29 Aug 2022, 15:03 PM

STA, 29 August 2022 - After receiving notable quantities of rain in the last ten days, the Slovenian coast, where water use restrictions were introduced in early July, will again be able to use water also for non-essential purposes. The supply of water from the Postojna area will end tomorrow.

Representatives of the Rižana water utility from the coast and Civil Protection held a regular weekly meeting this morning to determine that water levels after the rain in the last ten days have improved to the point where restrictions may be lifted.

"Everything has improved somewhat ... so we decided to finally start lifting all these measures that were in force in the last days," said Martin Pregelj, the head of the Rižana water utility.

"We can again use water in agriculture, we can wash the yard or the car. Utility companies can turn on showers at the beach again," he said. But he was quick to point out that there is still not enough water to waste it.

The Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration, which has organised truck transport of water from the river Unica, north of Postojna, to a water works facility near Dekani during the drought, will end this campaign tomorrow.

According to Pregelj, a solution needs to be found by next summer so as to avoid having water transported to the coast by trucks.

Water restrictions were introduced in all four coastal municipalities at the beginning of July, when the use of water for non-urgent purposes was banned and cuts for businesses introduced.

27 Aug 2022, 17:04 PM

STA, 26 August 2022 - The equal opportunities ombudsman has found that an article of the labour market regulation act discriminates against certain foreigners, as it stipulates a 12-month deadline for third-country nationals to pass an exam on basic knowledge of Slovenian, but not for citizens of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Announcing the decision on Friday, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality said that it had been made based on an initiative of a regional unit of the Employment Service.

It assessed the 12-month deadline as "non-urgent means", as the relevant act also envisages a less strict measure, i.e. that the time period within which a foreigner should pass this exam is not specified, as applied for the citizens of the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

The institution also assessed that the measure is not proportionate, as job seekers who do not meet the requirements are deleted from the records regardless of how hard they try to get a job.

"It would be proportionate if it enabled advisers of the Employment Service to make a professional assessment and prepare an employment plan together with a specific job seeker that includes a time frame for the fulfilment of their obligations, as provided for job seekers who are citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland."

The equal opportunities ombudsman also assessed that the distinction regarding the deadlines for passing the exam is based only on the personal circumstance of citizenship, for which, in its opinion, there are no justified reasons.

This "unjustifiably different treatment" particularly affects citizens of Kosovo and North Macedonia of Albanian ethnicity, the institution noted.

"Due to their cultural habits and language, which is unrelated to Slovenian - unlike Bosnian, Serbian or Macedonian, or even Ukrainian and Russian -, they find it more difficult to fulfil the condition of basic knowledge of Slovenian."

For this reason, they are represented in an above-average share among third country nationals whom the Employment Service has to delete from its records due to the non-fulfilment of this conditions.

The Advocate of the Principle of Equality has recommended the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to eliminate the perceived discrimination, otherwise a request for constitutional review could be filed.

23 Aug 2022, 15:21 PM

STA, 23 August 2022 - Free kits for Covid-19 self-testing for primary and secondary school students in the new school year will be available in Slovenian pharmacies from Monday. Testing will be voluntary and will take place at home, with funds for the campaign being secured from the national budget.

As Health Ministry State Secretary Tadej Ostrc announced at a press conference on Tuesday, the voluntary self-testing is aimed at finding individuals with signs of coronavirus infection, and not at finding asymptomatic cases.

He added that the anti-epidemic measures in the autumn would be aimed mainly at protecting vulnerable groups - older people and people whose immune system has been compromised.

Ten free-of-charge kits for self-testing will be available for every primary and secondary school student on a monthly basis.

The ministry's decision follows the recommendation from the relevant task force at the National Institute of Public Health that home self-testing be conducted for students with coronavirus symptoms and those who have been in close contact with infected persons.

For the second phase, which would be triggered under a worsened epidemiological situation, mandatory weekly self-testing has been proposed for primary and secondary school, and for university students and participants in adult education programmes.

Ostrc said the ministry would send today relevant instructions to head teachers of schools and to social care institutions, and that it was also in close contact with the Chamber of Pharmacy.

22 Aug 2022, 10:39 AM

STA, 22 August 2022 - Ptuj, the oldest Slovenian town, will be the main venue of the 26th Days of Poetry and Wine, an international literary festival that will host 20 poets from ten countries. The guests of honour will be Carolyn Forche of the US and Poland's Tomasz Rožycki.

"The festival certainly stands out in terms of the clarity of the concept and the names of poets that are coming," the festival's programme director Aleš Šteger said as he presented the event.

Šteger added that that the festival wanted to be a connecting point and an incubator of ideas, and that some new formats were being introduced this year, with special emphasis on poetry and rap.

"This is how the young Slovenian scene is being built and how connections are made with global trends," he added, noting the Evening of Rebel Poetry event that will feature literary historian Igor Saksida and hip hop and acoustic musician Masayah.

New curator Kristina Kočan, who previously participated in the festival in various roles, also as a poet, said she wanted that the selection featured authors who were generationally, culturally, politically and socially diverse.

"I have chosen authors who are independent and interested in new approaches, because I thought it was important to hear what modern poetry is capable of," Kočan added.

The idea was also to bring poetic voices from small languages, so the visitors will be able to hear poetry in the Catalan, Galician, Frisian and Irish languages.

The festival will continue the tradition of the Open Letter to Europe, with which selected poets point to the most burning issues. This year it was written and will be publicly read at the festival by Galician poet and activist Chus Pato.

More than 60 events such as poetry readings, talks with poets and translation workshops will take place in Ptuj and eight other towns, including Austria's Bad Radkersburg. The festival will conclude on Saturday with the Poetry of Wine culinary event.

Learn more at the website

22 Aug 2022, 10:16 AM

STA, 22 August 2022 - UPDATED 18:45 The police have launched an investigation in the aftermath of media reports and social media testimonies concerning alleged multiple cases of sexual abuse by a prominent member of the art establishment.

The investigation targets "criminal offences highlighted in recent days in the media and in social media," the police said in a statement for the press without specifying who the suspect may be.

The statement comes after several media reported that Dušan Josip Smodej, an artist and leader of a small gallery in Ljubljana called Fotopub, had sexually abused several young women.

The media reports started after an Instagram page called Against Violence by Dušan Smodej was launched. So far more than two dozen testimonies have been published on the page either by individuals claiming to have been abused by Smodej or by people who say they have witnessed abuse of or attempts to abuse young women, including minors, and instances of him giving rape drugs to young women.

Several individuals have also come forward claiming he has defrauded them.

Smodej denied the claims for 24ur, a news portal. He said the allegations were the result of "a female acquaintance of mine who has been sending me death threats this week and is extorting me for money with the posts about me."

"I deny all allegations of sexual violence. If anyone can prove the contrary, I urge them to press criminal charges against me," he said.

The police have urged potential victims to come forward and file criminal complaints.

Potential victims were also urged to report the alleged crimes to the police by the 8 March Institute on Monday. Its director Nika Kovač said the NGO had contacted the administrators of the Instagram profile, letting them know that they can provide support for the victims and help raise funds for legal support.

She underlined that the NGO is following the law in that they would refer to a perpetrator with their name only after they have been found guilty in a court of law.

The institute has been running a campaign dubbed #Ididn'tReport, with victims sharing anonymised stories about why they decided not to go to the police after experiencing abuse.

Many reasons are cited, including fear of what will happen at the relevant institutions, poor experience by others and because victims are often ashamed of having been drunk or under the influence of drugs while being abused.

The police also said today it was investigating "the circumstances of an event in which one person died" to see whether there was a reason to suspect foul play, but added that no foul play had so far been detected.

This is after some media reports unofficially suggested that prominent artist Roman Uranjek had committed suicide, allegedly in connection to the Smodej scandal.

The Culture Ministry meanwhile responded by condemning all types of violence on Monday. Minister Asta Vrečko called for zero tolerance to violence, including in culture, and announced systemic measures.

She noted that a trial had just started where an ex-professor from the Ljubljana Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television is being accused of sexual harassment of female students. "So it is obvious that we have a problem with sexual harassment in the culture sector and it needs to be absolutely and clearly condemned in the strongest terms," she said, adding that sexual violence was a major social issue that was not being addressed properly.

The ministry has launched a review of all its past projects with Smodej, she added in a written statement.

19 Aug 2022, 10:33 AM

STA, 18 August 2022 - Fierce winds swept through Slovenia Thursday afternoon, ripping off roofs and toppling trees and other objects in parts of the country, leaving several people lightly injured in Ljubljana.

In Kranj, the winds peeled roofs off some 70 buildings. The Kranj fire brigade commander Andraž Šifrer told the STA more than 150 firefighters were on the ground to deal with the situation. "It's mostly uncovered roofs, ripped cables, trees fallen on roads and vehicles," he said.

Several people were injured by falling trees and other objects in Ljubljana, where the Environment Agency data shows winds gusted up to a record 102 kilometres an hour.

The wind blew away rubbish bins, billboards, roofs, traffic signs, building materials. Part of the roof of the Ljubljana UKC maternity ward was uncovered, but has since been mostly put back.

Insulation was ripped off a secondary school near the government building and presidential palace and in Bleiweisova Road nearby a motorcyclist was injured as he was hit by advertising board pulled off from the side of the road.

A tree fell on a woman in Tivoli Park, injuring her lightly. In Rakuševa Street plasterboard was blown off a construction site and hit a car, lightly injuring a passenger. In Gosposvetska the building scaffolding collapsed.

Several roads were left blocked by fallen trees, including the thoroughfares Topniška, Dolenjska and Zaloška Roads, near Dunajska Road and the slip and exit roads linking to the Ljubljana ring road as well as roads in other towns.

Robert Okorn of the Ljubljana fire brigade said there was a huge number of fallen trees and uncovered roofs. As a priority firefighters are dealing with hanging objects that threaten passers-by and where cars are caught under trees.

The situation has been made worse as the website of the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration is still not back up after being the target of a cyberattack yesterday.

Police have cautioned the public to exert caution driving or otherwise until the trees and rubble is removed from roads and streets.

According to the Environment Agency, winds reached speeds of up to 113 km/h on Mount Krvavec, 109 km/h in the village of Trojane in central Slovenia and 102 km/h in Ljubljana Bežigrad borough. In the west, where high winds are a more usual occurrence the speeds were below 100 kilometres an hour.

Weather forecaster Blaž Šter said the winds were part of the weather system that developed above the Tyrrhenian Sea before moving through Corsica and Italy to pass Slovenia on its way eastwards. In Corsica several people were reported killed by the storm.

17 Aug 2022, 12:33 PM

STA, 17 August 2022 - As experts take stock of the drought damage to agriculture, city dwellers are witnessing the long-term impact of the dry summer too, especially on the coast where municipal vegetation has suffered additionally due to a watering ban. Cities where watering has mostly been allowed have used different approaches to prevent the worst.

The heaviest damage is being reported in coastal municipalities, although the city of Koper has for instance mitigated the watering ban somewhat by using water from a nearby lake.

Annuals, perennials, shrubs and fragrance plants are currently struggling with the drought, and a dozen newly planted trees have perished.

The heat has also left a strong mark on Koper's Bonifika sports centre, with two of its three football pitches completely ruined by the heat and watering ban. The main pitch is being watered with bought water delivered from 60 kilometres away.

Meanwhile, Voka Snaga, the municipal company responsible for the maintenance of trees in Ljubljana, is also struggling to protect some of the trees in the capital, even though it has executed 5,790 rounds of watering on 1,087 trees during the summer.

"At extremely high temperatures of more than 35 degrees Celsius, sometimes even regular watering does not protect the trees from drying out," the company's representatives told the STA amid media reports that the landmark birch tree in Prešeren square is now dry.

In Maribor, the main challenge are the roughly 800 trees planted in the past three years, with some of the most vulnerable ones being watered on a daily basis.

Moreover, the moving height has been raised at municipal green areas to protect them from from drying out completely. Mulching and watering bags have proven invaluable.

Similar measures are used in Kranj, where newly planted trees - some 500 were planted in the past four years - are also being supported with additives such as humic acid and special tablets that help to alleviate the impact of the drought.

Officials in Celje are speaking of "a doubling if not tripling" of efforts to support the city's vegetation compared to last year. Watering bags are a popular measure and while damage has also been seen on older trees, they do not seem to be drying out.

Much success in the fight against the heat and drought is being reported from Murska Sobota, but officials were careful to note that the actual extent of the damage will not be clear before next spring when the trees should start producing fresh leaves.

12 Aug 2022, 16:14 PM

STA, 12 August 2022 - An environmental organisation has lost a legal battle against the Environment Ministry's decision to allow the culling of 222 brown bears in Slovenia this year, by the end of September.

In a decision taken on 16 June, the Administrative Court ruled the lawsuit by Alpe Adria Green was unwarranted. The judgement is non-appealable.

The decision to allow the culling of 222 brown bears by 30 September was issued by the Environment Ministry in February but was stayed by the court in March pending its decision on Alpe Adria Green's appeal.

The organisation argues that every such culling permit is illegal and that under Slovenian and international legislation it is permitted to cull only those bears that have been proven to have attacked humans or to be jeopardising people or property.

The court based its decision on the hearing of two Ljubljana Faculty of Biotechnology professors, who were both involved in the expert opinion that was one of the basis for the culling permit.

The Best Way to Photograph Bears in Slovenia

With the culling the country's brown bear population would be reduced from an estimated 1,000 to around 800 animals.

The court found the planned culling would not "harm the maintenance of a favourable conservation status of the bear population in Slovenia".

It rejected the argument that the interest of the protection of human health could be achieved by individual culls and said the planned culling was warranted duo to increased number of human-bear conflicts as a result of the density of the bear population.

Alpe Adria Green and an animal rights society AniMa disagree with such a position, noting that the court failed to consider data on hunting tourism and public promotion of culinary offerings of bear meat.

10 Aug 2022, 10:20 AM

STA, 10 August 2022 - A fire that broke out during Monday night under Socerb hill in the Koper municipality near the border with Italy has been brought under control, but has not yet been put out, authorities said on Wednesday morning. Given how bad it looked at a certain point yesterday, the situation is relatively good now, they added.

A total of 130 firefighters remain on the ground as the extinguishing effort has been taken over by the day shift, David Hrvatin, the head of the night shift with the Koper Fire Department, told the STA.

The night shift included some 130 firefighters and 40 vehicles, the Defence Ministry said.

Support from the air hit pause during last night after helicopters and water bombers participated in the effort throughout Tuesday, but aerial firefighting will again play a major role today.

Two Slovenian Armed Forces helicopters have returned to the site this morning to help put out the fire, and a Pilatus aircraft is expected too. A police helicopter will be monitoring the area with a thermal imaging camera.

Yesterday evening two hotspots were still active and the main cause for concern was the bora wind, but now the situation looks more promising.

About 15 hectares were on fire yesterday afternoon, shows data from the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration, but Hrvatin estimates the figure increased slightly towards the evening.

Koper Mayor Aleš Bržan said in a press statement on Tuesday that the drinking water supply on the Slovenian coast was not yet at risk. The Civil Protection indeed redirected some water tank trucks to the fire site that were initially meant to bring the much-needed extra supplies to the municipality, but the coastal area was then soon provided with additional trucks, he said.

09 Aug 2022, 19:00 PM

STA, 9 August 2022 - A fire broke out last night under Socerb hill near the border with Italy, south-east of Trieste, and the blaze is not yet under control, with the strong bora wind spreading the fire downhill towards the villages of Osp in Slovenia and Prebenico in Italy.

Jan Brodar, who heads the firefighting effort on the Slovenian side, said that people's lives are not endangered at the moment.

There are around 100 firefighters on the Slovenian side, and the Slovenian Armed Forces have made two of its helicopters available for the effort. A Canadair water bomber and a helicopter are being used on the Italian side.

Note the following map shows the location of Socerb, not the fire

Several Osp residents have left their homes, mostly due to smoke, and several web portals reported that the village is being evacuated, which Brodar denies, saying no evacuation had been ordered by the authorities.

Primorski Dnevnik, the Trieste-based Slovenian newspaper, reported that fires had also broken out on Tuesday afternoon at three locations between Villa Opicina and the border with Slovenia. The fires have been contained.

The Slovenian Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration also used for the effort the water from tank trucks destined for the Cepki drinking water treatment facility that supplies the Slovenian coast during the current water shortage amid the drought.

The Rižana water supply utility has thus noted that the system is running out of water and called on users to adhere to strict rationing and all the other restrictions and bans related to the use of water.

05 Aug 2022, 10:50 AM

STA, 4 August 2022 - The peak of the tourist season at Lake Bled resulted in large quantities of malodorous waste being washed off into the only outlet from the lake, the local environmental organisation has warned, adding that the Sava Bohinjka river is also full of algae. This resulted in the nearby fish farm having to euthanise thousands of fish due to poisoning.

The Environmental Protection Organisation Bled (Društvo za varstvo okolja Bled) said in a press release on Thursday that huge amounts of sewage flowed from the local wastewater treatment plant into the Jezernica creek, the only outlet from Lake Bled.

"The creek is very much like a sewer tunnel, the water being brown and muddy, and tree branches at the banks are drooping due to the weight of sanitary sewer water," it added.

There is a spillway mounted on the tunnel leading into the Jezernica, however it can only catch large pieces of waste and if water levels are high waste material spills back into the creek.

This affects the Sava Bohinjka, which the Jezernica flows into, and where a large algae population has developed. This led to all 25,000 fish kept by the Radovljica Angling Club at the confluence with the Sava dying two weeks ago due to poisoning.

This is yet another fish die-off in Slovenia, after around a tonne and a half of fish died in Mali Graben, and 50 kilos in Homška Mlinščica in July. Two fish die-offs also occurred in June, one in Nanošica and the other in Vrtojbica in the west.

The Kranj police investigators have also inspected the area and took samples for analysis.

Waste being spilled into the waters is a direct consequence of the Bled sewer system being overloaded, say the locals, while the municipality maintains the wastewater treatment plant is functioning as it should.

Anže Bizjak, CEO of the local utility company that operates the Bled sewer system, said last year that the smelly foam collecting at the Lancovo dam was a result of low water levels and diminished water flow. That is why river algae have started to grow.

He also added that faecal matter coming out of the treatment plant is diluted to the extent that it does not exceed parameters set in the plant's environmental permit.

Recently, many of those visiting Bled have reported gastrointestinal issues, likely caused by polluted water, noted the Environmental Conservation Organisation. They have notified the National Institute for Public Health about the outburst.

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