Mayor Jevšek’s bid for cohesion minister deemed OK

Ljubljana – Slovenia will have to use all EU funds available, grants and loans, to achieve balanced regional development, said Mayor Aleksander Jevšek before his candidacy for minister without portfolio for development and European cohesion policy was endorsed by two parliamentary working bodies on Saturday.

Jevšek is a former senior member of the police force who has been serving as Murska Sobota mayor since he was first elected on the Social Democrat (SD) ballot in 2014.

If elected minister next week, Jevšek, 60, will head the Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy.

And once the government act is changed, the office will be in charge of cohesion policy and regional development, the latter being currently under the Economy Ministry.

Jevšek is confident that Slovenia will fully draw funds from the 2014-2020 EU budget until the deadline at the end of 2023, but despite this, regions still differ a lot in terms of development.

To also successfully draw funds from the 2021-2027 EU budget, two key documents will have to be harmonised by the autumn, he said.

Both a partnership agreement with the European Commission and a cohesion policy implementation programme are in their final stages, and will need approval of both Slovenian cohesion regions. Here, said Jevšek, finding a way of subsidising the wealthier Western Region’s projects in its less developed areas will be a challenge.

Jevšek also urged smart, transparent and fair management of EU funds to direct them into the right development priorities.

In line with the coalition agreement, he announced changes to the post-Covid national recovery and resilience plan to use all available EU funds.

He did not provide details beyond saying the plan should be reviewed and adjusted to the new circumstances to secure long-term growth and green and digital transition.

Businesses, academia, local communities and the civil society should be involved in this effort to jointly find projects for modernising Slovenia’s development model.

Jevšek announced drafting a new bill on balanced regional development and said that a new development strategy would also be needed.

He urged introducing two principles in regional development policy – subsidiarity and the state providing funds when imposing a new service on municipalities.

He announced decentralisation with the creation of provinces; redefinition of general development tasks at regional level; and creating new business opportunities for less developed and border areas.

Jevšek believes his office also being in charge of regional development will result in a different approach to the two cohesion regions, with more field work. “Neither cohesion nor regional development can be achieved in offices.”

The Economy Committed backed his bid in a 11:3 vote and the Committee for EU Affairs in a 10:5 vote.