29 Aug 2022, 03:50 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA

28 Aug 2022, 22:44 PM

STA, 28 August 2022 - President Borut Pahor and his Icelandic counterpart Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson called for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis as they met in Ljubljana on Sunday. They highlighted Slovenia's important role in the Western Balkans and reaffirmed the good relations between Slovenia and Iceland.

"It is a special honour for me to officially host the president of Iceland in a year when Slovenia is celebrating the 30th anniversary of international recognition of its full-fledged entry into the international community, including its admission to the United Nations," Pahor said, noting that Iceland was the first internationally recognised country to recognise Slovenia in December 1991.

The two presidents confirmed that relations between Slovenia and Iceland are good, as the two countries, which have similar positions, cooperate in the European Economic Area, NATO, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international alliances. At the same time, Pahor announced that Iceland supports Slovenia's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

They again condemned the Russian aggression in Ukraine and noted that no one seemed ready to come to the negotiating table. They expressed their wish for negotiations to start as soon as possible in order to spare human suffering and to resolve the conflict peacefully. However, Pahor added that the Ukrainian authorities, state and people should not be pushed into a peaceful settlement of the conflict until they themselves were ready to do so.

The presidents underlined the importance of multilateralism and the political and legal order in the international community and pledged to work to revitalise and strengthen multilateralism.

They also highlighted that both Slovenia and Iceland were affected by internal social divisions and stressed the need to maintain a sense of community and promote tolerance. "We do not want to see differences grow in our societies. We want to see a society in which xenophobia is not allowed, in which hatred towards parts of society is not allowed and in which there is freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom to maintain society as a whole," Johannesson stressed.

Turning to the Western Balkans, Pahor said this was a region with great potential for development, but also as a region which, until the war in Ukraine, was the only one in Europe to have experienced war after the Second World War. He pointed out that the region should be viewed with particular sensitivity and stressed that Slovenia had good relations with all the countries in the region and was working to make Euro-Atlantic integration, in particular, faster and more effective.

The Icelandic president underlined the important role of Slovenia for the region and said that he believed that Slovenia, with its position and history, could do a lot of good in this part of Europe.

This morning, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon met Johannesson and Icelandic Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Gylfadottir. The officials talked about the importance of honouring international law in the light of the war in Ukraine, and the possibilities for cooperation, Fajon said on Twitter.

In the afternoon, the two presidents inaugurated a bench of friendship between the two countries in Bohinj.

Johannesson will attend the Bled Strategic Forum on Monday and take part in a panel of leaders. He will also meet with Prime Minister Robert Golob, President of the National Assembly Urška Klakočar Zupančič and Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning Uroš Brežan, Pahor's office said.

28 Aug 2022, 22:36 PM

STA, 28 August 2022 - The success of Slovenian canoeists was complete on Sunday, as Eva Terčelj and Ajda Novak won the second and third places in women's extreme slalom, a new Olympic discipline, at the Canoe Slalom World Cup in Pau, France. Jessica Fox from Australia, the reigning world champion of the discipline, won the race.

This is the first time that two Slovenian women competitors were on the podium. In a nail-biting finale, Terčelj crossed the finish line as second and Novak as third.

Slovenian canoeists Luka Božič and Benjamin Savšek bagged the second and third places in a white water slalom even in Pau earlier today.

The last white water slalom World Cup event of the season will be held next weekend in Seu d'Urgell.

28 Aug 2022, 03:21 AM

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Prominent economist Jože Mencinger dies aged 81

LJUBLJANA - Economist Jože Mencinger, the economy minister in the first Slovenian government, a key voice of Slovenia's economic transition in the 1990s and distinguished professor has died aged 81, according to the STA's sources. A number of senior officials conveyed condolences to Mencinger's family on social media.

Slovenian tourism to focus on more demanding markets

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian tourism is currently successfully recovering after the Covid-19 pandemic but there are many uncertainties about the autumn and winter ahead, Maja Pak, the head of the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO), told the STA. Still, the industry is united about the future course - attracting more demanding guests and offering high quality products.

Second and third Covid waves with less impact on cancer diagnoses

LJUBLJANA - After a drop of 30% in the number of newly diagnosed cancers in the first wave of the Covid epidemic in the spring of 2020, the second and third waves had a smaller impact on these trends, the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology told the STA, noting that the situation had improved since then.

Franci Novak wins award for best collection of short stories

NOVO MESTO - Author Franci Novak received the award for the best collection of short stories at the Novo Mesto Short festival on Friday evening. He won the accolade for his work Obvoz (Detour). Published by LUD Literatura last year, Obvoz is a collection imbued with lyrical prose whose author's voice is distinctive and without any detours, said the jury.

Tartini Festival gets under way in coastal town Piran

PIRAN - The 21st Tartini Festival will start in the seaside town of Piran tonight with a concert by I Solisti Veneti at Minorite Monastery dedicated to the 330th birth anniversary of the Piran-born composer Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770). Another highlight will be a performance by violinist Fabio Biondi next week. The festival will run until 9 September.

Slovenia start home-turf volleyball championship with a win

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia won against Cameroon (3:0) in their first match at the Volleyball Men's World Championship in Ljubljana on Friday. In a vibrant atmosphere of some 7,000 spectators, Slovenia justified their role as favourites and defeated last year's runners-up in the African Volleyball Championship.

27 Aug 2022, 17:15 PM

STA, 27 August - Due to a lack of rainfall mountain huts in Slovenia are experiencing water scarcity, including the highest hut Kredarica that sits below Mt Triglav, Slovenia's tallest peak. Currently, the hut only has water supplies for about ten days, and there has been a cap on bookings for some time.

The summer-season hut is situated right next to Slovenia's highest mountain weather station, sitting on a small plateau at 2,515 metres.

Kredarica can accommodate more than 300 guests, but due to a severe water shortage accommodation capacity has been halved. Mountaineers are urged not to seek lodgings without booking them first or to return to the valley the same day if they can, Herman Uranič, one of the Kredarica hut keepers, said on Thursday.

The water that climbers bring with them cannot solve the problem of water scarcity, he added, as water is also needed for washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen. They are already using paper cups and, if necessary, they will switch to paper plates too. The keepers also save water by showering every ten days or so.

The last time it rained on Kredarica was about a week ago, a rare event in the past weeks that made Uranič laugh out of joy.

If water runs out, they can bring it to the hut, but this is quite costly, since the volume that would be required for a single day would cost EUR 5,000.

The hut is usually open from mid-June until the end of September. Visitor numbers this season are very good, with 20%-30% more visitors than in the same period last year, and an increase of nearly EUR 200,000 in turnover.

The visitors are mostly foreigners, who account for some 75%. Most of them are from Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and France. Slovenians tend to visit Kredarica and climb Mt Triglav over the weekends.

The water situation in other mountain huts in the vicinity of Mt Triglav, including Dom Planika and Koča na Doliču, is also critical, the Alpine Association of Slovenia warns, urging mountaineers and hikers to implement water-saving habits, including the use of wet wipes.

There are 161 mountain huts in Slovenia, of which 55 use rainwater reservoirs, the mountaineering organisation said. Of these, more than ten also use water tanker trucks where access makes this possible.

Most of the huts, about 45%, are located near mountain springs, some of them also combine this water source with the reservoirs. More than fifth of the huts are connected to the public water supply network.

27 Aug 2022, 17:04 PM

STA, 26 August 2022 - The equal opportunities ombudsman has found that an article of the labour market regulation act discriminates against certain foreigners, as it stipulates a 12-month deadline for third-country nationals to pass an exam on basic knowledge of Slovenian, but not for citizens of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Announcing the decision on Friday, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality said that it had been made based on an initiative of a regional unit of the Employment Service.

It assessed the 12-month deadline as "non-urgent means", as the relevant act also envisages a less strict measure, i.e. that the time period within which a foreigner should pass this exam is not specified, as applied for the citizens of the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

The institution also assessed that the measure is not proportionate, as job seekers who do not meet the requirements are deleted from the records regardless of how hard they try to get a job.

"It would be proportionate if it enabled advisers of the Employment Service to make a professional assessment and prepare an employment plan together with a specific job seeker that includes a time frame for the fulfilment of their obligations, as provided for job seekers who are citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland."

The equal opportunities ombudsman also assessed that the distinction regarding the deadlines for passing the exam is based only on the personal circumstance of citizenship, for which, in its opinion, there are no justified reasons.

This "unjustifiably different treatment" particularly affects citizens of Kosovo and North Macedonia of Albanian ethnicity, the institution noted.

"Due to their cultural habits and language, which is unrelated to Slovenian - unlike Bosnian, Serbian or Macedonian, or even Ukrainian and Russian -, they find it more difficult to fulfil the condition of basic knowledge of Slovenian."

For this reason, they are represented in an above-average share among third country nationals whom the Employment Service has to delete from its records due to the non-fulfilment of this conditions.

The Advocate of the Principle of Equality has recommended the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to eliminate the perceived discrimination, otherwise a request for constitutional review could be filed.

27 Aug 2022, 04:55 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA


Start of main hearing in TEŠ6 trial marred by absences

CELJE - The main hearing in connection to the infamous EUR 1 billion-plus TEŠ6 generator project started at the Celje District Court with the reading of part of the 1,300-page indictment and the majority of the defendants absent, although the prime defendant, former boss Uroš Rotnik, was present. One of Slovenia's biggest corruption trials will be divided into three parts due to its complexity, the court decided, and proceedings will be held twice a week to expedite the trial.

Energy group Petrol posts net loss of EUR 1.3m in H1 due to fuel price caps

LJUBLJANA - Ergy group Petrol posted a net loss of EUR 1.3 million in the first half of the year as a result of fuel price regulation. The group saw sales revenue rise by 126% to EUR 4.2 billion n the back of increased volume sales of fuels and oil derivatives and price hikes. EBITDA stood at EUR 48.6 million, down by 52% year-on-year and 64% below plans. The company urged the government to compensate if for the nearly EUR 110 million in income lost during the first round of price regulation else its credit rating might be at risk. The government said a decision on compensation was yet to be reached.

Luka Koper group net profit up 169% to EUR 41.5m in first half

KOPER - Port operator Luka Koper reported a group net profit of EUR 41.5 million for January-June, up 169% on the year before, as sales rose 35% to EUR 155.1 million. Cargo volumes rose by 13% to 11.7 million tonnes. Containers remain the most important cargo segment and volumes rose by 3% to 526,500 units (TEU), despite delays in shipments from major Chinese ports. The company also benefited from higher warehousing and service fees.

Report: EUR 78m suit filed against ex-Adria Airways managers, owners

LJUBLJANA - The official receiver of bankrupt airline Adria Airways has filed a EUR 78 million lawsuit against the company's German managers and owners for the damage they caused to its creditors by financially draining the former Slovenian flag carrier, according to a report on the Necenzurirano news site. The suit has been filed against Arno Schuster, Holger Kowarsch and the other managers that led Adria after German fund 4K Invest bought the carrier in 2016.

Gaming company Hit recovering post-Covid

NOVA GORICA - After two loss-making years marked by Covid closures, Hit, Slovenia's largest casino operator, reported an operating profit of EUR 5.7 million for the first half of the year, more than double the figure in the same period in 2019, before Covid struck. Visitor numbers and occupancy of accommodation facilities have not yet reached 2019 figures, but they have exceeded plans.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine tops Bled Strategic Forum agenda

BLED - Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its fallout will dominate the 17th Bled Strategic Forum, Slovenia's pre-eminent conference dedicated to international affairs, which gets under way on Monday under the banner The Rule of Power or Power of Rules. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will be among the 160 panellists alongside top Slovenian officials and three foreign heads of state, two prime ministers and 15 foreign ministers.

Advocate finds labour law discriminates against third-country nationals

LJUBLJANA - The equal opportunities ombudsman has found that an article of the labour market regulation act discriminates against certain foreigners, as it stipulates a 12-month deadline for third-country nationals to pass an exam on basic knowledge of Slovenian, but not for citizens of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The measure is not proportionate, as job seekers who do not meet the requirements are deleted from the records regardless of how hard they try to get a job.

President Pahor honoured with Czech Plečnik award

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor was honoured with the Grand Prix Jože Plečnik 2022, an award given out by Prague Castle, as he hosted a ceremony to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of acclaimed Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik. The award has been given out since 2018 for lifetime achievements in architecture, construction and protection of architectural heritage to top Czech architects. Pahor was honoured for his contribution to Czech-Slovenian cultural relations and support for cooperation between Prague Castle and Slovenian institutions.

Provider of IT courses for elderly points finger at minister

LJUBLJANA - Smart Naris, one of the 29 providers of IT courses for the elderly across the country, responded on Thursday to suspension of the courses over alleged irregularities by saying that Minister for Digital Transformation Emilija Stojmenova Duh "is unjustifiably shifting the responsibility for the project's failure onto the contractors". Smart Naris was the only company the Government Office for Digital Transformation singled out when talking about the irregularities.

Writers urge government to reopen Russian culture centre

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Writers' Association called on the government once more to reopen the Russian Culture and Science Centre in Ljubljana, which was closed in April, noting that the Russian aggression against Ukraine had also affected Russia as part of Europe. The repeated call was issued for the sake of arts and culture, which "is common to all of us, Europe, Ukraine and Russia".

Ukrainian students sitting uni entrance exams in Maribor

LJUBLJANA - Ukrainian students who have sought refuge in Slovenia were able to sit admissions tests to Ukrainian universities in the Slovenian city of Maribor in what was a joint campaign in response to the Ukrainian Education Ministry's appeal. The Institute of Information Science (IZUM) ensured that a total of 51 candidates took the August exams, said the Slovenian Education Ministry.

Coronavirus case down slightly week-on-week, four deaths

LJUBLJANA - A total of 1,336 new coronavirus cases were logged in Slovenia on Thursday in what is a 4% decrease week-on-week. Four patients with Covid-19 died, while hospitalisation remained flat on a daily basis, show the latest figures released by the Health Ministry. Ninety patients required hospital treatment for Covid-19, the same number as on Wednesday, with the number of intensive care patients dropping by one to ten.

26 Aug 2022, 14:30 PM

STA, 26 August 2022 - Despite more than doubling its revenue, Slovenia's energy group Petrol posted a net loss of EUR 1.3 million in the first half of the year as a result of fuel price regulation, the company said on Friday.

The group saw sales revenue rise by 126% to EUR 4.2 billion, a figure well above the target, on the back of increased volume sales of fuels and oil derivatives as well as price hikes.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) stood at EUR 48.6 million, down by 52% year-on-year and 64% below plans.

The net loss is a result of the steep drop in EBITDA that was caused by the price regulation measures in Slovenia.

The price regulation forced Petrol "to sell fuels at a lower retail price than the purchase price 90% of the time between 15 March 2022 and the end of June".

"The company's EBITDA loss of EUR 108.9 million in Slovenia was caused by the government's freeze on retail prices of petroleum products from 15 March to 30 April and the reintroduction of the cap on 11 May for a period of 90 days, which was lifted prematurely by the current government on 21 June," the company said.

The group's EBITDA loss in Croatia, where the price regulation has been in force since 7 February, stood at EUR 14.5 million.

Adjusted gross profit for the first six months of the year totalled EUR 245.4 million, down 5% year-on-year and 19% below plans. The positive contribution to gross profit growth due to the integration of the company Crodux Derivati Dva into the group was reversed by the impact of price caps in Slovenia and Croatia.

In 2021, Petrol posted nearly EUR 5 billion in sales revenue and EUR 124.5 million in net profit. In the first quarter of this year, the group was still in the black as net profit stood at EUR 32.4 million and was higher than the quarter-one figure in 2021.

Petrol's chief financial officer Matija Bitenc told the STA that the company was hoping to reach an agreement with the government on reimbursement of damages it incurred during the first wave of price regulation in spring, under the previous government.

"We incurred costs, sold more fuel, but we did not cover the purchase price," he said." A request for reimbursement has already been sent to the government. Several meetings with the finance and economy ministries have been held but a final agreement has not been reached yet.

He also warned that the uncertainty might have an impact on the company's credit rating. In March S&P put Petrol on watch with a negative outlook as it awaits information about how important Petrol is for the state.

"The rating agency has so far assessed that in the event of any problems the state would come to the rescue ... Today their view is slightly different and they are wondering if this is still the case," he said.

A meeting with S&P is scheduled for September, until which time they want to know to what extent the damage will be reimbursed by the state. "Having Petrol in poor financial shape is not good for anyone at this time, least of all for the taxpayers," he said.

With its current rating Petrol does not need bank guarantees to purchase oil derivatives, but if the rating is downgraded they would have to issue guarantees in the EUR 300-500 million range per month, he said.

The Economy Ministry told the STA there had been no final decision yet about compensation. If one is made, the government will first set the criteria for eligibility and require evidence.

"In recent months some oil companies have proactively sent 'notifications of damages' to the [ministry], but we do not consider these formal claims," it said.

Under the law on price controls, the government has the prerogative to decide whether to reimburse companies or not. It also decides on the appropriate means of compensation, either financial remuneration, tax benefits or other forms of financial incentives, it said.

26 Aug 2022, 11:38 AM

STA, 25 August 2022 - The government decided on Thursday to reach an agreement on solidarity measures to ensure security of gas supply with Croatia. The agreement would allow Slovenia to ask Croatia to provide gas to Slovenia's protected customers if gas supply was disrupted, and vice versa. A similar agreement with Italy has already been ratified.

The draft agreement sets down the technical, legal and financial elements for such a solidarity mechanism between EU member states.

It is based on the EU regulation concerning measures to safeguard security of gas supply, the Government Communication Office (UKOM) said after the government session.

Slovenia would activate the solidarity support mechanism as a last resort, after having taken all possible measures to ensure gas supply to its protected customers, including cutting off the gas supply to unprotected customers.

Under the Slovenian law, protected customers are households but also basic social services connected to the distribution or transmission system, such as healthcare, education and care services.

The agreement obligates the country providing solidarity assistance to do its utmost to be able to offer the necessary amount of gas to the recipient country.

The recipient country may decide to accept a particular offer or not. If it accepts it, it also assumes the obligation to pay for the gas received, UKOM said.

If the agreement is signed, either party, Slovenia or Croatia, could ask for a solidarity gas supply.

In mid-June, the National Assembly unanimously ratified a similar agreement with Italy, and activities to sign one with Austria are also under way.

26 Aug 2022, 06:37 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA


Tourism trumps pre-Covid figures in July

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian tourism surpassed record-high figures posted in 2019 in July as foreign visitors returned to the country, accounting for three-quarters of the nights spent at tourism accommodation facilities. Data from the Statistics Office shows visitors spent 2.7 million nights at the country's tourist accommodation facilities in July, an increase of 17% on the same month a year ago and 5% above the July 2019 figure. Visitor arrivals were up by nearly a fourth to 952,000 from July last year.

Telekom Slovenije posts 10% higher H1 profit on flat sales

LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije, the Slovenian incumbent telco, saw its group net profit in the first half of the year rise by 10% year-on-year to EUR 23.4 million as sales revenue dropped by 1% to EUR 314.2 million. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were up by 6% year-on-year to EUR 31.1 million, but earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by 1% to EUR 112.2 million, which the company attributes in part to rising energy prices.

Wolt determined to stick to its business model

LJUBLJANA - Clemens Brugger, the director of the Slovenian branch of Wolt, said the food delivery company was sticking to its business model that is based on flexibility, despite calls for changes. Talking with the STA in an interview, he said most couriers were happy with the current working conditions, but he announced that the company would change the pay system slightly. He said surveys among staff showed almost 90% of some 500 couriers who responded were happy with the working conditions.

Municipal utility to halt gas supply to consumers

VELENJE - The public utility of the Velenje municipality announced it would stop supplying natural gas to its end users on 1 October, in what appears to be the first such case in Slovenia during the ongoing gas supplies crisis prompted by the war in Ukraine. "Despite several calls, no gas distributor has sent in an offer to allow us to continue providing gas to end users after 1 October," Komunalno Podjetje Velenje said in a statement.

Business sentiment improves in August

LJUBLJANA - Business sentiment improved in August after deteriorating for three months. The index was up by 0.9 percentage points to -0.3 points, mostly due to rising confidence in the services sector, the Statistics Office reported. Compared to August 2021, the sentiment indicator decreased by 6.8 percentage points, mainly due to deterioration in the sentiment in manufacturing, consumer confidence and in construction.

Pahor to receive Czech Jože Plečnik Award

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor will be honoured with the Grand Award of Jože Plečnik on Friday, the president's office said in a press release. On the 150th anniversary of the Slovenian architect's birth, Pahor will become the first statesman to receive the architectural award given out by the Prague Castle Administration. He will host a ceremony to honour the anniversary at the Presidential Palace, the press release added.

Speaker of upper chamber to run for president on broad enough support

LJUBLJANA - National Council Speaker Alojz Kovšca expressed the desire to run for president and called on parties to support his bid. He will file the candidacy only if backed by a wide range of political parties, movements and distinguished individuals. Without such support it would not make sense to run, he told the press. He has informed the party Concretely, whose vice president he is, of his willingness to run and got some positive feedback but the party has not yet decided on supporting his bid.

Opposition challenging omnibus repeal law in court

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) asked the Constitutional Court to review a bill repealing the amendments to eleven laws passed under the previous, SDS-led government. The omnibus bill filed by the 8 March Institute NGO was passed in July, when the SDS announced it would challenge it at the court. The two parties consider the law to be in contradiction with several provisions in the constitution, proposing the court to stay its implementation immediately.

Spending in supplementary budget to hit all time high

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted the starting points for the drafting of this year's supplementary budget and set out a new breakdown of expenditure. With significant revenue growth projected, the new document envisages around EUR 14.5 billion in expenditure, up by nearly EUR 600 million on the existing budget. This would be Slovenia's all-time high expenditure.

Govt decides to reach gas supply agreement with Croatia

LJUBLJANA - The government decided to reach an agreement on solidarity measures to ensure security of gas supply with Croatia. The agreement would allow Slovenia to ask Croatia to provide gas to Slovenia's protected customers if gas supply was disrupted, and vice versa. A similar agreement with Italy has already been ratified, and activities to sign one with Austria are also under way.

Czechia to join Slovenia's NATO excellence centre

LJUBLJANA - The government approved the joining by Czechia in the NATO Mountain Warfare Centre of Excellence. Czechia will contribute one armed forces member to work at the centre in the village of Poljče, at the base of Karavanke mountains, as well as funding for the centre, the Defence Ministry said in a press release. The cooperation will be laid down in two notes.

Govt presents analysis of staffing by its predecessor

LJUBLJANA - The government presented an analysis of hiring in the state administration between 1 January 2020 and 2 June 2022. Immediately after being sworn in, it decided to review all appointments, reassignments and promotions to see whether some staff got the job through political connections. Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik said the analysis was not a witch hunt, noting that before the current government took over, a 300% increase in open-ended hiring was seen in cabinet employees.

All performed healthcare services to be paid for as of 1 September

LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan announced that all healthcare services provided in the public system will be paid for from 1 September in what is one of the measures from a decree adopted by the government. The ministry will not determine the scope of the programme that healthcare institutions need to perform as could be concluded from the press release after Wednesday's correspondence session, he said after concerns were raised that the government is intervening in healthcare.

Govt adopts two copyright bills

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted two bills to modernise copyrights and related rights and sent them to the National Assembly to be fast-tracked through parliament as the deadline to implement relevant EU directives expired in June last year. The penalty for failure to do so until now tops EUR 2 million. Economy Minister Matjaž Han said at a news conference that both bills were endorsed after "a long, expert, very thorough and intensive coordination" process that took two years.

Ministry proposes bill to keep school meal prices flat

LJUBLJANA - The Education Ministry put forward an emergency bill to keep the prices of school meals and student dorms the same as last year despite rising costs. The difference in the prices would be covered from the state budget by allocating EUR 11.7 million - EUR 2.6 million would be paid out this year and just over EUR 9 million next year. The bill is now under public consultation with remarks accepted until 9 September.

Fotopub scandal moving to parliament

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) asked for an emergency session of the parliamentary Culture Committee to urge the Culture Ministry to produce a report on the use of public funds by NGOs in the culture sector over the past decade. The request comes in the wake of a scandal in which Fotopub gallery head Dušan Smodej is alleged to have sexually abused young women. The SDS is worried the Left's leader Luka Mesec, now labour minister, may have known about this. The Left and Mesec distanced themselves from Smodej and condemned any sexual violence on Monday.

SDS urges emergency session of agri committee over drought

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) requested an emergency session of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee to discuss drought-related financial aid for farmers. They would call on the government to prepare an emergency law within one month to help farmers facing severe droughts and the rise in the prices of energy products and raw materials. The SDS deputy group has other proposals in mind as well.

UKC Ljubljana boss sees no reason to step down

LJUBLJANA - Jože Golobič sees no reason to step down as director general of Slovenia's largest medical centre UKC Ljubljana as urged to do by Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan. In a note to the minister, PM and members of the UKC council obtained by the STA, Golobič rejected all accusations and labelled the call for resignation a political move. He blamed poor investment, pay anomalies and flawed education system for problems in healthcare. If the UKC council decides he should go, he will honour the decision.

Cybersecurity incidents up 14.5% in 2021

LJUBLJANA - A total of 3,177 cybersecurity incidents were recorded in Slovenia in 2021, a 14.5% rise over 2020, according to a report released by the the national Computer Emergency Response Team (SI-CERT). The year was marked by a large number of information disclosure vulnerabilities, with supply chain vulnerabilities at the forefront. Phishing attacks again stood out among the reported incidents, increasing by 37% to 950. A large number of incidents were malicious code injections, at 306.

IT courses for over-55s suspended

LJUBLJANA - Acting on an appeal from the Government Office for Digital Transformation, the Slovenian Regional Development Fund ordered all providers of courses at which citizens aged 55 or more would improve their digital competences to suspend all related activities. The suspension comes after the office found suspicion of a number of irregularities in the selection process and with some providers of the courses, especially Smart Naris.

Free self-testing kits to be available for uni students too

LJUBLJANA - In addition to primary and secondary school students, university students will also be entitled to ten free self-testing kits per month in the new school year, the government decided under a decree that takes into account the health authority's recommendations. The self-testing kits will be available from Monday, and the testing will be voluntary.

Wednesday's Covid count up on week before

LJUBLJANA - Health authorities in Slovenia reported 1,571 new cases of coronavirus for Wednesday, an increase of 27% from the same day a week ago. Two patients with Covid-19 died. Figures released by the Health Ministry show 90 patients required hospital treatment for Covid-19, eleven of whom were in intensive care. The latter figure is the same as a week ago and the former is up by two. According to the National Institute of Public Health, the 14-day incidence per 100,000 of the population rose to 898.

Nights in Old Ljubljana get under way

LJUBLJANA - The largest street music festival in the Slovenian capital starts tonight with a concert by Bakalina Velika in the Novi Trg square. The 34th Nights in Old Ljubljana will see 21 free-of-charge events in six venues in three days, featuring more than 90 musicians from nine countries. Highlights include Caribbean voodoo blues rock band Moonlight Benjamin from France, and Spanish flamenco, jazz and electronica band Sentido Project, which will perform with Slovenian jazz saxophone player Jure Pukl.

25 Aug 2022, 15:54 PM

STA, 25 August 2022 - The opposition Democrats (SDS) want the Culture Ministry to compile a report on the use of public funds by NGOs in the culture sector over the past decade. The request comes in the wake of a scandal in which Fotopub gallery head Dušan Smodej is alleged to have sexually abused young women. The SDS is worried one minister may have known about this.

SDS MP Andrej Hoivik told the press on Thursday that the SDS had asked for an emergency session of the parliamentary Culture Committee at which it will call on the ministry to produce the report to double-check the publicly accessible data on funding NGOs in culture in the last decade.

He said that more than EUR 55 million had been spent on art production, "from film production to exhibitions and various performances", in this period.

The SDS is convinced that "in a number of cases, cultural figures have abused their status, and their work has not contributed to increasing culture in the region".

Hoivik pointed to several recent art performances of "concern" to the SDS, including a 2021 installation by a group of artists entitled Breathe, in which naked people with bags on their heads stood in the window of the Fotopub gallery.

He said that "the recent developments" pointing at sexual abuse at Fotopub exhibitions showed that public funds are used to fund projects that are hardly "art with added value".

It is also extremely worrying that artists spend public funds on entertainment while not paying their subcontractors or submitting annual reports, as required by law.

Culture Minister Asta Vrečko told a Wednesday news show that the Fotopub Association of Contemporary Culture had not yet produced its 2021 report on the use of public funds.

Hoivik finds this to be unacceptable "given the information about girls, even minors, being abused at the performances organised by Smodej and about unlawful possession of illicit drugs".

The ministry told the STA on Thursday that the Fotopub Association, represented by Smodej, received EUR 57,000 in public funds as part of three calls for funding.

It got EUR 52,800 for the 2018-2021 period for the Festivalpub project and EUR 4,200 in 2015 and 2017, with the ministry finding no irregularities in the use of funds.

The association is, however, behind in submitting its 2021 report and was thus urged to do so by the end of August, the ministry explained.

Hoivik is also worried that some members of the government, or the coalition Left party, may have known about the alleged abuse of young women at Fotopub.

He pointed to "audiovisual evidence" on the internet showing that the Left's leader Luka Mesec, now labour minister, "was spotted at one of the Fotopub exhibitions".

The Left distanced themselves from Smodej and condemned any sexual violence already on Monday.

Mesec tweeted he had nothing to do with Smodej, announcing to press charges against those spreading the allegations, which appeared in several conservative media.

By Wednesday afternoon, no alleged victim reported any abuse in connection with the Fotopub scandal to police nor contacted an NGO which offered to provide them with support and financial aid to cover legal costs.

Police are continuing gathering information about alleged sexual offences, conducting interviews to try to identify possible victims, but so far there has been no positive confirmation, the General Police Department told the STA on Thursday.

Police activities are focused on verifying the authenticity of the accounts alleged victims have recently posted online anonymously.

Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan issued a press statement today, condemning any form of violence and sexual violence in particular. She encourages any potential victims to report the alleged crimes to the police.

Media reports about sexual abuse by Smodej were triggered by an Instagram page called Against Violence by Dušan Smodej which contains a number of testimonies by individuals claiming to have been abused by Smodej or have witnessed abuse of or attempts to abuse young women, and instances of him giving date-rape drugs to young women.

Smodej, a 28-year-old from Novo Mesto, has meanwhile denied any abuse for the 24ur news portal and Slovenske Novice tabloid, insisting the allegations are the doing of a female acquaintance of his who has been sending him death threats and is blackmailing him for money with the online posts.

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