By: Vida Kocjan
We talked with Danijel Krivec, the leader of the SDS parliamentary group, about the events in Ukraine, the assessment of the work of the government coalition, the work of the opposition, the SDS pre-election programme, regional development, the re-emergence of the so-called new faces as well as the upcoming parliamentary elections, where a member of parliament with many years of experience will run again. As always in his home environment.
Danijel Krivec is a member of parliament and the leader of the Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) parliamentary group. Born in Srpenica, he graduated from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana. He has been an MP since 2004 and was the mayor of the municipality of Bovec for three terms. He is still a municipal councillor, which means he has constant contact with the local environment. He will run in the parliamentary elections this time as well.
DEMOKRACIJA: Recently, we have been shaken by the events in Ukraine related to the Russian aggression against this country. You adopted a declaration in support of Ukraine in the National Assembly. How do you look at it?
Krivec: It is incomprehensible to normal people; tragedy is worthy of all condemnation. The declaration we adopted on this defined the actual state. There is not much to add, however, it is a sad fact that we in the National Assembly on this occasion also dealt with domestic political affairs. It is also unfortunate that someone who has led this country has an inappropriate debate at such a time when it is an international matter where he does not usually get involved with domestic problems. This was the only such slip in this case. Otherwise, the political space is quite uniform, we can say that even on the left there is not much opposition or some strange opinions. I am aware that the matter is very serious and will also affect what is happening in the coming months, probably years.
DEMOKRACIJA: What is your assessment of the work of Prime Minister Janez Janša in the case of Ukraine?
Krivec: In fact, we now have a Prime Minister with a capital letter who knows why he is in this position, who has an upright posture and is also not afraid to say what he thinks and what is relevant. This can also be seen from the fact that his initiative, which he and the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki forwarded to the European Union, was quickly implemented. This also gave a positive signal to Ukraine about approaching the EU. This was very important. By doing so, the Prime Minister has shown that he knows what international politics is. It is true that in the past he has experienced a similar story in Slovenia, or we have experienced it. It can be seen that the opinion of the Slovenian Prime Minister within the European space is taken into account. This is also felt when we talk to various representatives of European countries, with ambassadors, when everyone speaks respectfully about our Prime Minister, in contrast to the time when it was said that we are small, that “we should not have our own opinion”. But this is wrong. Smallness is only in the head, not in reality. If the solutions are good, the proposals are good, it does not matter who proposes them, whether it is a big or a small country. If they are good things and you argue them correctly, they usually find their place. In this case, it also happened. This is very good for Slovenia’s position in the international arena.
DEMOKRACIJA: The term of this government is coming to an end; how do you assess the last two years compared to the previous government?
Krivec: This term of office expires on a regular basis, just like the terms of office led by our Prime Minister. The regular term is coming to an end, we had this situation from 2004 to 2008. And now again, although the majority in parliament was relatively “shaky”, we also had a contractual coalition, so to speak. However, from the point of view of the parliament and the government, I can say that we have implemented almost everything that we wrote in the coalition agreement with the partners, agreed both in the legislative field and in real operational terms. I consider the work of the government to be excellent, although not all things are ideal. I think that the Prime Minister was able to coordinate different interests and always find the optimal solution so that there were no conflicts or overvoting or that someone felt neglected or threatened. They acknowledge this on the other side as well, not least in the opposition, where they make it clear that we are light years ahead of them in terms of implementing the agreements. During the previous two years, when the government was led by Marjan Šarec, practically nothing much happened in the legislative or executive work in the field of government.
DEMOKRACIJA: During the current coalition, you passed several important laws in the National Assembly, and the opposition abstained for the most part. How do you rate their work?
Krivec: Lots of words and few actions. Sometimes, in informal conversation, they tended to support something, but this usually did not happen. So, their word did not hold very much in such situations. Every effort had to be made in each vote. Maybe in a way this is even good from the point of view of the legislative process, because when you have a minimum majority, you must be even more precise, careful, and basically convince the party in doubt with a good solution argument. This is not about inviting someone and telling them how to vote. The latter is possible when you have a solid coalition and you say, we will accept it, and then it will be accepted. However, in cases where we have a “contractual coalition” in a way, much more agreement, talks and coordination of legal matters are needed. Their comments, which are not always the most useful, must be considered, but this means, at least in my opinion, that these laws could also be significantly better than they would be if they were approved by a majority. Everything therefore has pros and cons. However, there is always uncertainty as to whether the vote will be successful or not. This was shown in the vote on the replacement of the President of the National Assembly, and we had the assurance that this would happen, but it did not. In a secret ballot, it is impossible to find out who is the one who did not respect the agreement. That is why we did not insist on re-voting. Moreover, when the secret ballots were held, which were more tied to the President’s proposals for individual appointments, it turned out that the opposition did not trust its MPs either. That is why it withdrew them from the voting in all these secret ballots, which also says a lot about their credibility.
DEMOKRACIJA: Today you will discuss amendments to the Personal Income Tax Act (we spoke on Friday, fn.). What do you expect and how do you comment on the conduct of the opposition, which, including the unions, opposes it?
Krivec: This can be seen as an incomprehensible move, as it is a law that ensures that people are left with more net income. Whoever opposes this is the least unreasonable, I do not know how else to label it. Above all, it is interesting that the unions, which are set up in the world precisely to fight for higher wages, oppose this in this case. It is an upside-down world. I believe that many people will be detained in the opposition as well, because it will be difficult for them to defend that they are against something that brings good to practically every citizen.
There is a lot of speculation about percentages, but also when it comes to increasing pensions, with any such measure, the increase is always in percentages. Never absolutely because it cannot be. One-off measures can always be defined in absolute amounts on a scale, but as quotas in the case of one-off measures. In this case, however, the legislation resolves the matter for a longer period or systemically, so there can be no absolute amounts, which some would like. In relative terms, everyone will be better off. And another argument they have that the state will literally go bankrupt because of this. This is not true because the income tax law is being gradually introduced. We get the maximum relief within five years, and in the meantime, the state can adjust to determine whether this is acceptable from a financial stability point of view or not. With the next law, this can always be limited, stopped. It was similar when we predicted a decline in corporate profits, but in the meantime the crisis in the financial system came and it froze.
The state always has the instruments in its hands to correct this, so in no case can this lead to its bankruptcy. Also, the amounts are not as enormous as our opponents want to present. They are talking about 800 and more million euros, but this is for a period of five years. In the first year, this is in approximately the same rank as the measure at the time of coordination or increase pensions.
So, these numbers are not so scary, as it is a gradual introduction of tax relief, which will reach its maximum in the fifth year. And at that time, we will practically become equal to the scales that are currently in Austria, Italy and elsewhere. That is also the goal. After all, we are part of the European space, economic growth is great, and if we do the right thing, it will continue to be so. Therefore, there is no need to limit payments to people. People indirectly return the money to the public coffers. There is a win-win situation.
He warned a lot, but what if something happens. But if something happens, it is always the state that regulates it. You can always look if something happens, like now Ukraine or some other situation, hopefully not, but the National Assembly, the government always have the opportunity to propose a solution that this progressive scale, which is now changing the income tax base, be stopped at some point and says this stops temporarily because there are such and such circumstances. That is to say, there is nothing they want to tell us that this leads to a breakdown of finances at the state level. Far from it.
DEMOKRACIJA: Will the changes apply for 2022?
Krivec: Of course. The law provides for retroactivity, i.e., valid from January 1st, this year, as it is personal income tax that will be considered at the end of the year when this personal income tax is calculated. However, salaries will probably apply in April or May.
DEMOKRACIJA: What is the pre-election programme of the SDS, an established party with a tradition?
Krivec: The party is ready for the elections, for all election tasks, the candidates have been confirmed and are known. We are continuing with the programme what we have already set for ourselves in this mandate. That is economic recovery, investing in social, health, culture, and sport. These are all extensions that we have already prepared in the legislation during the current government. We will work to the maximum in this direction. In contrast to other parties, what we write down is also realised in the SDS. However, this programme may need to be coordinated a little when we know who the partners in the new government will be, which I believe we will continue to lead.
DEMOKRACIJA: You come from Bovec. How do you assess regional development during this government and compare it with previous years?
Krivec: We may seem biased, but all the mayors of local communities say that during this government, that is, in the two years since we took office, the financial situation in local communities has improved significantly. There are several measures involved. First, there is the increase in the average amount received per capita, which the municipalities have been striving for practically for the last ten years. Another important segment is that we have greatly accelerated the absorption of European funds and all other resources available to municipalities at the state level. We have reduced to the extreme various studies, projects that did not bring real value. In this case, those municipalities that had plans that were propulsive were able to implement those plans very quickly. We see that many homes for the elderly are being built now, as well as health centres, schools, and kindergartens. Even the “invisible school” in Kamnik has begun to take shape. When I talk to the mayors, not least I am still a municipal councillor in the municipality of Bovec, everyone admits that the jump is at least 20 to 25 percent in the budgets of municipalities at the expense of all these measures. It should be noted that the government has also transferred many of the obligations of the municipalities to the state. It also eliminated many things because they were completely bureaucratic. All this has helped municipalities to have significantly more opportunities for their own projects, for development ambitions that they can now realise.
DEMOKRACIJA: We are witnessing the reappearance of the so-called new faces. How do you comment on that?
Krivec: Recycling. It is modern. Nowadays, we like to talk about recycling, especially in the field of waste. If we apply this now to what you asked me, it may be this moment. Because they want to be modern, in trend, but we have seen how this works in the reality of the last ten years, how Slovenia has literally lagged in many areas. I hope that this is an effect that will not be accepted by the voters now. Finally, even in the physical form, in a sense that they felt some changes in salaries, pensions, investment, infrastructure, education, health and the like, they saw that recycling is not everything. Sometimes it is also necessary to have stability, direction and someone who leads it and knows what it is about and stands behind it. Even all these pressures, even before we formed the government, have shown that they are happening literally only in Ljubljana, the surroundings do not fall for it. So, I am quite optimistic that this story with new faces will not be repeated. In fact, there are significantly fewer of them. Even the one who is new is basically hiding. Apparently, his feathers had not yet grown to the point where he could fly. We will see. I am moving among businesspeople and especially in municipalities, and I see a positive atmosphere in the direction that it would be wise to continue with this option in one form or another, but with these guidelines, and support it. I believe the rumour of new faces and recycling will fail.
DEMOKRACIJA: Elections to the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia will be held on Sunday, April 24th. Where will you run?
Krivec: I always run in the second constituency in the first voting district. This is Tolmin, the former Administrative Unit of Tolmin, where there are three municipalities: Bovec, Kobarid, and Tolmin. I will run there now as well. I will run the election campaign in the same way. It is a big area, so there is a lot of work to do to visit all the places, but I feel like it needs to be done. I am running for the sixth time now.
This will be the sixth term since 2004. In between, there have been three mayoral terms, including parliamentary seats. We have some experience, but you must always put in some effort. Even for those of us who are established, this does not mean that it is automatic. You always have to go among people, listen to what they have to say, and listen to it. Also, to make it easier to design programmes for local elections, which will also take place this year. So, this campaign or these visits will be useful from this point of view as well.