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Small Businesses Call Off Campaign After Protest (adds)

Ljubljana, 16 March (STA) - Entrepreneurs called off on Wednesday a civil disobedience campaign which they started last Friday with a coordinated cash withdrawal from ATMs and stepped up with a protest in Ljubljana today. The announcement was made after they met PM Borut Pahor, who promised the government would act on their remaining demands.

After some 2,800 protesters staged a peaceful protest in front of the parliament and government buildings, representatives of small business presented their demands and deadlines for their adoption to the prime minister.

At the meeting the two sides set up dialogue, Pahor announced afterwards. "As the prime minister I am glad that we came to a conclusion together that there are no further reasons for civil disobedience," he said.

According to him, the government had already met most of the demands and would adopt further legislation to help small business on Thursday.

Chairman of the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS) Stefan Pavlinjek said today was a "historic day for small businesses". "We did not take the streets. We wanted to point to the problems in the economy in a peaceful way," he said.

"We want laws which are coordinated with the EU and put small business first to create favourable conditions for doing business," Pavlinjek pointed out. He said Pahor had assured them that the issues which remain open would be tackled.

The bill to prevent late payments, and changes to the VAT act and the public procurement act dealing with defaults have already been passed, while changes to the law on the prevention of undeclared work are expected to be passed at third reading, Pahor said.

On Thursday the government is expected to adopt changes to the road transport act and probably also changes to the construction act, according to the prime minister.

Changes to the financial operations, insolvency and compulsory dissolution act will be put into fast-track procedure in parliament at the session starting next week. Pahor also expects the government to discuss changes to the agriculture act soon.

As regards the OZS' demand for changes to the income tax legislation introducing tax breaks based on receipts, the two sides agreed to hold intensive talks in the future.

"Both sides agree this needs to be introduced. How, in which scope and manner remains not a political but foremost an expert question," Pahor said.

Today's protest, organised by the OZS, which associates 52,000 small businesses in Slovenia, was aimed at demanding that the government improve conditions for business.

The OZS had threatened to take its campaign a step further by staging a complete blockade of Slovenia in April.

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