Prime Minister Janez Janša for Nova24TV: “Slovenia does not need dictatorship or a state of emergency. It needs common sense and solidarity.”
On Tuesday, 17 November 2020, Prime Minister Janez Janša appeared on the Nova24TV show Pogovor s predsednikom vlade (Interviewing the Prime Minister). In the first part of the show, the Prime Minister talked about the efforts to tackle the epidemic, and whether the Slovenian health system will hold on, the figures, and how the government prepared for the second wave. In the second part, he talked about the current political situation and post-crisis recovery.
When asked whether the epidemic in Slovenia was under control and whether the Slovenian health system will be able to hold, the Prime Minister said that it will and that the epidemic is not under control anywhere in the world. “It will be when the vaccine starts working.” He continued by saying that the current prospects are good and that the Slovenian health system, in its current form, is performing miracles. “In March this year, we had 120 available beds for COVID patients and 19 beds for COVID patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). These capacities have been multiplied by ten.” He denied the allegations that nothing was done in the interim period. “Much has been done, much more than I believed was possible.” He emphasised that the lack of staff cannot be resolved in such a short period and that the several bureaucratic obstacles cannot be removed either, where all efforts are being made to defend them. He pointed out that the situation is managed with intervention measures that work. Thus, new capacities were made available for COVID patients at UKC Ljubljana in a record time, which will relieve hospitals in the future as well. These are spaces that were uninhabited for the past 14 years.
How the government prepared for the second wave of the epidemic, the Prime Minister said that hospital capacities were multiplied by ten. “Let me reiterate. If someone had told me in April this year that our health system can manage this, I would not have believed them.” He went on to say that the situation in Slovenia remains serious. “The results of the measures that entered into force yesterday will not be visible until the end of next week. Until then, the situation remains serious. And it is probably the thousandth time that I ask everyone to actually respect these measures because no law, no measure, and no government can stop the virus. Only our rational behaviour and our solidarity can do that, but we must all agree to that. Now, when the virus is everywhere, it is not enough if only 20 percent of the population respects the measures. Practically all of us need to.” He added that the country may adopt any measure in the world, but if the people are not responsible for one another, for the most vulnerable, then the second wave of the epidemic in Slovenia will be long.
The Prime Minister then talked about the worn out equipment and infrastructure in Slovenian hospitals, and about the future plans in this area. “There will be many construction works and investments in the next three years. If they will allow us to continue working, then the situation in Slovenia will be different in a couple of years regarding capacities in the Slovenian healthcare system.” He indicated that the hospitals in Slovenia are very old. “The entire region has received practically no new capacities in the last couple of decades. This is the case for the majority of regions in Slovenia. A lot of money was invested into healthcare, a major part of that was lost in the various supplier networks, corruption, etc. If we sum up all the billions given by the Slovenian workers and entrepreneurs, even retirees, for the Slovenian healthcare system, we should, by now, have the most modern healthcare system, just like our neighbours, Austria. Unfortunately, this is not the case and so we have to make up for lost time. In the next three years, we hope to give each region a care institution and two new clinics for infectious diseases, in Ljubljana and in Maribor, a new general hospital in the Upper Carniola region, as well as several other additions to healthcare capacities in other regions. There will be major shifts here.” He again pointed out that there will be changes concerning material conditions. “Based on what we have available to us or potentially available to us, because the European funds are hanging in the air, unfortunately, due to the foolishness of events that happened in Brussels in the last couple of days. The other factor is people. Here, as has already been said, four years are not enough to educate a doctor, we need a decade of schooling and specialisations, the government is firmly committed and the first steps have already been made to correct the mistakes in the payment system, to correct the mistakes which are within the structure itself, to remove the healthcare system and other parts of the public service sector, and to organise everything. Otherwise, we may just school a couple of thousand people every year and they will just go elsewhere where they will be paid three times as much for the same work they do. Europe is a single market. A Slovenian journalist will have major difficulties finding a job in Austria, but a Slovenian doctor can get employment there for a significantly higher salary. This reality needs to be acknowledged and the problem needs to be resolved.”
The Prime Minister went on to answer the question why, in today’s times of the epidemic, there was an ideological attack on the historical agreement of the European leaders in the European Parliament at the July meeting of the European Council in Brussels. “The agreement was achieved with much effort and compromises from everyone. The agreement is worth nearly two billion euros and it also includes the rule of law commitment. But the rule of law is a value that is written in the very core of the Treaty on European Union and the Lisbon Treaty. And the Lisbon Treaty also includes instruments which ensure that the rule of law in Europe is respected. The Lisbon Treaty also has the so-called Article 7, on the basis of which a country that violates the core principles of the rule of law may be practically excluded. This has therefore already been foreseen in the legal norm of the European Union. Nevertheless, there was an attempt to have a technical harmonisation between the leadership of the European Parliament and the presiding state to the Council of the European Union, to establish an additional instrument where the majority in the European Council would decide on whether the rule of law is respected or not. A political majority would therefore make this decision, and these proposals may also be submitted by non-governmental organisations. If I illustrate this, for example, the Institute of Peace in Slovenia suddenly decides it does not like a government and initiates the procedure, believing that the European funds should be invested in Prekmurje rather than in Ljubljana. This is not okay, there is corruption in the background that needs to be inspected. A process is initiated, where part of a certain investment is frozen or even all of the European funds. And then, following a complex bureaucratic Brussels procedure, a decision needs to be made, where the Council decides with a qualified majority. That is the majority where, for example, ten of the largest states may outvote the others, and a couple more need to be included. Because a qualified majority is a larger threshold, but that is a misuse of the name. A rule of law is not when a political majority makes the decision. A rule of law means that when there is a conflict, an independent body must make the decision, an independent court, not a political majority. Because a political majority in the European Parliament or in the European Council is not the same every time. There will be a situation where someone might not like a particular country today, tomorrow it will be another country. This was the main argument at the July session, that someone in Slovenia may, for example, block a project in the Netherlands, the construction of a bypass around Amsterdam. A professional in our anti-corruption committee may receive some information, and decides that something is wrong there, or the Institute for Peace may reach that decision. It then initiates the procedure, things move forward, and the funds for the Amsterdam bypass in the Netherlands, a member of the European Union, are frozen. Imagine the media in the Netherlands, imagine the reaction of the Dutch government, saying why does Slovenia have the right to do that, etc. I imagine not two months would have gone by and then someone from the Netherlands would block a project in Slovenia, and this is a game that has no end. This is the dissolution of the European Union. This would be total chaos, total chaos, which would also lead to countries “messing” with each other, to say it bluntly. Because nobody would seek the truth, this would be interpreted politically. Then, in another important decision where consent is needed, the decision would benefit, for example, the Netherlands. You block the decision on some other grounds and the European Union comes to a halt. In short, this is a very crazy situation that was already on the table in July. It was formed exactly in the way as it is now in this compromise proposal, and after four days and nights of discussions, it was rejected and we returned to the Lisbon Treaty, where there are instruments stating that the court issues the final decision. The European Union does have courts for such cases. Now they seek to establish a “bypass” instrument, and there was a similar case in Slovenia some time ago when, in addition to the police, the prosecutor’s office, and the courts, there was this anti-corruption committee which, in the end, overthrowing the government.”
The Prime Minister went on to react to the accusations of those who initially believed that masks in schools were unnecessary, and later accused the government that it reacted too late. “Whatever we did, it would have been wrong.” He pointed out that this was the opinion of the opposition and the mainstream media, where, more than the opposition, they are firm on this belief. He said that Slovenia looked to Italy when it decided children should wear masks; children there had to wear masks from the age of six. The Slovenian government proposed a similar, albeit less severe measure then. Nevertheless, there was much criticism, and a decision was made that only teachers would wear masks during lessons. This led to many infections in schools because children do not show typical signs of the infection, and the infections also spread to other environments. “The only major mistake made during the second wave were therefore the compromises made with Mr Štrukelj, who publicly discarded his mask. I think this is what set off the second wave in Slovenia, and this is something I regret. He said that at the first possible date “when children, at least in their first years of study, will be able to return to schools and kindergartens, we will do that.” The Prime Minister continued: “Because of no schools and kindergartens, the work process was interrupted, everything has been interrupted, the consequences are felt by students, high school students, social care, if you will, we are aware of that. Despite that, however, working remotely is something that will largely help us make up for the lost time.” He added the possibility of extending the school year to the summer months if necessary. He also said that remote work is impossible in healthcare, the entire process cannot be stopped “because there will be tens of thousands dead, and this needs to be understood in some way. The media would have to promote and support this logical thinking, and not make the wrong people their heroes, those who drop their masks, those who bend the rules, those who gather in public areas despite that being prohibited, and that is prime news in the mainstream media. It is not the anti-government protests, but the fact that they are gathering in times of an epidemic, when gatherings are prohibited in line with the Communicable Diseases Act, and not public order or peace, etc. Gatherings are allowed by constitution, they are part of democracy, part of freedom, I will always defend that, but not during an epidemic.”
The Prime Minister talked about the letter from Dejan Židan, who wrote that the government should be criticised, but the measures must be respected. He also talked about the question raised by a member of the Levica party, where he exposed the food delivery boy who did not wear a mask, and was therefore fined. The member presented the delivery boy as a hero. “Very perverted. We have an institution called the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. They employ respected and deserving people. Many of them have largely contributed to the welfare we have today. But then a committee of theirs popped up from somewhere, today called the Committee for Human Rights with dr.Tine Hribar and dr. Salecl at the forefront, and today they are opposing some dictatorial regime, some repressive measures. For goodness sake, where do you people see repressive measures. Slovenia is one of the few countries that has not declared a state of emergency, and where the government has received no additional powers. Everything that is written in the Communicable Diseases Act and which serves as the legal basis for the measures, we are adopting, they all need to be pushed through parliament, in the coalition that is mixed, where negotiations start already in the coalition that certain logical matters need to be pushed through the procedure, where the opposition is, mildly speaking, awaiting each such measure with a knife, where the media await each such measure with a knife, where no matter can be pushed through because of that, logical matters, let alone dictatorial measures.”
The Prime Minister then commented on the intention of the opposition to pass a vote of no confidence and replace the government. “They say they have 46 votes. They say they have the majority, but they have yet to pass the vote of no confidence and replace the government. Apparently, they are afraid of the epidemic, because they know they are incapable, they know that the things they say are not true. They have no idea how to act if they would be forced to adopt more decisions in a week than they adopted in four years, in a mixed coalition with many political parties, where only one makes the decisions and, practically, this is one such manifestation of incompetence and contradiction, and this would not have survived even two hours if the media were not as supportive of this madness.”
The Prime Minister then talked about the close cooperation of the government with the professionals in adopting restrictive measures, adding: “The professionals are the ones proposing these measures.” He believes that there is practically no other country in the world where professionals have such a large influence on the decision-making processes as in Slovenia. He also highlighted the importance of the advisory group under the leadership of Matej Lahovnik, PhD, who has been preparing the seventh anti-corona aid package (PKP7) with volunteers. “Any professional who wishes to cooperate is called on. This is why we are so successful in these hard times.” The Prime Minister also highlighted the importance of cooperation and exchange of experience in tackling the epidemic with other European countries.
Whether other countries also have such a destructive opposition in times when the nation needs unity, the Prime Minister said: “Nowhere in Europe do they have a political party which would be seen as “mainstream”, which would act as the opposition in Slovenia.”
The Prime Minister also talked about the duration of the restrictive measures in the future. “The measures will be in effect until the virus stops spreading, and this will not happen on the first day the vaccine comes into the country, but when at least 60 percent of the people in Slovenia are vaccinated.” He also warned about the damaging spread of fear against the vaccine, that the majority of people do not wish to get vaccinated, which is destroying the efforts of the government to contain the spread of the virus. The epidemic will not be controlled for some time, therefore some measures will need to remain in effect for some time. “Germany, for example, announced yesterday that certain measures will remain in effect for the next four months. We have not done that yet because we must first contain this second wave, and then assess which measures can be dropped and which of them must be kept.” If we do not respect the measures, then he believes we will be hit with a third wave, which could be worse than the second, even though the vaccine is already “on the way”. He also talked about the importance of the electronic application for warning people about risky contact, which was met with much opposition. “It was a strategic resistance, the information commissioner, the human rights ombudsman, I believe that there was not a single non-governmental organisation that remained quiet, and the discussions in the parliament. It was similar elsewhere in Europe, and this is why we are where we are.” He pointed out to Finland as a good example where half the population installed the application.
The Prime Minister then talked about the social climate in Slovenia. “We are in a situation where concepts are being shuffled around. It is apparently a habit or a principle from socialism that was transferred to independent Slovenia, where things were given their opposite meaning. We had a people’s democracy, but in reality it was just a one-party dictatorship. We had socialistic self-governance, which in reality was just a cover-up for the control of the party in society and in the economy. We had a proletariat dictatorship where workers were the last hole in the whistle. So now, everything the Levica party does not like, they call fascism, dictatorship, etc. While in reality, they also adopt such measures when they are in power.” He also added that the “people who are reasonable, I already talked about letter from Dejan Židan, even a couple of other opposition members in the Slovenian parliament reacted differently yesterday. Some even called me, I will not expose them because they will be destroyed. They frankly said that they do not agree with what their parties or their presidents are doing. Some hope therefore still remains.”
On whether the left will be rewarded for its stance at the next elections, the Prime Minister answered that he is not occupying himself with this issue and that he does not even have time for that. He said that the administration that was inherited by the government was worse than the one thirty years ago when Demos rose to power. He also said that much work is being done, and that those who are capable and responsible must work for others. On the other hand, he believes many are lazing about and misbehaving. “We have whole islands of these leftist sabotages at some ministries, where they are given specific instructions on the results, and they do completely the opposite. With many excuses, so much effort needs to be made to keep the machine at least operational.”
On how to move forward, what we as a society need to do to come out of this healthy, alive, and especially stronger, Prime Minister Janez Janša said: “First we need to say that not only a majority, but a large majority of our citizens respect the measures, that they take the epidemic seriously, that they are concerned about their future and that they wish that everyone would act like that, but this is not enough. If one of ten people do not respect these preventive measures, if they think that Mr Štrukelj is a hero because he discarded his mask, or that Jani Möderndorfer is “cool” because he came to the National Assembly with a piece of plastic, and then another ten percent of the population follows these acts, which is 200 thousand people. Then the efforts of us 90 percent of the people are in vain. Because if 200 thousand people in a country that has 2 million people spread the virus or react to the measures in a “careless” manner, then the second wave may last half a year. Only a high vaccination coverage may stop it. This is not about managing the epidemic. We will manage the epidemic. This is about what price we will pay and what price is too much, that was beyond necessary. How many people will die because of that? And this is, like I have said before, an undisputed fact, no measure, no government, and no decree can stop the virus.” The Prime Minister reiterated that the virus may only be stopped if practically everyone starts behaving responsibly, at least 99 percent of the population. “However, if this severe minority includes opinion leaders, if they are part of some media, then we can only provide new capacities each day and pray the vaccination will be available as soon as possible.”
Finally, the Prime Minister again called for reason and responsibility. He believes Slovenia does not need dictatorship or a state of emergency, it only needs common sense and solidarity. “And really, a request for everyone who despises our government. Please wait a few weeks, a few months, protest then, gather all you want, draw posters, scream death to Janša and “janšizem”, but do not destroy these efforts to contain the virus, because people are dying because of this destruction. Our healthcare system is being destroyed, leading to even more victims and damage. I believe every human has at least some sort of basic solidarity, and I think now is the time for them to show it.