INTERVIEW-Slovenian poll-leader wants to reconsider some privatisations

by Reuters
Wednesday, 2 July 2014 14:35 GMT

(Updates with details, quote in paragraphs 10-11)

* Cerar leading opinion polls ahead of July 13 election

* Says committed to cutting deficit as required by EU

* Slovenia went to brink of bailout last year

By Marja Novak

LJUBLJANA, July 2 (Reuters) - Political newcomer Miro Cerar, whose SMC party tops opinion polls ahead of Slovenia's July 13 national election, wants to reconsider some privatisations started by the outgoing government, he told Reuters on Wednesday.

But Miro Cerar said in an interview that he was committed to cutting the deficit as required by the European Union.

"We have to stick to our international obligations ... so we will have to do everything to reduce the deficit to 3 percent (of GDP) already in 2015," Cerar said.

He said he plans to liberalise the economy, increase the flexibility of the labour market, improve the efficiency of the public sector, cut down on corruption and speed up legal procedures.

On privatisation, however, Cerar said his party opposed the sale of telecom operator Telekom Slovenia and airport Aerodrom Ljubljana, although he was not sure if the process could be stopped.

The outgoing government launched the sale earlier this year as the first major privatisation drive in Slovenia after successive governments in the past 20 years opposed it. Binding bids for Telekom and Aerodrom are expected in the coming weeks.

"Strategic firms, their infrastructure, should remain in the hands of the state ... like port Luka Koper, the airport, railways and Telekom," Cerar said.

"We are aware that stopping the privatisation process can be problematic so we do not want to promise anything, we have to establish what is the state of the process and then see whether it can still be stopped without damage to Slovenia."

However, Cerar is in favour of selling other state firms, including the number two bank Nova KBM, which is expected to be sold by the end of the year. He said the proceeds from the sell-offs should be used to revive the economy and reduce the budget deficit.

POLITICS ROOKIE

Cerar is a rookie in high politics, having formed his centre-left Party of Miro Cerar only last month amid general disillusionment with traditional parties which brought the euro zone country to the brink of an international bailout last year.

"This is my first step into politics ... I am entering it because I know that the situation in Slovenia is so bad that ... we need new people, new ideas, new practices," Cerar said.

According to polls he may be the likeliest candidate to form the new cabinet. Polls suggest his party will get between 15.3 and 37.9 percent of the vote, well ahead of the main conservative opposition SDS, led by Janez Jansa.

The outcome remains uncertain because more than 25 percent of voters are still undecided.

Cerar said he was ready to hold coalition talks with centre-left and centre-right parties after the election but ruled out cooperation with Jansa because he is serving a 2-year jail sentence because of corruption.

Jansa, a former prime minister, denies any wrongdoing and hopes the Supreme Court will change his sentence.

"We will talk to all parties ... our vision is to reduce tension between the government parties and the opposition and find some common points of cooperation," said Cerar.

Cerar, 50, is a legal adviser to parliament and a law professor.

His late mother was a justice minister 10 years ago when her centre-left Liberal Democrats were in power. His namesake father, also a legal expert, is one of the most famous sportsmen in Slovenia, with multiple gymnastics Olympic and world championship gold medals from the 1960s. (Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic, Jeremy Gaunt and Alison Williams)

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