The Slovenia Times

Defence Minister Faces Ouster Motion



"If the prime minister does not take action...interpellation is the only weapon at the opposition's disposal," Matej Tonin, deputy group leader for the New Slovenia (NSi), told the press Thursday.

His statement comes after the opposition members on the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services revealed Veber ordered military intelligence to analyse the effects of privatisation of Telekom Slovenije.

The opposition claims Veber overstepped his authority since military intelligence can only conduct counter-intelligence tasks and activities related to military activities at home and abroad.

Veber however said today that he did not overstep his powers. He claims he merely ordered a security analysis of the telco sale since the company controls key communications infrastructure that is also used by the army.

But Tonin said the order was "an inadmissible interference of the military sphere in the civilian sphere," as the civilian intelligence service SOVA had the jurisdiction in this field.

Referring to the apprehension about privatisation harboured by Veber's Social Democrats (SD), Tonin said the story could be construed in the framework of "the battle for and against privatisation."

He rejected Veber's claims that the Telekom infrastructure warranted an analysis, noting that all wiretapping is conducted by police and all operators, regardless of ownership, need to comply with court orders.

Similarly, Jože Tanko, the deputy group leader for the Democrats (SDS), said his party would back an ouster motion unless the prime minister seeks Veber's dismissal.

"It is clear that [Veber] overstepped his powers and ordered the military intelligence something that is beyond its jurisdiction...It appears the service is highly politicised, in a way it is politically privatised," he said.

While the prime minister has ordered Veber to report on the matter by the end of the week, he has not yet commented on the case. He is currently in Brussels attending an EU summit.

The SocDem leader, Dejan Židan, backed the minister in a statement today, saying he acted lawfully.

He endorsed Veber's claim that he ordered the analysis due to security concerns and rejected speculations that it might have been motivated by the party's apprehension about privatisation.

"We are talking about a minister who is efficient, good, and concerned about the security in Slovenia...I expect that the prime minister will protect him. Every prime minister must protect good ministers," Židan said.

The third partner in the ruling coalition, the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), indicated Veber might have to go if the allegations stand up.

Veber has "come close to overstepping his powers...If it turns out that he has, it would be appropriate if he steps down," said Franc Jurša, the DeSUS deputy group leader.

Prime Minister Miro Cerar has already demanded a report from Veber. He announced on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday that he would meet with the minister over the matter.

"It is only right that [Veber] has a chance to acquaint me fully with the matter," said Cerar, adding that he would make up his mind on what course of action to take following the meeting.


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