News

01 Feb 2020, 10:23 AM

STA, 31 January 2020 - Janez Stanovnik, one of the most notable Slovenian politicians in the period leading up to independence and the face of the Slovenian WWII Veterans' Association after 2003, has died aged 97.

Stanovnik, who was among the first who joined the Partisan liberation movement during the war, was the last president of the Slovenian presidency under the former Yugoslavia between 1988 and 1990 after he served as a member from 1984 to 1988.

After World War II he worked in the federal Yugoslav government and in Yugoslav diplomacy, while he briefly also served as the dean of the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics. He was the executive secretary of the UN's economic commission for Europe from 1968 to 1982.

Between 2003 and 2013 Stanovnik served as the president of Slovenian WWII Veterans' Association and after that he was its honorary president.

Stanovnik was the recipient of a number of honours and was also named an honorary citizen of Ljubljana.

Condolences are already starting to pour in, including from Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who described Stanovnik as an important personality of his era.

Pahor said Slovenians would remember Stanovnik as a Partisan, as strong-charactered, true to his convictions, as somebody with an open spirit and heart.

Parliamentary Speaker and SocDems president Dejan Židan wrote that Stanovnik had been the president of the Slovenian presidency during the pinnacle of democratic change and that he had promoted the values of the liberation movement throughout his life, seeing them "as a key part of our national identity".

01 Feb 2020, 04:13 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.

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

This summary is provided by the STA:

EU Court of Justice rules Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia inadmissible

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The EU Court of Justice decided that a lawsuit Slovenia brought against Croatia over its refusal to implement the 2017 border arbitration award is inadmissible, but it said that both countries nevertheless had to endeavour to resolve this dispute in accordance with international law. The decision did not come as a surprise to international law experts, who say that that legal avenues in the EU are now exhausted, but Slovenia has not lost anything in legal terms and the decision will have no bearing on implementation of the border arbitration decision. Moreover, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said the ruling showed the court saw the border arbitration award as "valid and binding," which was an important goal.

MPs propose scrapping electoral districts

LJUBLJANA - A group of MPs filed in parliamentary procedure amendments to the National Assembly election act that would abolish electoral districts and introduce a relative preferential vote. The proposed changes come after the Constitutional Court declared the size of electoral districts for general election unconstitutional at the end of 2018. The amendments were proposed by 59 MPs of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Modern Centre Party (SMC), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), New Slovenia (NSi), National Party (SNS) and the Left as well as the two minority MPs. In order to be passed, the motion needs the support of at least 60 MPs in the 90-member legislature.

Pahor, Šarec call for strong, united EU at diplomatic corps reception

BRDO PRI KRANJU - President Borut Pahor and outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec stressed the importance of a strong and united EU in the face of Brexit at the annual reception for the diplomatic corps. They also touched on the political situation in Slovenia, and relations with Croatia. Pahor expressed sadness and said the EU had a lot in common with the UK but obviously the differences had prevailed. Šarec said that "in the transitional period we won't have a lot of time to reach an ambitious agreement on our future relations that will enable us to cooperate to our mutual benefit in the future". Foreign Minister Miro Cerar meanwhile regretted the UK's departures from the EU in a separate statement.

Pahor: Slovenia needs government with strong majority

BRDO PRI KRANJU - President Borut Pahor commented on the resignation of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, saying Slovenia needed a government with a convincing political majority and a convincing programme, be it in this term or after an early election. He believes that will send a clear signal to the public that coalition parties are in the government to implement their joint programme and not because they are afraid of election. In the last three decades, Slovenia has developed a strong democratic political system, which is why the government's resignation and a short period of somewhat lower political stability until the appointment of a new government should not have major consequences on further economic and social progress of the country, the president said.

SMC interested in new govt coalition

LJUBLJANA - Modern Centre Party (SMC) leader Zdravko Počivalšek said he was interested in a new coalition being formed after PM Marjan Šarec's resignation. Šarec, who however favours an early election, has said he would not mind the SMC joining a right-leaning coalition and himself becoming an opposition MP. Speaking a current political affairs show of public broadcaster TV Slovenija Thursday evening, Počivalšek said he had met most party leaders on Monday, including Janez Janša of the opposition Democrats (SDS). Šarec and Počivalšek met on Friday to discuss ways forward, with the SMC saying after the meeting that "our views on the exit from the current situation differ somewhat".

Slovenia's budget surplus down to 0.5% of GDP in 2019

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia posted a budget surplus of EUR 224.6 million, or 0.5% of GDP, in 2019 compared to a surplus of 1.1% in 2018, show preliminary figures released by the Finance Ministry. Budget revenue rose by 1.4% to EUR 10.14 billion from 2018, and expenditure increased by 4.7% to EUR 9.91 billion. However, the ministry pointed out the 2018 surplus was a result of two major one-off events. Over EUR 270 million came into the 2018 budget from NLB bank dividends and EUR 207 million from delayed EU payments from the 2007-2013 multi-year budget.

Prominent WWII veteran Janez Stanovnik dies

LJUBLJANA - Janez Stanovnik, one of the most notable Slovenian politicians in the period leading up to independence and the face of the Slovenian WWII Veterans' Association after 2003, has died aged 97. Stanovnik, who was among the first who joined the Partisan liberation movement, was the last president of the Slovenian presidency under the former Yugoslavia between 1988 and 1990. After World War II he worked in the federal Yugoslav government and in Yugoslav diplomacy. He was the executive secretary of the UN's economic commission for Europe from 1968 to 1982. Expressing his condolences, Slovenian President Borut Pahor said Slovenians would remember Stanovnik as a Partisan, as strong-charactered, true to his convictions, as somebody with an open spirit and heart.

Finger pointing as baby dies in Roma village

RIBNICA/LJUBLJANA - A two-month-old baby died of pneumonia a month ago in Goriča Vas, a Roma village which lacks basic infrastructure such as electricity and water, near Ribnica, south, triggering finger-pointing between institutions and severe criticism by Amnesty International (AI) Slovenia. The family with three children had lived in great poverty in a shack, sleeping on blankets on the floor and the other children have since been placed in a crisis centre, the newspaper Dnevnik reported on Thursday. There are several illegal Roma villages with inhumane living conditions in the Dolenjska region. While national authorities claim local authorities should be more proactive, the latter believe the state should do more.

Chamber of Industry tears apart national energy plan

LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) issued a strong criticism of the recently adopted draft National Energy and Climate Plan, labelling the goals unrealistic, in particular for giving up on new hydro plants along the middle course of the river Sava. The GZS, which listed its grievances in a letter sent to the Environment and Infrastructure Ministry and the PM's office, argues that implementing the plan would increase energy prices, undermining energy-intensive industry and increase energy poverty. The chamber wants to see the plan - which for instance envisages a 30% reduction of coal consumption by 2030, phases out subsidies for fossil fuels and postpones a decision on a potential new Krško nuclear plant reactor to 2027 - rejected.

Small businesses lament youths not interested in civil engineering

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's construction sector has been seeing a shortage of young workforce, heard a debate held by the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS). There is a lack of apprentices, while construction companies are struggling with lengthy procedures in getting work permits for foreign workers. The number of youths enrolled in civil engineering courses is rapidly decreasing - six years ago, there were 610 civil engineering students, while this year, merely some 170 are enrolled in such courses. In the past three years, the number of permits for workers from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina tripled, but this labour pool will be eventually depleted as well, said OZS head Branko Meh at the debate.

Slovenia attracted 6.2 million tourists in 2019

LJUBLJANA - Some 6.2 million tourists visited Slovenia last year, a 5% increase compared to 2018. The number of overnight stays grew 0.6% to roughly 15.8 million, shows Statistics Office data. The number of Slovenian tourists increased by 1.3% to 1.5 million, while the number of foreign tourists grew by 6.3% to 4.7 million. The bulk of the foreign tourists came from Italy, Germany and Austria, but while Austrians opted more often for holidays in Slovenia (up 10.7%), Italians were less likely to visit the country (down 8.5%).

Impol group profit down in 2019

SLOVENSKA BISTRICA - The aluminium producer Impol generated EUR 50.4 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) last year and EUR 27.3 million in profit before tax. The production and sales volume in 2019 were on par with the previous year, shows an unaudited report released. Meanwhile, the group's EBITDA and profit before tax were reduced by 15% and 17%, respectively, in 2019 year-on-year due to growth slowdown in Germany and pressure of the Chinese suppliers exerted on the EU market in the wake of the US-China trade war and Brexit.

Central bank says Brexit effect on Slovenian economy indirect

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian economy will mostly experience an indirect effect of Brexit, felt in particular through the cooperation with key trade partners whose share of exports to the UK is considerably greater than the Slovenia's, said Banka Slovenije, adding that the eventual consequences of Brexit will be clear after a transition period ends. The immediate direct effect on the country's economy will be marginal due to a modest share of exports to the UK (2% of all Slovenia's exports).

LMŠ and SDS sharing lead in Nova24TV poll

LJUBLJANA - In the wake of Prime Minister Marjan šarec's resignation, a public opinion poll commissioned by Nova24TV shows that the Democrats (SDS) and the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) would garner most support if a snap election was held on Sunday. The two parties are tied in the top spot, polling at 17.4% and 17.3%, respectively. The Left ranks third, polling at 6.7%, followed by the Social Democrats (SD) at 4.6% and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and National Party (SNS), both polling at 3.7%.

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

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

31 Jan 2020, 19:57 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 24 January
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Attending an informal meeting of EU home ministers in Zagreb, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said that "mounting fully functioning Frontex operations in the Western Balkans as soon as possible and signing status agreements with the region's countries" was necessary for the effective management of migrations.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition-led parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services released a report finding that an acquaintance of PM Marjan Šarec was given special treatment when she was hired by the intelligence agency SOVA. The commission also found systemic flaws in SOVA staffing.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs, including Amnesty International Slovenija and the Legal and Information Centre, said that by handing asylum seekers over to the Croatian authorities, Slovenia was aggravating one of the most severe humanitarian crises in Europe and contravening the law.
        LJUBLJANA - In its first reaction to the controversy about the Supreme Court's decision to quash the 1946 conviction of collaborationist official Leon Rupnik, the Justice Ministry said that court decisions in appeals over post-war judgements were not denying the abject nature of concrete cases, nor did they rehabilitate perpetrators.
        NEW YORK, US - Luka Dončić was selected as a Western Conference starter for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, becoming the youngest European and the first Slovenian ever to be selected directly to play in the prestigious exhibition game.

SATURDAY, 25 January
        LJUBLJANA - Rajko Kozmelj, director of Slovenia's intelligence and security agency SOVA, told Delo he would insist the agency be given new powers to fight violent extremism as had been envisaged in the draft resolution on the national security strategy, which was however later amended to scrap the new powers that many found problematic.
        LJUBLJANA - Culture Minister Zoran Poznič said in an interview with Delo that Mladinska Knjiga, the country's No.1 publisher, would be transferred from the bad bank to Slovenian Sovereign Holding and labelled a strategic investment.
        MARIBOR - A statement encouraging people to seek role models in themselves won physician and humanitarian worker Ninna Kozorog the Spade of the Year award, presented by Večer for the statement that its readership believe best captured the zeitgeist of last year.

SUNDAY, 26 January
        POKLJUKA - France's Quentin Fillon Maillet won the men's 15km mass start event of the Biathlon World Cup meet at Pokljuka, finishing the the race ahead of Benedikt Doll of Germany and Norwegian Johannes Thingnes Boe. Hanna Oeberg of Sweden won the women's 12.5km mass start, ahead of Italian Lisa Vittozzi and France's Anais Bescond. The best Slovenian competitor was Jakov Fak, who finished 21st.

MONDAY, 27 January
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec announced his resignation after Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj stepped down, to some extend due to differences regarding a bill scrapping top-up health insurance. Šarec said he could not achieve what he had set out to do with the current minority coalition and called for snap election. Most parties agreed this would be the best scenario but indicated that all options were open, including the formation of a new coalition.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's coordination group for monitoring and managing contagious diseases discussed the coronavirus outbreak in China, announcing Slovenia was prepared for a potential outbreak.
        LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) protested against what it perceives as the state opening the door wide to builders from third countries. This brings disloyal competition to Slovenian companies and results in fewer jobs and lower wages for Slovenian workers, the GZS said.
        OSWIECIM, Poland/LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor, accompanied by Slovenian internment camp survivors, attended a memorial marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp.
        LJUBLJANA - Business sentiment in Slovenia stood at 4.1 percentage points in January, up 1.1 percentage points on December but eight percentage points below the January 2019 level. The second consecutive monthly increase comes after the sentiment index fell to 2.4 points in November, the lowest since late 2014, in what was the fourth consecutive month of decline.
        
TUESDAY, 28 January
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - A day after resigning as prime minister, Marjan Šarec denied the reason behind the move was that his own team was falling apart. But he admitted that to continue successfully as prime minister he would have had to carry out a broader government reshuffle, which would be "too risky" at the moment.
        LJUBLJANA - A poll conducted by Ninamedia for Dnevnik suggested that more than 60% of Slovenians want a new election after the resignation of PM Marjan Šarec. Šarec's arguments convinced more than half of the respondents.
        LONDON, UK - The British Home Office said that roughly half of some 5,000 Slovenians living in the UK had applied for settled or pre-settled status ahead of Brexit. Slovenian Ambassador to the UK Tadej Rupel said he expected the number of Slovenians in the UK to "drop somewhat, but not drastically".
        LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc and Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek assured the public that the National Energy and Climate Plan, which sets out energy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030, would be adopted by the government by the end of February, despite PM Marjan Šarec's surprise resignation.
        LOGATEC - Lonstroff, the Swiss subsidiary of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, announced it had launched elastomer production in Logatec this month. Currently, the facility employs almost 40 people, with the company planning to expand capacity and workforce over the course of two months.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian police reported busting an international drug ring in cooperation with police forces from Croatia and several other European countries, seizing 120 kilos of amphetamine and arresting 20 people in nearly 50 raids. The investigation uncovered the biggest synthetic drugs lab in Slovenia to date.

WEDNESDAY, 29 January
        LJUBLJANA - The government formally ended its term as the National Assembly took note of PM Marjan Šarec's resignation, relegating the cabinet to caretaker status. The end of the government term kicks off formal talks that will lead either to a new coalition or a snap election.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly failed to pass amendments that would abolish supplementary health insurance, a motion which had split the coalition and was one of the reasons why PM Marjan Šarec stepped down. The legislation was rejected in a 51:32 vote.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia expressed reservations about a Middle East peace plan proposed by US President Donald Trump, stressing that lasting peace and stability were only possible as a result of "direct, equal and comprehensive negotiations between Israel and Palestine".
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - After Brexit agreement was ratified in the European Parliament, Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) and Franc Bogovič EPP/SLS) expressed hope that London and Brussels would reach a good agreement on future relations, while Romana Tomc (EPP/SDS) said the consequences of Brexit would be felt both in the EU and in the UK.
        LJUBLJANA - UK Ambassador to Slovenia Sophie Honey told the STA that the rights of the estimated 800 UK nationals living in Slovenia were protected under the December EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, which also protected Slovenians in the UK. Arrangements for British people coming to live permanently in Slovenia after 2020 and vice-versa are yet to be decided.
        ROGAŠKA SLATINA - Glassworks Steklarna Rogaška announced it would lay off up to 200 of its 830 workers to increase efficiency in the face of constant changes in consumer habits and in the business environment.
        
THURSDAY, 30 January
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Armed Forces announced Slovenia had sent six army instructors back to Iraq as part of the international operation Inherent Resolve in Erbil to train Iraqi security forces, after the previous contingent was evacuated following Iran's missile attacks on Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS), Social Democrats (SD) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) initiated preparations for a snap election after the Marjan Šarec government collapsed. While the SDS said it had already shortlisted the candidates, it said all options remained open, including talks on a new coalition, a position also reiterated by SD and DeSUS.
        NOVO MESTO - The group around the Novo Mesto-based drug maker Krka generated EUR 1.49 billion in sales revenue in 2019, or 12% more than in the year before, while net profit was up 39% to EUR 242 million, according to an estimate released by the management board. Krka also announced that an internal inquiry had into suspected bribery at the company's Romanian subsidiary had shown that the allegations were unjustified as regards Krka Romania employees.
        LJUBLJANA - Radio Slovenija reported that NATO inspectors checking Slovenia's compliance with the alliances' targets at the end of last week concluded that Slovenia was becoming an increasingly heavy burden for the alliance, having for years now failed to meet the promises given. The Defence Ministry said the findings of such inspections were not public and that the final report would be drawn up for the June NATO ministerial.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor picked Robert Šumi, a teacher at the police academy, as the next head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. Šumi was one of four candidates short-listed for the job by a vetting commission to replace Boris Štefanec, who was also among the candidates.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met UK Ambassador Sophie Honey a day before the UK leaves the EU. Tweeting after the meeting, Cerar said effective approach to implementation of the divorce agreement was necessary on both sides. Honey thanked Slovenia for being constructive and helping ensure UK citizens' rights in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's national motorway company DARS and Turkish builder Cengiz signed the master agreement on the construction of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel, a step that comes more than two years after the original tender was published. Works could start in March, weather permitting.

All our posts in this series are here

31 Jan 2020, 18:13 PM

I lived on Ljubljana’s Trubarjeva cesta for my first few years in Slovenia. I left because the rent was too high and the space too small, moving 30 minutes out of the city to a large place I’ve hardly left except for supplies since moving last December. It’s a nice place, a lot better than my apartment on Turbarjeva, but no one will ever write a book about the street it’s on.

Trubarjeva project photo - Manca Juvan.jpg

Graffiti is a big part of the street, especially in the second half. Photo: Manca Juvan (and if you're on the street around now you'll see some of her photos from the book on the walls)

Trubarjeva is perhaps the most diverse place in Slovenia. Split between the fancier end that runs from Prešeren to Resljeva cesta, the road with Dragon Bridge, and the more graffiti-covered, falling down and rapidly gentrifying dirty end. The former starts with the Emporium top brand store, while the latter ends with the Rog squat, a what now seems to have been a failed attempt to establish an autonomous zone in a former bicycle factory, a space that’s set for glossy redevelopment.

Trubarjeva project photo - drawing emporium.JPG

With sketches by Blaž Budja, this one showing Emporium

And it’s not just Rog. Starting last year the street has been undergoing extensive renovation work, as befits its status as one of the more trafficked parts of downtown, by tourists and residents who want something different, and it’s rising profile in the city (the book this article will eventually get to was supported in part by the City of Ljubljana).

Trubarjeva project photo -daaadd Manca Juvan.jpg

The book features interviews with local residents and business owners - in Slovene and English for maximum educational potential. if you need a photo, go to Foto Pauli and see Gordana. I trusted her with my passport photo / author picture / Facebook profile.

Tourism and Airbnb, among other reasons, are why property prices are rising fast in Ljubljana, and with them the rents. This is changing the character of the people who can afford to live there, and the businesses that can afford to operate. But Trubarjeva is still not the Old Town, and there are many businesses used by locals for necessities and minor indulgences.

Trubarjeva project photo - aaf   a Manca Juvan.jpg

What draws most is the variety of restaurants, from cheap to more expensive, with the mix at the time of writing including Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai, Italian, Lebanese, Turkish, Vegan and Slovenian, without even going into Skuhna and its rotating menu of dishes from Africa, South America and beyond, along with a great spice shop and Asian store.

Trubarjeva project photo - sasad wr a Manca Juvan.jpg

There are also some good cafés and bars, with Trubar alone seeing more of my income than anyone other than my landlady in my time on the street, although in some months it was close.

Trubarjeva project photo - dad 24i v Manca Juvan.jpg

That umbrella repair store? You can see a documentary on it here

Beyond restaurants and bars, on Trubarjeva you can buy buttons and beads, get your watch or shoe repaired, try a fur coat and second-hand clothes, antiques and art, bread and burek, sex toys and vaporisers. Have your photograph taken or get your hair cut, choose a skateboard or new pair of glasses, a book or umbrella, ride off with a bicycle, equip your home for growing marijuana or stock your fridge with craft beer, purchase health food or handmade chocolates, go to a rave, work with some refugees, attend the "Sigmud Freud University" or watch some graffiti get made. Something for almost everyone.

Trubarjeva project photo jaka - Manca Juvan.jpg

You can read our story on Antika Carniola here

Which is to say I’m the ideal reader for a new book, Trubarjeva, Expressions of A Street in Transition, which is being launched next week but can currently be viewed entire online and a paper copy ordered here.

Trubarjeva project photo -adweManca Juvan.jpg

With texts by Jeff Bickert, in Slovene and English - so great for learning the language, sketches of the street by Blaž Budja, photographs by Manca Juvan and design by Sava Kosmač, it’s a 144-page look Trubarjeva with a variety, colour and cool that are worthy of the street itself. Structured around interviews with people who live and work on Trubarjeva, with faces familiar to anyone who hangs out there a lot, you’ll learn how the street was, how it is, and some of the hopes and fears for the future. Trubarjeva is a unique part of Slovenia that’s changing fast, one that may not survive in its current form for many more years, so it’s good this book is here to document a time of transition.

Trubarjeva project photo - cover.JPG

All our stories on Trubarjeva can be found here

31 Jan 2020, 14:47 PM

A police investigation took place yesterday morning at one of the Derby warehouses of the "banana king", real estate developer and more recently Adria Airways’ flying permit owner, Izet Rastoder.

According to the surprised bystanders, at about 10 o'clock members of the special police unit arrived. The entrance was guarded by police officers who did not let anyone into the warehouse.

In a press release later in the day the Rastoder Company stated that some employees started unloading the container in the early morning hours and noticed irregularities in some boxes. They were filled with packages of stationery paper and not just bananas. They informed customs authorities about the finding, and a few minutes later an armed police unit entered the warehouse, forced everyone to lie on the ground and some phones were taken away.

Izet Rastoder, who is currently in Dubai, initially told reporters from Dnevnik in a phone conversation that he knew nothing about the event. Later he told Dnevnik that he had learned from his employees that a container of bananas from Colombia had arrived at the warehouse with a one week delay, because it got stuck on its stop in Italy. When the container was opened the employees noticed there was more than simply bananas inside, with paper as well. The employees, in line with the procedural rules, called the customs office and the police.

However, in its press release the police have a slightly different story to tell. Drago Menegalija, a spokesman of the criminal investigators, said that their investigative activities at the address of Letališka street in Ljubljana were the result of a criminal investigation conducted by the National Investigation Bureau for some time, and were conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the state prosecutor's office. The investigators carried out urgent investigative actions based on the prosecutors and court orders in connection with the suspicion of committing the criminal offense of illicit production and trafficking in narcotics. Yesterday’s proceedings were therefore not the result of calls by citizens to the emergency number 113, but of something deeper and more organised.

However, the police refused to confirm or deny whether the banana storage house action was part of the two-year investigation into drug-related organised crime, which concluded a few days ago.

31 Jan 2020, 13:13 PM

STA, 31 January 2020 - The EU Court of Justice has decided that a lawsuit Slovenia has brought against Croatia over its refusal to implement the 2017 border arbitration award is inadmissible, but it said in a decision issued on Friday that both countries nevertheless had to endeavour to resolve this dispute in accordance with international law.

The decision is not surprising given that in December the court's Advocate General Priit Pikamäe proposed that the suit be ruled inadmissible. While his opinion was not binding on the court, it was seen as a strong indication of the court's course of action.

Slovenia had built its case around the argument that Croatia infringes several articles of EU law by refusing to implement the award of a border arbitration tribunal that both countries had pledged would be binding.

The advocate general however argued that "the infringements of EU law of which Slovenia accuses Croatia are ancillary to the issue of determining the boundary between those two states, which is a matter of public international law".

The court's Grand Chamber used exactly the same argument in its decision. It said the arbitration tribunal was founded on the basis of international law, whereby "neither the arbitration agreement nor the arbitration award formed an integral part of EU law".

While it is true that the Act of Accession of Croatia to the EU makes a reference to the arbitration award, which Slovenia has interpreted as a strong argument in favour of its position that the court should take on the dispute, the judges did not see that as making the arbitration award a part of EU law.

They said the reference to the arbitration agreement "could not be interpreted as incorporating into EU law the international commitments made by both member states within the framework of the arbitration agreement".

Despite the inadmissibility, the court indicated that both sides needed to respect the arbitration agreement. It said both countries were required by the EU Treaty to "strive sincerely to bring about a definitive legal solution to the dispute consistent with international law, in order to ensure the effective and unhindered application of EU law in the areas concerned".

In order to achieve this, they may use other means of settling their dispute, including a submission to the Court under a special agreement pursuant to Article 273 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which gives the court jurisdiction in any dispute between member states "if the dispute is submitted to it under a special agreement between the parties"

Slovenia had brought the case under Article 259 of the EU Treaty.

Mojca Menard, Slovenia's agent in the case, described the decision as a "dangerous precedent" that is not in line with the court's case law and potentially paves the way for violations of EU law by member states by invoking "allegedly open international issues".

She said it raised the question of how the court may act in the event of violations of fisheries regulations or the Schengen Code by Slovenia of Croatia in the border area. "Which country will then be considered an infringer by the EU Commission," she wondered.

The court's decision is final and cannot be appealed. Menard said it "changes nothing" with regard to the arbitration award or for the border line that the arbitration award determines.

Slovenia sees EU Court ruling as vindication of its position

STA, 31 January 2020 - While the EU Court of Justice did not admit Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia over its refusal to implement the award handed down by the border arbitration tribunal, Slovenia feels vindicated. Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said the ruling showed the court saw the border arbitration award as "valid and binding," which was an important goal.

The decision is "not a legal victory for Croatia," which will be "reminded every week that it must respect the arbitration award," he told the press on Friday after the court handed down its decision.

The court said the border between Slovenia and Croatia is determined with the arbitration award, "yet another proof that Slovenia has been right all along - that Croatia must implement the arbitration award as well," said Cerar.

"No antics by the Croatian side can change this fact, which is finally written down black on white in the [court's] statement," said Cerar, who was confident Croatia would gradually recognise it needs to behave more constructively and in line with the law.

"Slovenia must be patient. The law is on our side. The border has been determined and we have signed it into law. There is no reason for any excitement or rushing, but we have to persistently exert legal pressure."

Cerar, a jurist by profession, also expressed disappointment at the court not having had the courage to decide the matter on substance. "This is a defensive stance about the rule of law, the European legal order as well as international law," he said.

If the judges decided to delve into the substance of the matter, they would be bound to decide that Croatia is violating EU law, he said.

Marko Vrevc, a senior Foreign Ministry official who has worked on the border arbitration brief for years, sees the decision as a confirmation that "implementation of the law as interpreted and implemented by Slovenia is fine, and Slovenia will continue to pursue it."

He was particularly pleased with the court's appeal that the two countries should endeavour to bring about a legal solution to the dispute. "We're now counting on Croatia realising in a foreseeable time that this dialogue is needed on this basis."

The court today announced that it was not within its purview to hear the case, but it nevertheless urged both sides to "strive sincerely to bring about a definitive legal solution to the dispute consistent with international law".

Croatia, on the other hand, interprets the decision as a victory of its arguments. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković thus reiterated Croatia's long-held stance that the dispute should be resolved in bilateral talks and urged Slovenia to engage in "dialogue and bilateral negotiations".

31 Jan 2020, 13:07 PM

STA, 30 January 2020 - Slovenia's national motorway company DARS and Turkish builder Cengiz signed on Thursday the master agreement on the construction of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel, a step that comes more than two years after the original tender was published. Works could start in March, weather permitting.

 "We're glad that after five rounds of appeals to the National Review Commission, we have finally signed the contract," DARS chairman Tomaž Vidic said.

Under the contract, Cengiz has 20 business days to submit a EUR 12 million bank guarantee, whereupon it will be able to start work.

Preliminary activities on the border tunnel - Austria has already made significant progress on its portion of the second tube - are to be initiated next week as DARS and Austrian motorway operator Asfinag meet to discuss the timeline.

Vidic said this was a five-year endeavour and problems may appear on either side of the border, which is why he would not venture to speculate whether Cengiz could catch up with the builder working on the Austrian section, which started works in September 2018.

"We think the problems are manageable. We have a skilled builder with a wealth of experience, which is key," he said.

Cengiz board member Asim Cengiz said Slovenian companies would be involved in the construction works. Talks with potential partners are already under way.

The contract is worth EUR 98.6 million VAT excluded and covers construction of 3,546 metres of tunnel on the Slovenian side of the border. The Austrian section is almost a kilometre longer.

Once the second tube is completed, the original tunnel, which entered service in 1991, will be closed for approximately two years for significant renovation and upgrade works.

Karavanke tunnel is one of the main transport routes between Slovenia and Austria. It is a key artery for cargo and one of the main entry points for millions of north European tourists en route to the Adriatic Sea.

31 Jan 2020, 12:34 PM

STA, 30 January 2020 - The group around the Novo Mesto-based drug maker Krka generated EUR 1.49 billion in sales revenue in 2019, or 12% more than in the year before, while net profit was up 39% to EUR 242 million, according to an estimate released by the management board on Thursday.

The group's operating profit was up by 18% to EUR 274 million, and pre-tax profit increased by 40% to EUR 283.7 million.

The core company generated EUR 1.39 billion in sales revenue, up 13% from 2018, and net profit more than doubled to EUR 248.1 million.

Last year, the Krka group generated EUR 481.2 million or 32.3% of total sales in East Europe, the largest market for Krka, with sales there increasing by 17% year-on-year. In Russia alone, sales were up by 13% to EUR 310.5 million.

Central Europe, comprising the Visegrad Group and the Baltic states, followed with EUR 339.6 million, or 22.8% of total Krka group sales. Sales there were up by 7% compared to the year before.

Sales to West Europe amounted to EUR 336 million or 22.6% of total sales, and were up by 17% compared to 2018. Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Spain, and Italy generated the strongest sales in the region.

With sales of EUR 191.3 million, South-East Europe represented a 12.8% share in total Krka group sales, and saw a 9% rise compared to the year before. Romania and Croatia were the largest markets, while the highest sales growth was recorded in Bulgaria and Serbia.

In Slovenia, sales were up by 4% to EUR 92.4 million, accounting for 6.2% of total sales. Product sales stood at EUR 52.9 million, while health resorts and tourist services yielded EUR 39.5 million.

In the overseas markets, the Krka group generated EUR 48.6 million in product sales, a 12% growth, which is 3.3% of total sales.

Commenting on the results, Krka chairman Jože Colarič noted that the group had posted its best sales result ever. Growth of sales was recorded in all regions and on the majority of markets, and sales were up in all groups of products and services, he added.

According to Colarič, the group plans to generate EUR 1.52 billion in sales and more than EUR 210 million in net profit this year. A total of EUR 134 million has been earmarked for investment in 2020, mostly in production and infrastructure.

Last year investments amounted to EUR 113 million, of which EUR 93 million was invested in the core company. Most of the funds went for modernisation of production and research, quality assurance and production and distribution centres.

In 2020, Krka plans to increase the workforce in Slovenia and abroad by a total of 3%, and is expected to have more than 12,300 employees at the end of the year, said Colarič.

The unaudited financial statements for 2019 for the group and core company will be published on 19 March, Krka said.

31 Jan 2020, 11:28 AM

STA, 30 January 2020 - Several parliamentary parties announced on Thursday they were starting preparations for a snap election after the resignation of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, but their statements suggest they are leaving all options open, including talks on a new coalition.

The Democrats (SDS), with 26 MPs the biggest party in parliament and as such the decisive factor in any coalition talks, said it had already confirmed a preliminary list of candidates for a snap election and formed local campaign teams.

Nevertheless the party is "leaving options open for serious talks with other parties," MP Jelka Godec said after a session of the party's executive committee.

Deputy group leader Danijel Krivec said all options had been put on the table but no decisions had been made. The party plans to wait for other parties to decide what to do and then proceed based on their feedback.

"Our door is always open, it's up to them to make the move now. We weren't the ones ostracising in the past, others did," he said in reference to how parties in the outgoing coalition had refused to talk to SDS after the last election due to SDS's radical platform, in particular on migrations.

There has been some speculation in recent days that SDS leader Janez Janša might step aside and let someone else take the premiership to make a coalition more palatable for potential partners, but Krivec indicated this was not an option.

He said Janša was "the best candidate we have and we're still the party with the largest number of MPs. I think no other option is possible at this point."

Janša did not talk to the press after the meeting.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), fresh from a bitterly contested election for the party presidency, said after a session of its top decision-making bodies today it was preparing for both options and planned to engage in talks on a new coalition if an invitation arrives.

If the party is invited to coalition talks, they will make their demands clear. "All decisions will be adopted by the party's bodies," said the new DeSUS president, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec.

MP Franc Jurša said the key now was to prepare for an election. "But if a coalition is formed, be it right or left, we have to listen and participate in these debates".

The Social Democrats (SD), another junior partner in Šarec's government, formally initiated preparations for a snap election today by appointing a campaign team and starting the vetting process for candidates.

Since Šarec stepped down the party has advocated a snap election as the best option and party leader Dejan Židan reiterated this stance following a meeting of the SD presidency today.

"I don't want people to look for a thousand and one reasons to extend this, to keep positions," he said about ideas entertained in particular by smaller parties for an alternative coalition.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Šarec ruled out any options that would involve his LMŠ party entering a new government and reiterated his stance that a snap election was the best choice.

He said the onus was now on the SDS and its leader and "if the SDS is not in government, a [new] government will not come about". "It is now up to others to make the move," he said.

31 Jan 2020, 10:13 AM

STA, 30 January 2020 - The police investigation that led to the dismantling of a well-organised international drug ring earlier this week uncovered the biggest synthetic drugs lab ever found in Slovenia, police representatives told the press on Thursday, as they talked about the investigation in more detail and updated earlier information.

This is the first time that a "wholesale" drugs lab was found operating in Slovenia, Criminal Police Administration director Boštjan Lindav said, adding that this in itself is a landmark.

The police seized 125 kilos of amphetamines and enough precursors to make another 300 kilos of amphetamines in nearly 50 house searches featuring nearly 500 officers Tuesday morning. Equipment to make and package drugs was also seized, as were firearms.

The investigation leading up to the Tuesday bust lasted 28 months, which Lindav said was normal for an investigation of such complexity.

The police believe that a 38-year-old Slovenian citizen from Kamnik was the head of the drug cartel. In the course of the investigation, the police secured evidence of at least 61 crimes perpetrated by 45 members of the ring, said Ljubljana criminal police chief Damjan Petrič.

Apart from the amphetamines and precursors, the police seized 4.7 kilos of cocaine, 9.6 kilos of heroin, 28.3 kilos of marijuana, a kilo of hashish and 6,300 ecstasy pills on Tuesday. More than EUR 240,000 in cash was also seized.

Petrič said that the price of drugs depended on purity, quantity, place of delivery, frequency of purchase by individual buyers and previous cooperation with them. The price of cocaine, for example, varied from EUR 4,000 to EUR 21,000 a kilo.

The members of the ring made a total of about EUR 1.3 million in illegal gains during the course of the investigation.

A courier made EUR 41,000 for transporting nearly 17 kilos of drugs in this period, whereas the person in charge of the network of couriers and dealers made EUR 140,000, Petrič illustrated.

The Ljubljana District Prosecution filed requests for investigation against 46 suspects, whereas 18 people who were arrested on Tuesday have already been brought to an investigative judge. Six suspects were also arrested in Croatia.

Lindav said that the ring was very well organised, and that its members were very careful and confident, as they had not been deterred from drug trafficking despite their earlier drug-related sentences and the fact that one of them was in prison at the time.

31 Jan 2020, 04:24 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.

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

This summary is provided by the STA:

Parties gearing up for snap election, but leaving all options open

LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS), Social Democrats (SD) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) initiated preparations for a snap election after the Marjan Šarec government collapsed. While the SDS said it had already shortlisted the candidates, it said all options remained open, including talks on a new coalition, a position also reiterated by SD and DeSUS. SDS also said party leader Janez Janša was their only candidate for prime minister.

Slovenian troops back in Iraq

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia has sent six army instructors back to Iraq as part of the international operation Inherent Resolve in Erbil to train Iraqi security forces, the Slovenian Armed Forces announced. The troops are "already in the area of service in northern Iraq" and will resume the training in the coming days.

NATO inspectors reportedly find Slovenia burden on alliance

LJUBLJANA - A biennial visit conducted at the end of last week by NATO inspectors checking compliance with targets has reportedly produced the conclusion that Slovenia is becoming an increasingly heavy burden for the alliance, having for years now failed to meet the promises given. While the details of the review are not known, Radio Slovenija said it had obtained parts of the draft records, which show the inspectors noticed no progress in the past two years despite the improved economic conditions in the country.

Police educator picked to lead anti-graft commission

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor has picked Robert Šumi, a teacher at the police academy, as the next head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. Šumi was one of four candidates short-listed for the job by a vetting commission to replace outgoing commission president Boris Štefanec, who sought a second term but was snubbed for the job. Before the formal appointment Šumi is expected to hold a public presentation, Pahor's office told the STA.

Holocaust victims honoured in Lendava

LENDAVA - President Borut Pahor said remembrance of the Holocaust was a pillar of peace as he addressed an International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Lendava, a town in eastern Slovenia that used to have a thriving Jewish community. He said it was crucial that younger generations preserve the memory of the Holocaust now that the generation that directly experienced it was slowly departing

Pharma group Krka ups net profit 39% last year to EUR 242m

NOVO MESTO - The group around the Novo Mesto-based drug maker Krka generated EUR 1.49 billion in sales revenue in 2019, or 12% more than in the year before, while net profit was up 39% to EUR 242 million, according to an estimate released by the management board. The group's operating profit was up by 18% to EUR 274 million, and pre-tax profit increased by 40% to EUR 283.7 million.

Karavanke tunnel contract signed, work may start in March

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's national motorway company DARS and Turkish builder Cengiz signed a master agreement on the construction of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel, a step that comes more than two years after the original tender was published. Works could start in March, weather permitting. The contract is worth EUR 98.6 million VAT excluded and covers construction of 3,546 metres of tunnel on the Slovenian side of the border. The Austrian section is almost a kilometre longer.

Govt moves to transpose amended internal gas market directive

LJUBLJANA - The outgoing government proposed changes to the energy act to transpose the amended EU directive that makes rules governing the EU's internal gas market also apply to pipelines to and from third countries. The government explained the failure to use these rules had presented a major problem for the internal market. The deadline for the implementation of the directive is 24 February.

New Prison Administration director appointed

LJUBLJANA - Bojan Majcen was appointed to head the administration which oversees the Slovenian prison system, promoted by the government to fully-fledged status almost a year after he was appointed acting director. Before he was named to the top job at the Prison Administration, Majcen worked at Dob Prison, the largest incarceration facility in the country, for 19 years, the last five as director.

Govt green-lights health insurer's financial plan

LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed the public health insurer's financial plan for the year, which estimates revenue at EUR 3.3 billion and expenditure at EUR 3.32 billion. The ZZZS is expected to operate at a EUR 10.4 million loss this year, which is to be covered from accrued profits. In line with the financial plan, revenue will grow by EUR 204.7 million this year compared to 2019, while expenditure is budgeted to increase by EUR 266.3 million.

BTC boss Mermal honoured for lifetime achievement

LJUBLJANA - Jože Mermal, the chairman of the operator of Ljubljana's shopping and logistics hub BTC City, is to receive today the lifetime achievement award in the filed of management, which is conferred each year by the Manager Association. The association wrote that Mermal, who took over as chairman in 1993, had been involved with BTC for 42 years, helping transform a degraded location that featured public warehouses into one of the biggest business, shopping, leisure, culture, and innovation centres in Central Europe, which records 21 million visitors a year.

Woman ambassador project for youth wraps up

LJUBLJANA - A project educating female students on the role and activities of women working in foreign affairs and international relations wrapped up after ten secondary school students interested in a career in diplomacy completed a year-long mentorship programme. The initiative, titled Young Woman Ambassadors and organised by the Foreign Ministry in cooperation with foreign woman ambassadors, kicked off in March last year, marking International Women's Day.

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

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

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