The Slovenia Times

Parliament launches inquiry into PM's firm, party

The National Assembly discusses an inquiry into energy companies linked to PM Robert Golob and his party. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The National Assembly has set up a parliamentary inquiry targeting Star Solar, a company owned by Prime Minister Robert Golob, Gen-I, a company he used to run, and the financing of his party Freedom Movement.

The inquiry, launched by default after it was requested by the upper chamber of parliament, is to ascertain Golob's responsibility for and role in alleged wrongdoing as the former long-serving CEO of Gen-I, an energy company under majority control of the state.

The majority on the National Council, led by a councillor from the ranks of the opposition, as well as the opposition in the lower chamber allege that funds were siphoned off for illegal financing of the Freedom Movement in the campaign ahead of the 2022 general election, in which the party emerged as a winner.

The inquiry will also be concerned with Star Solar, a company for the production of solar power that is owned by Golob, and its transactions with Borzen, the national electricity market operator.

Golob got full ownership of Star Solar in last year's divorce proceedings and transactions with Borzen are payments for the electricity its solar farms produce.

Opposition want to "learn the truth"

The inquiry comes after months of accusations by the opposition that Golob had abused his corporate position to siphon off money and launch his political career.

"It is in the interest of the public to get an answer to the question of whether you have abused your former posts to finance your political campaign," Democrat (SDS) MP Žan Mahnič said in debate on 6 May; "what are you hiding, what are you afraid of?"

As for Star Solar, the opposition claims it is necessary to check how the company was incorporated and financed, and how its ownership has changed.

The inquiry must "investigate potential violations of tax laws and integrity laws," said New Slovenia (NSi) deputy Vida Čadonič Špelič.

She said Slovenia was being subjected to "forced solarisation, allegedly because of the private interests of the prime minister."

"A parliamentary inquiry is a tool to get answers, and a way for people to learn the truth," she said.

Coalition see inquiry as abuse

The coalition parties said that the instrument of parliamentary inquiry was being abused to score political points.

"This is a political abuse ... dictated by the SDS," said Freedom Movement deputy group leader Borut Sajovic.

He invoked the opinion of the National Assembly's legal department that the request for investigation does not meet the criteria set by the law and the Constitution since neither the subject nor the time period of the inquiry have been defined.

He said Golob was being investigated as an office holder but for things he did prior to becoming an office holder.

The junior coalition parties did not participate in the debate after an initial presentation of opinions in which the Social Democrats (SD) said they did not intend to take a stance regarding the allegations, and the Left described the inquiry as a battle between two parties, meaning the SDS and the Freedom Movement.

Issues with parliamentary inquiry before

Gen-I has denounced the demand for the inquiry into its operations as illegal and unconstitutional, arguing the goal was to obtain as much data as possible to undermine the company.

Meanwhile, National Assembly President Urška Klakočar Zupančič, a former judge who comes from Golob's party, has submitted a proposal to amend the Parliamentary Inquiry Act to stipulate that a request for an inquiry be first reviewed by the Constitutional Court if the legislature's legal department has doubts regarding its constitutionality, which was the case this time.

Janez Janša, the SDS leader and former prime minister, alleged that the proposal was an attempt to limit the instrument of a parliamentary inquiry.

But Klakočar Zupančič noted that in its Rule of Law Reports, the European Commission called on Slovenia to appropriately regulate the instrument of parliamentary inquiry as decreed by the Constitutional Court.

"Rules governing parliamentary inquiries lack safeguards on independence of judges and state prosecutors - as required by Constitutional Court judgements," the Commission wrote in the report released in July 2022, having raised the issue before.

The Constitutional Court found legislation and rules of procedure on parliamentary inquiry in breach of the Constitution in 2021 when it also halted an inquiry into prosecution of former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, which started in July 2019.

The court found such an inquiry into the work of judges and prosecutors unacceptable, arguing it would violate the judiciary's independence. It ordered the legislature to put in place additional procedural safeguards and remedies to prevent such violations in the future.

That inquiry too was set up at the behest of the National Council whose member Kangler was at the time. It set out to establish political responsibility of public officials involved in the prosecution of Kangler, who later became a state secretary at the Interior Ministry in the Janša government (2020-22).

A parliamentary inquiry is set up on demand by a third of deputies in the National Assembly or by the National Council. There are typically several in each term. Currently, three are ongoing, one looking into allegedly illegal financing of parties and party propaganda in the media prior to the 2022 election, which mainly targets the SDS, one looking into alleged political interference in the police, and a third one into alleged abuse in a Ljubljana sewerage project. The former two were opened at the behest of coalition MPs and the latter by the opposition.


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