20 Apr 2020, 12:18 PM

STA, 17 April 2020 - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec has approved a 50% reduction in port fees for Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's only seaport. Talking to the press as he visited the port on Friday, Vrtovec said that this "discount" would remain in place until September and would be extended if necessary.

The goal is to preserve the port's competitive edge in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with CEO Dimitrij Zadel expressing satisfaction with the move. Vrtovec believes the reduction in fees will attract international shipping companies.

Zadel said that similar measures to increase the competitive edge had also been introduced at other ports and that this brought the Koper port on par with others. Vrtovec also praised the company for taking adequate precautionary measures, as none of its workers had tested positive for Covid-19.

Moreover, the ministry will also approve subsidies for railway transport in short, similar to other countries, said Vrtovec.

The minister also commented on the construction of a second rail track to the port, confirming that the ministry was looking into the possibility of folding 2TDK, a special vehicle company established for the construction and management of the new track, into Slovenske Železnice, the national railway operator.

However, a definitive answer to this will be possible only after analyses are performed and Slovenske Železnice and other key players are consulted, in about a month or two.

Vrtovec dismissed information that Hungary may join the second track project, saying no talks were taking place, but he underlined the importance of countries in the hinterland for the development of Luka Koper.

In terms of the coronavirus epidemic measures, Vrtovec would not say when public transport may be relaunched. He said however that the government may decide as early as today that vehicle inspection services reopen on Monday.

17 Apr 2020, 13:38 PM

STA, 17 April 2020 - The insurance group Sava has adjusted its expected net profit for this year as a result of the crisis, saying on Friday it is likely to be about 15% to 20% lower than the initially planned EUR 45 million.

Sava originally projected this year's profit to miss last year's record mark of EUR 50.2 million by 10%. While it generated EUR 584.9 million in operating revenue last year, the plan for this year had been set at EUR 610 million.

The changed circumstances, which include an expected 6-8% drop in GDP, lockdown measures that could remain in place until the end of May and a major decrease in car insurance revenue, are likely to impact profit by 15-20% and revenue by 5-7%, the company said.

The assessed impact on the solvency ratio, initially expected to stand at 203% at the end of the year, is 10 to 15 percentage points.

17 Apr 2020, 07:40 AM

STA, 16 April 2020 - DIY shops, shops selling cars and bicycles, dry cleaners and some repair shops such as tyre replacement shops will reopen on Monday as the government has further eased lockdown measures.

Meeting for a session on Thursday, the government added new exceptions to the restrictions on shops and services imposed in Slovenia on 16 March, allowing hair salons and beauty parlours to reopen on 4 May.

Already from Monday, shops selling mostly construction and installation materials, technical goods or furniture will be back in business.

Between 8am and 9:30am all those shops will be open for vulnerable groups of shoppers only, i.e. persons with disabilities, pregnant women and those above the age of 65. The latter group will not be able to enter the shops outside the dedicated opening hour.

Also reopening on Monday will be dry cleaners and repair shops for technical goods, motor vehicles and cars.

The government also allowed the reopening of services performed outdoors such as gardening services, roof and facade work, and takeaways involving minimum contact with customers.

Outdoor sports and recreational services will also be allowed from Monday provided a safe distance is kept between everyone involved.

More services will be available from 4 May, with reopening of hair salons, beauty parlours, dog and cat grooming salons and shops of up to 400 m2 sales space except for those in shopping centres.

The shops allowed to reopen will need to observe strict safety measures including obligatory wearing of masks or some other face coverings, hand sanitising, airing of premises and allowing 20 square metres per customer, and a two-metre distance between customers waiting in a line.

Only healthy staff and customers are allowed on the premises.

The government today also adopted a decree to include all doctors and dentists not yet licensed but involved in the health system as speciality trainees, interns or secondments in the measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic, along with graduate doctors and dentists.

14 Apr 2020, 18:58 PM

If you’re an SP in Slovenia whose income fell by at least 25% in March compared to February – the key month in all this aid – then you’re eligible for a €350 payment under the first coronavirus stimulus package, plus you won’t need to pay your social security contribution in April. Important to note that another criterion is you must be up to date with your taxes, and you’ll still need to pay your taxes. You can also apply for €700 in April and May, with details below.

Go to this page on eDavki, scroll down and click on your SP identity. Note that my personal details have been distorted in all these images.

covid-19 aid 01.png

Then you’ll be taken to this page, where you’ll need to click on the COVID link, as highlighted below.

covid-19 aid 02.png

Here you’ll need to enter your phone number, if not already in the system. Then we come to the meat of the page, three items about what you’re claiming. The first asks about your decline in income in March, April and May compared to February. If it fell 25% in March you can get €350, and if it’ll fall 50% in April and May then you can get €700 in those months. I don’t have crystal ball, so only applied for March. I’ll come back next month if the figures tell a sad story.

covid-19 aid 03.png

Underneath that are two more items, which only open up for the months you selected for item 1. Item 2 asks you to choose the months for which you want to apply for aid, while for item 2 you check the months in which you don’t want pay your social security contributions (without penalty). Remember that you still need to pay your taxes.

Underneath those three items there's another with a drop-down menu for you to choose which bank account you want to receive the money in. After that, you just need to click on “oddaj vlogo” (submit the application) and your claim has been filed.

covid-19 aid 04.png

You can learn more about this aid here, while the page you need to visit on eDavki is here

14 Apr 2020, 18:54 PM

STA, 14 April 2020 - Those eligible for state aid under the EUR 3 billion fiscal stimulus package designed to mitigate the coronavirus crisis for businesses and households have started filing their requests. The Employment Service received 1,154 applications from companies with idle employees between Saturday and Monday.

If you're an SP you can find out how to apply for this aid here - fast, easy and online

Before the stimulus package came into force on Saturday, companies had been filing requests for aid under a less favourable emergency law passed earlier. Unofficially, 8,441 such requests had been filed.

The Employment service told the STA today the data was yet to be analysed, as some employers had filed multiple requests.

Under the emergency law, which took effect on 29 March, idle workers were to get 80% wage compensation, of which 40% would be covered by the state and 60% by their company.

However, under the new stimulus package act the state is to cover the entire 80% compensation, based on a worker's average monthly pay from the last three months.

Some companies have filed separate requests for aid under each of the two laws, although the Employment Service says all applications will be processed under the new law.

All efforts are being put in the processing of applications to make sure employers receive decisions as soon as possible, the Employment Service said.

"We have also significantly expanded our team in charge of registration procedures, as we are dealing with increasingly many applications for registration of businesses these days," it added.

The Employment Service is also offering technical support over the phone or online to those who want to start a business or file for wage compensation.

Eligible for state aid are companies that saw more than a 20% drop in revenue in the first six months of the year and whose revenue in the second half of the year will not rise by more than 50% year-on-year.

Companies founded this year will have to have at least 25% drop in revenue in March and at least 50% revenue drop in April or May compared to February to receive aid.

Only companies that owe no liabilities to the state, are not in receivership, and are not a direct or indirect user of the state budget or municipal budget of the municipality which receives more than 70% of the funds from the state will be able to get aid.

Banks and insurance companies are not eligible.

The self-employed, who will be exempt of payment of all social security contributions for April and May, and will receive a monthly "basic income" of EUR 350 in March and EUR 700 in April and May each, can expect aid from 25 April.

But only those who suffered at last a 25% drop in revenue in March compared to February, and at least a 50% drop in April or May compared to February, are eligible.

If their revenue in the first six months of the year exceeds that from the first half of 2019 by more than 20%, and if their revenue in the second half of the year increases by more than 20% year on year, they will have to return the money.

Religious workers and farmers are also eligible for the "basic income" and will be excused from payment of contributions if they submit a statement by the end of May, saying they cannot perform their activities as usual because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The "basic income" will be paid out by the Financial Administration (FURS). Those who submit the statement by 18 April should receive it on 25 April.

FURS told the STA it had so far received 13,500 requests from the self-employed. Statistics Office data shows there were slightly fewer than 31,000 self-employed in the country at the end of 2019.

We’ll have details of how to file for this online very soon

14 Apr 2020, 10:21 AM

STA, 14 April 2020 - Companies which have suspended their production due to the coronavirus epidemic are gradually restarting operations and joining those that have only partly shut down or have not closed shop at all. As of Tuesday, a number of major businesses will be active again.

Household appliances maker Gorenje, owned by China's Hisense, temporarily shut down its operations on 23 March. The company's plant producing washers and dryers started its operations last Friday and other production lines in Velenje are expected to restart today.

Adria Mobil, which shut down on 18 March, saw its support services and management resume their work last week. Assembly lines will start running again on Tuesday, with the company introducing flexible working hours to prevent crowding.

Elan, another company that suspended production in mid-March, is sending more than half of its workforce back to work and adopting similar measures of reorganizing shifts to ensure that as few people as possible are working in the same place.

Revoz, the Renault-owned car assembly plant, had considered reopening as well but then extended the shutdown by another week. Restarting operations on 20 April is still questionable though and depends on a number of factors, including the resumption of public transport services, component supply and the developments in France and Spain, a Revoz unionist said on Thursday.

Despite restrictions imposed to stem or at least slow down the spread of Covid-19, it has been business as usual for many major companies, such as food and infrastructure businesses, as well as drug makers Lek and Krka, steel maker Sij, electric motor manufacturer Domel, tool maker Unior and aluminium producer Impol.

Some companies have merely reduced the scope of their operations, including aluminium producer Talum, glassworks Steklarna Rogaška, shoe maker Alpina and Hidria, which mostly manufactures hi-tech products for the car industry.

Another major company, household appliances maker BHS Hišni Aparati, plans to increase production to full capacity this week after it decided to restart three assembly lines in early April.

There has not been a single coronavirus hotspot in any of the companies that have continued to operate through the epidemic. This is one of the reasons why the government is planning to gradually ease restrictions in certain services this week.

All our stories on coronavirus are here

11 Apr 2020, 09:47 AM

STA, 10 April 2020 - Ljubljanske Mlekarne, Slovenia's largest dairy, has dispatched the first shipment of its iconic Planica ice cream to China, part of a total of 43 tonnes planned to be exported there this year.

The shipment of almost 35,000 one-litre boxes of Planica tropical and chocolate flavours, sent on its way from the Koper port on Thursday, is expected to reach its destination within five weeks.

Named after the alpine valley that is home to Slovenia's ski jumping centre, the ice cream has been manufactured by Ljubljanske Mlekarne since 1974.

Initially coming only as a family pack combining three colour chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavours into one, the brand has since been expanded to come in various shapes, sizes and flavours.

"At a time of global disruption to business due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are the more enthusiastic about the deals such as this one," the Ljubljana-based dairy said.

The company deems the breakthrough the more important due to the excess supply of milk throughout Europe as a result of the fallout from the pandemic.

The dairy said its milk sales in China were doing well with the customers there associating Slovenian dairy products with high quality.

Ljubljanske Mlekarne buys more than 500,000 litres of milk from Slovenian dairy farms every day, which represents a third of Slovenian raw milk production.

Slovenia produces 30% more milk than it consumes.

11 Apr 2020, 09:28 AM

STA, 10 April 2020 - The Agriculture Ministry has announced that the expected arrival of almost 200 Romanian seasonal workers to help at Slovenian hop farms has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. The ministry is looking for solutions involving domestic labour, but the hop growers are sceptical and worry the crop will be lost.

While the head of the Slovenian Hop Growers Association Janez Oset had announced on Thursday that several buses of seasonal workers from Romania would be brought in in agreement with authorities, the ministry said in the evening the plan was too risky.

The ministry said it was working hard on the issue and was in touch with temping agencies for students and the Unemployment Service to activate domestic labour.

However, Oset has told the STA Romanian workers are usually hired because Slovenian unemployed persons shun work at hop farms, as it involves long working hours and is poorly paid. He says that hop trellis construction work is urgently needed across 800 hectares of hop plantations, meaning roughly half of the total in Slovenia.

The representative of the growers, who suggested on Thursday that an improvised quarantine scheme would be organised at the farms to comply with the 14-day quarantine demand for individuals entering the country, said the costs involved in growing hops amounted to EUR 15,000 per a single hectare. He wonders who will be held responsible if the crop is lost.

The association, which had planned another major arrival of Romanian workers in about ten days, has sent another appeal to the relevant ministries to allow the Romanian workers in.

Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec has however called on students, temporary redundant workers, unemployed workers and younger pensioners in Slovenia to come to the aid of what are 120 hop growers in Slovenia, who operate on 1,596 hectares of land.

"I call on everybody who is healthy, can work and likes to spend time outdoors or is located where the growers are currently most in need of labour - Slovenian farmers really need you now. You are also needed by those for whom quality health domestic food is a key source of survival. We need to join forces to preserve Slovenian food production," she told the press today.

The problem is not limited to hop growers, as foreign seasonal workers are also lacking in orchards and vegetable farms.

Echoing Oset's concern, Tatjana Zagorc, the head of the agriculture department at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), said for Friday's edition of the newspaper Dnevnik that experience so far had shown not many Slovenian workers could stand the strain involved in fruit picking.

In response to the minister's call on workers in Slovenia to help with seasonal work on farms, Goran Lukić, the head of the Counselling Office for Workers, urged the minister to raise the minimum hourly wage for this type of work and provide legal security to seasonal workers.

Asserting that the minister should be ashamed, Lukić noted that the new coronavirus crisis mitigating legislation lifted time restrictions on temporary and odd forms of work in agriculture.

The minimum hourly wage for this type of work for 2019 was 4.95 euro, which means that it was below the statutory minimum wage, and the same is expected to apply this year, he said.

"Let me remind you that the amount of the lowest gross hourly rate is determined once a year by the minister in charge of agriculture," Lukić wrote in a public letter.

He accused the minister of having extracted temporary and odd jobs in agriculture from the framework of labour legislation and set rates below the minimum wage.

10 Apr 2020, 11:07 AM

STA, 9 April 2020 - In the new reality of closed borders Slovenia like most others countries is struggling to secure what are often foreign seasonal workers in agriculture. The hop trellis construction is currently the most pressing issue and it looks like it will be resolved with two large organised transfers of Romanian workers.

According to the head of the Association of Slovenian Hop Growers Janez Oset, five buses carrying 193 Romanian workers will be brought in presumably on Saturday.

Oset, who told the STA in March that the growers needed between 800 and 1,000 seasonal workers in the spring but that only 250 of what are usually Romanian workers had arrived by then, explained the association had managed to secure a permit for the transport of the workers across Hungary.

He said face masks had been provided for all of them, while the workers also need to have special Romanian agro health insurance for a 45-day period so eventual treatment costs are covered. All will moreover need to provide a certificate they are not SARS-CoV-2 carriers.

In line with instructions from the Health Ministry, compulsory 14-day quarantine for those entering the country also applies for seasonal workers, but Oset said this was not feasible given the work needed to proceed immediately.

He is instead in favour of a quarantine regime that would involve accommodation organised by the hop growers, who would need to take the workers' temperature on a daily basis and isolate any symptomatic individuals.

"It is high time the workers from Romania, who have been working at hop farms in Slovenia for years, came and help," Oset said, arguing any additional delays would lead to the harvest being lost.

Oset, who expects another group from Romanian workers in about 10 days, said he had written to Prime Minister Janez Janša and Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec about the situation. He noted Germany had flown in 80,000 workers from Romania to assist its hop growers.

The Agriculture Ministry has meanwhile said that it has become actively involved in addressing worker shortages in the sector. The ministry said it established communication with student job services and the Employment Service.

The ministry is also coordinating with other government departments so as to enable other people to help out in agriculture if they wish to do so, with the ministry counting on pensioners, those temporarily laid-off and students.

08 Apr 2020, 12:41 PM

STA, 8 April 2020 - Businesses which had to close their doors due to the coronavirus lockdown have been left without revenue. To add to their woes, many need to pay rent and running costs. Some landlords have decided to help them by deferring rent, others are still deciding what to do.

Small businesses selling non-essential goods and providing various services, as well as bars and restaurants were forced to close shop in mid-March, and many of them warn that they might not be able to re-open at all.

Many of them find it difficult to pay wages for March, let alone rent and utility costs.

Owners of shopping centres and malls have come up with different solutions for the problems of their tenants, and all of them stress that this is the first time they have encountered such a situation.

The retailer Tuš said it had not decided yet whether to lower rent, while Spar said that the "situation requires a great deal of adjustment and understanding, but we believe that we will find optimal solutions in the spirit of good cooperation."

Supernova, the Austrian-owned shopping mall operator, said it was in constant contact with tenants, making individual arrangements. "We want to balance out the consequences, as one side must not bear all the consequences, be it the tenant or the landlord."

SES Slovenija, which operates the shopping malls Citypark, Citycenter, Europark and Aleja, with the last one yet to be opened, has admitted that the crisis has taken them by surprise, and that many issues remain open.

The company has allowed its tenants to defer rent and operating cost for April. "By doing so we want to help entrepreneurs maintain their liquidity, even before the state adopts measures to support commerce and before this aid takes effect."

It added that additional support measures for salvaging Slovenian retail, services and hospitality companies were not excluded, but this would depend on the financial support from the state and the duration of the restrictive measures.

As for Aleja, which was supposed to open on 19 March, SES Slovenija said that individual solutions were being sought with tenants. "All partners will be able to defer payment of rent from the date of the planned opening to the date of actual opening."

The company would like to see the state come up with a plan for re-opening shops and individual branches of industry, as this would help all stakeholders organise and optimise costs.

The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce (TZS) will, according to its president Mariča Lah, publish this week an assessment of the situation in commerce, which will serve as basis for a proposal to re-open shops selling technical goods.

Rent could be tackled by the additional anti-corona legislative package, which is being drafted by the government.

The TZS has proposed a model for distributing the burden, under which the state would cover around 70% of rent, and the payment of the remaining amount would be agreed between the owner and tenant.

Under this model, landlords would not be able to terminate contracts due to the non-payment of rent, which would be applied retroactively as of the day when the epidemic was declared, 12 March.

SES Slovenija added that retail, as one of the largest employers in the country, had been severely affected and that comprehensive measures would be needed. It proposes that the state subsidises write-offs of goods which could not be sold.

The company also proposes that the state provide grants to businesses for the costs incurred during the closure and for a certain period after the closure (rent, insurance premiums, leasing instalments and utility bills).

08 Apr 2020, 11:22 AM

STA, 7 April 2020 - Demand for content on Slovenian digital platforms surged to record values in the second half of March as Slovenia switched to a coronavirus lockdown mode, an analysis carried out by advertising agency Iprom shows.

The number of users of online platforms increased by 52% over February and they consumed an average of 75% more content daily.

Content for children and youth posted the biggest rises: its average daily reach was up 166% and daily visits by 213%.

Health was the second faster growing category in terms of daily reach, posting a 92% rise, followed by food (+68%) and business (+66%).

The steepest drop, although of just 16%, was recorded for tourism content.

"Interest in digital platforms rose over the past two weeks by almost as much as in the entire last decade," Iprom said in a release.

It said that an average annual rise in the past used to range between 5% and 15%.

"What we are witnessing these days is a phenomenon. I have never seen such growth in my career," said Iprom Labs boss Tomaž Tomšič.

He believes such a massive rise in interest in online content is a major challenge for all those who run and maintain digital platforms.

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