One hundred days of the work of the government: DIALOGUE. STABILITY. TRUST.
Upon the entry into office of government, the circumstances at home and abroad indicated that it would be illusory to expect a hundred days of peace. We greeted the victory at elections prepared: our priorities were clear; therefore, we rolled up our sleeves without a moment’s delay. We are realising our goals announced before the elections on a daily basis: strengthening the welfare state, public health, providing assistance to the population and the economy in the uncertain times of the energy and food crisis. Care for the individual is at the forefront of all our decisions.
Well thought out and targeted measures to mitigate the costs of living
Upon the takeover of the government, we were aware of the seriousness of the developments in the international arena and its impact on the situation in the domestic environment, and therefore we drew up a comprehensive package of target oriented mitigation measures in energy and food price increases. Our strategy is based on three pillars: energy, food and food chains, oil and petroleum products. The measures are aimed to find the balance in which each stakeholder – the state on the one hand, traders on the other and consumers on the third – bears part of the burden of increased prices. The key objective of the adopted measures is to eliminate uncertainty for the economy and consumers.
As apparent from the website www.gov.si/draginja we have already adopted specific measures. For example, the cut in VAT for electricity, natural gas, district heating and wood for heating, which will be valid until 31 May next year. This is a measure that will relieve consumers of the consequences of the rise in energy prices in the period of greatest consumption, i.e. during the heating season. From July onwards, the prices of electricity and gas will be regulated for households and small business customers. Gas prices will also be limited for other groups of protected customers such as hospitals and nursing homes. The one-year regulation of prices came into force on 1 September. Its effects will be reflected for the first time in October’s bills. In addition, after a little less than two years of liberalised prices, 95-octane petrol and diesel fuel prices have again been regulated since 21 June. As things stand at the moment, this regulation will also be valid for one year.
We have already ensured help for households due to the higher prices of electricity and natural gas. Companies can obtain simple help, which envisages funds of up to EUR 500,000 and coverage of up to 30% of eligible costs or special help of up to EUR 2 million and up to 30% of eligible costs. Energy intensive companies are also eligible for help, the amount again being limited to EUR 2 million. However, if companies can prove their operating losses, they can request compensation for up to 50% or 70% of eligible costs.
All government measures are targeted, and vulnerable population groups are among the key recipients. All recipients of financial social assistance and security supplements and persons with disabilities will receive a one-off energy supplement by November 2022 at the latest. With the help of civil society, we will ensure that individuals who are entitled to the security supplement but are not yet receiving it are better informed. As a result, these individuals will also receive the energy supplement.
Foreign policy: Slovenia is at the heart of the EU
Since the energy crisis is a pan-European challenge, the prime minister, as an expert in the field of energy, is inter alia intensively involved in finding solutions at the European level. His efforts, initiatives and expertise were observed by the leading global magazine in foreign policy – Foreign Policy. It is thanks to Slovenia that the first measures are being drawn up at the EU level, which are to ensure Europeans more peacefully enter into the winter period.
In that connection, it should be pointed out that at the European level, the proactive stance of the prime minister encountered such a positive response also due to the redirection of Slovenian foreign policy back to the core EU countries. Under the current government, Slovenia is very clearly and non-ambiguously committed to the respect for the rule of law, whereby the European values are placed at the core of our foreign policy contemplation and action. This is further supported by the recent visit of the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at Bled Strategic Forum.
Good relations with neighbouring countries are also important in the search for solutions to the energy crisis. Therefore, the gas supply solidarity agreement that has been reached between Slovenia and Italy is so important for Slovenia.
The next package of energy legislation is expected to be adopted in parliament on 13 September.
Healthcare: stabilisation of the situation and provision of sound foundations for Slovenian public healthcare
The pandemic has thoroughly shaken Slovenian public healthcare and brought into the light all the problems accumulated in this area during the years. Therefore, we have placed the measures in healthcare at the top of our priorities, and already in the first hundred days, took the first concrete steps in this regard. Healthcare is an extremely complex system, and it is no surprise that perspectives on solving the problems often differ. However, our pre-election commitment, stabilisation and strengthening of the public health system, will continue to remain unchanged. In order for the solutions to be adopted with the broadest social consensus, we have established several working groups, each of which is intensively engaged in its own area of activity, including waiting times in healthcare. Their proposals will be medium- and long-term oriented, as not all challenges in healthcare can be adequately resolved within one mandate. The already adopted Healthcare Intervention Measures Act is intended to stabilise the situation in the short term; moreover, steps are being taken to improve the computerisation and digitisation of healthcare.
In the light of all this, it seems as if Covid-19, which is still widespread, has somehow faded into the background of our lives. Nevertheless, we have to learn to live with it – and with the recommendations drawn up by the group of dr. Fafangel, we will indeed succeed in doing so. Closing the civic space is not a solution. The solution lies in the protection of vulnerable members of society and our solidarity with them. It is nevertheless important that the new law on infectious diseases, which eliminates the law’s inconsistency with the Constitution, has already been adopted. The realisation of Constitutional Court rulings is one of the key elements of the rule of law and eliminating unconstitutionalities is certainly an important step towards strengthening it.
This is another reason why the Government has already fulfilled another of its coalition promises and supported the law to reduce inequalities and harmful political interventions and ensure respect for the rule of law as prepared by the Institute 8 March. In this way, 11 laws that were amended by the previous government have been reversed.
Respect for the rule of law is the foundation of our operations
Moreover, the pandemic exposed the problems of contemporary democracy and showed us how little it takes for democracy to descend into own opposite. In the government of Robert Golob, we are committed to respect the rule of law. We are aware that only strong and independent institutions can defend the democracy of our society; therefore, we are taking concrete measures to strengthen the institutions from the first day after the appointment of the government. Furthermore, we are constantly seeking to strengthen the dialogue with civil society and the non-governmental sector.
The fact remains, namely, during the pandemic, people lost confidence in the state institutions, which are to protect them. Therefore, in the current situation, we are trying to restore public confidence: we are withdrawing the consent for the prosecution of people who have peacefully exercised their constitutional right to hold a public assembly and expressed their opinions, strengthening the prosecution and clearly demarcating roles between the prosecution and the police, appointing European prosecutors, etc. These are important measures adopted in order to establish a circle of trust between the state institutions and the population. We are well aware that we will be able to achieve our goals only on condition that people trust us. The next elections will be the test of this trust, which was being built one step at a time, from the first day the government came into office.
Financing fire brigades and other NGOs in the field of protection, security and help in activating the national civil protection plan
We cannot fail to mention the large fires in the Karst region, which served as an important warning regarding the effect of climate change on the environment for all of us and strengthening awareness of the meaning of solidarity and volunteering in society. Without devoted and courageous volunteer fire-fighters, the fires would have been harder to extinguish. Everything that happened also served as encouragement to improve the financing of the fire services and civil protection: we prepared a new law on protection against natural and other disasters, according to which fire brigades and other NGOs in the fields of protection, security and help in activating the national civil protection plan will receive extra funding, depending on the hours put in by their members.