STA, 8 February 2022 - Culture Day, a public holiday marking the anniversary of the death of poet France Prešeren (1800-1849), will be celebrated in Slovenia on Tuesday in a limited form, as there will be no traditional event at Prešeren's birth house in Vrba, and the recital of Prešeren's poetry will be broadcast on the radio.
One of the rare live events that will mark the holiday celebrating the Slovenian culture will be held at the Presidential Palace, which will host an open day for the public.
On the occasion, President Borut Pahor will address the citizens alongside one of the two recipients of this year's Prešeren Prize for lifetime achievement, translator Kajetan Gantar.
Prior to that, Pahor and Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti will lay a wreath at the monument to France Prešeren in Ljubljana.
The traditional recital of Prešeren's poetry will not be held in person this year, it will be instead broadcast live from the studios of Radio Slovenija, Radio Maribor, and Europe Square that straddles Italy's Gorizia and Slovenia's Nova Gorica.
Organised by the Slovenian Association of Dramatic Artists, the broadcast will resound through the loudspeakers in the streets of Ljubljana, Maribor, Kranj, Koper, Celje and Nova Gorica and in front of Prešeren's birth house in the village of Vrba.
There will be no traditional celebration in Vrba this year, and hikes along the local cultural heritage trail have also been cancelled due to the epidemiological situation.
The local authorities and the tourism and culture centre have nevertheless invited people to visit the birthplaces of Prešeren and other important cultural figures on this day.
While the traditional Prešeren Fair in Kranj will also be held in a limited form, numerous cultural institutions around Slovenia have invited people to attend open door events and related events after the holiday.
On the eve of Culture Day, the Prešeren Prizes, the top national awards in culture, were conferred at a ceremony in Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana, with Gantar and conductor and musicologist Mirko Cuderman receiving the lifetime achievement awards.
STA, 7 February 2022 - Slovenia recorded an excess mortality rate of 15% last year, when the Covid-19 epidemic was in full swing, the Statistics Office said on Monday. The worst month of 2021 was November, when 49% more people died than the average for the same period in 2015-2019.
The excess mortality rate represents the excess of the number of deaths over the average number of deaths in previous years during the same period, the Statistics Office explained.
According to provisional data, a total of 23,177 people died in Slovenia in 2021, which is 2,589 more than in 2019 - before the outbreak of the coronavirus, but 839 (3%) fewer than in 2020.
The year before last was when the Covid-19 epidemic was at its worse in Slovenia, as the excess mortality rate was even higher than last year at almost 19%, with a total of 24,016 deaths recorded in 2020.
However, very high excess mortality was also recorded in November 2021, at almost 50%, followed by January and December 2021, at 28%.
In December last year, 2,287 people died in Slovenia, which is 951 fewer than in December 2020 and 419 more than in the same month in 2019. On average, 74 people died per day in December 2021.
A total of 1507 people aged 75 or over died in December last year, which accounts for 66% of the total number of deaths in that month. Compared to the average number of deaths in the same age group in 2015-2019, this number was 27% higher.
STA, 1 February 2022 - Ljubljana is among the capital cities with the highest ratings in Europe in terms of urban tree cover and total green infrastructure, while it is sub-par in terms of public access to the city's abundant green spaces, shows a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on Tuesday.
High-quality public green and blue spaces and infrastructure in cities, like parks, gardens, riverbanks and coastlines, are crucial for health and well-being, said the EEA briefing.
It also shows that access to such spaces differs in cities across Europe. Green infrastructure made up on average 42% of the city area in 38 EEA member countries, according to the latest data available.
In terms of the percentage of urban tree cover and total green infrastructure, Ljubljana ranked third among the EEA members' capital cities in both indicators with 67% and 50%, respectively.
The only cities with more urban tree cover were Oslo (72%) and Bern (53%), while only Oslo and Zagreb have overtaken Ljubljana in terms of total green infrastructure with 77% and 74%, respectively.
Data shows that average urban tree cover for cities in 38 EEA countries stood at 30%, with cities in Finland and Norway having the highest proportion of tree cover, while cities in Cyprus, Iceland and Malta had the lowest.
Meanwhile, publicly accessible green areas still form a relatively low proportion of total green space in cities, estimated at only 3% of the total city area on average. Ljubljana ranked below the EEA average with just 1%, trailed only by Iceland's Reykjavik.
STA, 31 January 2021 - The Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief performed 654 interventions related to unexploded ordnance items in Slovenia last year, which means almost two per day and 30% more than last year. A total of 4,271 unexploded ordnance items were found in 2021, up by 20% on the previous year.
The increase in terms of total mass was even greater, with 13,363 kilograms of bombs removed, a 70% increase compared to 2020, Igor Boh of the administration's bomb disposal unit told the press on Monday.
Various forms of explosives are defined as unexploded ordnance - different types of bombs, land mines, artillery shells, aerial bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, dynamite, ammunition for firearms and detonators, among others.
Boh attributes a part of the increase in the number of finds to the epidemic, as people were home-bound more often and spent more time working in gardens or forests.
Unexploded ordnance items are most often found in the northern part of the western Primorska region, where two fatal accidents occurred last year as two men perished when they tried to take apart old explosive devices they had found.
Boh has urged collectors of military paraphernalia and explosive devices from the times of war to leave them be, and instead collect things that are not in any way explosive or dangerous.
He also said that it was very important to perform preventive inspections before the ground is disturbed and construction work begins in places where the probability of finding unexploded ordnance items is higher.
Boh recalled the most recent case of such kind in Maribor in January, where an unexploded WWII bomb has been found, neutralised and successfully removed from a construction site.
In many cases, the danger due to the increasing age of discovered bombs means that they have to be destroyed on site. There were 167 such cases last year, and a total of 3,021 items weighing more than seven tonnes were destroyed.
STA, 31 January 2022 - Farmers have been pointing out the serious damage caused by wild animals, as the Slovenian Forest Service (ZGS) estimates that it amounts to between EUR 400,000 and EUR 800,000 per year. The most affected region is Pomurje in the north-east, and the damage is most often caused by wild boars and deer.
The Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry has recently issued warnings of damage in agriculture caused by wild animals, particularly boars, saying that this is already threatening the survival of farms in certain cases.
The chamber expects hunters to continue the intensive culling and the state to take appropriate action, which was also the message it sent to Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek, who responded by urging the chamber to report the damage.
The ZGS's data for the last decade show that the amount of damage is fluctuating. The statistics are strongly dominated by agricultural damage, with additional smaller proportions of damage to forests and other property, the forest service said.
In the period between 2011 and 2020, annual damage reports were between EUR 424,000 in 2016 to almost EUR 788,000 in 2013. The ZGS added that data for last year was unavailable as of yet, but the damage was expected to be among the highest in recent years.
The Agriculture Ministry's data on compensation paid out for damage since 2001 show that the amounts paid out were below EUR 462,000 per year until 2007, while they have been well above this amount on several occasions since 2008.
Wild boar and deer usually cause the most damage - in the period between 2011 and 2020, boars accounted for an estimated 64% of all damage, deer for 32% and all other wildlife species for a total of 4%.
The situation is the worst in the north-eastern region of Pomurje, which accounted for 55% of all assessed wildlife damage caused in Slovenia in 2020.
However, these amounts do not include damage caused by protected species such as brown bears, wolves or birds, which fall under the responsibility of the Environment Ministry.
The ZGS assessed that brown bears had caused around EUR 204,000 in damages last year, followed by songbirds with around EUR 191,000 and wolves with approximately EUR 83,000.
A total of 148 brown bears were culled in Slovenia last year, of which 128 were hunted. The total amount of wolves removed last year was six, out of which three were culled in accordance with valid permits.
No culling of wolves is planned for this year, unless the Environment Ministry finds it necessary under certain circumstances, like in the event of repeated attacks by wolves on domestic animals, which could lead to serious damage to people's property.
STA, 30 January 2022 - An average Slovenian drank 35 litres of wine, or just over 46 standard bottles, in the marketing year 2020-2021, that is nearly three litres a month. The country's wine consumption in this period totalled 764,000 hectolitres, and the self-sufficiency rate stood at 95%, according to data released by the Statistics Office.
Slovenia produced 725,000 hectolitres of wine during this period, with white wine accounting for 70%.
Wines with a protected designation of origin contributed 58% to the country's total wine production, or 423,000 hectolitres.
White wine seems to have been a bit more popular in 2020-2021, as it represented 66% of the total wine consumption in the country.
The average Slovenian drank 23 litres of white wine in the last marketing year, or almost 2 litres a month. Slovenia was completely self-sufficient in this period when it came to white wine.
STA, 29 January 2022 - The share of primary school children who are distance learners because they refuse to comply with Covid restrictions in schools is declining. However, there are at least dozen cases where parents decided to sue schools over the enforced pandemic rules.
The share is now 0.84%, meaning 1,625 students, down from 3.61% last November, when self-testing was introduced in schools. The figure has been steadily falling since then, the Education Ministry has said.
In line with the guidelines issued by the education authority last November, students' knowledge can only be assessed at school during distance learning.
"If a pupil is not graded, they will sit examinations in accordance with relevant regulations. Pupils may take part in school assessments only if they meet the conditions laid down in the decree," the ministry has told STA, referring to the government decree putting in place Covid restrictions in schools.
A number of parents who do not want their children to self-test in classrooms three days a week are suing primary schools since they believe their constitutional rights are being infringed.
The ministry has been so far notified of twelve such cases. "The lawsuits are filed at the Administrative Court and so far all the proposed interim injunctions that have already been decided by the court have been rejected. In three cases, the suits have also already been dismissed," it said.
In all the cases, the State Attorney's Office has taken over the legal representation, which made it much easier for the schools involved to deal with the legal proceedings.
Some schools in Ljubljana have refused this option as their lawyer has been provided or paid for by the school's founder, the Ljubljana municipality, the ministry added.
STA, 27 January 2022 - The facade of the National Assembly will be lit up tonight in memory of the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis and their supporters during Second World War as Slovenia joins observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Holocaust victims are being honoured with several events this week. The main ceremony was held in Lendava on Wednesday with President Borut Pahor calling in his keynote address for the preservation of peace, security, tolerance and coexistence.
In order to do this, both individuals and communities at home and in the international community need to promote the culture of remembrance, dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes, the president added.
Pahor said that people should do everything in their power for reason to prevail, for things to calm down and for diplomacy to gain power so that problems around the world are solved and that the current and future generations are spared from conflict.
Before the ceremony, a delegation featuring Pahor and Israeli Ambassador Eyal Sela laid a wreath at the Jewish cemetery in Dolga Vas in the north-east of the country.
The president then visited Erika Fürst, a Jew from the Slovenian region of Prekmurje and a Holocaust survivor, with whom Pahor attended many remembrance ceremonies in recent years, and wished her a lot of health and vitality.
The National Assembly has joined the #WeRemember Campaign, initiated by World Jewish Congress in partnership with UNESCO, where people worldwide are asked to spread the message through various avenues, including social media.
The campaign, which has been running throughout the week, includes the illumination of notable monuments, coupled with the projection of moving messages in public places.
"It's our duty and the only promise for a better tomorrow to foster memory of the Holocaust victims and to cherish living together in peace with everyone, including those different from us," Speaker Igor Zorčič has said on the occasion.
"Only by preserving the memory of the past horrors and injustices and by fostering universal human values and human rights can we prevent such a tragedy from ever repeating. It is thus important and necessary to do what we can to support the efforts addressed by the #WeRemember campaign," Zorčič added.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is being observed since 2006 to coincide with the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, in 1945.
From Slovenia more than 2,300 people were deported to the camp and more than 1,300 perished there. Of those deported, 350 were Jews and at least 78 were Roma.
The Slovenian Jewish community was all but annihilated during WWII, out of around 1,500 Jews in 1939 only some 200 Slovenian Jews survived the war.
STA, 21 January 2022 - The self-isolation time frame will be cut from at least ten to seven days in Slovenia from Monday, health officials said on Friday. This will apply to most of infected people, provided they will not have fever or any other Covid symptoms 24 hours before the end of self-isolation and will test negative on the seventh day.
Self-isolation will be reduced for all people infected with coronavirus, except for those with weakened immune systems or those with a severe Covid-19 who are in need of hospital treatment, infectologist Janez Tomažič told a Covid press briefing.
If a person will have fever on the sixth day of self-isolation or show any other Covid symptoms, then the self-isolation period will be extended.
Moreover, self-isolation will end after seven days if the person's rapid test comes back negative on the seventh day. The test will have to be performed at an approved testing provider, meaning self-tests will not suffice.
If the rapid antigen test is positive on the seventh day, the person keeps self-isolating and does another test the following day until the tenth day, when self-isolation ends in line with the regime so far.
To ensure that the new protocol is extra safe, the person will have to avoid socialising as much as possible for another three days after they stopped self-isolating, and use FFP2 or surgical face masks.
The updated regime will kick in on Monday and will also apply to those who will have been self-isolating before that day, said Mateja Logar, the head of the government's Covid advisory group.
An agreement with rapid testing providers will soon be made to set time slots for those wanting to get tested to end their self-isolation after seven full days.
For asymptomatic infected people, the self-isolation period starts on the day of the positive PCR test, whereas in the case of people with symptoms and a PCR confirmed infection, the first day of symptoms marks the start, she added.
In accordance with the rules of the European Covid pass, the issuance of a QR code for those who have recovered from Covid is possible from the eleventh day after a positive PCR test, so from the eighth through the tenth day since testing positive, people will not have a valid QR code.
The proposal to reduce self-isolation time was given by experts at the Infectious Diseases Department at the UKC Ljubljana medical centre, and was later endorsed by the advisory group.
This comes after calls for shortening self-isolation by business representatives who have been noting Covid-related staff shortages amid the Omicron wave.
"We know that the Omicron variant is highly infectious and that people who have been vaccinated or who have had Covid-19 are less safe than they were from previous variants. This is why the number of isolations and quarantines is increasing rapidly, crippling healthcare, education, the economy, the entire society," Tomažič said.
"By taking a pragmatic approach to reducing the duration of isolation and quarantine, we're adapting to the wishes to keep society functioning, while at the same time acknowledging the additional risk of human-to-human transmission," he added.
Logar meanwhile reiterated the distinction between self-isolation and quarantine, explaining that the former was to separate people who are ill with a contagious disease from people who are not ill, whereas the latter was to separate and restrict the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become ill or not.
Despite the slightly milder Covid-19 in most people infected with Omicron, the huge increase in infections could lead to an increase in the number of patients in the coming weeks, Logar warned.
Moreover, the high number of self-isolations and quarantines in the younger population could lead to problems in the functioning of public services and critical infrastructure. The advisory group is therefore not yet considering relaxing measures.
So far, self-isolation time has been at least ten days depending on the course of the disease.
STA, 20 January 2022 - The Slovenian lynx population appears to have come back from the brink of extinction and is now thriving thanks to animals that had been relocated from Romania and Slovakia to expand the heavily inbred population's gene pool.
There were at least 24 adult lynxes in the Dinaric part of Slovenia in 2020/2021, and an additional five in the Alps, where the animals were reintroduced last year, shows the latest report by Life Lynx, an EU-backed project.
Together with the animals in neighbouring Croatia, the border-spanning population now numbers 100 adults.
As part of the Life Lynx project, 13 animals have been relocated, four to Croatia and nine to Slovenia. Four more animals will be introduced this year.
All the relocated lynxes are GPS-collared so that researchers can monitor their movement.
Rok Černe, the head of the Life Lynx project, said four of the relocated lynxes had become an established part of the population, while three have not been sighted for a long time.
Researchers confirmed five litters of lynx kittens in Slovenia in 2020/2021.
Inbreeding is the biggest threat to the population and researchers are keeping a close eye on the genetics.
Analyses conducted so far indicate that the relocation of the wild cats has stopped the deterioration of the gene pool.
If the relocated animals continue to reproduce, the degree of inbreeding could soon drop to levels not seen since 1980, according to Biotechnical Faculty researcher Tomaž Skrbinšek.
The lynx population on the territory of present-day Slovenia was brought to extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, with hunters starting to think about repopulating the area with the species at the beginning of the 1970s.
In 1973, six lynxes were released in the woods near Kočevje in the south. The population rebounded in the subsequent years but became heavily inbred, hence the need for relocations from the Carpathian Mountains.
STA, 19 January 2022 - Members of an autonomous social and cultural community that had squatted the defunct Ljubljana bicycle factory Rog for years before being forcefully removed from the premises a year ago warned at a press conference on Wednesday of what they perceive as shrinking of the public space. They also reiterated that the eviction had been illegal.
Addressing the press to mark the first anniversary of the eviction, the squatters said that many of them had lost their home during the eviction, a place to create and work, while in a wider sense an important hub for promoting self-organisation, developing a critical, anti-authoritative thought and solidarity and support has been lost.
They believe Rog was "one of the last strongholds of the culture of living that is not, cannot and will not be a commodity".
The Rog premises were not empty when the demolition started and the Ljubljana municipality crashed into the building without a court order or a bailiff, they said, adding that the police had participated in this illegal activity, preventing residents from accessing their belongings and animals.
They claim that the municipality then tried to conceal the crime by misleading the media and launching a smear campaign against the "victims of the mayor's violence".
Many Rog squatters have lost everything in the ruins, including trust, and nothing has happened in the past year that would restore their trust in the city's policies.
They still do not know where to find their belongings, and finding a place to live and work that would at least to some extent compensate for what has been lost has become increasingly difficult.
"The city is becoming increasingly closed as a public space, controlled and cleansed of any 'anomalies', so many of us feel like we no longer belong here," they stressed.
A rally against social cleansing of the city has been announced for 6pm in the Tabor park to point to privatisation of public space in the city, and adjusting to tourism and other businesses while citizens, especially those who are not well-off are increasingly being pushed to the margins and the social bottom.
A group of culture workers joined the activities marking the anniversary of Rog eviction. They said the rally would be a "political campaign, which will also present art installations, performances and other ways of expression to show how public space can be filled and clearly say that the city belongs to the people not the interests of the capital".
The Ljubljana city authorities launched construction work on the site of the former Rog factory on 19 January 2021. Squatters were forcefully removed from the premises with the help of police. In April the public institute Rog Centre was founded.
The new Rog Centre is to house more than 500 artists and creative groups at more than 8,000 m2, according to the municipality. It will also feature 20 new production halls that will be available for short- or long-term use to different production groups.
The project has been estimated at EUR 27.6 million.