Morning Headlines for Slovenia: Saturday, 21 November 2020

By , 21 Nov 2020, 04:20 AM News
Morning Headlines for Slovenia: Saturday, 21 November 2020 Flickr - CC by 2.0

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This summary is provided by the STA

PM willing to offer ideas for compromise on recovery package

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša called for a compromise on the EU's recovery package that will match the agreement EU leaders reached in July, as the EU Council debated on Thursday the blockade of the recovery package by Hungary and Poland. Janša said that in rule of law conditionality, "the final judgement must always be from the EU Court, otherwise this would be a political decision, which is not in line with rule of law principles," his office said after the meeting. It said Slovenia was willing to offer "concrete ideas" as a compromise is sought and noted that Council president Charles Michel had stressed an agreement involving all member states was needed.

Bill on EUR 780m defence investments passed

LJUBLJANA - Parliament passed a bill which earmarks EUR 780 million in additional defence spending in a six-year period between 2021 and 2026. The bulk of the money will be spent on purchasing armoured personnel vehicles and setting up a medium infantry battalion group, while an aircraft and two helicopters are also to be bought. Defence Minster Matej Tonin and President Borut Pahor, the supreme commander, welcomed the passage of the investment package, while the opposition Left said it would start collecting signatures for a referendum. The Ministry of Defence said the act could not be challenged in a referendum.

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Daily coronavirus case count and positivity rate drop

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's daily coronavirus case count dropped to 1,546 on Thursday from over 2,000 recorded on the previous two days, as the test positivity rate dropped slightly, fresh data from the government show. With another 31 fatalities, the Covid-19 death toll rose to 995. A total of 5,673 tests for Sars-CoV-2 were performed on Thursday, which means 27.25% of the tests came back positive, three percentage points down from the day before. The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by 16 to 1,254 but the number of those requiring intensive care dropped by four to 201, as 68 patients were discharged home yesterday.

Schools reopening priority, Janša says in televised interview

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša assessed the government opted for remote schooling too late into the second wave of coronavirus, but he also told TV Slovenija in an interview aired last night that reopening schools and kindergartens would be a priority now, but classes would have to be held under stringent conditions. He repeated his view that the government had prepared well for the second wave, including by expanding hospital capacities and securing enough personal protective equipment. He concurred though that it was always possible to respond sooner and better.

Logar strengthening ties with Brazilian counterpart

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar spoke with his Brazilian counterpart Ernesto Araujo via video call, reaffirming the traditionally good relations between Slovenia and Brazil, the Foreign Ministry said. Brazil is one of Slovenia's key political and economic partners in Latin America and the only country from the region to have a residential embassy in Ljubljana, it added. Logar and Araujo confirmed that the two countries have developed successful bilateral cooperation in the last 28 years, but both sides agree there is still a lot of potential for further strengthening of ties. They particularly noted the interest in the strengthening of political dialogue and business cooperation.

EU court ruling on ECB archives case to be delivered in mid-December

LJUBLJANA/LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The European Court of Justice will deliver a ruling on the European Central Bank (ECB) archives case on 17 December, the court's online judicial calendar shows. The lawsuit was brought against Slovenia by the European Commission over a 2016 police search of the ECB archives at Slovenia's central bank. The court's decision will set a precedent spelling out the privileges and immunities of EU institutions and explaining in which cases the inviolability of EU archives applies.

Centre-left opposition decries govt communication, epidemic efforts

LJUBLJANA - The leaders of centre-left opposition parties voiced sharp criticism about the government's communication strategy in a group interview for TV Slovenija, arguing that this is hampering efforts to fight the epidemic. All restrictive measures are for nothing if they are wrongly communicated, LMŠ leader Marjan Šarec said, urging the government to replace coronavirus spokesman Jelko Kacin and the head of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) Milan Krek. Tanja Fajon, the leader of the Social Democrats (SD), accused Janša of trying to shift the blame for the epidemiological situation instead of providing calming communication.

Slovenia's chief epidemiologist with mixed views about current measures

LJUBLJANA - Mario Fafangel, Slovenia's chief epidemiologist, expressed mixed feelings about the current measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in an interview for the weekly Mladina. He singled out mandatory masks outdoors and ban on movement between municipalities as having questionable utility, but warned that overall, the measures must be relaxed gradually. The chair of the Centre for Communicable Diseases at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said it was "very difficult to take a position on which measures may be excessive" since there is no room for error at this point.

SocDems seek expansion of latest stimulus package, unions threaten referendum over minimum wage

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Social Democrats (SD) presented a list of measures they believe should be included in the sixth stimulus package, to be discussed in parliament next week, including those to improve company liquidity. Milan Cvikl, the head of the SD expert council on finance, a sort of shadow finance minister, argued that companies had exhausted their reserves, so there was no time to wait for amendments to the current measures or for new stimulus packages. Meanwhile, trade unions threatened a referendum should parliament freeze the minimum wage.

Authorities say public increasingly abiding by restrictions

LJUBLJANA - The health and police authorities find that members of the public are increasingly sticking to coronavirus restrictions with the number of fines issued down last week compared to the couple of weeks earlier. Inspectors issued 104 fines totalling EUR 56,400, plus 263 warnings and 120 administrative measures between 9 and 15 November in 2,578 checks related to coronavirus measures. One of the issues that remain is punters lingering when picking up food or drinks.

Slovenia losing US$ 213.9m in tax revenue a year to tax abuse

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia loses US$213.9 million in tax revenue a year because of tax abuse, an international study by the Tax Justice Network, Public Services International and Global Alliance for Tax Justice.showed. The 2020 report assessed that multinational companies account for US$973 million (EUR 822 million), causing a direct loss of revenue in the amount of US$97 million according to data obtained by the OECD, while rich individuals contribute US$117 million (EUR 99 million) to the loss. In Slovenia, the money lost due to tax abuse equals the annual pay of 4,848 nurses, and on the global level it equals 34 million annual nurses' wages.

National tourism holding plans hit financial snag

LJUBLJANA - Plans for the creation of a national state-owned tourism holding appear to have hit a snag since epidemic-related outlays have crowded out budget funds needed for a key portion of the plan - the purchase of a 43% stake in tourism company Sava, Delo reported. The paper received confirmation from the Finance Ministry that the budget for next year does not include funds - roughly EUR 40 million - needed to buy the Sava stake held by the private equity fund York. Sava, which owns hotels and spas around the country, was a linchpin of Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek's plan, in the making for several years, to pool together tourism assets and create a national holding that would have sufficient capital to undertake much needed investments.

Petrol group profit halved in Jan-Sept y/y

LJUBLJANA - The energy group Petrol saw its revenue drop by 30% year-on-year in the first nine months of the year to EUR 2.29 billion. Its net profit was at EUR 40.5 million, a 49% drop compared to the same period in 2019, the core company said in a press release following a supervisory board meeting. The group's adjusted gross profit for the first nine months stood at EUR 301.9 million, a drop of 13% year-on-year. The drop in performance is attributed to "a drop in petroleum product sales resulting from movement restrictions introduced by governments to contain the pandemic and from the economic downturn the pandemic had caused".

Insurer Sava Re reports 26% higher Jan-Sep profit

LJUBLJANA - Insurance group Sava Re, Slovenia's second largest, reported a net profit of EUR 47.6 million for the nine months to the end of September, an increase of 26.4% year-on-year, as gross premiums written rose by 12.4% to EUR 527.1 million. The unaudited financial report, filed with the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, shows the group's operating revenue rising by 16.4% year-on-year to EUR 489.5 million. The growth in profit, operating revenue and gross premiums is attributed in great part to the acquisition of life insurer Vita, consolidated in the group accounts as of 31 May 2020. The acquisition contributed EUR 9.9 million to the increase in profit, and without this effect group net profit would have broadly been at the same level as in the same period last year.

Law passed to protect privacy in criminal procedures

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed unanimously a bill regulating the processing and protection of personal data in procedures before law enforcement authorities, transposing the relevant EU directive into the national law. The directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties should have been implemented in Slovenian legislation by May 2018. The law mainly concerns the police, state prosecution, correction facilities and to an extent criminal justice.

Motion to ban fracking voted down, ministry announcing systemic solution

LJUBLJANA - A renewed attempt by the opposition to ban the extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing in Slovenia, was rejected in a 39:40 vote in parliament. While some coalition members agree with a ban, they want to wait for what was described as comprehensive solution being drawn up by the Infrastructure Ministry. Thursday's discussion saw the Left's Nataša Sukič highlight the dispute with British company Ascent Resources, which she said has been pushing to introduce fracking at the Petišovci gas field in the north-east of Slovenia for decades.

Energy companies planning EUR 2.5bn investment in seven years

LJUBLJANA - Energy companies in Slovenia plan at least EUR 2.5 billion in investments in the 2021-2027 EU multiyear budget, according to a survey by the Energy Chamber, which also shows that EUR 937 million worth are planned in the next four years. The investments planned are to be in line with the EU's Green Deal, focusing on environmentally friendly energy sources. Just under EUR 1.5 billion investments are planned in east Slovenia and just over EUR 1 billion in west Slovenia.

Police bust migrant smuggling ring

LJUBLJANA - The police have arrested seven and filed criminal complaints against 12 persons in total following an 18-month long investigation of a suspected international migrant smuggling ring which is also believed to have involved Slovenian citizens in charge of security at Ljubljana's Asylum Home. The Ljubljana Criminal Police Department said it had completed after 18 months an investigation of a criminal ring that enabled foreigners at Ljubljana's asylum centre transfers to other European countries. Seven persons were arrested as house searches were conducted on Wednesday.

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