STA and UKOM agree to resume talks

Slovenska tiskovna agencija (STA).

Ljubljana – The Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and Government Communication Office (UKOM) agreed to resume talks aimed at signing the annual agreement to fund the STA public service as the two directors were hosted by President Borut Pahor for a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.

Addressing reporters after the talks, Pahor said both STA director Bojan Veselinovič and UKOM director Uroš Urbanija were willing to resume dialogue and agreed to make a genuine effort to amend the draft agreement for 2021 “so they can sign it shortly, in a reasonable time, thus seeing to settle the issue of regular STA funding”.

Since the beginning of the year, the STA has not received any state funding for the public service it continues to provide, with UKOM insisting the reason is that the annual agreement has not been signed, even though a provision under a Covid relief act states state funding needs to be provided in line with the agency’s business plan. The state funds account for roughly a half of the STA’s budget.

Urbanija thanked Pahor for the meeting where he said dialogue could resume “which was stalled in July when the government regulation on the STA financing was stayed”.

The regulation is in force again after the Supreme Court has reversed the Administrative Court’s decision on its suspension, with Urbanija saying UKOM now had the necessary powers again to tackle the system and the manner to finance the STA public service.

“Considering the talks today, I’m convinced there’s a desire on the part of the STA as well as UKOM to settle that as soon as possible. The starting point of further talks will be the agreement that was sent to the STA as early as July,” Urbanija said.

He said changes were possible to any agreement, expressing the hope that a compromise could be reached to tackle the financing, primarily for the benefit of the STA employees.

Veselinovič noted that the STA had not received payments for the public service for 250 days, but said the agency was looking forward to resumption of talks, something that the agency has been calling for since 21 July when it said it could not sign an agreement put forward by UKOM under the given terms.

“I agree it’s always possible to create an atmosphere that will provide the basis for us to be able through continuation of talks to find joint solutions to those open issues that are still such that we haven’t been able to sign the agreement so far,” said the STA director.

He pledged for the STA to do everything in its power for the agreement to be signed this month. He noted that the STA act and the 7th Covid relief act already provide a sufficient legal basis for the monthly payments for the STA public service even in the absence of the annual agreement, as noted by the Supreme Court.

Veselinovič said by organising the meeting the president showed the issue at stake was more than just that of a relationship between two institutions or two directors, being one linked to the rule of law and media freedom.

Asked when the STA could expect back payments and resumption of regular financing, Urbanija said the issues would be resolved “immediately, at any rate in a reasonable time”, considering the talks would resume within a week.

According to Pahor, the participants in the meeting agreed to try to refrain from making comments that could jeopardise the trust established today or make it impossible to solve the problem.