Slovenia PM Faces Impeachment Vote Ahead Of EU Presidency

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 29, 2021 Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa addresses the press after his arrival at the Elysee presidential palace before a working lunch with French President in Paris.  (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

 

 

Less than two months before Slovenia takes over the EU’s rotating presidency, conservative Prime Minister Janez Jansa is battling fires at home and abroad — including an impeachment motion.

The vote in the Alpine country’s parliament is the latest crisis for the combative 62-year-old, known for his support for former US president Donald Trump and his outspoken Twitter posts.

Four centre-left opposition parties have initiated the impeachment bid, alleging among other things that Jansa mismanaged the country’s coronavirus response.

With the nation of two million suffering a relatively high proportion of pandemic deaths compared to other EU countries, the premier’s public approval ratings have slumped to their lowest point since he took office in March 2020.

Jansa’s critics say his moves against media he deems hostile — notably cutting off funding, which has also drawn Brussels’ attention — resemble the tactics of his ally, nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Thousands have gathered during protests in central Ljubljana since late last month. Holding placards that read “Stop the dictator” and “Freedom to the people”, they demand new elections.

“The foundations of the state of law have come more and more under attack,” protest organiser Jasa Jenull told AFP.

The protests mark “a breaking point, a litmus test”, showing an invigorated civil society movement, Ljubljana University professor of social psychology Vlado Miheljak told AFP.

– Clashes with EU –
The outcome of the impeachment vote — originally expected on Tuesday but now postponed until next week — is on a knife-edge.

As Jansa’s coalition has no majority in the 90-seat parliament, the decisions of a handful of independent MPs will be crucial.

A fragmented centre-left opposition failed to pass a no-confidence motion in Jansa in February.

If the impeachment motion succeeds, early elections will be the most likely outcome. But even if the three-time premier survives, further turmoil seems likely.

His reaction to increasing political pressure has been in part to turn his fire on the media — for one, cutting off funding for public news agency STA and calling it a “national disgrace”.

In the funding row, the European Commission has reminded Slovenia of the role independent news agencies play in ensuring “the plurality of media and information sources throughout the EU”.

A further run-in came when Jansa — who declined to be interviewed by AFP — disconnected from an online grilling on press freedom by a committee of MEPs in March, accusing them of “censorship” for refusing to play a video he had prepared.

“We owe the EU nothing,” he tweeted, dismissing some of the committee’s members as “overpaid EU bureaucrats”.

German Social Democrat MEP Katarina Barley, a member of the committee in question, told AFP that Jansa’s behaviour amounted to “utter disrespect for the European Parliament”.

“All this does not bode well, because a Council Presidency traditionally has to unite and not divide,” she added.

– EU’s ‘ugly duckling’ –
Jansa has also faced censure from yet another EU institution.

In an interview with the Delo newspaper, the bloc’s Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi criticised Slovenia for its “manifest lack of sincere cooperation” in failing to name delegated prosecutors to the new body she leads.

According to the Slovenian prosecutors’ association, the two candidates who had been in the frame for the posts before being blocked had previously probed graft allegations linked to Jansa.

Jansa has made “a declaration of war on Brussels” and become the EU’s “ugly duckling”, according to the Reporter, the country’s only conservative news magazine.

Most recently, Slovenia has also refused to exhibit art at the EU Parliament during its presidency from July. Objecting to pieces the parliament had acquired independently, it insisted the choice of works should be its “exclusive right”.

The government did not explicitly object to any individual works, but Slovenian media reported the controversy erupted over several artists’ pieces, including those by government-critical Arjan Pregl.

In a further headache for Jansa, independent news website Necenzurirano in April linked him to a proposal allegedly sent to the European Commission putting forward border changes in the region. This, said the report, was to address “unresolved national issues of Serbs, Albanians and Croatians”.

The proposal sparked widespread controversy with Slovenia’s own president, Borut Pahor, rejecting the idea and saying he doubted such changes “could be achieved in a peaceful way”.

Jansa has denied sending any such document to the European Commission.

Slovenia Re-Imposes COVID-19 Restrictions

Slovenia Flag

 

Slovenia, which had eased some of its coronavirus restrictions in February, said Sunday that they would be re-imposed until mid-April in view of the deteriorating situation in some neighbouring countries.

“We’re in a race against time,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa told a news conference, announcing the closure of shops selling non-essential items, as well as cultural and religious venues, a ban on public gatherings and limits on travel between April 1 and 12.

People would be asked to work from home where possible and schools would resume distance learning, the premier said.

“We hope to see a positive effect from the lockdown after April 12,” Jansa said.

People would only be allowed to leave the country on presentation of proof of vaccination or post-infection immunity, he said.

“We’ll only reach a sufficient level of vaccination to curb the epidemic in June,” Jansa continued.

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“Until then, we will have to take all the necessary measures to contain the spread of the British variant” of Covid-19, which is much more easily transmissible.

So far, around 200,000 people — or two percent of the population — have received at least one vaccine jab, according to official data.

Slovenia has reported just over 4,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in the European Union relative to the size of the population, with 193 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants.

The number of daily new infections has risen sharply in recent weeks, climbing from 750 cases in 24 hours in February to 950 at the moment.

The epidemiological situation in neighbouring Balkan and central European countries has also deteriorated sharply.

AFP

Bear Injures 80-Year-Old Woman As Slovenia Resumes Wildlife Cull

Slovenia Flag

 

A bear injured an 80-year-old woman on Saturday in central Slovenia, two days after the parliament adopted extraordinary measures to control the growing bear and wolf population.

The attack took place early Saturday on the outskirts of Vrh, a village 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the capital Ljubljana, civil protection authorities said, adding the victim had been hospitalised but was not in a critical condition.

News website 24ur.com reported the 80-year-old woman suffered only light injuries.

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With over half of the central European country’s territory covered by forests, regular culling has kept the numbers of bears and wolves under control.

But a court froze this year’s planned measures after environmentalists complained, demanding different ways to manage the populations.

The court intervention and an increase of attacks on cattle outraged farmers, pushing parliament to greenlight last Thursday an extraordinary bill to carry out the culling of 200 bears and 11 wolves this year.

“There are limits to everything, even environmental concerns. But once there are human victims, courts and other organisations remain silent,” Prime Minister Marjan Sarec tweeted on Saturday in a clear reference to environmentalists.

Although the bear population has almost doubled over the last decade — with 1,000 estimated to live in the wild — incidents with humans occur rarely and there have been no fatalities for more than 10 years.

Woman Arrested For Cutting Off Hand Over Insurance Payment

 

A Slovenian woman and her relative have been detained for allegedly cutting off her hand with a circular saw to get nearly 400,000 euros ($450,000) in insurance compensation, police said Monday.

The 21-year-old and her relative, 29, face up to eight years in prison on charges of attempted fraud.

“With one of her accomplices, she intentionally amputated her hand at the wrist with a circular saw, hoping to stage it as an accident,” police spokesman Valter Zrinski told a news conference.

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The woman is thought to have staged the incident, together with three relatives, earlier this year shortly after the group signed life and injury insurance contracts with five different insurance companies.

All four were arrested initially, but two were released.

The woman was hoping to get around 380,000 euros of compensation and a life-long monthly payout of some 3,000 euros, police said.

The group intentionally left the hand behind rather than bringing it with them to the hospital, hoping to receive three times higher compensation for permanent disability, police said.

But authorities managed to pick up the hand in time, and doctors in a hospital in the capital Ljubljana managed to sew it back on, Zrinski said.

The average monthly net income is around 1,000 euros in Slovenia.

AFP

Minister Resigns In Slovenia Over Corruption

 

Slovenia’s government on Wednesday suffered its third high-profile departure in a little over five months with the resignation of Environment Minister Jure Leben over a scandal concerning the construction of a new railway.

“Although I have a clear conscience, as a minister it would be irresponsible for me to jeopardise the credibility of the ministry I’ve been heading,” Leben said in a statement announcing his resignation.

He’s the third minister to have to resign since Prime Minister Marjan Sarec’s government was sworn in last September, with the other two forced out by separate allegations of bullying and abuse of office.

In his previous role as state secretary at the infrastructure ministry, Leben was in charge of the 1.2-billion-euro ($1.4 billion) project to build a new railway serving Koper, Slovenia’s main port.

In 2018 Slovenian media revealed that the infrastructure ministry had chosen a railway model twice as expensive as its nearest competitor for no obvious reason.

The ministry claimed at the time that the decision had been down to an “administrative mistake” and Leben denied any involvement, blaming subordinates at the ministry.

However, emails recently leaked to Slovenian media showed he had been involved in the process that led to the signing of the contract.

Sarec’s five-party minority government had promised to bring high ethical standards to politics and promised that “crime and corruption will not be profitable”.

However, despite the string of ministerial departures, polls show that the government remains broadly popular with Slovenian voters.

Earlier this month, a member of Sarec’s LMS party resigned for stealing a sandwich from a supermarket because he was annoyed about being ignored by staff.

AFP

Minister Resigns Over Bullying Claims In Slovenia

Map of Slovenia

 

Slovenia’s Culture Minister Dejan Presicek resigned on Monday after employees at the ministry accused him of bullying and abuse of office.

A week ago union representatives at the ministry had demanded that he step down.

The union claims Presicek’s bullying led to the suicide of an employee at the ministry and also accuses him of misusing an official car for private purposes.

Presicek has admitted misusing the car but has denied all allegations of bullying.

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec Monday accepted the resignation, saying that “after all that has happened, I couldn’t imagine this leadership team (Presicek and his two state secretaries) could continue working there,”

Presicek, a saxophone professor and former head of the Ljubljana Music and Ballet Conservatory, is the second minister to be forced out of Sarec’s center-left government — formed by a five-party minority coalition in September — after Development Minister Marko Bandelli resigned in November over abuse of office allegations.

Despite the scandals, a poll published by the private POP TV station on Sunday showed Sarec’s government was supported by 65.8 percent of respondents, the highest approval rating a Slovenian government has had in years.

AFP

Kane To Captain England Against Slovenia

Kane To Captain England Against Slovenia
England’s Harry Kane, (CL), England’s Eric Dier (CR) and teammates train during a national football team training session at the Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground in Enfield, north London on October 4, 2017. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

Harry Kane appears close to becoming Wayne Rooney’s successor as permanent England skipper after being handed the captain’s armband for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia by manager Gareth Southgate.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker, 24, captained England against Scotland and France at the end of last season, with Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson taking on the captaincy against Malta and Slovakia last month.

“He is captain for tomorrow, which he knew a month ago. We’d already had that conversation,” Southgate told a press conference on Wednesday at Tottenham’s training ground in Enfield, north London.

“He’s somebody whose leadership qualities are invaluable to us as a team. He’s in a very good moment as well in terms of his form.”

Kane has scored 13 goals in his last eight appearances for club and country.

“It makes me very proud,” he said.

“As a kid, you want to play for your country and you always dream about being captain, especially walking out at Wembley. That will be an amazing thing for me personally.”

Southgate has rotated the armband between Kane, Henderson and Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill in recent months after Rooney lost his place as a regular starter. Rooney has since retired from international football.

Kane’s Spurs team-mate Dele Alli will miss the game against Slovenia after being given a one-game ban by FIFA for making a middle-finger gesture during last month’s 2-1 win over Slovakia.

England require two points from their final two qualifying games, against Slovenia at Wembley and away to Lithuania on Sunday, to secure a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Southgate said he had not decided who will captain the team against Lithuania.

AFP

Rooney Injured, To Miss England vs. Spain Friendly

Wayne Rooney Injured, To Miss England vs. Spain FriendlyLiverpool midfielder, Jordan Henderson will captain England against Spain on Tuesday, with Wayne Rooney injured.

Wayne Rooney and left back Ryan Bertrand are injury doubts for the year-ending friendly as they were the only players absent from training on the eve of the meeting with Spain at Wembley.

Having started the previous game – a 0-0 draw away to Slovenia – on the bench, forward Rooney returned to lead the side in Friday’s World Cup qualifying win over Scotland.

He then missed training with a knee injury on Monday and later pulled out of the squad.

“Both are being assessed. They had minor issues this morning, so we’ll have a look at them as the game goes on,” said interim manager, Gareth Southgate, on Monday.

“Obviously, they weren’t able to train, so they must be a doubt, but until we look at them we won’t know for sure.”

Henderson, 26, captained England in their 0-0 draw in Slovenia in October when Rooney was dropped to the bench.

“I don’t think we can have just one captain,” Southgate said.

“We have several leaders. Too much responsibility has been on Wayne – we need to share that. Once you have a team of those leaders you can have a lot of success.”

Tottenham striker, Harry Kane will also not feature against Spain, having been released from the squad over the weekend as he recovers from injury.

The 23-year-old damaged an ankle against Sunderland on 18 September and only returned for 73 minutes of action against Arsenal on 6 November before joining up with the England squad.

He was an unused substitute for the 3-0 win over Scotland at Wembley.

Wayne Rooney Named On The Bench Against Slovenia

England-Wayne-RooneyEngland is set to drop Captain Wayne Rooney to the bench for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia.

In order to prevent last-minute injuries, Manager Gareth Southgate would leave the 30-year-old English forward out of the starting 11.

Southgate would address the press in Slovenia at 18:30 BST on Monday.

Former England’s national team manager, Sam Allardyce, had described Rooney as the right choice to lead the team.

Coach Allardyce said that the Manchester United skipper was hugely respected by his peers and has enjoyed the responsibility as captain.

Rooney is England’s record goal scorer and took on the armband from Steven Gerrard in 2015.

Aleksander Ceferin Emerges Seventh UEFA President

Aleksander-Ceferin-UEFAAleksander Ceferin has been elected as UEFA’s seventh President at the Extraordinary UEFA Congress in Athens.

UEFA said on its website that the Slovenian polled 42 votes from its member associations to beat his rival from Netherlands, Michael van Praag who scored 13 votes.

The UEFA Presidents since the European football body was founded in 1954 are: Ebbe Schwartz (Denmark), Gustav Wiederkehr (Switzerland), Artemio Franchi (Italy), Jacques Georges (France) and Lennart Johansson (Sweden).

France’s Michel Platini is the immediate past UEFA President and has been succeeded by Ceferin on Wednesday.

The new President was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia on October 13, 1967.

He was elected as President of the Football Association of Slovenia in 2011.

Ceferin has also served as a second and third vice-chairman of the UEFA Legal Committee since 2011.

Migrant Crisis: Slovenia Braces After Hungary Border Closure

Migrant Crisis: Slovenia Braces After Hungary Border ClosureDesperate migrants have begun arriving in Slovenia by bus from Croatia, after Hungary shut its border with Croatia to try to stem the numbers arriving en route to Western Europe.

Hungary closed its border, reinforced with a razor-wire fence, at Friday midnight, but many of the migrants aimed to continue north to Austria and Germany.

European Union leaders had earlier failed to agree on a plan backed by Hungary to send a force to prevent migrants reaching Greece.

Hungary’s closure of its border with Croatia comes just a month after it shut its frontier with Serbia, which was another transit route to Western Europe.

According to BBC, Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, noted that border controls with Slovenia would be temporarily reinstated to safeguard Hungary from a “mass wave of unidentified, uncontrolled migrants.”

Hungary and Slovenia are both part of the passport-free Schengen zone, but Croatia is not.

Euro Zone Economy Falls Deeper Into Recession

The euro zone slipped deeper into recession in the last three months of 2012 after its largest economies, Germany and France, shrank markedly at the end of the year.

It marked the currency bloc’s first full year in which no quarter produced growth, extending back to 1995.

Economic output in the 17-country region fell by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday, following a 0.1 percent drop in output in the third quarter.

The drop was the steepest since the first quarter of 2009 and more severe than the average forecast of a 0.4 percent drop in a Reuters poll of 61 economists.

For the year as a whole, gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.5 percent.

Within the zone, only Estonia and Slovakia grew in the last quarter of the year, although there are no figures available yet for Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.

The big economies set the tone.

Germany contracted by 0.6 percent on the quarter, official data showed, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis was raging in 2009.

France’s 0.3 percent fall was also slightly worse than expectations.

Worryingly for Berlin, it was export performance – the motor of its economy – that did most of the damage although economists expect it to bounce back quickly.

“In the final quarter of 2012 exports of goods declined significantly more than imports of goods,” the German Statistics Office said in a statement.

The euro hit a session low against the dollar after the weaker than forecast German reading and dropped again after the release of full euro zone figures.

Back revisions to the French figures showed its output fell by 0.1 percent in each of the first and second quarters of 2012, meaning the country has already experienced one bout of recession in the last twelve months.

While the European Central Bank’s pledge to do whatever it takes to save the euro has taken the heat out of the bloc’s debt crisis, even its stronger members are gripped by an economic malaise that could push debt-cutting drives off track.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that weak growth was putting his government’s deficit goal for 2013 out of reach.

Economists say the euro zone may also shrink in the first quarter of 2013 although more resilient Germany is expected to rebound.

“The chances that the (German) economy will return to growth at the beginning of this year are very good. The early indicators are all pointing upwards,” said Andrea Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit.

“The question is how strong the first quarter will be. We expect growth of 0.3 percent but it could be more.”

Dutch GDP dropped 0.2 percent over the quarter, keeping it in recession, while the Austrian economy shrank at the same rate.

WEAK PERIPHERY

For the more embattled members of the currency bloc, matters are of course worse.

Italy suffered its sixth successive quarterly fall in GDP – this time by a sharp 0.9 percent – putting it into a longer slump than it suffered in 2008/2009.

Its recession has been deepened by austerity measures that outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti introduced to stave off a debt crisis.

With an election due on February 24/25, all sides in a three-way race between Monti’s centrist bloc, Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left coalition and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right are pledging to cut taxes to try to kickstart economic growth.

Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, released figures two weeks ago which showed it remained deep in recession after a 0.7 percent contraction in the fourth quarter.

Madrid is also pressing on with harsh austerity measures to cut its debt but may be given more time to meet its deficit targets by the European Commission if its economy worsens further.

There are signs that countries like Spain are starting to benefit from harsh internal devaluations – marked by wage falls and job losses aimed at making companies leaner and more productive.

The ECB predicts the euro zone will pick up later in the year although its currency, if it keeps strengthening, could quickly snuff out any of those hard-won competitive advantages for its high debt members.

More recent data for January have already suggested some upturn in the first months of 2013, in the bloc’s stronger members at least, and if improvement comes it is likely to be seen in Germany first.

“The debt crisis has ebbed significantly and the global economy has turned up,” said Joerg Kraemer at Commerzbank. “Therefore all the important early indicators for Germany are pointing upwards. I expect noticeable economic growth again in the first quarter.”