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Prime Minister Janez Janša took questions from deputies

Today Prime Minister Janez Janša took questions from deputies in the National Assembly. Marjan Šarec from the List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) raised a question related to current developments in the country, Franc Trček from the Social Democrats (SD) a question associated with the fight against the epidemic, Luka Mesec from the Left with regard to the measures to control the epidemic and Janja Sluga from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) a question regarding the regulation of comprehensive use of cannabis.

“The President of the Republic of Slovenia held a memorial meeting a few days ago to mark the decision made by the then political majority or the Demos coalition in Poljče to call a plebiscite on the independence of the Republic of Slovenia. Had that decision not been adopted then, we most likely would not be sitting in this hall today as deputies of an independent state. When the decision was made, it was clear that practically no one officially supported Slovenia's independence, no one outside the borders of our country,” began Prime Minister Janez Janša. Continuing his answer to a deputy question from Marjan Šarec he said: “This continued until Slovenia’s independence. The then Secretary of State of the United States of America arrived in Belgrade a few days before Slovenia was attacked and said: ‘We support a democratic and united Yugoslavia,’ which was absurd, and ‘we will never recognise the independence of Slovenia and Croatia.’

In Poljče, we nevertheless decided to think with our own head, we trusted our judgment and for this reason we have an independent state today. Those who claimed only a few days before Slovenia was attacked that they would never recognise us, did recognise us, some within half a year, others nearly a year later. We have preserved this ability to think with our own heads,” said Prime Minister Janša. He responded to a statement by Marjan Šarec about tweeting in connection with the American elections, pointing out: “I will be happy to congratulate whoever is elected next US President. Slovenia nurtures good strategic relations as a partner with the US, regardless of the administration in charge. This has been the case in all the administrations I've led and will remain the case in the future,” said Primer Minister Janša. He also pointed out that the election is over either when the other side concedes a defeat or the official results are proclaimed. “Some have decided to follow the media wave with congratulations but I have decided otherwise. We will see who was right, but I assure you that this will not affect the future relations between Slovenia and the United States,” stated Prime Minister Janša.  He continued by highlighting that events related to the US presidential elections could even improve international relations between the US and Slovenia. Because those who clearly opposed steps to establish good working and operational relations with the United States over the past six months and tried to complicate the adoption of the act aiming at strengthening our own participation in the joint defence efforts that the United States promote regardless of who the president is or to which party the president belongs have suddenly changed their position and become pro-American.  He went on emphasising: “And now that you are all pro-American, I hope that you will support our proposal to the United States for placing a US military rotation unit in Slovenia with such unanimity. And that in the future you will endorse Slovenia's dedication to meet its obligations in NATO, where the United States is the central factor, more consistently. I am somehow very happy with the pro-American wave seen recently. I can hardly imagine that a single tweet could cause such a positive change in the direction of our friendship with the United States of America and I hope this lasts,” added the Prime Minister.

Concerning the fight against the epidemic, he asked Marjan Šarec why he had thrown in the towel when it was clear that the epidemic was coming to Slovenia and that we would have to join forces and resources to protect health and save lives. “Well, how can I impact the course of action taken by the American president, given that I could not influence your conduct at the time of your denial of the virus. When you and Nina Pirnat were saying that it was a somewhat severe flu, that one just had to cough into their sleeve and that there was no problem at all. And the opposition had to force you to declare a state of epidemic. And then you threatened your Minister of Health and, according to direct sources of information, you even physically attacked him when he was taking certain measures to contain the epidemic in due time. But, look, I don’t see the point in this quarrel. Neither in the fact that some final conclusions are being drawn, because we are in the middle of a very serious fight.”

Then the Prime Minister also called on the opposition to follow the example of its political predecessors 30 years ago who initially opposed the key political decisions adopted at the meeting in Poljče but were later ready to sit down at a common table to negotiate, and in the end the Plebiscite on Sovereignty and Independence Act was adopted by a large majority. “I believe we need something like this now because the situation is serious. The prospects for the vaccine are optimistic, which does not mean that it will be available to everyone in time to prevent a third wave. By the way, the steps taken by Slovenia from 26 October onwards have also been introduced by most other European countries. At the end we will compare who was more and who was less successful. But the fact is that the virus is here, that the situation is extremely serious, that we were warning some five or six months before the second wave that we should all download the application that warns of risky contacts, that certain things have been banned all this time, including gatherings, unorganized gatherings without any permits, and that not wearing a mask wasn’t a problem, but that you attended a gathering that was prohibited because of the viral risk.”

When answering a deputy question from Franc Trček about the fight against the epidemic, the Prime Minister said that the Government is not dealing with statistics, nor with windmills, but with problems. “Of course, there are many people who wait for the Government to do something and criticise it without proposing anything themselves. Or they wait to see where public opinion is headed and then they take sides. We are used to this and we don't even deal with it. Since March, the Government has been dedicating 80 percent of its capacities to the battle against the epidemic. And that is what colleagues in the Government have been doing for salaries that are, in relative terms, some of the lowest in the world. We are criticized by those who pay themselves COVID bonuses instead of being given to doctors, and by various female television presenters who earn 15 thousand euros a month,” said the Prime Minister.

He went on pointing out that the situation in Slovenia is the same as in most other European countries: “The difference is a few weeks or a few days, depending on where the wave came first. The only major mistake the Government has made in these measures was that “changing views” of the authorities regarding masks in schools. Look at the statistics. At a certain point, the bulk of infections came from the environment where they said it was hard to work with a mask. I have been wearing one 18 hours a day, and in healthcare masks have been worn for 10 years. Some wear it all their lives but are not paid much more than those in education. And then the figures increased because in these occupational groups there were three to four times more positive cases than the average. And the disease is difficult to trace because children show no signs. This mantra about how everything should be closed, with the exception of schools, which went across Slovenia like a wave, probably brought us a week ahead of some other countries that are now taking the same measures.”

The Prime Minister noted that we will curb the second wave as well. But we could have curbed it even with less-restrictive measures if the responsible majority had been significantly larger than it was and if the irresponsible minority had been significantly smaller than it was. He went on to say that more moderate measures such as wearing masks everywhere and certain restrictions whose observance depends mainly on how we behave in society are more effective when political opinion is united and where the media is on the same side, and less effective when people are divided. “Tell me what measures you proposed in time but that the Government failed to adopt. Tell me what measures you have welcomed. This Government has been criticised for everything it has done. If it failed to do something, it was criticised for that, too. I would be happy to sit down with anyone who has better proposals. We spend hours and hours with experts who suggest things. Everything is documented, we know when somebody proposed something and when something was adopted, what the position of the Government was, of individual ministers, expert groups, ministries; everything can be reconstructed retrospectively,” said the Prime Minister.

He went on to emphasise: “There was strong opposition to the purchase of large quantities of certain medical equipment, which has reached a critical stage today because the investigation of purchases started before the items even came to our warehouses, and on the other hand the laundering of EUR 1 billion for terrorists ten years ago has not been investigated. I believe more uniform criteria should apply when looking at the current situation. And let me again emphasise that there will be time for that. The Parliament will always be here, there is no state of emergency, you can hold sessions, commissions of inquiry and institutions are active, anything can be investigated. But maybe we could wait a week or so with some things and let those who shoulder the responsibility to make decisions concerning our health, life and death, do their work in peace.”

Regarding cooperation with the opposition, Prime Minister Janez Janša said: “As regards taking a step towards it ... We offered a cooperation agreement to all opposition parties in May. Some have accepted it and I thank them. They are involved in drafting measures and in legislative projects. Most of you have rejected this agreement even though it did not transfer any responsibility to the opposition. It was only a possibility for the opposition to be engaged in legislative projects and in the battle against the epidemic from the very beginning. Our offer is still on the table – take it and you will be involved from the very beginning. You will be there when the expert group presents proposals for measures, and you will be part of the dilemmas that my colleagues face when decisions need to be made and when they need to be made quickly.

The Prime Minister also touched upon the sixth anti-corona package of legislation:  “The sixth anti-corona package is on your tables. Each of these anti-corona packages contain more legislative changes that have a real impact on people’s lives than you managed to introduce in the first half of this term, in your entire term until you resigned. More such changes in only one package. And now the sixth one is on your table, designed by the same administration, with more or less the same rules of procedure and in the same administrative environment.” He said that mistakes are also made when pressed for time. “We are very busy, and we also make mistakes. I see nothing but criticism on the other side, no suggestions, only washing their hands. If we make a proposal, you are against it, and if we do not propose anything, we are criticised for that,” he stressed, adding that some behave as though we are already out of the epidemic, but we are not. “There is no guarantee there won’t be a third wave, and it’s high time we got serious. In this respect I would like to thank my colleague Židan, who wrote: ‘Let’s criticise the Government, but respect the measures, because they are intended to protect the lives and health of everyone, not only the governing coalition and the opposition’,” he said.

Prime Minister Janez Janša continued, discussing the first wave of the epidemic and the photo showing a food delivery worker receiving a fine from the police, and presenting the police’s explanation that this person was not complying with or was disregarding the decree ordering wearing masks. Namely, the deputy of the Left, Luka Mesec, claimed that he had been fined unjustifiably while he wanted to eat his lunch. “The person in the picture you showed does not have a mask. All these measures have been taken to limit the number of contacts as much as possible. My youngest son is a second grader and understands that,” the prime minister said, adding that lying about obvious facts results in even more people imitating the pattern.” “They say I am not a threat to anybody, I'll take off my mask and have something to eat. There is no problem if just one person does so. It is a problem when there is a lot of it, but during the epidemic a small percentage is enough. And you make a hero out of someone who has violated the decree intended to protect public health, including your health,” added Prime Minister Janša. He added that the Government has nothing to do with the inspection and the police because they are doing their job. "They are doing their job and such decrees have been passed throughout Europe, and where they have not been passed yet, they will be, because this second wave of the epidemic is spreading gradually, similarly to the first wave, from country to country. Only last week you were all mentioning Austria as an example of how there was no lockdown, how everything was fine there. The networks were full of praise. From tomorrow onwards, the measures in Austria will be even stricter than in our country,” said Janez Janša. He added, “We are in daily contact with prime ministers of other Member States of the European Union, we talk and coordinate. The measures involve the cooperation of not only our experts but also epidemiologists from other countries. What we do is the result of collective reflection and figures,” continued the Prime Minister. “As far as accountability is concerned, you clearly agree that the new left-wing government is starting to work since you are saying you have 46 votes. You have the elected leader, who proposed Slovenia’s exit from the euro; appoint him, take the helm, exit from the euro and from the European Union in accordance with its programme, and we will see how this ends in the next elections. Do not call on us to resign if you can replace us,” said Janez Janša, adding that the proposal to dismantle the euro or the fact that the euro is a fascist creation was published by Jože P. Damjan in the magazine Mladina.

Regarding the regulation of the comprehensive use of cannabis, which was a question posed by MP Janja Sluga (SMC), the Prime Minister said: “Chapter 6 of the coalition agreement imposes on the Government the obligation to regulate the cultivation and use of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes. The regulation currently in force is the one that reproduces the United Nations Convention. There has been a rather serious debate on this status within the UN for some time. Concerning the regulation in Slovenia, it is probably too rigid in certain aspects in cases involving the cultivation of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food is therefore drafting amendments to two rules together with the Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection Administration, namely rules on obtaining a cannabis cultivation licence with the introduction of the cultivation of cannabis seedlings and growing in greenhouses, and the rules on growing seedlings, which will specify the conditions for the growing of cannabis seedlings suitable for marketing for further production. The adoption of both rules is scheduled for next spring.”

Regarding the comprehensive use of cannabis, Prime Minister Janša also said: “I can only say that everything that is covered with the implementation of the coalition agreement, all acts, are the subject of coalition coordination. Not only acts, but also bylaws. And that is what we will do in this case, too. I agree that some regulations are too rigid and put Slovenian producers at a competitive disadvantage, and that this must be regulated.”