Hot topics: Slovenian government passes budget for next 2 years; Kurti secures majority to form government; Over 20,000 teachers go on strike in Zagreb; Montenegro and Italy switch on undersea power cableAdriatic Journal 2 December 2019
Slovenian government passes budget for next 2 years
Slovenia’s National Assembly voted 49:41 to pass the budget acts for 2020 and 2021, in what was an important test of the coalition’s strength. The populist National Party (SNS) and both minority MPs provided the missing votes. The vote took place just weeks after the Left walked away from an agreement that gave the government a parliamentary majority, raising the fears the budget bills will not be adopted in time. The opposition joined forces to outvote the government and increase budget spending, mostly on the annual budget transfer to municipalities in the amount of EUR 140m. With the help of the SNS, the coalition voted down the amendment to comply with the constitutional balanced-budget rule. As a reflection of the long period of economic growth, budget revenue and expenditure will be at record levels for both years but slightly below initially planned after the treasury warned that growth is gradually slowing down. The budget expenditure for 2020 is capped at EUR 10.36bn and revenue at EUR 10.77bn, with a surplus of EUR 415m. In 2021 expenditure will increase to EUR 10.45bn while the revenue is projected to climb to EUR 11.1bn, with the surplus increasing to EUR 657 million. Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj, who had threatened to resign if the budgets exceed the treasury’s bounds, said after the vote that spending was focused on social issues and development, adding the budgets would “improve the prosperity of everyone”.
Kurti secures majority to form government
Following Kosovo’s October 6 general elections, the leader of the Self-determination (Vetëvendosje) party Albin Kurti said he had secured a majority to form the new government, the FoNet news agency reported. The likely new prime minister said the three representatives from the minority parties that represent Gorani, Ashkali and Roma people agreed to vote for him as prime minister, giving him a slim majority of 61 out of 120 MPs. According to Kurti, the conditions to create the new government have been met without including the third ethnic Albanian party. Vetëvendosje, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and three minority parties will make up the next Prishtina government.
Over 20,000 teachers go on strike in Zagreb
The ongoing strike of education-sector employees in Croatia continued until end of November. Whether it will continue in December depends if the striking unions accept the government’s offer of a cumulative 10.4% wage increase. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced that education-sector workers’ wages would increase in four stages. As of 1 December, wages would increase by 3% through an annex to the branch collective agreement; from 1 January 2020 it would increase by an additional 2%, as of 1 June 2020 by another 3%, and as of 1 October, 2020 by 2%. In total, the teachers’ wages would go up by 10.4% in 2020. A 1% safeguard has been offered due to the job complexity index, which will be discussed after the election to prevent politicisation of the issue, and a regulation on it would be in force throughout 2020, Plenković said. The government’s offer is not what the unions demanded, unionist Branimir Mihalinec said, adding that he would leave it to union members to vote on.
Belgrade to host 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships
Serbia’s capital will host athletes from over 200 countries from March 11 – 13 2022, following a successful organisations of the European Cross Championships in 2013, and the European Athletic Indoor Championships in 2017. The decision was made after Serbia’s seven-people-strong delegation presented Belgrade as a candidate at the IAAF Council’s meeting in Monaco.
North Macedonia's PM announces his country could join NATO in January
North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, has announced that both Spain and France will soon ratify the accession protocol for the country to become a full NATO member in January. They are the last of the 29 member states yet to ratify North Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol.
Croatia issues bond on favourable terms
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković informed Croatian government last month that the finance ministry had issued a bond in the amount of HRK 11bn and that this borrowing had been released under the most favourable conditions so far. “We have issued the bond on the domestic market under the favourable conditions in the amount of HRK 3.5bn until 2024 and HRK 7.5bn until 2034, with the yield of 0.36% and interest rate of 0.25%. This is much more favourable than before,” Plenković said. The planned saving on the interest is HRK 340m per annum, and this will be achieved by the refinancing of previous borrowing by the new bond. This is a confirmation that the government pursues a responsible policy which has been recognised by financial institutions and on financial markets, the premier said. The issuance has been arranged by Erste, Privredna, Reiffeisen and Zagrebačka Banka.
Montenegro and Italy switch on undersea power cable
The presidents of Italy and Montenegro ceremonially turned on an undersea power cable connecting the two countries via the Adriatic sea last month, making Montenegro a Balkan energy hub at the turn of a switch. The total cable length between Pescara and Cape Jaz is 455km, of which the submarine section is 433km long. It runs along the Adriatic seabed at depths of more than 1,000 metres. It represents a new transit route for energy, connecting the electricity systems in Italy, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania. Installation cost for the cable was EUR 1.15bn. The project includes an interconnection between Montenegro and Italy, the construction and enhancement of the internal 400 kV network in Montenegro, and the construction of 400 kV overhead lines between Montenegro, Serbia and BiH. It is operated by Terna, the Italian electricity transmission system operator. Infrastructure represents the first “energy bridge” between the European Union and the Balkans and promotes the integration of energy markets, guaranteeing high standards of safety, security and sustainability of the Montenegrin, Italian and European electricity systems, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella said at a ceremony in Lastva Grbaljska, near the coastal town of Kotor. The Montenegrin government said that several countries in eastern and southeastern Europe had expressed interest in agreeing with Montenegro on use of the cable.
OECD downgrades Slovenia's 2019 GDP forecast to 3.1%
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has downgraded Slovenia’s 2019 GDP growth forecast from 3.4% to 3.1%, after already changing Slovenia’s forecast for the year from 3.6% to 3.4% in May. Growth in 2020 and 2021 is expected to be similar at 3% and 3.1%, respectively. The OECD says that private consumption will continue to be the main driver of growth, supported by higher wages and solid employment gains. “Uncertainty about the external environment will slow the pace of new business investment. Improvements in export performance will slow with rising labour unit costs.” Fiscal policy will remain supportive of growth in the coming two years, driven by higher public sector wages and social transfers, the OECD adds. Economic growth is projected to remain mostly stable in 2020 and 2021. A deterioration in cost competitiveness, owing to higher labour costs and weak productivity gains, will hold back export growth, according to the OECD. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development expects Slovenia’s GDP to grow 3.0%, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2.9%, the government macroeconomic think tank IMAD 2.8% and the European Commission 2.6%.
Bosnia clears the way for new government
BiH’s the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina appointed Bosnian Serb Zoran Tegeltija as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, after an agreement was reached between the three sides over next NATO steps. The appointment clears the way for the establishment of the state government, after more than a year of wrangling between the three main nationalist parties on its bid to join the NATO. The parties disagreed on whether to activate the country’s NATO Membership Action Plan, MAP, a prerequisite for any eventual accession to the military alliance. Dodik opposed submitting the so-called Annual National Plan for MAP and the Bosnian Serbs on the whole oppose NATO accession. Željko Komšić, the Croat member of the Bosnian presidency said an agreement was reached on Bosnia’s Annual National Programme. Tegeltija, a former finance minister of Bosnia’s mainly Serb Republika Srpska entity, is a member of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, led by Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency.
Roš named UNWTO's gastronomy tourism ambassador
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has appointed Slovenia’s master chef Ana Roš as an official UNWTO ambassador for gastronomy tourism. The organisation’s Zurab Pololikashvili said Roš’s commitment to the use of local ingredients served as an example that contributed to sustainable entrepreneurship. “Ana Roš swears by ‘from the garden to the plate’ philosophy and what she does not produce in her home herb and vegetable garden, she obtains from her wide network of local suppliers. She is passionate about combining traditional local dishes with modern cooking methods,” the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) said on the occasion. Roš commented by saying it showed “what Slovenian gastronomy or any other similar ambitious activity is capable of achieving”. “For me the ambassador title is not an award but an encouragement to stay an example for those who doubt they can really succeed in what they are pursuing and only need a little encouragement to get even better,” she added.