The Slovenia Times

Newcomer appointed agriculture minister

Mateja Čalušić appointed Slovenia's new agriculture minister. Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

Mateja Čalušić, a 36-year-old MP for the largest ruling coalition party with no previous political experience, was appointed Slovenia's new agricultural minister on 12 January.

Čalušić, an engineer of agriculture and horticulture, a certified agricultural plant protection adviser and a sommelier, worked as agricultural plant protection adviser and managed a family-run bistro in the coastal city of Koper before being elected an MP for the Freedom Movement in the April 2022 election.

She succeeds Irena Šinko, who was dismissed by parliament in mid-October after she lost Prime Minister Robert Golob's trust for the way she reacted to a pesticide scandal at the Food Safety Administration. Defence Minister Marjan Šarec stepped in in the meantime.

Čalušić was picked for the job after Golob's chosen candidate, retired army major Vojko Adamič failed to impress Freedom Movement MPs with his presentation before the Christmas holidays.

Media commentators have criticised Čalušić for lacking political and professional experience for the job and she also faced questions about misrepresentation of her qualifications on the parliament's website.

She apologised for failing to spot the mistake while her party took the blame for mistakenly stating that she had a university degree, when in fact she has a degree obtained in a first-cycle professional higher education study programme at the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana.

In his address to parliament before the vote on her appointment, Prime Minister Golob described Čalušić as a representative of a new generation of politicians "who do not live in the past, politicians who understand what community means".

His office noted that in recent years, she brought together a number of young winegrowers from the coastal region of Istria under a local supply chain.

Golob is confident that she will be able to show her strengths in a number of areas, and will be successful in shortening food supply chains as much as possible.

As a deputy chair of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee she has shown to be open, positive and motivated, and while working on one of the most challenging bills, changes to the animal protection law, she helped bring together people with different opinions, he said.

Coalition MPs supported her, arguing she would prove herself worthy of her new post during talks with farmers, while opposition MPs expressed disappointed over what they had witnessed so far.

Apart from lack of political experience, one of the things the opposition holds against her is her involvement in controversial legislative changes that give greater say to animal rights activists and that ban members of political parties from running for senior posts at the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry. Both sets of changes have been challenged at the Constitutional Court.

During her confirmation hearing before the Agriculture Committee, Čalušić pledged efforts to improve food security and position of farmers, but farmer officials have been reserved in their comments about her.

Everyone agrees that the new minister faces a lot of challenges with the head of the farmers' trade union Anton Medved indicating farmers might take to the streets again as they did last year unless they are offered some solutions.

Right after being sworn in Čalušić said her first priority would be engaging in dialogue with farmer representatives


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