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Press Release

30.11.17

Government addresses NLB, excess packaging and ammendemsts to legislation for higher-quality bilingual school system

Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Government adopts starting points for drafting of official request for renegotiation of commitments regarding NLB

The Slovenian government adopted a report on Wednesday’s meeting between Minister of Finance Mateja Vraničar Erman and European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, and starting points for the drafting of an official request for the renegotiation of the commitment to decrease the state’s stake in Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB). It will be based on the proposal for the appointment of an administrative liaison officer at NLB.

The government agreed to the proposal of such a renegotiation of its commitment, which replaces the alternative of its commitment to sell off the bank’s banking subsidiaries with a compensatory measure on the basis of which the administrative liaison would manage the state’s participating interest in NLB until that stake is reduced to no more than 25 percent plus one share.

It also agreed that if necessary, during the negotiations with the European Commission on the basis of the official request for renegotiation of the commitment, it could also agree to the expansion of the aforementioned compensatory measure through the inclusion of different or additional compensatory measures in order to ensure the long-term sustainable operation of the bank and the determination of a deferred deadline for the sale.

The government today approved a three-year deferral as a starting point, but it is aware that it is facing tough negotiations and that it is too early to assess what the final result will be. However, we should be aware that the strictness of the additional compensatory measures will depend on the agreed deadline.

In accordance with the adopted starting points, the government authorised the Minster of Finance to draft an official request for the renegotiation of NLB’s commitment to sell and to submit it to the European Commission as soon as possible.

According to the initial proposal, the government is expected to appoint an administrative liaison officer by 31 March 2018 on the basis of an international public tender and pursuant to the prior approval of the European Commission. This would address the main purpose of the commitment to sell, which in the opinion of the European Commission is to permanently and irrevocably prevent the state from exerting influence as an owner on the bank’s daily operations and thus to eliminate the risk of a return to the harmful business practices which in the Commission’s opinion led to the need for a capital increase.

In accordance with the proposal, the NLB administrative liaison officer would assume some of the competencies of Slovenski državni holding (Slovenian Sovereign Holding) and would carry out certain duties on behalf and for the account of the Republic of Slovenia in line with the annual management plan, such as e.g. participation in NLB general meetings and the exercising of voting rights, oversight of the exercising of other shareholder’s or partner’s rights (convening the general meeting, request for special audit, etc.), the promotion of good corporate governance systems at NLB, etc.

The government believes that the proposal adequately addresses the European Commission’s concerns regarding the bank’s corporate governance and its ties to the state. The proposal for an alternative measure also pursues the government’s objective of preserving NLB as a strong regional bank and of avoiding the carrying out of the privatisation in a manner which would not represent the optimal reimbursement of taxpayers’ money due to the impact of the issue of transferred foreign currency deposits.

Tackling excess packaging waste through more precise record-keeping

The Slovenian Government adopted the Decree amending the Decree on environmental tax on the generation of packaging waste. Directive (EU) 2015/720 of the European Parliament and of the Council, which deals with the management of packaging and packaging waste, imposes the adoption of appropriate measures aimed at reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags. The measures include the obligation of paying an environmental levy on plastic carrier bags for all manufacturers and acquirers of such bags, regardless of the annual quantity of bags put into circulation.

To monitor the annual progress in reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags and report on this to the European Commission (EC), accurate and precise data are of key importance. The Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning (MOP) will report to the EC on the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags as part of communicating data on the management of packaging waste. The data on putting packaging into circulation are mainly gathered in line with the Decree on environmental tax on the generation of packaging waste, and relate to packaging materials but not to individual packaging products. To report on the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, it will be necessary to collect data on putting individual packaging products, i.e. plastic carrier bags, into circulation.

This Decree will therefore provide fresh regulation of the record-keeping on putting packaging into circulation, and will require the manufacturers and acquirers of plastic carrier bags to record the prescribed data. Upon filing their returns, they will communicate the requested information on plastic carrier bags put into circulation within a certain period to the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia (FURS). Since the efforts to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags will not include very lightweight plastic carrier bags, which serve as the primary packaging of food that is not pre-packaged, the manufacturers and acquirers of such bags will also have to communicate whether or not such bags are intended for primary packaging of food that is not pre-packaged. All entities liable for the environmental levy will, just as they have done up until now, submit the requested data on the manner of ensuring the management of packaging waste to FURS along with their returns.

 

Government amendments to legislation for higher-quality bilingual school system


At today’s regular session, the government determined the wording of the amendment to the Act Regulating Special Rights of Members of the Italian and Hungarian Ethnic Communities in the Field of Education. The amending act introduces new features which provide greater quality and updates to the bilingual school system in Prekmurje and the coastal region, where the above-mentioned minorities live. The existing minority education models have been used for over 50 years and practice has shown that they need to be upgraded.

The statutory amendments supplement the existing fields of education, where the members of the Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities have special rights, by including upper secondary vocational education and education for children, adolescents and young adults with special needs.

The amending act also lays down that the curricula, catalogues of professional knowledge and examination catalogues must be published in a bilingual format in bilingual areas, and that all bilingual school pupils and students must be provided with bilingual assignments in all knowledge competitions (except competitions on knowledge of Slovene or Hungarian) financed or cofinanced from public funds. In addition, it grants parents the right to enrol their child in a school with Italian as the language of instruction or in a bilingual school even if they live outside the ethnically mixed territory. At the same time, primary schools outside the ethnically mixed areas would have to enable the extracurricular activity of learning Italian or Hungarian if they have at least 5 pupils who are members of either the Italian or Hungarian ethnic communities.

The manner of decision-making in councils of bilingual educational institutions is changing, as the national community will be afforded greater influence in the organisation of the content of educational work. The act also changes the criteria relating to knowledge of the ethnic community’s language of instruction and taking the professional certification exam.

The amendments also pertain to the organisation of the National Education Institute, within which a special professional service for the schools of ethnic communities will be set up to provide research, advisory and expert support.

 
 
Further withdrawal of austerity measures in the area of family policy

By withdrawing the temporary austerity measure in the area of parental protection and family benefits, which was introduced under the Fiscal Balance Act, the proposed amending act withdraws the income threshold determining the entitlement to a birth grant.  The birth grant amounts to €280 (the same as previously) and will be granted to all children born after 1 January 2018 (regardless of the financial situation of their families). As of 1 January 2019, the amending act introduces the payment of the birth grant in the form of credit, which one will be able to use for children’s equipment, children’s necessities, children’s food etc. The birth grant is a universal right intended for the parents or all newborns, regardless of the family’s financial situation; this way, it will be used for the purpose for which it is granted.

The proposed amending act also introduces a new way of using paternity leave, which is simpler, more transparent and flexible, where its duration and the amount of paternity leave compensation remain unchanged. In line with the new system, fathers will be able to use all 30 days of paternity leave at once, where at least 15 days must be used at any point from the child’s birth to no later than one month after the expiry of parental leave in a single block or the expiry of parental compensation, while the rest can be used until the completion of first grade of primary school (for example, they will be able to use it in full at the same time as the child’s mother right after the birth, in full after the expiry of parental leave, or they will be able to divide it into two parts). Practice has shown that fathers would like to use their leave in full during the child’s earliest age, which is something that the system has not allowed them in full up to now.

Furthermore, the proposed amending act introduces 30 days of parental leave for adoptive parents or persons granted custody of a child with the intention of adopting such child in line with the regulations governing family relationships, including for children who have already completed the first grade of primary school and are under 15 years of age.

The amending act further defines the age of a child for whom the parents are entitled to a 20% higher dependent child allowance, namely for a child up to the age of 4 (currently until starting school). As the government is pursuing the EU 2020 strategic goal of inclusion of children aged 4 and up to entering basic education in pre-school education, which amounts to 95%, such a measure makes sense as it encourages parents to enrol children aged 4 and above in pre-school. One of the parents will not be entitled to the dependent child allowance if their child fails to attend primary school for reasons that are unjustified.

The amending act also provides a systemic way of helping large families to purchase a road vignette. The amending act introduces a new right, namely the right of large families to assistance in purchasing a vignette. In 2013, a new toll class was introduced for toll collection from personal vehicles (vehicles up to 3,500 kg maximum permitted weight), which comprises vehicles whose height exceeds 1.3 m above the first axle. This vehicle category, which requires the 2B vignette to be able to use the toll network, which is more expensive than the vignette used for “traditional” personal vehicles, includes many vehicles used by large families to meet their basic daily personal needs. In order to prevent additional financial burdening of large families and disabled persons, a temporary solution is currently in place, based on which those entitled are granted assistance in the purchase of the annual 2B vignette in the amount of €110.00, where the funds for this assistance are provided by DARS d.d. in the form of donations. Through this proposed amending act, the government will therefore provide a systemic way of helping large families to purchase a vignette.

The adoption of the act will result in a €0.905 million annual increase in budget expenditure.


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