Two ministers in for grilling as MPs convene multi-day session

Ljubljana – The National Assembly is meeting for an eventful plenary session tomorrow that will culminate on Friday and next Monday with debates and votes on the opposition-sponsored motions to oust Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs.

The session, which will also tackle several key laws, will open on Monday will questions time with ministers and a revote sought by the centre-left opposition in a bid to prevent an investment promotion bill and a bill introducing additional Covid-19 measures to be rushed through parliament.

Prime Minister Janez Janša will make his appearance at the plenary on Tuesday to take questions from MPs before proceedings move to the controversial bill on personal income tax and amendments to a bill dealing with the Slovenia-Croatia border arbitration award.

With amendments to the personal income tax act the government proposes to gradually raise the general tax relief from EUR 3,500 to EUR 7,500 by 2025 as a result of which average pay would net EUR 260 more in 2022, EUR 520 more in 2023, EUR 780 more in 2024 and EUR 1,000 more in 2025.

The centre-left opposition has been opposed to the proposal, calling it a threat to fiscal sustainability. Also contentious is a proposal to reduce the rate of tax on gains from interest, dividends and profits from 27.5% to 25% where no tax would be paid on capital after 15 years of ownership. The government also proposes cutting rental income tax from 27.5% to 15%.

On Wednesday the plenary will tackle an omnibus bill on de-bureaucratisation which cancels or amends a series of laws, amendments to the audiovisual media services act, and a bill on restructuring of the former mining region of Zasavje.

Amendments to the public sector wage system will be debated on Thursday along with amendments to the labour act and an initiative for a consultative referendum on the long-term programme of development of the Slovenian Armed Forces.

Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak is facing a 16-hour debate on Friday and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs yet a longer one next Monday over motions of no confidence in them tabled by the centre-left opposition. Hojs has already stood one such test earlier in the term.

Vizjak is targeted after being exposed in a leaked recording discussing privatisation of the spa company Terme Čatež with the company’s CEO Bojan Petan 14 years ago when he served as economy minister.

On the tape Vizjak is heard offering Petan agreement on the management of Terme Čatež, the biggest owners of which at the time were the companies affiliated with Petan and the state, as well as a deal on the withdrawal of the spa company’s own shares.

Vizjak is also heard offering Petan the state’s support in his takeover of another spa company, Terme Olimia, while warning him over action to challenge the decisions of the Terme Čatež shareholders’ meeting, asserting the government would find a judge “to break his nuts”.

The centre-left opposition accuse the minister of unlawful and opaque conduct to the detriment of the state and responsibility for a damaging waters act that was blocked in a referendum in July. They also allege his failure to give experts and NGOs a say in preparation of laws, and argue he favours the interests of profit over those of the public, all of which charges Vizjak rejects.

Surprisingly, the junior coalition party New Slovenia (NSi) said it would not support Vizjak in the vote, but this may be not enough for him to actually be voted out. An outright majority of at least 46 MPs would have to vote for the ouster motion to succeed rather than just abstain. The motion sponsors have 43 votes between them, while it is not clear how the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) will vote.

MPs will also tackle some key appointments next week, including a proposal by the government to reappoint incumbent members of the Fiscal Council, and appointments to bodies overseeing the financing and programming at the RTV Slovenija, the public broadcaster, before the terms of the current line-ups expire.

The Credentials and Privileges Commission will propose on Monday for the plenary to appoint 13 members of the 29-strong Programming Council of RTV Slovenija, eight of which are appointed by parliament on the proposal of the viewers and listeners and five on the proposal of parliamentary parties. It will also propose the appointment of five members of the 11-strong supervisory board.

Eight more representatives of listeners and viewers on the council will be appointed by parliament two years later. Meanwhile three council members are picked by the broadcaster’s staff and two are appointed by the head of state on the proposal of religious communities, with a further three picked each by the Hungarian and Italian minorities and the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.