Supreme Court annuls suspension of govt regulation on STA, upholds duty of state funding
Ljubljana, 6 September - The Supreme Court has reversed a decision whereby a lower court granted the STA's request to stay the government regulation on STA public service, but said the state has a duty to provide financing to the STA for 2021 in line with the agency's business plan.
The latest judgement comes after the government appealed against the Administrative Court's decision to stay the implementation of the regulation adopted by the government in June that introduces detailed rules governing the public service provided by the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and its financing, which the STA is challenging on the grounds of its being unlawful.
In explaining its decision, the Supreme Court says the STA's founder - i.e. the state - has a duty to provide the funding of the STA public service under the STA act.
Thus a temporary stay of the regulation would not represent an obstacle to paying the STA for the public service because the basis for the payment already exists in the STA act, and in particular for 2021 in the 7th coronavirus relief act.
The court also says that it is irrelevant to the case which body will make the payments and what are the relationships between the government and its bodies.
The court also rejected the government's argument that the regulation needs to be implemented because the 7th coronavirus relief package does not determine which body has the obligation to supply the funds, saying it is the obligation of the state.
The court moreover disagrees with the government that the regulation is required because it provides the legals basis for monthly payments for this year as the only such provision.
The court notes that the STA act provides for monthly payments based on the annual agreement between the STA and the state. Even if there is no such agreement for this year, the coronavirus act provides for payments for 2021 in line with the STA business plan.
Nevertheless, the court granted the government's request to annul the temporary stay on the regulation for other reasons, saying the STA failed to prove it would get the payment in line with the business plan through a mere suspension of the regulation.
The STA hopes the explanations provided by the court "will make an end to excuses made by the Government Communication Office (UKOM) for continued failure to provide the financing".
UKOM director Uroš Urbanija has been claiming the office cannot pay the STA for the public service because the annual agreement has not been signed.
"It follows from the Supreme Court's judgement that it did not stay the government regulation on the STA public service exactly because the government has an obligation to provide monthly payments in 2021 directly based on the 7th coronavirus relief act," STA director Bojan Veselinovič said.
He hopes the latest decision will contribute to restoring financing and for talks with UKOM to resume, something the STA has been calling for.
The STA also believes the Supreme Court's decision sets an important legal precedent on the issue.
Meanwhile, UKOM director Uroš Urbanija posted a tweet saying the court upheld UKOM's arguments, while he failed to comment on the court's findings about the state having a duty to transfer monthly payments.
"The Slovenian Press Agency has requested a suspension of the regulation on the financing of the STA public service. UKOM appealed against the suspension. The Supreme Court today clearly upheld UKOM's arguments and annulled the regulation's stay," he tweeted.
The STA has not received state payments for the public service it continues to provide since the beginning of the year, or for 249 days.