STA, 6 June 2022 - A debate on inclusion of foreigners into the local environment, especially education and healthcare, was held on Monday in Slovenska Bistrica, where increasingly many foreigners live due to growing demands on the labour market. Slovenian language skills were highlighted as crucial for integration.
Mayor Ivan Žagar would like systemic solutions to be implemented to facilitate integration. The town's council urged the state to set Slovenian language skills as a condition for employment along with suitable living conditions and inclusion into community work.
Some of the demands have been taken into account in changes to the aliens act, while may issues still remain open, the mayor said.
According to Emil Trontelj, chief of the Slovenska Bistrica administrative unit, foreigners comprise of about 6% of the population. They mostly come from Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, and work in construction, industry or transport.
He stressed the administrative unit had no influence on how many foreign citizens will come to the municipality.
Grega Malec, head of the sector for work-related migration at the Labour Ministry, said that a foreigner could only get a job if no other appropriate candidate was found in the unemployment register.
Since the unemployment has been dropping in Slovenia, further growth in employment of foreigners could be expected, he said, adding that there were many provisions in the Slovenian legislation envisaging that people without a job in Slovenia should return to their homeland.
According to the head of the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants, Katarina Štrukelj, persons who are entitled to international protection are offered systematic assistance in integration, including Slovenian lessons.
"Foreigners themselves say Slovenian lessons are crucial for living and working in Slovenia. But they say 400 hours is not enough," she said.
Economic migrants are not that interested in learning Slovenian, as they already have a job and usually work all day. Still, their children should be given the opportunity to learn Slovenian, as they must be included in the Slovenian education system as soon as they come here. "Every day a child does not spend with their peers is lost."
Malec added that such workers, especially construction workers from Kosovo, often go to work to another country, which is an additional reason why they are not particularly motivated to learn Slovenian. "We suspect the demand for labour force in Slovenia is being inflated on account of the needs in other countries."
Tatjana Pufič, head teacher of the Slovenska Bistrica primary school, stressed the need for assistance in integration of children. She said the state should allow for additional staff to be hired for this purpose. "We should also work with the children's mothers," she said.
To uphold this, head of the local community health centre Urška Sedmak said it was hard to perform a gynaecological examination in the presence of a child who acts as an interpreter.
In the last sunny days before a week that’s forecast to be rainy, Lavrič' Hut in Gračišče by Stična will host an annual Chainsaw sculpturing festival.
The sculptors are already there, preparing for the speed carving competition which takes place at 16:00 on Saturday, June 4th, in front of a variety of visitors – including picnic goers, weekend mountaineers, families and everyone else interested in great countryside views accompanied with some local folklore entertainment.
Photo: Lavrič's Hut, Facebook
The speed carving competition with about 15 chainsaw artists from Slovenia will take place at 16:00 on Saturday. Each artist gets 60 minutes to carve a wooden sculpture. The sculptures are then assessed by a commission, who declares a winner.
The speed carving competitors, 2016 Photo: Lavrič's Hut, Facebook
An example of a speed carving result from a training session Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive
A workshop on safe chainsaw handling will take place at 11:00 on Sunday, presented by the Slovenian Forest Service.
STA, 3 June 2022 - The 2022 Pride Parade festival, which starts on Friday, will hold a mirror up to politicians and hold the new coalition and government to their election promises, said Simona Muršec, head of the Pride Parade Association. Bringing many events, the week-long festival will wrap up with Ljubljana Pride next Saturday.
Muršec noted at a recent press conference that the legal rights and status of LGBT+ people were still not regulated in many areas, but the social climate had changed in the last two years.
The Pride Parade Association has been active in trying to mobilise LGBT+ people, young people in particular, and the wider community, including the community's allies and all those fighting for human rights, to strive to make a difference.
The Rainbow Voice initiative was also launched ahead of the April general election to inform voters about how different parties approach issues important to the LGBT+ community. The association expects the new government to deliver on the promises made in the run-up to the election, but above all they want the rhetoric to be such that it creates "a different climate in society".
One of the festival's highlights will be tomorrow's Koroška Pride, the third pride parade to be held in Slovenj Gradec in the northern Koroška region.
The festival's programme also features roundtable debates, workshops, performances, an exhibition of young queer artists and other events aimed at raising awareness about the LGBT+ community. One of the debates will be dedicated to efforts to support LGBT+ refugees from Ukraine.
Another highlight will be next Friday's spoken word performance by British poet Joelle Taylor, the latest recipient of the prestigious T.S. Eliot prize.
STA, 3 June 2022 - Fierce storms with strong winds, downpours and hail stones that in some parts reached the size of a tennis ball left a trail of destruction as they moved across central parts of Slovenia late on Thursday, damaging cars, buildings and crops.
In the south-east of the country, roads turned into gushing streams, flooding houses and commercial and public buildings and in Mokronog hail had to be removed from roads by a snowplough. Many households were hit by power cuts.
In the Mokronog-Trebelno municipality, more than a dozen buildings were flooded and the wind peeled off roofs from more than 15 buildings and uprooted more than 150 trees.
The hail badly damaged the roof of the Mokronog primary school and more than a hundred cars. The damage is so bad, there will be no classes today for nearly half of the pupils.
Meanwhile, in Mirna a primary school was flooded. Winds tore down electrical wiring, uncovered many roofs and toppled trees onto cars as landslides blocked several local roads.
The storms also caused extensive damage to crops, orchards and vineyards. No figures are available yet as damage assessment is yet under way. Firefighters and other services are still busy cleaning up in the aftermath of the devastation.
One firefighter was injured trying to repair the roof of a building in Šmarješke Toplice and had to be taken to hospital.
Damage is also reported from central parts of the country around Celje, Kamnik and Zagorje ob Savi, Koroško in the north and the Kozjansko area.
In Slovenj Gradec, in the north water flooded the hospital's underground floor, including one of the surgeries, as well as a pharmacy, the new wing of diabetes treatment surgeries and transfusion unit. The hospital's director Janez Lavre told the commercial broadcaster POP TV the damage topped EUR 25,000.
The news portal of the public broadcaster TV Slovenija has reported that storms also caused disruption to air traffic. Ljubljana airport had to cancel one flight while two aircraft had to circle above the airport for a while before they could land.
STA, 2 June 2022 - Murska Sobota Bishop Peter Štumpf has banned video shoots in all local churches over a music video shot in a Murska Sobota church that the diocese found to be disrespectful. Unofficially, the star in the video is pop singer Nika Zorjan, who hails from Murska Sobota and at one point in the video dances in the church wearing red boots.
A statement by the Slovenian Bishops' Conference that was published on Thursday reads that the ban has been put in place over a video featuring a Slovenian singer that was recorded in St Nicholas Church in Murska Sobota, but does not reveal the name of the singer. Because of its content, the video should not have been shot in a religious venue and violates its holiness and the holy purpose of the church, it adds.
Any recordings in churches and chapels that fall under the Murska Sobota diocese or publications of them in the media are banned until further notice, with the exception of those dedicated to religious services.
The statement also reads that the video propagated negative stereotypes and ridiculed the sacrament of marriage, priests and faith as an important value. The diocese regrets that the church was desecrated due to a lack of caution on the part of those responsible, and apologises to believers.
The local news portal pomurec.com reported that the singer in question is likely Zorjan, a popular pop singer and former reality show contestant who recently released a music video for her latest song titled 1, 2, 3. The video was partly shot in St Nicholas Church.
Zorjan is at first wearing a white wedding dress but after realising she has been stood up at the altar she replaces it with a country girl outfit: a jeans shorts, a tied-up flannel shirt that reveals her belly button and red boots. Wearing this, she dances in the church, prompting the priest who was supposed to officiate her wedding to do the same. Later in the video, she is also riding a mechanical bull. The priest also has a go at the bucking machine.
STA, 31 May 2022 - The coastal town of Izola is ready for the 18th iteration of the Isola Cinema International Film Festival, which will take place from 1 to 5 June. Lovers of art film can look forward to 41 carefully picked feature and 71 short films, which will mostly be screened at three open air and two indoor venues in Izola.
Screenings and events are also planned in Ljubljana, Cerknica, Idrija, Sežana and Tolmin, with some already scheduled before the official start of the festival. The festival's director Tanja Hladnik has told the press that the scope of the programme is comparable again to the pre-pandemic years.
According to selector Varja Močnik, the films chosen demonstrate how much intimate life is intertwined with political developments, with the latter pushing some people to the edge of society.
The official opening film of the festival is Disappearing/Verschwinden/Izginjanje by Andrina Mračnikar, an Austrian filmmaker with Slovenian roots, who addressed the situation of the Slovenian language in Austria's bilingual province of Carinthia. The film won the audience award at the Diagonale festival in Graz.
The main open air venue films moreover include Luzzu by Alex Camilleri, who portrays the impact of EU regulations on traditional fishing in Malta, The Staffroom by Croatia's Sonja Tarokoć, who explored the dynamics of the education system, and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Love Meetings.
Pasolini's classic will not be the only trip down memory lane in Izola, as the festival will also join a Ljubljana cinematheque-organised retrospective dedicated to Hungarian director Marta Meszaros.
The festival, which will also host a number of filmmaker guests, will moreover feature a selection of short films by rising independent filmmakers in the relaxed atmosphere of the Video on the Beach section, a programme of films and activities for children, young people and families, and a programme for film professionals.
What is more, this year, Isola Cinema committed to implementing measures for preventing and reducing the amount of produced waste and thus became the first film event in Slovenia to have received the title of a Zero Waste Event conferred by the Ecologists Without Borders association.
STA, 30 May 2022 - The outgoing government lifted all remaining Covid restrictions as it repealed on Monday the main decree governing anti-Covid measures under a motion by the Health Ministry's advisory group for coronavirus.
The advisory group proposed that all restrictions be lifted in favour of compliance with the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the Government Communications Office said.
The group that had advised the ministry on measures to contain Covid-19 led by Mateja Logar has proposed it be dissolved and health Minister Janez Poklukar endorsed this.
Restrictions have been gradually eased since the worst of the Omicron wave passed and most recently the only major measures in place have been mandatory face masks in health settings and mandatory hand sanitising.
Logar told the STA that hospitals' services dealing with prevention and managing of hospital infections would from now on decide if or when face masks would be required.
The first head of the Covid advisory group was Bojana Beović from the Ljubljana infectious disease clinic. She headed it since the start of the epidemic, 12 March 2020 until 1 March 2021, when her colleague Logar took over.
Some members of the task force were also replaced then, but most of them remained, including NIJZ director Milan Krek and the heads of both organisations that analyse the vast majority of all PCR tests, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik from the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food and Miroslav Petrovec from the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology.
In addition to medical professionals, a sociologist also joined the team then.
Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the NIJZ, was appointed to the group twice and exited it twice. As he left it the second time, he said the decisions adopted by the group had often ran contrary to the opinion of the NIJZ epidemiological service, established protocols and the usual epidemiological practices.
"When you look back, you assess things differently now that you have more information than at that particular point when you had to decide on a measure," Logar said. She said the group had always made decisions based on expert findings, while it could not affect what decision-makers later decided.
The government also adopted a report today on a special government project aimed at promoting Covid vaccination, especially among those aged 50 or more to protect the group and the healthcare system. The ministry envisaged special bonuses for members of the family medicine teams if a certain percentage of their patients got vaccinated.
But since there has been response to the project, other activities were organised to boost vaccination, including Vaccination Days and mobile vaccination units.
STA, 26 May 2022 - The police dealt with the fewest criminal offences in the last ten years in 2021, while at the same time recording the highest clearance rate in the last decade, shows the 2021 report on police work that the outgoing government debated on Wednesday.
The police processed some 44,260 offences for which a criminal complaint or report to supplement a criminal complaint was filed in what is the lowest number in the last ten years. The ten-year average is 67,490, more than 50% above the 2021 total.
The clearance rate stood at almost 55%, the highest in the last decade. The average clearance rate over the last ten years is just over 49%.
The police dealt with nearly 6,700 white-collar crimes, a figure that is below the ten-year average. The share of economic damage in total criminal damage was 81%, which compares to a ten-year average of 83%.
The trend of financial investigations conducted pursuant to the criminal procedure act remains positive, with 454 financial investigations carried out last year.
The police processed 62,300 violations of public order regulations, down by 2,000 on the year before, of which the largest number, slightly over 28,400, were violations of the infectious diseases act in what was a year marked by Covid restrictions, same as 2020 was when more than 30,400 such breaches were recorded.
There were nearly 430 public gatherings last year, and 67% of them were unregistered, reads the report.
STA, 26 May 2022 - Storms that raged in parts of eastern and north-eastern Slovenia on Wednesday afternoon have caused significant damage, especially in the Pomurje region and the small town of Rogatec that were hit by egg-sized hail.
The hail damaged around 100 cars and roofs in Rogatec, a town located a stone's throw away from Slovenia's eastern border with Croatia. The damage would have been even greater had it not been for local firefighters, who did their best to cover the roofs with protective foil, Rogatec Mayor Martin Mikolič told the STA on Thursday.
He said the hail affected crops and vineyards, but thankfully no buildings were flooded this time. The head of the Rogatec Voluntary Fire Brigade, Danijel Lež, told the news portal 24ur.com that firefighters had been working until late at night and were mobilised again today to assist with roof repair.
The Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief said a severe storm with heavy rainfall, hail and strong winds hit the eastern and north-eastern parts of Slovenia at around 4:30pm yesterday. A total of 40 firefighting units have been deployed to deal with the consequences of the storm.
Toča Rogatec. pic.twitter.com/1uZWIJIO6k— OF (@rogacan) May 25, 2022
So far, around 100 incidents have been reported, most of them, nearly 60, in the north-eastern Pomurje region where, in addition to the wind, the storm also dropped hail, damaging a large number of roofs, flooding basements and felling trees. Many fire brigades were deployed.
The area alongside the Mura river was hit hardest, and the most damage was done to fields, gardens and orchards. It is still too early to estimate the full extent of the damage, said Metka Barbarič from the Murska Sobota agriculture and forestry authority.
Crops nearing the end of the ripening process are more affected, while newly-planted crops tend to recover well after such events.
The highest number of incidents was recorded in the Radenci municipality, whose mayor, Roman Leljak, estimates the damage at around EUR 300,000 there alone.
Firefighters had to intervene in Gornja Radgona, where a local road was buried beneath a landslide. They also dealt with damaged roofs and flooded buildings and streets in several other places.
Pummelling the area, hail brought motorway and street traffic to a standstill, and about 250 metres of roadway had to be cleared in the Lendava municipality.
The weather will remain moody in the coming days, and Slovenia can expect temperatures to drop by as much as 10-15 degrees over the weekend. Despite the weather turning cooler, this May will be among the three warmest on record in most of Slovenia, 24ur.com said.
STA, 25 May 2022 - Several alternative culture groups, NGOs and other initiatives called on Wednesday for a boycott of the emerging new creative centre at the location of Ljubljana's former bicycle factory Rog. They argue the city has been deaf to the proposals of the autonomous community that was evicted from Rog's dilapidated premises in 2021.
Addressing the press in front of the sizeable centre, which is being revamped in a EUR 20 million investment meant to be completed next year, the groups called for an open debate that would allow a democratic planning of the new premises.
The boycott initiative has been backed by the Autonomous Rog Factory collective, Ljubljana's counter-culture centre Metelkova Mesto, the Youth for Climate Justice, members of Radio Student, the Collective of culture workers, the anthropology department of the Faculty of Arts and several other groups.
The grievances include unsolved issues related to the police-backed eviction of Rog's users in January 2021 by the City of Ljubljana and what the protesters see as the exclusion of all but "the obedient partners of the city authorities" from the planning of the new centre.
While calling for a public discussion to exchange ideas, they pointed to alternative proposals that Rog's users already put forward in 2019 in an effort to make the centre a model for self-organisation and active participation.
One possible solution would be a cooperative-like model that would allow workers with precarious labour arrangements, the unemployed and refugees to receive training in construction work, crafts and administration.
The other would involve full autonomy, with the city committing to respecting the principle of self-organisation and the centre's users to the organisation of non-profit activities for the public good.
The protesters, who say the city has refused to discuss these options, hope for some support from new government given the size of the project.
The Rog Centre responded by saying it had been cooperating with a number of NGOs and initiatives, as the centre's development was the largest example of community planning so far.
Its programme as part of the RogLab project has been created since 2010 through a broad participative process. More than 6,000 users, 450 experts and 80 partner organisations from Slovenia and other countries have been involved so far.
"Both the interested former users and the wider public participate in conceiving the programmes, as well as its neighbours, as it is designed to be a publicly accessible space uniting very different communities. Anyone who is willing to take part can join this process at any time," Rog said.
Rog Centre is in the purview of the City of Ljubljana, which announced in April the centre would promote cultural and creative activities, especially product making, applied arts, architecture and design.
Plans include seven production labs, including for textile, wood processing, ceramics and glass, and green and culinary labs, for which there will be a membership fee similar to a library fee.
A total of 25 production units will be available free of charge based on calls for applications. The use of the facilities will be limited to three to four years. Five residential units will be available to users from abroad, the project's representatives announced.
The centre will also have a large area for socialising and exhibitions, a library and cafes. There will moreover be two smaller shops where products manufactured at the labs will be sold.
The building will have four floors and a total of 8,500 square metres. Outside the building a park will span 8,000 square metres.
STA, 24 May 2022 - A higher court ruling shows that it may prove harder than initially thought to evict the NGOs renting out the offices from the Culture Ministry in Metelkova Street in Ljubljana, which the ministry would like to renovate and give to the Museum of Natural Sciences, which is in dire need of more space.
The Ljubljana Higher Court has recently annulled the eviction order for the Centre for Slovenian Literature, a ruling the ministry plans to appeal.
The other NGOs in the same building meanwhile expect the court to pass similar rulings on their appeals against their eviction orders.
At the end of 2020, the ministry gave all tenants a year to vacate the building but did not offer them alternative offices, a plan the NGOs objected.
The ministry thus launched eviction proceedings against every individual NGO, which they separately challenged in court, Iztok Šori, director of the Peace Institute, one of the tenants, told the STA on Tuesday.
Šori labelled the ruling as "a great success and relief" for all the organisations which have been in an uncertain situation for a year and a half.
He sees it as a precedent for the rest of the NGOs there whose appeals are yet to be ruled on, and an end of the attempted eviction.
Similarly, Dino Bauk, a lawyer for the NGOs, said the case is more or less closed.
He said that most of the NGOs have a clause in their agreements under which they remain tenants until a new call to rent out the premises is published.
And since such a call has not been published, the argument that the building will be rented out to the Museum of Natural History also does not hold, Bauk explained.
The majority of lease agreements were signed with the NGOs in 1997 on the basis of a public call.
Since no new call was issued after a three-year period expired, the contracts were extended with annexes and eventually became permanent.
But the ministry has said earlier that no rental or lease agreement can be permanent, that some tenants have rented out the premises to a third party, and that some no longer meet the criteria for free-of-charge lease since they no longer have the status of an NGO in culture.
The culture community has largely seen the eviction plan as yet another of Minister Vasko Simoniti's attempts to undermine the independent culture sector.