STA, 8 January 2022 - 2021 made for a quite dry, sunny and warm year in Slovenia but the month of December in Ljubljana was one of the dullest on record with only 18 hours of sunshine. New Year's Day hit a new temperature high.
Over the past 50 years Slovenia warmed up by just over 2 degrees Celsius and it now has about 200 more hours of sunshine a year than half a century ago.
Last year was the 17th warmest in 60 years with temperatures roughly 0.7 degrees above the average for 1981-2010, Gregor Vertačnik, a climatologist at the Environment Agency (ARSO), has told the STA.
2021 was also the 12th driest and the 7th sunniest over the past 60 years with about 11% more sunshine than in an average year.
Ljubljana residents may well disagree with that as the months of November and December in particular saw the Slovenian capital shrouded in fog or low cloud.
The city had 48 hours of sunshine in November, which compares to the average of 66 hours for that month. December was even worse with only 18 hours of sunshine, compared to the average of 55 hours in 1981-2010.
Otherwise, February and June were one of the warmest on record in the country with temperatures exceeding the long-term average by more than 3 degrees Celsius.
By contrast, the month of May was 2 degrees below the long-term average. Temperatures were also below average in April and October.
Some of the freakiest weather events include a record high of 25 Celsius measured in the western Vipava Valley in February and 20.6 degrees below zero in the Bloke area in south central Slovenia in April.
Several metrological stations recorded all-time highs for the period around New Year's Day with temperatures above 15 degrees.
The record high temperature for 1 January was recorded in Godnje near Sežana in Kras where the mercury hit 19.1 Celsius this 1 January, said Vertačnik, noting the record for January is just over 21 degrees.
Only a week later, temperatures dropped to below -20 on Saturday morning. Data from Neurje.si and ARSO shows the lows falling to -5.6 Celsius in Ljubljana, -3.4 at the seaside airport of Portorož, -21.4 in Bloke and the cold spot called Mrzla Komna measured 36.8 Celsius below zero.
One peculiar feature of 2021 was the record amount of snow in spring. The thickest blanket at Kredarica, Slovenia's highest mountain weather station, measured 510 centimetres on 26 May 2021.
STA, 6 January 2022 - The Public Administration Ministry has developed in cooperation with administrative units a new system for making an appointment for administrative services. The service allows clients to choose their appointments via a call centre or through an online app, and it is currently available at three administrative units.
The system is currently operating for Ljubljana, Logatec and Litija
Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik explained at a press conference on Thursday that the Covid-19 epidemic has necessitated adjustments also in the organisation of work in public administration.
To protect the health of clients and employees during the epidemic, many administrative units have introduced a system of obligatory prior appointments for their services, while they also extended working hours and reinforced staffing.
The minister said that clients reacted positively to the changes recently introduced at administrative units, including the web service that allows them to check the expected waiting times at each administrative unit.
"Clients want faster processing at administrative units, which are already overloaded," said Koritnik. That's why, in recent months, the ministry has developed a system for online appointments.
According to the minister, this new system will simplify procedures for clients, saving them time, while it will also be a welcome simplification for employees at administrative units.
When making an online appointment in the system, clients can select a preferred date and the location of the service, and enter additional requirements (such as the presence of an interpreter) in the notes section.
Aleksander Vojičić from the ministry's administrative units service explained that the system works on two levels, as an online appointments service and as a call centre.
Both levels are currently available at administrative units in Ljubljana, Logatec and Litija, and up to 20 more administrative units are expected to implement the online appointment system in the coming months, said Koritnik.
The Public Administration Ministry carried out a public procurement procedure worth EUR 345,000 for the service, which will be provided by the consulting and marketing company Ortus Inc.
STA, 1 January 2021 - Slovenian pensioners are looking at higher pensions in the new year, as a pension rise, expected to stand at some 4%, is to be introduced in February after one-off bonuses for low-income pensioners are paid in January.
Under the latest Covid relief package, adopted in late December, pensioners with pensions under EUR 732 a month will receive one-off bonus of either EUR 130, 230 or 300 by the end of January.
Solidarity allowance, totalling EUR 150, will be also paid out to the disabled and war veterans by the end of March.
In line with the relevant law, pensions will be indexed in February, when the adjusted amount will be paid out, the ZPIZ public pension and disability fund has said, adding that the January adjustment will also be made.
It is still up in the air whether there will be a pension rise to fully eliminate the shortfall that pensioners suffered as a result of austerity measures during the financial crisis.
The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) has proposed a 3.5% pension rise to compensate for this, but even if such indexation takes place, the amount is open to question. The last unscheduled indexation occurred in December 2020 with the indexing rate at 2%.
The annual pension bonus will be paid with June pensions and will range from EUR 140 to EUR 450. Those with pensions of up to EUR 570 will receive the highest amount.
Disability allowance bonuses will meanwhile stand between EUR 140 and EUR 250. People with disabilities who receive the disability allowance of up to EUR 805 will get the highest sum.
In 2022, persons with disabilities will benefit from stepped-up social inclusion activities starting from 30 June. Moreover, attendance allowance will increase by 2.5% in March.
There will be some new rules for retirement in 2022. For men, the pension for 40 years of pensionable service will be calculated at 61.5% of the pensionable age, an increase of two percentage points compared to 2021.
Moreover, the age required to be eligible for a widow's pension will be 58, an increase of half a year compared to 2021.
The new year will also see the start of implementation of the long-term care act that will enter into effect on 18 January.
The ZZZS health insurance institute will be kept busy in 2022 as the statutory provider of compulsory long-term care insurance. The institution must be ready for the new duties by the end of the year at the latest.
The benefits provided by the act will be gradually phased in by 2024, starting with the right to long-term institutional care and to a caregiver on 1 January 2023.
The new system will be financed from the budget for the first two years, whereas in 2025 a special law on compulsory long-term care insurance is planned to be enacted.
STA, 31 December 2021 - Housing prices have risen rapidly since the market rebound in March with soaring demand underpinned by low interest rates and the availability of credit. The Surveying and Mapping Authority (GURS) says that price growth is not expected to taper off until the supply of new housing outstrips demand.
Prices of residential property have risen sharply this year and by the third quarter they were up by 12.9% at the annual level, according to Statistics Office data.
Prices of second-hand flats in multi-apartment buildings rose by around 8% in the first half of this year from the end of last year. This marks the highest six-month price growth since the 2008 housing market crisis, GURS notes in its report on the Slovenian real estate market.
The record growth was driven by the prices of flats in multi-apartment buildings in the largest cities, with the exception of Ljubljana. In Koper, Kranj, Celje and Maribor, prices thus jumped by 10%-12%.
In Ljubljana, which remains the most expensive city, prices rose by 6% in the first half of this year, reaching new record highs: the median price of a second-hand apartment on Ljubljana was EUR 3,250 per square metre.
The acceleration in residential property price growth is also reflected in the residential property price overvaluation indicators, Slovenia's central bank Banka Slovenije noted in its report on the performance of banks for December.
"Most of the overvaluation indicators already reflect a overvaluation of property prices of around 10% relative to the dynamics of other macroeconomic indicators," the central bank wrote.
Although nominal prices have already surpassed the 2008 peak, real prices are still around 10 percentage points behind.
The rapid price growth has been driven by strong demand, underpinned by low interest rates, readily available credit, and limited supply of new-build properties, according to GURS.
They added that low interest rates were encouraging both purchases of property for own use and investment purchases.
Rising prices are also increasingly affected by rising land prices, and indirectly by rising construction costs due to the global increase in transport and building material prices.
In the first half of 2021, GURS recorded 20% more sales of land for the construction of residential buildings than in the second half of last year, and 90% more than in the first half of last year.
"The accelerated growth in demand for land for the construction of residential buildings points to a strong demand for the construction of apartments for subsequent sale on the market and the construction of family houses for own use," they explained.
The number of transactions involving land for the construction of residential houses even exceeded the number of sales of residential houses themselves in the first half of the year.
The central bank also notes that household lending has picked up since the first quarter of this year with the year-on-year growth in housing loans reaching 8.1% in October.
In its macroeconomic outlook for December, the central bank notes that the gap between supply and demand was particularly pronounced, especially in larger cities. It therefore expects residential property investments to strengthen.
"We estimate that stronger demand will continue to be one of the key drivers of housing construction and development, given the buoyant labour market and favourable credit conditions," they wrote.
Similarly, GURS notes that the supply of new housing is still lagging behind demand practically everywhere in Slovenia, despite the fact that more new residential properties are coming to market.
"The growth in housing prices is not expected to stop until the supply of new housing outstrips demand, and the time required to sell new housing becomes significantly extended, or inventories of unsold housing start to build up," they said.
"So far, despite record prices, most of the newly built residential properties in the biggest cities and popular tourist destinations are still being sold before they are even built," according to GURS.
STA, 23 December 2021 - Another 1,124 people tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia on Wednesday, down 16.5% from the same day a week ago as well as 2.5% fewer than the day before. Ten more Covid-19 patients died, follows from official data.
Government data shows the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals declined further to 624, including 203 in intensive care. This marks a decline of 25 and three, respectively, from yesterday.
With ten more deaths yesterday, the death toll from Covid-19 has increased to 5,958, according to data released by the Health Ministry.
The National Institute of Public Health estimates 16,700 people are still actively infected in the country, down 556 from the estimate on the previous day.
The 7-day average of new daily cases fell to 1,114, down 31 from the day before, and the cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 people is at 791, down by 27.
Of the 4,929 PCR tests performed yesterday, almost 23% were positive.
Vaccination data shows only boosters take-up is proceeding apace with 426,527 now getting additional shots.
Meanwhile, 1,245,897 have got their first jab and 1,183,969 have been fully vaccinated, representing 56% and 59% of the population, respectively.
STA, 22 December 2021 - Police have filed criminal complaints against five men from the Gorenjska region and Ljubljana area over cheating in vaccination. One of the men allegedly took the shots for the others to get the Covid pass. The man was remanded in custody, the Kranj Police Department said on Wednesday.
A police investigation has revealed that the suspect got vaccinated at a vaccination centre several times in the last two months, showing the IDs of the four men, who subsequently got the Covid pass.
He had received one shot for each of three men before he was arrested and had appointments for the second shots. For the fourth man, he had received both shots already.
Together with the two shots he has received in his own name, he has been vaccinated seven times and was apprehended as he was about to receive the eighth shot.
The man was not paid much for the service that may have consequences for his health, which is why police suspect the four took advantage of the man's distress and personal circumstances for their own benefit.
Taking jabs in somebody else's name or presenting fake Covid certificates carries a sentence of up to three years in prison, police said.
Primož Donoša, head of the Kranj crime investigators, said all five persons were suspected of the same crime, i.e. certification of untrue contents. All five suspects are Slovenian citizens, with the four who did not get vaccinated aged between 30 and 50.
"Inquiries so far show we have never handled such a case before, definitely not in Gorenjska and I don't think in Slovenia either," said Donoša.
The police concluded their investigation last week before referring the case to the prosecution. It was opened based on a tip-off and was conducted in cooperation with the vaccination centre where the man got the jabs and which prevented him getting his eighth.
Lilijana Gantar Žura, the head of the Kranj health community centre, which performs vaccinations at the Kranj army barracks, confirmed they cooperated with the police in the investigation.
She said ID and health insurance cards were being strictly checked at the vaccination point, but they may have missed something when the vaccination centre was very busy.
Gantar Žura said she personally was not blaming the man who got vaccinated, but those who abused the man's distress and she believed they should be punished more severely.
Radio Slovenija has reported that the man who got the jabs for other people was allegedly a drug addict.
STA, 21 December 2021 - Plans to build up to 30 wind turbines next to a sole one already standing on a plateau that is part of the iconic Kras region in south-western Slovenia have met with opposition from the locals with both municipalities involved set to veto the project.
"The municipality has not given its opinion yet, but it will certainly follow the will of the people living in the area," Sežana Mayor David Škabar told the STA on Monday as the plans for a wind farm on Griško Polje were presented to the locals.
The investors, AAE Gamit and AAE Ventur, are planning to build 14 wind turbines in four wind fields measuring a total of 698 hectares, each with a rated capacity of 4.2 MW or a combined 58.8 MW. Each unit is to comprise a tower measuring between 150 and 200 metres in height, and a rotor with a diameter of between 115 and 1805 metres.
However, this is only part of the project that extends into the Sežana municipality, with further turbines planned in the section of the area that is part of the neighbouring Divača municipality.
The regional newspaper Primorske Novice reported just days ago that the two investors, none of which has any employees, planned to build 25 wind turbines on Griško Polje in a project valued at more than EUR 140 million.
According to the report, the Environment Ministry has already published a notice on a public initiative to draw up a national zoning plan for the two wind fields on Griško Polje one near Veliko Polje and one near Dolenja Vas. Construction was to start in the summer of 2025, and by the end of the year the farm was to be connected to the grid.
However, the presentation of the plan yesterday showed the local community opposes the project with Sežana Mayor saying wind turbines were not planned in the local zoning act as major new projects such as wind or solar plants could "devalue" the Kras region.
A woman living close to the solitary wind turbine on Griško Polje, which can be seen from the A1 motorway to the coast, said the noise was so bad her family could not sleep and had health issues. "If the noise of a single turbine is so disturbing what would 30 such mean that they plan to erect," she wondered.
Members of farming communities where the wind farm would be located do not oppose the project, thus the local community fears the project could divide the population.
Environment and infrastructure ministry officials told the meeting the main reason to build new wind power plants was to increase the share of renewables in Slovenia's energy mix in line with the commitment made to the EU.
As part of the procedure to adopt the national zoning plan for the project, guidelines will also be provided by the Divača municipality. These are set to be negative as the community already decided back in 2004 it was against wind farms on its territory. The residents of Senožeče have also voted no in a local referendum.
STA, 17 December 2021 - Ten years after ski lifts came to a halt on Kobla in the Julian Alps, skiing was re-launched last weekend on Kozji Hrbet ski slopes with one ski lift, in what is the first step in the planned revival and expansion of the Kobla ski centre.
With this year's abundant snow, skiers can now ski on a 440-metre trail above the Alpine resort of Bohinjska Bistrica, unfar from Lake Bohinj.
Last weekend's turnout, when ski passes were free of charge, was exceptional, Boštjan Mencinger, head of the Bohinj Tourism Association, told the press on Friday.
There were many locals from Bohinj as well as others who remembered how they used to learn to ski on Kobla decades ago, he said at the official opening.
Once a very popular ski centre, Kobla was last open in the season 2010/2011, as its operator at the time, Kobla ŽTG, ended in receivership.
Efforts to revive and expand it under the name 2864 - the altitude of the country's tallest peak, Mt Triglav - started ten years ago.
Franc Alain Furlani, director and owner of Furlani, one of the partners behind the project, said they plan to have two new cable cars and three ski lifts to 2864.
He is confident the EUR 30 million project will be fully implemented, saying it enjoyed local support, while he complained it was taking rather long to obtain all the permits.
Planed are activities for winter and summer months, including hospitality, skiing school, rental services for skis and bicycles.
Mencinger said that the ski centre was an important addition to Bohinj's winter season, which largely depends on skiing options in the area.
Bohinj's reputation as a skiing destination has suffered in recent years, which reflects in a downward trend in tourist nights in winter.
STA, 17 December 2021 - The police apprehended a 34-year-old Bosnian man on Wednesday, who is suspected of smuggling 13 Pakistani nationals into Slovenia in August, for a fee and in conditions unworthy of human life, before leaving them stranded on a motorway shoulder near Celje in a broken-down car.
The Celje police had been notified on 30 August about a broken-down car stranded on a motorway shoulder near Celje. They found 13 Pakistani nationals crammed in the back of the vehicle, while the driver had escaped before the police arrived.
The migrants were in poor health due to transportation in inhumane conditions, and one of them was assisted by paramedics on the spot, before being taken to a hospital in Celje for treatment.
The Pakistani nationals were destined for Italy, and were brought to Slovenia from Croatia illegally. They were taken to an asylum centre in Ljubljana, while the police collected information on the runaway driver, who was subsequently found and detained on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old Bosnian man will be brought before an investigating judge today. He faces between three and 15 years in prison and a fine.
STA, 16 December - A school in the lakeside town of Bled has been closed mid school year, hence leaving 33 pupils without classes. They are now home-schooled. The school was operating without approval and did not meet the required conditions, the web portal 24ur.com has reported. It also promoted itself as a Waldorf school despite not getting Waldorf certified.
The plan for the school, named Radost Življenja (Joy of Life), had been long time in the making and in early 2020 it started to materialise. After facilities and staff were already secured and pupils enrolled, it transpired that the school had problems in obtaining approval to actually operate.
Its application to be accredited was denied by the Education Ministry, as the school was not in compliance with state standards, the ministry said.
The school was also beset with financial problems as unpaid bills had been piling up. It was shut down on 19 November, 24ur.com said on Wednesday.
Parents who enrolled their children in the school knew that the educational institution was not yet approved at the time, the ministry added. The parents had been granted a home-schooling status, under which parents may either educate their child at home themselves or are helped at this activity by someone else.
The latter is not required to meet any conditions, however the home-schooled children must pass an assessment carried out by the primary school in which they are enrolled. If they fail to do that, they are no longer allowed to be home schooled.
Seeking assistance after being denied state approval, the Bled school's head teacher Valentina Erznožnik contacted the Livada primary school in Ljubljana, which was willing to enrol the former's pupils.
Goran Popović, the head teacher of the Ljubljana school, explained that Joy of Life had not been the only school under which children were enrolled in Livada and home schooled at the same time. Such pupils have their exams at the end of the school year, he added.
The Bled school promoted itself as a Waldorf school, however it seems that it did not obtain a relevant certificate to do so.
Iztok Kordiš, the director of the Ljubljana Waldorf School, does not consider the Bled school to be worthy of Waldorf status. The Joy of Life school had called itself a Waldorf institution before it was actually opened without even familiarising itself with the procedures needed to be implemented to become such a school, he said.
"We have to look after quality and the Waldorf name. Not everyone can just think of it and become a Waldorf school," he told 24ur.com, adding that the Bled school had been doing everything its own way and acting as if it had it all sorted out.
STA, 14 December 2021 - The city of Ljubljana has its New Year's Eve celebration programme in Congress Square ready, but is still waiting for the health authorities to say in what format, or if at all, it can go ahead with it, Mayor Zoran Janković told the press on Tuesday.
As Ljubljana's 31 December outdoor celebrations always draw thousands of people, the mayor has asked National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) director Milan Krek two weeks ago whether the celebrations could go ahead.
According to Janković, Krek said yes, telling the mayor the format could be similar to the Ljubljana Festival last summer when there had to be space between chairs.
But since one cannot sit still in winter at -7 degrees Celsius, Janković suggested NIJZ approved a free concert and told the city how many vaccinated and reconvalescent people could attend it, but received no reply.
Janković was also critical of the recent government decision to close stalls serving food and drink at Christmas markets, saying it was a senseless measure.
He also believes there is no legal basis for it, and said that one of the Ljubljana public utilities had already filed a lawsuit against the government.
He moreover criticised Prime Minister Janez Janša for posting an "offensive" tweet in which he accused Janković of working hard for as many people as possible to fall ill and for schools, kindergartens and shops to close, as he posted a video of people walking around the stalls by the river Ljubljanica.
Janković said that Ljubljana had many visitors, who were now crowding in a smaller area than before, when the stalls had been still open. He believes it would be "more normal" to send out a positive message along the lines "light is coming, let's get vaccinated".
He thus urged all unvaccinated Ljubljana residents to get a jab, arguing some 10% of the city's population is preventing the rest to live normally.
Quoting NIJZ data, he said Ljubljana has the highest vaccination rate (59%) in central Slovenia, the region with the highest vaccination rate in the country (57.5%), while another 18% of Ljubljana residents are reconvalescents.
"If we add the number of vaccinated to the number of reconvalescents, we get 77%, and if we add another 40,000 school and kindergarten kids, who account for 13% of our residents, we are at 90%," the mayor said.