Culture Minister Bizjak Mlakar resigns


A vote of no confidence in Bizjak Mlakar was called by Cerar after the minister had rejected his call to resign over a row concerning the UNESCO-listed Idrija mercury mine.

Cerar has cited the minister's refusal to implement a government decree to bring the mine under the Culture Ministry as "the last straw".

In his speech in parliament today, Cerar noted that her actions or lack thereof and the failure to implement key measures in culture had led to processes detrimental to Slovenian culture.

"The minister often sought reasons for inaction in inadequate funds. These, often public, appearances have been unfair, because she adopted [the budget] with the government," Cerar stressed. According to him, the government has been increasing the culture budget as much as it could.

According to him, the government is fully aware of the importance of culture and its role in the society, which is why the cabinet has set ambitious goals in the field.

Cerar reproached Bizjak Mlakar that she had not started implementing the national programme for culture for 2014-2017 while failing to propose any changes, "which would be only rational if she believes the document is inadequate".

He also pointed to the resignation in December of most of the members of the National Council for Culture. "Close cooperation and constant communication between the ministry and the council is prerequisite for a successful implementation of cultural policies… Sadly there was not enough of either."

According to the PM, the minister also failed in dealing with media legislation and cultural heritage, which she said was her priority.

The minister, who refused to implement the decree regarding the Idrija mine, arguing that it was the purview of the economy portfolio, meanwhile stressed that Cerar's statements were untrue. "For over a year I tried in vain to tackle the issue in the mine for the good of the people with you and other relevant ministers."

According to her, she proposed that the liquidation of the mine be stopped, but neither Cerar nor Finance Minister Dušan Mramor wanted to hear anything about it. Should the liquidation happen, "it will mean general danger for the lives of Idrija inhabitants and their property, which is a criminal act".

Going on, Bizjak Mlakar said that the prime minister was bending the knee to lobbies, who "apparently even have the power to dismiss ministers who endanger their financial interests".

She moreover said that the PM did not want to discuss issues in culture and expected at the same time that she "be unconditionally obedient and dutiful" and implement decrees that could not be implemented.

"I do not see myself in the government that works in the interest of lobbies and the wealthiest and on the other hand neglects legality and morality," she added before handing in her resignation.

The minister had been subject to harsh criticism throughout her term, with complaints coming from journalists and media owners over the media legislation, and artists over funding and culture policy in general.

Bizjak Mlakar is the sixth minister to leave the Miro Cerar cabinet and until the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) finds a replacement, Minister for Slovenians Abroad Gorazd Žmavc will take over as a stand-in.

Bizjak Mlakar, who was elected to parliament on the DeSUS ticket, will now return to parliament as a DeSUS deputy.