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Monday, August 8, 2022

(INTERVIEW) Žan Mahnič: “Together we will build Slovenia for the next four years”

By: Vida Kocjan 

We talked with the State Secretary for National Security, Žan Mahnič, about what he pays the most attention to in his work, as well as about whether Slovenia is a safe country. We did not avoid the events in Ukraine and the visit of the Prime Minister to Kyiv. In April, Žan Mahnič will run again for MP in the home constituency of Škofja Loka 2, which includes the municipalities of Gorenja vas-Poljane, Železniki, and Žiri.

Biography

Žan Mahnič was born on January 12th, 1990, in Kranj. After finishing primary school in Gorenja vas, he enrolled in a high school in Škofja Loka, where he was a member of the student school community in the 4th year. After successfully completing the Matura exam, he enrolled at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, department of defence, where he was a member of the FDV Student Council in the second year. The title of his dissertation is “Possible ways of replenishing the Slovenian Armed Forces in the light of changed security conditions”. He is now enrolled in a master’s degree in defence science. During his schooling, he learned about working in the economy through his student work. He was elected to the National Assembly in the preliminary elections in 2014, and from 2015 until the end of his term he was the chairman of the parliamentary defence committee. He was re-elected in 2018. He held the position of Vice-President of the Parliamentary Commission for the Supervision of Intelligence and Security Services. In the National Assembly, he was active in the fields of defence and security, as well as solving youth problems and topics related to his local environment. In the current term of the Government, he is the State Secretary for National Security in the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia

Demokracija: As a State Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, you are also an advisor on national security, which is a very important segment for the smooth functioning of the state in general and especially now. Ordinary citizens have a hard time imagining what your job is, what takes the most time and what you pay the most attention to.

Mahnič: As Secretary of State, I oversee areas related to national security. In the last two years, we have begun to seriously deal with the cyber security of our country in this regard, as this area, which was severely underfunded in terms of personnel, finances, material, and professionalism during the previous governments. We have prepared and edited a plan for the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism, we are modernising security structures and providing better conditions for efficient, even operational work. The work we have set out to do is extensive and far from over, but I can say that we have estranged ourselves with the bad practices of previous left-wing governments, which have been abused by intelligence and security services for their narrow, primarily political purposes.

Demokracija: Citizens have a feeling that we live in a safe country, which is probably not self-evident.

Mahnič: Slovenia is a safe country. All indicators and statistics confirm this, and, as a very safe country, we often find ourselves in the world media. In its global peace index, the Institute for Economy and Peace has declared Slovenia the fifth safest country in the world. Despite all the enviable results, security is not self-evident, so we must be aware of this and behave in this way. Everyone can do a lot in this area, and the state must ensure that the defence and security sector have sufficient financial, material and, last but not least, human resources. The current government is aware of this and is doing so.

Demokracija: There is a war in Ukraine, how much are we endangered in Slovenia because of this and what are your expectations?

Mahnič: Between Slovenia and Ukraine there is only one country or around 100 kilometres of air distance. We have not been so close to war since the break-up of Yugoslavia. Slovenia is part of the North Atlantic Alliance, and as far as the threat of direct military aggression against our country is concerned, it is precisely because of this membership that we can sleep more peacefully. For the Russian Federation, NATO has always been a line that it did not cross. Whether this is still the case is certainly a question that many are asking themselves after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It was naively believed that there would be no Russian military aggression in Ukraine on the scale that was carried out by dictator Putin, even though US intelligence warned us that an attack was imminent. Today, Slovenia is not endangered in the conventional sense, but it is true that we are part of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, which offers Ukraine a lot of help and support in the current situation, so we are threatened mainly by hybrid threats, through which opponents want to exploit the vulnerability of the state to hinder its smooth operation. In addition to intelligence work and active pro-Russian propaganda, Slovenia is threatened mainly in cyber terms, as attempts at such attacks are frequent and have recently intensified in all EU and NATO member states.

Demokracija: Prime Minister Janez Janša visited Kyiv, did you perhaps take part in this visit and how do you assess this decision of the President, which resonated extremely in the world? How do you assess the President’s support for Ukraine?

Mahnič: The decision of Prime Minister Janez Janša to visit the attacked country in the middle of the war, meet with its leadership and give them hope and unwavering support, is commendable and reflects Janez Janša as a statesman and world-class politician. With this, he made world history as someone who, as the first statesman, brought the message to Ukrainians that they are not alone and forgotten, but that the entire democratic world is with them, that they can count on him and that he will continue to help them in this situation as well as in the post-war reconstruction. The Prime Minister is one of Ukraine’s biggest supporters within the EU and NATO, as evidenced by his words and actions. I would say that this probably stems from his personal experience in 1991, when he probably wished that there were more such leaders who would help Slovenia like he is helping Ukraine today.

Demokracija: How do you assess the actions of the Slovenian opposition in connection with this visit, given that some of their statements and writings of individuals or media in favour of them were extremely pro-Russian?

Mahnič: The Slovenian opposition united in the KUL and Robert Golob’s new party are strongly pro-Russian. Their statements and actions both in the past and today only confirm this. During the time of the left-wing governments, we lost contact with Western countries, especially the United States, while we were regular guests in Moscow, and them here. The current government has once again defended Slovenia’s foreign policy back to the EU and NATO. This, of course, is not a deal for the left-wing opposition, which is otherwise enthusiastic about Russian dictator Putin, so it criticises the government for its efforts to help Ukraine.

Demokracija: Some have even gone so far as to cast doubt on the trip of three Prime Ministers, Janša, Fiala and Morawiecki, to Kyiv. Who might be interested in such publications and why, what do you think is their motive?

Mahnič: Such publications are in the interest of the Slovenian opposition, its media, and other pro-Russian elements in Slovenia. While the world media positively reported on the visit of the three Prime Ministers to Kyiv, Slovenians wondered whether they were there at all and how the visit would harm Slovenia. In this way, the Slovenian media showed the foreign diplomats I spoke to at the time a clear picture of how biased they are and that in Slovenia the opposition’s slogan that the government is violating media freedom does not hold. If anyone violates the freedom of the media, it is the left-wing political parties and the media themselves that serve these parties by distorting the truth, distorting the facts, and constantly blaming the government for all its actions, however positive they may be. If the government in Slovenia violated media freedom, then all media would report on the government only positively. But now it is the opposite.

Demokracija: What did you take over as Secretary of State in March 2020, were there any skeletons in the closets?

Mahnič: Skeletons were falling out of the closet of the previous government already during its tenure. OVS MORS was abused for illegal activities, removing the then Commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces Command Miha Škerbinc. Under our government, this injustice was corrected, Miha Škerbinc is again the commander of the SAF Command, and he was also promoted to the rank of general. Suspicious and government-affiliated people were employed at Sova, including Marjan Šarec’s alleged mistress. Šarec’s director of Sova Rajko Kozmelj sent illegally made pictures of the then director of Telekom Slovenije Rudolf Skobet to various addresses. In addition, he did not miss any opportunity not to give an interview to the left-wing media and threaten the opposition. As the vice-president of KNOVS, at that time, together with my colleagues, I also investigated many irregularities in the Police, which took place under the director Tatjana Bobnar. The latter said goodbye to the position of Police Director in an insulted and infamous manner after we began to intensively investigate the abuse of the Police to track policies and search for information about them.

Demokracija: This term of the government is coming to an end, how do you assess the last two years, even compared to the previous government?

Mahnič: After years of lost opportunities for Slovenia, this government has launched an investment cycle in all areas – health, education, sports, nursing homes, infrastructure, defence, security… Record budgets in these areas testify to the government’s work for Slovenia. Slovenian diplomacy under Minister Anže Logar is experiencing a rebirth and is recording success after success. Once again, we are a credible NATO partner. We were the second best in the elite group of OECD countries in terms of the success of dealing with the covid-19 epidemic. The government of Janez Janša gave citizens as much money directly into their wallets as no other before. Tourist vouchers, retirement allowances, restrictions on oil prices, coverage of loss of income due to covid-19, bonuses for work during the epidemic, payment for waiting for work and many other measures have helped citizens in the last two years. I can say that we have fulfilled the key commitments in the coalition agreement.

Demokracija: Coming from Poljanska dolina, how do you assess regional development during this government, if you compare it with previous years?

Mahnič: As many financial resources as came to Poljanska dolina in the last two years under the current government of Janez Janša, have never come before. We have never had so many projects underway or about to start. Due to the current government, Poljanska dolina is a large construction site and will continue to be so in the future. The government listens to good projects and supports them financially, so in the municipalities of Gorenja vas-Poljane, Železniki, and Žiri we received funding for such projects. With higher averages municipalities receive per capita, the government has launched an investment cycle at the municipal level. The countryside has never developed as fast as it is now. The current government has proved that Slovenia is not just Ljubljana. Otherwise, it is best for everyone to look at all the projects we have launched for the municipality on the government’s website.

Demokracija: Several important laws were passed in the National Assembly during the current coalition, and the KUL opposition abstained from voting for citizens of important laws. How do you rate their work?

Mahnič: While we build, they tear down. LMŠ, SD, Levica, and SAB oppose all proposals that would improve the daily lives of Slovenians. This has been proven several times during this term. The last such example is the Personal Income Tax Act, which brings everyone higher net wages. In the mentioned parties, they did everything to prevent the law from being passed. In the end, the law was passed, and the SDS-led government provided everyone with higher salaries and pensions. At the same time, it seems unbelievable to me that Robert Golob also opposed higher pay. For the summit, they are announcing support for a law that would repeal all laws of the Janša government. People should thus return the money they received during the corona crisis.

Demokracija: How do you assess the work of the left and the actions of some of their extremists, including those who, for example, advocate the confiscation of property, or Miha Kordiš, who said that all capitalists should be “thrown into the sea” and the like; is there a place in the National Assembly for such and similar extremists?

Mahnič: Miha Kordiš only says out loud what others from Kul members think.

Demokracija: We are witnessing the reappearance of the so-called new faces, some say recycling has been fashionable lately, but how do you look at it?

Mahnič: It is another desperate attempt by the deep state to regain power after a severe defeat in 2020. In doing so, they became so bizarre that they chose an electro tycoon with a salary of 45,000 euros as their main trump card. How could Robert Golob defend the interests of the people, when all his life he defended only his personal interests, taking advantage of all the citizens who overpaid for electricity, so that he could have an astronomically high salary.

Demokracija: We are in the pre-election period, there will be elections in April, where will you run?

Mahnič: I am running in the home constituency of Škofja Loka 2, which includes the municipalities of Gorenja vas-Poljane, Železniki, and Žiri. After two terms in parliament, I am pleased that in all three municipalities, the concrete projects that are being implemented in our country show that I am the voice of the people who live here and that I work for them. I believe that we will build Slovenia together for the next four years.

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