We live in a country governed by the rule of law and open society with values such as freedom and solidarity
"Our main promise we gave to the people when we were elected was that we would live in a normal country again. That means a functioning rule of law, democracy and an open society. We have delivered on that promise," Prime Minister Robert Golob said on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of the Government. Together with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Tanja Fajon and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Luka Mesec, they summarised the work of the Government so far.
Prime Minister Robert Golob: Slovenia is on the right track and I believe that at the end of our mandate, we will all be convinced that we live in a country that is better than the one we were handed on 1 June last year
The Prime Minister illustrated his commitment to the rule of law with the case of RTV, where the Government had renounced its political influence over the public media by tabling a law drafted in open dialogue with civil society. "The law has passed the referendum and today we are at the point where it is in force. In the short term, we may have acted to the detriment of the Government, but in the long term, we have certainly acted to the benefit of Slovenia," said Prime Minister Golob.
He pointed to tackling crises as another pre-election promise that the Government has delivered on. "We have influenced and succeeded in influencing the policies of the entire European Union in tackling the energy crisis with our assertive policies. According to official Eurostat data, electricity prices for households in Slovenia are among the lowest in Europe, significantly lower than the average, significantly lower than in Germany and significantly lower than in Croatia," Golob stressed.
In addition to the energy crisis, he also mentioned the natural disasters – drought and fire – where the Government reacted quickly and the Slovenian Armed Forces came to the aid of local communities. "Less than a year after the fire, we already have aircraft in Slovenia that are suitable for firefighting, so we can look forward to summer with more peace of mind."
The Prime Minister believes that Slovenia has strengthened its position among the EU Member States enormously over the past year and is now "stronger than ever". This is also why he believes that the results of this Government’s work will be clearly demonstrated in the vote for non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Deputy Prime Minister Tanja Fajon: I remain cautiously optimistic about non-permanent UNSC membership
In her speech, Deputy Prime Minister Fajon highlighted that the Government has been raising many issues over the past year on which we need to reach a consensus as a society, in particular public health, public education, sustainable pensions and youth-oriented housing policy. Respectful dialogue with the expert community and civil society is, she said, a key change in society after a year under the current government.
She went on to talk about the measures taken to alleviate the energy crisis and the incentives given by the Government this year to the economy, tourism and sport, and announced efforts to tackle inflation. In the area of cohesion, she highlighted the agreement with the European Commission and the access to grants amounting to €3.2 billion as a particular achievement. She also highlighted the importance of economic diplomacy, which, especially in a situation where Slovenia had lost Russian markets, had helped the economy and businesses to seek new opportunities in new markets. In the area of justice, she pointed out the withdrawal of lawsuits against individuals to recover the costs of police work incurred at public gatherings during the COVID-19 epidemic, the lifting of the restrictions on the appointment of state prosecutors, and the strengthening of the position of the most vulnerable groups of participants before the courts.
As the vote on Slovenia’s candidacy for membership of the UN Security Council will take place on Tuesday, 6 June, she also touched upon this project. She said that the Government, together with the Parliament and the Office of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, had done everything in their power. However, she remained "cautiously optimistic" about the upcoming vote. She thanked all those who had supported the project.
Deputy Prime Minister Luka Mesec: Housing policy, long-term care and economic democracy key areas for the future of society
"This Government embodies two concepts – freedom and solidarity," underlined Deputy Prime Minister Luka Mesec. "Freedom because we are trying to build a society in which everyone can live without fear, and solidarity because we want to build a society that leaves no one behind, and that is why we are putting in place and building the missing links of our welfare state."
In this context, he highlighted the establishment of the Ministry of Solidarity-Based Future, which brings together housing policy, long-term care and economic democracy – three areas of great importance for the future of the country and society. He went on to highlight the increase in the minimum wage, and record high employment. He said that the stronger action of the labour inspectorate was only one of the measures to strengthen the position and rights of employees. He added that changes in the field of personal assistance had been intensively discussed for some time in dialogue with representatives of people with disabilities, and that care for the most vulnerable groups remained at the heart of the work of the line ministry. In the context of measures in the area of the family (longer paternity leave, child allowances arising from the cost-of-living adjustment, higher social transfers), Minister Mesec also recalled the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision and the adoption of the amendment to the Family Code, which allowed same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
Among the cultural projects, he highlighted the renovation of the Slovenian National Drama Theatre of Ljubljana, he mentioned the establishment of a directorate to address the precarious status of the self-employed in culture, and, like the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Mesec also stressed his commitment to media freedom.
Below, we highlight in more detail some of the achievements of the first year of the current government.
Helping people and the economy through the energy crisis
We prepared a comprehensive package of measures to curb the increase in energy prices and create a predictable and safe environment for consumers, the economy and the state in highly uncertain conditions. „Slovenia has not only been successful in this, it has shown the way for Europe. And we initially took care of the most vulnerable“, summarised the Prime Minister.
By temporarily reducing VAT, we reduced the cost of electricity, natural gas, district heating and firewood for households. We capped or regulated the prices of oil, petroleum products and fuel oil, subsidised the purchase of wood pellets and ensured gas supplies to consumers without a supplier. For the first time in Slovenia's history, we started to tackle energy poverty in the population. 74,552 beneficiaries received energy allowance for the most vulnerable (almost EUR 20 million), and around EUR 56.5 million was earmarked for the payment of dearness allowance for families. To further ease the burden on family budgets, we also froze the prices of meals, maintenance allowance and living costs in pupil and student dormitories, and allocated additional EUR 18.1 million for the smooth operation of schools. We also adopted a number of measures aimed at the economy, to safeguard jobs and improve the liquidity of businesses.
Because of the high energy prices, we helped businesses with EUR 80 million in 2022 and EUR 400 million in 2023. The cap on energy prices has also benefited the economy, and we further helped micro, small and medium-sized companies by setting a cap on the price of electricity. In parallel, we also put in place an electricity pricing mechanism for large business customers. We also helped beekeepers, fishermen and farmers (EUR 38 million) to mitigate the costly economic situation. We spent EUR 25 million to repair the economic damage to agriculture caused by the drought that affected various agricultural crops in almost all regions of Slovenia last year. The proof that the measures have been effective is in the results of the economy, which registered record profits and employment in the last year.
Our goal is to achieve balanced public finances
All of these aid measures were essential as we entered the autumn/winter period, but we have also been keeping a close eye on what is happening with public finances. Even if the fiscal rules are not currently in place, we are aware of the need to keep public finances in balance. It is therefore important that, even in the uncertain context of the energy crisis and general inflation, we reduced public debt by 4.6 percentage points of GDP since the end of 2021, to 69.9% of GDP at the end of 2022. Further reduction of public debt, and in particular fight against inflation, will be an important aspect of economic and monetary policy in the continuation of this mandate. In this context, it should be noted that inflation in Slovenia stood at 8.4% in May and is lower than in neighbouring countries. „The forecasts that inflation will fall below 7% by the end of the year are very realistic,“ the Prime Minister believes.
However, as inflation in Slovenia is not decreasing as fast as in Europe, the Prime Minister announced a measure to monitor food and commodity prices along the entire chain, from farmer to trader: „This is a measure that no government has ever taken before. It will be in place for the next six months and the government will monitor the prices throughout the chain“.
We are committed to carrying through the implementation of key reforms
A few days ago, the European Commission published its spring economic forecast, with recommendations to Slovenia to implement structural reforms. Before the government took office, we were aware that radical changes in the areas of healthcare, pensions, education, taxes and the salary system are required, therefore we placed them at the forefront as priorities of this mandate.
Due to the acuteness of the situation, we urgently embarked on a process of addressing healthcare, as the epidemic exposed all the weaknesses of our healthcare system. However, problems that have accumulated for 30 years cannot be solved overnight. Therefore, we're pursuing the matter step by step: aid to people without a personal doctor, an intervention law to eliminate waiting times, the abolition of complementary health insurance, the establishment of a call centre for assistance to populations. Moreover, we are improving access to mental health services and, after thirty years, we have finally adopted the Rules on Occupational Diseases.
The drawing up of the reform of the public sector wage system is highly dynamic, and is being shaped through negotiations with the public sector unions. Our aim is to establish a transparent wage system in which no one is to receive a wage below the minimum threshold. The public sector – teachers, medical staff, officials at local and state level, the army, firefighters and others – represents the backbone of the country; therefore, the staff employed in the public sector must be well trained and adequately paid in order to perform the tasks efficiently and for the benefit of the residents. So far, the government has allocated 418 million euros to eliminate wage disparities. In this regard, the government, as the custodian of public finances, is at all times aware of the limitations of the state budget and the fact that many other projects and services, important for the quality of life of the inhabitants of Slovenia, are also financed from this source. We refer to some of them below.
Measures to increase welfare and raise quality of life
This year, we have allocated 162 million to preserve and improve access to drinking water. We invest in water distribution systems, drainage systems and waste water treatment. We have already taken the first steps to ensure an uninterrupted supply of drinking water for the inhabitants of Slovenian Istria and the Karst hinterland. Since local communities directly manage a significant part of matters in local environments, we have provided municipalities with an average lump sum of 700 euros (determined based on average costs per inhabitant) for the years 2023 and 2024, i.e., 8 percentage points more than the previous government had predicted. We are also allocating 55 percent more funds to railway infrastructure and the construction of cycle routes; moreover, we are solving the issue of air connectivity between Slovenia and the world at an accelerated pace. We are accelerating the construction of the Track 2 (the new deadline for completion is the end of 2025) and strengthening activities for the construction of the third development axis. The transition to a low-carbon society will not be feasible without nuclear energy, therefore we are doing everything necessary to adopt the decision on the NEK2 construction.
Encouragement of innovation and integration between business and science
If the public sector is the backbone of the country, companies are its lungs. A constant influx of fresh ideas, products, and highly educated employees is necessary if the country is to breathe with full lungs and reduce disparities with the most developed countries. Thus, in 2022 we provided the economy and tourism with more than 700 million euros and supported almost 5,000 projects; this year more than 563 million euros of financial incentives will be available to the economy, tourism and sports. In this context, we should emphasise that we recognise sport as a propulsive economic industry, and as an activity that has a significant impact on people's quality of life. Therefore, we have increased the funds allocated to sports by 20 percent.
We should mention a few more important economic developments:
- with a strategic partnership in relation to the GREMO Mission, we support the green and digital transformation of the Slovenian automotive industry (objective: to provide 200 million euros by 2027)
- we strengthen scientific research activities and encourage integration with the economy (370.7 million euros in 2023 and 440.2 million euros in 2024)
- we encourage foreign investments (i.e. the high-tech centre for the production of biological medicines in Lendava)
- we have arranged everything necessary for the preservation and development of Slovenian handicrafts (1.4 million euros for 2023 and 1.6 million euros for 2024).
With young people in mind, we are regulating the situation in the labour market and developing housing policy
The dialogue conducted together with the economy is always very lively, but it helps us to maintain a clear vision of the situation in the labour market. In the short period of one year, we have adopted some important measures aimed at employers and (future) employees. In order to solve the acute personnel problems in the majority of Slovenian companies and public institutions, we accelerated the recruitment of foreigners and introduced priority consideration of foreigners' applications for the issuance of a single permit for professions in healthcare, social care, education and other areas of public interest. We have increased the minimum wage and the price of temporary and occasional work for pupils and students. With a number of measures and the annual pension adjustment, we have ensured a more dignified life for pensioners. We encourage the employment of long-term unemployed persons over the age of 50, and above, all safer employment of indefinite duration for young people. The unemployment rate is at a historically low level. We have announced an active fight against precarious work, in which many are trapped, and we will also help to make it easier for young people to become independent by accelerated construction of low-cost housing. This year, we have already allocated 25 million euros in this regard; furthermore, contracts for funds of 60 million euros from the Recovery and Resilience Plan are being drawn up, of which over 50 million euros are intended for this year. In this way, we will finance approximately 1,000 public rental apartments.
It should also be mentioned that the conditions were established for the definitive withdrawal of politics from the RTV Slovenija public institute, and for the protection of independence of journalists and editors. Moreover, adequate funding was provided to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) for the comprehensive and smooth implementation of the public service.
Measures are aimed at ensuring a high quality of life for the inhabitants of Slovenia
The green transition will certainly be at the centre of attention, as every aspect of our existence is connected to effective adaptation to climate change. All the reforms we are undertaking have a common objective: to ensure a high quality of life for the inhabitants of Slovenia. With the funds of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, we will support the implementation of reforms in energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy sources and sustainable mobility, and implement measures for better adaptation to the impacts of climate change. We encourage discussion on constitutional changes that will enable more efficient management of public affairs. We will continue dialogue with civil society and the profession within the framework of strategic councils in various fields. We want to create a society of trust and dialogue, in which there shall be no room for hate speech.