MPs change Natural Disaster Relief Act to facilitate clean-up effort

Ljubljana, 9 August - The National Assembly unanimously passed on Wednesday changes to the Natural Disaster Relief Act that will facilitate the clean-up effort after the devastating floods. The key provision is an advance payment to municipalities for flood relief effort totalling 40% of the estimated damage. PM Robert Golob said this was only the first step.

The National Assembly holds an emergency session to pass natural disaster relief legislation.
Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

National Assembly President Urška Klakočar Zupančič addresses an emergency session which was called to pass natural disaster relief legislation.
Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

Prime Minister Robert Golob addresses an emergency session which was called to pass natural disaster relief legislation.
Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

All deputy groups and both minority MPs voted for the changes that were passed with 79 votes in favour and none against. MPs agreed that the changes were a step in the right direction but said that additional measures would be needed.

The changes envisage covering the entire costs of the emergency effort currently under way as well as retroactively for all natural disasters since the start of the year.

Farmers who have insured their crops will get a 100% advance payment for the lost crops based on the de minimis scheme.

A state-financed furlough scheme will be put in place to help companies that have been hit by the flooding, including major employers such as home appliances maker BSH Hišni Aparati, battery maker TAB, and KLS Ljubno, a maker of gears for the automotive industry.

Companies that have been affected indirectly will be eligible as well. Workers will get 80% of pay while on furlough.

The state will finance up to seven days of leave for volunteers who join the relief effort following the floods that devastated two-thirds of the country last weekend.

And 14 August will be declared solidarity day so that workers will get a day off to help in the effort.

The opposition parties, the Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), had some remarks about that, with the NSi proposing that rather than giving everyone a day off the government should allocate people's daily earnings on Monday to those affected by the floods.

MP for the ruling party Freedom Movement Lucija Tacer said this was a good idea but could not be implemented for now, as a solidarity fund had not been set up yet. This was echoed by Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič, who said this idea could perhaps be implemented in the coming weeks or months but for now there was no legal basis for it.

The SDS also said some administrative bans should be lifted at the municipality level to speed up clean-up efforts.

In order to ensure that the legislation takes effect as soon as possible, the upper chamber is expected to meet soon after the plenary of the lower chamber, with councillors expressing their intention not to veto the bill.

This is to be followed by another plenary of the National Assembly at which MPs are expected to pass a decree under which it will not be possible to challenge the bill in a referendum.

In addressing the MPs before the vote, Golob said: "If we want to be quick and efficient, we will have to change the rules and adjust them for crisis management."

"This law is only the first step, but it is by no means the last. The journey is long; we will have to be efficient and creative," he said, saying he was proud of the unparalleled solidarity attested by citizens in these difficult times.

Slovenia's partners in the EU, the Western Balkans and NATO have also showed solidarity, he stressed, pointing to today's visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"If there was ever time for unity, it is today, because citizens expect that and we are obligated to show it," he stressed.

The MPs honoured the victims of the devastating floods with a moment of silence at the start of the session.

© STA, 2023