Hojs denies he is politicising police as ouster debate starts

Ljubljana – The National Assembly started discussing a motion to oust Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, with the opposition accusing him of politicising the police force. Hojs denied this, saying that he actually provided police officers with better work conditions, and accusing the opposition of hampering the government’s effort to fight the pandemic.

Opening Monday’s debate on what is a second motion of no confidence against Hojs in the current term, Matej T. Vatovec of the Left said the minister should be ousted in order to prevent “additional, greater and irreparable damage caused by Hojs.”

Vatovec noted an “increase in repression” and staffing in the police, and added that Hojs embodied everything that was wrong with the current government, accusing him and the government of creating a state of emergency and governing by decree.

The Left, Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and unaffiliated MPs say in the motion that the police had resorted to excessive use of repressive means at protests, especially at the October 5 protest in Ljubljana.

Vatovec said that the police decided to take such action “under instructions from politicians”, while also labelling staffing in the police as “illegal” and saying that legislation was being drafted to allow the police commissioner to replace all police chiefs.

The opposition has moreover accused Hojs of failure to act upon hearing about Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak’s conversation with a spa company boss 14 years ago in which he said that it was “stupid” to pay taxes.

Hojs said that the allegations from the motion were far too broad, as many of them went beyond his remit.

As for decrees, he said that this had started by ministers in the previous government, and the current government had only decided to “take the matters to a higher level” during the epidemic, so it had been adopting decrees at the government level.

He noted the decision of the Constitutional Court that certain measures should be enforced by law, pointing a finger at the National Assembly, which he said had not yet passed the relevant amendments to the infectious diseases act.

He said the decrees aimed at limiting the number of victims of coronavirus, and said “hundreds and hundreds” of people had been saved this way, while blaming the opposition for undermining the government’s effort to curb the epidemic.

Hojs also spoke about the the 5 October protest and the activation of the article that enabled the police to restrict movement in Ljubljana, Bled and Brdo pri Kranju to protect public order ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit.

He said the police had made the assessment “this large event needs to be adequately secured” given that in the week prior to the event, many who had committed violence in the past called for violence again.

The minister equated the Friday anti-government protesters on bicycles with the Wednesday protesters against Covid restrictions by saying that “the foundation is the same – how to seize power in a violent way”.

As for allegations of politicisation, Hojs said he had never dealt with it, while he had dealt with providing police officers with higher wages and equipment and that they were adequately rewarded for their work.

He also responded to the criticism of his tweets in which he talked about police officers as “sissies and lazy asses”, saying that these were “media spins”, as these labels had been intended for leaders of police trade unions.

Hojs said the unionists had not been willing to call police officers to get vaccinated and that they were not doing police work at all.

The collective agreement states that police unionists are permitted to perform union work for more than 50% of their working time, “but these gentlemen have been doing nothing but union work for years at the expense of taxpayers.”