Prime Minister Janez Janša on Planet TV: vaccines are effective – the highest toll of the epidemic was slashed by vaccines
Prime Minister Janez Janša was the guest of a talk show on Planet TV, in which he discussed the first anniversary of the current Slovenian government, the fight against the epidemic, the division in the Slovenian society, and the current political issues.
In the introduction, the host talked about the minority Government in Slovenia, to which the Prime Minister replied that it is the actual number of votes that is decisive in the National Assembly and highlighted that the coalition counted its votes twice in recent weeks, receiving 50 votes of support. He added that "each coalition Government faces the same reality of winning the majority of votes today, but failing to do so tomorrow," explaining that his Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) is prepared for early election "even better prepared today than a year ago". Although he believes that it would be better for his party if the election were held a year ago, considering the situation at the time and being aware of what running a campaign during the epidemic would mean, his party took on the responsibility and formed the Government.
Replying to the question on the events in the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS), the Prime Minister said that everything that was happening in the DeSUS party resulted in Karl Erjavec ending his political career in the recent days. However, the process was supposedly initiated by external actors aiming to undermine the party in charge of a key ministry, i.e. the Ministry of Health. The fact that the Minister of Health resigned at the peak of the second wave of the epidemic had its consequences. Mr Janša believes that this highly irresponsible act took its toll.
Concerning the resumption of cooperation with the DeSUS party, the Prime Minister stressed that the sovereignty of other parties was respected and that no intervention was made in the dispute generated by the central media and the political forces of the far left-wing parties. "Each party has been able to deal with external pressures on its own," added Mr Janša. He commented that the current resignation of Karl Erjavec as the leader of the DeSUS party implies that he only returned to the party to undermine it and thus oust the Government, although he initially declared that he was returning to help the DeSUS party. Prime Minister explained that the DeSUS deputies respected the decisions adopted by the party's body and left the coalition, but they wish to continue to implement the coalition agreement, which they helped to draw up, because this is for the benefit of their voters. "According to the DeSUS parliamentary group, the minister they proposed to this Government, still enjoys their confidence and as long as this does not change, he will remain in the Government," emphasised Mr Janša. At the same time, he claimed that Gregor Golobič as an operative of the far left is behind the attempts to overthrow the Government in the midst of the epidemic, but is far from being the only one making such attempts. Mr Janša pointed to the lack of sovereignty of political parties who allow various external interest lobbies to lead them, while "not being entirely aware of the underlying interests". Mr Janša asserted that Slovenia is the only country in Europe and the world where the left employed the following tactic: "The worse for Slovenia, the better for the left," which in his opinion is the rock bottom of politics and he is certain that the voters will not reward this.
Concerning the tweets for which he is being reproached, the Prime Minister said that the content of tweets echoes in the media space which is biased. In countries with a normal media space, politicians also use Twitter, but as an extra feature. "In a place where the media space is not normal, where self-censoring is employed and the central media operate as extensions of political parties, Twitter becomes a tool against censorship," maintained Mr Janša.
To the question on the cooperation between the Government and the opposition parties, Prime Minister responded that the Government is continuously reaching out to the opposition without setting any conditions apart from asking for constructive efforts to stop the spread of the epidemic which is in the interest of both. He stressed that on Wednesday the President of the Republic would again convene a meeting of all parliamentary parties, in which the Government and its advisory group will present to the opposition in detail the situation that may be expected in the following weeks and will take their questions. The opposition is expected to support common sense measures implemented by others too.
Continuing the conversation, Mr Janša was critical of the opposition for exporting fictitious claims only to be imported back to Slovenia, while, in doing so, the real problems are concealed from Europe. He pinpointed that the main issue in Slovenia is that certain important topics are not reported by the central media, in spite of these topics being far more contentious than those the Government is being reproached for. In this context, he pointed out the events at the Slovenian Constitutional Court and the Court of Audit, where the president of the latter performs two incompatible functions. "The president of the Slovenian Court of Audit receives a quarter of a million euros for performing this additional function, while he reprimands the mayors over a EUR 40 daily allowance. The national television and POP TV do not report on such topics," explained the Prime Minister and added: "The problem in Slovenia is not that the Government is trying to silence the media, but that the media remain silent about the real issues." In his opinion, the reporting of national television is particularly important, for which the Slovenian taxpayers contribute EUR 100 million a year.
Concerning the delays in the appointment of state prosecutors, Mr Janša said that according to the law they are appointed by the Government. He noted that, in this term of office, the Government appointed several state prosecutors, but no deadlines are prescribed concerning their appointment. In relation to the pace of decision-making, he stressed that the Government is light years ahead of the State Prosecutor's Office, because the indictment for over a billion euro laundered in the largest bank was not compiled in the past eleven years, with the prosecution service acting as if nothing has happened. "The media reported on the settlement with a multinational company constructing the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant. In this case, the company admitted to corruption and paid compensation, while the Slovenian prosecution service is not even able to qualify such action with an adequate indictment," explained Prime Minister and highlighted the complications in the appointment of European public prosecutors, which also arose due to poor leadership by the Minister of Justice, because the persons she proposed to the Government to be appointed as European public prosecutors have no command of a foreign language. He assured that the Government will responsibly perform its duties with a pace that will be "light years ahead of what the State Prosecutor's Office is doing in key corruption cases, which it should prosecute, but fails to do so".
When asked whether the SDS will be the next party to leave the EPP, the Prime Minister replied that the situation in the European political sphere is a complex one. He pointed to political inconsistency in the European political sphere, adding that at the European level the liberal group includes the strictly left parties and not liberal parties. In his opinion this does not only apply to Slovenia but to other European countries as well. He sees the future of the European Union built on the foundation defined by the Lisbon Treaty, minimising bureaucratic obstacles which now stifle cooperation and introducing integration where it is needed, “with a common response to global challenges, ranging from the pandemic to the climate crisis, but when competitiveness is required, countries must be sovereign and operational.”
Regarding the fight against the epidemic, the Prime Minister said that vaccines are effective and enabled Slovenia to reduce the highest toll of the epidemic or the mortality rate among the residents of the homes for the elderly who are the most vulnerable group of the population. The production capacity of vaccines is increasing, he added. However, he criticised the European Commission for not specific enough provisions in its contracts with suppliers. This story, too, has revealed “that one of the major problems is the European bureaucracy that is growing, is well paid and out of touch with the real world, and often succumbs to the pressure of multinational corporation lobbies.”
Furthermore, the Prime Minister explained that the success or failure of measures tackling the epidemic would be discussed after we contain the spread of the epidemic. “As far as the economic and social consequences of the epidemic are concerned, the Government to a large extent managed to mitigate these consequences with the eight anti-corona packages,” he noted, and went on to say that the first forecasts of the consequences included 120 000 unemployed but now there are less than 90 000. The drop in GDP is also different than forecast by official institutions. Recovery will be faster than forecast.
The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that nearly four years ago the representatives of the World Health Organisation visited Slovenia to asses the preparedness of our country for a potential epidemic. Slovenia was given relatively bad marks in the majority of the areas and recommendations what it should prepare for in the event of an epidemic. “Looking back at what was implemented by 2020, we can establish that nothing was actually done despite their clear recommendations,” the Prime Minister commented, adding that this was one of the reasons why “the towel was thrown in”.
In connection with the doctor from Maribor who was infected with the South-African variant of the new coronavirus and in respect of whom a number of irregularities were identified, ranging from skipping the vaccination line to the provision of treatment in private clinics, the Prime Minister said that in this specific case certain measures were taken. The example of this doctor has put the entire healthcare system in a bad light, including all those who worked tirelessly and efficiently during the epidemic. The Prime Minister promised to remedy the situation in the healthcare system by, for example, revising the salary system. The fight against the epidemic, the mitigation of the consequences of the epidemic, the provision of additional capacities in healthcare, the revision of the salary system, reorganisation, and the provision of human resources will continue to be Government’s priorities. Minister Poklukar immediately started to tackle these issues from various angles. In this context and in order for the Government to attain certain key objectives in its coalition agreement, namely the adoption of the laws on the demographic fund, long-term care, and debureaucratisation, stability and peace are needed in the coalition and the parliament.
To the question about the second railway track and the selection of Kolektor as the main contractor, the Prime Minister replied that it was hard to believe that there was only one bidder for a contract worth millions of euros. In is opinion, this calls for a clarification. He went on to stress that the prices in the Kolektor’s tender were low because the company obviously expected to sign annexes to the contract, a well-established procedure from the past. “Such practice resulted in overpaid construction and the Government will do everything in its power to prevent such annexes,” said Prime Minister Janša.
He then commented as scandalous the news about the Constitutional Court Judge, Rok Čeferin, who should have disqualified himself in the case in question, and the information that Constitutional Court judges do not read the files in the cases that they are adjudicating. “It simply cannot happen that at the court of last instance somebody does not read the file in the case they are adjudicating. What is even more shocking is that such rejections are not reasoned. The reasoning of a decision constitutes the very foundation of the rule of law,” stated the Prime Minister, adding that arbitrary decisions without reasoning are typical of dictatorships. “It is equally shocking that the Constitutional Court under President Dr Rajko Knez suspended 12 cases which, to this day, have not been examined. It also suspended the implementation of strategic issues, for example the Act on Investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces, thus causing serious, also strategic, damage to the country.
The host and the Prime Minister also talked about energy issues. According to the Prime Minister there is an urgent need for transparency in this sector where until now transparency was covered up by different chains of stakes. “In accordance with its powers the Government will request transparency, and, if necessary, audits and inspections of issues, including past issues, will be introduced.
By way of conclusion the Prime Minister and the host discussed events of 30 years ago when Slovenia became independent. Prime Minister Janša explained that for anniversaries he regularly meets with the key organisers of events that took place 30 years ago and members of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights, many of whom are deceased, and with some the political paths parted. It was crucial at that time “that the civil society created by the resistance was authentic and not paid by those in power. This distinguishes them from the majority of non-governmental organisations today that present themselves as non-governmental organisation while requesting money from the Government.”