03 Aug 2022, 04:32 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:

Fajon talks Slovenia's bid for UN Security Council in New York

NEW YORK, US - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon discussed Slovenia's bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2024-2025 at the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York. "This is not a project of the previous government, this is Slovenia's project," she said. She discussed the bid with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other officials during Monday's bilateral meetings. "I've received a lot of advice from different people on how to approach vote canvassing," she said, announcing visits to Latin America, Asia and Africa before she returns to New York in September to attend the session of the UN General Assembly.

Health Ministry to speed up drawing of EU funds

LJUBLJANA - The share of EU funds Slovenia has drawn for health projects is rather low, Health Minister Daniel Bešič Loredan told the press. He said the ministry would not be looking for the culprits, but rather focus on phasing as much money as possible within the set deadlines. He mentioned redistribution of funds as a solution, meaning that funds from projects that are behind schedule would be transferred to projects that can be completed before the end of this financial perspective. He said talks on this were under way with hospital managements.

Preliminary estimates indicate significant drought damage

LJUBLJANA - First estimates show the damage the severe drought has caused to crops will be extensive. Maize and grasses have been hit the worst so far, with the fallout expected to be at 50%, according to data the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry forwarded to the Agriculture Ministry. The ministry's estimate is that the damage is near the 0.03% of budget revenue, which warrants state aid, but damages will not be paid out before next year. Slovenia had six droughts that affected agriculture to the point they were declared natural disasters in the 2001-2021 period. The 2003 drought hit the hardest, causing over EUR 121 million in damage and the state helping out with EUR 35 million.

Czech group Solitea takes over Slovenian Vasco

BRNO, Czechia/ŠENČUR - Solitea, a Czech group offering ICT solutions, has acquired another Slovenian company, Vasco, after buying SAOP in 2016. Solitea did not disclose the price of the deal, which is still subject to regulatory approval, but business newspaper Finance unofficially reported Vasco cost Solitea some EUR 30 million. Vasco is a Šenčur-based company with some 30 employees specialising in development and sale of software solutions for companies. It was established in 1991 by the couple Tomaž and Mojca Čebašek, while Finance placed it fourth on its 2021 list of 167 ICT companies. Once the takeover is completed, it will become part of the SAOP group.

Renovation of Slovenia's main hospital under scrutiny

LJUBLJANA - Renovation works on the main building of UKC Ljubljana worth over EUR 70 million are planned to start shortly. But according to media reports, the open call to select the contractor for the energy renovation segment was flawed, not containing a detailed description of the works, the quantity and price of materials. Although the hospital has dismissed the allegations, the Health Ministry said that if the allegations transpired to be true, the drawing of EU funds would be halted. The upgrade of UKC Ljubljana also includes the renovation of the interior of the building, with both projects to be carried out by constructor GH Holding.

Govt launching regular dialogue with umbrella NGO for disabled

LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob met with representatives of the National Council of Disability Organisations (NSIOS) to establish regular and direct dialogue with the representative organisation of the disable to address challenges of some 100,000 people with disabilities in Slovenia. He announced that an operative body will be set up bringing together representatives of the government and NSIOS to find solutions. NSIOS head Mateja Toman said they hoped for fiscal solutions to improve the social situation of the disabled, who face a number of expenses that ordinary people don't.

Covid count down slightly in a week

LJUBLJANA - 2,625 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Slovenia on Monday, more than 300 fewer compared to a week ago, as the downward trend continues. According to the Health Ministry, two patients died. In total, 271 patients were in hospitals with Covid on Monday, including those with other conditions, which is 13 more than on Sunday. 17 patients needed intensive care, one more than on Sunday. The National Institute of Public Health puts the 7-day average of new daily cases to 1,558, down by 48 over the day before, while the 14-incidence rate per 100,000 dropped by seven to 1,065.

Slovenia to get monkeypox vaccine from EU Commission

LJUBLJANA - The government decided to accept a donation of 1,400 doses of a monkeypox vaccine from the European Commission. The Jynneos vaccine, also known as Imvanex, is produced by Denmark's Bavarian Nordic, and has been assessed by the European Medicines Agency as the most appropriate vaccine against monkeypox. The WHO recommended in June that healthcare workers be vaccinated against monkeypox.

Ceremony held in memory of Nazi genocide against the Roma

MARIBOR - A ceremony was held in Maribor on Roma Holocaust Memorial Day in memory of the Nazi genocide against the Roma and Sinti. As part of the event, entitled The Night When Violins Went Silent, French documentary The Forgotten Genocide was screened. Addressing the event at the Maribor Synagogue, Deputy Mayor Alenka Iskra said such memorial events were important to keep the memory of various wrongs alive. This is particularly important in a time when the rhetoric of some is dangerously reminiscent of what happened eight decades ago, she said. Another ceremony will be held in Murska Sobota on Wednesday.

Slovenian appointed head of international speleology union

POSTOJNA - Slovenian speleologist Nadja Zupan Hajna was elected president of the International Union of Speleology (UIS) at the organisations' congress last week. She is the first woman and the first Slovenian to be appointed UIS president. Zupan Hajna is a researcher at the Karst Research Institute in Postojna. Being a member of the Permanent Bureau of the UIS since 2009, she was the treasurer of the union in the past term. Founded in 1965, the UIS currently has 57 member states, each of which appoints a delegate for a four-year term to represent the country's cavers and speleologists.

Cement milk likely cause of Glinščica fish kill

LJUBLJANA - Monday's fish kill in the stream Glinščica in Ljubljana most likely resulted from cement milk pollution, as the tests have shown that the cause was not too low a pH or a lack of oxygen in the water, the local angling club's head Marijan Kerč told the STA after he visited the site together with an inspector for agriculture, forestry, hunting and fisheries. Half a dozen fish kills have occurred in Slovenia since early June, all attributed to pollution rather than low water levels amid a serious drought. The severest took place in Mali Graben, a canal of the Gradaščica in Ljubljana, where some 1.5 tonnes of fish died at the end of July.

Kranj park gets another bust of France Prešeren's contemporary

KRANJ - A bust of Alphonse de Lamartine, a 19th-century French author, poet and statesman, was unveiled in Kranj to join another four busts in the city's park honouring Slovenian poet France Prešeren (1800-1849) and his contemporaries. The bust was unveiled in La Ciotat Park in collaboration with France's La Ciotat - the first town with which Kranj twinned in 64 years ago. The first busts were unveiled last October, while there is enough space in the park for another ten.

Slovenians drink some 26 litres of beer a year

LJUBLJANA - Annual at-home consumption of beer in Slovenia is around 26.4 litres per capita, shows data the Statistics Office released ahead of International Beer Day. Beer prices increased in 2021, by 3.2% year-on-year, as retail price for lager stood at EUR 1.83 per litre, while half a litre of ale in bars sold at an average EUR 2.89. The total value of beer imports last year was EUR 26.7 million, with Austria making the most profit at a 38% share. The value of exports reached EUR 55.9 million, with most beer (25%) being exported to Croatia.

02 Aug 2022, 15:16 PM

STA, 2 August 2022 - On an annual level, at-home consumption of beer in Slovenia is some 26.4 litres per capita, according to the data from the Statistics Office released on Tuesday ahead of International Beer Day, a celebration for beer-lovers, brewers and pub owners.

Beer prices have gone up in 2021, by 3.2% year-on-year, as retail price for lager stood at EUR 1.83 per litre, while half a litre of ale in bars sold at EUR 2.89 on average.

In 2020, Slovenia had 68 active breweries, almost five times as many as in 2008 when there were only 15.

svetovni dan piva ANG from SURS on Vimeo.

Last year, Slovenia produced 1,260 tonnes of hops, the most important ingredient in beer brewing. Exports amounted to 2,253 tonnes, with the majority of it (56%) being shipped to Germany, while imports stood at 451 tonnes with Germany also being the biggest importer of hops to Slovenia at 64%.

The total value of beer imports last year was EUR 26.7 million, with Austria making the most profit at a 38% share. The value of exports reached EUR 55.9 million, with most beer (25%) being exported to Croatia.

Interestingly, Slovenia also has a beer-related street name, Pivovarniška Ulica (Brewers' Street), with one located in Ljubljana and the other in the spa and brewery town of Laško in the east. Both streets combined house 32 residents.

Originating from California, US, International Beer Day was founded in 2007 and is now celebrated worldwide.

02 Aug 2022, 12:56 PM

STA, 1 August - An annual report on the situation of the Roma communities in Slovenia for 2021 shows some headway in the labour market, but also that there remains much room to improve the communities' social inclusion. It showed that only about a dozen Roma work as assistants to preschool teachers and that many do not have their own GP.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport finds in the report, which was discussed by the government on Thursday and sent to parliament, that preschools are yet to take full use of the possibility to employ Roma assistants.

They are deemed a key connection between preschools and Roma communities. The ministry also said that municipalities will have to become more active in encouraging the Roma to enrol their children in preschools.

Learn more: Geographical names in the languages of official minorities in Slovenia

The ministry added that only seven kindergartens had applied in the most recent call for Roma assistant funding for the school year 2022/2023.

Data suggest that the situation is better at schools, as over 60 Roma assistants worked at schools and preschools combined in the previous school year, the report shows.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is trying to raise awareness among the Roma that they should pick their own GP and see them instead of going to the emergency services, the report says.

The ministry is trying to encourage a healthy lifestyle, discouraging smoking and unhealthy foods. It also focuses on encouraging the Roma to participate in preventive health programmes.

Moreover, the Health Ministry issued a public call for co-funding humanitarian organisations which provide direct aid, counselling and aid to the vulnerable in 2021 and 2022, but only few providers applied for the programme targetting the Roma.

The situation is meanwhile somewhat better in terms of employment. Nearly 2,300 Roma were registered as unemployed last year, with nearly 360 finding a job. Half of the unemployed had not completed primary school, while a third only had primary education.

The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities says in the report that many Roma took part in a number of activities provided by the Employment Agency despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology says in the report that it will continue to help municipalities in building basic infrastructure for Roma settlements.

However, in the future, the ministry will provide support only for projects that pursue development priorities and approach Roma issues comprehensively.

02 Aug 2022, 09:33 AM

STA, 1 August 2022 - Commenting on the Austrian postal company Österreichische Post entering the Slovenian market, national postal company Pošta Slovenije noted it had so far managed to compete with global players, while it is aware of the need to not only follow trends in such an environment but also to be innovative in its approach to customers.

Competition on the Slovenian market has been strong, as it features standard postal service providers, all major global parcel companies and specialised providers of parcel and logistics services.

Pošta Slovenije said that it had competed with global players on the market that brought the latest technologies in the country by establishing subsidiaries in Slovenia, which increased competition on the market.

The company sees its key advantage is that it can deliver large quantities of letters and parcels, large packages and pallets to various customers in a short time in the same quality throughout Slovenia.

It has seven different methods of parcel delivery at more than 1,100 pick-up points, including 479 post offices, 24 automated parcel lockers in major Slovenian cities, as well as hundreds of parcel boxes at service stations.

At the beginning of next year, it intends to add another 76 automated parcel lockers. Parcel carriers and post office counters were meanwhile equipped with additional payment terminals last month.

As for new investments, the company noted a new parcel sorting machine in the logistics centre in Ljubljana, upgraded information support for logistics processes and a new 5,000 square-metre logistics centre as one of the largest investments in recent years.

Last year, Pošta Slovenije recorded a 22% growth in parcel delivery services at the group level, which account for 13.5% of its total operating income. Comprehensive parcel services and related logistics services account for almost a 40% share.

Österreichische Post started with package deliveries through its Slovenian subsidiary Express One Slovenia at the beginning of July. It said this was a logical move given that it had already been covering the area in a significant scope.

02 Aug 2022, 08:57 AM

STA, 1 August 2022 - The latest income tax reform, introduced by the previous government in the spring, significantly affects public revenue, the Finance Ministry said on Monday, announcing changes that are to enter into force next year. The government plans to annul the increase of the general tax relief and the cut in the tax rate for top earners.

The amendments to the income tax act which were passed in March and took effect retroactively from the beginning of the year raised the general tax relief from EUR 3,500 to EUR 4,500 and should raise it to EUR 7,500 by 2025. They also reduced the tax rate for the top earners from 50% to 45%.

But ministry plans to cancel all this. In line with its proposal, the general tax relief will go up only to EUR 5,000 on 1 January 2023 with no other rises to follow.

"We're not abolishing all reliefs envisaged by the law passed at the beginning of the year," Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič told the press today.

The ministry proposes raising the general tax relief by just EUR 500 rather than EUR 1,000, because of inflation and the rising costs of living, he explained.

It also proposes raising the amount for income for which additional general tax relief is still acknowledged from EUR 13,716 to EUR 15,000. "Thus net income of those with the lowest income will be higher than it would be if the income tax was left as it is," the minister said.

A special tax relief is proposed for the young up to the age of 26.

The tax rate for the top earners should go back to 50%, from the current 45%, while income from rents will again be taxed as it was before 2020.

The tax on capital that was this year cut from 27.5% to 25% should not be changed.

The changes will, however, affect corporate taxes and should bring EUR 90 million more in tax revenue to the national budget.

Because of the changes to the general tax relief, EUR 180 million more will pour into the budget in 2024 and EUR 170 million in 2025, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, employees on the minimum wage will receive EUR 316 more a year than this year. Under the current law, they would receive EUR 157 more. Those with higher wages will get less than they would under the current law but still more than they will receive this year. Those receiving average wages will receive EUR 130 more a year and those earning double the average wage will get EUR 165 more a year, the minister said.

02 Aug 2022, 06:39 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:

Fajon urges Russia to withdraw from Ukraine at NPT conference

NEW YORK, US - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon addressed the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York, saying the war in Ukraine had caused the worst deterioration of security in Europe and urging Russia to cease the hostilities and withdraw from Ukraine. She stressed Slovenia will continue supporting Ukraine and its right to self-defence, and welcomed the departure from Odessa of the first ship carrying wheat, which she believes is a sign that dialogue is possible. Fajon was also scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Govt to annul parts of income tax reform next year

LJUBLJANA - Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič announced the government will partly annul as of 2023 the latest income tax reform introduced by the previous government in the spring because it significantly affects budget revenue. The centrepiece of the plan is to annul both the increase in the general tax relief and the cut in the tax rate for top earners from 50% to 45%. This means the general tax relief, at EUR 3,500 before the reform, will only raise to EUR 5,000 by 1 January, but no further as planned to EUR 7,500 by 2025. Boštjančič said this was because of inflation and the rising costs of living. The changes to the general tax relief should raise revenue by EUR 180 million in 2024 and EUR 170 million in 2025.

Drought's impact on crops calls for emergency legislation

LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry (KGZS) is still collecting data on the damage caused by drought, but it is already clear that it will exceed the limit set for eligibility for state aid following natural disasters (0.03% of the budget revenue) and thus require emergency legislation. According to KGZS head Roman Žveglič, the situation is worse than in 2017 when damage was estimated at EUR 65 million. Virtually all crops are affected, especially vegetables, orchards, permanent cropland, and field crops. Grain and hay production was down 20-23% each. Žveglič also called for cutting red tape to allow for more irrigation.

Petrol and diesel a few cents cheaper from Tuesday

LJUBLJANA - Regular petrol and diesel sold at service stations outside the motorway network in Slovenia will be cheaper from Tuesday, by 8.6 cents and 2.3 cents, respectively. A litre of petrol will cost EUR 1.534 and diesel EUR 1.676, the Economy Ministry announced. The new prices will be in place for a day more than usually, for 15 days, including on Tuesday, 16 August, because Monday, 15 August, is a bank holiday. They will include an environmental duty on CO2 emissions as the government changed today a relevant regulation to reintroduce the obligation to pay this duty on petrol, diesel, natural gas and heating oil after temporarily lifting it to cushion the rising retail fuel prices on 21 June when it introduced the new pricing model. Along the motorways, fuel prices are fully liberalised.

Internal audit finds major irregularities in motorway police

LJUBLJANA - An internal police audit has revealed major irregularities in contracts concluded by the Motorway Police Administration, which was established under the previous government. This also applies to the contract with national motorway operator DARS, which was referred to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, the Budget Supervision Office and the State Attorney's Office over suspicion of criminal acts. The Interior Ministry said the contract intertwined the activities of the police and DARS to create suspicion about independence and quality of police jurisdiction in relation to DARS. Also today, all staff from three out of the four existing motorways police units were assigned to ordinary road traffic police stations due to lack of staff, which the media interpreted as their de facto abolishment.

Media: Olaj's former assistant suspected of data tampering

LJUBLJANA - The police has initiated a dismissal and disciplinary procedure against an employee on suspicion of a work-related crime. According to media reports, the person in question is Tomislav Habulin, a former assistant to previous Police Commissioner Anton Olaj. According to tabloid Slovenske Novice, Habulin is a former commander of the Murska Sobota police station and reportedly suspected of data tampering during his work as a senior official in the office of the police commissioner. The Specialised State Prosecutor's Office will be notified of the matter.

Illegal migration up 80% in first seven months year-on-year

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian police processed in the first seven months just over 8,200 foreigners who illegally entered the country, up 80% compared to the same period last year. However, Tomaž Pavček of the Border Police Division told the press that this is less than a 10% rise compared to the same periods in 2019 and 2020. Nationality-wise, the majority of illegal migrants were citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The police also apprehended 130 people suspected of helping migrants cross the border illegally, who came from 30 different countries, most of them from Serbia.

Presidential candidate raises dust with "media buying" comment

LJUBLJANA - Lawyer Nataša Pirc Musar, who is expected to run in the 23 October presidential election, has raised dust with a statement for the news portal about "media being paid to attack those who think differently". The former information commissioner said in the recent interview this was "something that is practised by Požareport, Nova24TV and now also Reporter and Necenzurirano. Is that journalism? The answer is no." The media outlets have reproached her for encroaching on their reputation, and demanded an apology. Some have even announced lawsuits.

Extended weekend Covid case count down 10% weekly, ten deaths

LJUBLJANA - A total of 2,835 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Slovenia from Friday to Sunday in what is a 10% decrease compared to the same period a week ago, fresh data released by the Health Ministry shows. Hospitalisations remained flat compared to last Thursday, and ten patients with Covid-19 died between Friday and Sunday. There are now an estimated 22,694 people actively infected in the country, and the 14-incidence rate per 100,000 people is at 1,072.

Slovenia to get 750,000 vaccine shots in case of flu pandemic

LJUBLJANA - In line with an agreement that the European Commission signed with pharmaceutical company GSK on behalf of a dozen EU countries, including Slovenia, last week, Slovenia will receive 750,000 shots of pandemic influenza vaccine Adjupanrix if a flu pandemic is declared, the Health Ministry told the STA. In line with the agreement on a joint order, the EU countries will be able to buy up to 85 million doses of the vaccine if necessary, but the vaccine will only be supplied if the WHO declares a flu pandemic.

July hottest month on record in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - This July has been the hottest month on record in Ljubljana in terms of the mean monthly temperature, which stood at 24.4 degrees Celsius, the Environment Agency (ARSO) announced. Record temperatures for July were also recorded in many other locations in Slovenia. The past month was 2-3 degrees warmer than the 1981-2010 average in most of the country, and was also quite dry, with some stations receiving only a third to half of the expected rainfall, said Veronika Hladnik Zakotnik from ARSO.

Demand surges for pellets, heat pumps

ŠKOFJA LOKA/MARIBOR - Amid the energy crisis, the prices of wood pellets and heat pumps in Slovenia have surged. As demand for pellets rose by about 35%, the price almost doubled, and the supply has become a problem. The Škofja Loka-based wood pellets producer Energija Narave told the STA the price of pellets went up by as much as 95% due to the rise in the price of raw material and costlier production. Energy company Elektro Maribor Energija Plus told the STA the demand for heat pumps had also been on the rise due to fear of price hikes and disruptions in the supply of heating oil and gas.

New 5-star hotel opens in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's capital has a new five-star hotel as Grand Plaza has just opened across the road from InterContinental Ljubljana to make the city's largest hotel yet. Situated in the Bavarski Dvor area, the 22-storey hotel features 354 rooms, more than double the number in its counterpart across the street, which opened in August 2017 as Ljubljana's first five-star hotel. Grand Plaza Hotel & Congress Center, as it is officially named according to a Facebook post, is an investment of Slovenian jeweller Zlatarna Celje.

Slovenia's EXPO 2020 pavilion to remain in Dubai

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's EXPO 2020 pavilion will remain at the EXPO site in Dubai, the government decided in a correspondence session. The pavilion will remain at its original location, becoming a part of the District 2020 Dubai, to continue promoting Slovenia's economy and tourism for another five years. The Economy Ministry hopes the move will help Slovenia seize the potential of Middle Eastern markets.

Slovenia tops FIBA's ranking forecast ahead of EuroBasket

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia tops the first power ranking forecast by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) ahead of the European Basketball Championship coming up in September. The defending champions are placed before France and Greece. FIBA says that "Luka Dončić is elite and the 'supporting cast' more than proved their value last summer in the Olympics journey". It says the "big question is whether FIBA EuroBasket 2017 MVP Goran Dragić" jonns the national team this time round, as he is expected to announce his decision this week. Slovenia are currently in training camp and will be playing preparation games with the Netherlands and Montenegro this week.

01 Aug 2022, 17:02 PM

STA, 1 August 2022 - Summer Animateka, the summer edition of the Animateka festival of animated film, will take the streets of Ljubljana from Wednesday to Friday, bringing new Slovenian animated films, short films from Central and Eastern Europe, and animated videos abounding in colour and sound.

A selection of newest Slovenian animated films will be screened in City Square on the first day of the festival, including both award-winning masterpieces - Urška Djukić's Granny's Sexual Life and Špela Čadež's Steakhouse, Animateka has announced.

Thursday will bring a collection of short films from Central and Eastern Europe that has been set up by Mihai Mitrica, the artistic director of Animest Festival, as part of activities of the CEE Animation network of festivals.

After a two-year break, the friendly connection of Animateka and the FeKK! short film festival will return on the last day featuring a selection of animated videos that reveal the secret lives of flora, fauna, artificial intelligence and many other hidden perspectives at the zenith of the Anthropocene.

The videos are marked by an explosion of colour and sound and a range of different combinations of animation and music, with DJ Jaša Bužinel rounding off the evening with dance rhythms.

01 Aug 2022, 16:53 PM

STA, 29 July 2022 - The Administrative Court decreed that the planned Mokrice hydropower station on the river Sava cannot get a building permit until it has ruled on legal action brought against the project by the Slovenian Native Fish Society.

Announcing the decision on Friday, the society said it was important because it blocked the investors' plan to obtain a partial building permit from the Ministry and Spatial Planning and start with the plant's construction despite their legal challenge.

Mokrice, located near the border with Croatia, is the last hydro plant to be built on the lower Sava, four having already been completed as part of a project started 16 years ago. Under initial plans the Mokrice plant was slated for completion as early as 2018.

The investors - state-owned companies HESS, Infra and ELES - can appeal against the court's decision but the society says the Administrative Court has warned them that "hard to repair damage" to nature that could be caused by such a project can only be prevented so that the ministry does not issue a building permit until the court's final ruling, while it can continue with the administrative procedure to issue such a permit.

In its decision the court refers to case law, that is the rulings already reached by the Administrative Court and Supreme Court in the Mokrice plant case.

This is the second time that the Slovenian Native Fish Society is challenging the project after the former government decided that the public interest of producing renewable energy overrides the public interest of nature conservation in the Mokrice hydro power project.

This was after the Administrative Court in late 2021 overturned the ministry's original decision of December 2020 on the grounds that the environmental impact assessment procedure must be completed before the public interest procedure may by initiated.

The Janez Janša government took the decision on 20 May this year, after it has already been voted out in the election, which the society finds is problematic even from the aspect that the government was by then relegated to its caretaker role when it should have no longer taken such decisions.

They say the decision does not include "many of the expert bases and basic ichthyological studies, the lack of which had already been pointed out in the Administrative Court's previous ruling".

The society finds it unacceptable that a free flowing river should be ruined to produce electricity, arguing that in optimal conditions the plant would generate electricity equalling only 1% of the country's annual consumption.

They also are disappointed because the Robert Golob government has backed the project as well.

An appeal to annul the previous government's decision was also made by the Youth for Climate Justice earlier this month but incumbent Environment Minister Uroš Brežan said the project was a step in the right direction in view of climate neutrality goals and it also considered nature conservation.

01 Aug 2022, 13:49 PM

STA, 1 August 2022 - Amid the energy crisis, the prices of wood pellets and heat pumps in Slovenia have surged. As demand for pellets rose by about 35%, the price almost doubled and the supply has become a problem.

The Škofja Loka-based wood pellets producer Energija Narave told the STA the price of pellets went up by as much as 95% due to the rise in the price of raw material and costlier production. Currently, a pallet of mixed pellets produced by the company costs EUR 530 and a pallet of spruce pellets EUR 544.

The company said that just like last year, all the pellets produced this year would be sold.

What is more, the demand exceeds supply in Slovenia at the moment. According to Energija Narave, all Slovenian companies would cover about a third of domestic demand if they did not export. But all of them export.

"There is very little import this year," the company said, pointing to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which banned exports due to lower purchasing power of their population. Meanwhile, countries north and west of Slovenia can sell pellets at a better price at home.

"We believe the Russian-Ukrainian war does not directly affect the Slovenian market, but it has a massive impact on the European market as Ukraine alone produces more than a third of this source of energy for the European market."

Energija Narave was forced to stop accepting orders at the end of June because its production capacities could not cope.

Energy company Elektro Maribor Energija Plus told the STA the demand for heat pumps had also been on the rise due to fear of price hikes and disruptions in the supply of heating oil and gas. This along with general price hikes has pushed the prices slightly up, the company said.

But it noted that the state was still offering subsidies for the purchase of heat pumps.

Elektro Maribor Energija Plus has been seeing a rise in demand for heat pumps since last October, but currently the situation is "crazy". The company decided that as it starts accepting orders again it will give priority to its regular customers.

The Statistics Office told the STA that the prices of heat pumps had indeed been quite stable, while the prices of pellets reflected the prices of hard fuels, which have gone up by 49.2% in the past year.

The government reduced value added tax (VAT) on energy products for all users last week to mitigate the effects of price hikes, but it has limited options for wood biomass, where it cannot regulate prices.

01 Aug 2022, 11:24 AM

STA, 1 August 2022 - Snežnik Castle in the south of Slovenia will host between Thursday and Sunday the 10th Floating Castle festival, which will transform the area into a multi-kilometre stage as visual-performative installations will serve as venues for more than 200 concerts of various genres.

The festival, whose main organiser is the Snežnik Castle Appreciators Association, will feature experimental jazz, punk cabaret, ambience electronic music, world fusion, South American beats and singer-songwriter music.

Visitors can also look forward to circus and acrobatics shows, dance performances, workshops and a programme for children or all those young at heart.

In total, the festival will feature 170 music and theatre groups from all over the world. The organisers see it more of a movement that goes on after the events end than a typical festival.

Visitors and performers can set up camp right next to the venues and there will be a festival market so they will not go hungry.

Special venues are the staple of Floating Castle. Performances will be held on water, on the roofs of fire engines, in the forest or in the castle cellar, and in the presence of knights and squires or enlarged chairs that create optical illusions.

This year's theme is a time machine taking visitors on a journey though the history of Snežnik Castle.

The festival will also introduce a dedicated currency - kojn, a pun playing with the words "coin" and "horse", which is "konj" in Slovenian. Every visitor will get five kojns to give them to their favourite performers. "All profits from the festival will be distributed among the performers according to the number of the kojns received," the organisers said.

The line-up includes singer-songwriter Kate Young with her fusion of Scottish and Bulgarian folk music, Argentinian guitar player Manu Rosales, gipsy-swing chanson sextet Karavana, Butoh dance collective Iliminal Butoh, movement-musical jam session Floating in the Air, and the Broken Hearts Trio, a band performing Chilean-Irish-Balkan folk music.

A special treat will be also a performance by the 100-member Etno Histeria World Orchestra 2022 that will wrap up its Primorska tour at the festival.

See more at the festival website

01 Aug 2022, 11:07 AM

STA, 29 July 2022 - The Slovenian publishing industry has been severely affected by the Covid epidemic and now also with higher paper prices. Industry insiders thus propose that the state issue annual culture vouchers to encourage people to buy books as a means of helping the industry cope with the rising prices.

Vladimir Kukavica, head of the chamber of publishers at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expects the government to help create conditions to keep books as high as possible among the social values by encouraging the writing, drawing, reading, publishing and buying of books.

"An annual culture voucher would not only help the publishing industry breathe freely, it would also have multiplier effects on the entire Slovenian economy and society as a whole," he has told the STA.

Kukavica says the coronavirus lockdowns hit the industry hard. In 2020, bookshops were closed for the most part of the year opening among the last businesses, which slashed the publishing industry's revenue by almost 7% from 2019.

Net sales revenue fell by almost 13% and net profit by almost 9%, while the situation improved to the 2019 levels last year, also due to the vouchers the government introduced to help tourism that could also be spent on books.

However, the current energy prices have now pushed up the prices of paper as the basic raw material used in the production of books, Kukavica says.

Slovenian Statistics Office data shows that industrial products in the group of paper production increased by almost 28% the first half of the year.

In the period between May this year and May last year, the price of paper doubled, says Kukavica, adding that forecasts for this autumn are rather uncertain.

"Although wholesalers have warehouses full of paper, they are not willing to disclose prices for the autumn period," he says, adding they will certainly depend on the price and availability of energy products.

Celjska Mohorjeva Družba, the eighth largest publisher in the country, increased its printing prices by 35-80% depending on the specifics of books over the past year.

At the same time, the Celje-based company faces longer paper delivery times and shortages of certain types of paper.

It says that their books will be more expensive, although it admits it "is not in a position to raise the retail prices as much as dictated by paper and energy prices".

Publisher Umco agrees the higher paper prices will affect the industry, but does not expect all book prices to rise to the same extent because books are published under different business models and receive different levels of subsidies.

Both Umco and Celjska Mohorjeva Družba support the "culture vouchers", with Umco also proposing lowering VAT on books and introducing subsidies for paper purchases.

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