STA, 25 May 2020 - The government is not supporting a legislative motion proposing to keep shops closed on Sundays and work-free days even after the end of the coronavirus epidemic. The opposition Left-sponsored bill is currently not appropriate to be discussed in parliament due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis, said the government on Monday.
Given the economic ramifications of the epidemic, including those affecting commercial activity which accounts for more than 30% of all the revenue of Slovenia's economy, the proposal does not enjoy the government support.
Moreover, the government thinks that social dialogue is the most appropriate way of tackling such issues, said the government's communication office after today's correspondence session.
The bill is so important that it should be also discussed at a session of the Economic and Social Council's, believes the government.
After the Left made the proposal in late April, the party expressed the hope that the bill could be passed by summer considering support expressed from both sides of the political aisle and part of the public.
The Left drafted amendments to the trade act in response to a call by the Trade Union of Shop Assistants in its Labour Day message to keep stores closed on Sundays and public holidays beyond the epidemic with some exceptions.
When the party presented the proposal, ahead of the May Day holidays, Prime Minister Janez Janša expressed support for the idea on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the management of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce (TZS) strongly opposed the proposal
last week, saying that consumption should be encouraged in such extreme circumstances to boost the economy and measures to preserve jobs should be adopted.
STA, 25 May 2020 - The NLB bank will carry on with optimising its business network by closing ten offices across Slovenia on 15 June. The Mislinja municipality in northern Slovenia, one of the places that will experience the closure first-hand, has protested against the step.
The bank has been citing changed clients' habits and the rise of online and mobile banking as reasons for closing physical offices. During the coronavirus epidemic, digital banking services became even more popular.
NLB believes that such habits will have a long-term impact on bank visits, with people being less likely to frequent the actual offices.
The bank has already started notifying the clients as well as local communities of the step, NLB has told the STA, adding that other offices will step in if needed or a team of mobile bankers will conduct home visits.
Moreover, a NLB mobile office will keep paying visits across the country until the end of the year. The bank also highlighted that its ATMs will remain in places where the offices will be shut down.
The Mislinja community is strongly opposing the closure since the NLB office is the only bank office in the municipality. The locals are up in arms, Mislinja Mayor Bojan Borovnik told the STA, pointing out that the elderly required the vicinity of the office in particular.
Borovnik hopes that the bank's decision is not final. He is also looking into the possibility of another bank opening up an office there.
The Mislinja office was temporarily closed during the epidemic. The bank recently notified the municipality of its permanent closure.
The Koroška regional council has addressed a letter to the bank, protesting over the move and urging NLB not only to keep the office open but also to reopen a couple of offices in northern Slovenia.
Meanwhile, today the bank reopened twelve offices across Slovenia in the wake of a major easing of coronavirus restrictions.
STA, 26 May 2020 - The Slovenian government has added new exemptions to the quarantine requirement for EU and Schengen zone nationals that in effect allow nationals from across the EU to enter the country as tourists, as long as they have a confirmation of booking. The same applies to owners of property in Slovenia.
The new regime took effect on Tuesday after the government late on Monday adopted a new decree that governs the border crossing regime not just with neighbouring countries but also on airports and ports.
Under the latest rules, EU and Schengen Zone nationals are required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival unless they qualify for what are now 17 exemptions.
Most of the exemptions are for business purposes. These include tourists with confirmation of booking and persons who own real estate, boats or airplanes in Slovenia (together with their family members), daily cross-border commuters, international hauliers, and persons hired to perform urgent services (in energy, health care, transport and utility services).
Some of the exemptions are for educational or health purposes. Persons crossing to get health services, those conducting humanitarian transport, students entering Slovenia or the EU for educational purposes, and EU researchers and teachers working in Slovenia may thus enter without quarantining.
Diplomats, those attending a relative's funeral, those with close relatives or spouses in Slovenia, and persons entering for a day to maintain contact with close relatives, are also exempted from quarantine. There is a special exemption for farmers who own property on both sides of any of Slovenia's borders.
The exemptions are a kind of stop-gap measure as EU countries gradually reopen borders based on bilateral or multilateral agreements in lieu of an EU-wide agreement that has so far proved elusive.
Slovenia has so far signed such an agreement with Croatia, which means its nationals are allowed to enter without restrictions.
Third-country nationals (except if they are residents of Slovenia) must undergo 14-day quarantine, but here too there are exemptions. These include hauliers, diplomats, those attending a relative's funeral, persons performing urgent commercial services, and persons in transit who enter and exit Slovenia the same day.
This summary is provided by the STA:
Active efforts continue to reopen borders
LJUBLJANA - As Slovenia continued the diplomatic efforts to reopen its borders with the neighbouring countries, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs discussed the issue over the phone with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer. The latter expressed reservations by saying that Austria was worried that Italians and illegal migrants would enter Austria via Slovenia and Croatia, while Hojs assured him Slovenia had restrictive measures in place on the border with Italy. According to government spokesman Jelko Kacin, Slovenia is in the process of finalising a technical agreement with Croatia to lift restrictions in place for Slovenian citizens there.
PM tells MPs not all Covid-19 crisis losses can be covered
LJUBLJANA - In his first questions time in parliament since taking office in March, Prime Minister Janez Janša told MPs there was not enough money in the budget to compensate for all losses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic, but that the government could mitigate the consequences to the greatest extent possible. He said no major cuts into people's income was planned. He pointed to a bill to facilitate major investments as one of the key measures for Slovenia to preserve the potential for future growth.
Pahor calls for legislative changes to prevent paramilitary activities
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor told commercial broadcaster POP TV late on Sunday that self-styled uniformed village guards or militias should not be allowed in Slovenia. He thinks such activities should be banned by law. "Slovenia is a safe country, we have competent authorities protecting the public order, there's no need for village guards of any kind." Turning to the work of the government, the president assessed that the cabinet was doing a good job in fighting off the looming recession. "But I do think it could be a big problem if political spirits continue to drift apart."
Opposition files bill to thwart paramilitary activity
LJUBLJANA - Three centre-left opposition parties filed legislative amendments to crack down on activities by self-styled militias or home guards after uniformed members of one such group made a visit to a police station in the north-east of the country over a week ago. The proposal submitted by the Social Democrats (SD), Marjan šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) is the same as that filed by the previous minority government under their guide, but which was defeated in parliament shortly before the change of government in March.
Army denies stopping Slovenian-Italian citizen near border
LJUBLJANA/TRIESTE, Italy - The Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) denied its member being involved in an incident near the border with Italy in early May after the Trieste-based newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported that a dual Slovenian-Italian citizen had been stopped at gunpoint by a man in a military uniform in the Hrpelje-Kozina community. The army said no SAF member had been in the area on the day of the incident. An MP for the Italian Democratic Party, Debora Serracchiani, notified the Italian Foreign Ministry of the incident, while Defence Minister Matej Tonin indicated it could be fake news.
Hojs expects action against organisers of anti-government protests
LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has told the weekly Reporter that he expects the authorities to take action against the organisers of the mass anti-government protests on bicycles. He believes this is illegal during the coronavirus epidemic and the organisers of unregistered protests must cover the costs of security provided by the police. The minister also said the border with Italy would not be fully opened until the epidemiological situation there was comparable to Slovenia's.
Minister Tonin protests over criminal complaint filed against him
LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin condemned the criminal complaint filed against him over alleged abuse of office because he ordered oversight of the military intelligence service when he served as the chair of the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission over a year ago. Tonin, the leader of New Slovenia (NSi), learnt about the charge when he was called in for questioning by the police last Thursday. Tonin said the complaint against him was politically-motivated.
Govt rating down in POP TV poll, SDS remains dominant party
LJUBLJANA - The government's approval rating declined in the latest monthly poll run by POP TV. The share of those who support the government slipped by over five percentage points to 40.2% as 49% voiced disapproval with its work. The ruling Democrats (SDS) slipped almost a percentage point to 18.5%, but they are still far ahead of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which gained almost three points to 14%. President Borut Pahor remains the most popular politician. Health Minister Tomaž Gantar climbed to second, pushing Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec into third place.
One new coronavirus infection confirmed on Sunday
LJUBLJANA - Slovenian health authorities reported one new coronavirus infection on Sunday, bringing the total so far to 1,469. The death toll remained unchanged at 107. There were 16 Covid-19 patients in hospital yesterday as two were discharged, with three of them in intensive care. The number of tests conducted stood at just 256, the lowest daily number since 7 March.
Ministers deny charges over Covid-19 care home deaths
LJUBLJANA - Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj and Health Minister Tomaž Gantar defended action to contain the spread of coronavirus at care homes in parliament as the opposition sought answers about the high proportion of Covid-19 fatalities at care homes and about media reports that care home residents had allegedly been listed as to who should get hospital treatment and who not if infected. While Gantar denied the existence of such lists, Cigler Kralj said 90% of care homes were infection free. He said a plan was in the making to control infections at care homes in a potential new wave.
Sacked NBI head Muženič goes to court
LJUBLJANA - The lawyer of the former director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed Darko Muženič had decided to challenge his 6 May dismissal at the Administrative Court. He also asked the court to stay the appointment of his successor pending the ruling. Muženič claims the no-fault dismissal procedure used for him in line with the act on public servants only applied to political office holders.
Tourism virtually dead in April
LJUBLJANA - The Covid-19 lockdown meant Slovenia recorded no tourist arrivals in April, while the number of recorded overnight stays was 11,000. This is 99% less that in April 2019 and was mostly accounted for by ongoing student exchange programmes. The January-April period saw slightly over 660,000 tourist arrivals, a 52% decrease year-on-year, show Statistics Office data.
Rise in unemployment brought to halt last week
LJUBLJANA - A sharp increase in Slovenia's registered unemployment total caused by the coronavirus crisis was brought to a halt last week with the weekly figure rising only by 59 to 90,272 compared to the previous week, show interim data from the Employment Service. The number even dropped in the span of two days. During the week before, the total rose by almost 580, while in the first half of April, the figure surged by as much as thousands per week.
Business sentiment improves in May after a drastic drop
LJUBLJANA - After plummeting by an unprecedented 35.8 percentage points in April, business sentiment in Slovenia improved somewhat in May, with the relevant index standing at -33.1 percentage points, or 6.5 points higher than in April, mostly due to an improvement in confidence in manufacturing. Nevertheless, the index is 40.8 percentage points lower year-on-year.
Govt does not support ban on Sunday shopping
LJUBLJANA - The government does not support a legislative proposal to keep shops closed on Sundays and work-free days even after the end of the coronavirus epidemic. After a correspondence session, the government said the bill, tabled by the opposition Left, was currently not appropriate to be discussed in parliament due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. This is despite PM Janez Janša initially endorsing the idea to keep stores closed on Sundays.
Electricity consumption down 15% in April
LJUBLJANA - Electricity consumption in Slovenia declined by 15% year-on-year in April and by 19% compared to March, an indication of a sharp decline in economic activity, fresh Statistics Office data show. April was the first full month of coronavirus lockdown.
FoI report finds state bodies increasingly unresponsive
LJUBLJANA - The Information Commissioner's report for 2019 shows an increase in the number of complaints about unresponsiveness by institutions bound by the freedom of information (FoI). The commissioner processed 540 complaints in 2019, of which 305 were related to access to public information being denied. As many as 235 or 44% of all complaints were related to institutions' unresponsiveness, or silence, to provide the required piece of information.
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Google Translate has improved tremendously in recent years, even for some of the relatively less spoken languages, like Slovene. Thus while certain idiosyncrasies and puzzlements remain, it’s become an indispensable tool for many as they seek to explore the world outside their linguistic abilities, or use it as a crutch to support the learning of another language.
But one cool feature you may, like me, have missed, is the fact you can enter a website and then explore as usual, without the need to right click, hit “translate”.
Of course, there’ll be mistakes – amusing, baffling and stupid – so if you know any of the following languages then click through and see how good or bad it works, and you can choose any of the dozens of other languages that are available by simply changing the options.
And if you want something else, just change the language
STA, 25 May 2020 - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has told the weekly Reporter that he expects the authorities to take action against the organisers of the mass anti-government protests on bicycles, which are taking place every Friday. He believes this is illegal during the coronavirus epidemic.
In an interview for the right-leaning magazine published on Monday, Hojs said that, under the law, the organisers of unregistered protests must cover the costs of security provided by the police.
The minister reiterated that the protests were illegal, "unless someone would try to explain that this was not a public gathering".
He noted that the relevant government decree said that public gatherings were prohibited, and that the latest version said that public events for up to 50 persons were allowed.
"If someone tried to explain that the protests are not public gatherings, they would go against their own common sense," Hojs said.
The police have and will be taking measures against the organisers under the law and based on the minister's guidelines.
"Although these were unregistered rallies, I expect measures against the organisers. These are the ones who had called for protests on social networks and TV studios, and even political parties were in on this."
The public assembly act stipulates that the organisers must cover the costs of police security in case of unregistered protests and Hojs expects that the police will exercise this option and charge the costs.
The minister also commented on the opening of the border with Italy, saying that it would not be fully opened until the epidemiological situation in the western neighbour was comparable to that in Slovenia.
He also pointed to what he believes are nonsensical legislative provisions preventing soldiers who help the police patrol the Schengen border from stopping or detaining illegal migrants.
Hojs said that the pandemic had halted illegal migration as the Serbian and Bosnian military had been consistently securing borders. Once this control is relaxed, a new increase in illegal crossings of the Slovenian border could be expected.
He announced that he personally would advocate the position that Croatia should be included in the Schengen Area, as this is in Slovenia's interest.
The minister also spoke of what he perceives as a "tremendous pressure" on the centre-left Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) to leave the coalition.
"They first took aim at the SMC, and when they realised that the party is rather solid, they went after DeSUS, but apparently DeSUS is not as labile as some thought either."
According to him, it is only a matter of time when the focus will shift on Defence Minister Matej Tonin, the head of New Slovenia (NSi).
The minister believes that the main reason for reports about the alleged dissatisfaction within the coalition parties was the "media interest of 'independent journalists'".
The possibility of an early election mostly depends on the prime minister and the balance of power in parliament. "In my opinion, Janez Janša is not someone who would throw in the towel," Hojs said.
STA, 25 May 2020 - The Covid-19 lockdown meant Slovenia recorded no tourist arrivals in April, while the number of recorded overnight stays was 11,000. This is 99% less that in April 2019 and was mostly accounted for by ongoing student exchange programmes. The lockdown for tourist facilities was in place from mid-March to 18 May.
According to preliminary figures, released on Monday by the Statistics Office, the January-April period saw slightly over 660,000 tourist arrivals, a 52% decrease year-on-year. Overnight stays totalled at 1.8 million, a fall of 46%.
Arrivals by domestic tourists stood at 259,000, a 44% drop, and overnight stays at 777,216, a 39% decrease. For foreign tourists the drops were 56% and 51%, respectively, to 402,000 and 1.1 million.
More details on this data can be found here
STA, 25 May 2020 - An incident involving a dual citizen of Slovenia and Italy who was stopped at gunpoint by a uniformed man, allegedly a member of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) patrolling the border with Italy, occurred in the Hrpelje-Kozina municipality in early May, Primorski Dnevnik reports. But SAF says no soldier was in the area back then.
The Trieste-based Slovenian newspaper provides an account by a 32-year-old dual citizen with temporary residence in Slovenia, who was taking a walk with his girlfriend in the woods above the Glinščica valley.
In a moment when he moved slightly away from the partner, he was approached by two men in military uniforms, one of whom demanded he immediately stop.
"I got scared. I didn't know what was going on. I thought it was some 'lunatic' playing solider. He ordered me to kneel down. He pointed an automatic rifle directly to my head," the man told the newspaper. Once the men in uniform heard him speak Slovenian, they apologised and let him go.
"It was a soldier of the Slovenian army. He was not a member of any kind of home guard. He explained that his colleague and him were looking for possible migrants who are crossing the border headed towards Italy in this area daily," he added.
Responding to the news report, SAF said on Monday it had contacted the Primorski Dnevnik journalist to learn the incident had taken place on 8 May near the village Mihele, checked the situation with the police, whom soldiers help patrol the border with Italy, but established that no SAF member had been in that area on that day.
SAF also explained that soldiers usually take part in patrols with police officers to patrol the border which consist of two soldiers and one police officer. The soldiers mainly support the police officer in performing his duties. This means they do not act on their own.
Earlier in the day Defence Minister Matej Tonin said SAF was checking what had happened, waiting for the police to provide the necessary information. It is the police that keeps the record of which patrol a solder is assigned to. He said it was in the interest of all for the incident to be cleared up, but indicated it could also be fake news.
MP for the Italian Democratic Party Debora Serracchiani has meanwhile already notified the Italian Foreign Ministry of the "news about worrying events on the Italian-Slovenian border", reported the Italian press agency Ansa. She said she would call on Minister Luigi Di Maio to demand an explanation from the Slovenian government.
Ansa also quoted the MP as saying "it would be unacceptable if there was substance to claims that armed members of paramilitary groups are moving close to our border".
While the Slovenian government is pushing for SAF to get certain police powers to help police on the border, Article 37.a of the defence act that would allow for this is presently not in force.
Article 37 states the army does not have police powers, while it "allows the Slovenian army to cooperate with the police in the wider protection of the border in the interior of the country's territory in line with plans and a beforehand decision by the government".
In mid-April, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs announced the government planned to nevertheless deploy soldiers if needed, using a different legislative provision that allowed a more limited form of deployment.
"In the event Article 37.a of the defence act is not activated, we will increase the number of SAF members on the border via Article 37," Hojs said then.
Activation of Article 37.a would allow soldiers to temporarily restrict the movement of persons and take part in crowd control along the border. The powers are granted for up to three months with the possibility of extension.
The debate about whether to put in force Article 37.a, written for and used temporarily during the 2015/16 refugee crisis, has been raising dust in Slovenia, as has the patrolling of allegedly unarmed uniformed groups, referred to as home guards. Legislation aimed to clamp down on them was drawn up under the previous government but voted down in March as the new government was being formed.
Meanwhile, the incident has drawn criticism from the opposition, with Matjaž Nemec of the SocDems calling on the defence, interior and foreign ministers to explain in detail the circumstances of the event and the legal basis for independent activities of the army along the border.
If those responsible fail to answer why the army was involved in the monitoring of the border with Italy, why it was not part of a mixed group led by the police, "such an international incident ... requires at least the resignation of the minister in charge", Nemec said.
Luka Mesec of the Left told the press the event was a reflection of the state desired by the Janez Janša government. He added the past months - seeing a substantial drop in the number of illegal border crossings and a reduced police workload due to the lockdown - showed there was no reason to activate Article 37.a.
"The only reason to activate Article 37.a is for the government to spread fear and evoke images some kind non-existent phantasmagoric adversaries," Mesec said.
STA, 24 May 2020 - Telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije is to set up a test network featuring 5G technology at port operator Luka Koper to explore development options and test various logistics solutions. The project is co-financed from Horizon 2020, the EU's key 2014-2020 research and innovation multi-billion fund.
The 5G infrastructure is planned to offer not only communication services but also a number of virtual networks intended for individual business verticals, such as logistics, transport, health, energy, production facilities, smart cities and communities, Telekom Slovenije has announced.
Luka Koper will use the latest-generation wireless technology to test safety solutions as well as for process optimisation and environmental protection.
Since it enables faster transfer of larger quantities of data, the new technology should help improve control of safety and transshipment.
It should also facilitate electricity consumption control in a bid to improve energy efficiency.
Similar solutions are also to be tested in the German and Greek ports of Hamburg and Piraeus, respectively.
The Luka Koper-Telekom Slovenije project is part of 5G-Loginnov, a EU's development project focusing on 5G mobile technology to bring innovative solutions in logistics.
5G-Loginnov is co-financed by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme and brings together 15 partners from several European countries.
Among the Slovenian partners are Luka Koper, Telekom Slovenije and the Internet Institute from Ljubljana.
The 15 5G-Loginnov partners will invest almost EUR 8 million in the three-year project, to be completed in September 2023, with the EU contributing another EUR 6 million.
Both Telekom Slovenije and Luka Koper are also involved in other European 5G technology projects.
STA, 24 May 2020 - Bia Separations, a biotechnology company based in Ajdovščina, is to expand its production facilities in Ajdovščina and Italy's Gorizia. The company's investment plans to launch production in the US have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, however Bia Separations will go ahead with them as soon as possible.
The company, a world leader in the development of purification processes for biologics, in particular for gene therapy, will expand its production due to increased demand.
The European Medicines Agency has recently recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for a gene therapy medication used to treat spinal muscular atrophy. Helping produce the medication, Bia Separations will have to step up its production capacities.
Moreover, a major investment project planned for the US, the company's main market, will be realised as quickly as possible, Aleš Štrancar, Bia Separations CEO, has told the STA.
The investment has been delayed for at least a few months due to extreme circumstances and air travel restrictions, however there is still plenty of time for its realisation since a production facility in the US is planned to be completed by the end of 2023.
Meanwhile, efforts to expand production in Ajdovščina are underway.
"When one of the projects aiming to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is green-lit, the company will most probably have to quickly increase its production capacities," said Štrancar, adding that Ajdovščina was an ideal place to enable such a swift expansion.
Most of Bia Separations's customers come from the US and they strive to secure the potential vaccine for US citizens first. The company is part of quite a few such efforts and estimates that at least one of them will be successful.
Moreover, the company is cooperating with a couple of European partners taking part in the race to find the vaccine and is also part of a Slovenian effort.
An investment project in Gorizia has been launched as well with construction works expected to start next year. The company's new programme is to be developed there.
Bia Separations currently helps eight companies with developing the coronavirus vaccine. The company provides purification processes for potential vaccines or medications and assistance in setting up production lines, but it does not actually work on developing vaccines or medications, said Štrancar.
This summary is provided by the STA:
No new coronavirus infections on Saturday, one Covid-19 fatality
LJUBLJANA - None of the 341 coronavirus tests conducted on Saturday returned positive in what was a fourth day in a row without new infections. One Covid-19 patient died, raising Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll to 107, official data show. A total of 18 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, four of them in intensive care.
5G test network to be set up in port of Koper
KOPER - Telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije is to set up a test network featuring 5G technology at port operator Luka Koper to explore development options and test various logistics solutions. The project is co-financed from Horizon 2020, the EU's key 2014-2020 research and innovation multi-billion fund, and is to be completed in September 2023.
Bia Separations expanding production in Italy and Slovenia
AJDOVŠČINA - Bia Separations, a Slovenian biotechnology company, is to expand its production facilities in Ajdovščina and Italy's Gorizia due to increased demand. The company's investment plans to launch production in the US have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, however Bia Separations will go ahead with them as soon as possible.
Archbishop congratulates Islamic community on end of Ramadan
LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore, the head of the Slovenian Bishop's Conference, congratulated the Islamic community in Slovenia and its leader Mufti Nedžad Grabus on the end of the fasting month Ramadan and wished them blessings upon Eid-al-Fitr.
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