The Slovenia Times

Cabinet reshuffle set in motion

Minister of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Uroš Brežan (left) and Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko (centre). Photo: Boštjan Podlogar/STA

Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob set his first major cabinet reshuffle in motion on 4 October, having decided to part ways with the ministers of agriculture and natural resources.

Golob asked parliament to dismiss Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko, who refused to step down on her own, and formally notified it of the resignation of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Minister Uroš Brežan.

Until new ministers are appointed, their jobs will be temporarily performed by Defence Minister Marjan Šarec and Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, respectively.

Golob said he had lost trust in the agriculture minister after the Veterinary and Food Safety Administration responded inappropriately to the import of fruits and vegetables that contained prohibited pesticides, where it failed to communicate with the public.

According to media reports, customers consumed several tonnes of peaches from Serbia containing the pesticide chlorpyrifos, as well as plums from Poland containing chlorpyrifos-ethyl this summer, before the media shed light on the issue.

Minister Šinko nevertheless defended the administration's conduct. Golob told the Slovenian Press Agency that he thought "it is irresponsible of any minister not to take the people's side when it comes to acts that jeopardise people's health. Hence the loss of trust".

Golob expects that the leadership of the Veterinary and Food Safety Administration will be replaced once the new minister is appointed.

Brežan, meanwhile, lost Golob's trust due to post-flood relief efforts, where the ministry failed to restructure organisationally fast enough to rise up to the challenge.

"Autumn and winter are coming, we really have to speed things up, and this is the main reason, the only reason for the departure," he said.

The immediate post-flood relief was good, but in the subsequent stages "the ministry was becoming a bottleneck, it was not responsive enough, many complaints were coming from other departments," according to Golob.

Golob described the stand-ins as seasoned ministers who will be able to start working quickly.

He is convinced that under Bratušek, whose portfolio partially overlaps with natural resources, the post-flood reconstruction process and coordination on the ground, where massive earthwork is currently under way, will speed up.

Asked whether he regretted having split the infrastructure portfolio into two, creating the Ministry of Natural Resources, Golob said the government was organised to exploit development potentials and less so to deal with crises, where it is better to have a more streamlined structure.

His cabinet was restructured according to his original plan at the beginning of the year after a law that made that possible finally took effect late in 2022 after it was upheld in a referendum called by the opposition.

Šinko and Brežan are moving out after Golob forced Danijel Bešič Loredan to resign as health minister in July over a difference of opinion on health reform, and after Tatjana Bobnar stepped down in December last year, having fallen out with the prime minister over staffing in the police force.

All four ministers were put forward by Golob's own party, the Freedom Movement. So far there have been no replacements of ministers from the ranks of the smaller coalition parties, the Left and the Social Democrats, but there has been speculation that an even bigger reshuffle may follow later on.

Meanwhile, Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik appears to continue to enjoy the prime minister's trust despite becoming embroiled in a scandal over a costly multi-day trip to New York and an open call for NGO funding in which her former business partner was one of the largest recipients of funds.


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