The Slovenia Times

Economy Minister Under Fire Over Conflict of Interest



While Stepišnik, who still indirectly holds a 5% stake in the maker of tools for industry which he headed from 1984 to 2012, has provided ambiguous answers about whether EMO Orodjarna will apply for more subsidies, plans to do so were confirmed today by the company's CEO Miran Šrot.

The company had successfully vied for state funds already earlier this year. While this would not have been possible only two years ago, legislative changes introduced in 2011 removed the ban on companies owned by officials in vying for state funds.

The news of the first subsidy raised eyebrows despite the fact that Stepišnik recused himself from the selection procedure.

The plan to participate in the upcoming EUR 30m call for application by public agency SPIRIT, which is part of the Economic Development and Technology Ministry, appears to be the final straw, as fellow coalition parties put their foot down on Tuesday.

Strong reactions came from all coalition parties bar the ruling Positive Slovenia (PS), on whose ticket Stepišnik was elected to parliament in 2011.

Raising the appointment of former State Secretary Gašpar Gašpar Mišič for chairman of port operator Luka Koper, the SocDems labelled it the second blunder of this kind during the term of the Alenka Bratušek government, which had set high ethical standards for itself.

All three fellow coalition parties thus expect determined action from the prime minister or a resignation by Stepišnik.

"A decision has to be made between being economy minister or receiving the ministry's subsidies. The two are irreconcilable," Citizens List (DL) head Gregor Virant said, adding that legislation allowing this was flawed.

Bratušek commented on the issue for TV Slovenija last evening by saying she had assurances from Stepišnik that EMO would not vie for state funding this time. She added that all ministers enjoyed her trust for the time being, although she announced that she would meet Stepišnik in the coming days.

Meanwhile, EMO Orodjarna CEO Šrot came out to defend the company today, saying the pressure on the minister was affecting the company.

Noting that there was "still quite some time left until Monday", the deadline for applications, he wondered whether other companies competing for funding were trying to disqualify EMO.

EMO Orodjarna has 178 employees and exports most of its products. Annual revenues exceed EUR 9m and the company finished 2012 with EUR 74,000 in net profit.


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