The Slovenia Times

Slovenia in 2020



        Celebrations of the 30th anniversary of events that lead to the declaration of Slovenian independence will provide the political backdrop for 2020, a year that is expected to be less about celebration than uncertainty, in particular over the firmness of the minority government, which will be forced to seek support for every bill and vote.
        This is likely to make it difficult to defend individual ministers in the event of vote of no-confidence or pass major legislation, some of which, for example health reform, is seen as long overdue. President Borut Pahor has suggested forming a consensus on two or three key projects, but for now such a prospect seems remote. One such project may by reform of electoral law as ordered by the Constitutional Court, but negotiations sponsored by Pahor have so far produced two competing solutions without a clear majority support.
        One major legislative proposal expected early in 2020 is a bill on long-term care, which has been in the making for years, but its fate is to a large extent connected to the amended health insurance bill, on which there is a lack of clear consensus on key solutions even within the government.
        In the security arena fierce debates are set to continue about how to manage migrations. Related to that are wishes by the police to get additional powers, which have so far been held back by human rights concerns. The penal code is also slated for change, although there the focus is on a reform of provisions on sexual offences.
        Despite a record budget for the year, pressure on government expenditure is likely to continue increasing due to existing and new wage demands. Talks are already under way about a more thorough reform of the public sector pay system, but progress has been slow.
        At least two highlights are expected on the staffing front. By March a new president of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption is to be appointed, and in July the nine-year term of Constitutional Court judge Dunja Jadek Pensa ends.


        One of the main issues of 2020 will be how the Slovenian economy will perform in conditions of considerable uncertainty due to trade wars. While the economy is expected to grow at a slightly slower pace than this year, at 2.5-3%, the potential downside risks are substantial even though trade tensions have eased off recently. Macroeconomic performance will also determine government spending and the course of talks on additional cuts in taxes on labour.
        An intense year is expected in infrastructure as major state investments, including construction of the second rail track from Divača to Koper, the second tube of the Karavanke tunnel and portions of the north-south expressway known as the Third Development Axis are to finally get off the ground. A tender for spectrum for next-generation telecoms services known as 5G is also expected.
        Energy policy will be a major focal point, with Slovenia finally expected to adopt the National Energy and Climate Plan and an energy concept, documents that will determine the country's long-term energy mix. This might involve a more final decision on the future of nuclear energy.
        In housing policy action is expected on the promise to build more affordable housing. A new national loan guarantee scheme for those on lower incomes has been announced as well.
        Provided disagreements between Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) and the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) are resolved, a new holding company bringing all state-owned tourism assets under one roof will be established. The general idea has been confirmed, but opinions are divided on the details of the management and ownership of dozens of hotels and spas.
        Resolution is also expected with regard to the transfer of Slovenian retailer Mercator from its bankrupt Croatian parent company Agrokor to the newly-established Fortenova, and clarity is expected about plans by Magna Steyr to expand its paint shop in Hoče as well as plans by Gorenje owner Hisense to build a TV factory in Velenje.


        Slovenia's foreign policy has long been dominated by relations with Croatia and 2020 is unlikely to bring about change. Early in the year the EU's Court of Justice is expected to decide whether Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia regarding the implementation of the border arbitration award is admissible. And the Slovenian government may have to take a decision on whether or not Croatia may join the no-passport Schengen zone; the indications so far are that it will try to block its efforts unless Croatia returns to border arbitration.
        With Slovenia chairing the EU Council in the second half of 2021, preparations are expected to intensify next year. Before that, Slovenia will have to put significant efforts in talks on the EU's next multi-year budget considering that it faces the prospect of getting far less cohesion funds.
        Two major anniversaries with a strong foreign-policy dimension are also coming up next year. July marks the centenary of the burning of the Narodni Dom, a Slovenian cultural centre in Trieste, and in November comes the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite, which in effect determined a significant portion of the border between Austria and present-day Slovenia.


        After a long period of culture policy lull, several major developments are expected to come to fruition in 2020. Starting on 1 January, the reduced, 5% VAT rate will apply to all physical and electronic books, newspapers and periodicals. And later in the year preparations will start for implementation of a law that set aside almost EUR 123 million for cultural projects in 2021-2027.
        A new national programme for culture for 2020-2027 is expected to be adopted along with a new national language policy until 2024. Amendments to the media act, in the making for years, are likely as well.


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