Ljubljana – The parliamentary Culture Committee voted 10:8 in favour of amendments to the act governing the STA that would require the STA English Service to report on the work of NGO as a legal requirement, amidst warnings that the STA has still not received overdue payment from the government for the performance of public service.
The English Service already reports on NGOs, but the law on the STA does not stipulate this as an explicit requirement, even as it includes such a provision for the Slovenian-language service.
The Left, which tabled an identical bill and resubmitted it after it was voted down in October, says the goal of the amendments is to make sure the international public is informed about the work of Slovenian NGOs.
Culture Ministry State Secretary Ignacija Fridl Jarc told the committee today the government did not support the amendment since it was drawing up a separate, more comprehensive bill on the STA that would deal with all key aspects of the law.
Moreover, the proposed change is unnecessary since the law already determines that the STA reports on humanitarian and non-governmental organisations, she said.
The amendments were backed by MPs from the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Left, Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), and the two MPs representing the Italian and Hungarian minorities.
STA director Bojan Veselinovič said the agency was not opposed to the amendment “because fact is that NGOs are specified for the Slovenian wire but not for the English Service.”
He also reminded committee members that today marked the 48th day since the agency had not received any funds from its founder, not just for the performance of public service but also for separate commercial services it performs for the public administration.
Opposition MPs highlighted this issue as well and called on the government to honour its obligations to the STA.
Veselinovič noted that EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova had confirmed in a letter sent to the STA today that the Commission does not need to clear the public service payment as part of its review of state aid.
The government solicited Commission input after an amendment was added to the latest economic stimulus act that required the government to settle its outstanding liabilities to the agency within seven days.
Veselinovič said the agency was wondering what else it was going to take for the government to honour the law. “Our view is that waiting for an opinion from the Commission has turned out to be another attempt at dragging things out… If the situation persists, we assume the government, as the representative of the founder, has decided it no longer needs the STA.”
Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič from the SMC told the STA today that the government’s delaying of meeting legal obligations towards the STA was inadmissible.
The government is obligated to honour the will of the National Assembly and must not refer to consents from EU institutions, he said. “The response that came from the European Commission also gives no basis for the government to continue to disobey the law …” he added.
The SMC finds this kind of pressure on the public media service inadmissible and expects the problem to be solved.
Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič, also an SMC member, said the STA was needed so “we insist that financial means must be secured”. She said SMC head and Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek was conducting talks on this with the prime minister.
If this dialogue fails to bring a solution, the SMC will propose the matter be discussed by the cabinet, she announced.
The head of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi), Matej Tonin, told the STA today he was actively working for a solution “to the benefit of both sides”.