The Slovenia Times

Ready for the Fiscal Rule


The parties' consensus to introduce the rule stipulating that Slovenia's budget must be balanced or in surplus bar in extraordinary circumstances was followed by the Constitution Commission's nod to the changes and to the position of an expert group in charge of reviewing the proposal.

While the expert group in principle agrees with the government's proposal, it found some parts deficient, urging the government to revise them.

According to the head of the Constitution Commission, Gregor Virant, the introduction of the fiscal rule would serve as a proof that Slovenia was striving to consolidate public finances.

A member of the expert group, economist Igor Masten, meanwhile noted that the state can help the economy by borrowing at times of crisis, but can only do so if its public finances are in good order.

He moreover said that consolidated public finances were in line with Slovenia's principle of being a welfare state, as it did not prevent the state from financing public goods.

Head of the expert group Miro Cerar stressed that procedures in changing the Constitution should be defined more accurately, as they had limited time frame, which is why they should have an authorising position to tackle the enactment of the changes.

Janša stressed that today's consensus to launch the procedure did not mean the parties agreed on the final wording of the rule, or the constitutional law which would further define sanctions and the time frame for implementation.

It is however the first step, which is very important, Janša noted.

Based on the decision by the Constitutional Commission, which backed the changes with 18 votes for and one abstention, the National Assembly will most likely muster the two-thirds majority required to launch the procedure at an extraordinary session tomorrow.

Janša told the press after the meeting that the enactment of the golden rule will be the basis for Slovenia's sustainable development without crises, while this message will also be carried outside the country's borders.

This will be a signal to foreign investors that Slovenia provides a stable business environment, which will in turn lower the price of its borrowing, he said.

Janša noted that the European Commission is to evaluate the measures that EU members had taken in their efforts to consolidate finances, while its report will affect the rating agencies' and investors' views on the situation in Slovenia.

Touching on allegations that the government is hurrying the implementation of the rule to prevent unions calling a referendum on its austerity package, Janša said that this was not the case.

According to him, referendums on fiscal issues will not be banned by the introduction of the rule, but the Constitutional Court will be able to use it as a focal point for its rulings on such referendum requests.

Tone Jerovšek and Lojze Ude, constitutional jurists in the expert group, also agreed that the changes were not aimed at banning referendums. "That would not be possible," Ude stressed.

The leaders of parliamentary parties and heads of deputy groups moreover discussed the Partnership for Exiting the Crisis document drafted by the Economic and Social Council, Slovenia's main industrial relations forum.

Janša explained that the partnership was an opportunity to upgrade the social dialogue with a political one, meaning that not only the government, but also the opposition would be able to harmonise key reforms with social partners.

While opposition Positive Slovenia (PS) and SocDems did not provide any concrete decision about cooperation, Janša believes that readiness existed in principle, although the first priority would be passing the fiscal rule.

Heads of the PS and SocDems, Zoran Janković and Borut Pahor, also expressed satisfaction with today's decision to launch the constitutional procedure.

Pahor, who stressed that the implementation would be a political message that Slovenia was maturing, meanwhile noted that the Constitutional Court would get too much power, while this would not be as bad as rejecting the rule outright.

"A balanced budget is something that is vital for Slovenia's successful exit from the crisis," he noted.

Janković meanwhile noted that his party would back the expert's group position on the implementation of the rule.

He moreover touched on the reform partnership, stressing that the government should show willingness to work with the opposition without signing a partnership.


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