News

22 Jul 2022, 11:06 AM

STA, 21 July 2022 - The government decided on Thursday to cap as of 1 September gas prices for households, small companies and basic social service providers. Excise duty remains halved, while VAT will be reduced from 22% to 9.5%. The government also tasked the country's main gas supplier to draft an action plan for complete suspension of Russian gas in three years.

The prices of gas for households will be capped at EUR 0.07300 per kW7/h excluding VAT, while the cap for small commercial users and social services providers will be set at EUR 0.07900 per kW/h excluding VAT.

The cap will be in place for a year, Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer told the press after the government session.

He explained that basic social service providers include hospitals, student dorms, retirement homes and prisons, while the small commercial users are defined as companies whose annual consumption does not exceed 100,000 kW/h.

Per year, average households buying gas from cheap providers will save about 10% or EUR 90-130, while those buying from expensive providers will see their annual bill decrease between EUR 170-675 or by between 13% and 37%, Kumer said, adding that additional energy aid payments would also be introduced for the poor.

Average social services providers buying gas from cheap suppliers will reduce their annual bill by up to EUR 1,390 or 11%. Those buying from suppliers with moderate prices will save up to EUR 8,710 a year or 44%, while those buying from the most expensive suppliers will save up to EUR 13,590 a year or 55%.

Small businesses buying from cheap suppliers will save EUR 205-313 a year or 10%, while those buying from expensive suppliers will save EUR 350-1,420 or between 11% and 34%.

As was the case with electricity, the government decided to extend the 50% reduction of gas excise duty. Moreover, the VAT reduction from 22% to 9.5% will not apply only to gas but also to electricity, Kumer said.

He added that the changes would be codified in emergency legislation that is to be drafted during the summer. Prime Minister Robert Golob said yesterday that this legislation would be presented to political party leaders at the end of August.

Kumer also said today that measures for big businesses would be drafted in the second half of August or the first half of September. These measures will be even more targetted than the ones presented so far, he said, adding the measures would be very specific, written "almost for individual cases".

"We will continue adopting measures so that all needed mechanisms will be in place in September to allow households and companies to worry less during autumn and winter," said Kumer.

The minister also said the government had tasked Plinovodi, Slovenia's main gas supplier, to draft an action plan together with gas import companies and the Infrastructure Ministry for complete suspension of Russian gas in the next three years.

The move comes after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advised member state to reduce gas consumption by 15%.

The Energy Chamber commented on the Commission's appeal earlier today, saying the reduction was a responsibility of everybody. It also called for measures that would support a shift to greater dependence on electricity.

The chamber also said that a suspension of Russian gas supply would likely be harder for Slovenia than for countries of western Europe, with the business sector bearing the brunt of the burden. Last year, households used only 13% of imported gas, the chamber said.

22 Jul 2022, 06:45 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA:

Govt caps gas prices, commissions plan for weaning off Russian gas

LJUBLJANA - The government decided to cap as of 1 September gas prices for households, small companies and basic social service providers. Excise duty remains halved, while VAT will be reduced from 22% to 9.5%. The government also tasked the country's main gas supplier to draft an action plan for complete suspension of Russian gas in three years. The prices of gas for households will be capped at EUR 0.07300 per kW7/h excluding VAT, while the cap for small commercial users and social services providers will be set at EUR 0.07900 per kW/h excluding VAT.

Govt approves EU-funded anti-poverty programme

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a 2021-2027 programme aiming to address material deprivation, making available EUR 32.6 million in funds, of which EUR 29.4 million will come from the European Social Fund (ESF+), the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said in a press release. The key objective is to provide help to people most at risk of poverty with food and other measures so as to boost social inclusion and contribute to poverty eradication.

Govt extends low excise duties

LJUBLJANA - The government extended the reduction of energy excise duties, the government Communications Office said in a press release. The reduced duties will be in place until the government decides otherwise. The excise duty for petrol will remain at EUR 0.359 a litre, for diesel at EUR 0.330 a litre, for heating oil at EUR 0.07875 a litre and natural gas for heating at EUR 0.86 per MWh.

MPs move to delay implementation of long-term care act

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly decided in a 51:24 vote to change the long-term care act to postpone its entry into force by over a year to April 2024. The opposition, which sponsored the act in the previous term, was critical of the fact that the motion was fast-tracked through parliament. In presenting the motion, Labour Ministry State Secretary Simon Maljevac said the changes would enable better pay for care home employees and new hiring. The additional money will also be used to prevent the care home residents and their relatives to be affected by price hikes.

Changes to the RTV Slovenija act passed in re-vote, SDS seeks referendum

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed in a re-vote changes to the RTV Slovenija act that overhaul the governing bodies of the public broadcaster so that their members will no longer be appointed by parliament, political parties or the government. The vote comes after the lower chamber of parliament vetoed the changes on Wednesday. 50 MPs voted for the changes and 24 against. To override the veto 46 votes were needed. The opposition Democrats (SDS) filed some 6,200 voter signatures to initiate proceedings for a referendum.

MPs overturn omnibus bill veto

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly has overridden the National Assembly's veto of an omnibus bill amending 11 acts to reverse what have been deemed harmful legislative changes passed by the previous government. The move came with a 49 to 24 vote, a day after the upper chamber's veto. The bill was passed by the lower chamber last week with 52 votes in favour.

Kras blaze intensifies again

KOSTANJEVICA NA KRASU - After subsiding during the night, the wildfire in the Kras region intensified again in the morning in three separate locations. Three villages were evacuated due to the smoke. In the evening, the people from the villages of Temnica, Vojščica and Novela were told they can return to their homes, while firefighters continue to fight the blaze in three separate locations near the villages of Nova Vas, Vojščica and between Cerje and Trstelje. This is largest fire in history of independent Slovenia with more than 2,000 hectares of land affected.

President Pahor to visit Turkey in August

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor will make a state visit to Turkey on 9 and 10 August at the invitation of his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president's office announced. Apart from holding talks with Erdogan, Pahor will also address the annual meeting of Turkish diplomats to discuss security challenges in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The presidents will exchange views on the war in Ukraine and the future development of EU-Turkey relations, among other things.

Coronavirus curve to reach peak next week

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia reported 1,829 new cases of coronavirus for Wednesday, an increase of almost 5% from the same day week ago, and five deaths among patients with Covid-19, which is the highest daily death toll since 4 May. Janez Žibert, a modelling expert of the Ljubljana Faculty of Health Sciences who is a member of the Covid-19 task force affiliated with the NIJZ, projected that the summer wave of infections to peak next week before it will either plateau or start falling.

Consumer confidence lowest since outset of Covid epidemic

LJUBLJANA - Consumer confidence in Slovenia in July was at its lowest point since April 2020, the first month after the outset of the Covid-19 epidemic, with the value of the relevant indicator dropping by six percentage points compared to June to -39 points. Statistics Office data shows the drop was caused mainly by the considerably more pessimistic expectations about the economic situation in the country, which was down by 12 percentage points on a monthly basis.

S&P places Petrol on credit watch over fuel prices regulation

LJUBLJANA - The ratings firm Standard & Poor's (S&P) has placed Petrol, Slovenia's motor fuel market leader, on credit watch with a negative outlook after the government intervened on the motor fuel market. This could lead to a downgrade in the company's credit rating by one notch from BBB- to BB+ in the coming months. The ratings agency assessed that, given the current situation, the company's financial risk has not deteriorated.

Eight get a total of 28 years in prison for drug trafficking

LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court found eight people guilty of drug trafficking and related criminal acts and sentenced them to a total of 28 years in prison on Wednesday. The ruling is not yet final, and the sentencing of the alleged leader of the ring has been postponed to autumn after both him and his defence counsel fell ill. The ring planned to transport 30 kilos of cocaine from Ecuador to the Slovenian port of Koper and the Croatian port of Rijeka, but the plan had not been fully implemented.

More than 50 events at Arsana music festival in Ptuj

PTUJ - The 14th annual Arsana festival is getting under way on Thursday in Ptuj, Slovenia's oldest city, to feature more than 50 events and more than 250 musicians and other artists until 3 September. The festival will open with an admission-free concert in Slovenski Trg, the town's central square, performed by participants in the summer music workshop, followed by an electro opera by Raiven in Muzikafe.

Maribor with goalless draw against Sheriff

MARIBOR - The Slovenian football champions Maribor opened the second round of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League with the Moldovan champions FC Sheriff with a goalless draw at home on Wednesday evening. Who will travel to the next round will be decided next week in Tiraspol. The second leg will be played next Tuesday in Tiraspol, the capital of the Transnistria region. The winner will advance to the third round.

21 Jul 2022, 16:39 PM

UPDATED Wednesday, 27 July 16:00

New Fires in Kras

STA, 27 July 2022 - Firefighters kept putting out flames rekindled at the site of the huge wildfire in Kras for the third night running after the fire was contained on Sunday as a new fire broke out on the other side of Trstelj, the area's highest peak, and is now spreading in the peak's direction.

According to the regional Civil Protection headquarters, the new fire started at around 1am above the village of Šibelji in the Komen municipality, on the slope of a 567-metre hill called Veliki Ovčjak. The flames are being fanned by winds and are spreading toward the Železna Vrata pass and Trstelj (643m).

The new fire broke out on the part of the ridge that has so far not been affected by the wildfire that was contained on Sunday after destroying more than 3,500 hectares of brush, meadows and other types of farmland.

By the afternoon, firefighters had managed to contain the fire almost completely except for the northern side of the fire, which is not yet fully under control, the head of the intervention Blaž Turk told reporters.

Spanning about 20 hectares, the fire is being controlled by 179 firefighters and two army helicopters.

The firefighting in what is a steep terrain is obstructed by a strong bora wind. The head of the fire was localised about a kilometre away from the previous fire so the flames could not have jumped over.

Komen Mayor Erik Modic said the fire was obviously a case of arson. "The fire is not in the immediate vicinity of the previous fire site [...] The second indication is that, although we had a lightning storm here yesterday, the nearest lightning strike was some 100 metres away from the centre of this fire, so in all likelihood there is a human factor involved here."

Plain-clothes police are on the ground looking for potential evidence. "Those who are considering arson should now we're watching them," said the mayor.

The long-expected rain on Tuesday did little to help the firefighters keeping watch over the site of the largest fire in Slovenia's history. Just after 5am this morning a hot spot was detected above Miren and all the units active during the night were deployed there. During the night 58 firefighters were on the site after 143 battled the flames on Tuesday with the help of 44 fire engines.

In total, more than 10,000 firefighters have so far been involved in the effort to put out the Kras wildfire as well as aircraft from several countries.

Kras Under Control, Prevention Measures Announced

STA, 24 July 2022 - Prime Minister Robert Golob and President Borut Pahor visited the Kras region in western Slovenia on Sunday where a large fire has been raging for ten days and now appears to be under control. Golob announced measures aimed at tackling the consequences of the blaze, as well as measures to prevent additional fire outbreaks of this magnitude.

Simon Vendramin, the intervention's head, believes that the fire is under control now, but the area will have to be observed for a few more days to make sure the blaze does not re-emerge.

He is optimistic about the future developments though. Only a few hotspots remain in the northern part of the fire area, where individual underground fires are popping up. These are being detected by a helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera, and then extinguished by support from the air.

Firefighters are still mainly mopping up and making sure there are no new fires on the fire edge. There are some 1,500 firefighters on the ground currently, a number that is expected to be reduced slightly during Sunday night. A decision on this will be taken in the evening, Vendramin said.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who also visited the area, told the press that in total, some 2,000 people were actively involved in the efforts to put out the fire today as he thanked all of them.

Erik Spačal of the Kostanjevica na Krasu volunteer fire department advises against gathering near the burnt areas and observing them, as this would be very dangerous. Moreover, it would make firefighters' work more difficult, he warned.

Prime Minister Golob also confirmed that the fire was finally under control. What follows now is a fire watch that will be funded by the government and not by the Miren - Kostanjevica municipality, damage estimates and measures to prevent additional fires of such an extent, he said.

Fire watch efforts are by law financed by municipalities, but the prime minister said that in this case Miren - Kostanjevica would be financially drained in a few weeks if this burden befell it, so he vowed to extend the national civil protection plan to include a fire watch.

Next, the damage will be assessed, both to personal property and forests.

The third step will be to take measures to prevent such fires. "We will approach an ambitious and extensive prevention plan by the autumn at the latest," Golob said.

He has already spoken to the mayors of the local municipalities about the measures, all of which are feasible but will require some political will, he added.

President Pahor also visited the regional Civil Protection in Kostanjevica na Krasu today to get briefed on the state of play. He thanked all who have been participating in the extinguishing efforts, pointing to the remarkable solidarity that has been shown since the fire started, his office said.

"The spirit of solidarity is not only present among Slovenians, but also more widely. All this gives hope to the Kras people that this will be over," he told Radio Slovenija.

After announcing that he and his daughter Taja will donate the same amount that the government will allocate for firefighters and volunteers, prominent local businessman Ivo Boscarol told Radio Slovenija today that these people were true heroes. "In such conditions, all of us who can help must do so to let them know that we are with them and that we appreciate what they have done."

Samo Kosmač, regional commander of the north Primorska region Civil Protection, thanked the government and Boscarol for their support. The Civil Protection provided logistical support to firefighters in the form of food, drinks, transport and accommodation, he said.

Slovenia's Lieutenant Colonel Nina Raduha said the Slovenian army was proud to have helped bring the fire under control. She noted that Romania's Spartan aircraft had played an important role in this and underlined the importance of cooperation.

STA, 23 July 2022 - More than 1,000 firefighters and more than 260 foresters are still on the ground as the fire in the Kras region in western Slovenia continues to rage. Several helicopters, a Pilatus military aircraft and a Croatian Canadair water bomber also take part in the effort that is now focused on the Trstelj hill and surrounding villages.

A few more helicopters that had been active in the past days are on their way from abroad, while the aid from three aircraft of the Romanian Armed Forces has also been approved through the European aid mechanism.

Two Spartan aircraft that can load up 6,000 litres of water and are comparable to Canadair have arrived from Romania to Ljubljana airport in the afternoon, in addition to a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, which will serve as support.

Also coming are 800 firefighters from other Slovenian regions to relieve the exhausted colleagues who have guarded the perimeter around Opatje Selo over the night. New hot spots also popped up in Korita na Krasu and Hudi Log.

While the firefighters are battling the fire that devastated a vast area in Kras, the foresters, including 30 employees of the Slovenian State Forests (SDG) company, are clearing up corridors and cutting down the vegetation around endangered villages.

The Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) also participate in the effort with a helicopter and around 130 soldiers on the ground. They are helping with the logistics and in the supply of water and medical services.

The SAF has eight water tanks with the total capacity of 60,000 litres on the ground, while the helicopters are being supplied with fuel from two fuel tanks, said lieutenant colonel Nina Raduha, adding that the soldiers were also distributing warm meals.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who is again at the site today, said that all the effort had to be focused on "enclosing" the fire as much as possible. He added that a Hungarian CASA fire-fighting aircraft was also on its way to the fire site.

Šarec assessed the flight control as excellent, saying that "it is a great challenge to coordinate as many aircraft in such a small space and avoid collisions", and noting that visibility was very poor at the fire site due to smoke.

The minister said that the wind was picking up again "so we cannot say that we can be at peace" and that precipitation had been
forecast only for next Tuesday. "We must focus on enclosing the fire, as relying on rain is not a good firefighting tactics."

Šarec said that all available aircraft were in the air - in addition to two Slovenian military and one police helicopter, helicopters from Austria, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia have also joined the effort.

The firefighting effort is focused on Trstelj, the tallest hill in the area, the village of Renče, some 10 km south of the city of Nova Gorica, and the surrounding hamlets and the forested areas of the edge of Kras.

The regional Civil Protection centre has announced that residents of six villages and hamlets in the municipality of Miren-Kostanjevica can return to their homes after being evacuated on Friday.

In certain hamlets, the fire came dangerously close to buildings, with a lodge between Renče and Trstelj being burned down, Renče-Vogrsko mayor Tarik Žigon told the STA, adding that this was the only material damage so far.

As the weather forecast is not promising, and the situation is changing rapidly, although the fire in Renče has calmed down, he said, noting that the locals remained on high alert.

"As far as I know, a strong southerly wind is again forecast for the afternoon, so they are concerned that yesterday's scenario could repeat," Žigon said.

Issues are also being caused by the smoke, which has spread from Kras to the north-east, reaching the region of Gorenjska and central Slovenia. The Slovenian coast is also shrouded in smoke that causes respiratory problems and eye irritation.

The government announced yesterday compensations for the volunteer firefighters for the time they take off from work. Those fighting the fire up to eight hours a day will receive EUR 63, while those working for longer hours will get EUR 94.50.

This prompted local entrepreneur Ivo Boscarol to announce that he would donate to the government the same amount as it earmarked for the firefighters. "The doubled amount of the reward goes to those for whom we keep fingers crossed these days," he said.

The Defence Ministry announced that Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin visited the fire site today, meeting Defence Minister Šarec in the Civil Protection centre in Kostanjevica na Krasu.

As the Serbian police force participates in the fire-fighting effort with two helicopters and crews, Vulin noted in a press statement the importance of mutual aid, as no country can handle a fire like the one in Slovenia on its own.

He said it was a great honour to be able to help Slovenia and conveyed the good wishes of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

Slovenian Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar also met Vulin as he arrived in Slovenia, with both her and Šarec thanking the Serbian minister for the aid that "is more than needed and welcome in the given situation."

Fires has meanwhile also broke out in several locations in the Hrpelje-Kozina municipality in the south-west. Firefighters are currently battling a wildfire on the Kotel hill near the Slavnik mountain.

The terrain is difficult to access and firefighters are unable to come close to the fire, so they are being assisted by a Slovenian police helicopter.

New Evacuations in Kras as 1,000+ Firefighters Battle Blaze (Videos)

STA, 22 July - People from three villages in the Kras region in the west are being evacuated as the wind changed direction on Friday in what is the third evacuation of local population this week. This time, the situation is critical in Opatje Selo, Nova Vas and Hudi Log. Journalists must also leave the villages.

Almost 1,000 firefighters and 300 other members of disaster relief services keep battling the huge blaze in the region, along with 130 foresters, who are cutting down trees to stop the fire. More than 2,000 hectares of land has been affected by the fire.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec is at the site for the third day running. He said the situation was still very serious. Firefighters are doing their best to prevent the fire from crossing the roads to Trstelj and are also defending a building near Opatje Selo.

The danger of unexploded ordnance from the First World War remains an issue. Today a shrapnel from the ordnance that exploded due to the heat flew by the firefighters who were in the vicinity but luckily no one was hurt.

"The problem is that because of the unexploded ordnance firefighting units cannot penetrate into the fire but can only act on its edges. This is why the fire is being intensively fought from the air as well," Šarec said.

Below: The location of Opatje Selo, one of the affected villages

Two Slovenian helicopters and a military aircraft are engaged in these efforts along with helicopters from Slovakia, Austria and two from Serbia, Two more expected from Hungary.

The minister had no information on whether a water bomber from any of the neighbouring countries would again be able to help today or not.

Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar and acting Police Commissioner Boštjan Lindav arrived at the site today, and PM Robert Golob is expected.

Bobnar told the press that the state will purchase a new helicopter that will be intended for fire-fighting, and also for emergency medical and mountain rescue.

Arriving in Kostanjevica na Krasu, she expressed "moral support, admiration and all other support" to all those battling the blaze, adding that the government would do everything in its power to help them.

The Slovenian firefighters' association has launched a fund-raising campaign for the firefighters. Those who wish to help can send an SMS with the word GSILEC5 to 1919 and donate 5 euro or transfer money to a special account TRR SI56 0400 1004 6481 225.

The fire is also being monitored by the EU Copernicus system, designed to monitor the Earth and run by the European Commission and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme in cooperation with the European Space Agency and EU countries.

Copernicus has been monitoring the fire since Thursday at the request of the Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief. The situation can be monitored at here.

Forest restoration is expected to be challenging.

Branka Gašparič, the head of the Sežana unit of the Forest Institute, told the STA efforts had been made for years to create roads and areas preventing the spread of fires, which are frequent in the region.

Now, as villages are being defended from the blaze, people have been cutting trees, expanding these areas to prevent the fire from expanding further, she said.

The most problematic species in Kras in terms of fires is black pine because of its resin and etheric oils. But the species has also proven to be the most appropriate for forest restoration, so it will be used for this purpose now as well to help vegetation recover quicker, Gašperič said.

Black pines will be the foundation in reforestation, followed by oak trees and other species adjusted to heat. Some parts of the land affected by the fire will be left to recover on their own, she said.

Kras used to be covered in forests, but after cutting of forests started the region was virtually devoid of trees in the early 19th century. Several waves of reforestation followed and around 1850 reforestation companies were being founded. Yet first attempts at planting deciduous trees were not particularly successful.

It was only in the 19th century as black pine gained prominence and appropriate legislation was put in place that forests started growing again in Kras. Between 1945 and 154, the efforts brought notable results and around 4,000 hectares of land was turned into forests again.

Evacuees from three villages returning to their homes

STA, 21 July 2022- The people from the villages of Temnica, Vojščica and Novela who were evacuated this morning are returning to their homes, as firefighters continue to fight the blaze in three separated locations near the villages of Nova Vas, Vojščica and between Cerje and Trstelje.

Massive work is being done from the air as well with a Croatian water bomber again joining the operation in the afternoon along with a Slovakian helicopter.

The main goal is to keep the fire line away from the Temnica - Renče road, the regional centre of the Civil Protection for northern Primorska said.

According to the centre, more than 1,000 Slovenian firefighters have also been joined by nine Croatian.

Civil Protection boss Srečko Šestan said the firefighters were trying to prevent the fire from spreading to Trstelj.

Web portal 24ur.com reported that about 400 people had been evacuated from Temnica, Vojščica and Novela. They gathered in Komen, where around 300 beds could be secured but the Civil Protection said in the evening the situation had stabilised to the point that they will be able to spend the night in their homes.

"Local residents were evacuated because of the smoke," 24ur.com quoted Defence Minister Marjan Šarec as saying.

Reportedly, 40 head of cattle was also evacuated.

In a statement for the STA earlier today Šestan said the emergence of new fires had been unpredictable and it was difficult to assess whether they started because of the existing blaze or some other reasons.

Šarec told the STA flying in the area was very demanding due to low visibility, so two coordinators are working to prevent collisions among helicopters and planes.

The fire is also sparking explosions of unexploded ordnance from the First World War. Darko Zonjič of the national unit for the protection against unexploded ordnance told the STA they stopped counting the explosions.

Only the explosions close to roads are being marked, and the sites will be inspected later. "There were quite a few explosions over the night as well, as the temperatures at the fire site are much higher," he said.

Every explosive device found outside the fire zone is being eliminated, Zonjič said, noting that so far some 70 grenades had been collected. The largest mine was a 250-millimetre German-made mine, weighing 42 kilogrammes.

The Slovenian army has been helping fight the fire for the sixth day today with choppers and the Pilatus transport aircraft. In the five days, about 900,000 litres of water has been dropped to the site, the army said on its web site.

END OF UPDATE

STA, 21 July 2022 - After calming down a bit over the night, the wildfire in the Kras region has intensified again, with the firefighters currently battling the blaze in three separated locations. Three villages are being evacuated as the area effected by the fire has exceeded 2,000 hectares, as reported by Civil Protection officials.

Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan told the STA that this is the largest fire in history of independent Slovenia. "This is the first estimate", he said, noting that the "fire is nowhere near its end."

Giving the firefighters the most trouble is the fire near Klariči, a hamlet below the Kraški Rob fault near the Italian border. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, announced the regional Civil Protection headquarters.

They are being assisted by helicopters of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and of the police and three helicopters from abroad - Austria, Slovakia and Croatia, as well as the Pilatus transport aircraft of the SAF.

The army has also ensured a medical unit, and will also prepare meals for the firefighters on the ground. Police officers are meanwhile working on evacuating endangered residents from the villages of Temnice, Vojščice and Novela.

Ambulances and first aid teams from the Nova Gorica area are also on high alert, while employees of the Forest Service are helping the effort by guiding the firefighters and clearing up corridors to help stop the fire from spreading.

The fire is also sparking explosions of unexploded ordnance from the First World War. Darko Zonjič of the national unit for the protection against unexploded ordnance told the STA they stopped counting the explosions.

Only the explosions close to roads are being marked, and the sites will be inspected later. "There were quite a few explosions over the night as well, as the temperatures at the fire site are much higher," he said.

On Wednesday, 18 pieces of unexploded ordnance were removed from the villages of Sela na Krasu and Korita, and two were removed today, Zonjič said.

21 Jul 2022, 12:43 PM

STA, 21 July 2022 - The Environment Agency (ARSO) has warned of high temperatures in the coming days, with the heat wave expected to peak on Saturday, when temperatures could climb up to 39 degrees Celsius. Some cooling off is expected during the night on Sunday and the heat wave is forecast to end next Tuesday or Wednesday.

In addition to south-western Slovenia, the ARSO has issued the highest heat alert level for central and south-eastern Slovenia.

"Temperatures are expected to reach around 38 degrees, perhaps even 39, which could be a heat record for July, in particular for central Slovenia," said meteorologist Brane Gregorčič.

The highest temperature ever measured in Ljubljana in July is 37.6 degrees Celsius, which could be exceeded on Saturday, while record-breaking temperatures are also expected in other parts of the country.

Slightly lower temperatures, with the exception of the western region of Primorska, are expected during the night on Sunday.

A drop in temperatures and the most likely end of the heat wave is forecast for next Tuesday and Wednesday. The cooling off will bring some precipitation that Gregorčič said could at least partly alleviate the current drought.

"The last month that was at least somewhat wet in western and central Slovenia was April," he said, noting that the drought was most pronounced in Primorska and certain parts of the northern Gorenjska region and in Notranjska (SW).

Hydrologist Andrej Golob noted that the expected rainfall in the coming week would alleviate water shortages, but would not fully solve the issue of groundwater shortage. This would require several consecutive rainy spells, he added.

No strong winds are expected today and on Friday. Nevertheless, a mistral is expected to blow from the sea to the heated inland area during the day. A weak bora is also forecast for Friday, blowing in the opposite direction of the mistral.

The major wildfire in Kras has caused the air quality in the area to deteriorate, while poorer air quality is also reported in the areas of the Koper, Postojna and Nova Gorica municipalities, the office of the mayor of Koper announced.

21 Jul 2022, 11:48 AM

STA, 21 July 2022 - The Ljubljana District Court has found eight people guilty of drug trafficking and related criminal acts and sentenced them to a total of 28 years in prison. The ruling is not yet final, and the sentencing of the alleged leader of the ring has been postponed to autumn due to illness.

Jure Močnik, Branko Šćulija, Samir Velić, Anis Ličina, Jure Slaviček, Luka Korošec Lazić, Svetlan Stjepić and Jernej Kotnik were found guilty of unlawful manufacture and trade of narcotic drugs, illicit substances in sport and precursors to manufacture narcotic drugs as the court declared the ruling on Wednesday.

Stjepić and Šćulija received the highest sentences - seven and a half years in prison each, and a fine of EUR 10,000.

Ličina and Kotnik were sentenced to three years and a half years in prison each, with the former being also slapped with a EUR 7,000 fine, and the latter with a EUR 6,000 fine.

Slaviček and Močnik were sentenced to two and a half years in prison and got a EUR 5,000 fine each, while Korošec Lazić was sentenced to year and a half in prison and will have to pay a EUR 2,000 fine.

The panel of judges, chaired by Srečko Škerbec, found that it was a typical, hierarchically organised criminal ring that carefully checked undercover police officers, including the addresses of their residences, and photographed their documents.

In agreement with the undercover police officers, they planned to transport 30 kilos of cocaine from Ecuador to the Slovenian port of Koper and the Croatian port of Rijeka, but the scheme had not been fully implemented.

Ring members have been found guilty of trading in heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, hashish and amphetamines from September 2017 to January 2020 in Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, to earn at least EUR 1.3 million.

A total of 33 people had been initially charged, and the trial has ended for 13 people, who did not immediately plead guilty. Five people have been acquitted due to lack of evidence.

The trial took place without the chief defendant, Aleš Zupančič, who fell ill a few weeks ago. His lawyer was expected to deliver closing arguments yesterday, but she had also fallen ill, so this part of the trial was postponed to the autumn.

21 Jul 2022, 08:56 AM

UPDATED: 11:30am
STA
, 21 July 2022 - The massive fire that raged in the region of Kras on the border between Slovenia and Italy, south of Nova Gorica, has been contained to two isolated fires, and firefighters continue to fight it, including from the air. Most of the residents of the four villages that had been preventively evacuated on Wednesday have returned to their homes.

The firefighters had a difficult night having to battle two isolated fires near Kostanjevica na Krasu, the area where the fire had gotten dangerously close to houses, said Stanko Močnik, who commanded the overnight effort.

Both hotspots have been brought under control and contained, he said, while Ervin Čurlič of the regional Civil Protection headquarters told the STA that over the night, the fire near Kostanjevica had broken out twice after already being put out.

This is due to unexploded ordnance dating back to the First World War, because of which it is not possible for firefighters to approach the centre of the fire, he said, adding that both fires had nevertheless been contained.

Čurlič fears that the fire could start spreading again if the wind picked up again. It is difficult to forecast the wind situation for today, as it is changing rapidly, he added.

As the fire cannot be attacked directly from the ground, the only option for putting it out is from the air by helicopters of the Slovenian Armed Forces. These could not be flown at night, and will again be engaged during the day today.

The Pilatus aircraft will also be used for the effort, and a Croatian Canadair water bomber is said to be also available.

More than 800 firefighters were on the ground during the night, and new units are coming to Kras today to relieve them, the regional Civil Protection headquarters reported.

Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan assessed for the public broadcaster TV Slovenija on Wednesday evening that it was the largest fire ever in Slovenia, which destroyed vast areas of forest and undergrowth. Houses have been spared.

Around a hundred people were preventively evacuated from parts of Miren as well as the villages of Sela na Krasu, Hudi Log, Korita na Krasu and Nova Vas on Wednesday afternoon. Most of them were able to return to their homes by the evening.

The wider area remains engulfed in smoke that is irritating to the respiratory system and eyes, so the health authorities have recommended that people stay indoors.

The smoke has reached the Slovenian coast, with reports saying that visibility in the port city of Koper has been reduced to one kilometre.

Fires are burning also on the Italian side of the border, with the village of Jamiano being the most endangered. As of this morning, firefighters are being aided by a helicopter and a Canadair water bomber, the Trieste-based newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported.

21 Jul 2022, 06:51 AM

Check the date at the top of the page, and you can find all the "morning headlines" stories here. You can also follow us on Facebook and get all the news in your feed.

This summary is provided by the STA:

First round of presidential election to be held on 23 October

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will hold the first round of election to pick its fifth president on 23 October under a decision taken on Wednesday by Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič. Under law, a potential second run-off between the two candidates wining the most votes needs to be held within 21 days after the first round, with the most likely date being 13 November. President-elect is expected to be sworn in on 23 December, a day after the second five-year term of incumbent Borut Pahor ends. Candidates will be able to submit their bids starting from 22 August.

Speaker calls local elections for 20 November

LJUBLJANA - National Assembly Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič called local elections for 20 November with the run-off mayoral elections in the municipalities that fail to elect their mayor in the first round to follow on 4 December. The mayoral run-offs will wrap up the super election year in Slovenia after the country already held a general election in April and the speaker called the first round of the presidential election for 23 October today. The date of regular local elections is fixed by law as the third Sunday of November in the election year.

Elections to National Council called as current term nears end

LJUBLJANA - Parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič set 23-24 November as the dates for the elections to the National Council as the incumbent councillors will have their five-year terms expire in end-December. The vote for the upper chamber of parliament will be an indirect vote involving interest organisations and local communities. The National Council consists of 40 councillors, 22 of whom represent local interests. Members of the upper chamber are elected indirectly, by electors picked by municipalities and individual interest organisations.

Opposition not in disagreement with cost-of-living measures planned by govt

LJUBLJANA - Political leaders and energy professionals met for a cost-of-living meeting, after which Prime Minister Robert Golob listed several measures the government is to adopt before autumn, including VAT cuts and gas price regulation. He described the meeting as constructive, while opposition leaders indicated support. "We need to act swiftly and decisively to protect the most vulnerable groups with targetted measures, while at the next stage we must not forget the business sector and make sure the economy does not come to a standstill," said Golob.

Several villages in Kras evacuated due to fire

LJUBLJANA - Some 1,000 firefighters from all across the country and several aircraft have been battling a vast fire in the Kras area all day. Prime Minister Robert Golob told TV Slovenija in the evening that the fire, which had spread across 1,000 hectares, was under control and that no houses burnt down. Earlier in the day, about 300 people from the villages of Sela na Krasu, Hudi Log, Korita na Krasu, Nova Vas and Miren had to be evacuated, but most of them have been allowed to return to their homes, MMC said. Golob announced an emergency law to help the locals and increasing capacities for fighting fires from the air.

Nemec proposes EU firefighting plane to be stationed in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA/BRUSSELS, Belgium - As fires have been raging across Europe in recent weeks, MEP Matjaž Nemec (S&D/SD) sent an initiative to European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, proposing that a firefighting plane from the civil protection mechanism rescEU be permanently stationed in Slovenia or the somewhere in the northern Adriatic region.

Upper chamber vetoes two laws, MPs to vote on them again tomorrow

LJUBLJANA - The National Council vetoed two laws today, an omnibus act passed by the lower chamber of parliament to reverse what have been deemed as harmful measures of the previous government and the government-sponsored changes to overhaul the governing bodies of the public broadcaster so that their members will no longer be appointed by parliament, political parties or the government. The National Assembly will vote on both laws tomorrow and the ruling coalition has a comfortable enough majority to override the vetos.

Minister calls for investment in education, research as way to innovation

PRAGUE, Czechia - Speaking at an informal meeting of EU ministers in charge of competition, Economy Minister Matjaž Han stressed the importance of public and private investment in education, research and skills for boosting innovation. According to the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the ministers discussed ways to integrate industries from regions with less innovation into the new European and global movements, emerging in the context of economic transformation.

Slovenia upholds standards to fight human trafficking, report says

WASHINGTON, US - Slovenia has retained its position among a group of countries which meet the standards to combat human trafficking in the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US State Department on Tuesday. Slovenia has shown some improvements, among them easier access for human trafficking victims to healthcare, housing and temporary residence permits.
Nevertheless, the report lists several recommendations, including that Slovenia launch more intensive investigations of worker exploitation, improve victim identification procedures, partner with NGOs, and allow better access for victims to aid.

Discus thrower Čeh wins gold at World Athletics Championships

EUGENE, US - Discus thrower Kristjan Čeh won the gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, US on Tuesday, with a throw of 71.13 metres, which is the best throw at world championships ever. The 23-year-old from Ptuj is the second winner of the gold medal at world championships in athletics for Slovenia after Primož Kozmus in the men's hammer throw in Berlin in 2009. "I set the goal before the competition to throw over 70 m and the championships record. I threw over 71 m, and then I wanted more," Čeh, wrapped up in a Slovenian flag, told reporters. He is now aiming to break the world record (74.08 m), achieved in 1986.

Tuesday's Covid tally slightly down from last week

LJUBLJANA - A total of 1,821 people tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia on Tuesday, slightly fewer than the same day a week ago. Three patients with Covid-19 died, figures released by the Health Ministry show. The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 as their main condition dropped by two in a day to 91, of whom nine continue to be treated in intensive care.
According to the National Institute of Public Health, the 7-day average of new daily cases dropped by four in a day to 1,552 as the 14-incidence rate per 100,000 of the population rise by a further 17 to 974.

Pahor congratulates N Macedonia at the start of EU accession talks

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor talked over the phone with his Macedonian counterpart Stevo Pendarovski about the start of EU accession talks for North Macedonia. He congratulated Pendarovski for his country's progress on the path to the EU, noting this was an important signal for the entire region, as it strengthened trust in the European perspective of the Western Balkans. Pendarovski thanked Pahor for Slovenia's support, adding he was looking forward to the upcoming meeting of leaders from the Brdo-Brijuni regional cooperation initiative to be held on 12 September in Brdo pri Kranju, the president's office said.

Takeover of nearly 40% in Hidria by Spain's Gonvarri confirmed

LJUBLJANA - The family of Edvard Svetlik, former CEO of car parts maker Hidria, sold its 42% in H&R, the 89% owner of Hidria, to Spanish automotive supplier Gonvarri, H&R confirmed after the news was reported by the business newspaper Finance the day before.
While the value of the transaction has not been disclosed, last year the business magazine Manager estimated the stake held by spouses Edvard and Ivica Svetlik in Hidria at EUR 33.6 million. The deal is pending regulatory approval, after which Gonvarri Industries will become a strategic partner of H&R, the latter said in a press release.

Police chief says fence removal will not result in lower security

LJUBLJANA - New Police Commissioner Boštjan Lindav has told the STA in an interview that the police will be capable of providing security even after the fence on the border with Croatia is removed, noting that the influx of migrants in recent years has not undermined security. Since as many as 95% of all murders in Slovenia take place within the family or in a narrow social circle, addressing domestic violence will be the second strategic priority of the police, right after migration, he announced.

BSF to discuss war in Ukraine, crisis of multilateralism

LJUBLJANA - The theme of the 17th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF), which will take place on 29-30 August, will be the consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the crisis of multilateralism, announced Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon as the host of the largest foreign policy event of the kind in Slovenia. Under the title The Rule of Power or Power of Rules, the participants of this year's BSF will seek answers to questions about the future of multilateral order and its role within the EU, the website of the event says, noting the topics of global crises (climate, economic, food, energy) and the emergence of new hotspots.

Austrian postal operator enters Slovenian market

LJUBLJANA - The Austrian national postal company, Österreichische Post, has entered the Slovenian postal market, the newspaper Delo reported. Its newly-established Slovenian subsidiary Express One Slovenia has started with package deliveries, with the online clothing retailer Zalando being part of its clientele. While it is unclear whether the arrival of the rival is already affecting the business of the Slovenian national postal company Pošta Slovenije, Delo reports that Zalando is not the only major online retailer to change allegiance and join forces with Österreichische Post.

Defendants in high-profile prostitution case have assets unfrozen

KOPER - The Koper District Court was no longer allowed to extend the provisional securement of the asset recovery claim in the prostitution and sex trafficking case known as Marina. Four main suspects have had their assets unfrozen on Saturday and can now dispose freely of them again, the newspaper Večer reported on Tuesday. Three years after the indictment was filed, criminal proceedings against Sergej Racman, Dejan Šurbek, and Vesna Trnovec are still ongoing, so the court was forced to unfreeze their personal and business assets. They are believed to have made at least EUR 21 million in illegal gains.

Two Ljubljana hotels leased to Latvian group for 20 years

LJUBLJANA - The Latvian Mogotel Hotel Group will lease The Fuzzy Log and Hotel Central in Ljubljana for 20 years, with the rents for both hotels during this period to amount to a total of EUR 12 million, the Slovenian real estate fund Equinox has announced. Equinox noted that it had signed the long-term lease contract with the largest hotel chain in the Baltic countries for The Fuzzy Log on Tuesday.

Pogačar bags stage win, remains second overall

PAU, France - Cyclist Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) won the 17th stage of Tour de France, which took the cyclists up four mountain passes in the Pyrenees. This was the second of a total of three Pyrenees stages which many believe are Pogačar's last chance to reclaim the yellow jersey before the end of the grand tour on Sunday

20 Jul 2022, 14:35 PM

STA, 20 July 2022 - The fire raging in Italy has spread to the Slovenian Kras region in the west. Four villages are in danger and are being evacuated. People are being urged to leave the villages of Sela na Krasu, Hudi Log, Korita na Krasu and Nova Vas, the regional centre of the Civil Protection for northern Primorska said in a press release.

A large pool from which helicopters had been taking out water to fight the fire caught on fire as well. All rescue forces of the region have been activated. Five firefighters sought medical assistance because of light burns and respiratory problems.

As the wind changed direction, the situation in the fire zone quickly escalated. According to Civil Protection commander Srečko Šestan, almost 600 people are fighting the fire.

Additional forces from other parts of the country were called in as the fire started approaching villages.

Firefighters from all over the country are doing their best to protect the houses in the villages and above all the people, the regional centre of the Civil Protection for northern Primorska said.

Web portal 24ur.com reported that two Italian helicopters and two Italian Canadair water bombers were helping out as well.

Ervin Čurlič from the regional centre of the Civil Protection told 24ur.com that three houses on the Slovenian side of the border were burning.

Fire is also again raging on both sides of the road between the villages of Mirna and Lokvica, so the road is closed for traffic.

Firefighters on the ground are being assisted by police and the army from the air, but their efforts are being hampered by smoke, Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said as he visited the area.

He asserted that the units were well trained and experienced and praised international cooperation.

However, he noted there were logistical problems with water supply, which has to be brought to the site in tanks to fill the pools which helicopters use to take out water. Šestan said there were no water shortages for now.

Miren-Kostanjevica Mayor Mauricij Humar said his municipality would help the people in the affected areas and expressed hope that firefighters would be able to protect the houses. If necessary, temporary accommodation will be provided to the evacuees.

 

20 Jul 2022, 14:02 PM

STA, 20 July - The Koper District Court was no longer allowed to extend the provisional securement of the asset recovery claim in the prostitution and sex trafficking case known as Marina. Four main suspects have had their assets unfrozen on Saturday and can now dispose freely of them again, the newspaper Večer has reported.

Three years after the indictment was filed, criminal proceedings against Sergej Racman, Dejan Šurbek, and Vesna Trnovec are still ongoing, so the court was forced to unfreeze their personal and business assets, Večer reported on Tuesday.

They are believed to have made at least EUR 21 million in illegal gains while allegedly operating a prostitution ring at the Marina Sauna Club near Nova Gorica, and abusing some 400 women, mostly from Romania, Ukraine, Albania and the former Yugoslavia, between 2014 and 2020, who have had to serve some 150,000 male guests, says the prosecution.

According to the newspaper, provisional securement of a asset recovery claim is ordered by the court when there is reason to believe a suspect will use illegally acquired assets to resume criminal activity or that they will hide, steal, destroy or otherwise use said assets to impede criminal proceedings and asset recovery once court proceedings are completed.

The Koper District Court has also received EUR 800,000 in bail since September 2021 which was paid to release the prime suspect, businessman Sergej Racman, from custody.

All four defendants maintain the Marina was an erotic club providing an intimate atmosphere, but no one was forced into prostitution.

Prostitution was decriminalised in Slovenia 2003, but only for those providing the services voluntarily, without procurement and coercion.

20 Jul 2022, 11:41 AM

STA, 19 July 2022 - The family of Edvard Svetlik, former CEO of car parts maker Hidria, sold its 42% in H&R, the 89% owner of Hidria, to Spanish automotive supplier Gonvarri, H&R confirmed on Wednesday after the news was reported by the business newspaper Finance the day before. 

While the value of the transaction has not been disclosed, last year the business magazine Manager estimated the stake held by Edvard Svetlik and his spouse Ivica Svetlik in Hidria at EUR 33.6 million.

The deal is pending regulatory approval, after which Gonvarri Industries will become a strategic partner of H&R, the latter said in a press release, adding that both companies hope to address new challenges posed by the fast-growing automotive industry, especially the rise of electric vehicles.

The majority stake in H&R, some 52%, is held by a consortium of managers consisting of Iztok Seljak, Dušan Lapajne, the Rejc family and entrepreneur Alex Luckmann.

The new partnership is aimed at becoming a leading supplier of electric and hybrid automotive components, specifically stators and rotors, the global market of which was last year valued at EUR 5 billion.

After the deal is fully approved, expectedly by the end of the year, Gonvarri representatives will also become part of Hidria's management board.

Gonvarri is one of the market leaders in steel and aluminium processing. The company is present in 26 countries in Europe, North and South America, and Asia, employing more than 6,000 people. In 2021, the company recorded revenues of more than EUR 4 billion, according to its owners.

"Hidria remains firmly rooted in Slovenia with existing investments - the one in Spodnja Idrija aimed at developing and manufacturing of electric motors' rotor and stator parts, valued at EUR 40 million, as well as with new planned investments," Hidria owners said.

"The partnership with Gonvarri will enable Hidria to increase global sales and production, as well as boost its influence and visibility in Europe and worldwide," they added.

20 Jul 2022, 11:18 AM

UPDATED: A few hours later the fires started again, and four villages have been evacuated

STA, 20 July 2022 - The fire that broke out in the Kras region on Tuesday, along the road between Miren and Opatje Selo near the border with Italy has been contained on the Slovenian side of the border, while the situation remains more uncertain on the Italian side, the regional Civil Protection reported on Wednesday morning. 

During the night 15 Slovenian firefighters with three engines jumped in to help their Italian colleagues after members of the Kras Firefighting Association helped them on Tuesday.

The fire on the Slovenian side, under the Miren-Opatje Selo power line, broke out on Tuesday very close to where a fire was put out on Friday. A much larger fire in the north-western Kras, erupting on Sunday, was brought under control after nearing the village of Lokvica in an effort involving hundreds of Slovenian firefighters plus aircraft from Slovenia, Croatia and Italy.

Tuesday's fire was brought under control with the help of three Slovenian helicopters and the Pilatus PC 5 aircraft.

Fire watch teams remained on the sites of both fires during the night. Due to thick smoke, residents of the city of Nova Gorica and surrounding areas, Goriška Brda and the lower Posočje were urged last night to stay at home and close their windows.

The situation is much more risky on the Italian side of the border, where firefighters were battling flames in several spots throughout the night.

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