8th Government session
On Thursday, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia took note of the 3rd Annual Rule of Law Report of the European Commission and adopted the first measures to mitigate the impact of electricity costs.
Cost mitigation measures: Regulation of electricity prices
The Minister of Infrastructure said that at today's session the Government set a limit on the highest electricity prices for household and small business customers, including multi-dwelling unit buildings, which have been among the most affected groups of consumers to date. The regulated prices will apply from 1 September 2022 to 31 August 2023 and are set as follows:
- higher tariff: 0.11800 EUR/kWh
- lower tariff: 0.08200 EUR/kWh
- uniform tariff: 0.09800 EUR/kWh
At the same time, the Government has maintained the current 50% excise duty, while from 1 September it will also reduce the RES + CHP contribution by 50%. As a result, the monthly and annual cost of electricity will be lower for all household and small business customers, regardless of supplier.
The Minister also explained very clearly what this measure means for individual users:
"For the average household consumer this means a reduction from approximately -15% (for those who are currently supplied by the cheapest suppliers) to -30% (for those who are supplied by the more expensive suppliers). For the consumers who pay the highest price for electricity, the reduction will amount to almost 60% on an annual basis.
In figures, this means: savings from EUR 110 to EUR 334 for those who have cheaper electricity today, and savings of approximately EUR 1000 per year for those who are supplied by the most expensive electricity supplier.
Taking into account the market situation, the regulation will bring the average household consumer additional savings of EUR 400 in 2023."
According to the Minister, small business customers can expect savings between 2% and 37% per year, considering the current prices, or between EUR 50 and EUR 1760 per year with regard to the current prices.
Additional savings in 2023 are estimated at approximately EUR 800, taking into consideration the current market conditions and the fact that suppliers would most probably increase their prices further in 2023.
In closing, the Minister added that this is only the first package of measures in the electricity sector and announced that the Government will consider further measures related to electricity and natural gas in the next 14 days.
Fajon: The European Commission report is a realistic assessment of the situation
At today's regular meeting, the Government also discussed the Rule of Law Report of the European Commission. At the press conference that followed the competent ministers presented the guidelines for action by individual ministries.
Foreign affairs: A return to the core countries
Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said that the report presented yesterday provides an overview of the situation in four areas:
- independence of the judiciary,
- national framework to fight corruption,
- pluralism and the freedom of the media, and
- institutional matters and the balance of the branches of power.
This year, for the first time, the report also includes the European Commission's recommendations for all Member States. Slovenia received four recommendations which, according to Minister Fajon, will be addressed in detail by the Government and complied with wherever improvements were considered necessary.
Minister Fajon emphasised that in the report that assesses the situation over the past year, the Commission has submitted objective findings that are critical and unfortunately reflect a realistic assessment of the situation. The critical assessments and recommendations for the improvement of the situation are neither unexpected nor surprising. "We could say that the report exposes all the worrying features which the opposition has been pointing out over the past two years, and which were also highlighted by civil society and citizens through protests", said the Foreign Minister stressing that it is in fact a report on the work of the previous Government. Fajon also said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the leading ministry will entrust all the competent ministries and bodies with the responsibility to analyse the findings in detail and to prepare proposals of measures to implement the recommendations prepared by the Commission and the timeline for their implementation, all of which will be presented in a specific dialogue on the rule of law at the General Affairs Council in the autumn.
At the end, Minister Fajon emphasised that respect for the rule of law is of utmost importance to the current Government. This also includes the announced issue of the core EU, i.e. the circle of countries that respect the EU's fundamental values. This shift has already been noted and strongly welcomed across Europe, added the Foreign Minister.
Internal affairs: Increasing the independence and efficiency in the Police and the National Bureau of Investigation
Minister of the Interior Bobnar explained that measures and a timeline for the area of internal affairs were already being prepared. She stressed that, in addition to respect for legality and proportionality, the Government's main duty in the area of internal affairs was to respect human rights and strengthen the rule of law. This means that no authority is above the law, which must be fair so that people have confidence in it and must be oriented towards the protection of human rights. Together with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior has already drafted amendments on the cooperation between prosecutors and police officers and has also prevented the Minister of the Interior from interfering with the police's pre-trial procedure by giving directions.
Minister Bobnar said that this was also why they supported the proposed amendments submitted to the National Assembly by the 8 March Institute. The proposal submitted by the March Institute will contribute to strengthening the rule of law through various amendments (e.g. the strengthening and independence of the National Bureau of Investigation, the abolition of terms of office for the senior management of the Police). Further proposals by the Ministry of the Interior to strengthen the rule of law will be directed towards strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Police and the National Bureau of Investigation.
Media: Not enough effective safeguards against political interference
Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko began by stressing that the Ministry of Culture agreed with some of the main findings of the European Commission's Rule of Law Report regarding the field of media, as we ourselves have also identified similar problems.
She recalled that the authors of the report had warned that the legislation that is currently in force does not in practice offer sufficiently effective safeguards against political interference in the operation and management of the RTV Slovenia public service; on the contrary, there is a very high risk of political interference in the independence of RTV Slovenia. According to Minister Vrečko, the current crisis at RTV Slovenia illustrates how real this risk is. The programme councillors have repeatedly shown that they do not act in the public interest, but solely in the interests of the political parties that appointed them to the Programme Council.
The Minister stressed that, with the new law on RTV Slovenia, the Ministry is taking into account the recommendations of the European Commission, as we are removing the direct influence of politics on the operation of RTV Slovenia. Under the new law, politicians will no longer appoint programme councillors and supervisors, but new councillors will be chosen by employees and civil society. This will significantly limit the direct influence of politics on the work of RTV Slovenia and give it back its autonomy.
She went on to say that the authors of the EC report pointed to other risks in the field of media that have a negative impact on the functioning of the rule of law:
- high concentration of media ownership, with individual media owners gaining significant media power;
- non-transparent ownership, where the beneficial owners are not known in certain media;
- non-transparent use of public funds (state advertising) in the media;
- worsening working conditions for journalists: pressure from owners and politicians, strategic lawsuits, online harassment and threats.
In concluding, Minister Vrečko added that the Ministry was involved in the debate on strengthening democratic institutions in the EU, where it advocates for the creation of effective safeguards against media concentration, transparent media funding and the protection of journalists against political and economic pressures and against new ways of silencing them, such as hacking into their private electronic communications and strategic lawsuits.
Justice: Some positive changes have already been introduced with the change of government
State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice Igor Šoltes said that the Ministry of Justice welcomed the publication of the annual report on the state of rule of law in the European Union. According to the Ministry, the report reflects the actual state of the rule of law in Slovenia over the past two years. The report notes that the Government has already made positive changes in some areas. It has appointed 13 public prosecutors whose appointment was blocked by the previous Government.
It has also addressed some of the European Commission's concerns about interference with the independence of public prosecutors by amending the Decree on the cooperation of the state prosecution service and the Police in detection and prosecution of perpetrators of criminal offences.
By doing so, it has fulfilled one of the first priority commitments to abolish the controversial measures of the previous Government, which interfered with the work of the prosecution service and the Police in a politically unacceptable way.