Robert Golob achieved historic success at the general election in Slovenia with the Freedom Movement, which he founded only three months ago. Its economic program is based on decarbonization and digitalization while renewables and nuclear power are seen as energy pillars.
Acting Prime Minister Janez Janša must be regretting that late last year he succeeded in pushing long-time President of the Management Board of GEN-I Robert Golob out of the state-owned company. The electricity expert joined forces with a small green party and transformed it into his Freedom Movement (Gibanje Svoboda) already in January, after which it won 41 out of 90 seats in Državni zbor, the country’s parliament.
Turnout came in at almost 70%, the highest level since 2000, helped by a voter motivation campaign by nongovernmental organizations. In their struggle against the right-wing government’s authoritarian tendencies, they found an ally in Golob and the Freedom Movement, as they promote left-liberal values as well as climate action and environmental protection.
Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) will have only 27 seats in parliament. It was the third time that he lost an election as prime minister.
Robert Golob is an associate professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in the capital Ljubljana. He has been politically active for a while several times. Two decades ago he was the state secretary for energy, after which in 2002 he founded a company called Strela-G. Eventually, it turned into GEN-I, mostly a gas and electricity supplier and trader. The firm operates within the government-controlled GEN Group.
The list’s victory in Slovenia is a continuation of a green wave in the region that was so far limited to capital cities: Zagreb, Skopje, Prishtina and even Ljubljana. It is evident that environmental protection and the energy transition are becoming more important for voters, so even traditional parties are beginning to focus on them.
Care for environment, and people, alongside economic development
During the campaign, Golob said the solutions for the energy sector shouldn’t only be sought within Slovenia, but in the entire Alpe Adria region, which includes parts of all the surrounding countries. The domestic energy system mustn’t lean on fossil gas anymore nor liquefied natural gas (LNG), but rather on renewable energy sources and the new generation of nuclear technologies that “West European institutions and states acquire,” in his view.
The movement is supporting the use of nuclear energy including the possibility to install small modular reactors
Golob’s list set three equally important pillars for its activities: care for the environment and people and economic development. “Technological progress and tackling climate challenges successfully are an exceptional opportunity for the development of a sustainable, inclusive economy. We will support it with digitalization and by directing European funds in a targeted manner,” the program says.
Fossil fuels are becoming history
Representatives of the Freedom Movement say that in the coming decades they want to reduce the environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions in Slovenia, but that they are working at the same time on solutions for energy security and independence.
Golob’s list included the just transition for the people and areas tied to the coal industry in its program
“We have to switch to renewables in the near future and that is why we have to transition from coal, natural gas and fossil fuels toward more environmentally friendly alternatives. We have to make sure that the transition’s impacts on companies and individuals are mitigated,” its website says. There is also a focus on the just transition for the people and areas tied to the coal industry.
Golob’s movement vowed to enable the use of public land and structures for renewable energy generation, especially the places that are in the vicinity of existing infrastructure or are devastated. The administrative burdens will be removed, the decarbonization of the district heating system will be accelerated and the obligation to connect new buildings to the gas network will be abolished, according to the program.
Government to provide more funds for green transition
Profits of state-owned companies will be directed into investment in renewables and more European funds will be earmarked for the green transition, the document reveals. The process must include waste management, sustainable farming, animal protection and responsible decision making with regard to nuclear energy, the Freedom Movement adds.
The election winners will try to form a broad coalition including the representatives of the parties that failed to reach the 4% threshold
It also announced it would support the use of electric cars and the transition of cargo transportation to rail and make it easier to exercise the constitutional right to clean water.
The negotiations on forming the cabinet were supposed to begin today both with Tanja Fajon’s Social Democrats and Luka Mesec’s Left, according to what Golob said after declaring victory. The two parties will have seven and five seats in parliament, respectively, which means only one of them would be sufficient for a coalition. Moreover, the likely next prime minister suggested he also wants people on board from two other lists that failed to reach the 4% election threshold.