Ruling in STA debt enforcement claim expected by early December

Ljubljana – The Ljubljana District Court has said that it will hand down a ruling in a debt enforcement case brought by the STA against the Government Communications Office (UKOM) at the end of November or early December, after the judge said this was a purely legal issue that did not require testimony by witnesses.

Judge Jelka Rozman said at Wednesday’s main hearing that the decision would be based on the law governing the STA, the seventh anti-coronavirus act, the company’s articles of association, and the company’s business plan for 2021.

Both laws and the business plan stipulate that the STA is entitled to the payment of public service from budget funds based on the company’s business plan.

The government has so far refused to pay, making funding conditional on a public service agreement drafted by UKOM that the STA management has described as damaging to the company.

The judge did not make a reference to a government decree on the STA public service, which the government adopted as a legal basis for the public service agreement in June this year and which the STA is challenging in court with the argument that it is against the law on the STA and the seventh Covid relief act.

The STA has brought four separate claims against UKOM, each referring to a single overdue monthly payment of EUR 169,000. The judge has merged all four claims into one, worth EUR 676,000 plus default interest.

The judge rejected a proposal by the State Solicitor General to hear as a witness UKOM director Uroš Urbanija. She said this would not have a material impact on her judgement since the issue was purely legal.

STA director Bojan Veselinovič, who has resigned after refusing to sign the public service agreement proposed by UKOM but is staying on until the end of his notice period, said the situation was now “more than clear” in that the judge said this was a purely legal issue that would be decided based on the law in place at the time the claims arose.

But he also acknowledged UKOM was likely to appeal “each legal step we take,” having already used the maximum possible time for all submissions in the debt enforcement procedure so far.

Both Veselinovič and STA’s lawyer Miha Kozinc said the matter could end up at the Higher Court, which makes it impossible to say how long it might take for any decision to become final and enforceable.

Lacking public funds, the STA has so far managed to survive thanks to a donation campaign in the summer and the sale of claims to UKOM. However, it is on the cusp of running out of money.