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Thousands strike amid gov't crisis in Slovenia

Source : AP
Last Updated: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 14:15 hrs

Schools closed down, theaters cancelled shows, hospitals switched to weekend schedules and long lines formed at Slovenia's borders on Wednesday due to a massive anti-austerity strike, while the government was on the brink of collapse over corruption allegations.

Tens of thousands of teachers, university professors, doctors, customs officials and other state employees joined the strike, angry that the coalition government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa has cut their salaries by 5 percent to reduce debt and avoid needing an EU bailout.

Several thousand flag-waving protesters also rallied in central Ljubljana, the capital, demanding job security and accusing the government of corruption.

"Don't believe those who say the situation will improve if cleaners, policemen or nurses are fired!" a union leader, Branimir Strukelj, told the crowd.

Jansa's government has said that the austerity measures are necessary for Slovenia to restore public finances that, like the economy, have been hurt by the eurozone debt crisis. The measures also include a plan to overhaul the banking system and reform the labor market.

But the government has been shaken by corruption allegations against Jansa, who has been asked to step down by coalition partners. A report issued this month by an anti-graft watchdog accused him of failing to declare more than €200,000 ($266,340) in private assets, which he has denied.

Slovenia's media have reported that the dispute within the ruling coalition could lead to the resignations of some government ministers, but not an immediate snap election. Jansa has called for "reason," warning that a political crisis would slow down the necessary reform.

In an interview Tuesday with local Primorka TV, he urged "sensibility and maturity to enable the government to do what needs to be done without delay."

The anti-graft report also accused Zoran Jankovic, the main opposition leader who is also the mayor of Ljubljana and one of the richest people in Slovenia, of failing to clarify where €2.4 million ($3.1 million) of his money came from.

Slovenia, once a star economy among EU newcomers, has seen its gross domestic product shrink by 3.3 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier — the third-biggest drop in the eurozone after Greece and Portugal.

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Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.



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