STA, 25 July - Metaldays, a large festival dedicated to metal music, is taking place near Tolmin in the north-west of the country where the Tolminka and Soča rivers meet. More than 50 bands will perform this year, including Napalm Death, Incantation and Celeste.
The line-up includes Incantation, a veteran death metal band from the US, French band Celeste that fuses black metal, sludge metal and post-hardcore, English grindcore band Napalm Death, Slovenian heavy-stoner metal band Britof, and Sick of It All, a veteran of the New York hardcore punk scene.
The organisers warn on the festival's website of a new parking regime due to the construction of a bypass road that will run through a part of the festival area.
Since Covid restrictions relaxed this year, allowing music festivals to return to the Sotočje area, the Tolmin municipality decided in the spring to introduce new rules for organisers.
Under the new regime, organisers must ensure free access to the riverside area during the day and the duration of the music programme is limited to eight hours a day and should wrap up by 1am at the latest.
To protect the area and keep the original spirit of the festival alive, the number of visitors is capped at 12,000. The festival will run until Friday.
The past two summers, the organisers of Metaldays had to cancel the largest festival at the Sotočje area due to the pandemic. Last year, a scaled-down iteration was held though at the end of July under the slogan Weekend of Consolation.
STA, 24 July 2022 - Slovenia's cycling star Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has failed to defend his 2021 Tour de France title as he finished second in the 2022 edition of the most prestigious Grand Tour on Sunday. He bagged the white jersey as the best young rider for the third time in a row though. The title went to Denmark's Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo-Visma).
The outcome of the 109th Tour de France was clear even before today's final stage that wrapped up, as tradition dictates, in Paris.
After two years of Pogačar's reign Vingegaard has taken over now. The Dane stripped Pogačar of the yellow jersey of the overall leader on the mountain stage eleven and then managed to hold onto it until the very end of the race.
The gap between Pogačar and Vingegaard was two minutes and 43 seconds in the end after the riders arrived in Paris to finish the 116km final stage, where the Slovenian placed 20th.
The British rider Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was in third place overall, clocking in four minutes and 39 seconds after Pogačar.
In addition to the overall win, Team Jumbo-Visma also took the green jersey of the best sprinter, which was secured by Belgium's Wout van Aert, and the polka dot jersey or the King of the Mountains jersey, which was clinched by Vingegaard.
Team-wise, Ineos Grenadiers was the best at the 2022 Tour de France.
Pogačar won three stages this year, same as during the two previous Tour de France races, including stage 17, one of the hardest, but the 23-year-old could not make up the gap between him and Vingegaard. The 25-year-old dominated stages 11 and 18 in particular.
The Slovenian intends to take this as a lesson for future races and has vowed to return stronger at next year's Tour de France. The defeat has motivated him even more and made him even "hungrier" to win, he said at a press conference on Saturday evening after the time trial, the penultimate stage, which he finished in third place.
He said it had been a mistake he responded to every attack during stage 11, noting he paid a high price for this. He also pointed out his team was Covid-depleted and said he was looking forward to new challenges.
Three other Slovenians finished the Tour today - Jan Tratnik (Team Bahrain Victorious) in 72nd place, Matej Mohorič (Team Bahrain Victorious) in 86th place and Luka Mezgec (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) in 101st place, whereas another cycling star, Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma), dropped out of the race before stage 15 due to injuries.
This summary is provided by the STA:
Fire in Kras under control, prevention measures announced
KOSTANJEVICA NA KRASU - PM Robert Golob, President Borut Pahor and Defence Minister Marjan Šarec visited the Kras region in western Slovenia where a large fire has been raging for ten days and is now under control, according to authorities. Golob announced measures aimed at tackling the consequences of the blaze, as well as measures to prevent additional fire outbreaks of this magnitude in the region. Simon Vendramin, the intervention's head, warned that the area will have to be observed for a few more days to make sure the blaze does not re-emerge. Today's extinguishing efforts centred around aerial firefighting, and there was a risk of the bora wind fanning the flames. Authorities thanked all who have helped put out the blaze with Pahor pointing to the remarkable solidarity that has been displayed during the fire.
President honours Nazi victims in Bistrica
NAKLO - President Borut Pahor attended a commemorative ceremony on Saturday evening marking 80 years since 59 people were killed by the Nazis in village Bistrica near Naklo in northern Slovenia. "Since the war in Ukraine started to rage, I have been seeing commemorations like this one differently in our homeland and abroad. The question of the inevitability of war, of war and peace, is being posed anew," Pahor said in his keynote speech as quoted in a press release by his office, as he again stressed the importance of a just peace in Ukraine.
Pogačar fails to defend Tour de France title, finishes second
PARIS, France - Slovenia's cycling star Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has failed to defend his 2021 Tour de France title as he finished second in the 2022 edition of the most prestigious Grand Tour. He bagged the white jersey as the best young rider for the third time in a row though. The title went to Denmark's Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo-Visma), and the British rider Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was in third place overall. The gap between Pogačar and Vingegaard was two minutes and 43 seconds in the end.
Climbing star Garnbret continues her winning streak
LJUBLJANA/BRIANCON, France - Slovenia's best climber Janja Garnbret continued her winning streak as she won her fourth consecutive World Cup lead event in Briancon, France, on Saturday. Another Slovenian, Vita Lukan, the silver-medallist from the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics, placed seventh. In the men's competition, Slovenia's Luka Potočar was eighth. Garnbret remains the favourite for the coming European Championships in Munich, Germany.
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.
This summary is provided by the STA:
Over 1,000 firefighters, several aircraft continue to battle Kras fire
RENČE - 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. While the firefighters are battling the fire that devastated a vast area in Kras, the foresters are clearing up corridors and cutting down the vegetation around endangered villages. The Slovenian army also participates in the effort with a helicopter and around 130 soldiers. Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who visited the site, said that the effort had to be focused on "enclosing" the fire as much as possible.
Diplomat says Croatia's Schengen entry means recognition of arbitration
LJUBLJANA - Vojko Volk, a seasoned diplomat and advisor to PM Robert Golob, has told the newspaper Večer that by entering the Schengen Area, Croatia would, legally speaking, recognise the borders of the countries that are already members of the area, including Slovenia, and thus indirectly also the border arbitration decision. The state secretary for international affairs at the prime minister's office said if Slovenia was forced to temporarily suspend Schengen on the border with Croatia, "it will of course be clear that the border at sea is where it is determined by the arbitration decision." He bases the argument on the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement, the key document that Croatia has to respect as it enters the Schengen Area.
Janša looks forward to elections in address to SDS get-together
BOVEC - The 27th annual get-together of the Democratic Party (SDS) started at the Bovec airstrip, with SDS president Janez Janša addressing the event. He expressed the belief that the candidate supported by the SDS will win this year's presidential elections and noted the traditional success of the party in local elections. At the first major meeting of the SDS after the 24 general election, in which the party was relegated t the opposition, Janša said that there had indeed been much disappointment after the vote, adding however that "we must not forget that the Democrats had made progress in this election as well".
Spending for social protection up 9.2% in 2020 to EUR 11.7bn
LJUBLJANA - Some EUR 11.7 billion was earmarked for social protection programmes in Slovenia in 2020, which is 9.2% more than in 2019, with most of it being allocated for old age- and illness-related programmes and healthcare. Social protection accounted for a quarter of the country's GDP in 2020, or 2.8 percentage points more than the year before. Almost 10% of Slovenia's GDP or 0.9 of a percentage point more than in 2019 was allocated for old age-related programmes, and 8.1% of GDP or 0.7 of a percentage point more for illness-related and healthcare programmes, the Statistics Office said.
Boxmark Leather back to profit last year as workforce reduced
KIDRIČEVO - Boxmark Leather, the Kidričevo-based car upholstery maker which more than halved its workforce during the Covid epidemic, saw its sales drop accordingly last year. It generated EUR 52 million in revenue, almost 43% less than in 2020. The annual report nevertheless shows that the cost-cutting measures resulted in a net profit of EUR 1.5 million in 2021, which compares to a EUR 2.7 million loss in 2020. The company also operated in the red for a few years before that. The workforce was reduced from 1,450 at the beginning of 2020 to 570 at end-2021, but the company is now again employing qualified staff.
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.
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.
STA, 22 July 2022 - As Covid figures have been increasing again in Slovenia, the Covid-19 task force recommended on Friday that face masks be again introduced in all indoor public spaces and that they become obligatory in the health system again. Vulnerable groups and those over 60 have been urged to work from home and get vaccinated.
"We ask employers to enable that and decision makers to create the legal basis for working from home," the group's head Mario Fafangel told the press. He stressed this was the basis for long-term co-existing with the virus.
All vulnerable groups and those over 60 years old are strongly recommended to use face masks when distancing is not possible. Masks are also recommended for all in indoor spaces such as public transport, shops, cinemas, he said.
The task force also called for masks to again become obligatory indoors in hospitals, community health centres, pharmacies, care homes and other social care institutions. Many of these institutions have already made mask wearing mandatory themselves.
Fafangel said that the epidemiological situation in Slovenia was improving and that the reproduction number was slowing approaching one, meaning that one infected person on average still infected more than one person.
The number of infections in this summer wave will peak next or perhaps even this week, he said. Then the curve could stagnate for a while before turning downwards in the best case scenario, he said.
Infectious disease expert Mateja Logar said rapid antigen test were currently used to confirm infections, while in the coming weeks PCR testing would be enhanced, as it enables further sequencing to determine the sub-variant of the virus.
Persons with Covid symptoms must stay home for seven days since the start of the symptoms. If the person tests negative after seven days, the isolation ends.
Logar stressed the importance of early detection of the disease, as the drugs available, remdesivir and paxlovid, are effective in preventing complications if taken early enough.
Currently, about 10% of beds are available for Covid patients in 15 Slovenian hospitals, according to the head of the task force coordinating Covid hospitalisations, Matjaž Jereb. He said the most problematic were patients treated for other conditions who get infected with coronavirus.
Calculations show that hospitalisations should peak in mid-August. "Let's hope that the pressure on hospitals will nevertheless be lower in the coming weeks," he said.
Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan said all measures would be introduced in cooperation with experts and presented to the public. No measure will be introduced overnight, he said.
"We want to prepare an open model, which Omicron currently allows for, but we must protect the vulnerable groups. We will strive to keep both our society and health system open," he said.
He announced the government would prepare an emergency Covid law to help manage the epidemic and its consequences. The bill will be sent to the Economic and Social Council next month, and will be passed in September, he said. It will be retroactive, taking effect from the start of July until the end of next year, he said.
Plans are also being made within the task force for the new school year. Gregor Pečan, a member of the subgroup for education, said the idea was to address the main challenges by autumn, so that school work could be conducted like in pre-pandemic times.
STA, 22 July 2022 - Slovenia's largest banks, NLB and NKBM, have announced they will stop charging negative interest rates on large deposits on the accounts of individuals and legal entities starting from 1 August, after the ECB raised its key interest rates on Thursday. Smaller banks are taking similar measures as well.
"Following the decision by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank to raise key interest rates in the euro zone by 0.5 percentage points, NLB has taken a decision to stop charging compensation for high balances on accounts and in deposit transactions," the bank said on Friday.
A similar message came from NKBM. "From 1 August, the bank will abolish the deposit charge for customers who are natural and legal persons. This means that we will no longer charge the fee, regardless of their account credit," the bank said in a press release.
Negative rates on large deposits will also be discontinued from August by Sparkasse. The bank only imposed such charges on legal entities. The DBS bank will discontinue such charges on physical persons in August.
The banks SKB, Unicredit and Delavska Hranilnica had previously announced they would lift the charges as soon as the ECB decided to end negative interest rates.
STA, 22 July 2022 - Russia has added Slovenia on the list of countries considered unfriendly by the Kremlin, according to a report by the Russian press agency Tass. This means Slovenia will no longer be allowed to hire employees for its diplomatic missions in Russia.
"The government has updated the list of foreign states that commit unfriendly acts against Russian diplomatic and consular missions abroad. The list now also includes Greece, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia," Tass quoted a press release from the Russian government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an executive order on measures against listed countries on 23 April.
Apart from the countries, the list also specifies the number of individuals in Russia that the listed countries and their diplomatic offices can hire.
Greece has a limit of 34 people, Denmark 20, Slovakia 16, while Slovenia and Croatia can no longer employ any people for their diplomatic missions or consular institutions.
In May 2021, Russia imposed such restrictions on the US and the Czech Republic. Tass reports that the list may be expanded further.
Russia in May ordered Slovenia to reduce its diplomatic personnel by four. Marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret that the Slovenian authorities had adopted a position hostile to Russia.