News

08 Jan 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 8 January 2018 - The business newspaper Finance examines on Tuesday the remnants of the crypto craze that gripped Slovenia at end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, arguing that "not much is left": several companies that turned to ICOs for funding went bust, while others barely live on.

"Not a single token [released in Slovenian ICOs] has managed to stay above the price with which they entered the crypto market. This means that anybody who participated in any Slovenian ICO project and has not sold its tokens, has lost their money," the paper notes.

There were many ideas in various fields, including banking, auditing, payment services, supply chains and car rentals, and some still persist, but "it is becoming crystal clear that they did not join the hype to solve the problems but because it was easy to raise funds".

"I do believe that the intentions of most crypto entrepreneurs were not bad and that they really wanted to do something good.

But their wish was powered significantly by the fact that they could play without their own input, that is with the funds of others," the paper goes on under Without a Light at the End of Cryptotunnel.

"If they would have had to take out a loan to embark on their business path, nine out of ten companies likely would not have had emerged," says Finance.

"On the other hand, many who left the cryptoparty in time got rich and earned enough in a couple of years to be covered for the rest of their lives. Some even entered the ranking of the richest Slovenians.

All out Bitcoin and crypto stories can be found here

08 Jan 2019, 11:49 AM

STA, 7 January 2019 - Road accidents in Slovenia last year resulted in a total of 92 deaths, which is 12% less than in the year before, when the number of recorded deaths on roads was the lowest in the last 60 years. Last year the number was actually below 100 for the first time ever on record.

Presenting the statistics on Monday, the Infrastructure Ministry noted that Slovenia was among the EU countries where traffic safety had improved the most in recent years.

The ministry, which will present the statistics in more detail at a press conference on Thursday, added that the number of people who sustained serious injuries in traffic accidents had also dropped last year to below 800.

Only in 1990 Slovenians roads claimed more than 500 lives, as well as in 1994, after which the number of road casualties started to decline gradually, to drop below 300 for the first time in 2001.

The number dropped below 200 for the first time in 2009, when the motorway network saw a major expansion and road toll stickers were introduced, while the number neared 100 in 2017, when a total of 104 casualties were recorded.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said that despite the positive trends, these numbers should not be perceived as satisfactory, as both individuals and state institutions could do more for traffic safety.

Our goal must be a minimum number of road victims, and Slovenia should look up to countries like Sweden, which has no more than 25 deaths on roads per million people, as well as the UK, Netherlands and Estonia.

Four persons have already lost their lives on Slovenian roads in 2019, including two today alone in a severe accident near Kočevske Poljane in south-eastern Slovenia.

All our stories tagged statistics can be found here

08 Jan 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 7 January 2019 - Slovenia plans to issue a ten-year bond and has mandated Abanka, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole CIB, Commerzbank and HSBC to lead manage the new euro benchmark, the Finance Ministry said on Monday. Citing market data provider Bloomberg, the newspaper Finance reported the issue would amount to EUR 1.5bn.

"The deal is expected to be launched in the near future, subject to market conditions," the treasury said about the bond with a stated due date of 14 March 2029.

The issue would make Slovenia the first eurozone country to test the bond market this year, Finance reported citing Bloomberg.

Finance later reported that the order book, opened on Monday morning, contained offers worth EUR 3bn in the afternoon.

According to Bloomberg, Slovenia will borrow EUR 1.5bn at a price that is even somewhat lower than initially expected.

The yield on the current 10-year benchmarks is currently at 1.04%, 0.82 percentage points over the German benchmark, according to data from electronic exchange MTS.

The debt financing programme adopted by the government in December stipulates that Slovenia will issue fresh bonds worth a maximum of EUR 2.1bn this year.

Last year it issued fresh debt worth EUR 1.5bn and also refinanced dollar-denominated bonds to the tune of EUR 1.25bn.

08 Jan 2019, 09:17 AM

Below is a review of today’s news in Slovenia, summarised by the headlines in the daily newspapers for Tuesday, January 8, 2019, as prepared by the STA:

DELO

Consumer Electronics Show
"Future now": CES, the world's largest consumer electronics show, has opened in Las Vegas to answer questions such as when self-driving cars will be used in everyday life and how large screens will we watch. (front page, page 3)

Property market
"Apartment prices drop in Ljubljana": While property prices in most parts of Slovenia keep growing, statistics show that they have begun to fall in Ljubljana. (front page, page 9)

Fiction
"Houellebecq stirs agitation again": Michel Houellebecq's latest novel Serotonin hit French book stores on 4 January. The first readers are thrilled. (front page, page 14)

DNEVNIK

Sex crime
"If victim is asleep, this isn't a rape?": A man from the Primorska region has been acquitted of rape charges because he did not use force to complete his attack until the victim had woken up. (front page, page 2)

Railways
"As many as 52 new trains on Slovenian railways": The national railways operator will buy 52 new trains by 2023, including double-deckers; 26 will be supplied by Swiss Stadler this year. (front page, page 4)

Brexit drill
"UK: Lorries test no-deal Brexit": The UK Department for Transport held an exercise yesterday involving a convoy of lorries to test plans for border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit. (front page, page 7)

FINANCE

ICOs
"Should cryptoinvestors kiss their money goodbye?": Despite promises and assurances on the website of the Xaurum Gamma project, the investors in the initial coin offering for the project to build a holiday resort on the Croatian island of Krk have not been given their money back. (front page, pages 2, 3)

Labour market
"Does record high employment rate indicate inactive are returning to the labour market?": Higher demand for staff and growing wages have attracted to the labour market those who have so far been unwilling to do any work but were not necessarily registered as unemployed. (front page, pages 4, 5)

Sovereign debt
"Slovenia opens 2019 bond market season by taking out EUR 1.5bn in debt": According to Bloomberg, Slovenia is the first country to have offered a new euro bond to the market this year. (front page, page 8)

VEČER

Skiing season
"There's enough snow": Despite the lack of snow, the company operating ski lifts on the Pohorje hills above Maribor says that the piste hosting the alpine skiing World Cup is ready. (front page, page 11)

Retirement homes
"Higher pay, higher retirement home prices": In the wake of the deal on higher wages in the public sector, some of the retirement homes have already increased the prices of services, while some are yet to do so. (front page, page 3)

Environmental permits
"People worried about plant's expansion": The public response to the application by TAB Mežica for an environmental permit for a new industrial battery plant in Žerjav in the north-east of the country shows concern about the risk of pollution. (front page, page 6)

07 Jan 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 7 January 2019 - US First Lady Melania Trump tops the list of the 100 most influential Slovenians compiled by the right-leaning magazine Reporter, followed by UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, and the three most influential politicians - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, President Borut Pahor and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

The top five are followed by Slovenia's first President Milan Kučan, former boss of pharma company Lek Mojmir Urlep, now a state secretary in the prime minister's office.

The top ten are rounded off by Stojan Petrič of the Idrija-based industrial conglomerate Kolektor, Gregor Golobič, the founder of the now defunct Zares party and aide to late Slovenian leader Janez Drnovšek, and the head of the opposition Democrats (SDS) Janez Janša.

After Melania Trump, the most influential Slovenian woman is Alenka Bratušek, Slovenia's first female prime minister who now serves as the infrastructure minister in the minority government of Marjan Šarec and leads the party bearing her name.

The only athlete on the list is the teen basketball sensation Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, who rounds off the entire list in 100th place.

In an accompanying commentary, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla notes that there are only 15 persons who found themselves on the list of 100 most influential Slovenians compiled by Mag, the predecessor of Reporter, twenty years ago.

In 1998, the second most influential Slovenian was Kučan, who was still the head of state then. Kučan, who ended his presidency in 2002, is still very high on this year's list, in sixth spot.

Kučan is still among the top ten but his influence has diminished somewhat since, but he still has a strong informal influence, also maintained through his left-leaning Forum 21 organisation.

Šurla says that Forum 21 is a network built around the former Communist Party and its younger supporters which has survived three decades of transition. Kučan will soon celebrate his 78th birthday, but he is still very active, Šurla says.

The most influential politicians are unsuprisingly the prime minister, president and parliamentary speaker, who have a strong formal influence by default, regardless of who actually holds the post.

Although he is a political novice, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is the most influential politician, who has the opportunity to increase influence on a daily basis in addition to gaining political experience, Šurla says.

Although he has not been at the helm of the government since 2013, the head of the opposition Democrats (SDS) Janez Janša remains rather influential, rounding off the top ten.

The fact that Janša is not able to form a government despite being relative election winner diminishes his political power, while he is still trying to keep the role of political hegemon right from the centre, the commentator says.

The most influential business executive is Petrič, who is not only controlling a group which includes the newspaper publisher Delo, he is also quite wealthy and his informal connections lead to the very top of Slovenian politics.

The top two persons on the list are nevertheless Slovenians who are influential on the global and European scale, Šurla notes

The influence of Melania Trump at the global level is incomparably stronger than of any politician or business executive in her native country, as she can have a considerable influence on the decisions by President Donald Trump.

Since football is still the most popular sport in the world, right behind Melania Trump is Aleksander Čeferin, the president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Speaking about the importance and influence of the post is the fact that the organisation's budget in a four-year term of an UEFA president stands at a whopping EUR 12.3bn.

"Slovenians are actually not very well aware yet how important posts these two compatriots hold," Šurla finds.

Related: Who were the richest Slovenians in 2018?

07 Jan 2019, 12:24 PM

January 7, 2019

The administrative court suspended the implementation of the decree on the removal of brown bears from nature, which the government endorsed at the end of last November. According to the decree, 200 bears were planned to be taken out of Slovenian forests. Among these, 175 were supposed to be shot, while the remaining 25 were expected to die due to accidents or other causes.

Related: Brown bear photography in Slovenia

In December, the environmental protection organisation Alpe Adria Green (AAG) brought an action against the decree and a request for an interim injunction. The group is convinced that the decree violates the Nature Conservation Act, the Habitats Directive and the Constitution. The AAG noted that the government endorsed the decree despite numerous complaints on its drafting, and that the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning did not answer the requests for an explanation as to why such a number of bears had to be removed from nature. At the same time, the AAG expressed its expectation that the decree will also be annulled.

This is not the first time that the court has intervened in the destiny of large wildlife in Slovenia. The same decree that involves bears previously included eleven wolves to be taken out of nature, but after a public hearing the wolves were removed from the proposed cull. The Environmental Ministry took this decision after two judgments of the administrative court, which ruled that the reason for shooting the wolves, which was given as preventing the animals from killing livestock, and thus maintaining public acceptance of wolves, was not sufficiently substantiated.

All out stories about bears in Slovenia are here.

07 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 6 January 2019 - The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti) has issued a call to subsidise projects targeting dating violence and gender-based stereotype in a bid to promote gender equality.

In a national survey conducted in 2010 almost half of the women questioned reported having experienced psychological violence in relationship with their partners. One out of four (23%) reported being subject to physical violence and 7% said they experienced sexual violence.

Such violence often begins even before the partners move in together, so it is important to raise awareness and empower young people to recognise early warning signs such as when one of the partners tries to limit the other partner's contacts with friends or checks on her phone calls or text messages.

"Such form of violence is not talked about often enough and young people often have misconceptions about partnerships," the ministry said.

Related: Domestic violence remains common in Slovenia (feature)

One of the campaigns that deals in part to dating violence is Click-Off, an EU-subsidised project implemented since 2017 which has been raising awareness about online bullying of girls.

The ministry is also offering subsidies to projects helping boys to overcome gender-based stereotypes and social expectations about the role of women and men in society.

An international conference organised by the ministry in October for teachers heard how gender-based stereotypes are being fought in Finland and Iceland, calling for similar projects in Slovenia.

In a call open until 28 January, the ministry would like to encourage NGOs to address gender-based stereotype in the fields where they affect boys such as in deciding on their academic and professional careers or in how they perceive their role in a relationship.

The ministry is planning to subsidise at least five projects with up to EUR 10,000 each. The total available sum is estimated at roughly EUR 50,000.

The call is not aimed at research projects but rather at smaller projects conducted by NGOs for the first time. Experience has shown that such pilot projects are met with a good response among young people on the ground.

07 Jan 2019, 10:25 AM

STA, 7 January 2019 - The business newspaper Finance speculates about real estate market trends in Slovenia in Monday's editorial, finding in a retrospective that the best time to buy property is over.

In the headline the paper quotes a real estate agent who says that he would have bought everything a few years ago had he known how the market was going to turn.

The paper notes that after a period of re-awakening prompted by favourable housing loans and banks' venturing into property auction lending, a period of "real-estate frenzy" followed.

One example is an auction of flats in the Savski Breg estate in the Ljubljana Črnuče borough [see map] in 2016 at which the most expensive item, a five-bedroom flat measuring more than 100 square metres plus a 30 square metre terrace and two parking places, was sold for EUR 180,000, VAT included.

A much smaller, 3.5-bedroom flat, on the same estate is listed for sale today at more than EUR 200,000, the paper notes, adding that the market will tell whether the price is realistic.

Related: Delo Reports on “the Short Colonisation of Soča Valley” By UK Buyers

"Looking back, the best time for buying real estate is over (...) But there is still demand, in particular for new apartments in the capital. This is part of the reason why many private investors have been announcing new housing projects."

The paper has calculated that about 1,500 new apartments will hit the Ljubljana market in a year or two.

However, the paper also calls for caution. "Warnings coming from business are not promising. Some are talking about the economy's cooling and the pessimists are even talking about a new crisis looming."

The paper says that market developments will depend on the price of loans and on whether people will still have jobs to repay loans.

It also notes that uncertainty may affect demand, advising extra caution to investors who say they will be offering buyers above-standard apartments, which it says will be the first that people will give up in case of a crisis.

All our stories tagged “real estate” are here

07 Jan 2019, 09:12 AM

Below is a review of today’s news in Slovenia, summarised by the headlines in the daily newspapers for Monday, January 7, 2019, as prepared by the STA:

hDELO

Climate change
"Decisive year for saving planet": The biggest environmental challenge of 2019 will be climate change. Slovenia is to finally decide on the fate of generator six of the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant (TEŠ) and waste packaging. (front page, 4)

Trade war
"China's defeat does not mean the US won": China and the US are "licking their wounds" after the trade war, which notably slowed down the growth of the world's second biggest economy as well as hurt the US's biggest company and many others, the paper says. (front page, 3)

Public broadcaster funding
"RTV fee not to go up": Although director general of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija Igor Kadunc said talks were under way with the Culture Ministry to raise the licence fee, the ministry does not plan to raise it for now. (front page, 2-5)

Four Hills Tournament
"Kobayashi makes history, Slovenians forgotten": Japanese ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi was the hero of the 67th Four Hills Tournament. The Slovenian team's performance was the worst in the last decade. (front page, 13)

DNEVNIK

Serbia protests
"Fresh protests against Vučić's autocracy": Despite snowfall, thousands gathered on Saturday for the fifth round of protests against President Aleksandar Vučić. (front page, 6)

Adria Airways
"Adria Airways in dire need of capital injection": The Civil Aviation Agency is looking into the documentation from Adria Airways with which the company is trying to assure the agency that it can secure long-term solvency. If found insolvent, Adria is at risk of being stripped of its operating licence, which would push the flag carrier into receivership. (front page, 2)

FINANCE

Company funding
"Where will you find money for companies this year": The paper brings an overview of calls for applications for companies that are looking for subsidies and favourable loans to finance their investment, innovation, internationalisation and hiring. (front page, 4-5)

Financial markets
"What has been shaking stock markets around the world lately": After dropping for months, stock markets picked up on Friday. The paper looks at possible reasons for the ups and downs. (front page, 2-3)

Retailer Tuš
"NLB sells claims to Tuš. Who are the biggest creditors?": The biggest Slovenian bank, NLB, has sold some 20% of its claims to the retailer Tuš to the Alfa fund, which now owns more than a third of Tuš's claims. (front page, 3)

VEČER

Serbia protests
"Fifth weekend of protests": Protesters demanding more democracy and media freedom took to the streets for the fifth weekend in a row on Saturday. (front page, 2-3, 5)

Plastic bags
"Bye, bye free bags": Buyers in stores across Slovenia can no longer get plastic bags free of charge as of 1 January. Environmentalists call for more ambitious moves. (front page, 2-3)

Sljeme World Cup
"Sljeme cheering for own": Austria's Marcel Hirschner bagged his 64th World Cup victory at the World Cup alpine ski race in Croatia's Sljeme. No Slovenians made it to the finals. (front page, 4, 16-17)

06 Jan 2019, 16:50 PM

Launched on July 24, 2013, RTV Slovenia’s English language website has announced that it will stop releasing new content. The news comes after the state-owned broadcaster had published almost 8,000 stories in the last five and a half years, the archive of which can be found here.

06 Jan 2019, 15:09 PM

January 6, 2019

2018 was marked with several centenaries, WWI in particular, as well as two elections and the emergence of a new political star, a comedian turned politician, Marjan Šarec, who made a name for himself as an impersonator of various politicians, including the current opposition leader Janez Janša.

PyeongChang Winter Olympics

The year began with a pre-Olympic scandal. Biathlete Jakov Fak stepped down as a candidate for flagbearer at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, because some were bothered by his Croatian origin. Fak then won a silver in the men's 20km individual biathlon competition and became the highest ranking Slovenian competitor at the Games. A second, bronze medal was won by Žan Košir in the parallel giant slalom.

Slovenian president Borut Pahor was also in PyeongChang. He cheered for Slovenian sportsmen and then visited the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas. He describes the situation at the border in the following words: “Sorry to say, but this is bizarre.”

Slovenian armed forces

Also in February, a NATO evaluation of the 72 brigade of the Slovenian army marked it as “combat not ready” in four out of five fields of scrutiny.  The Chief of General Staff of the Slovenian armed forces was thus replaced with Alan Geder, who remained in office until November, when he was replaced by the first female chief of a NATO army, Major General Alenka Ermenc.

Read more about the Slovenian military here.

Public sector on strike

The first two months of 2018 were also marked by several major strikes in the public sector, with staff demanding that the remaining austerity measures be removed.

A second wave of public sector strikes forced the Minister of Public Administration, Boris Koprivnikar, to resign. The Secretary General of the Government, Lilijana Kozćovič, then took over as the chief government negotiator.

By March 12th it seemed that negotiations were coming to an end, when just a few hours later the proposed agreement is abandoned and another strike is confirmed for March 14th. On this same day Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigns from his post, although for different reasons.

Second track of the Divača-Koper railway and resignation of PM Cerar

“Today was the last straw” said Miro Cerar, who resigned as Prime Minister after the Supreme Court declared the second track referendum invalid due to a biased government campaign.

Although the infrastructure project does not really need a new law to commence, certain other claims of the government in relation to this project raised eyebrows, including one that insists on Hungary investing €200 million in the project, a 1/5 of the cost, which would give the Hungarian party a 49% share in the project’s 2TDK company.

Campaign

With Cerar gone, Pahor decided not to look for another Prime Minister but to set an early election date instead. Regular parliamentary elections were expected for June 10, and it was initially suggested that early elections would take place in the second half of May.  

NSi (the former Christian Democrats) seize the opportunity for an eventual right-leaning coalition by replacing their party leader. Ljudmila Novak is thus replaced with Matej Tonin, hoping the latter will have more success in dealing with the SDS’ leader Janez Janša.

The SDS was believed to be financing its campaign using Hungarian money obtained via their media outlets such as Nova24TV and Demokracija. Janša was on the search for campaign resources himself, borrowing €450,000 from an alleged Bosnian businesswoman Dijana Đuđić, who is unable to show where the money came from. 

Why did Janša not borrow the money from a Slovenian bank? “NLB laundered a billion euros for terrorists, if this is a more credible institution, I don't know where we live”, Janša answered.

Investigations

Several parliamentary investigations came to an end in 2018. One of them was that into the bank liquidity gap under the leadership of SDS Anže Logar. The results revealed suspicious to businesses  in the Balkans and Russia, where the money seems to have disappeared without a trace. The commission indicted many of the bankers in charge at the time, who were unable to remember anything during interrogations.

Because the commission didn’t investigate money laundering in detail, another investigative commission was established, headed by Janko Moderndoerfer of the SMC party, which also investigates the problematic SDS loan. The commission found out that Iranian citizen Iraj Farrokhzadeh and his business with the NLB (Nova Ljubljanska Banka) was not a case of an individual doing business in Slovenia, but rather part of an Iranian state bank scheme to break through financial sanctions with the use of the Slovenian state-owned bank. The commission issued no indictment against those responsible at NLB, as their actions were “not criminal offences”. Unlike NLB, the investigation into NKBM (Nova Komunalna Banka Maribor) revealed strong suspicions of money laundering by Italian organised crime syndicates as well as Slovenian citizens, some of them even bank employees. One person indicted was Primož Britovšek, who joined the bank on the invitation of the board president Aleš Hauc as a deputy chief for money laundering and terrorism financing prevention although he proved to have no adequate knowledge for the post.

All our stories on money laundering are here.

The investigation into the vascular stents procurements in Slovenian hospitals also came to an end with seven indictments to the relevant authorities, revealing one of the fields of systemic corruption of the Slovenian health system.

President Pahor discovers his Barbie origins

Meanwhile the Slovenian president continued to entertain the public with his Instagram posts. His first notable post of the year, in which he complains about his wrinkles is followed by another in which he discovers why he was destined to become Barbie.

Elections and the new minority coalition

Meanwhile, the election campaigns formed around the migration crisis, problems on the border with Croatia, selling NLB, public sector strikes, corrupt bankers and a disintegrating health system.

The polls showed a high possibility of an SDS victory, although in the debates nobody seemed to be willing to join a coalition with the SDS leader Janez Janša, who eventually takes 24.96% of all the votes, far ahead of the runner up Marjan Šarec’ List 12.66%. President Borut Pahor does his job and first proposes Janša as the Prime Minister and coalition leader. Janša fails to gather the support of 46 votes in the 90-seat strong parliament to make the government operationally possible and steps back into the opposition, while Marjan Šarec forms a left-leaning minority government with a support of Levica (aka the Left), who decide to remain in the opposition. The coalition agreement includes raising the minimum wage and pensions, as well as lower taxation of labour, supplemented by higher capital gains tax.

All our stories on the elections are here.

Disputes with Croatia: NLB and maritime border arbitration decision

In 2013 the then leader of the Slovenia, Alenka Bratušek, claimed to have saved the government from bankruptcy by promising to privatise NLB in return for state recapitalisation of the bank, which in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 amounted to €2.2 billion, in addition to €2.3 billion of the bank’s bad debts that were transferred to The Banks Assets Management Company (BAMC), or the so-called “Bad Bank”. 

In 2018 NLB (Nova Ljubljanska Banka, since 1994) lost two cases with regard to the Croatian savers in LB (Ljubljanska Banka, until 1994), an issue Slovenia wants to put in the context of other remaining issues that originate from the dissolution of Yugoslavia. However, the bank might now need to pay about €400 million to the Croatian savers, which is why before the elections the SDS tried to pass a constitutional law that would presumably protect the bank from having to make such payments.  

A Croatian company from Umag extended its shellfish farm in the Bay of Piran, which Croatia continues to treat as part of its territory, while for Slovenia the arbitration decision on the disputed territories – which grants Slovenia most of the Bay – entered into force on January 2018. Slovenia wrote a protest letter to the European Commission, but no one seemed to take it seriously. Slovenia hence decided to file a lawsuit against Croatia for not following the arbitration agreement.

More problems in the health department

In February Aleš Šabeder took up leadership of the chaotic University Medical Centre in Ljubljana. Soon he faced mounting problems at the paediatric heart surgery department, where due to in-fighting there is a continual loss of surgeons. By the end of 2018 the health minister Milojka Kolar Celarc found an ad hoc solution by establishing a National Institute for Congenital Heart Disease, which would allow hiring foreign doctors on much higher pay than domestic ones, a move which now appears to be causing more problems than it solves.

All our stories on Slovenian healthcare are here.

September 13: New government’s constitutional session

The first surprises came with the first session of the new government. Ministers confirmed new state secretaries, among them Damir Črnčec, who became National Security Secretary in the Prime Minister’s cabinet. A former close colleague of Janez Janša, Črnčec is also known for his anti-immigration tweets, which compare refugees to cancer and call for their deportation. Šarec tries to calm the upset voices on the left by guarantees that if Črnčec continues to express such views he will have to go.

Among the tasks Damir Črnčec and Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar face are not only the challenges of migration, but also the case of a paramilitary group, the so-called Styrian Guard, formed by self-proclaimed Duke of Styria Andrej Šiško during the summer.

Work then begins, as Šarec first travels to Brussels, then to Berlin, and then meets with the head of NATO.

Minimum wage

The Left began pushing for a two-stage rise in the minimum wage, something that was part of the coalition agreement. Accordingly, the minimum wage would be raised from the existing €638 net to €667 in 2019 and to €700 in 2020.

Business representatives were unhappy with this, as well as with the proposed rise in corporate income tax, currently at a nominal 17% one of the lowest in Europe. Ivo Boscarol, the CEO of Pipistrel, a successful light-aircraft company that in earlier years was a regular recipient of state subsidies, denounced the proposal and threatened to move his company to Italy. Pipistrel, despite the less favourable tax environment across the border, in fact built a factory in Italy in 2012 so that its aircraft could be licenced for export to the United States.

Another successful businessman, Igor Akrapovič, joined the threats to take his business out of Slovenia and the positions of both men were supported by Sonja Šmuc, the executive director of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce.

When Levica finally prepares a bill for a rise in the minimal wage in November, Ms Šmuc explained to the national broadcaster that the raise “wouldn’t make anyone satisfied but instead make a lot of dissatisfied people: someone who now receives €700 will then be seen as if they are on a minimum wage, and therefore we are creating a country of the wealthy poor.” She later claims that her statement was taken out of a context.

Medical achievements

While the new government faced a plethora of problems with a corrupt and dysfunctional health system, this did not seem to have affected the level of medical expertise. Dedicated teams of doctors and nurses at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana successfully carry out the first transplantation of both lungs in September, effectively establishing the lung transplantation programme in the Centre.

One month later there was another breakthrough in the field of plastic reconstructive surgery.  A patient who lost her entire nose to cancer was provided with a new one, constructed from the patient’s own tissue, which grew on her arm for about a month before being successfully transplanted to her face.

NLB finally sold – cheaply

On November 14 NLB shares were finally listed on the London and Ljubljana Stock Exchanges. Alenka Bratušek thus fulfilled her promise to Brussels, but was unlikely to be satisfied with the price. The State sold its 59% share for a mere €608.6 million, much less than Slovenian taxpayers had invested in it.

All our stories on privatisation in Slovenia are here.

First minister of the new government falls

The beginning of November saw a second round of election campaigns, as new mayors and city councils were to be chosen on November 18, when foreign residents also had a right to vote.

On November 13, the new Minister of Cohesion and former mayor of Komen Marko Bandelli was forced to step down after sending an inappropriate message to the new mayoral candidate:: “I’ve been informed that you are running for mayor’s office. (…) If your campaign is all about fighting the neighbours, then you should know that no support will come from me. And you know yourself the importance of un-support from the two important departments such as cohesion, EU regional development funds and above all infrastructure.”

It is not the first time Bandelli doesn’t  seem to understand the gravity of the matter. He had previously used the emergency blue lights on his official vehicle for no reason other than he was late, telling the media that he had the right to do so. This time he admitted his mistake, adding that he could redeem himself by doing a good job. Prime Minister Šarec had other reasons for wanting him gone, however, as Bandelli also failed to prepare a presentation for the Finance Minister on the situation with regard to drawing on EU funds. When the 5th of November deadline for this task had passed, Bandelli then asked to be given more time.

Pensions

The party leader Alenka Bratušek was surprisingly protective of Bandelli, although he still lost his job. She stated that she expects equal treatment by Prime Minister Šarec for all government officials, and at the same time seized the “opportunity” to strike back. She reminded Šarec to respect the coalition agreement and government commitment to raise pensions, or else...

Marjan Šarec’ comment on the demand by SAB (Stranka Alenke Bratušek) is that “to claim that only one coalition party cares for the pensioners is quite pretentious.” Was he worried that SAB was about to leave the governing coalition? “They didn’t show much of intention to leave.”

SAB stops pushing on this issue and proposes Iztok Purič as the new cohesion minister.

All our stories about pensions in Slovenia are here.

SDS against the Global Compact for Migration

In the second half of November the SDS began its campaign against the UN pact on migration that would be signed at the UN conference on December 10-11 in Marrakech. The SDS claims that the agreement does not differentiate between legal and illegal migrations and demands an advisory referendum on whether or not Slovenia should join the agreement.

The temperature went up at an irregular parliamentary session on the matter, where we could hear everything from curses to orders to take a member out of the parliament.

All our stories on migration in Slovenia are here.

Local elections 2018

At the local elections on November 18, citizens elected new mayors and local councillors. Ljubljana re-elected Zoran Jankovič, while another well-known mayor, Franc Kangler, lost his seat in Maribor to a challenger, Aleksander Saša Arsenovič.

In Koper the incumbent Boris Popovič lost to Aleš Bržan, with a mere seven vote difference. Popovič filed a series of complaints and when a mistake was discovered at one of the polling stations the difference went from seven to seventeen and Bržan became the new Mayor of Koper.

The end of strikes

At the beginning of December and after two months of negotiating the government and unions sign an agreement which will raise almost all salaries in the public sector. 

Impeachment proposal against Prime Minister Šarec

On December 21 Janša's SDS and Jelinčič' SNS filed an impeachment proposal against Prime Minister Šarec due to his government's failure to secure full financing of private schools. The impeachment was not supported by the opposition NSi, and Šarec responded that while this particular attempt to remove him from office was not to be taken very seriously, it should serve as a reminder that there is an opposition in Slovenia and that it’s not going to sit around idly.  

In 2018 Marjan Šarec also became a regular character impersonated on the Radio Ga-Ga  show, where he began his career as one of the show’s performers.

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