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16 Jan 2019, 12:51 PM

STA, 16 January 2019 - Slovenia regrets that the UK parliament failed to confirm the Brexit divorce deal last night. Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said that the UK should rethink whether Brexit is really worth pursuing or whether this is a dead end and staying in the EU is the better solution.

A statement from the prime minister's office on Wednesday said that the divorce deal was a fair compromise, a balanced document, that allowed a regulated and controlled exit for the UK.

Slovenia will continue to support the approval of the deal in the EU, as the document is the best solution for the future and a necessary foundation on which to build relations after 2021.

Similar to the rest of the EU, Slovenia expects the UK government to present a plan on future steps as soon as possible. The statement also expresses hope that "the coming weeks and months will see enough political wisdom to avoid the worst outcome".

Slovenia's key wish is to preserve constructive and comprehensive cooperation even after Brexit, which must in no way infringe on the rights of citizens of Slovenia and other EU countries living in the UK. On the other hand, Slovenia will guarantee "an appropriate level of rights for UK citizens" living in the country.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar also expressed regret over the vote. He tweeted last night that the EU had negotiated in good faith and with the wish to preserve constructive cooperation in the future.

Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee chair Matjaž Nemec commented on the situation for the press, saying that the process was "a good lesson for us" and that he hoped that "this will sober up the global political arena".

"When politicians become politicasters, when personal and party interests are put before those of the state and its citizens, there is populism that diverts attention from the real picture."

"All those who caused this in the UK have remained well hidden and no longer expose themselves, while regular people will start feeling immediately what it's like to be a third country citizen in relation to the EU," said Nemec.

He added it was hard to predict what would happen next. It is also hard to say whether the country will hold another referendum.

The House of Commons turned down the divorce deal with 432 votes against and 202 in favour last night. Subsequently, the opposition Labour Party requested a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Theresa May.

The motion will be put to a vote this evening and if May is ousted and a government coalition cannot be formed within a fortnight, the UK will face an early election.

However, this is not a very likely scenario, according to Jure Vidmar, a professor of public international law at the University of Maastricht.

While the divorce deal was voted down due to infighting in the Conservative party, "bringing down the deal is one thing and bringing down one's own party is a different matter altogether," he told the STA.

If she survives the vote, May has said she will present an alternative plan by Monday. But at least in the short term the EU will not be able to offer anything but some sort of a political declaration, said Vidmar.

These have already been offered and did not convince the sceptics. This could only be done by abolishing the Irish safeguard, which is impossible for the EU, he believes.

"Northern Ireland is the main issue of Brexit and it is practically impossible to resolve. The reintroduction of border controls in Ireland would undermine the peace treaty," said Vidmar.

A no-deal Brexit or an extension of the deadline are the two possible scenarios. The extension could lead to a new deal under which the UK would remain a part of the single market and the customs union, he believes.

The other possibility is a new referendum in which voters would decide between May's divorce deal and remaining in the EU, said Vidmar. An early election is not very likely but cannot be excluded.

All our stories about Brexit can be found here

Chamber of Commerce worried about impact of no-deal Brexit on exports

STA, 15 January 2019- The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) assessed ahead of today's Brexit deal vote in London that there is a 20% chance of a no-deal scenario and that this could reduce Slovenian exports by a fifth.

The GZS's analytics department estimates that Slovenian exports of goods to the UK rose by 11% to EUR 615m in 2018, while exported services were up 9% to EUR 210m. In case of a no-deal Brexit, goods exports could fall by up to 20% in a year, although they would later probably rise again.

A similar reduction would also be experienced by Slovenian exports to other EU member states with close trade ties to the UK, the chamber wrote in a press release.

A no-deal Brexit would present a strong blow in particular to the movement of people, goods, services and capital, with cooperation already being affected by the current uncertainty.

A direct impact has been felt above all by multinationals and regional companies with a two-way value chain and in particular involving Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Indirectly affected are the supplier companies, meaning also a number of Slovenian companies.

A no-deal Brexit would also mean the reintroduction of border checks and thereby a fourfold increase in the time needed to cross the border. Slovenian hauliers conduct EUR 40m worth of transport for British clients a year, the GZS said, while also highlighting additional costs related to the diverging of standards for products and services.

UK Ambassador Sophie Honey July 2018.jpg

HMA Honey in July 2018. Photo: JL Flanner

UK Ambassador: Britain Remains Open for Business, Despite Brexit

STA, 16 January 2019 - British Ambassador to Slovenia Sophie Honey assured Slovenian businesses on Wednesday that they would receive ample support, regardless of how the UK leaves the EU, with or without a divorce deal.

The UK will provide businesses the maximum scope of information and clarity so they can prepare for future relations, she told an event on the future of economic cooperation post-Brexit a day after the British Parliament voted against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

She said the British government has prepared advice for British businesses while the Slovenian authorities were doing everything they can to prepare companies for any changes.

The ambassador also stressed that the UK would remain an ideal destination for Slovenian exports and start-ups.

All our stories about Brexit can be found here

 

16 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 15 January 2019 - Slovenian traffic statistics have been improving rapidly in recent years, but despite the advances - the annual number of road deaths dropped below 100 for the first time in 2018 - there are some persistent problems, drink driving chief among them. Change appears to be on the horizon.

Statistics for 2018 show that excessive alcohol consumption was responsible for 22 of the 92 road casualties. This is down from roughly a third of alcohol-related deaths in previous years.

But police have found that all drunk drivers involved in accidents last year had very high blood alcohol content, which contrasts with the overall decline in blood alcohol content in random traffic checks.

This shows, according to traffic experts and driving instructors, that existing programmes for dealing with drunk drivers simply do not work for the worst repeat offenders.

Related: The drink driving limit in Slovenia

In mid-November, for example, police reported pulling over a driving school car. The trainee driver was breathalysed and was found to have been drinking.

Subsequent inquiries determined that he had already lost his licence twice, which is why he had to re-take the driving test.

Thousands lose their driving licence in Slovenia every year, many due to drink driving.

A total of nearly 6,300 licences were revoked in 2017, up from almost 4,300 in 2016, though down significantly from the early 2100s, when up to 9,000 licences were revoked annually.

But temporary revoking of a driving licence is merely the most radical measure, most drink drivers are just fined and get penalty points. Fines range from EUR 300 to EUR 1,200.

In total, those who lose their licence may end up paying up to EUR 3,000 to settle the fine and re-take the test (which may include additional practice hours with instructors). But the cost no longer appears to dissuade drivers from sitting behind the wheel drunk.

"For someone with 25 years of experience behind the wheel retaking the driving test is not the solution. Their problem is not that they lack knowledge. Such drivers would need different treatment," says Manuel Pungartnik, the head of the driving school at the automotive club AMZS.

Related: Food, Alcohol, Sex, Marriage, Divorce & Death: Recent Statistics on Slovenia

In the past another major problem was the forging of licences. There was a huge scandal in Slovenia several years ago when dozens of driving instructors and officials were found to have colluded to issue forged licences; most of those who bought the licenses had lost them due to drink driving.

Moreover, penalty points are erased after two years and when the most severe cases of drink driving get to court, judges are restricted to official records of fines, which are available only for the last three years.

This means they do not get the full picture of a driver's past conduct when they decide whether and how they will be punished.

Saša Jevšnik, the head of the Traffic Safety Agency's department for drivers, says the agency might propose a change of the rulebook.

There might be a restriction on how many times a driver who lost their licence may retake the test, and drivers who cause accidents drunk may be sent to do community work to "face the consequences of their actions," she said.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said after a recent meeting with a road safety NGO that her ministry would examine possible solutions to tackle drink driving, in particular repeat offenders.

"There should be no trouble finding political consensus," the ministry said.

16 Jan 2019, 08:58 AM

Below is a review of the headlines in Slovenian dailies for Wednesday, January 16, 2019, as summarised by the STA:

DELO

Brexit vote in the UK
"British MPs tear apart divorce deal": As expected, the British parliament overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal last night. The paper looks at what this means for Brexit and the EU. (front page, 2)

Supplementary budget
"Minister dividing additional half a billion": Coalition party deputy groups have received a draft supplementary budget that takes into account a rise in spending following recent deals with public sector trade unions and changes to the social transfers system. (front page, 3)

Slovenian film
"Year dedicated to France Štiglic": Slovenian film institutions will this year mark a hundred years since the birth of one of the greatest Slovenian directors, France Štiglic. (front page, 16)

DNEVNIK

Brexit vote
"Britain rejects deal with EU": The lower chamber of the British parliament expectedly rejected the UK's deal with the EU on leaving the bloc last night. More than two-thirds of MPs voted against the deal. (front page, 6, commentary 16)

European election
"Centrist parties (still) cannot find common ground": The centrist parties LMŠ, SMC and SAB announced last December that they would try to form a joint list for the European election at the end of May. But a meeting of their presidents has so far been postponed three times. (front page, 2)

FINANCE

Renting out real estate
"Notaries will not approve renting out without certificate of occupancy": Owners of buildings, including business buildings, are shocked as notaries refuse to approve not just sale but also renting out of facilities unless they have a certificate of occupancy, a document certifying the building is in a condition suitable for occupancy. (front page, 4-5)

German economy
"Are you ready for cooling of German economy? What now?": The paper presents recommendations to companies by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) in the face of the cooling off of the German economy. (front page, 2-3)

Koper-Divača rail project
"How low the 'advertised' price was and what is the final price?": The latest documents on the construction of a second rail track in the Koper-Divača section obtained by the paper show that the project will cost much more than Infrastructure Ministry state secretary claimed at the beginning of last August, when he spoke of EUR 1.047bn. (front page, 6-7)

VEČER

Maribor infrastructure
"Old one would be closed to traffic": The idea floated by the new Maribor mayor, Šaša Arsenovič, about building four new bridges in Maribor, has opened an interesting debate on whether the city needs the new bridges and how could they benefit the city. (front page, 10-11)

Scholarships
"Scholarships grabbed quickly": The interest for EUR 100 monthly scholarships offered to those training to work in one of the occupations in shortage is high, so now only the best students can get them. (front page, 4)

Day-care centre abuse
"Rough treatment of ten children": A 67-year-old has been charged with neglect and cruel treatment of ten children some three months after a video was released of the woman force-feeding toddlers and wrapping them up in sheets head-to-toe for naps at a Ljubljana day-care centre. She faces up to three years in prison. (front page, 3)

15 Jan 2019, 15:00 PM

STA, 12 January 2019 - The economic and financial crisis in Slovenia, which started in 2009, brought a significant growth of unemployment, with the number of the unemployed more than doubling to almost 130,000 at the beginning of 2014. The situation on the labour market has been improving lately, with shortage of certain staff actually becoming a problem.

The number of registered unemployed persons was up steeply in 2009 and peaked at the beginning of 2014 at almost 130,000, which was around double of that before the crisis.

It was in 2014 when the number finally started to decline, with the improvement on the labour market accelerating in 2016 and 2017 and continuing in 2018, with the number standing at 78,534 at the end of the year.

Projections for the coming years speak about an additional improvement, with the number of registered unemployed expected to drop to the pre-crisis level by 2021 barring major negative shocks.

Staff shortages are now a growing issue, along with unemployment among those aged 55+

There is a large number of structurally and long-term unemployed people in Slovenia and hard-to-employ people, whose activation requires additional active employment policy measures.

Given the circumstances, a large number of companies have already started reporting shortages of adequately trained staff, which is becoming a limiting factor in the implementation of their strategies.

The number of the active working population is also growing again, and the employment rate exceeded the pre-crisis level in 2017. The total number continued to increase in 2018 to reach 1.022 million in the third quarter, a 23-year record.

Although the total employment rate is somewhat higher than the EU average, Slovenia fares much worse when it comes to the employment rate in the 55-64 age category despite an improvement in recent years.

In 2017, it stood at 43% or 14 percentage points below the EU average. Slovenia is meanwhile recording better progress in the under-25 category, but its rate is still at roughly half of the EU average.

         Employment  Registered        Survey

         rate (%)    unemployment (%)  unemployment (%)

2008        73.0         6.7               4.4

2009        71.9         9.1               5.9

2010        70.3        10.7               7.2

2011        68.4        11.8               8.2

2012        68.3        12.0               8.9

2013        67.2        13.1              10.1

2014        67.7        13.1               9.7

2015        69.1        12.3               9.0

2016        70.1        11.2               8.0

2017        73.4         9.5               6.6

* The figures are annual averages

Source: Statistics Office, Employment Service

Pay in Slovenia after the crisis

Growth of wages slowed down in the crisis years and came to a stop in 2012 and 2013. Wages started to grow again noticeably only in 2017 and 2018, when the growth of gross wages exceeded 3%, with the trend expected to continue and grow even stronger in the coming years. Domestic and foreign macroeconomic analysts are stressing that the growth of wages will not significantly exceed the growth of productivity and undermine the competitiveness of the economy.

Data for the period as of 2008 also show that the growth of wages was higher in the private than in the public sector. While in the public sector the crisis was fought with lay-offs, there were no dismissals in the public sector, with the number of employees even increasing in certain activities. Civil servants did contribute their share by accepting austerity measures, which are only now being gradually abolished.

Related: Economic crisis that produced a "lost decade" in Slovenia

In the years after 2013, contributing significantly to the real purchasing power was a low inflation, which was noticeable again only in 2017 and last year, when it reached 1.4% according to preliminary estimates.

What also marked the crisis years was a raise of the minimum wage of more than 20% in 2010, which enraged the employers, who blamed the rise in the unemployment rate in the coming years on this measure. Trade unions were meanwhile noting that the minimum wage was still below the minimum costs of living and that all bonuses were calculated into it.

In the recent years, the minimum wage has been increasing more gradually, standing at EUR 843 gross last year. This year it will increase to EUR 886 and in 2020 to EUR 940 gross under the latest legislative changes, which also regulate the elimination of bonuses from the minimum wage as of 1 January 2020.

      Inflation (%)  Average net wage*      Average gross wage*

                     in EUR   growth in %   in EUR  growth in %

2008     2.1         899.8       7.8        1,391.4       8.2

2009     1.8         930.0       3.3        1,439.0       3.4

2010     1.9         966.6       3.9        1,494.9       3.9

2011     2.0         987.4       2.1        1,524.6       2.0

2012     2.7         991.4       0.4        1,525.5       0.0

2013     0.7         997.0       0.6        1,523.2       0.0

2014     0.2       1,005.4       0.8        1,540.2       1.1

2015    -0.5       1,013.2       0.8        1,555.9       1.0

2016     0.5       1,030.2       1.7        1,584.7       1.8

2017     1.7       1,062.0       3.1        1,627.0       2.7

* Annual average

Source: Statistics Office

Added value and productivity

In addition to the demographic trends, one of the key challenges for long-term development and economic competitiveness of Slovenia are growth in productivity and added value in the economy, to which growth of wages and well-being are tied. In this segment, the economic crisis brought stagnation and even a slight decline, while in comparison with the EU average, productivity in the Slovenian economy in 2018 was still lower than in the pre-crisis 2008.

Gross added value per employee was up in the 2008-2017 period, but is still well below the EU and eurozone averages, at 63% of the EU average and 57% of the eurozone average.

Related: Banks were at the center of the financial crisis in Slovenia

Increasing productivity and added value is a challenge both for the economy and economic policy. Businesses have set an ambitious goal of reaching EUR 60,000 in added value per employee, EUR 50bn in exports and an EUR 2,300 average wage by 2025, which is why they except measures from the state ranging from the tax police to the immigration policy.

Among the necessary measures both in the economy and institutions, they have pointed to measures for growth of investments in new production capacities and new technologies and digitalisation, a growth in investments in research and development, which as a share of GDP dropped from 2.6% in 2013 to 1.93% in 2017.

Labour productivity, % of EU average

       Per employee   Per hour worked

2008       83.5           83.8

2009       79.9           79.0

2010       79.4           78.2

2011       80.6           80.3

2012       80.0           79.8

2013       80.3           78.9

2014       81.2           78.9

2015       80.5           77.9

2016       80.5           79.7

2017       81.0           81.5

Source: Statistics Office

Gross value added, in EUR

      Per employee  EU average    Eurozone average

2008     34,759        55,079          61,492

2009     33,694        52,917          60,581

2010     34,107        55,506          62,638

2011     35,594        56,951          64,164

2012     34,854        58,247          64,834

2013     35,643        58,850          65,863

2014     36,893        60,247          66,991

2015     37,758        62,818          68,678

2016     39,091        62,418          69,398

2017     40,136        63,276          70,861

Source: Eurostat

All out stories on the Slovenian economy can be found here

15 Jan 2019, 12:35 PM

STA, 14 January 2019 - Slovenia is not perceived as a destination with offerings for discerning guests willing to pay more. This follows from an analysis of online communication conducted by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO).

The STO has analysed online opinions, questions and demand by travellers and tourists in Slovenia's target markets Austria, Germany, Italy, the UK, France, Switzerland and Benelux countries.

"Based on the latest research we find that Slovenia is perceived as a destination different from mass tourism but not as a destination with offerings for discerning guests or a destination where visitors are willing to pay more, nor even as a destination offering unique accommodation or experiences, which is the biggest challenge of Slovenian tourism," STO said.

The analysis found that destinations regularly perceived as "boutique" by online users are Paris, Venice, Italy, Greece and far-away islands and countries.

Slovenia is mentioned as such only in editorials or specialised articles, while users only rarely associate elements of exclusivity with the country.

Small, magical, hidden gem vs unnoticed, uninteresting and untouristy

When they do, the expressions they use are small, magical nature and a hidden gem. Suggestions of perception of exclusivity also appear in connection with the country's cuisine or glamping.

The users also mentioned some unique Slovenian sights such as the Postojna Cave.

On the down side, Slovenia is labelled as unnoticeable, overlooked, uninteresting until experienced and untouristy. Also mentioned was a mix of different styles and inconsistency of offerings.

Positive impressions refer to the quiet, beauty of nature and accessible prices, while negative ones mention crowds in some destinations and underdeveloped tourism such as in the fields of infrastructure or a lack of museums outside Ljubljana.

The most common key words associated with Slovenia are Bled and nature. The lakeside town is so popular that some tourists know Bled while they do not know the country it is located in.

Visitors most often recommend visiting the western part of the Alpine macro-destination. including Bled, Bohinj, and the Soča Valley, Postojna Cave, Ljubljana and Piran. They are disappointed by Portorož, Celje, Škofja Loka and Maribor.

The food is deemed as satisfactory with some above-average exceptions, while accommodation is perceived as not luxurious.

The most exceptional experiences associated with Slovenia are canyoning, visiting a vineyard, visiting caves, paragliding, cooking classes and food tours.

All our stories tagged tourism can be found here

15 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

Ascent Resources, the UK-based firm engaged in a long-running attempt to begin fracking at Petišovci, a plan that has been delayed due to a lack of permits, said on Monday that it’s now looking to develop other projects outside Slovenia.

A report published on the London South East website, sets out how the company is still waiting on permits to re-stimulate it’s existing wells to produce more gas from the field, and install a processing facility to enable the natural gas it produces to enter the Slovenian national grid.

The story became more heated in late 2018, with accusations that Ascent Resources shareholders, or other interested parties, had been sending threatening messages to the Slovenian Environment Agency, as reported here, as well as threats by the company to sue the Slovene government for damages.

While Ascent Resources claims to be hopeful that that it will receive the permits needed to continue the Petišovci project, it is now looking beyond Slovenia and to other locations in the region with a more developed oil and gas infrastructure, working petroleum system and an established regulatory and legal framework.

The firm’s Chief Executive, Colin Hutchinson, is quoted as saying "While the Petišovci project remains a potentially very valuable asset, I am pleased that we now have a way forward that is not entirely based on Slovenia and the award of permits.”

At the time of writing the shares of Ascent Resources (AST) were trading at 0.32 pence in London, down from 1.40 pence a year ago.

15 Jan 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 12 January 2019 - The global financial crisis, which erupted in 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, hit Slovenia with a delay, but it exposed huge weaknesses that had built up in the majority state-owned banking system. By 2012 Slovenia was locked out of financial market, and it took until the bank bailout in late 2013 before the sector recovered.

In the run-up to the crisis, credit growth was buoyant, driven by cheap money after interest rates collapsed following the changeover to the euro in 2007.

Loans to the non-banking sector surged by almost two-thirds between 2006 and 2008. Banks financed the expansion mostly by securing financing from foreign banks.

The crisis thoroughly razed the banking landscape.

Banks' total assets peaked at over EUR 50bn in 2010 before reaching a low of just 37bn six years later.

Related: Economic Crisis that Produced a “Lost Decade” in Slovenia

Similarly, lending contracted by more than a third between 2010 and 2016, as banks deleveraged to pay back their foreign loans rather than extend new loans to Slovenian businesses.

On the other hand, deposits remained robust as households responded to the crisis by tightening spending, which deepened the economic crisis but gave banks a lifeline when foreign financing dried up.

The total volume of loans slipped slightly during the crisis as households drew down their savings, going from EUR 23.9 bn in 2010 to EUR 22.4bn in 2013, but the contraction was never as severe as the tightening of lending.

Bank statistics

       Total assets     Loans to non-banking sector

          (in EUR m)       (in EUR m)

2006      34.1             20.6

2007      42.6             28.5

2008      47.9             33.7

2010      50.8             34.7

2013      40.3             24.3

2014      38.7             21.5

2016      37.1             20.5

2018*     38.3             22.2

* As of 31 October

Source: Slovenian central bank

A property bubble that burst in 2010

The credit explosion leading up to the crisis inflated a property bubble, which burst post-2010 as large construction companies that also financed their own projects collapsed one after the other, as did over-leveraged financial holdings.

The share of non-performing loans started to soar, forcing banks to set aside increasing provisions and writing down assets, leading to a negative spiral.

Whereas foreign-owned banks received capital injections from their shareholders, the three biggest banks in the country were all in state ownership, requiring growing amounts of public funds to keep them afloat.

Video: Slovenia's Economic Crisis, 2012

The story came to a head in December 2013, when the treasury spent EUR 3.5bn recapitalising NLB, NKBM and Abanka, wiping out shareholders and junior bondholders in the process. Two smaller banks, Probanka and Factor Banka, were wound down.

At the same time, about four billion euros in non-performing loans were transferred onto the newly-established Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), which also absorbed the assets of Probanka and Factor Banka.

After the banking system was bailed out banks were flush with cash and largely freed of non-performing loans, but it took several years before lending recovered.

Bank performance

      Net profit       Net provisions, write-downs

         (in EUR m)       (in EUR m)

2008     208              -120

2009     162              -279

2010     -99              -811

2013   -3439             -3809

2014    -106              -650

2016     364               -96

2017     443                43

2018*    452                45

* As of 31 October

Source: Slovenian central bank

Lawsuits related to the period

Echoes of this period continue to reverberate five years later, as lawsuits by subordinated bondholders and shareholders wiped out in the bailout make their way through courts.

These investors have targeted in particular the valuations that determined the size of the bailout, alleging that Slovenia had been the target of speculators and a guinea pig for new EU bank resolution rules.

The commotion over the bailout resulted in criminal investigations at the central bank, the resignation of governor Boštjan Jazbec and, recently, criminal charges against the board of governors serving at the time of the bailout.

The costs of the bailout accounted for a significant chunk of the increase in general government debt during the crisis, which ballooned from 22% of GDP in 2008 to almost 84% of GDP by 2015.

The surging debt was accompanied by growing debt servicing costs, as the precarious state of the economy during the crisis led to higher borrowing costs; for a while, Slovenia was practically locked out of the eurobond market and had to borrow in US dollars.

Public debt did not start to decline until 2016, when the economic recovery was already in full swing. In the past two years the treasury has been busy replacing dollar debt with euro bonds and debt has started to decline at a more rapid pace towards the eurozone ceiling of 60% of GDP.

General government finances

      Deficit       Debt        Debt servicing costs

         (% of GDP)  (% of GDP)   (EUR m)

2008     -1.4         21.8         326.1

2009     -5.8         34.6         326.4

2010     -5.6         38.4         476.7

2011     -6.7         46.6         510.6

2012     -4.0         53.8         632.5

2013    -14.7         70.4         827.0

2014     -5.5         80.4        1082.6

2015     -2.8         82.6        1028.8

2016     -1.9         78.7        1064.0

2017     +0.1         74.1         977.3

Source: Eurostat, Statistics Office, Ministry of Finance

15 Jan 2019, 08:49 AM

Below is a review of the headlines in Slovenian dailies for Tuesday, January 15, 2019, as summarised by the STA:

DELO

Fate of Mercator
"State looking for way to buy back Mercator": The state is allegedly looking for ways to restore control over the retailer and prevent the country's largest employer ending up under the creditor banks-owned "new Agrokor". (front page, 9)

Brexit
"Fate of Brexit in hands of MPs": The British parliament is likely to reject the exit deal with the EU this evening. (front page, 5)

Books
"Book about everything in history and philosophy": The former Archbishop of Ljubljana Anton Stres has published an extensive philosophy lexicon, which he wrote after withdrawing from public life in 2013 upon instructions from the Vatican. (front page, 14)

DNEVNIK

Electoral legislation
"Numerous complications expected": It is clear to experts as well as politicians that changes to election legislation will be a tough nut to crack, which is why some are already wondering what would happen should the Constitutional Court-demanded changes not be passed before the next election. (front page, 2)

Fire at Ljubljana squat
"Rog users to first fix the roof": While the users of Ljubljana's Rog plan to fix what is around EUR 10,000 worth of damage caused to parts of the squatted former factory by a fire during the weekend, the fate of the alternative social centre is being decided in court. (front page, 9)

Brain drain
"More and more young Slovenians emigrating to Asia": The paper highlights low wages and expensive housing among the main causes behind a record 10,000 people, especially the young and highly educated, moving abroad in 2017. (front page, 4)

FINANCE

Healthcare
"Gorenjska example of efficient healthcare": The paper analyses the finances of healthcare centres around the country, which are receiving the same funding but are found to be between EUR 685,000 in the black (jointly organised primary health centres in Gorenjska region) to EUR 1.2m in the red (Ljubljana Community Health Centre). (front page, 2-3)

Construction scandal
"Will municipalities have to pay twice?": The paper reports that several municipalities that hired AS-Primus might have to cover the costs of the failed builder's outstanding payments to subcontractors. (front page, 6-7)

VEČER

MP initiative for Maribor
"Jointly for the region": Klub 7, a cross-partisan initiative featuring the seven National Assembly deputies from the Maribor area, has held its maiden meeting. (front page, 2, 3)

Electoral legislation
"Preferential vote and what to do with voting districts": The political elite is facing a strenuous search for consensus on changes to electoral legislation. (front page, 2, 3)

14 Jan 2019, 19:00 PM

Slovenia has a short coastline, far overshadowed by its neighbour to the south. But the little access to the Adriatic that does exist is an attractive and rather varied place, from the glitz, casinos and marina of Portorož to the green tranquillity of Debeli rtič (“the fat little cape”), on the Ankaran peninsula and just a short walk (or swim) from Italy.

It was declared a landscape park in June 2018, and while the area already has several nature reserves, on land and at sea, this one is a welcome addition to keeping part of the coast in a relatively pristine condition. A new website, in Slovene, Italian and English, has been set up to promote Debeli rtič and teach people how to behave when visiting.

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©Jaka Ivančič

The natural attractions of the area include flysche cliffs, with the same rock creating a shallow seabed that gives rise to a high level of biodiversity, with rare and endangered animals such as coral loaf, fan mussel, and long-snouted seahorse. Slightly further inland the landscape park is home to more than 200 different plant species, as well as vineyards and small area of oak forest, which once covered the whole peninsula. Slightly less picturesque, but no less valuable in terms of ecosystems, there’s the soft, wet land of St Nicholas Mediterranean salt meadow, with much for botanists and naturalists to enjoy, as well as anyone else who likes a relaxing walk in the sea air.

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©Jaka Ivančic

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©Jaka Ivančic

You can visit the website to learn more about the place here, and see more pictures by the parks first ambasador, the photographer Jaka Ivančic, here.

Related: Ljubljana Day Trips - the coast

14 Jan 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 14 January 2019 - Slovenian cyclist Janez Brajkovič announced on his blog on Monday that his sample taken during last year's Tour of Croatia had tested positive for a banned substance, earning him a ten-month suspension from the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The 35-year-old from Metlika handed over the sample, which tested positive for methylhexanamine, on 18 April 2018 as part of the main men's cycling stage race in Croatia, which is a part of the UCI Europe Tour.

The sample reportedly contained an extremely low level of the stimulant and energy-boosting drug, which the member of the Slovenian professional cycling team Adria Mobil believes is connected to his use of food supplements.

The Slovenian did not appeal the test results, while attributing the failed test to one of the food supplements he consumed being contaminated with the drug.

Admitting that the substance is banned in professional cycling, Brajkovič said it was a "small quantity, because as far as I know the concentration was 20 to 40 times lower compared to samples of other athletes," he said on the blog.

"I could fight this and bring the case to the anti-doping court, where it would be reviewed right from the beginning. But to be honest with you, I neither have the will nor the money to challenge this, which is why I have accepted the penalty."

In addition to being the world under-23 time trial champion in 2004, Brajkovič's biggest achievements include wins at the Criterium du Dauphine (2010), the Tour de Georgia (2007) and the Tour of Slovenia (2012).

He was ninth at the Tour de France in 2012 as a member of Astana Pro Team, which was the best ranking for a Slovenian until Primož Roglič finished forth last year.

Brajkovič, who was also a member of the professional teams Bahrain Merida, RadioSchack and Discovery Channel, said that testing positive for doping was not actually the worst thing that had happened to him in his career.

"I was a victim of mobbing and an outcast in a team because I did not want to expose myself to the deadly consequences of doping.

"During the Tour de France, a team mate even started strangling me because of this. After I signed the contract, they said I was nobody and valueless and that they will make sure I never race again."

Adria Mobil, which Brajkovič represented at the Tour of Croatia, said it had been informed about the positive test last July, but added that it did not need to suspend the cyclist under the anti-doping rules.

"Considering the quantity and type [of the substance], there was no direct and immediate suspension of the cyclist. Under an agreement with the competitor and the UCI and under the team policy on doping, Brajkovič has not competed since last July," the team said in a press release.

"The competitor has been cooperating with the UCI all the time in proving the origin of the banned substance found in his sample," it added.

Adria Mobil, which did not extend its contract with Brajkovič, noted that the cyclist had proven the failed test was a consequence of his carelessness. He purchased the food supplement on-line, and the label did not say that it contained the banned substance.

The usual penalty for such violations is a 24-month ban, but the UCI has reduced it to ten months due to these circumstances, the team said, adding that only the result from the Tour of Slovenia would be deleted from his record.

14 Jan 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 14 January 2019 - After a controversial rape case prompted calls for legislative changes in Slovenia, Justice Minister Andreja Katič told TV Slovenija last night she personally favoured defining rape by absence of consent.

The Slovenian penal code defines rape as a perpetrator coercing the victim into sexual intercourse by means of force or serious threats.

Related: Shock Case Shows How Coercion Defines Rape in Slovenia, Not Lack of Consent

Calls for amending the code intensified last week in wake of reports that a man from Koper who raped a drunk woman while she was asleep was given a milder sentence after being charged with criminal coercion rather than rape.

Commenting on the issue on the main news show on TV Slovenija last night, Katič said that for her personally rape was when the victim did not say yes.

She said that while the penal code had seen several amendments in recent years, the Justice Ministry had so far not received any initiative for a change.

However, when the public controversy broke over the Koper rape case, she called a meeting on how to amend the penal code, which will feature various stakeholders, including representatives of the prosecution, judges and NGOs.

She said that the meeting should look into various options, including the possibility of introducing the yes-means-yes principle because the victim might be too frightened or unable to say a clear no.

Escape from Koper jail

Katič also commented on the daring escape from the Koper prison, which a probe found was due to slack security with media reporting that the prison guards who were supposed to exercise surveillance were asleep, thus enabling two detainees to escape in late December.

Katič commented that those responsible were "lulled into the feeling that it's impossible to break from the prison", a feeling to which work at all levels was adjusted.

The minister said that Slovenian prisons were safe, also in comparison with other countries. She believes though that all security mechanisms should be checked and whether everyone was doing their job properly.

"What I have in mind is surveillance cameras and everything else as well as justice police officers and prison management," she said.

However, Katič also said that the prison break showed that additional justice police officers were needed. "We have a meeting with the ministries of justice and public administration on the topic on Tuesday, prompted by the prime minister."

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