STA, 16 November 2018 - The Supreme Court has reversed a decision in favour of Swiss franc borrowers, as it ordered a retrial in a case in which the Higher Court sided with the borrower's claim that he had not been forewarned about possible appreciation of the currency. The case was reported by the Bank Association of Slovenia on Friday.
This is one of the cases related to the by the Swiss central bank in 2015 to stop defending the value of the franc against the euro, which led to a surge in the value of the franc against the euro.
The affected borrowers in Slovenia have been trying to reach a systemic solution, including through the Franc Association, which is lobbying for a special law. In the meantime, courts are processing individual cases.
The particular case had been rejected by the court of first instance, while the Higher Court changed the ruling by completely upholding the claim by the borrower and finding the contract null and void.
According to the newspaper Delo, the case involves the Austrian-owned bank Banka Sparkasse.
The Bank Association of Slovenia, which advocates the case-by-case basis, argued today that the Supreme Court said the consequence of the bank failing to forewarn the borrower could not be the basis for annulling the contract.
The court added that when assessing loan contracts in Swiss francs, courts should take into account that the Slovenian consumer legislation at the time did not precisely regulate the mechanism of informed consent.
The Supreme Court added that an absence of loan calculations in any case must not be a decisive factor, according to the Bank Association.
The court has also confirmed that the central bank, Banka Slovenije, had not been able to project in its publications that the Swiss franc will appreciate, which had happened in 2011 and 2015. It is not possible to make reliable and precise forecasts regarding the period and extent of the change of currency exchange rate, it added.
While the impact of certain factors is predictable to a certain extent to experts, no expert could have predicted a unilateral measure such as that by the Swiss central bank in 2015, which had a decisive impact on the Swiss franc exchange rate, the association also quoted the court as saying.
STA, 16 November 2018 - The Ski Jumping World Cup season will start this weekend in Poland's Wisla without Slovenia's best jumper Peter Prevc, who needs additional training following his recovery from two ankle surgeries. Timi Zajc, a 18-year-old talent who stood out during the summer, is now the main hope of the Slovenian team, which has a new headcoach.
Prevc, who dominated the 2016 World Cup like no other before him, went through a slump in the last two seasons, but was still Slovenia's best jumper last year in 15th place overall.
Ankle issues cost him the entire preparation period for the new season and Prevc was only able to make his first jumps at the end of October.
Asked when he expects to return to the circuit, Prevc, whose ankle is still not at 100 percent, explained "the predictions are changing fast currently".
"Somewhere between Kuusamo (24 November) and Engelberg (15 December)... The 4-Hill tournament (31 December) is what I consider may last train for the season. I think I should have enough jumps and confidence by then.
"But my goal is not 28th or 32nd place. When my jumps allow me to be among the top 15, I will return without reservations," the 26-year-old has told the STA.
Meanwhile, the team's modest results in the last season ended a seven-year period under headcoach Goran Janus, who led Slovenian jumpers to a spectacular 46 World Cup victories.
Janus has been succeeded by Gorazd Bertoncelj, who has made some changes in the preparation period, for instance letting as many as 17 jumpers compete during the summer cup.
The only one to stand out among the Slovenians was Zajc, who made his World Cup debut in the last season, when his top result was a 12th place.
The remaining jumpers to start the season in Wisla are veteran Jernej Damjan along with Anže Semenič, Anže Lanišek, Žak Mogel, Bor Pavlovčič and Tomaž Naglič.
Bertoncelj has been very open about his goals this season: "We want one jumper among the top 6 in the final overall rankings, another one among the top 15, while we also wish to have eight podium finishes during the season."
"Meanwhile, the biggest goal is a medal at the World Championship in Seefeld and of course a podium finish at the season final at home in Planica," he announced.
We got in touch with Juan López to learn more about the English-language science presentations he helps organize in Ljubljana.
Can you tell me a little about the history of Science Bites?
Science Bites started as an idea between a group of scientist friends. We often engaged in conversation to explain how our work was going (as all of us are researchers in different fields), and we were really happy to explain to our close group of friends (non-scientists) what we were doing. One day we thought that it would be great to do the same on a bigger scale, to inform people about the most recent science discoveries and to explain misconceptions around certain topics like nuclear energy or genetic modified organisms. And this would also be a good way to practice science presentations in English, since as researchers it’s one of the main skills we need for conferences.
The first time we made an event we were just nine friends, and then word spread and by the second edition we had 15 new speakers. It brought a golden opportunity for young researchers and students, as they could also practice their social and presentation skills, and since we always met in a relaxing atmosphere and chill crowd, it was the perfect exercise for those who have a bit of fear about speaking in public.
Photo: Tomaž Suhovršnik
Who can come?
Our events are open to the public. We try not to get really technical in our presentations, and to explain with easy terms for everyone to understand. A science background is not needed. Maybe it’s not suitable for really small children since all the presentations are in English, and we assume that the public has certain basic knowledge from high school. The main purpose is to inform, to share science, to bring to the public that “wow” that follows every discovery or understanding of how the world works. We don’t want to teach in our field, we just want to speak about the topics we know the most about.
Photo: Tomaž Suhovršnik
Where’s the new venue, and how will this change the way the events are organized?
The new venue will be Žmauc [Rimska cesta 21, 1000 Ljubljana], near the city center and the Faculty of Philosophy, and currently we are not planning to change our format much. Twenty-minute presentations followed by 10 minutes of questions, three speakers per session, three to five sessions per season (sessions are held every two weeks, the number of sessions depends on how many speakers we have). We would like to give more visibility to the project, reach more researchers, and get even more people to future events.
What should people do if they want to make a presentation?
People just need passion for what they are doing. With passion comes the desire for sharing it with others. Any scientific background is welcome, in the natural or social sciences. We currently have a Facebook page called “Science bites Slovenia” and a message there will put you in contact with us. We accept everyone that wants to participate. They should design a 20-minutes presentation, and while most of our speakers use a PowerPoint presentation with videos, images this isn’t needed. You can decide the best format for your presentation, such as using a whiteboard to write while you’re speaking, or just a straight talk with no technical support. We aim for presentations to be comprehensible, fun and dynamic, so we can interact with the people that come to listen to us, especially during the question part of the evenings.
What can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect a bit more detail explaining the world around us. Science news that sadly can’t be covered in everyday media and news resources, from young scientists working in many different fields. News about the events and related things can be found in the Facebook page “Science Bites Slovenia”. We also have plans to start using a YouTube channel to record our presentations, for those who can’t attend the event and still would like to listen to it.
Anything else you’d like to say?
The event is totally free (apart from what you’d like to consume at the bar) and our the speakers do it for the pure love of science and sharing. After any event you can come and ask whatever questions were not answered in the question time, and we are always happy to speak with people. And who knows, you may find a new field that you didn’t know about, and which motivates you enough to dedicate your work to it!As noted in the interview, if you'd like to make a presentation, attend one, or just follow the group's activities, then do see the Facebook page called “Science bites Slovenia”. And if you're ready for some relatively simply science presentations in Slovene, then check out the ones held each weekend at the House of Experiments (learn more
The compact yet varied topography of Slovenia holds many wonders, a fact the tourism industry has long thrived on. Soon another of its geographic features could be in the spotlight, as the Classical Karst region is being nominated to join UNESCO’s Natural Heritage list. As noted by the STA, a report on the area between the Ljubljana Marshes and the Bay of Trieste has been submitted by the government to UNESCO, with the project being led by Park Škocjanske Jame, the operator of the Škocjan Cave system that is already part of the organisation’s World Heritage list, along with the Slovenia’s ancient and primeval beech forests, prehistoric pile dwellings, and mercury mines.
The Ponikve Karst Field in Dolenja Brezovica, Municipality of Brezovica, Slovenia. Photo: Wikimedia - DOREMO - CC-by-4.0
The Ribnica Valley or the Ribnica Field, a karst lowland in southern Slovenia Photo: Wikimedia - Eleassar CC-by-4.0
Udornica or collapse doline in Slovenian karst on Radensko polje near Grosuplje. Photo: Wikimedia, Tcie CC-by-4.0.jpg
A look at the original submission, made by the Permanent Delegation of Slovenia to UNESCO two years ago, goes into some detail as to why the Classic Karst (Klasicni kras) deserves greater recognition and protection.
Geographical position of Kras. Map: lter.zrc-sazu.si
For one, karst is the most widespread landscape type in Slovenia, covering around 6,400 km2or 27% of the territory, stretching from the Ljubljana Marsh (Ljubljansko barje) to the Bay of Trieste, and holding roughly 6,000 known and explored caves. These include massive systems like Postojna Cave (Postojnska jama) and the Skocjan Caves (Skocjanske jame), which have been attracting explorers and tourists since the 17th century.
Enough to render Slavoj Žižek speechless
But it’s not just the natural beauty of the rock forms or the wonder of the subterranean vistas that mark the karst region as a treasure worth preserving for future generations. It’s also one of the richest areas in Europe with regard to flora and fauna, and one recognised as a hotpot of biodiversity, with much more to this than such iconic animals as the proteus, aka “human fish”. It’s also an area with a long history of human habitation, with the earliest artefacts found so far being from the Palaeolithic.
The area has thus attracted researchers from various fields, and played an important role in the the history of research into karst and karst phenomena, also known as karstology and speleology, respectively, with such efforts being led in Slovenia by the Karst Research Institute (lnstitut za raziskovanje krasa), based in Postojna.
A more conventional video promoting Karst tourism
The submission to UNESCO goes on note five areas in particular that are of “outstanding universal value”: the Kras (Kras), the Podgrad lowland (Podrgrajsko podolje), the Postojna Karst (Postojnski kras) and the Poljes of the Classical Karst with the Rakov Skocjan valley (Kraska polja z Rakovim Skocjanom), with more details available in the document.
If you’re curious about making a day trip to the karst from Ljubljana, then consider Postojna or Predjama, with the latter having the added attraction of a castle build into the caves. If you’d like to read more about “Castles, caves and the birth of karstology”, then you can do that here.
STA, 20 November 2018 - Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, held a series of talks in Slovenia on Monday, including with Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Simona Leskovar, discussing the situation in the Middle East.
The Middle East peace process and bilateral relations were in the focus of talks between Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and State Secretary Leskovar, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
Leskovar stressed the need to continue regional and international efforts in the peace process and said Slovenia remained committed to the two-state solution, which is "the only possible path to lasting peace between Palestine and Israel," the ministry said.
She also highlighted the importance of good bilateral cooperation and said Slovenia would continue assisting Palestine through development and humanitarian projects.
Ashrawi presented the situation in the region and voiced the need for a continuation of high-quality political dialogue with Slovenia, which she sees "as an important supporter in the affirmation and respect of the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the international community," the ministry said.
Ashrawi, accompanied by Palestinian Ambassador Salah Abdel Shafi, also held talks with Speaker Židan and Left MP Matej T. Vatovec, the head of the parliamentary friendship group with Palestine.
The visit coincided with a week-long Palestine cultural embassy project which kicked off at the Janez Boljka Gallery in Ljubljana yesterday.
All our stories about Slovenia and Palestine are here
STA, 14 November 2018 - Slovenian researchers have made a tandem solar cell which transforms solar energy into electricity in the most efficient manner so far, which they see as an important step towards photovoltaics becoming more competitive in power production.
The new solar cell was developed by Marko Jošt from the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering while on post-doctoral studies in Germany as part of a Slovenian-German project.
Jošt and several other researchers, among them fellow researchers from Ljubljana, published their findings in the prestigious journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Researchers from top-tier institutions around the globe have been competing since 2015 to develop the most efficient monolithic tandem solar cell.
Last month, Jošt, together with researchers from Germany's Helmholtz Centre and Slovenia's Ljubljana University, managed to set a new record by achieving 25.5% conversion efficiency.
The solar cell was improved with the use of a textured foil, which was produced in the lab for photovoltaics at the Slovenian faculty.
Although tandem cells are still in the R&D stage and there is a long way to go before their industrial use, lab boss Marko Topič says "such achievements prove that our goals are realistic".
The new tandem cell is according to the faculty a stone in the mosaic of knowledge and achievements which pave the way to photovoltaics being increasingly used for energy production.
Obstacles to a more wide use of solar energy are relatively low conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells, which are currently the standard in photovoltaics, and their relatively high price.
Jošt explained that silicon cells had reached their limit in conversion efficiency and low price, while the perskovite tandem cells have the potential for better conversion efficiency while increasing the price of a photovoltaic module just a bit.
Topič meanwhile believes that photovoltaics has already proved it could become "the key technology in the transformation of the energy system" and "as a low-carbon technology, the first solution to fight climate change".