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Slovenian pension reform delay "serious problem": Juncker

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(LJUBLJANA) - The rejection of pension reform by Slovenians at a referendum is a "very serious problem", Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker warned, local media reported on Friday.

"Now Slovenia has to prevent any possible future difficulties. It would have been easier if the Slovenian citizens had backed the pension reform," STA news agency quoted Juncker as saying to Slovenian journalists late on Thursday at the end of the first day of EU's summit in Brussels.

Juncker, who also chairs the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, added Slovenians "should know that (the pension reform delay) is a very serious problem for the country's population as a whole, in particular for those with lower incomes."

In a referendum on June 5 initiated by trade unions, Slovenians overwhelmingly rejected raising the retirement age to 65, dealing a heavy blow to a deeply unpopular government and raising questions about the country's public finances.

A two-year increase in the retirement age was among reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to help Slovenia cope with its ageing population.

Juncker said after the "no" to pension reform "the Slovenian government, unfortunately, has to take immediate and... brutal decisions."

To ensure the sustainability of public finances, the centre-left government led by Borut Pahor announced a series of belt-tightening measures including a budget revision to be discussed by parliament in July along with a confidence vote to his cabinet.

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