Ljubljana – Prime Minister Janez Janša has dismissed allegations about improper lobbying contacts, telling MPs on Monday that businessmen do not lobby with him “because they know I’m not a target” for lobbying.
“Whenever we are in the opposition, all your media write that the SDS will never be in government again, that Janez Janša will never be prime minister again. Why then should they lobby with someone who will not have any power,” he said during questions time in parliament.
Janša was quizzed about contacts after several media released photos of Janša playing golf with lobbyist Božo Dimnik and businessman Andrej Marčič in 2003. Subsequently released photos showed both Janša and Dimnik on Marčič’s yacht, reportedly in 2016, and Dimnik hanging around with Janša in Janša’s home.
Left leader said MPs entitled to explanations given that Janša has held a number of senior posts in the past twenty years, in particular contacts with Marčič and Dimnik given their extensive deals with public institutions.
Janša said he had met with Dimnik several times in the past but had never discussed business with him, noting that Dimnik had helped Slovenia win international recognition during independence efforts and had chaired the Association of Slovenian-Croatian Friendship during his first government.
He pointed out that companies with links to Dimnik and Marčič had concluded the biggest deals with the state during the terms of leftist governments, and urged the opposition to back a coalition-sponsored bill on public procurement in health that he said would systemically preclude the kinds of accusations levelled at him now.
“The gentlemen who used to be respected businessmen and have become tycoons now that you have published photos of them with me have never concluded any deals with me… I have spent perhaps ten hours on various yachts in my life. I think I also spent half an hour on a sailboat with [former president] Milan Kučan, but there was no lobbying involved.”
Janša also accused the opposition of dwelling on the past instead of focusing on the future. “A lot of things are going on in Slovenia and I think given that important elections are coming up next year, it is time we start competing with platforms and concepts.”
And given Slovenia’s rapid GDP growth and low unemployment, it is time to “start competing in who will best leverage these opportunities that have been created instead of wasting time,” he said.
Janša was also criticised for failing to attend sessions of the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Public Finances, which has been discussed the lobbying accusations twice.
“Your persistent silence, your avoidance of inconvenient questions, your dismissive attitude to the National Assembly and its constitutional role – all this has forced us to … face you with at least one question today,” Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) deputy Robert Pavšič said.
Janša retorted that he had no problem attending commission sessions and that he had never avoided that. “I received the invitation for Friday and am working on being able to attend. But my calendar is full. I have more European and international obligations in a week than your prime minister had in a year.”