Families Join Port Workers in Peaceful Protest at the Strategically Significant Port of Koper
Koper, Slovenia, July 5, 2016 (Newswire.com) - On Sunday, the traditional family day in Slovenia, families and loved ones of approximately 1,000 workers of the Port of Koper (the operator of the port of Koper) along with supporters from the community converged on the gates of the blockaded port in an effort to spend the day together. VZMD president Mr. Kristjan Verbič, addressed the peaceful protesters at the spontaneous rally.
Conflict over the port has been simmering for more than a month, stoked in part by the demand of the government-owned Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), to replace three members of the Port of Koper’s Supervisory Board, in disregard of the stellar results achieved by both of the Port’s incumbent boards. The Port of Koper has a two-tiered board system comprised of a Supervisory Board and a Management Board. One of the reasons that SSH’s demand generated so much controversy is that the Supervisory Board has the power to elect or fire members of the Management Board. Allegations of "plundering by certain circles in Slovenian economy" and worries that the Port of Koper might be a target for foreign takeover have also fueled the controversy.
At the Port of Koper’s general meeting, SSH, the majority shareholder, unexpectedly withdrew its replacement demand and the Chairman of SSH resigned. Despite these developments, workers blockaded the port, primarily due to the emergence of a document in which the Minister of Infrastructure, Mr. Peter Gašperšič, detailed amendments to the port’s Concession contract which would radically change the organization and management of the port. Under this plan, the port would be divided into concession zones and a new, dedicated port management would be introduced. If implemented, these changes would completely alter the Port of Koper’s successful business model, which has led to the Port of Koper’s superb business results.
Rail freight shipments from the port of Koper ground to a complete halt as a result of the blockade. The workers, who have been deemed “assassins of the economy” by the Chairman of the National Assembly, are demanding a meeting with the Prime Minister over the port’s future along with the resignation of the Infrastructure Minister.
In his speech, Mr. Verbič attempted to bridge the divide between port workers and the government, and stressed it was of utmost importance to stabilize the situation at the Port of Koper and to restore operations to the sole Slovenian port, a goal which he noted has unfortunately not been mentioned by some of the highest government representatives in their public statements. After workers blockaded the port on Friday, both the Chairman of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Milan Brglez, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Miro Cerar, resorted to harsher rhetoric, further worsening the prospects for a constructive solution to the situation.
This was Mr. Verbič’s third speech of the week concerning events at the Port of Koper. Following the mass rally on June 28th at the port of Koper at which Mr. Verbič spoke, Mr. Verbič was invited to the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission, to voice his opinion in the continuing battle regarding the Port of Koper.
On Friday, July 1st, Mr. Verbič attended the general meeting of Luka Koper and voted proxies for over 2,000 minority shareholder, including retail investors, who are opposed to SSH’s demands.
VZMD, the PanSlovenian Investors’ & Shareholders’ Association, http://www.vzmd.si/, was founded to protect the rights of minority shareholders and retail investors and is led by its President Mr. Kristjan Verbič (Verbic@vzmd.si). Mr. Verbič is on the Board of The European Federation of Investors and Financial Services Users, www.betterfinance.eu, a member of the Corporate Finance Standing Committee of the European Securities and Markets Authority and a member of World Federation of Investors.
Source: Vseslovensko Združenje Malih Delničarjev (VZMD), the PanSlovenia