Just when we might have sighed with relief (or did we?) that Italy and Spain, the eurozone’s third and fourth biggest economies, have new governments, there is a new wrinkle on the horizon.
Slovenia’s parliamentary election on Sunday produced no clear winner, but the conservative SDS party of ex-Prime Minister Janez Janša came out the strongest with 25% of the vote, on the back of an anti-immigrant campaign.
The outgoing centre-left leader, Miro Cerar, failed spectacularly, despite his solid record in office, placing just fourth.
But, as luck would have it, the SDS is not guaranteed to form the new government. A number of parties have made it clear that they would not join a Janša-led coalition. Even Janša himself acknowledged that “we will probably have to wait for some time”.
The alternative is a big and unwieldy coalition of six centre-left parties: without a clear leader but with two former prime ministers that have no love lost between them: Cerar and Alenka Bratušek, who steered Slovenia through the banking crisis and avoided an international bailout in 2013.
Cerar actually refused to back her as Slovenia’s Commissioner in 2014, meaning their relations are sour at best.
Janša will have the first go at forming a government but a re-run of the election cannot be excluded either, if no one puts together a parliamentary majority.
Janša had been a dissident of sorts under communism, a champion of liberal ideas and one of the main protagonists of Slovenia’s 1991 independence.
His political transformation has taken him from a centrist conservative to a right-wing nationalist, who has spent time in opposition since 2013, with a short stint in prison for alleged corruption in 2014 (bribery charges which he strenuously denied).
As prime minister, he chaired Slovenia’s first EU presidency in 2008, when Brussels journalists dubbed him ‘the gray man’ [and some other, less complimentary names]. Even back then, he was accused of attempting to muzzle the free media back home.
In recent years, he has adopted an even more pronounced Viktor Orbán-style rhetoric, with a hardline stance on immigration, not unlike the kind seen in Poland and Hungary. Indeed, he enlisted Orbán’s help in the campaign.
In proclamations reminiscent of the current occupant of the White House, Janša has also vowed to “drain the bureaucratic swamp” in Slovenia once back in power.
With him at the helm, Slovenia is likely to join the ranks of eastern states that oppose immigration or quotas for migrants.
This might increase pressure on the EPP, Janša’s political family in the EU, to finally take a clear stand on how it treats its members that openly defy Brussels, like Orbán.
Or they might just stay calm and ride on, hoping that everything will be forgotten in the big mess that the European election due next May is increasingly likely to be.
Simple solutions to address ammonia volatilisation from agriculture: Did you know that ammonia losses from fertiliser application could be reduced by 63% by replacing all urea and UAN by AN or CAN? This would represent a decrease of more than 10% of total ammonia emissions in Europe.
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Look out for…
The Brussels Economic Forum kicks off this week and Jean-Claude Juncker is scheduled to talk on Tuesday.
Views are the author’s