STA, 25 February 2020 - Public institutions in Slovenia have started taking precautionary measures to protect staff against coronavirus infections after first cases of the virus were confirmed in neighbouring Italy, Austria and Croatia.
Some schools have cancelled planned activities, including parent-teacher conferences. One secondary school in Ljubljana, Gimnazija Poljane, said it had called off international exchanges with Italy and an excursion to Rome planned in April.
The University of Ljubljana has called on all students and faculty who have been to parts of Italian affected by the coronavirus in the last ten days to remain in self-imposed quarantine for two weeks.
The Education Ministry has issued general guidance to educational institutions urging head teachers and directors to prepare contingency plans to make sure teaching and research may continue without disruption.
Schools have been given discretion to estimate risk and adjust their activities accordingly.
Half the schools in the country are closed this week anyway, as students in the eastern half of Slovenia have their week-long winter holiday.
In Primorske, the region closest to the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, cultural institutions have started cancelling events as well.
A concert in Piran dedicated to the 250th death anniversary of the composer Giuseppe Tartini has been called off, as has the opening show of a Slovenian-Italian cross-border theatre festival in Gorizia.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek told the parliamentary Health Committee that life must not come to a halt.
"In terms of expertise, there is no reason to call off public events... Institutions must make sure that health care workers and those at the borders are protected but there are no special instructions for healthy people," she said, repeating once again that there is no reason for healthy people to wear face masks.
The committee session was also attended by Italian Ambassador to Slovenia Carlo Campanile, who presented the situation in Italy and called for transparent communication to fight misinformation.
Repar Bornšek also said that patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19 will be directed to health centres that provide 24/7 services. Only severe cases will be hospitalised, therefore the existing capacities are expected to suffice.
Meanwhile, a meeting hosted by Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza resulted in the decision of health ministers from neighbouring countries, including Slovenia's Aleš Šabeder, to keep the borders open.
Keep up with all the news on coronavirus and Slovenia here
According to the national broadcaster's portal MMC, waste packaging is pilling in the yards of the utility companies again. A total of 16,400 tonnes of packaging waste have already accumulated across the country.
The largest pile of garbage lies on the outskirts of the capital. Voca Snaga collects garbage in eleven municipalities and covers waste disposal for one fifth of the country. Nina Sankovič from Voka Snaga told the MMC that "the situation is terrible. We were desperate in 2018, but today we can say that the times we thought we could handle the situation are now gone. Piled up packaging in the size of 17 Olympic swimming pools might catch a fire and we are only a kilometre away from a residential area."
The main reason behind the growing piles of disposed packaging is that the six Slovenian packaging waste management companies (DROE) don't collect it. That is because these companies finance their work from a packaging tax, only paid by companies which produce or import more than 15 tonnes of packaging. According to the Court of Auditor's data, as much as 53 percent of packaging waste is not included in this system.
For a while DROEs were required to collect all of the waste packaging until the Administrative Court reversed the changes to the environmental permits issued by the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia (ARSO) in December 2019. Since January 1st 2020, the companies have started to comply with the provisions of the original environmental permits, which only contract them to take care of the amount of packaging waste produced or imported by those who pay the aforementioned tax. Thus what is piling up in the yards of the utility companies is “orphan” waste packaging.
Although the discussion has dragged on since 2018, the problem of fair packaging payment still hasn’t been settled. Besides, packaging imports are very difficult to control and are also increasing because of the growth of online commerce.
The director of the Chamber of Public Utilities Sebastijan Zupan stated that the current 16,400 tonnes of stalled waste packaging could increase by 5,700 additional tonnes every month, and we could end up with 65,000 tonnes of unmanaged garbage by the end of the year.
According to Zupanc, utility companies are supposed to have a seven-day storage capability and in reality all sites have fourteen day storage capability facilities, but they don’t have a capability to store waste for months and months. For this reason waste packaging is being stored in inappropriate places and carried around by the wind, attracting birds, rodents and cockroaches and producing unappealing odours. The most worrying of all is that it presents a considerable fire risk.
However, Zupanc explained that the situation could be resolved by a new intervention law which would cost the country around € 8.7 million. As it has not yet developed a waste management strategy, the state will most likely have to address the situation with emergency laws and financial injections.
At the end of the press conference, Zupanc said that the problem does not reside in the sorting capacity of the waste packaging management systems in Slovenia. He mentioned that five workers had recently been laid off at such a facility in Grosuplje, and that waste packaging had to be imported from Austria in order to keep it going. He added that the capacity of the sorters is large enough for all the packaging we produce. The problem lays in the steps between the collecting sites and sorting facilities.
STA, 24 February 2020 - There were many cases of alleged animal neglect in Slovenia last year, with the Environment Ministry's Environment and Nature Inspection Service opening up inquiries into ten alleged instances of mistreatment of free-living animals, including monkeys, lions, bears, snakes and spiders.
Relevant inspectors dealt with an advert put on a Czech web page by a small Slovenian zoo aiming to sell a Barbary macaque infant and determined that the zoo kept 10 such apes which were acquired lawfully and were taken care of. The zoo cancelled the advert following the inspection though.
However, the black-tufted marmosets were found to be living in inappropriate conditions and were relocated to another zoo.
The inspection service took action in a case of two lions as well - the zoo had to implement additional measures to ensure the two animals could not escape their enclosed area.
Another case included an owner of two bears who was reminded to microchip them. Furthermore, an inquiry was opened into the conduct of an owner of a rhea and ostrich who can be spotted walking them in Ljubljana. He has also visited Venice with the animals. The case is still pending.
Regarding species protected under EU law, a sand martin bird was allegedly kept in captivity for more than three hours without a permit by bird identification officials working for the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. Following a report, the inspection service has opened up an inquiry into that.
A number of irregularities have also been found in cases of a commercial parrot breeder raising protected parrot species and a commercial breeder of snakes, spiders, amphibians and lizards, including protected species such as the veiled chameleon, ball python and tarantula. Both breeders have heeded the warnings and amended the situation.
There was also a case of an ara parrot found to be wearing an identification leg band belonging to an animal who died in 2013. The owner bought the ara wearing the leg band from a Hungarian dealer. The case is still pending.
Last week one of the palaeontologists overseeing the construction site of the second railway track between Divača and Koper spotted bones that appeared as white stone.
It turned out that at depth of about 20 metres the excavator uncovered bones of an ancient rhino, who lived in the area at least 120,000 years ago, and perhaps much earlier.
Astrid Schwar from the Karst Research Institute, who first spotted the finding, stated for Delo that the bones must have been laying in what was once a Karst cave, since parts of stalactites and flowstone were found nearby. While a full skeleton has not been found, there is perhaps enough to be eventually exhibited once it's excavated, examined and preserved.
Irena Debeljak from Ivan Rakovec Paleontological Institute examined the site last Thursday, and found about a four-centimetre-long tooth which she ascribed with some certainty to one of the three species of rhinos that lived in the area of the Karst in the Pleistocene era. She stated for Delo that the tooth might belong to a relatively rare species of rhino in that time and area, Stephanorhinus. But before any conclusions are made, Debeljak continued, the tooth needs to be carefully cleaned of flowstone and examined.
The works at the second track will now stall for a couple of weeks until palaeontologists complete their work. Adrijan Košir, from the Geological Survey of Slovenia, said that the rhino, especially in such a good condition, is a rare finding, but will not significantly delay the construction works.
STA, 23 February 2020 - As the novel coronavirus is spreading fast in neighbouring Italy, Slovenian health minister assured the public on Sunday that there was no reason for alarm. However, a medical official, speaking at the same press conference, said there was little doubt that the virus would appear in Slovenia as well.
Slovenia has not confirmed any case of infection with the novel virus as yet, Health Minister Aleš Šabeder noted at the press conference in Ljubljana.
So far the only Slovenian to test positive for the virus that originated in China was a couple who contracted the virus, named Covid-19, on board the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked in Japan's Yokohama for over a fortnight. The couple have been admitted to a hospital in Japan.
Šabeder said that the government would call a session of the National Security Council secretariat for Monday to discuss the situation and take potential additional measures.
The minister does not want the virus to become a political issue. "This is a serious situation, unfolding not only in Europe, but also elsewhere round the globe," he said.
He said that official data from Italian authorities showed that 124 had so far contracted the virus in Italy. Meanwhile, Italian media have reported the number has risen to over 150 with three fatalities.
Should Italian authorities establish that a Slovenian citizen has been in contact with those infected, Slovenia will be alerted right away, the minister said.
Health Ministry State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek noted that part of Slovenia had just finished winter school break and that many would have spent it abroad.
With north of Italy being a popular skiing destination for Slovenians, the official advised all travellers who had returned from north Italian regions to monitor their condition and to contact their GP or duty service in case of a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
All primary and secondary healthcare providers have been notified of the measures they need to take and the hospitals that could admit potential coronavirus patients have been urged to re-examine their contingency plans.
The state secretary said there was no confirmed coronavirus case in Slovenia, but that additional measures would be taken depending on the developments such as expanding testing.
She urged the public to follow information the website of the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ), which is being updated 24 hours a day, and not to fall for provocations.
Tatjana Lejko Zupanc, the head of the UKC Ljubljana Department of Infectious Diseases, said that there was almost no doubt anymore that the novel coronavirus would appear in Slovenia as well.
But she said that health institutions were getting ready for such a possibility. Their department sped up activities to be able to admit the first patient.
"All the paths have been agreed, which tests would be conducted. A few beds are ready, including at the intensive care unit. We'll have extra beds ready during the week," said Lejko Zupanc.
The department could admit 10 to 20 coronavirus patients at one of its units, theoretically even more. It is also capable of providing 10 intensive care beds, which "should suffice for a smaller outbreak".
In case of a massive outbreak, procedures would be quite different, involving the civil protection, among other mechanisms, said Lejko Zupanc.
She said everyone on the staff was willing to be involved in the effort in case of a potential outbreak, and if necessary military health staff could be engaged in case of staff shortages.
She said there were currently no suspected cases in Slovenia according to her information. She also said that Slovenia was well equipped for tests which were being conducted at three labs.
She said there was no need for panic or fear; if people "have been to what are epidemic hotspots at the moment", they should monitor themselves and seek advice from health services.
As prevention against potential infection NIJZ official Maja Sočan advised regular washing of hands, regular surface cleaning and measures generally taken to prevent an infection spread.
Sočan said the four Slovenian passengers from the Diamond Princess, who have already returned to Slovenia, were feeling fine, as were the couple hospitalised in Japan.
There were a total of six Slovenians on the ship, three couples.
NIJZ has not advised against travel.
Matija Cevc from the Slovenian Medical Association noted that posters appeared in parts of the country calling for citizens on behalf of the association to take preventive tests.
He said the association had not issued such a poster, denouncing the campaign as "utterly abject". He supposes it was aimed at making money at a time when people are in distress.
All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia can be found here
The 14th Mountain Film Festival is in Slovenia this week, with screenings, talks and more in Cankarjev dom Ljubljana, Metropol Celje, Mestni kino Domžale, Kino Radol’ca and Kino Slovensko Bistrica.
The festival has an excellent English website, with details of all the events, but be aware there’ll be lectures from the likes of David Debeljak, Jera Musič – the first Slovenian woman to hike the 3,500-km long Appalachian Trail, Jim Donini, Milan Romih and Tomaž Jakofčič, and the chance to buy books, hang out and talk about climbing and hiking, with appearances by many giants of the local scene.
With regard to films there’s documentaries, long and short, with programmes that offer great variety while giving the rare opportunity to see these films on the big screen, where the power of the landscapes they celebrate is more readily perceived. Take a look at some (not all) of the trailers below, and see more details here.
Now that we know Ana Soklič will represent Slovenia at the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest (Eurosong) in the Netherlands – with the final on 16 May – we can take a look at all the other important contents of this year’s Ema.
The show began with its host Klemen Slakonja performing last year’s winning Eurovision song Arcade by Duncan Lawrence. In the middle of the song, a lamp fell down, prompting Slakonja to hit his head on the piano and “damage” his “arcade”, an arch above the eye that tends to absorb the damage when things are not going as planned.
Slakonja’s injury gradually “healed” as the show progressed so that by the end he could perform impersonations of all 25 of Slovenia’s Eurovision entries so far.
Klemen Slakonja also appeared as Ema’s main host in 2011, 2012 and 2016, when he also became known to the international audience by his Putin Putout YouTube hit. Unlike in previous years, many voices could be heard on social media calling for Klemen Slakonja to be sent to the Eurovision contest next year, due to his obvious singing skills, stage presence and general likability.
But Eurovision is a serious contest with serious rules that need to be followed. Although people like to point out how political the event is, which becomes especially apparent during the vote casting, perhaps even more telling are the scandals that appear to be happening on its fringes but are in fact, as I believe, at the essence of its existence.
Last year, for example, Lea Sirk, the previous year’s Eurovision entrant, couldn’t hide her disappointment over the winning duo Zala and Gašper and dropped an F-bomb into a live microphone she was wearing. Eurovision might be Europe’s campest of events, but it is also a family-friendly affair, so no swearing, please.
This year’s award presenters, Zala and Gašper – launching a new album this week with a performance at Kino Šiška under the name zalagasper – were therefore reminded, as a joke, not to forget that their microphones were on so they should refrain from any bad language during the announcement of the winner.
They obeyed and Ana Soklič accepted the reward, visibly moved and surprised. Then she was invited to give the first comment. In brief translation, she said:
“In the end I always place it all on – I don’t know what the people will say – but only Jesus Christ is the one who leads us through the paths of our lives and no one should ever worry that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Despite all the hardships we face in the music industry, we cannot quit, there is no way to return.”
Slovenian social media exploded. Apparently, Ana Soklič thanking Jesus Christ is this year’s Ema scandal.
However, as we always wonder following the conclusion of Ema, can Jesus Christ draw enough attention to Slovenia at the higher, international stage of the competition?
We have to stay optimistic. Or as Slakonja appropriately responded to the words cited above, “We are moving towards the light!”.
This set of old postcards was shared by Petra Leskošek. The show Ljubljana in the early years of the 20th century, were published by Orel Dušan, are from the collection of Z. Tančič.
Before the Triple Bridge and Prešeren Monument
Before the Triple Bridge, and when the monument was new
What today is Miklošičev Park
Town Hall and the original Robba Fountain
Čopova, before McDonalds, H&M and Mueller
The Old Cafe Europe, by today's main library
Hotel Slon and the Post Office
All our old photos can be found here
STA, 23 February 2020 - Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in Italy, the Foreign Ministry has advised Slovenian citizens visiting the country to be cautious on their return home. Those heading to Italy are advised to check the latest situation at their chosen destination.
Authorities in the north of Italy have imposed emergency measures to try to contain worrying outbreaks of the virus. A dozen towns in Lombardy and Veneto have gone into lockdown as the number those infected exceeded 100 and two of those infected died.
Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region bordering Slovenia, has declared a state of emergency due to the proximity of Veneto, where the authorities have shut down the Venice Carnival and other public events as the number of coronavirus cases has risen to 25.
The carnival is popular with Slovenian tourists and several travel agencies offer trips there, but the STA has learnt that one of Slovenian travel agencies last night notified the clients booked for the trip that their trip, planned for early Sunday morning, had been cancelled.
The Foreign Ministry has noted that the coronavirus outbreak and the measures to contain it are changing fast, urging those headed to Italy to check the latest situation with their hosts, travel agencies or hotels.
The ministry's consular service, the Slovenian Embassy in Rome and the Consulate General in Trieste keep in touch with the Italian authorities and are monitoring the developments.
Slovenia has not recorded any case of the novel coronavirus infection from China except for two passengers who have contracted the virus at the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. They have been hospitalised in Japan.
The other four Slovenians who had been aboard the virus infected ship that had been under quarantine for over a fortnight have since returned home. They have tested negative again, but have been placed in isolation at their homes for two weeks as a precautionary measure.
To prevent catching the infection, the National Public Health Institute has advised the population to follow the usual precautionary measures against contagious diseases such as avoiding close contacts with people showing signs of an infectious disease.
"Do not touch eyes, nose or mouth. Stay at home when falling sick. Follow the cough hygiene measures. Regularly wash your hands with soap and water," or when that is not available use a hand sanitiser, the institute says on its website. It says that the use of face masks is not necessary.
Janez Janša, the leader of the Democratic Party (SDS), urged the caretaker government on Saturday to call a session of the National Security Council to discuss the situation in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In response, outgoing PM Marjan Šarec tweeted that the authorities in charge were prepared for a potential outbreak of the virus and were coordinating activities on a daily basis.
"There are plans for the case of a potential broader spread of the disease," he said, adding that the situation should be taken seriously but without causing panic or politicising it.
All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia can be found here
The following schedule was prepared by the STA:
MONDAY, 24 February
THESSALONIKI, Greece - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar will make a working visit to Greece to attend a meeting in support of the enlargement to the Western Balkans in view of the proposal for a new enlargement methodology.
BRNIK - The police force will accept a new helicopter at a ceremony attended by Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and PM Marjan Šarec.
LJUBLJANA - A protest will be held in front of the UK embassy as a hearing starts in London to decide whether to extradite WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange. Meanwhile, a translation of his memoir will be launched at an event attended by former Human Rights Ombudsman Matjaž Hanžek and Amnesty International Slovenija director Nataša Posel.
LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office will release the business sentiment index for February.
LJUBLJANA - The Mountaineering Film Festival will get under way, until 1 March.
LJUBLJANA - A week-long winter break starts for primary and secondary schools in the eastern half of Slovenia.
TUESDAY, 25 February
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor will hold a second round of consultations on the potential to nominate a PM-designate before the deadline expires and a snap election is called. He will only meet the SDS, SMC, NSi, DeSUS and SAB, as other parties have already opted for a fresh election.
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Matej Marn will attend a session of the EU General Affairs Council discussing the future EU-UK relationship and the proposal to reform enlargement process.
WEDNESDAY, 26 February
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee will debate a report on development cooperation and the National Assembly's international activities.
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Finance Committee will discuss harmful effects of privatisation at a session called by the Left.
GENEVA, Switzerland - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Matej Marn will take part in a ministerial session of the UN Human Right Council. He will discuss the effects of artificial intelligence on human tights.
LJUBLJANA - National Assembly Speaker Dejan Židan will receive Lord German, a member of the UK House of Lords.
LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Finance will hold a panel debate on the European green deal.
LJUBLJANA - A round-table debate on violation of principles that authorities should observe when drawing up laws and regulations, Public Administration Minister Rudi Medved to be on hand.
PIRAN - A concert featuring Italian violinist Salvatore Accardo and the New Ferruccio Busoni Chamber Orchestra will mark the 250th anniversary of the death of composer Giuseppe Tartini.
LJUBLJANA - The STA and the National Football Association will host a debate on the centenary of organised football in Slovenia.
THURSDAY, 27 February
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Culture Committee will discuss the impact of the alleged Hungarian financing of media with ties to the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) at a session called at the behest of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).
LJUBLJANA - The outgoing government is expected to convene a weekly session.
LJUBLJANA - The Pension and Disability Insurance Institute (ZPIZ) will debate its report for 2019.
LJUBLJANA - The shareholders' meeting of tourism company Sava Turizem will decide on absorption of hotel operator Hoteli Bernardin and on a recapitalisation. Hoteli Bernardin shareholders will decide on the merger a day later.
LJUBLJANA - The Culture Ministry will announce the shortlist for the 2025 European Capital of Culture.
LJUBLJANA - The National Gallery will launch an exhibition of Dachau drawings by Zoran Mušič.
FRIDAY, 28 February
LJUBLJANA - The 30-day window in which President Borut Pahor can put forward a PM-designate to prevent an early election will expire.
LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office will release data on GDP growth for 2019 and the consumer price index for February.
LJUBLJANA - Insurance group Sava Re will present its operating results for 2019 and its strategy by 2022 at a press conference.
KOPER - Port operator Luka Koper will release its financials for 2019.
LJUBLJANA - Call M for Macbeth, a production directed by Matjaž Pograjc based on William Shakespeare's Macbeth, will premiere.
SATURDAY, 29 February
LJUBLJANA - A talk with German author Bernhard Schlink will launch the international literary festival Fabula; until 8 March.
SUNDAY, 1 March
LJUBLJANA - House of Tolerance, a festival organised by the theatre Mini Teater and the Ljubljana Jewish Cultural Centre, will get under way, to run until 6 March.
STA, 22 February 2020 - Ana Soklič will represent Slovenia at the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam in May after winning the Slovenian EMA contest on Saturday with the song Voda (Water).
Soklič was picked by televote in a super-final that also featured Lina Kuduzović, who as a 12-year-old placed third in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2015 after winning the first season of Slovenia's Got Talent at the age of 7 in 2010.
The contest, hosted by comedian and impersonator Klemen Slakonja, saw a total of twelve acts, ten of which were selected by a jury from among 74 entrants with additional two picked among up-and-coming artists in an online competition EMA Fresh.
The two super-finalists were selected by a jury comprising Darja Švajger and Nuša Derenda, Slovenia's highest ranked Eurovision entrants to date in 7th in 1995 and 2001, and Maja Keuc, who made it to 13th in 2011.