The Slovenia Times

Political Overview: Pahor concerned the refugee issue may affect the geopolitics of the EU



Pahor, who starts his new five-year term in the office at the end of December, said that it would be important for Slovenia to do its bit as a sovereign country and as an EU and NATO member, in order to contribute to stabilisation and deal with issues internationally. One of the biggest challenges Pahor identified was the refugee issue, where he believes that the EU has failed the test. "This has shaken confidence in addressing the EU's development."

The president advocates proportion rather than exaggeration when it comes to accepting refugees in Europe, "or else the situation will get out of control". This is why he understands the concerns of Interior Minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar, whom he backed in the case of the Syrian refugee, Ahmad Shamieh. He believes that Slovenia should "not give the impression that it is departing in any way from the conduct of virtually all other countries which understand that the number of refugees fleeing to Europe is much larger than is the readiness of the 28 countries to share the burden of care for them".

The "overriding concern" in Europe today is that "no politician should produce the effect of Angela Merkel's 'Willkommenspolitik' through their words or actions". In this sense, Pahor sees tightening controls at the external Schengen borders as the only way forward. Pahor believes that the expected German-French initiative for the future of the EU will probably also demand a "certain positioning" on the part of Slovenia.

Slovenia providing support to Adriatic Charter countries

Slovenia is providing active support to the Adriatic Charter countries, Defence Ministry State Secretary, Miloš Bizjak, said as he attended the annual US-Adriatic Charter defence ministerial in Ohrid, Macedonia.

The two-day event, in early December, was attended by defence officials from the US, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia and Slovenia. The conference focused on regional projects, defence cooperation, participation in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission to Afghanistan, and gender perspectives in the military and defence ministries.

Slovenia, an observer of the Adriatic Charter, encourages member countries to introduce necessary reforms and provides concrete help, including through international NATO missions, Bizjak said. Touching on Resolute Support, Bizjak said that Slovenia would step up its involvement in the mission in 2018.

While in Ohrid, Bizjak met Laura Cooper, US Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence and Dragan Nikolić, State Secretary at the Macedonian Defence Ministry, the Slovenian Defence Ministry advised in a press release. The event was addressed by Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who said that the Adriatic Charter motivated the countries to work towards achieving NATO standards. He is confident that Macedonia will meet NATO standards soon and become the thirtieth member of the alliance.

No end in sight for healthcare woes

The cornerstone of the government's health reform efforts collapsed this year as Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc failed to get support for a bill to reorganise the health insurance system and secure more stable healthcare financing. 

The coalition did manage to push through a law designed to improve the management of waiting lists at hospitals and another regulating the concessions for private practitioners, which doctors unsuccessfully sought to challenge in a referendum. A law was also passed to bail out ailing hospitals with EUR 136m over the next two years. However, financing and waiting times remain problematic and hospitals keep overpaying for medical equipment. A grouped public procurement for stents failed as virtually all bids exceeded the price ceilings, and the parliamentary inquiry investigating stent purchases found that they were hugely overpriced and that hospital purchasing departments acted in accord with suppliers and willingly violated public procurement legislation. The Minister, who survived another ouster motion in 2017, also faced criticism over the situation at the Pediatric Clinic of the UKC Ljubljana hospital, where infighting and accusations for allegedly preventable deaths further undermined public trust in the hospital's ability to treat children with congenital heart disease.

Source: STA


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