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Prime Minister replies to deputies’ questions

At today’s 53rd extraordinary session of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Janez Janša responded to deputies’ questions. He replied to questions regarding the suitability of social dialogue, importance of the media, dealing with the current crisis and the plans for economic recovery after the epidemic.

Premier Janez Janša

Premier Janez Janša | Author KPV

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Jani Prednik of the Social Democrats Deputy Group asked the Prime Minister about the suitability of the Government’s social dialogue with the groups which have not yet been included in the anti-corona measures. Maša Kociper of the Party of Alenka Bratušek Deputy Group inquired about the Prime Minister’s opinion regarding the media working in the public interest. Luka Mesec of the Left Deputy Group wondered how the Government was tackling the current health, social and economic crisis. Deputy Jožef Horvat asked the Prime Minister about the Government’s future activities regarding the recovery of Slovenia’s economy after the COVID-19 epidemic. Among other things, he wanted to know its plans to improve the business environment, tax policy and the elimination of bureaucratic barriers.

In his reply to the question of Deputy Jani Prednik, Prime Minister Janez Janša emphasised that the measures adopted so far in the anti-corona packages included all citizens. "Whether everyone received adequately or enough is a different question, but realistic material possibilities have to be observed." He also highlighted that the epidemic is not yet over, and the third period was still ahead, which may prove to be the most challenging, and the coming three months must be taken into consideration.

With regard to the social dialogue, the Prime Minister stressed that one of the first measures of this Government was to establish the Economic and Social Council. There were periods in previous governments’ terms when the Council was not operating at all because it was abandoned by individual partners. During this Government’s term, the Council held ten sessions that consisted of hundreds of hours of different harmonisations and negotiations. Due to the epidemic, the Government harmonised measures with individual stakeholders under time constraints. The Government amended the Rules of Procedure of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and the manner of decision making because of social dialogue. As an example, the Prime Minister stated that the Government first adopts a draft, for example, of the anti-corona package, which is then harmonised with social partners, and it later adopts the draft act that is submitted to the National Assembly for discussion. "The fact that all social partners’ demands or proposals are not always observed does not mean that there is no social dialogue, as there is frequently an abundance of proposals which can often be mutually contradictory." He stressed that the Government always respects at least a 72-hour deadline for social dialogue after it drafts the proposals.

On the topic of the minimum wage, the Prime Minister highlighted that the social dialogue within the Economic and Social Council was still underway. "The Government will be pleased to follow the proposed solution once it is harmonised." With regard to tax reduction on luxury cars, the Prime Minister said that the Government pursued the objective that taxes are paid into the Slovenian budget and not the budgets of other European countries.

In his reply to Deputy Luka Mesec, the Prime Minister noted real data which the Government had received when starting its term. "On 13 March 2020, when the Government was sworn in, Slovenia had 120 beds for acute hospital treatment, today it has 1,391. On the same day, there were 19 beds available for intensive care treatment and now there are 219." He highlighted that the problems Slovenia is facing did not occur overnight. "In 2015, Slovenia had 451 beds per 100,000 inhabitants and 442 at the end of 2019. That means, fewer." He also noted that this is the real world, a fact easily obscured by those who have no responsibility.

In the continuation, the Prime Minister mentioned the Government’s activities in the previous week. Slovenia contributed to the EUR 1,800 billion being released for the European economy, of which EUR 10 billion is for Slovenia. A strategic partnership agreement with the USA on cooperation in the field of the civil use of nuclear energy was also concluded, and an agreement on innovations with Israel. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food promoted Slovenia as a tourist-friendly destination in the Vatican on the occasion of illuminating a Slovenian Christmas tree. Furthermore, the harmonisation of measures to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic was ongoing throughout the entire week. Therefore, the Government is dealing with the epidemic, but unfortunately the opposition is not involved in anything else but how to overthrow the Government during the epidemic.

The Prime Minister also highlighted that Slovenia is by no means the worst in Europe in dealing with the epidemic. The data could be better if we worked together to stop the virus. Not because of the Government or the opposition, but because the virus endangers the lives and health of everyone.

When replying to the question of Maša Kociper of the Party of Alenka Bratušek Deputy Group, the Prime Minister stressed that a professional and independent media sector is in the interest of all citizens, including that of the Government and the party led by the Prime Minister. He noted that, according to international criteria, media freedom increased by 50 per cent in Slovenia during the period that he led the Government for the first time between 2004 and 2008. This was according to the criteria of institutions which the opposition is fond of citing. Relating to the contract between the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and the Government Communication Office (UKOM), the Prime Minister emphasised that the contract, which UKOM demands to be fulfilled, was signed during the term of the previous Government. The contract that was concluded last year must be fulfilled by both parties, STA and the Government.

In his reply to the question of Jožef Horvat of the Christian Democrats Deputy Group, the Prime Minister said that challenging times lie ahead, during which we will address the last third of the epidemic, followed by the elimination of its consequences. If the agreement had not been adopted by the European Council and the funds had not been released, we would not have been able to adopt the seventh anti-corona package, which the Government will adopt this week at its session and submit for discussion to the National Assembly, nor the National Recovery Plan. According to the agreement, Slovenia will be eligible for EUR 10 billion. At the session of the European Council in Brussels, the EU leaders reached a major consensus and a framework agreement regarding climate targets was also adopted at the session. Our wish is for the European Union to become carbon neutral by 2050 and that emissions will already be reduced by 2030. These are framework objectives as European countries are not in equal positions when attaining these objectives.

In answer to an additional question about how Slovenia will further enhance the trust of domestic and foreign investors, the Prime Minister replied that two weeks ago the Government confirmed the timeline for implementing the coalition agreement. Within this timeline, additional dates were set for drafting other acts to improve the business environment, and to boost investment and de-bureaucratisation. He forecast that solutions in the field of taxation would be prepared by the summer and implemented as of 1 January 2022. An extensive package of proposals to simplify procedures is also being prepared by the Government’s Strategic Council for De-bureaucratisation.