February 16, 2019
Delo reports that Barbara Šerbec, known as Šerbi, died yesterday at the age of 58, following years of diabetes-related health trouble.
Šerbi was a member of a 1980s group called Agropop. The group started at Radio Student as a bunch of city kids making fun of their country cousins, but ended being embraced at the both ends of the joke.
Delo once wrote that Agropop “perfectly combines cosmopolitanism with gardening in the most beautiful country on the sunny side of the Alps. Their importance for Slovenia’s independence is as great as the importance of Pankrti and Laibach. If Pankrti undermined the Party and Laibach undermined the State, then Agropop did that to the nation. These groups did not just mock their targets, but identified with them from a distance.”
STA, 15 February 2019 - Revenue from foreign tourists visiting Slovenia reached EUR 2.71bn in 2018, up almost 12% from 2017, data from the central bank show.
The figure is around a billion euro short of the target set for 2021, the Slovenian Tourist Board said on Friday as it commented on Banka Slovenije's figure.
Data also shows that in December alone, revenue from tourism increased by a good 10%.
With more than 5.6 million tourist arrivals and almost 15.3 million nights, 2018 was the fifth consecutive record year for Slovenian tourism, early Statistics Office data shows.
The key goal of the country's 2017-2021 strategy on sustainable development of tourism is raising revenue from foreign tourists to EUR 3.7-4bn.
The goal for tourist arrivals is five to 5.5 million, with nights projected to rise to 16-18 million.
In 2018 SILA – or SILA-IWCL, International Women’s Club Ljubljana, to give the full name – celebrated 25 years as a focal point for foreign women in Slovenia, as well as Slovenians who want to connect with the international community. But in doing so the group looked to the future more than the past, with the social changes that have taken place over the last quarter century increasingly reflected under the leadership of Marta Helena Berglez, along with greater engagement with a wider and more diverse community.
The annual bazaar
While SILA started as an association for the wives of diplomats and businessmen, who needed something to keep them busy while stationed abroad, it’s now shaken off the old image and is open to any and all women, no matter what their marital or professional status, Slovenes included.
As noted in an earlier article, SILA organises a broad range of events and activities for its members – cultural, sporting, educational and more – with the aim of bringing people together and making new connections, with each other and with Slovenia.
An important aspect of the latter is SILA’s charity work. This finds its greatest public expression in the annual bazaar, held each December in the ballroom of the Grand Hotel Union, but this year there’s a new event in the schedule, the Spring Soirée. This will be held on Saturday, March 30, and will present an evening of food, drink, music and dancing in diverse company, drawn together out of curiosity and all for the benefit of Europa Donna. This is an independent, Europe-wide organisation that represents the interests of women regarding breast cancer to local and national authorities, as well as to institutions of the European Union. The current vice-president of the group is Tanja Spanic, a Slovenian cancer survivor who will be one of the speakers at the evening, which aims to raise money from ticket sales (€55 each) and donations.
If you’d like to learn more and perhaps buy a ticket to Spring Soirée, or if you work for a company that might be interested in sponsoring a table and making a presentation to the guests, then you can learn more here.
If you can’t make it on March 30 then don’t worry. A good way to keep up with SILA and its activities is to follow the group on Facebook or visit its new webpage, while the best way is to join and start meeting new people and doing new things, opening up a world of opportunities in Slovenia, both personal and professional.
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, February 15, 2019
STA, 15 February 2019 - The magazine Mladina says the coming EU elections will be a clash, yet not a clash for a united Europe but a clash within Europe, of one nation against the other, as it comments on European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent revisionist statements at a foibe commemoration in Italy.
Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Friday's editorial that superpowers America, Russia and China will also get involved because a weak EU is in their interest.
"These elections will be much more ground-breaking than we have hoped," Mladina says under the headline Tajani, Just a True European.
"We can he grateful to Antonio Tajani for his speech at Basovizza, since the majority of people has overlooked the fact that with a few exceptions, most European parties have started resorting to nationalist rhetoric over the past four years."
Nationalist populism has become s staple of political success in the West, even moderate politicians use it for fear of being accused no not being patriotic enough.
"This is of course a way to hell, but also the European political reality," says Repovž, recalling that in fear of losing the race against nationalists, some have gone as far as erecting razor wire on the border during the recent migration crisis.
Just before the elections to the European Parliament, Tajani showed very clearly that the election campaign will be pervaded by nationalist rhetoric. "Nobody will dare avoid it in order not to fall behind."
It adds that Tajani is no radical extremist, but a calculating politician with short-term goals in his mind who also has to adjust to the rhetoric of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini which dominates Italy.
But his statements also show he apparently cares little about Europe currently being a fragile institution with an uncertain future where it can easily happen that European institutions themselves start using nationalist populism.
"Let us not be fooled by his apology," Repovž says, noting Tajani did not think his words would resound from a small village on the far east of Italy all the way to Brussels.
STA, 14 February 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija disputes the quality of Slovenian arts in response to the Culture Day ceremony address by Vinko Möderndorfer, the chairman of the Prešeren Fund board. It argues Slovenia should introduce a voucher system as proposed by James Heilbrun and Charles M. Gray in The Economics of Art and Culture.
"In his speech, Möderndorfer degraded and insulted Slovenians and Slovenia as few before him in a long while ... The recurring theme was the same: badmouthing the state over its stepmotherly attitude to culture despite an extra 30 million euro for culture in this year's budget.
"But it is not enough. It is never enough. Even if the Culture Ministry's budget increased by 100 or 200 million euro, they would still demand an increase in public spending; most on their own behalf," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak writes.
He agrees that Slovenian culture is in the doldrums. However, he says the reason is not underfunding but rather that "a bunch of people, self-styled artists have learnt that they can get money without trying at least a bit to justify it and satisfy the needs of culture consumers".
"Their works, whatever they are, are mostly an aim in itself, no one ever even thinks of fighting for the reader, viewer or buyer. Also because the taxpayers are forced to pay for something they are not interested in even in their nightmare," Biščak writes, offering Möderndorfer's latest film as a case in point.
He says that the only cure is market economy, but he also offers vouchers as a compromise that would suit those who believe culture should be financed from public funds and those who favour market logic.
He proposes that the roughly EUR 380m or EUR 190 per capita that is allocated for culture from the national and local budgets should be distributed among Slovenia's citizens so that everyone gets a EUR 190 voucher a year to spend it on culture of their own choice. The artists who get the vouchers would then exchange them for money from the budget.
All our posts in this series can be found here
STA, 15 February 2019 - Slovenia's European Commissioner Violeta Bulc has invited European Parliament President Antonio Tajani to join her in paying respect to Slovenian victims of fascist and Nazi violence by visiting the former Nazi concentration camp Risiera in Trieste and the nearby village of Basovizza.
Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc issued the invitation in a letter after a Twitter exchange with Tajani in the wake of his recent contentious speech at a commemoration of Italian victims of WWII aftermath events.
While Tajani said "I'm ready" as the proposal was made by Bulc in the 11 February Twitter exchange in which the commissioner accused him of distorting historical facts, he has not yet responded to the letter.
All our stories about Facism in relations to Slovenia can be found here
Bulc is proposing they jointly lay wreaths at Risiera and at a memorial near the village of Basovizza to honour the deaths of three Slovenian and a Croatian anti-fascists at the hands of Italian soldiers in 1930. They are considered the first victims of fascism in Europe.
It was Basovizza where Tajani remembered the Italian victims of post-war executions and Italian exiles from the regions of Istria and Dalmatia last Sunday, calling out "Long live Trieste, long live the Italian Istria, long live the Italian Dalmatia" in the process. He has since apologised for these words.
In the letter, Bulc welcomes Tajani's willingness to accompany her and proposes that the gesture be made on "25 April to commemorate Italy's Liberation Day".
"In these challenging times for the EU it is more important than ever before to promote the EU as project for peace, solidarity and unity and as bringing prosperity to all our nations," Bulc wrote in the letter, which she also published on Twitter.
"History teaches us that aggressive nationalism can easily be misused for nationalistic conflicts and even fuel war. I believe that society is today ready to build its future on cooperation and respect for one another."
STA, 15 February 2019 - The European Investment Bank (EIB) has placed the project to build a new railway line between the port of Koper and Divača among the projects it would finance with loans. The state-owned company managing the project said that the EIB would provide a EUR 250m loan.
Announcing the news, 2TDK said that it had submitted the application for a EUR 250m loan to the bank last May.
"Negotiations between the EIB and 2TDK followed between October and January, on whose basis the investment bank will make a final assessment of the project and expectedly send it for confirmation by the board of governors in April."
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, whose ministry is responsible for the project, welcomed the news, saying that the bank had recognised the quality and importance of the project.
"I'm happy that the things are moving in the right direction," the ministry quoted Bratušek, who added that the lengthy negotiations with the EIB had obviously produced a positive result.
"The decision is not final yet, but the placement on the EIB list means that the bank too has recognised the quality and importance of this project, which I believed in and expected throughout," the minister added.
In addition to government funding, the investment plan for the project also envisages loans from international financial institutions and the state-owned SID export and development bank, EU grants and loans from commercial banks.
The plan values the project at EUR 968m at current prices, but together with a reserve for unexpected works and interest the total price tag will be EUR 1.2bn.
All our stories on railways in Slovenia can be found here
The railway will be only 27 kilometres long, but the huge cost is attributed to the high number of tunnels and bridges on the tricky karst terrain.
Good news for the project also came today from the National Review Commission, which rejected a request for the suspension of public contracting pending an audit of the public tender for the project dossier.
The audit and the suspension of the public tender process was demanded by the engineering company Geoportal at the end of last year.
The review commission is yet to decide Geoportal's request to annul the tender. 2TDK had already rejected the request before forwarding it to the National Review Commission.
The sole bid for the job, worth EUR 19.93m excluding VAT, was submitted by a consortium of companies consisting of Elea iC, SŽ-Projektivno Podjetje and IRGO Consulting.
STA, 14 February 2019 - Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a paramilitary unit whose footage stirred Slovenia in mid-2018, pleaded not guilty to inciting to violent subversion of the constitutional order at a pre-trial arraignment held in Maribor on Thursday.
Šiško, who was apprehended last September after a video surfaced of a para-military group parading in the woods of north-eastern Slovenia, argued he was the only one in Slovenia who had actively called for the preservation of the constitution.
The 49-year-old former ultras leader announced he would present the reasons for his provocation during the trial, to start on 6 March.
All our articles on this story can be found here
Šiško, who had also called for the formation of other militias around the country and uttered a threat against then Prime Minister Miro Cerar in January 2017, is to be tried together with the man allegedly responsible for the footage, Matej Lesjak. The latter also pleaded not guilty.
The defendants' lawyers requested today that President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Cerar as well opposition leader Janez Janša appear for testimony during the trial.
Šiško's lawyer Lucija Ušaj argued Pahor, as commander in chief, could explain if Slovenia's Armed Forces could really be defeated by a "sports club whose members use airsoft guns", Cerar could say how threatened he really felt, while Janša could speak about his past proposals to form a national guard.
As to Šarec, the defence claim that his public calls constituted direct interference in the criminal prosecution of the defendants. Only after Šarec's calls were the conterminous actions labelled as a crime, one for which no case law exists in Slovenia.
This was rejected in the strongest terms by prosecutor Tilen Ivič, who hopes "nobody really believes that interfering" in the judicial branch of power is possible.
Šiško, the head of the nationalist non-parliamentary party United Slovenia, has been in custody since September because all his appeals for release failed.
He was apprehended on 6 September, three days after a video emerged of him lining up several dozen men, some allegedly armed, wearing balaclavas and conducting what appeared to be basic military training.
STA, 14 February 2019 - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec expects Slovenia to increase defence spending in 2020 and 2021. "A step forward has been made, but I have high expectations when it comes to the budget for 2020 and 2021. That one will define how serious we are about modernising the Slovenian Armed Forces," he said in Brussels on Thursday.
Erjavec made the comments after a two-day NATO ministerial discussing the implementation of three key goals: for the allies to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2024, to allocate 20% of their defence budgets for capability development, and to increase their contributions to missions and operations.
The plan submitted by Slovenia to NATO does not project defence expenditure increase to 2% of GDP by 2024. Unofficial information has it that the target will also not be met by Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain.
Slovenia's defence expenditure for this year is planned at 1.1% of GDP; the figure is currently at 1.05%. It is to increase to 1.5% by 2024, Erjavec noted, adding that this was the promise made to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he visited Ljubljana last year.
Erjavec is satisfied to have achieved a step forward in raising defence spending in a minority government whose partner in the opposition doe not favour such an increase, but he is aware the increase is not ideal. So he expects much from the budget for 2020 and 2021.
When it comes to the defence budget's structure, Slovenia currently allocates 4.5% of its defence budget for investment, a far cry from the 20% target.
Erjaves said it was important to increase the spending, but even more important to boost defence capabilities in order to be more resilient to new security challenges, and to buy dual-use equipment. He mentioned the planned purchase of helicopters that would also be used for emergency aid.
He said that the pay rise deal agreed with public sector trade unions also affected the defence budget "slowing down our desire to earmark more defence expenditure for investment".
He expects the mid-term defence plan to provide more detailed answers, but he did mention plans for procurement of troop equipment and for enhancing investment in military infrastructure, outdated army barracks and training grounds, as well as investing in making the army profession more attractive.
Commenting on delays in the procurement of eight-wheeled armoured personnel carriers, the minister said that the case had been put off and that he would like for a tactical study to be conducted to respond to questions as to how build a battalion-size battlegroup.
Erjavec also commented on Chief of the General Staff Alenka Ermenc's comment yesterday that the increase in funding in the supplementary budget for the year would not allow for the army's development breakthrough or for marked improvement in its readiness.
Erjavec said the army's readiness assessment for wartime action for 2018 would likely be negative again, because it could not be otherwise as things did not change overnight.
The supplementary budget itself was not any major step in modernising the force but without the extra EUR 40m for salaries this would have undermined the budget funds for material costs, which should not happened, he said.
When it comes to the implementation of NATO's mission and operations contribution target, Slovenia ranks among the top seven allied countries.
STA, 14 February 2019 - Magna Steyr has welcomed the deal reached on Wednesday that persuaded an NGO not to challenge the environment permit for its paint shop in Slovenia any further. However, the multinational said the agreement did not make it possible to launch production at Hoče as yet, so its part of the job would be done at its Austria location for the time being.
The Austrian-Canadian automotive group said that it was obligated to meet the commitments to supply cars to its business partners by the agreed deadlines. The company said it had expected to be able to launch production at its EUR 160m Hoče plant near Maribor this week.
"Since this is not possible at this time, we will carry out this part of production temporarily at our Graz factory by introducing extra shifts," the multinational said, expressing the hope that a final solution allowing the earliest possible launch of production at Hoče would be found as soon as possible.
The company undertook "organisational preparations" on Monday to move production to its main facility in Austria's Graz due to uncertainty surrounding the environmental permit for the Hoče plant.
The Environment Ministry rejected the sole appeal against the environmental permit submitted by the Regional Environmental Association of Environmentalists (ROVO) from Novo Mesto, in the south-east of the country.
The ROVO threatened to take its appeal to the Administrative Court but changed its mind after yesterday's meeting with government officials who promised that the government would amend the special law on Magna investment so as to allow for the plant to have been built in a water protection area.
However, Magna will still need to wait for a 30-day period within which appeals with the court are still possible to expire. The period has been running since last Thursday when the ministry rejected ROVO's appeal.
Below is a review of the headlines in Slovenian dailies for Friday, February 15, 2019, as summarised by the STA:
Car industry woes
"Standstill": The slowdown in Germany's economy spells potential problems for Slovenia's car industry. (front page, page 3)
Post workers strike
"Newspapers would not be delivered by the post during the strike": The strike at Pošta Slovenije, announced for next Tuesday, is getting increasingly likely. It looks like only urgent packages will be delivered. (front page, page 9)
"Adult cinema of old and new": Ljubljana Kinodvor cinema will honour what used to be an adult film cinema at the same location with an evening of select erotic as well as explicit adult films. (front page, page 12) Learn more about the event, and see trailers, here
Ruling in tunnel case against DARS
"DARS to pay another EUR 10m to Grassetto for Trojane tunnel?": A first instance ruling by the Ljubljana District Court, coming 13 years after motorway company DARS was taken to court, has awarded Italian builder Impresa Grassetto EUR 10m of the EUR 54m demanded. (front page, page 4)
"Sandwich theft substantially cuts short Krajčič's term": LMŠ's MP Darij Krajčič, who has resigned after admitting that he once stole a sandwich, claims the theft was only a social experiment. (front page, page 2)
"Slovenia joins those siding with Guadio": Slovenia decides to "acknowledge" Juan Guadio as interim president of Venezuela despite opposition from the coalition SocDems and the Left. (front page, page 2)
Waiting lines in healthcare
"Good news and fake news": The paper shows that an intentional or unintentional glitch in how average waiting lines are calculated - also factoring in the category "zero" waiting time that appears in the IT systems of some providers fleetingly - is creating a false impression that progress is being made in the tackling of long waiting lines. (front page, 5)
Slowdown in Germany
"Germany only barely avoids recession; we also have a reason to worry": Domestic and public spending helps Germany avoid a recession. (front page, pages 2, 3)
Issues with police helicopters and boats
"Grounded and stuck on shore": All six helicopters of the Slovenian Police Force are presently grounded due to technical faults, while the two boats also need new engines. (front page, page 5)
"'Social experiment' sweeps away MP": The ruling LMŠ party finds it only logical that its MP Darijo Karjčič has decided to resign over having stolen a sandwich. (front page, page 3)
Verdict in murder case
"He welcomed the verdict with a raised thumb": Maribor court hands a 26-year prison sentence to a 56-year-old who shot 28 bullets into a car in heavy traffic in a revenge killing in 2017. (front page, page 5)
STA, 14 February 2019 - Darij Krajčič from the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) has resigned as MP after he recounted in parliament how he had shoplifted a sandwich.
A newcomer to politics, Krajčič, 54, said on Tuesday he had left parliament to get a sandwich, waiting several minutes while three shop assistants were talking without paying any attention to him.
This promoted him to "check their system of control if you take something from the shop", he said during a session of the Agriculture Committee.
"I walked out and nobody came after me, nobody yelled. Which also means that where everything is under video surveillance ... now and then they overlook something."
Krajčič also said this was the first time had done such a thing. His story was met with laughter by fellow MPs.
Addressing the press on Thursday, LMŠ deputy faction leader Brane Golubović said Krajčič's act was "inadmissible, so he took responsibility for it and resigned of his own accord".
Golobović said Krajčič, whom he labelled an expert and a good person, had regretted the incident and apologised for it.
"If we want to follow the LMŠ's values and principles, then responsibility for this act must be taken. So he assumed it and stepped down of his own accord."
Krajčič did not attend today's news conference, but in a statement for POP TV earlier today he regretted the incident, which he said was not a theft but a social experiment.
He apparently also paid for the sandwich later on.
Krajčič, who holds a PhD in forestry, was elected to parliament in last year's election in the town of Mozirje in the Celje electoral unit, tendered in his resignation yesterday.
In the National Assembly he has chaired the EU Affairs Committee and has been a member of the infrastructure and agriculture committees.
At the time of election, he was a research fellow at the Slovenian Forestry Institute.
He has also taught at the University of Ljubljana and served as a director general at the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry.
The MP could be replaced in the 90-strong National Assembly, where LMŠ has 13 deputies, by Nik Prebil, a 27-year-old MA student.