08 Jun 2021, 13:16 PM

STA, 8 June 2021 - Police have filed a criminal complaint against three Slovenian citizens who are suspected of having deprived 432 workers, mostly foreign construction workers, of at least EUR 2.1 million in 2011-2019.

Celje crime police completed a lengthy investigation into systemic violations of fundamental worker rights at the end of May, the Celje Police Department said on Tuesday.

They have found that the employers hired workers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and North Macedonia only to re-employ them after some time at ever new "shell" companies.

The suspected "shell" directors thus ran a total of 22 companies in 2011-2019, while deliberately not paying the workers their wages, social security contributions, such as health and pension insurance, or withholding tax payment and severance pay.

02 Jun 2021, 16:36 PM

STA, 1 June 2021 - The National Assembly passed in a 50:36 vote on Tuesday amendments to the act on road transport that create the legal basis for transportation platforms such as Uber or Lyft, changes that the government argues will facilitate the digitalisation of the transport sector.

The proposal sets down that drivers using digital platforms would need to get a licence, just like regular taxi drivers, whereas taximeters would no longer be mandatory for taxi drivers, who would be allowed to use software instead.

Municipalities would have a say in setting the rules since they would be able to determine the quality standard, including the type of vehicle.

The amendments also include certain provisions making public transport more attractive to users and simplifying procedures for obtaining transit cards for professional athletes.

The legislation received unanimous backing from the coalition as well as the opposition National Party (SNS) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), and unaffiliated MPs, who argued it would simplify and digitise transportation services.

Mobile applications will bring "much needed transparency" and reduce fraud, said New Slovenia (NSi) deputy Mihael Prevc, with Mateja Udovč of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) adding it would improve drivers' efficiency.

Democrat (SDS) MP Bojan Podkrajšek said the legislation was also a way to prevent monopolies and would not create disloyal competition.

The centre-left opposition decried the bill as written by lobbyists and tailored to the US platform Uber, whose business model, according to Left deputy Miha Kordiš, is not employing workers but hiring staff in precarious forms of employment and not giving them any rights.

The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) likewise argued the legislation was tailored to Uber and warned about abuse of labour rights, whereas Gregor Židan of the Social Democrats (SD) said workers would be squeezed.

Slovenian tech firms have come out in support of the legislation.

The Slovenian Automotive Cluster and six digital mobility companies said in a public letter in support of the legislation that the solutions would drive progress.

Mobility is increasingly intertwined with digital technology and the amendments will make it possible to create new, user-centric business models, they said.

Similarly, Slovenia's Digital Champion Marko Grobelnik recently told MPs a green breakthrough could only be achieved with the changes given the limits of the existing legislation.

01 Jun 2021, 11:56 AM

STA, 31 May 2021 - The Hungarian OTP Bank Group announced on Monday it had signed a contract to acquire the outright stake in NKBM, Slovenia's second largest bank. The deal is expected to be finalised in the second quarter of next year as the acquirer is waiting approval from relevant regulatory authorities.

Owned by the US fund Apollo (80%) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (20%), NKBM controls 20.5% of the Slovenian market and is the second largest bank in the country.

OTP already owns SKB Banka, which it acquired from France's Societe Generale for EUR 323 million under an agreement signed in 2019.

Combined with NKBM, the new bank would control some 29% of the market measured by total assets to leapfrog the current market leader, NLB.

The price of the NKBM acquisition remains confidential. The Reuters news agency reported in April that it could be worth nearly a billion euro.

OTP was an early favourite to acquire NKBM, though the business newspaper Finance, which first reported today about the deal, says several other bidders expressed interest as well, among them Erste Group from Austria and Belgium's KBC.

NKBM was sold to Apollo and the EBRD in 2016 for EUR 250 million, and NKBM purchased the Abanka bank in mid-2019 for EUR 444 million, when the OTP Bank Group was also in play to buy Abanka.

NKBM and Abanka were among the banks that the state bailed out at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 after difficulties brought about by the economic and financial crisis.

Slovenia promised to the European Commission, in return to approval of state aid, that it will privatise the banks. In the case of Abanka, the condition was also that it is merged with the Banka Celje bank before privatisation.

NKBM ended 2020 with a net profit of EUR 208.9 million, and its total assets stood at EUR 9.17 billion.

27 May 2021, 11:19 AM

STA, 27 May 2021 - The National Assembly has adopted an amended housing act whose overarching goal is to increase the number of public rental homes in the country.

Under the new legislation, public housing funds will be allowed to take on more debt to speed up construction of new flats.

According to government projections, an extra EUR 200 million in fresh borrowing for housing construction will be released.

At the same time a public service will be established acting as an intermediary and manager of rental homes.

This is seen as a way to convince owners of empty flats who are hesitant about renting for fear of soured relations with tenants to enter the rental market.

In this scheme, tenants would pay non-profit rent, while some of the gap to commercial rent would be covered by the state.

It is believed that thousands of flats are currently idle, though there are no reliable numbers.

The national Housing Fund will have pre-emptive right to buy municipal land designated for construction to build apartment buildings.

The government believes that up to 10,000 new public rental apartments could be available within five to ten years as a result of the new legislation.

The law also brings the first rise in non-profit rents since 2007 but also higher subsidies for eligible tenants.

Among the changes the bill brings is also a lower quorum of home-owners in blocks of flats needed to approve works for which a construction permit is needed.

The legislation has been welcomed by the real estate industry and won some bipartisan support in parliament, where it was confirmed in a 52:1 vote yesterday evening.

25 May 2021, 10:56 AM

STA, 24 May 2021 - Representatives of the government and the Chinese-owned group Hisense Europe Electronics signed on Monday a contract under which the state will provide almost EUR 1 million in non-refundable funds for its TV production plant at the existing Gorenje operation in Velenje.

The contract representing 25% of the total value of the investment planned until the end of 2023 was signed by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and Chao Liu, the director of the Hisense Europe Electronics plant in Slovenia.

Production of Hisense brand TVs for the European market was launched in January, and the plant currently employs around 700 people in three shifts and on four automated production lines. The Chinese owner invested EUR 7 million in the production facility.

The plan is to increase the annual output of the facility from two million and a half TVs (between 6,000 and 7,000 a day) in the first year to almost four million in the next two years. The plant is expected to employ 1,200 people by then.

According to Hisense Europe president Hanson Han, the incentive will have a positive impact on the operations of Hisense Europe Electronics, while it is also an important message from the state that Slovenia is an environment inclined to foreign investors.

"The grant ... positively contributes to the development of the region by opening more than 700 new jobs," Minister Počivalšek told the press on the occasion, noting that the state had also supported past projects in Gorenje.

With the new TV factory, Velenje, the Šalek Valley and Slovenia are gaining new experience, technologies and know-how in this hi-tech segment, the minister said, adding that he had always believed that Hisense acquiring Gorenje was a right move.

Počivalšek is also happy that Hisense has based its development office for Europe in Slovenia. "Through the just transition fund and the resilience fund we will also support other projects by Hisense that have been presented to us."

The minister added that today's signing of the contract was the first step in restructuring the region from a coal region to a high-tech region, and that it contained guarantees for job preservation in the long run.

In line with Hisense's plan until 2025, annual turnover is to increase from EUR 2.5 billion to EUR 6.5 billion by then, and a large share of growth is planned to come from Europe, including from Slovenia, said Tomaž Korošec, the executive vice-president of production at Hisense Europe Electronics.

24 May 2021, 12:37 PM

STA, 24 May 2021 - The sales of used cars in Slovenia are three times bigger than those of new cars, but information about second-hand cars is often poor. The Slovenian Automobile Association (AMZS) has now set up a new web portal for used cars that offers trustworthy information about the vehicle and its history.

The AMZS decided to combine an existing online registry of vehicle information with a portal for used vehicles.

The new web portal is an upgrade of Avtolog, which is AMZS' online tool that offers publicly accessible information from every periodic check of the vehicle.

This way, the buyers can inspect the vehicle's technical information, emissions, owner history, mileage, its performance on periodic checks, and whether the car was stolen or seized.

Anyone can publish an ad or browse the portal free of charge. The only requirement to obtain the information about the car is its chassis number (VIN).

About 200,000 used vehicles were sold in Slovenia last year. AMZS estimates that two thirds have a modified mileage.

Apart from rolled-back odometers, the buyers' biggest concerns are hidden flaws and insufficient service history.

Transparent information about the state of the vehicle is also important for road safety and the regulation of emissions, according to the AMZS.

Visit the website now

24 May 2021, 11:17 AM

STA, 24 May 2021 - Trade shows and events are reopening on Monday after the entire convention industry closed for in-person events at the start of the epidemic in March 2020. Indoor events may be held provided visitors have either recovered from Covid-19, been vaccinated or tested. Moreover, there are other restrictions to be heeded.

Event organisers are required to make sure a one-way flow of visitor traffic is put in place, and staff must get regularly tested.

The number of visitors is capped at one visitor per 10 square metres, with underage persons and those requiring assistance exempt from the cap.

The government decided to reopen the industry with precautionary protocols in place at Thursday's correspondence session.

The cap on the number of persons in indoor stores or other businesses has also been eased - it now stands at one customer per ten square metres and no longer at one per 20 square metres, however shopping centres must still make sure that there is one shopper per 20 square metres in the entire building.

When it comes to pick-up points where prevention measures are in place, food and drinks may be consumed on-site, but only if the customer sits at a table and heeds Covid restrictions such as physical distancing.

Those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have received one shot of a coronavirus vaccine up to eight months after they tested positive or developed Covid-19 symptoms have been included among the exemptions from a rule on regular testing for staff and clients.

19 May 2021, 12:09 PM

STA, 19 May 2021 - The Koper cruise terminal is expecting 41 cruise ships with around 61,000 passengers this year, out of the initially planned 88 with around 130,000 passengers.

The list is now getting shorter as shipowners are cancelling their arrivals due to the pandemic, said Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole commercial port. They are still unable to confirm the arrival date of the first cruise ship this year.

Last year, the maritime sector was struck hard by the pandemic since no cruise liners arrived at the Koper port.

Meanwhile, an all-time high was recorded in 2019, when 72 cruise ships with 115,581 passengers on board arrived at the cruise terminal.

17 May 2021, 15:15 PM

STA, 17 May 2021 - The average gross pay in March was EUR 2,010, up 3.3% nominally and 3% in real terms compared to February. The average net pay for March was EUR 1,291, which was 3% higher nominally and 2.7% higher in real terms, the Statistics Office said on Monday. Pay was also higher on an annual basis.

The average gross pay in March this year was 14.3% higher than in March 2020, when the country was gripped by the Covid-19 epidemic. The average net pay rose by 12.6% year-on-year.

Average gross pay for March was also higher on a monthly basis in both the public and private sectors, by 4.1% and 2.8%, respectively.

Compared to February, the average gross pay for March increased the most in financial and insurance services, by 32%, mainly due to higher exceptional payments.

The financial and insurance services also recorded the highest average gross pay in March, totalling EUR 3,345.

By statistical region, gross wages in March were higher across the country, with the biggest increase recorded in the region of Pomurje (6.7%) and the smallest in Central Slovenia (2.1%).


Figure: SURS

Related: Is Slovenia a Rich or Poor Country?

14 May 2021, 11:59 AM

STA, 13 May 2021 - Slovenia plans to diversify its energy sources after the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for greater resilience. Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak counts in particular on solar and hydro power, and waste incineration.

Then minister noted at an online green energy summit on Thursday that the transition to alternative sources of energy brought certain challenges which were being addressed in the resolution on Slovenia's climate strategy until 2050, which the government confirmed in April.

The primary objective is to invest in renewables, and to utilise the remaining hydroelectric power potential in the country, Vizjak said, adding that there were also many opportunities in solar energy for covering a part of household consumption.

The minister noted that the problem with the latter was that, like wind, it was not always available in a sufficient quantity. This is the weakness of alternative sources of energy that policy makers need to be aware of, he added.

The document thus assesses that strong and reliable sources of electricity are required, and in the long run the state wants to continue investing in nuclear energy and in synthetic gases, including hydrogen.

Also important in the transition to green energy, according to Vizjak, is efficient energy management both in households and industry. Production units in Slovenia urgently need low-carbon transformation, he said.

According to the minister, the key segments of the green transition strategy are transport and consumption by households. As for the former, the goal is to boost public transportation, e-mobility and transfer of cargo from road to rail.

Vizjak noted that an important part of the recovery and resilience plan was waste management, including incineration of sludge from wastewater treatment plants and mixed municipal waste.

This is meant to compensate for the existing production units that use fossil fuel for supplying heat for Ljubljana and Maribor. A transition is planned to mixed municipal waste, he said.

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