The Slovenia Times

Ministers in Slovenia's Eleventh Cabinet




UROŠ ČUFER (Positive Slovenia) - finance minister

Uroš Čufer (1970), who holds a PhD in economics from the Paris IX - Dauphine university, has been the director of the financial management department at NLB, Slovenia's largest bank, since 2004. Before coming to NLB, he served as director of the analytical department at the central bank, becoming its youngest head, at 29, in 1999.
At NLB he was most recently in charge of the cost-cutting programme and drawing up a restructuring plan for the European Commission, but he emphasised that he had nothing to do with the awarding of questionable loans.
Analysts say he has perhaps the best insider knowledge of the NLB of anyone in the country, which he will need in order to help turn around Slovenia's biggest and its most problematic bank.
Čufer appears to have spotless credentials and has earned praise from former central bank governor France Arhar and former finance minister Dušan Mramor, both of whom worked with him when he was at the central bank. But his long stint at NLB has raised questions about potential bias in dealing with NLB and restructuring of banks in general.
Janez Šušteršič, his predecessor, criticised Čufer for being "an advocate of banks". "It is questionable whether someone who is coming to the Finance Ministry from the bank with the biggest problems will resolve the issue in the best interest of the taxpayers," he said.
In his committee hearing Čufer stressed the need to restructure over-leveraged companies and shore up ailing banks while consolidating public finances. He said recapitalisation of banks must go hand-in-hand with the deleveraging of companies.

STANKO STEPIŠNIK (Positive Slovenia) - economic development and technology minister

Stanko Stepišnik, 56, has a degree in engineering and a master's degree in business administration. He started his political career in 2011, when he was elected to parliament on the Positive Slovenia ticket. He said he decided to run out of the desire to change the business environment.
An experienced businessman, Stepinšek was the director of EMO Orodjarna, a maker of tools for industry, from 1984 to 2012, a company which he joined in 1979.
As an MP he was a member of the committees on the economy and on finance & monetary policy, and the Commission for the Oversight of Public Finances.
In his presentation to the Economy Committee he said he would pursue three key priorities: efficient drawing of EU funds, restructuring of the over-indebted economy and improvements in legislation, in particular insolvency law. He said Slovenia needed to find a balance between austerity and stimulus.

ROMAN JAKIČ (Positive Slovenia) - defence minister

Roman Jakič (1967) holds bachelor's degrees in sociology and education studies. In 1986 he founded and headed the Student Organisation and in 1990 he was elected to the first Slovenian democratic parliament as the representative of the University in Ljubljana.
He was then MP for the Liberal Democrats (LDS) between 1996 and 2004, and was elected on the Positive Slovenia ticket at the 2011 general election. He headed the parliamentary team negotiating on Slovenia's EU accession and a delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and NATO.
He was also an MEP in 2003 and 2004 and has been a Ljubljana city councillor for a number of years.
Though a seasoned politician, he has not been active in defence. Indeed, his signing of a peace declaration in the early 1990s led the Democrats (SDS) to declare him unfit to be defence minister.
In his presentation to the Defence Committee he said he would strive to reorganise the defence system, though he pointed out he would continue the work of his predecessors.

UROŠ GRILC (Positive Slovenia) - culture minister

Uroš Grilc, 44, holds a PhD in philosophy and has headed the department of culture at the Ljubljana Municipality since 2007 under the consecutive mayorships of former PS leader Zoran Janković.
Before his time at the Ljubljana Municipality, he worked at the Culture Ministry starting in 2000 and, in 2004 became the first chair of the department for books.
He is the author of a book on French philosopher Jasques Derrida and has translated the works of Derrida, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger from English and German.
Grilc told parliament during his hearing that he would relaunch the public debate on the key National Culture Programme (2013-2016) and the umbrella culture act, and draw up a national language policy programme.

TINA KOMEL (Positive Slovenia) - minister without portfolio for Slovenians abroad

Tina Komel, at 32 the youngest member of the cabinet, was elected to parliament on the Positive Slovenia ticket in 2011. She is a member of the EU affairs and health committees, and the commissions for Slovenians abroad and national communities.
Before joining parliament, she held junior administrative positions at the Vzajemna mutual health insurer and at Raiffeisen Bank.
Komel is a member of the Italian minority, which led New Slovenia (NSi) president to suggest she was not Slovenian enough to lead the portfolio. But Komel retorted her multicultural background was an advantage, as was her youth.
In her presentation to parliament, Komel said she would strive for bridging of ideological differences and equal cooperation with all diaspora organizations.

GREGOR VIRANT (Citizens' List) - interior and public administration minister

Gregor Virant, 43, is the leader of the Citizens List (DL), whose support for the Alenka Bratušek coalition was uncertain until the very last moment.
Virant, who holds a doctorate in law, worked as lecturer at the Faculty of Administration before becoming parliamentary speaker after the 2011 general election. He served as the public administration minister in the 2004-2008 Janez Janša government when he made a name for himself with a reform of the public sector pay system.
While he was never a member of Janša's Democrats (SDS), he was a member of the party's shadow cabinet and stood for the SDS in the 2004 general election. He also headed the rightist outfit Assembly for the Republic between December 2008 and 2011, but was ostracised by the right bloc ahead of the 2011 general election as he announced that he would stand for election with his own party, the DL.
Virant said his priority would be to strike a pay deal with public sector unions. In home affairs, he announced a crack-down on white collar crime and corruption, saying there would be "no holy cows".

SENKO PLIČANIČ (Citizens' List) - justice minister

Senko Pličanič, 49, is returning to the department he held in the 2012-2013 Janez Janša government. Holding a PhD in law, Pličanič is an associate professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law, the director of the Public Administration Institute and co-owner of the private Institute for Public Administration Consulting.
He was visiting researcher at Berkeley University in 1996 on a Fulbright scholarship, which he received again in 2006 as visiting professor at the San Francisco Golden Gate University. His academic interests range from environmental law to administrative and privacy law.
Although he made his debut in politics when he become Janša's minister, he is the co-author of several pieces of legislation, including the spatial planning act and the freedom of information act.
In his presentation to parliament Pličanič announced a continuation of policies, the focus being on improving the work of courts, making court presidents more accountable, and simplifying regulations.

IGOR MAHER (Citizens' List) - infrastructure and spatial planning minister

Igor Maher, 45, started his career in police at age 19 and took over as the head of IT at the Koper Police Directorate at age 22. He has BAs in economics and management and is currently enrolled in an MA programme at the University of Primorsko.
Since 1999 he has held a variety of executive positions in the private sector and served as consultant to local communities. Since 2011 he has been project manager at IGEA, a real estate and spatial planning consultancy.
Maher told parliament he would focus on major infrastructural projects, the drawing of EU funds and coercing banks into selling apartments that they seized as collateral in order to revive the stagnant housing market.

DEJAN ŽIDAN (Social Democrats) - agriculture and environment minister

Dejan Židan, 45, served a brief stint as agriculture minister in the Borut Pahor government in 2010. He holds an MA in veterinary medicine and entered politics after serving as the chief executive of Panvita, one of Slovenia's biggest food companies.
He was elected to parliament on the Social Democrats ticket in 2011 and served as the chair of the Agriculture Committee, making a name for himself as a staunch advocate of Slovenia's food self-sufficiency.
Židan indicated in his committee hearing that he would strive to secure the protection of farmland and tackle the mounting environment issues, including air and water pollution. He noted that Slovenia faced some 30 infringement proceedings in the EU, which could end up costing millions in fines.

ANJA KOPAČ MRAK (Social Democrats) - minister of labour, family, social affairs and equal opportunities

Anja Kopač Mrak, 38, holds a PhD in social science and currently works as an assistant professor and lecturer at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences.
She served as state secretary at the Labour, Family and Social Affairs Ministry in the 2008-2011 government led by Borut Pahor, where she spearheaded efforts to secure passage of a controversial family law that was to give gay partners virtually the same right as heterosexual couples.
Her stint as state secretary makes her uniquely qualified to lead the ministry, which even MPs of the new opposition acknowledged. But they also pointed out that a number of laws she authored were voted down in referenda, raising doubts about her ability to manage social dialogue.
In her committee presentation she said her vision was of a "tolerant, equitable and just society based on accountable solidarity". She wants to promote tolerance and solidarity, work towards reducing unemployment, enhance social enterprises and tackle the grey economy.

JERNEJ PIKALO (Social Democrats) - education, science and sports minister

Jernej Pikalo, 37, holds a doctorate in political sciences and currently works as an assistant professor for political science at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences.
He is the author of several books in the field, including Neoliberal Globalization and the State (2003), New Citizenships in the Era of Globalization (2010) and Citizenship and Globalization (2010).
Pikalo is also a permanent visiting professor at the European Inter-University Centre in Venice and Bifrost University in Iceland as well as the chair of the programming council of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, a post he intends to give up.
Pikalo told parliament he was a great advocate of public education and would protect the independence of education while cooperating with all stakeholders. He said the education portfolio was very sensitive and "experiments need to end".
Signalling a departure from the policies of his predecessor Žiga Turk, he said he would strive to maintain the standards regarding class sizes in kindergartens and schools.

KARL ERJAVEC (Pensioners' Party) - foreign minister

Karl Erjavec, 52, is returning to the office of foreign minister he held in the outgoing Janez Janša government, which his party left in early February. A seasoned politician, the DeSUS leader was defence minister in Janša's 2004-2008 government and the environment and spatial planning minister in the Borut Pahor government that followed.
His first stint as minister was overshadowed by the scandal surrounding the Patria defence deal (he was charged with misfeasance in office but acquitted). His second stint too did not end well, as he quit just as parliament was about to hand him a no-confidence vote over his failure to implement key waste management regulations.
He has often proved a recalcitrant negotiator and had frequently threatened to leave the coalition over his tough stance on pensions; apart from leaving the outgoing Janez Janša coalition, DeSUS left the government coalition also in May 2011.
Erjavec, who has led DeSUS since May 2005, has a bachelor's degree in law and was elected to parliament for the first time in the 2011 general election. He used to be a member of the People's Party (SLS) and the Liberal Democrats (LDS), before which he was chief of staff at the Human Rights Ombudsman Office and state secretary for judicial administration at the Justice Ministry between 2001 and 2004.

TOMAŽ GANTAR (Pensioners' Party) - health minister

Tomaž Gantar, 52, is returning to the department he held in the outgoing Janez Janša government. A doctor of medicine, Gantar is the latest in a series of physicians to hold the health portfolio. Working at the Izola General Hospital since 1998, he was the director of the hospital between 2000 and 2004, when he took over as the chief of the office of Koper Mayor Boris Popovič, his close associate. In 2006 he was elected the mayor of Piran, but failed to be re-elected in 2010.
Throughout his political career he has continued to work at Izola General Hospital as a urology surgeon. When he took over in the outgoing Janša government, he suggested he would follow the guidelines set by his predecessor Dorijan Marušič.
Gantar indicated a continuation of the policies he started in the Janša government, the emphasis being on securing financial stability of the health care system.


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