Boštjan Poklukar reinstalled as interior minister
Boštjan Poklukar, 52, has been appointed as Slovenia's new interior minister, a job that he held in the government of the incumbent Defence Minister Marjan Šarec between 2018 and 2020.
Poklukar, who has spent most of his career as a Defence Ministry employee, succeeds Tatjana Bobnar, who stepped down in December amid a bitter row with Prime Minister Robert Golob over what she alleged was political meddling in the police force.
Although it was him who picked Bobnar as police commissioner during his first term in office, Poklukar took Golob's side, accusing Bobnar of using "political blackmail" on the prime minister. At the same time ha called for "depoliticisation" of the police force.
Initially a member of Šarec's LMŠ party, which has since been folded into Golob's Freedom Movement, Poklukar was Golob's pick for the job and political commentators as well as the opposition assessed that Golob put loyalty above expertise.
One recurring misgiving voiced about Poklukar has been his ties to Damir Črnčec, the controversial aide to Defence Minister Šarec who years ago was allied to Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS).
In a recent interview Šarec dismissed the concern that Črnčec would now have control over the entire security system as something he "has been listening to ever since the public knows about our cooperation".
Pledge to combat corruption, manage migration and depoliticise police
Addressing the National Assembly before Poklukar's confirmation on 21 February, Golob emphasized the fight against corruption as the new minister's priority, pledging for the entire government to join in the effort.
Having experience in civil protection, army and interior affairs, Poklukar is familiar with these fields, which means he will have no problem introducing the "right ways" in these systems, Golob said.
Apart from the combat against corruption, Poklukar identified migration management, and depoliticisation, professionalisation and modernisation of the police force as his top priorities.
Both Poklukar and Golob pledged to continue with the removal of the fence from the Slovenian-Croatian border, parts of which were still erected when Poklukar first served as interior minister.
Now that Croatia joined the Schengen Area, Golob promised for Slovenia to "help Croatia make oversight over its Schengen border more efficient".
Turning to police depoliticisation plans, Golob said Poklukar was aware of the division between the police, the police directorate and the minister.
"I believe that the misunderstandings we have seen in these relations in the past year are a thing of the past, because Boštjan Poklukar is aware of the fact that he is a political official and is aware of the boundaries, which he cannot cross in relation to police," Golob said.
Asked about his plans for potential replacements at the force after being sworn in, Poklukar merely said that "every change at the top entails certain changes".
Support split along partisan lines
While the ruling coalition endorsed Poklukar unanimously, praising him as an experienced candidate who was aware of his responsibilities, the opposition questioned his professionalism and independence.
Speaking at an unrelated event, SDS leader Janša labelled Poklukar "a poor staffing choice that is below par even for the current government".
Vida Čadonič Špelič, an MP for New Slovenia (NSi), said the public had still not received a convincing explanation why Poklukar's predecessor Tatjana Bobnar had to step down.
The NSi was worried that the stated depoliticisation and professionalisation of police would in fact lead to politicians entering police, especially the National Bureau of Investigation and "have control over individual procedures".
SAF member and war veteran
Holding a master's degree in public administration sciences, Poklukar has worked at the Defence Ministry since 1991 and is a member of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF), where he has served in various capacities.
He has been awarded the Bronze Medal of General Maister and the Silver Medal of the Slovenian Armed Forces, and is a veteran of the war for Slovenian independence.
He has worked for the Defence Ministry's Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, including as a public relations officer responsible for migration.
In the 2022 local elections he ran for a seat on the Bled local council on the Freedom Movement's ticket, but failed to get elected.