The Slovenia Times

Mlinar named minister in charge of cohesion policy


On being sworn in, Mlinar said that the vote showed that "we want to overcome borders and that origin does not count, what counts is our values" a reference to opposition criticism of the way she secured Slovenian citizenship and questions about her loyalty.

Addressing MPs with a raspy voice, she framed the appointment as a victory for the Slovenian diaspora, saying that minorities were "not just small in size, we are often belittled, humiliated and our voice intentionally ignored."

She said that as minister, she would endeavour in particular to make sure all available cohesion policy funds are used to the benefit of all citizens.

The vote came after Prime Minister Marjan Šarec urged the MPs to debate the nomination on substance, as he criticised Tuesday's committee debate, which focused on her nationality and origin.

"The candidate is a Slovenian with her heart and soul, but she was an Austrian citizen because the Carinthian referendum was held in 1920 and we lost that part of the territory," he said.

The committee debate had been dominated by concerns by the rightist parties over Mlinar's loyalty since she is a dual Austrian-Slovenian citizen, with questions raised about whether she would go against Austria's interests at EU level.

There were also allegations that she was opportunistic in securing Slovenian citizenship at the last moment - she formally received it this week after the government decided to grant it to her on grounds of national interest - and saying in advance that she would not give up Austrian citizenship.

At the plenary debate few MPs raises the same concerns, as the opposition toned down its criticism and focused on what they said was Mlinar's poor showing on substance in committee, and questioned her ability to lead a government department given her lack of expertise on cohesion policy.

The opposition Democrats (SDS) criticised her for her failure to provide specifics at committee and her poor knowledge of cohesion. "We disagree with her estimate that the drawing of cohesion funds in Slovenia is solid," Suzana Lep Šimenko said.

Some also voiced concerns about the government's ability to continue leading the country given its minority status. "This is not a vote against Angelika Mlinar, it is a vote against the Šarec government," New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin said, adding: "Understand this vote as a vote for a different government and an early election as soon as possible."

But there were nevertheless some of the same questions about her loyalty, with perhaps the fiercest criticism voiced by a coalition MP, Robert Polnar of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), who said putting an Austrian citizen in the government cabinet was a sign of Slovenian society's inexorable "degeneration".

Polnar, who rose to prominence a few weeks ago by voting against the budget bills, voted against, but the remaining four DeSUS MPs were in favour, having in the days before the vote keeping their voting intentions secret, raising the prospects of a government crisis.

MPs from the far-right National Party (SNS), the source of the most fierce criticism on Tuesday, largely refrained in taking part in the debate in the first place, and two of their MPs, including party president Zmago Jelinčič, were not present for the vote, helping the government secure the requisite simple majority. The other two voted against.

Mlinar became president exactly a year after the appointment her predecessor Iztok Purić, who stepped down for personal reasons in October after overseeing the fixing of a much criticised IT system at the Government Office for Development and Cohesion Policy that was blamed for delays in the drawing of EU funds.

She previously served as MP for the liberal Austrian Neos party and headed the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) slate for this year's EU election but the party failed to clear the threshold to send an MEP to the European Parliament.

Born in 1970 in the village of Altendorf in the south of the Austrian province of Carinthia, Mlinar She has a PhD in law from Salzburg University. She has worked for several NGOs, and also served at the European Commission Representation in Ljubljana from early 2000 to mid-2005.

Between May 2009 and June 2010, she was secretary general of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), one of the two umbrella organisations of the Slovenian community in Austria.


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