Former environment minister forming new party

Ljubljana – Former Environment Minister Jure Leben is returning to politics to launch the Party of Green Action (Z.DEJ), whose founding congress will be held online on Saturday. In conceiving the manifesto, the main question was how to find a balance between industrial development and environment protection, he told the newspaper Delo.

Leben said Slovenians may not be as susceptible to green measures and policies because natural resources are often taken for granted. “But the last attempt with the water law shows that politics is extremely important for the environment.”

He stressed the importance of finding a balance between the development of industry, which undoubtedly brought benefits for the people, and preserving the environment, which is the precondition for human existence and thus also for the existence of industry and for economic development.

The new party’s demands will not be based only on environmental policy, although sustainable and fair development will be at the heart of its actions, he said.

One of its proposals is to have every primary school connected with a local farm. It will also propose a tax on sugary drinks, with the revenue to be allocated to support the cooperation between schools and farms, he said.

The party will support a second reactor of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) if the project is carried out in close cooperation with the civil society and in compliance with the highest environmental standards.

Asked whether he would participate in a Janez Janša government, Leben said his party’s core values were sustainable development and environment protection. “We would not be able to cooperate with a government that directly jeopardises the constitutional right to drinking water,” he said.

The former minister also denied his cooperating with the Connect Slovenia movement, noting the group’s formation had been motivated by opportunism and survival instinct.

As for talks with Andrej Čuš from the Greens party, Leben said the pair did not share the same views on life or politics. “I disagree with a policy of intimidation, violation of human rights, pressures on media freedom, where I have in mind at least the events regarding the Slovenian Press Agency.

“Not least, I think the Greens are not green at all in terms of green policies,” he added.

Leben was one of the co-founders of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and served as environment minister in the Marjan Šarec government. He quit as minister in early 2019 amid mounting pressure over his alleged role in a dodgy tender related to the Divača-Koper rail project in his previous job as Infrastructure Ministry state secretary, which he denied. Soon after the resignation he also quit the SMC, saying it was no longer a party of values but only a dead shell of sunken ideals.