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Prime Minister Janša takes questions from deputies in the National Assembly

At the 28th regular session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Prime Minister Janez Janša answered parliamentary questions from Andrej Rajh (SAB) on measures related to the energy crisis, Ivan Hršak (DeSUS) on measures for the older generation, Janja Sluga (non-affiliated deputies) on the energy crisis and the Government’s response to it, and Jožef Horvat on the implementation of the coalition agreement.

When asked by Andrej Rajh (SAB) about measures related to the energy crisis, the Prime Minister responded that Slovenia was integrated into the European market so it had short-term measures at its disposal to address the energy crisis, in accordance with the rules of the European single market.  "The key question in global energy markets is how long the situation regarding energy prices will last." This will also be discussed by the European Council at its upcoming meeting.  He said that this Government had probably taken or proposed the most comprehensive measures in the EU. "As soon as it became clear that this situation would last at least for a few months over the winter, the Government added an 'inflation allowance' to the 10th legislative package of measures to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic for over 300,000 pensioners and some other particularly socially vulnerable categories. This law has already been before the National Assembly for one month." The Prime Minister expressed hope that the law would be adopted by the end of this year. On assistance to companies, the Prime Minister said that the government team had proposed looking into the possibility of reducing VAT from a higher to a lower rate, and that, in the light of the debate at the EU level on Thursday, the Government would decide whether or not to accept this proposal. Referring to the SAB party's proposal, also raised by Deputy Rajh, that last year's tourist vouchers and this year's 21 vouchers could also be used in the energy sector, he said: "The tourist vouchers were not just about helping people, they were about helping the service economy, which was the hardest hit in the epidemic." In his view, changing the purpose of the vouchers would mean a loss of funds that would have to be compensated by other sources, which is why he does not consider the SAB party's proposal rational.  The Prime Minister explained that the Government had a proposal on special energy vouchers on the table, which it would consider at the end of January, when it would know more precisely what the consequences of the energy price increases would be. It would cover pensioners and others receiving social benefits, or just over 60,000 people in total. He added that this option would only be used "if the situation continues as foreseen".

When asked by Ivan Hršak about measures for the generation of older people, the Prime Minister replied that, since the beginning of the epidemic in March 2020, many measures and decisions had been taken to improve the situation of pensioners compared to previous years. He pointed out that, during this time, there had been three pension indexations, two regular and one extraordinary, and that a solidarity bonus and an annual bonus had been paid to pensioners twice, last year and this. "The same is foreseen in these five bands for next year." He said that, in the recent period, there had been more investment in infrastructure for institutional care for the elderly than in the previous 10 years, that all the calls for tender for funding activities for pensioners and people with disabilities had been implemented, and that the Long-Term Care Act had been adopted. He reiterated the need to adopt the PKP 10 (the 10th legislative package of measures to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic), expressing the hope that the law will be adopted and enter into force this year so that the most affected can receive the money as soon as possible. "The PKP 10 provides for the reimbursement of a solidarity bonus for pensioners, with a financial impact of €80 million and a number of beneficiaries of over 300,000."  He also said that an annual bonus is envisaged for pensioners for 2022, to be paid in five bands ranging from €450 to €140. The extraordinary indexation of pensions by 3.5% is also envisaged under the proposed Pension and Disability Insurance Act (ZPIZ-2).

In response to a question from Janja Sluga on the energy crisis, the Prime Minister said that European regulators assessed there were price fluctuations on the energy market that should not be responded to by changes in market mechanisms. "The Government has no instruments to tell specific companies what the price of energy should be."

When asked by Jožef Horvat about the implementation of the coalition agreement, the Prime Minister replied that, despite the epidemic and in addition to the 10 legislative packages to tackle the epidemic, the Government had proposed a number of systemic laws that fundamentally improve the situation of people in the country, including the Long-Term Care Act. "In future, funding must also be provided on the basis of the Demographic Fund Act, which is also being considered by the National Assembly and will hopefully be adopted by the end of this term of office. This will make it possible in future to substantially relieve the burden on people's living labour, which is now additionally burdened by contributions that we collect in one way or another on living labourto top up the pension fund and ensure it can meet its obligations." He said that at present we have the highest employment level in the history of the country. "Never before have so many people been employed in Slovenia as at present. This means that never before have so many people been able to provide for themselves and their families. Never before have so many people paid pension contributions, health contributions, VAT on consumption, and all kinds of other charges that only those who create something out of their own money can pay. This leads to higher investment. And because investment is higher, overall prosperity can increase. Turning to the course of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU to date, the Prime Minister said that the EU has 27 member states, which are very large, small or medium-sized. "When it comes to the Presidency of the Council of the EU, we have to do the same job as Germany, France or any other country." He added: "If you add up all the chapters we have now closed since the beginning of July this year, you can see that we have closed more dossiers than Germany did during its presidency." He pointed out that the number of dossiers on Slovenia's table had been increasing and none had been taken away. "The epidemic, which is still ongoing, meant that many issues were brought to our table that had to wait. While not all dossiers carry the same weight, some of the achievements of the Slovenian Presidency have been beyond expectations. The Slovenian Presidency has resolved many additional matters." The Prime Minister added that Slovenia is now joined the list of countries in which omicron has been detected, the new variant of the virus that is widespread in some European countries. "This means we are achieving success in difficult circumstances. And we would like everyone to be happy about this, rather than sad and worried."