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This summary is provided by the STA:
Mix of relaxed, tightened restrictions planned for Christmas
LJUBLJANA - A mix of relaxed and tightened restrictions is planned for Christmas under a roadmap unveiled by the government. Between 24 December and 4 January the complete closure of all services activities where there is direct contact with consumers is planned; if the epidemiological situation does not improve, the closure will be in effect until 10 January. The same applies to non-essential shops. At the same time, on 24 and 25 December up to six persons from a maximum of two households will be allowed to gather privately and people will be allowed to leave their municipality and region for visits. If the epidemiological situation improves or remains stable, the same regime would apply on 31 December and 1 January.
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New economic stimulus package adopted, focus on income support and aid to companies
LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a new economic stimulus package that Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said was worth around EUR 550 million. Measures include a one-off EUR 200 payment for those who receive up to twice the minimum wage, EUR 130-300 for pensioners, EUR 150 for students, EUR 50 per child for recipients of child allowance, and a basic income of EUR 700 for religious workers. For companies, special loans will be available from the state-owned SID Banka, while companies that suffered a revenue decline in excess of 70% will be eligible for aid of EUR 2,000 per employee in fixed costs. There are also special provisions helping transport companies, rent assistance, payment of rapid coronavirus tests, and waiver of VAT on medical equipment needed to fight the epidemic.
Meeting of Slovenian, Italian, Croatian FMs ends without signing of joint statement
TRIESTE, Italy - The Slovenian, Croatian and Italian foreign ministers were expected to sign a trilateral statement on the Adriatic Sea in advance of plans by Croatia and Italy to proclaim exclusive economic zones. Slovenia's Anže Logar said the statement had been harmonised but not signed. The statement, circulated by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, says that Italy, Croatia and Slovenia "share the vision of the Adriatic Sea as a bridge that unites all peoples in the region and as a source of wealth and prosperity for all." It states that Italy and Croatia would take the step "in full compliance with the principles of international law, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and EU law."
SMC does not support Erjavec
LJUBLJANA - The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) does not support Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Karl Erjavec as candidate for prime minister-designate. "The party is united in the position that we will not support Erjavec," SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek told TV Slovenija Friday evening. A similar message was delivered by the SMC's Igor Zorčič, speaker of the National Assembly, in an interview for Siol.net. He said there were "too many unknowns and open issues about the project of a possible new coalition" and it would be "very risky for the country at this point, and irresponsible of the SMC, to contribute to even greater political instability."
Forty deaths, 1,427 new coronavirus cases confirmed
LJUBLJANA - The number of new coronavirus cases continues to decline gradually. Slovenia confirmed 1,427 newly infected on Friday, a week-on-week decrease of almost a fifth. With 5,600 tests performed, the positivity rate was 25.5%. Forty people died, the latest government data show. There were 1,199 people with Covid-19 in hospital yesterday, down by 13 on the day before and the lowest number since mid-November. There were 202 patients in intensive care, six fewer than the day before.
C-bank governor says economic policy measures suitable, effective
MARIBOR - Central bank governor Boštjan Vasle believes economic policy measures that Slovenia has taken have been suitable and effective. "A conceptual consensus on the need for rapid, expansive action was quickly achieved," he told Večer. Slovenia has borrowed heavily to finance stimulus and expects additional loans from the EU. Vasle stressed that it was very important how this money is spent. Countries that invest in fields promoting growth, development, the addressing of contemporary challenges will emerge from the crisis more successfully, he said.
Fitch affirms Slovenia rating
FRANKFURT - Rating agency Fitch affirmed Slovenia's long-term rating at A with a stable outlook. The agency said in a rating action issued on Friday that Slovenia's rating was "supported by high governance and human development indicators and a credible policy framework supported by EU membership." These are balanced against currently rising and high public debt relative to 'A' rated peers, the economy's small size, and slow progress in implementing structural reforms.
Slovenia's Lampič third in World Cup sprint race
DRESDEN, Germany - Fresh from being declared Slovenian female athlete of the year, cross-country runner Anamarija Lampič finished third in the World Cup sprint in Dresden, Germany. The top three finish came even though Lampič lost a pole soon after the start and was forced to run with one pole for a part of the race.
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STA, 19 December 2020 - A mix of relaxed and tightened restrictions is planned for Christmas under a roadmap that the government unveiled on Saturday. Restrictions will be relaxed or tightened depending on the epidemiological situation and may be extended into the New Year's holiday.
"The government has assessed that we've lived with the currently applicable measures long enough and that we are increasingly aware how important they are to protect the lives of those most vulnerable and to beat the epidemic," government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the press after a government session on Saturday.
Kacin said this is why the government opted for a "gradual, controlled relaxation" of individual measures.
One of the linchpins of the plan is the complete closure between 24 December and 4 January of all services activities where there is direct contact with consumers; if the epidemiological situation does not improve, the closure will be in effect until 10 January.
The same applies to shops, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, shops selling medical devices, petrol stations, postal and delivery services, selected therapeutic services, and deliveries of food or other goods.
Under this plan, the first three grades of primary school would open from 4 January assuming the epidemiological situation improves. The same goes for kindergartens.
On the relaxation front, the complete ban on gatherings will be eased on 24 and 25 December to allow up to six persons from a maximum of two households to gather privately. The person limit applies to those aged over 15.
On those two days, between noon on 24 December and 8pm on 25 December, people will also be allowed to leave their municipality and region for visits.
If the epidemiological situation improves or remains stable, the same regime would apply on 31 December and 1 January.
All other restrictions remain in place, including the ban on public gatherings and prohibition of the sale and use of fireworks.
The government also issued an appeal to companies to decree remote work or collective leave is possible between 24 December and 10 January.
Kacin said the relevant decrees will be released in the coming days.
The announcement comes after the daily case count declined substantially on a week-to-week basis for the seventh day in a row and the number of people in hospital fell to a one-month low.
Outside the Christmas measures, one more region, Primorsko-Notranjska, has been added to the four statistical regions with the lowest incidence of new cases where more shops are allowed to open, including clothing and footwear stores.
STA, 18 December 2020 - In the past seven days, the police dealt with almost 16,800 cases monitoring compliance with Covid rules. A total of 1,026 warnings were given, up by some 14% on the week before, and 519 fines were issued, down by 4%, deputy Police Commissioner Tomaž Pečjak said on Friday.
The police conducted 2,400 inspections per day on average to monitor compliance with coronavirus restrictions.
Mostly they dealt with violations of border restrictions, movement restrictions, including those restricting movement between municipalities, the 9pm-6am curfew or a ban on gatherings, Pečjak said at today's government briefing.
The police reported nine violations to the Health Inspectorate in the past seven days. Another 188 alleged violations were reported by municipality residents.
Health inspectors issued 35 sanctions between 7 and 13 December, 265 warnings and 100 administrative measures, having dealt with 2,303 cases, Deana Potza with the inspectorate told the briefing.
Violations include gatherings in the vicinity of food or beverage pick-up points or people wearing face masks wrong or not wearing them at all.
Most police warnings were issued by the Ljubljana Police Department (442), followed by the authorities in the Kranj area (81) and the Koper area (65), Pečjak pointed out.
When it comes to fines, the highest number was also issued in the Ljubljana area (154), followed by the Novo Mesto Police Department (149).
Pečjak said that the police were monitoring compliance with the curfew in cities and on major roads. However, most alleged violations are brought to the attention of the police by residents, he added.
The police issued 1,661 quarantine orders at border crossings between 11 and 17 December, an almost 19% increase on the week before. Most were issued on the border with Croatia (1,032), followed by those issued on the border with Austria (425), Italy (55) and Hungary (16).
At Ljubljana airport the police issued 133 quarantine orders in the past seven days.
The greatest number of quarantine orders was issued to passengers arriving from Bosnia-Herzegovina (437), which compares to 602 orders issued to arrivals from this country in the previous seven days.
A total of 287 quarantine orders was issued to arrivals from Germany, whereas a week before none, followed by arrivals from Croatia (209), Serbia (126), Kosovo (108) and North Macedonia (105).
The number of arrivals entering or exiting Slovenia on the border with Croatia increased by some 10% to 314,266 in the past seven days.
Compared with the same period last year, traffic on the border was reduced by two thirds, Pečjak said.
He urged those who intend to travel to learn about relevant conditions and heed prevention measures consistently, warning that a number of countries had made their entry requirements stricter.
The deputy police commissioner also announced that the police would step up their monitoring this weekend as well.
He added that if an individual wanted to invoke the contact tracing app #OstaniZdrav (#StayWell) as an exemption from the general ban on travel between municipalities, all they had to do was voluntarily show that the app had been installed on their phones.
In the event of an entire family travelling, it is sufficient if only one member claims this exemption, he said, highlighting that the app opened doors only to travel between the municipalities of the same region and only in the four regions with the best epidemiological status.
Tying unrestricted travel between municipalities to the use of the app has raised concern over privacy protection and discrimination of those who do not own a smart phone or a phone that could accommodate such an app, particularly the elderly and vulnerable groups.
What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.
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FRIDAY, 11 December
BRUSSELS, Belgium - PM Janez Janša labelled the compromise reached by EU leaders over the recovery package a typical European solution, a win-win situation with no absolute winners or losers. The winner is the EU since an opportunity for actually implementing the package as of 1 January 2021 was unlocked, he said.
VATICAN CITY, Vatican - A Slovenian delegation was received by Pope Francis, and Foreign Minister Anže Logar held talks with Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for relations with states within the Holy See's Secretariat of State, before a 30-metre spruce from Slovenia came aglow with Christmas lights in St Peter's Square. Logar said the tree was Slovenia's thank-you to the Holy See for its support before and after Slovenia declared independence nearly 30 years ago.
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor reiterated his stance that EU prospects for the Western Balkans are the main geopolitical issue bearing on European stability, as he addressed the To Be Secure forum. His wish is for the entire region to join the EU.
LJUBLJANA - The Government Communication Office (UKOM) responded to a letter by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović concerning the funding of the STA. UKOM head Uroš Urbanija repeated the argument that the STA was obligated to provide UKOM with all the requested documents.
LJUBLJANA - Rating agency Standard & Poor's affirmed Slovenia's AA- rating with a stable outlook. The step acknowledges that Slovenia "remains a stable country in the long run despite the difficult situation due to Covid-19", the Finance Ministry said.
LJUBLJANA/NOVO MESTO - Ljubljana and Novo Mesto police said they had launched an investigation into posters and graffiti which appeared in both cities and labelled some medical experts exposed during the coronavirus epidemic "murderers of the Slovenian nation".
SATURDAY, 12 December
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - President Borut Pahor called on the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina to focus on the country's economic and social challenges together, as he addressed by video link a ceremony in Sarajevo marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton agreement, which ended the war in the country.
PLANICA - Germany's Karl Geiger won the individual event of the Planica Ski Flying World Championship with a total of 877.2 points after a nail-biting finish in which the second-placed Halvor Egner Granerud of Norway fell behind by only half a point after four rounds of jumping.
SUNDAY, 13 December
LJUBLJANA - The government decided to temporarily ease some restrictions starting on 15 December. Under new rules, public transportation restarted nationwide. Hair salons, flower shops, car washes and dry cleaners reopened. In four regions with the best epidemiological situation - Central Slovenia, Goriška, Obalno-Kraška and Gorenjska - footwear, apparel and sports equipment shops as well as car dealerships opened.
CLEVELAND, US - The Slovenian Consulate General in Cleveland announced that Edward Gobetz, an esteemed Slovenian American philosopher, sociologist and anthropologist, a professor emeritus at Kent State University, had died, aged 94, of Covid-19 complications.
VAL D'ISERE, France - Martin Čater won the first World Cup downhill of the season in what is the first podium finish for the 27-year-old Slovenian, who entered the race with the start number 41.
PLANICA - Norway won the team event at the Ski Flying World Championships at Slovenia's Planica, overtaking Germany in the last round as Halvor Egner Granerud performed better than Karl Geiger, who beat the Norwegian on Saturday in the individual event. Slovenia bounced back from the turmoil in their ranks by finishing fourth.
ROGAŠKA SLATINA - Voters in the municipality of Rogaška Slatina confirmed plans by the local government to erect the tallest observation tower in Slovenia. At a cost of over two million euro, the 106-metre tower is designed to become one of the landmarks in a community best known for spa tourism.
MONDAY, 14 December
LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša told parliament that it had been Italy and Croatia's "good will" to invite Slovenia for talks on their plans to declare their exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic Sea. The two countries have the right to declare the zones and it is solely because of "our reputation".???
LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša told the MPs in parliament Slovenia was in for a "very demanding fight with the last third of the Covid-19 epidemic", after which time would come to eliminate the consequences. He said the EU's recent agreement on the EUR 1.8 trillion recovery package "makes the light at the end of the tunnel brighter".
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said after an EU ministerial that the positions of EU member states on solidarity in the new migration pact remained different. Slovenia remains against obligatory relocation, just like nine other members states.
LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar reiterated Slovenia's support for giving cooperation between the EU and Latin American and the Caribbean a fresh impetus as he took part in an informal EU-LAC meeting. He said the Covid-19 pandemic showed the importance of close cooperation.
LJUBLJANA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption closed its investigation into the case of Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak's purchase of Petrol shares ahead of the full liberalisation of fuel prices after concluding that this is not within its purview. It handed the case over to the Securities Market Agency.
LJUBLJANA - The suspension of STA financing has led to criminal charges filed by both sides. The STA's in-house trade union reported Government Communication Office (UKOM) head Uroš Urbanija to the prosecution over abuse of office. Urbanija filed charges against STA director Bojan Veselinovič, former UKOM head Kristina Plavšak Krajnc and four STA supervisors. Prime Minister Janez Janša told parliament the government was not interfering in the STA.
TUESDAY, 15 December
LJUBLJANA, - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption launched multiple probes into purchases of personal protective equipment in spring. Eight persons are under investigation, including Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and Ivan Gale, the former Commodity Reserves Agency employee who first made allegations of irregularities. Počivalšek said he would fully cooperate in the investigation to clear his name.
BRDO PRI KRANJU - PM Janez Janša met ambassadors of EU member states accredited to Slovenia, an event organised by the German EU presidency. He answered questions from ambassadors concerning the most recent EU summit, the main challenges for next year and Slovenia's preparations for its EU presidency in the second half of 2021.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Foreign Minister Anže Logar met his counterpart Stefan Blok as part of his working visit to the Netherlands to discuss cooperation, Slovenia's EU presidency and topical issues. Logar also held separate meetings with the heads of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the International Criminal Court.
POSTOJNA - Ahead of a two-day ministerial of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) in Postojna, Defence Minister Matej Tonin met his Croatian counterpart Mario Banožić and Austria's Klaudia Tanner. The talks focused on bilateral cooperation in the fields of military and defence and on cooperation within the EU.
LJUBLJANA - Banka Slovenije, Slovenia's central bank, expects the economy to contract by 7.6% this year before growing at a rate of 3.1% in 2021, a sharp downgrade from its forecast in June, when it projected a 6.5% contraction for this year and growth of 4.9% for 2021. The forecast hinges on the successful rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
LJUBLJANA - Public and private investors, including the government, signed a memorandum to cooperate in the construction of a EUR 387 million passenger terminal in Slovenia's capital. The project comprises a new railway station, along with appertaining track infrastructure and platforms, a coach station with a multi-storey car park and a commercial hub.
LJUBLJANA - Bojana Beović, the infectious disease specialist who heads the group advising the government on Covid-19, was elected head of the Medical Chamber. Out of the 5,895 ballots cast by members in a runoff, she won 3,154 against Tanja Petkovič, the head of the chamber's section of care home doctors.
WEDNESDAY, 16 December
STRASBOURG, France - The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it does not have jurisdiction to hear a case brought by Slovenia against Croatia over debt owed to Ljubljanska Banka (LB) by Croatian companies, because LB lacks non-governmental status.
POSTOJNA - The experiences of individual armies in helping to fight the Covid-19 epidemic and the strengthening of cooperation with Western Balkan countries were in the focus of a two-day meeting of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC). Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin and his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Benko expressed support for the long-term stability of the region.
LJUBLJANA - Railways operator Slovenske Železnice signed a strategic logistics and cargo partnership with EP Holding. The Czech holding will become the owner of a 49% stake of Slovenske Železnice's cargo division SŽ-Tovorni Promet. The partnership is pending regulatory approval.
LJUBLJANA - Atlantic Droga Kolinska, Belinka Perkemija, TKK and iSystem Labs were honoured as best foreign investors for their excellent business performance and contribution to the development of the Slovenian economy. The awards are given out annually by the SPIRIT investment promotion agency and the economy ministry.
LJUBLJANA - Cross-country skier Anamarija Lampič, cyclist Primož Roglič and the men's handball team are this year's crème de la crème of Slovenian sports as selected by the Association of Sports Journalists. Both the athletes and the team received the top sports awards at the 2020 Athlete of the Year ceremony.
THURSDAY, 17 December
LJUBLJANA - The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) left the government coalition with immediate effect and its top decision-making body backed party leader Karl Erjavec as a candidate for prime minister-designate. The move brings the informal Constitutional Arch Coalition (KUL) a step closer to a no-confidence vote in the Janez Janša government, but it remains several votes short of a majority.
LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - Fully upholding the European Commission's position, the European Court of Justice ruled that Slovenia breached the inviolability of ECB archives in a 2016 police search of archives at the country's central bank that was part of an investigation into the 2013 bank bailout. The court's Grand Chamber also found Slovenia in breach of the obligation of sincere cooperation with the EU.
LJUBLJANA - The government formally extended the state of coronavirus epidemic by 30 days beginning on 18 December. However, more shops, including those selling technical goods, tree and plant nurseries as well as shops with goods for installation, maintenance and repair services will reopen for five days, from 19 to 23 December. In the four regions with the lowest number of cases, additional shops will be allowed to open.
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor, the supreme commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF), promoted Chief of the General Staff Robert Glavaš to the rank of major general. The promotion is according to Pahor a result of Glavaš's excellent military career and his results at all SAF levels as well as of the experiences he gained in missions abroad and in NATO structures.
LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed in a 43:36 vote a bill amending the criminal procedure act. Based on the freedom of information act, the changes make it possible for anyone to access prosecution or court records in criminal procedures if there are no reservations for such access.
LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed a reform bill on motor vehicles tax as a result of which most car and motorbike buyers will pay less tax, especially buyers of more powerful vehicles. The levy will depend on emissions.
LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the tonnage tax act extending by another ten years a special regulation under which shipping companies pay an alternative form of corporate income tax.
LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije signed a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) worth up to EUR 100 million for the expansion of its fibre optic network through 2023. The EIB funds will allow it to finance the continued expansion and upgrade of its network with gigabit speeds, both in urban centres and rural areas.
STA, 18 December 2020 - Trial mass voluntary raid testing for the novel coronavirus will go ahead in Ljubljana on Monday, the Health Ministry has confirmed for the STA after Tomaž Gantar, who since resigned as minister, first announced the plan earlier this week. Testing will take place in Congress Square.
Testing will start at 10am on Monday, running until 5pm, and then from 8am to 5pm the following three days. Those who wish to get tested need to bring an identity document and a health insurance card.
The mobile lab will expectedly be able to perform 60 antigen tests per hour, meaning that around 2,000 tests could be performed in the first four days.
The testing will be organised with the help of Ljubljana city authorities. Members of the Ljubljana civil protection, possibly aided by city traffic wardens will provide the security, making sure social distancing rules are observed.
Those who wish to get tested are advised to bring protective face masks.
STA, 18 December 2020 - The European Capitals of Culture Expert Panel has recommended the Slovenian border city of Nova Gorica to be the European Capital of Culture 2025 along with Germany's Chemnitz. Nova Gorica has been bidding for the title together with Gorizia on the Italian side of the border with the slogan Go! Borderless.
Announcing the decision, Cristina Farinha, the panel's chairperson, noted how the Covid-19 pandemic showed the importance of culture in people's lives, in particular during the lockdown.
However, she also noted that the culture sector has been one of the hardest hit in the crisis, offering the European Capital of Culture as a major opportunity to stimulate the sector.
Farinha said all four shortlisted Slovenian bids (Nova Gorica competed with Ljubljana, Ptuj and Piran) addressed topical and relevant European topics such as solidarity, borders, climate change and transformations.
Nova Gorica expressed its gratitude for being recommended for the title, with the organizers pledging their readiness and commitment to meet all their promises.
They believe they have won because the bid has grown out of long-running lively cooperation between the two cities and within the cross-border region, and because the bid has had undivided political support from both cities, the Northern Primorska region and the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The cities' residents and officials awaited the announcement enthusiastically in Europe Square connecting the two cities, which also hosted the main ceremony on Slovenia's joining the EU in 2004.
Nova Gorica Mayor Klemen Miklavič welcomed the news by saying it gave the two cities "as a single urban area" and the "hub of the cross-border region" an "opportunity to become an important spot in the EU".
He said the culture capital status would be an opportunity not only for cultural creativity and urbanistic development of the two cities but would also boost business, tourism and jobs.
"I dedicate this victory to the people of this unique territory who suffered so much but succeeded in creating a better future for the young," Gorizia Mayor Rodolfo Ziberna said.
He expects the title would allow them to attract new human and financial resources for economic development and jobs with the help of cultural, urbanistic and business initiatives.
Nova Gorica is planning more than 600 cultural events and more than 60 projects for 2025 bringing together over 250 partners from Slovenia and 34 other countries.
Congratulating the city, Slovenian Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti said he was very happy about the pick, being that it is a joint bid by the two cities.
He noted that Nova Gorica was also in the spotlight when Slovenia joined the EU, describing the bid as a commitment on a symbolic level for Nova Gorica to find its place on Europe's map together with Gorizia as a successful, culturally-aware city.
Maribor was Slovenia's first city to host the European Capital of Culture, in 2012.
Culture Ministry State Secretary Ignacija Fridl Jarc noted the Maribor 2012 European Capital of Culture evaluation report showed the events related to the title attracted almost 4.5 million visitors and viewers.
She said the experiences of past European Capitals of Culture showed the designation's great potential and positive effects for the bidding cities, including those not chosen for the title.
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.
This summary is provided by the STA:
Health Minister Gantar resigns
LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar resigned after his Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) decided to leave the coalition. After the National Assembly took note of his resignation, Prime Minister Janez Janša stepped in as interim health minister. Meanwhile, DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec is forging ahead with the decision to leave the coalition and vie for the role of the prime minister. He said he was happy with the talks with the party's five MPs, but they would not make any statements.
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FM says Croatian, Italian EEZs not to affect Slovenian fishermen, port
LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar argued that the declaration of exclusive economic zones (EEZ) planned by Croatia and Italy would not affect Slovenian fishermen or Luka Koper, the country's only port. He confirmed that Slovenia and its two neighbours were coordinating a three-partite statement about EEZs. The signing is scheduled for tomorrow in Trieste. The document is to be signed by him and his Croatian and Italian counterparts Gordan Grlić Radman and Luigi di Maio.
Slovenian troops in Kosovo infected with coronavirus
PRISHTINA, Kosovo - TV Slovenija reported that at least 11 members of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) serving in Kosovo were infected with coronavirus and a further 36 were quarantining. The rotation began its mission in Kosovo just ten days ago. The report said one of the soldiers had tested positive twice before being deployed, however, since it had taken quite a while since his infection the belief was that was no longer contagious.
Coronavirus figures gradually improving
LJUBLJANA - The epidemiological situation in Slovenia appears to be gradually improving. A total of 1,512 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, some 300 fewer than a week ago, in what was the sixth day running that week-on-week cases declined. A total of 41 Covid-19 patients died, bringing the overall death toll to 2,233. Hospitalisations declined to 1,212 ,according to the latest government data.
Coronavirus mass testing starting in Ljubljana Monday
LJUBLJANA - Trial mass voluntary raid testing for the novel coronavirus will go ahead in Ljubljana on Monday, the Health Ministry confirmed for the STA after Tomaž Gantar, who since resigned as minister, first announced the plan earlier this week. Testing will take place in Congress Square daily until Thursday. This was after the Majbert Pharm group was picked as the tests supplier in a renewed public tender. The company is to provide some 500,000 antigen tests at just under 2 euro apiece.
Youngest pupils could return to school after Christmas break
LJUBLJANA - Education Minister Simona Kustec announced that classroom learning would be reintroduced for pupils from grade one to three of primary school from 4 January provided everything goes as planned. Children with special needs would also return to school and kindergartens would reopen for all kids. Other pupils would follow as soon as the situation is deemed safe enough. Meanwhile, it was decided secondary-school leaving exam or the matura will be adjusted this year.
NATO points to Slovenia's difficulties in achieving defence capability goals
LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry revealed that NATO's review of Slovenia's defence capability highlighted unacceptable constant delays in achieving some of the goals, chiefly in defence spending. The document called NATO Defence Planning - Capability Review 2019/2020 for Slovenia points to deep cuts in defence funds after 2010, finding that other allies have had to assume a share of Slovenia's burden for common defence for several years now.
Slovenian EU presidency priorities will be resilience, economic recovery
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021 will be a challenging task, not only due to Covid-19. The country's priorities will be boosting the EU's resilience, its economic recovery after the pandemic, promoting values based on the rule of law and a safe EU, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan said. During the spell, Slovenia will host a number of high-level events, including an informal summit followed by an EU-Western Balkans summit.
Second attempt at electoral reform fails
LJUBLJANA - A second attempt at abolishing electoral districts and introducing a voluntary preference vote failed to garner the needed two-thirds majority of 60 votes. The bill was proposed by four left-leaning opposition parties and opposed by the coalition SDS and DeSUS as well as two opposition SD MPs. 55 MPs voted in favour and 26 against. Now, a re-districting bill is expected to be filed. It was drafted by the Public Administration Ministry in collaboration with the coalition.
SD proposes international conference on Adriatic Sea
LJUBLJANA - The opposition SocDems urged Foreign Minister Anže Logar to push for an international conference on the Adriatic Sea to enhance cooperation among Adriatic countries. He should propose it as he meets his Italian and Croatian counterparts tomorrow to discuss the two neighbours' plans to declare exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic.
Top court annuls several public finance act provisions
LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court has annulled several provisions in the law on public finances in relation to budgetary funds for the upper chamber of parliament, the Constitutional Court, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Court of Audit. It argues the volume of funds they receive must not be dependent on the government. The court passed the ruling on 10 December and presented it to the press in a release today. It gave the authorities a year to change the existing regime.
Petrol expects EUR 104m in profit next year
LJUBLJANA - Energy group Petrol expects EUR 3.5 billion in sales revenue and EUR 104.4 million in net profit next year. Attaining those goals will depend on the post-pandemic recovery, the underlying assumption being that the pandemic will be contained in the first half of 2021, the company said. Gross profit is to reach EUR 490 million, EBITDA is planned at EUR 213.5 million, shows the company's business plan.
Call published for 5G frequency auction
LJUBLJANA - The national Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) published a call for a public auction of 5G frequencies. Those interested have until 1 February to submit their bids, while the auction is expected to take place in March or April. The call comes after the government approved starting prices for the frequency bands earlier this week. If all frequencies are auctioned off at starting prices, the total price would amount to EUR 70 million.
BAMC executive team made complete
LJUBLJANA - Dimitrij Piciga, the former CEO of gaming company hit, was appointed to join the management board of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) as an executive director to complete the executive team. Piciga will be joining chief executive director Matej Pirc and executive director Andraž Grum starting on 23 December, BAMC said. The BAMC management board also comprises four non-executive directors, one of whom, Boris Novak, serves as the board chairman.
Biosistemika receives EU innovation incentive
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenian company Biosistemika is one of the EU's 38 start-up, small and medium-sized companies to benefit from EUR 176 million available to encourage cutting-edge innovation. Biosistemika specialises in digital solutions for laboratories and will receive the funds for DNA data storage. The companies will get from EUR 1 million to 17 million for developing and upgrading cutting-edge innovations.
Nova Gorica to be 2025 European Capital of Culture
NOVA GORICA - The European Capitals of Culture Expert panel recommended the Slovenian border city of Nova Gorica to be the European Capital of Culture 2025 along with Germany's Chemnitz. Nova Gorica mounted its bid together with Gorizia on the Italian side of the border with the slogan Go! Borderless. Outbidding Ljubljana, Ptuj and Piran, Nova Gorica said the bid had grown out of long-running lively cooperation between the two cities and within the cross-border region.
National Gallery puts Baroque painter, Slovenian illustration pioneer in focus
LJUBLJANA - The National Gallery will put on major exhibitions in 2021 of works by Baroque painter Fortunat Bergant and pioneer of Slovenian illustration Hinko Smrekar, two Slovenian artists who left an indelible mark on the art scene in the 18th and the first half of the 20th centuries, respectively. The museum also extended the exhibition of the Prague Castle Picture Gallery masterpieces, which opened at the end of September, until the end of February.
Ski jumper Nika Križnar second in Ramsau
RAMSAU, Austria - Ski jumper Nika Križnar placed second in the opening World Cup event for women in Austria's Ramsau in what is her career best. Another Slovenian, Urša Bogataj, finished fourth. With jumps of 91.5 and 94 metres and 245.1 points, Križnar, 20, was only outperformed by Austria's Marita Kramer (94 and 96 metres and 253.6 points).
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STA, 18 December 2020 - The epidemiological situation in Slovenia appears to be gradually improving. A total of 1,512 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, some 300 fewer than a week ago, in what was the sixth day running that week-on-week cases declined. A total of 41 Covid-19 patients died, according to the latest government data.
"From Saturday almost 900 fewer infections were confirmed than in the same period last week. This is an encouraging trend," government spokeswoman Maja Bratuša told the daily coronavirus press briefing.
Hospital figure declined as well. There were a total of 1,212 Covid-9 patients in hospital yesterday, down 17 on the day before and the lowest figure since mid-November. The number of patients requiring intensive care dropped by one to 207.
The new infections came from 5,862 tests, which means the positivity rate was 25.8%. Slovenia has so far recorded 103,555 coronavirus cases since the start of the epidemic, meaning almost 5% of the population has had a confirmed infection.
The number of people who died with Covid-19 stands at 2,233, according to data tracker Covid-19 Sledilnik.
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STA, 18 December STA - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar tendered his resignation on Friday after his Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) decided to leave the coalition. Prime Minister Janez Janša has notified parliament of his decision.
"I've always tried to do my job conscientiously, with all due responsibility and commitment. I believe we did important work together," Gantar said in his letter of resignation.
After DeSUS quit the coalition yesterday, party leader Karl Erjavec initially said it would be up to Janša to decide what to do with both DeSUS ministers, Gantar and Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek.
It was later pointed out, by Janša and several others, that DeSUS bylaws require ministers to resign if the party leaves the coalition.
STA, 17 December 2020 - The European Court of Justice has ruled that Slovenia breached the inviolability of ECB archives in a 2016 police search of archives at the country's central bank that was part of an investigation into the 2013 bank bailout.
In a decision announced on Thursday, the court fully upheld the European Commission's position that Slovenia "unilaterally seized" documents that were part of the archives of the European Central Bank, thus failing to "fulfil its obligation to respect the principle of the inviolability of the archives of the EU".
Moreover, the court's Grand Chamber found that by "failing to cooperate properly with the ECB to eliminate the unlawful consequences of that infringement, Slovenia also failed to fulfil its obligation of sincere cooperation with regard to the EU".
The decision sets a legal precedent regarding EU privileges and immunity. "This case has thus given the Court the opportunity to state the conditions applicable to the protection of the archives of the Union with regard to a unilateral seizure of documents forming part of those archives made by the authorities of a member state in places other than the buildings and premises of the European Union and, in particular, the conditions under which a finding of infringement of the principle of the inviolability of the archives of the ECB may be made," the court said.
In explaining its decision, the court noted that in July 2016 the police seized paper and electronic documents at Banka Slovenije, including the then governor's e-mail communication and documents at his workspace computer and his laptop concerning the period between 2012 and 2014.
It said that although Banka Slovenije argued those measures infringed the principle of the inviolability of the ECB archives under the Protocol on the privileges and immunities of the EU and requiring an access to those archives by the national authorities be subject to the express agreement of the ECB, the Slovenian authorities continued with the search and seizure of documents without involving the ECB.
It noted that the ECB explained to the Slovenian authorities that its archives included not only the documents it had drawn up but also its communication with national central banks necessary for the performance of the tasks of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) or of the Eurosystem.
The ECB also maintained that, subject to certain conditions, it would not refuse to waive the protection enjoyed by the documents seized by the Slovenian authorities.
The court pointed out that, since the ECB is an EU institution, the principle of the inviolability of EU archives applies to its archives as well, including those that are stored in places other than EU buildings and premises.
It finds that the national central banks and their governors have a hybrid status as, although they constitute national authorities, they are authorities acting under the ESCB, hence ECB archives also include documents in possession of national central banks.
Taking into account the large amount of documents seized and the duties of the Banka Slovenije governor, the court "considers it to be established that the documents seized by the Slovenian authorities must have included documents which were part of ECB archives" and that by seizing such documents unilaterally, the Slovenian authorities infringed the principle of the inviolability of ECB archives.
By failing to have allowed the ECB, by the end of the period fixed in the reasoned opinion, to identify which of the documents seized were linked to the performance of the tasks of the ESCB and Eurosystem and by failing to return those documents to Banka Slovenije, Slovenia also failed to fulfil its obligation of sincere cooperation with the ECB.
The court ordered Slovenia to pay for its costs as well as the costs of the European Commission, while the ECB is to pay for its own costs.
If the Court of Justice finds there has been a failure to fulfil obligations, the member state concerned must comply with the judgement without delay. Where the Commission considers that the member state has not complied with the judgement, it may bring a further action seeking financial penalties, the court noted.
The Justice Ministry said today the ruling had been expected. Given that the court clearly stated that it does not see any obstacles for the seizure of documents that are not connected to the ECB's operations, the ruling should not significantly impact the ongoing national criminal procedure, it said.
"Now it is up to the prosecution to study the ruling in detail and take appropriate action," the ministry said.
The European Commission said it had taken note of the court's decision and expected Slovenia to implement it, but did not say whether there was a deadline for the implementation of the judgement.
The ministry also said no deadline had been set but "the Justice Ministry believes the ruling should be implemented as soon as possible".
Delaying the implementation, Slovenia could risk another procedure, which could entail a fine, the ministry said. Verica Trstenjak, a former advocate general at the European Court of Justice, told the newspaper Finance that a second ruling in the case could include high fines for Slovenia, possibly reaching EUR 100 million.
The ECB took note of the ruling, saying "it confirms the ECB's initial concern that the seizure of Eurosystem documents in the offices of Banka Slovenije did not respect the principle of the inviolability of the ECB's archives".
The Commission's spokesperson Marta Wieczorek also noted that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had confirmed the Commission's readiness to continue dialogue in her response to a letter by PM Janez Janša in June inquiring under which conditions the Commission would be willing to withdraw its action against Slovenia.
"But the Commission understands that the Slovenian authorities and the ECB have been discussing the matter without success," said Wieczorek.
Banka Slovenije said the decision upheld its view in those procedures, adding that proceedings related to the bank bailout had been weighing on its operations for years and undermined the country's international reputation.
"Banka Slovenije has been working to resolve the issue as part of national legal proceedings and talks where we have turned to regular courts as well as the Constitutional Court," the central bank said.
In the 2013-14 bank bailout roughly EUR 600 million of subordinated bank bonds and shares in several banks held by roughly 100,000 shareholders had been wiped up.
Petitioned by the small shareholders affected, the Slovenian Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that the provision under which the bail-in was carried out did not give the subordinated creditors and shareholders effective access to recourse.
The National Assembly then passed a law in late-2019 to provide easier access to recourse for the potential plaintiffs, making Banka Slovenije financially liable for potential lawsuits.
However, based on an appeal by the central bank, the Constitutional Court suspended the implementation of the recourse providing act in March this year pending its final decision.
The central bank today noted that since the issues have still not been resolved, a group of experts became operational at its initiative in October to draw up a list of proposals for a comprehensive solution to the issues.
The Association of Small Shareholders regretted the EU Court's decision, as it made "key documents based on which the National Bureau of Investigation ascertained that Banka Slovenije untruthfully showed NLB bank assets as negative and thus unjustifiably dispossessed erased bond holders" inaccessible.
The plaintiffs can thus not access the evidence to prove the bail-in was unjustified, which the association says means the existing law to redress their rights was ineffective and the "only fair path is a settlement".
STA, 17 December 2020 - The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) left the government coalition on Thursday and its top decision-making body also backed party leader Karl Erjavec as a candidate for prime minister-designate. The move brings the informal Constitutional Arch Coalition (KUL) a step closer to a no-confidence vote, but it remains several votes short of a majority.
Erjavec explained that DeSUS was exiting the coalition because of the critical situation in Slovenia, adding that the reason was not the epidemic or work of individual ministers, but the policies pursued by Janša.
"We don't have any major remarks as far as the coalition agreement is concerned, but the problem is in procedures bypassing the coalition agreement, especially when it comes to ideological topics and interference in the media."
Erjavec also mentioned the developments in the police and "huge pressure on all important social sub-systems", adding that "we don't want an 'Orbanisation' of Slovenia, and autocratic system".
As for foreign policy, DeSUS wants Slovenia to "hop back onto the Franco-German train and we want to be in the group of core EU countries". For this to happen, Slovenia needs a different government, he said.
Two of the five DeSUS MPs backed the decision by the party's council, and while Erjavec expects the deputy group to follow suit, this is not certain yet.
Two MPs have not made their position clear yet, while one, Robert Polnar, has publicly stated he will continue supporting the coalition and is expected to be excluded from the party and the deputy group shortly.
The two DeSUS cabinet members, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar and Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek, will not resign, according to Erjavec, who said it was up to the prime minister to decide when they would be dismissed.
Janša responded on Twitter by pointing to a provision in the DeSUS's bylaw which says that if the party leaves a coalition, the ministers must resign or lose their party membership.
"It is difficult to cooperate with someone who's not even in compliance with their own bylaws... Confusion is the last thing we need in this utterly serious situation."
The parties that make up KUL welcomed the decision and said they would now like to file a vote of no-confidence in the Janša government as soon as possible, presumably before the end of the year.
While they support DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec as a candidate for prime minister-designate, the formal decision is to be taken by the parties' top bodies.
All eyes will now be on the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), without which the centre-left does not have enough votes to topple the government.
SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek said he wanted the party to remain in government to implement the coalition agreement and continue to fight the epidemic. "The times call for operative and substantive politics, not for toppling [the government] and for an ideological battle."
The SMC is very happy with how its agenda is being implemented in this government, but Počivalšek admitted it was "bothered by some moves by the main coalition party".
Unofficial information indicates the SMC deputy group could meet on Friday. According to multiple media reports, some MPs may be willing to defect to KUL, but it is unclear how many.
If four DeSUS MPs join the KUL coalition, it will still be three votes short of the 46 needed for the vote of no-confidence to succeed.
Additionally, one Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) MP is reportedly seriously ill and is unlikely to be able to cast his vote given that a no-confidence vote requires a secret ballot, which is not something the current system of remote voting allows.
DeSUS's decision to quit the government does not mean the story is over, there is still a long way to a constructive vote of no-confidence in the Janša government, political analysts Rok Čakš and Aljaž Pengov Bitenc said.
They also see the Left as a source of instability in a potential new government.