Piše: Vida Kocjan
Prime Minister Robert Golob’s attitude towards the Revoz company and, indirectly, the French owners, threatens thousands of jobs in Novo mesto and its surroundings. Golob’s moves related to the economy are extremely harmful.
Robert Golob, the Slovenian Prime Minister, visited Paris last week at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron. The Slovenian delegation also included Matjaž Han, Minister of Economic Development and Technology, a representative of Revoz, and Saša Leban, Golob’s economic adviser.
In addition to energy, the topic was the extension of the agreement between Revoz from Novo mesto and the state of Slovenia. Golob then told reporters that he sees the main problem of Novo mesto’s Revoz in the uncertainty regarding the future of the factory within the framework of Renault’s strategic plans. Nothing new.
When asked if they had discussed the future of Revoz with French President Emmanuel Macron, he replied that “things that leaders talk about in private are not discussed”. He acted as if he went on a private rather than a state visit.
Revoz Golob’s political training ground
According to Bojan Požar, Golob’s government asked Revoz to submit evidence that this company is important for Slovenia. Revoz employs around 1,500 people, indirectly many more, and generates around 3 percent of Slovenia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The previous government supported jobs in Novo mesto and beyond, with Golob a different story is clearly beginning. According to Požar, the reason for Golob’s stepmotherly relationship with Revoz was primarily an internal political showdown with Economy Minister Matjaž Han or the SD party, meanwhile Revoz and the fate of its employees apparently represent Golob’s political training ground.
Golob cooperates with his adviser Saša Leban in this, and their position on the continued existence of Revoz just before Golob’s departure for the meeting with Macron could also trigger tension between Slovenia and France, Požar wrote. He added that some experts already estimate that a possible Slovenian turn to French Renault, which owns Revoz, could become a stone around the Prime Minister’s neck and even mean the beginning of his end.
What is known so far?
After the meeting, Golob’s statement that he was “in some way shocked” when he learned that Revoz had reduced the number of employees from 3,500 to around 1,500 from 2020 to April this year, was very surprising. According to him, the Slovenian media did not mention this at all. However, the facts show that Golob was either faking ignorance or he really was not interested (and he is still not), since the problems in Revoz have been reported extensively by the Slovenian media in the past. However, probably Golob’s beloved Necenzurirano portal did not report it, which is apparently the only news portal Golob reads, or his advisers do it for him.
The number of employees in Revoz has significantly reduced after, due to the problems with the supply of chips and components in which the entire automotive sector found itself, and the completion of the assembly of the smart forfour model, Revoz had to reduce the volume of production: from three shifts to one shift, daily production shrank by almost two-thirds.
Golob did not solve anything
After the conversation in France, Golob pointed out that Revoz’s main problem is that the management does not know what the future of the company will be in the context of the new strategic plan adopted last year by the French Renault. In his opinion, the uncertainty is certainly very high, but “it is still hard to say” when Revoz will get the information. The fact is that the answer to this was exactly Golob’s task when visiting Emmanuel Macron. Obviously, they did not agree on anything. And the big question is whether Golob even opened this topic. The government’s message after this visit mainly referred to the field of energy, they did not even mention Revoz. The French state has a 15% stake in Renault and is, together with the Japanese Nissan, the largest individual shareholder. In general, they have a strong influence on the concern in Paris. Golob seems to have messed up once again.
What is happening in Revoz?
On August 1st, the employees of Revoz were sent on a two-week collective vacation and announced that the company is working with a third of all production capacity, only one shift is still working, the number of employees has recently been halved, and there are no more agency workers.
In March, they switched from one-and-a-half-shift production to single-shift production, and the company has only 1,503 employees. Last year, 350 people were laid off, and another 450 in the spring. Many of them left voluntarily, because the employees were offered relatively high severance pay, some of them are about to retire.
In the last two years, they had to reduce the volume of production. As recently as 2019, they produced 900 vehicles per day in three shifts, this time they produce 326 vehicles per day in one shift, or a third of all production capacity. The biggest problem they are still dealing with is the crisis in the supply of parts – especially electronic ones. There is also still a chip crisis, but it should be diminishing.
How to proceed in Novo mesto?
The situation improved somewhat after March, but what will happen after the summer was not known at the beginning of August and is still not known. They need new projects, but there are none. Some hoped that they would find out already in the fall whether another Renault model would be manufactured in Novo mesto. That is why they bet on Golob’s visit to Macron. The further fate of Revoz and several thousand of its employees is also connected with Renault’s exit from the Russian market, where the Avaz factory was sold to the Russians for a symbolic purchase price of one rouble. Around 400,000 cars were produced in Avaz, and according to the contract, they can get their share back in six years and thus return to the market.
Revoz currently manufactures three car models: the electric Twingo, Twingo, and Clio. For Finance portal, they said that they will only produce the Renault Twingo until the end of 2024, that is a year and a half. The reason is the new European legislation in the field of security. They do not have a successor for Twingo yet.
For Clio production, the first factory is in the group in Bursa, Turkey, and the existence of the production of this model depends mainly on market demand. If the demand is greater than the volume of production in Bursa, the car will also be produced in Novo mesto. If the demand is lower, there will be no production in Novo mesto.
Golob is playing with the fate of thousands of people
So, Golob did not solve anything in France. Many people from Lower Carniola, Kočevska, and Bela krajina are employed in Revoz. Many subcontractors who work in nearby Dolenje companies are also connected to the production in Revoz. It is therefore about the fate of thousands of employees and their families in activities related to the automotive industry and spare parts.
For Golob, it has always been considered that, even in the role of Prime Minister, he is only interested in electricity economy and the field of energy. Connoisseurs also mention his desire to own the latter. Golob’s also clump about other companies that are state-owned. Robert Golob is betting on his old friend Žiga Debeljak, who on September 1st became the new president of the board of Slovenian State Holding (SDH). Janez Žlak had to retire early from this position to make way for Golob’s chosen one, who belongs to the inner circle of Borut Jamnik, chairman of the board of Modra zavarovalnica.
Debeljak is said to have previously been offered the position of finance minister by Golob, but Debeljak reportedly refused the offered job because he is not used to working for such a low salary, around 3,500 euros net. Debeljak is also said to be burdened by Mercator’s controversial real estate deals in the Balkans, namely Mercator’s famous purchase of Maxen gas stations (here the threads lead to Gregor Golobič and the once infamous lawyer Miro Senica). The state prosecutor’s office supposedly also scrutinised these transactions.
Golob’s ascent to Telekom is starting
Golob’s centre of gravity is also Telekom, which is state-owned. Telekom’s general meeting is expected to appoint new members of the supervisory board at today’s meeting (September 8th). The request for an extraordinary general meeting was officially submitted by Kapitalska družba (KAD), which is owned by the state. After the management change at Telekom, it is expected that there will also be changes at TS Media, which owns the Siol.net portal. Replacements on this portal are also expected to follow, and Golob is said to have promised the position of editor-in-chief to his friend Primož Cirman from the Necenzurirano portal. Thus, Golob’s ascent to Telekom will be complete.
Who is Saša Leban, Golob’s economic adviser?
Saša Leban is the daughter of the late businessman Rudolf Leban, connected to the former LDS, energy, and Russia. Her appointment as advisor to the Prime Minister is considered by experts to be one of Robert Golob’s most mysterious personnel moves.
Who is Žiga Debeljak?
Žiga Debeljak, born in 1971, has been Golob’s friend for many years, he was also among the few who went to the Magistrate in 2011 and asked Zoran Janković to run for mayor of Ljubljana. Robert Golob was also a member of the Pozitivna Slovenija party.
Debeljak holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in management and organisation. Until Golob’s era, he was the director of the Advico group, which deals with business and financial consulting as well as financial and accounting services in Slovenia and Serbia. Before that, he was a member of the Gorenje Finance Board and a director of the Gorenje holding companies in Austria and the Netherlands. Between 2006 and 2012, he managed Mercator, before that he was a member of the board for finance and economics in Gorenje.
Debeljak has also recently (according to Golob’s wish) become the chairman of the Gen Energy Supervisory Board. Now he is said to belong to the circle of the Gibanje Svoboda party, in which he also participated in the negotiations for the coalition agreement. Even after being appointed head of the SDH, he should remain on the board of the BAMC, since, as Delo newspaper wrote, it is a non-executive function. This should also be related to the fact that BAMC will be merged with SDH by the end of the year at the latest due to the end of its life, so it would make sense to have one person oversee it.