LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Natasa Pirc Musar loves to ride her motorcycle. She also has worked as a human rights lawyer, a TV presenter, ran Slovenia’s top data protection agency and now is the small European Union nation’s first female president.
“Not a single day of my life have I said: ‘Oh God, I have to go to work,’” Pirc Musar told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. “All the jobs that I have done in my life were a hobby of mine.”
The lawyer chosen by former U.S. first lady Melania Trump to protect her interests in her native Slovenia says she is ready but still not aware of all the challenges that lie ahead as the country’s head of state.
“To be honest, I’m not aware of all the obstacles to my private life yet,” she said at her lawyer’s office on the outskirts of Ljubljana, the capital. “If you are asking me about my bike, I would still like to ride my bike. I will have to discuss this with the security guys.”
The 54-year-old liberal beat a conservative candidate, Slovenia’s former Foreign Minister Anze Logar, by nearly 10 percentage points in a runoff vote Sunday. Her victory was seen as a boost for the country’s center-left government that won a parliamentary election in April, ousting a right-wing coalition.
In 2016, Pirc Musar and her client Melania Trump filed a lawsuit against a local gossip magazine in Slovenia for suggesting the former first lady had worked as a high-end escort while pursuing her international modelling career before getting married to Donald Trump. An out-of-court settlement was reached.
Pirc Musar said Melania Trump congratulated her on the election victory.
“I was grateful for that,” Pirc Musar said. “I was her attorney at the times when there were some nasty rumors appearing in Slovenian media and after that it was distributed basically all around the globe."
She still does not know how the former first lady of the United States found her.
"She contacted me at the time. I don’t know why she chose me. Probably her people did research because I dedicated most of my professional life to media law, to privacy law. And probably the choice was obvious,” Pirc Musar said.
While the presidency is largely ceremonial in Slovenia, the head of state is still a person of authority in the Alpine country of 2 million people.
“I was not involved into daily politics of Slovenia, but I was information commissioner for 10 years,” Pirc Musar said. “I’m definitely a strong believer in the European Union. I do believe that a rule of law and human rights are something that most Europeans still believe in.”
On the war in Ukraine, Pirc Musar said the EU has done a lot for Ukraine but it may have not done enough.
“Being a lawyer, we have to be honest: Russia violated the international law and that is a fact. Peace negotiation talks should start as soon as possible," she said, suggesting that a deal to end the war must be made with Ukraine having a leading role, and not as a result of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia.
Much media attention during the campaign focused on the lucrative network of companies owned by her and her husband. She has rejected accusations that she put money into tax havens, saying that all of the businesses were declared with Slovenian tax authorities.
She also formerly served as the president of the Slovenian Red Cross and helped to draft personal data protection laws in Ukraine as well as in Serbia and Montenegro.
She called her journalism career in the late 1990s a “huge and positive experience.”
“I started on national television learning about journalism,” she said. “I basically became what I am today because of the media.”
“Whatever I have done in my life I did it with passion,” Pirc Musar added.