News

08 Aug 2019, 14:29 PM

STA, 8 August 2019 - Hazardous waste processing company Kemis will decide within 15 days whether to appeal against a decision by building inspectors to remove the facilities it has built after it was hit by a devastating fire in 2017. Nevertheless, it will stop accepting waste today, the Vrhnika-based company said in a release on Thursday.

The facilities that the chemical waste processing company renovated extensively after the May 2017 fire were found to be illegal construction.

The Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry inspectors said Kemis should have obtained a building permit for a newly-built underground water tank, which is part of an upgraded anti-fire system.

However, no building permit is required for the comprehensive renovation work Kemis undertook after the fire, which caused considerable damage to the environment.

Kemis stopped receiving waste of its business partners in Vrhnika a day after it received the decree to stop using the facilities immediately and remove them by 30 June 2020.

The firm reiterated today the entire renovation, including the construction of the underground water tank, had been carried out under constant supervision of the ministry's inspectors.

The company believes "it is highly unusual that almost two years after the renovation was launched, the same state body took a diametrically opposite decision".

Kemis relaunched full-scale operations after the fire last February, when it said it had met all the conditions from the environmental permit.

This is why it is "extremely worried" about the decree, which it labelled "an unreasonable measure".

The company also said it had processed over 13,000 tonnes of waste generated by Slovenian companies, public sector institutions and households over the last six months, which would have otherwise presented a serious risk to the environment.

Despite Kemis's making the waste processing facilities safer, Vrhnika locals and local authorities have been pushing for the firm to leave town ever since the fire.

Also worried about the latest development is the Chamber of Public Utilities at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS).

It fears toxic waste will start piling up at waste collection companies and at companies generating toxic waste, as was the case after the Kemis fire.

Apart from Saubermacher Slovenija, Kemis is the only major company which can process the majority of dangerous waste in Slovenia.

Chamber director Sebastijan Zupanc told the STA today that Kemis's closure could result in toxic waste accumulation around the country, which would have several smaller hot spots that would be a serious risk to public health and the environment.

He noted this was exactly what had happened two years ago when Kemis was hit by the fire. "Collection of hazardous waste almost fully stopped back then."

While some makeshift solutions were found until Kemis was back in business, "I don't know what will happen now", he added.

At the time, a smaller share of toxic waste was redirected to Saubermacher Slovenija, which told the STA today it was hard to say how much waste it could take.

It depends on the type of waste and on whether some could be exported, said director Robert Čajič, who expects companies generating or collecting waste to start turning to Saubermacher in coming days.

Zupanc stressed Slovenia had no facilities to store toxic waste for longer periods of time.

What is more, waste collection companies are banned by law from storing too much waste, risking to lose their operating licence and environmental permit.

Zupanc said Kemis had upgraded the waste-processing plant in line with the state-of-the art technologies and top-level fire security, whereas temporary storage facilities at waste collection companies are far from being that safe.

The renovation of Kemis facilities and equipment cost around EUR 6.5 million, EUR 5.5 million of which came from insurance, according to early figures from February.

Similarly worried at the inspectors' decision is the GZS, which wondered whether Slovenia is willing to risk new ecological catastrophes.

The GZS fears the decision could lead to keeping waste in inappropriate places, to dumping it illegally and processing it in an unprofessional manner.

Noting that not only industry but also households and individuals generate waste, the chamber stressed it was vital for the corporate sector to be able to ship waste to qualified companies. If that option is not available, companies could reduce output or even close shop.

The GZS thus called on the government to promptly and effectively address waste management, a sensitive issue which goes beyond the purview of the Ministry of the Environment.

08 Aug 2019, 12:45 PM

STA, 7 August 2019 - The government decided on Wednesday to extend the deployment of auxiliary police to help the regular force cope with a spike in illegal migration on the Schengen border with Croatia and with other duties.

In line with today's decision, auxiliary police will be deployed until the end of the year to help patrol the border and stand in for absent regular police officers.

Under the valid legislation, auxiliary police may be called in for up to 30 days in a calendar year.

Only about 70% of police force jobs are filled on average, while illegal migration is on the rise, the government said.

It also noted a deterioration in road safety and the engagement of larger numbers of police officers in providing the security at a number of upcoming high-risk events such as a meeting of the NATO Military Committee, and the VIP Forum 2019 to be held in Ljubljana in September.

Security challenges will be stepped up later on in the year, so there is reason to expect an increased scope of duties in various areas of police work.

This is why most of the auxiliary police have already been engaged to help secure the border or stand in for regular police officers providing the security at high-risk events.

Some 460 auxiliary police have already been called in this year and they have already completed about a third of the 30 day-quota on average.

All our stories on the borders are here

08 Aug 2019, 11:47 AM

STA, 7 August 2019 - The company managing construction of the new Divača-Koper rail track has annulled a public tender for the first of several bridges on the new track after weeks of very public controversy that has renewed concern about the mega project going off the rails financially.

 

"It has turned out that the cheapest bidder was not the best," Dušan Zorko, the head of 2TDK, told the press on Wednesday after the company determined the selected bidder had apparently forged its prior experience with the construction of such infrastructure.

A consortium led by Markomark Nival was initially selected to build a 170-metre bridge over Glinščica Valley. Its price, EUR 8 million, was significantly lower than rival bids by consortia led by Kolektor CGP (EUR 13.5 million) and Godina (EUR 14.3 million), but both have now been ruled as invalid because of excessive price.

Zorko said the tender would now be repeated as soon as possible. It will not be changed much, but 2TDK plans to impose a price cap. It also expects more builders to bid. "We had expected more offers, domestic and international. Unfortunately, there were only three."

The winning bid for the Glinščica bridge had originally been selected in mid-June, but it quickly became apparent things would not run smoothly.

One of the failed bidders reported noticing that an Excel spreadsheet form used to submit the bids had errors resulting in an incorrect final price, and then unofficial sources started questioning whether Markomark Nival, a little known builder, had in fact sufficient prior experience to build the bridge.

In general, Slovenian public tenders for construction projects tend to get bogged down in appeals and accusations that can significantly delay the start of construction works. The Karavanke tunnel expansion, for example, has been delayed by more than a year already as bidders fight it out among each other.

The popular perception is that the biggest construction industry players are adept at turning tenders in their favour, especially when they are up against foreign bidders.

In recent years two subsidiaries of industrial conglomerate Kolektor and the Murska Sobota builder Pomgrad in particular have been in the spotlight, having grown from mid-sized company into market leaders after the financial crisis bankrupted almost all major industry players.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, a staunch advocate of the EUR 1 billion-plus rail project, said today she supported the decision of 2TDK to annul the tender.

"I stand firmly behind their decision not to succumb to the construction lobby," she said, adding: "I will not permit old practices of siphoning [taxpayer] funds."

Referring to the bid headlined by Kolektor CPG, Bratušek said three of the largest Slovenian builders had joined forces for the bid, which is "an indication of the creation of a monopoly and the desire to overcharge for construction services."

"Despite attacks targeting me, I will not let builders rig the system and offer prices up to 40% higher in public tenders. If necessary, tenders will be repeated."

All out stories on infrastructure in Slovenia are here

08 Aug 2019, 09:24 AM

STA, 8 August 2019 - Maribor are in a two-goal hole after the first leg of the third round of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League after losing to Norway's Rosenborg 1:3 at home on Wednesday evening.

The Slovenian football champions are thus looking at a virtually impossible mission of advancing to the last round of the qualifications as they are hosted by Rosenborg in Trondheim next week.

Having struggled in the start of the national championship, Maribor wanted to show their worth in the elite European competition last evening in front of some 10,000 spectators in Ljudski Vrt stadium, but the Norwegians were simply too good.

The guests dominated the first half, which ended without goals, with the first one coming only in the 50th minute, as Alexander Soederlund scored from a free kick almost 30 metres away from the goal.

The same player scored for a 2:0 advantage for Rosenborng in the 64th minute with a header coming after another free kick.

It was the Brazilian veteran Marcos Tavares who scored a goal for Maribor some five minutes later with a strong kick from some 25 metres out, but the guests quickly returned the favour by Mike Jensen scoring for 3:1 virtually on the next play.

Maribor head coach Darko Milanič was disappointed by his team's performance in the first leg of the encounter. "A difficult match is behind us, we didn't shine on the offensive end, but we controlled the match well up until the first goal."

"It's unfortunate that we were below our level at an extremely important match," said the coach, who is believed to be sitting on a hot seat, adding that "there were many mistakes" and that the team's play was "very, very bad".

Maribor are in a bad spot, with the loss to Rosenborg coming on top of poor performances in the national league, in which the defending champions are winless after four rounds, sitting in the penultimate spot in the standings.

The return leg with the Norwegian champions is scheduled for next Tuesday. The overall winner will play in the last round of qualifying with the winner of the Croatian-Hungarian encounter between Dinamo Zagreb and Ferencvaros.

08 Aug 2019, 02:04 AM

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

A schedule of all the main events involving Slovenia this week can be found here

Visiting Ljubljana? Check out what's on this week, while all our stories on Slovenia, from newest to oldest, are here

This summary is provided by the STA:

PM Šarec to pay official visit to Serbia

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec will pay his first official visit to Serbia on 27 August for talks with his counterpart Ana Brnabić, President Aleksandar Vučić and Speaker Maja Gojković. President Borut Pahor was the last senior Slovenian official to pay an official visit to Serbia, accompanied by a sizeable business delegation in January. Slovenia and Serbia have well developed and largely problem-free relations. Since 2013, the two governments have also met for several joint sessions.

Commissioner candidate Lenarčič meets von der Leyen

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Janez Lenarčič, the candidate for the Slovenian member of the European Commission, held informal introductory talks with the newly elected Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in Brussels today. The pair talked about the challenges that await the new Commission and about the importance of respect for the EU's fundamental values, Slovenia's permanent representation in Brussels said in a press release.

Govt extends auxiliary police deployment

LJUBLJANA - The government decided to extend the deployment of auxiliary police to help the regular force cope with a spike in illegal migration on the Schengen border with Croatia and with other duties. In line with today's decision, auxiliary police will be deployed until the end of the year to help patrol the border and stand in for absent regular police officers. Under the valid legislation, auxiliary police may be called in for up to 30 days in a calendar year.

Mired in controversy, rail tender annulled

LJUBLJANA - The company managing construction of the new Divača-Koper rail track annulled a public tender for the first of several bridges on the new track after weeks of public controversy that renewed concern about the mega project going off the rails financially. "It has turned out that the cheapest bidder was not the best," 2TDK boss Dušan Zorko told the press after the company determined the selected bidder had apparently forged its prior experience in building such infrastructure. The tender to build a 170-metre bridge over Glinščica Valley will now be repeated as soon as possible.

Lekarna Ljubljana target of ransomware attack

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest pharmacy chain, Lekarna Ljubljana, was the target of a ransomware attack on Monday, which temporarily incapacitated its information system and forced the chain to close for business on Tuesday. The pharmacies reopened today but they have so far been able to issue prescription drugs based on paper prescriptions only. The system is expected to be up and running normally again later today. No further details about the attack have been available, but the national e-Health system has apparently not been affected.

SPIRIT get full fledged director

LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Ajda Cuderman as the director of the SPIRIT investment promotion agency. Cuderman, who has been served as acting director since February, will start her five-year term on 16 August, the government said. Before taking over at SPIRIT, Cuderman had worked at energy company Petrol and sales consulting group Mercuri International.

NGOs funding at nearly EUR 1bn last year

LJUBLJANA - More than 27,000 Slovenian NGOs saw a combined revenue of EUR 918 million last year, up by EUR 44.55 million from 2017, shows a report released by the national NGO umbrella network CNVOS. As many as 17% of NGOs reported no income last year, and another 35% got less than EUR 5,000, with the average per an NGO standing at EUR 34,400. Most of the funds from donations, membership fees and revenue from products and services. Just over a third, some EUR 333 million, was provided by the state.

Spatial plan procedures delay BSW sawmill investment

BRASLOVČE - Scottish sawmiller BSW Timber still has not been able to start with the construction of what will be the biggest sawmill in Slovenia. The main reason has been delays in the adoption of the needed spatial plans, which Braslovče Mayor Tomaž Žohar expects will be ready by the end of the year. Providing an update on the EUR 40 million investment in Gomilsko near Celje, Žohar said the Institute for the Protection of Natural Heritage was conducting studies in the area slated for the sawmill.

Unicredit Slovenia posts slightly higher H1 profit

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian subsidiary of the Italian banking group Unicredit posted EUR 16 million in consolidated profit in the first half of the year, a marginal increase of 0.3% on the same period a year ago, shows the annual report released by the parent bank. Unicredit Banka Slovenija and Unicredit Leasing saw their operating profit increase by almost 6% to EUR 19 million in the same period. Operating revenue rose by 7.2% to EUR 42 million and net interest revenue was up 1.3% to EUR 23 million.

Kemis's new facilities declared illegal construction

LJUBLJANA/VRHNIKA - The facilities that chemical waste processing company Kemis has extensively renovated after a major fire hit the plant in 2017 have been found to be illegal construction. Building inspectors ordered Kemis to stop using the facilities immediately and remove them by 30 June 2020. While no building permit is required for renovation work, Kemis should have obtained it for a newly-built underground water reservoir, which is part of an upgraded anti-fire system.

 

If you're learning Slovenian then you can find all our dual texts here

07 Aug 2019, 17:55 PM

This year’s Salon Privé, to be held at Blenheim Palace in the UK from 5 to 8 September (2019), will have some Slovenian flair among the usual classic cars, supercars and hypercars, with the carmaker Tushek set to show off its new TS 900 H Apex.

What is a hypercar? In simple terms it’s an elite supercar, a cut above the rest, with special features and produced in ultra-limited numbers, and the TS 900 H Apex is in this class for numerous reasons. For one it’s very light, with a kerb-weight of just 1410kg, enabled by the use of carbon fibre. For another its powered by a hybrid system that pairs two front-mounted electric motors with a rear-mounted supercharged 4.2-litre V8 engine that produces a power to weight ratio of 502kW per tonne. With this Tushek claims the vehicle can go from 0-60mph (0-96 km per hour) in 2.5 seconds, with a  top speed of 380 km per hour. In addition to these and other special features, the TS 900 H Apex features a striking design with a removable top and scissor doors, with some reports indicating a price tag of around US$1.4 million.

Tushek was established in 2012 by Aljosa Tushek, a Slovenian racing driver who now leads the company’s team in its efforts to produce “the ultimate hypercar”. You can learn more about the company here.

07 Aug 2019, 16:45 PM

STA, 7 August 2019 - Slovenia's largest pharmacy chain, Lekarna Ljubljana, was the target of a ransomware attack on Monday, which temporarily incapacitated its information system and forced the chain to close for business.

After being closed throughout Tuesday due to the problem, the pharmacies reopened on Wednesday but they have so far been able to issue prescription drugs based on paper prescriptions only.

The city-owned chain said that the information system would be restored shortly, so the units are expected to be able to start issuing prescription medications normally later today both for those prescribed on paper and in electronic form.

No further details are available at this point, but Lekarna Ljubljana said that the incident had been reported to the law enforcement authorities.

The Ljubljana Police Department confirmed receiving notification about the system breach from Lekarna Ljubljana, saying they were still making enquiries.

According to information from the Health Ministry, the attack affected the pharmacy chain's local information system, which is not connected to the national e-Health system.

Tadej Hren from the national cybersecurity centre SI-CERT said that the investigation would pinpoint where exactly the breach occurred and what kind of data the hackers had been able to access.

Ransom crypto viruses encrypt all user data files they are able to access. This type of attacks have been common in Slovenia since 2012.

Hren said that in all the cases they dealt with the victims had been picked randomly as part of a wider hacking campaign. The ransom for a decryption key in such cases ranges from EUR 1,000 to EUR 2,000.

In the past year SI-CERT has also been detecting more sophisticated attacks on large companies or institutions, which involve spy viruses which detect the scope of the damage that can be caused before a cryptovirus encrypts everything the hackers can access.

Information available to SI-CERT indicates the attack on Lekarna Ljubljana was likely a more sophisticated one because it is not believed to have been part of a larger campaign.

Lekarna Ljubljana operates more than 50 pharmacies in the capital Ljubljana and other towns, including Grosuplje, Ivančna Gorica, Idrija, Logatec, Vrhnika, Borovnica and Velike Lašče.

Prescription drugs have been issued normally at 14 private pharmacies with concession operating in Ljubljana.

All our stories on hacking Slovenia are here

07 Aug 2019, 14:40 PM

STA, 7 August 2019 - Ill-shod tourists attempting to scale Slovenia's highest peak are a major headache for mountain rescuers, but the Slovenian Alpine Museum has made it sure they can do that in a safe way with the help of virtual reality.

The institution, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, boasts a new addition to its state-of-the-art collection, providing a magical 3D experience of descending Mount Triglav.

Related: Police Stop Hikers for Wearing the Wrong Shoes

Visitors, be it in flip-flops or whatever their preferred choice of footwear, are now able to use a virtual reality zipline to descend the 2864-metre mountain and land in front of the museum.

They simply buckle a safety belt, sit down, put on 3D goggles and start the journey down the mountain.

During a couple of minutes, visitors are able to do a 360-degree spin and admire the neighbouring mountains and valleys while eagles are passing them by.

The zipline descent is included in the museum ticket and has so far elicited a positive response.

You can learn more about the museum here, while all our stories on mountaineering are here

07 Aug 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 7 August 2019 - The Slovenian subsidiary of the Italian banking group Unicredit posted EUR 16 million in consolidated profit in the first half of the year, a marginal increase of 0.3% on the same period a year ago, shows the annual report released by the parent bank.

Unicredit Banka Slovenija and Unicredit Leasing saw their operating profit increase by almost 6% to EUR 19 million in the same period. Operating revenue rose by 7.2% to EUR 42 million and net interest revenue was up 1.3% to EUR 23 million.

The bank formed EUR 5 million in net write-downs on loans, a decline of 7.4% compared with the first half of 2018.

Unicredit Group reported a net profit of EUR 2.16 billion for the first half of the year, up 1% year-on-year.

All out stories on banking in Slovenia can be found here

07 Aug 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 6 August 2019 - Sergej Racman, an erstwhile successful businessman who is wanted in Slovenia under an Interpol Red Notice alert for his alleged role in a prostitution ring, has expressed willingness to make himself available for proceedings running against him, provided he is allowed to preserve his dignity.

"Racman is not on the run or avoiding criminal procedure to avoid his accountability in any way," his lawyer Nataša Pirc Musar said in a written statement on Tuesday.

She said that Racman did not report to law enforcement authorities because he had been living abroad since 2010. She said the European arrest warrant and the Interpol Red Notice were unnecessary.

Racman, the former owner of the cinema chain operator Kolosej, has been wanted since late July when the court ordered his detention as a prime suspect in a prostitution ring operating near Nova Gorica.

The ring, which allegedly abused more than 400 foreign girls for prostitution in the Marina Sauna Club near Nova Gorica since August 2014, was dismantled by the police in January.

In July the Koper district prosecution filed an indictment against 18 individuals and one legal entity charging them with prostitution, human trafficking and drug abuse.

Racman's lawyer said that the businessman "has never been involved in peddling prostitution and justifiably expects that he will be cleared of the charge in the judicial proceedings".

However, she said that, until the trial, Racman expected "the law enforcement authorities to respect his person and his dignity".

Alerting the media about the time and place of the handover or arrest would "undoubtedly lead to uncalled for humiliation and ridicule of the suspect", the lawyer said.

Racman "rejects obvious attempts by the law enforcement authorities to make a public spectacle out of his arrival in Slovenia", the lawyer said.

The lawyer said the law enforcement authorities have been notified of Racman's willingness to return to Slovenia and defend himself in a way that will allow him to keep his dignity.

All our stories on prostitution in Slovenia can be found here

07 Aug 2019, 10:02 AM

STA, 6 August 2019 - The latest Eurobarometer survey has shown Slovenians are the strongest supporters of the euro in the entire EU, with as many as 88% of those polled favouring it.

Slovenia is followed by Estonia and Portugal (both 85%) and by Finland and Ireland (both 84%), while support by 81% of respondents was recorded in Germany.

The single currency enjoys the support of 62% of all EU citizens, the same as last autumn and the highest level since spring 2007.

The share of those who are not in favour of the euro in the EU-28 has dropped by two points to 30%, the lowest since spring 2004.

The average support for the euro in the 19-member eurozone, meanwhile, stands at 76%, up one percentage point from last autumn and eight points from spring 2016.

The figure makes for the strongest support since spring 2004 in the euro area, shows the survey, which was carried out among almost 27,500 respondents in June.

But the share of those who are still not in favour of the single currency has dropped by two points to 18%.

The euro was introduced in 1999, with Slovenia adopting it as of 2007, only two and a half years after it joined the EU.

Despite a number of price rises that the switch-over entailed, the euro has enjoyed strong support in the country ever since.

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