition at the time was formed. In his opinion, it is those in the shadows that are holding the reins. “Those who are protecting their privileges and their interests, for which they are not held at all accountable,” said Janša. He believes that these forces operating behind the curtain want to maintain instability to safeguard their privileges. “They do not care if the price to pay for this is damage to the country’s reputation, lower pensions, lower salaries and the fact that people will continue to face bureaucratic obstacles or an environment not conducive to business,” said the Prime Minister.
With regard to its working with the opposition, the Prime Minister said that the Government has made two formal offers on cooperation with the opposition. Some members of the opposition accepted the offer while others did not. The offer, which is in the interest of Slovenia, still stands. “I doubt that the parties that have already refused cooperation twice would accept the offer now; however, their voters would probably reward such a decision.” As regards the potential vote of no confidence, the Prime Minister said all options remain open, adding that all key legislation in the last year was adopted by a majority. However, he agreed that the latest incident in the National Assembly has affected the content. A number of laws were supposed to be adopted at the regular session. People have been waiting for quite a while for these laws, which should solve many of their practical problems. The situation will now be solved through extraordinary sessions. The Prime Minister went on to discuss people’s trust in institutions such as the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which he believes to be a state-independent authority not found elsewhere and, as someone said before, established to persecute second-class citizens. He highlighted the case of Tomaž Vesel, which according to the Prime Minister is one for the books. Experts will analyse the case in more detail; however, it is a case that does not comply with the European view of normality. “They are trying to portray that it is nothing out of the ordinary for the President of the Court of Audit to oversee an institution such as FIFA or UEFA, a profit-making organisation making billions, in his free time, for which he is being rewarded with a million euro over four years.”
The Prime Minister also touched upon the freedom of expression, the changing role of the media with the rise of social networks, and the importance of education for the individual. “Freedom of expression is being interpreted as freedom of the press.” According to the Prime Minister, it is competitiveness that guarantees freedom of the press. However, freedom of the press cannot come before an individual’s freedom of expression. The media are there so that individuals can express themselves freely through them. “When freedom gains new dimensions and a person has the means to do what they want, this is hard to stop.” When asked about how much attention Slovenian media coverage and rumours about obscurantism, Orbanisation, the absence of the rule of law and the pressure on the media receive in Europe, the Prime Minister responded that no one has ever asked him about any of these matters. “A lie is written in Slovenia on some website, sent to another colleague in Europe and then sent back to Slovenia in a refined version. The virtual image of Slovenia is thus exported abroad and imported back again.” According to the Prime Minister, this Government would not be in power if the “caviar-socialist left would be as successful in promoting and exporting Slovenian products and services when they were in power as they are now in exporting and importing lies”.
Later in his talks with Igor Pirkovič, the Prime Minister spoke of the preparations for the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU and on the importance of the presidency itself. “Success is measured in the number of matters you move forward, the specific issues you solve and the priorities you deliver.” Cyber security and improving the resilience of the European Union to the epidemic and to similar challenges were added to the list of Slovenia’s priorities, the Prime Minister said. Many foreign policy challenges, from the Western Balkans to the neighbouring eastern countries were also added to the list. “Our Presidency of the Council of the EU will not be technical. A discussion on the future of Europe will be taking place during our presidency, where the possibilities of our common European future will be discussed.” The Prime Minister also said that Slovenian masters of lies make up lies and cause quite a stir; however, while these lies may reach the European Parliament, they hold no significance in bodies where decision‑making actually takes place. Not only do the lies not gain attention, they are unheard.
Regarding the economic forecast, the Prime Minister said that the Slovenian economy has been kept in good shape. As for economic optimism in the euro area, according to data for May, Slovenia has reached a three-year record high , and the Prime Minister believes this to be a good sign. “My European colleagues say that a five per cent unemployment rate is not unemployment at all, but rather full employment.” The Prime Minister also said there has never been as much social dialogue as in the past year. “No legislative package was send to the National Assembly without consulting both the business sector and the trade unions first. Naturally, not all proposals could be taken into consideration, but jobs and the standard of living were preserved.” The Prime Minister said he knows some people are on edge because their privileges are no longer guaranteed. “I call upon everyone, to also prioritise state-forming and the country’s reputation,” the Prime Minister said and added “If during the presidency our reputation is lost because we tear ourselves apart during this time, all future governments will have to bear the consequences of this action. No one in Europe cares which party is in power.”
At the end of the talk, the Prime Minister and the host touched upon Slovenia’s 30th anniversary. “We are celebrating the 30th anniversary as a member state of both the European Union and NATO, of which our four neighbouring countries are also members. We will be presiding over the Council of the EU, basically Europe, for the second time in our history. Compared to 30 years ago, the difference in the favour of the present could not have been bigger. It would only be right to draw our confidence for the future from this moment and not spend our energy on fruitless meaningless fighting amongst ourselves.”