July 16, 2019
Summer street festivals are not only a feature of the capital, but take place in other parts of the country as well.
In its 17 years of existence the Littoral Street Festival has hosted around 800 street performers and puppeteers from some 40 different countries, and among a variety of shows we will this year see also some of the earliest, Commedia dell’arte originating puppet characters such as Mascarredas, Harlequin and Colobina, Pulcinella and a Slovenian version of the character, Pavliha.
The festival will last till the end of August and will feature shows along the main promenade path of Koper/Capodistria every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Thursday shows take place at Hlavaty Park, Friday shows at Ukmar Square and Saturday shows on the corner of the Hlavaty Park and Semedela promenade. In case of rain, shows will move under the roof of Taverna.
For information on shows, please visit: https://www.mclu.info/puf
PUF started as a puppet street festival and later extended its programme into other fields of performative arts.
In the last week of the festival from August 26 to 30 PUF will move to the villages in the outskirts of Koper/Capodistria in Slovenian Istria: Sokoliči, Hrvoji, Gračišče and Truški.
The grand finale of the festival will take place in Koper on August 30 with Etno HistEria concert, which will then move to Snežnik Castle as Floating Castle festival, which will only last for one day this year.
STA, 15 July 2019 - A bill to limit commission fees for leasing real estate and other costs which real estate agencies can charge their clients was vetoed by the National Council on Monday.
The veto comes as real estate agencies have vehemently protested the bill and have threatened to petition the Constitutional Court.
Under the changes to the act on real estate agency tabled by the Left, landlords would fully pay the commission fee charged by a real estate agency for a service commissioned by them.
This means tenants would no longer shoulder part of the fee, tackling one of the biggest complaints by individuals - the fact that tenants pay a fee for a service they have not commissioned.
A cap would also be imposed on the commission fee that can be charged by apartment rental agencies to landlords. The capped amount would correspond to one monthly rent but would not be lower than 150 euros.
The restrictions apply only to rental to individuals, business-to-business transactions are exempted.
Councillor Mitja Gorenšček, who led the veto initiative, argued today that the proponents of regulation should be targeting other fields on the market and not an area that the average persons encounters once or never in their life.
The Left's Luka Mesec begged to differ, arguing Slovenia had not developed a long-term flat renting market, with most tenants signing 12-month contracts and then being forced to pay for a service they did not commission every few years.
While the Left argued one of the goals of the bill was to enable people affordable housing, Gorenšček said the real problem was insufficient supply and that this was where the state should intervene with measures. He however also echoed the claims of businesses that the bill was an encroachment on the free market.
Environmental and Spatial Planning Ministry State Secretary Marko Maver however also came out in the defence of the bill, saying it followed housing policy guideline. He said it would increase accessibility and also encourage long-term contracts.
Meanwhile, the bill also introduces EU rules in acquiring qualifications for a real estate agent; Slovenia had already received a warning about a delay from the European Commission.
The Left is confident the bill receive the absolute majority needed in the National Assembly to override the veto.
All our stories on property in Slovenia are here
STA, 16 July 2019 - Slovenian mountaineer Janez Svoljšak, a member of the Kranj Alpine Association, has died during an expedition in Pakistan, the Slovenian Alpine Association (PZS) said on Monday.
The 25-year-old from Škofja Loka (NW) died in a base camp under the 6,650 m Tahu Rutum mountain in the Karakoram mountain range in the wee hours of Monday.
Svoljšak reportedly uttered a wheezing sound during sleep, passed out and stopped breathing. His team started resuscitating him immediately but gave up after three hours of futile efforts. Arrangements are now being made to bring his body back to Slovenia.
Svoljšak was an established mountaineer, having conquered peaks in Pakistan, Patagonia, the Canadian Rockies as well as Montana and Colorado in the US.
His career highlights include climbing the Schmidt route up the North Face of the Matterhorn alone as well as a sole single-day ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc via the Innominata ridge - both achievements are considered a tour-de-force of mountaineering.
In May, he and a fellow mountaineer completed a series of climbs in remote mountains of Alaska on routes that no human ever set foot on before, conquering three virgin peaks in the process.
The deceased mountaineer was the European Champion in ice climbing in 2016 as well as the winner of one of the World Cup games.
STA, 15 July 2019 - In the next three years, some EUR 200 million will be invested in the building of broadband optical networks in rural parts of Slovenia as part of the RUNE project, co-funded by the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The Rural Network Project will be launched this year and will bring internet speeds of up to 10Gb/s to rural households, according to RUNE Enia, the company in charge of the investment in Slovenia.
The project, which is also being launched in Croatia, is co-funded by the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF) set up by the EU and the EIB in order to help fund commercial investments. RUNE investment in Croatia is somewhat lower than in Slovenia, at EUR 50 million.
According to the European Commission's web site, the goal is to generate between EUR 1 billion and EUR 1.7 billion investments by providing EUR 500 million in incentives.
STA, 15 July 2019 - The parliamentary Home Policy Committee discussed joint Slovenian-Italian border police patrols at an emergency session on Monday with the opposition arguing that these were misguided and could give an excuse to Italy to carry out its threat and put up a border fence.
Jernej Vrtovec, the deputy for opposition New Slovenia (NSi), which called the session, labelled joint border patrols as a mistake with long-term consequences.
He argued that in this way Slovenia would give Italy an excuse to consider other, stiffer measures to control migration, including erecting a fence on the most exposed sections of the border.
"Italy is a sovereign country, it can build, but this is not in the European spirit. Slovenia must send a clear message to Italy that such surveillance would seriously impact on people's lives on the border," he said.
Concerns about Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's threat to erect a fence and reinstate police checks on the border with Slovenia were also raised by the mayors of border communities of Nova Gorica and Renče-Vogrsko, Klemen Miklavič and Tarik Žigon.
However, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar rushed to assure everyone present that joint patrols were not reinstating border controls, saying that most citizens would not even notice them.
"Joint patrols send out a signal that borders are being efficiently secured and make migration routes towards the west less attractive," said the minister.
Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, who is in Brussels today, labelled the claims of the opposition MPs as misleading and said that this measure was a step to prevent Italy from introducing border checks.
Slovenia cooperates with police forces of all neighbouring countries and continues to conduct joint border patrols with Croatia and Hungary. Italy maintains such patrols with its other neighbours as well.
The initiative for the joint border patrols was made by Italy in late April and four joint patrols became operational on 1 July.
They will exercise surveillance in the shared security space during night-time for three months in a bid to prevent cross-border crime and illegal migration.
Like the minister, Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar underscored that the joint patrols were not conducting border checks.
Most coalition deputies argued that joint patrols were an effective way to provide security with Tina Heferle from the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) saying they could prevent erection of border obstacles.
Gregor Perič, an MP for the Modern Centre Party (SMC), maintained that Salvini could find another reason to put up a border fence, rather than a potential failure of joint patrols.
However, Maša Kociper from the coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) does not favour joint patrols.
Vrtovec and Branko Grims from the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) argued that joint patrols made no sense because it was not in Slovenia's interest to stop migrants who want to enter Italy.
Moreover, Vrtovec said that joint patrols were Slovenia's admission that it was not coping with the situation on its south border.
The NSi believes that measures should be taken to step up protection of the Schengen border, which would render joint patrols superfluous, an idea also supported by the SDS and National Party (SNS).
Minister Poklukar argued that Slovenia already exercised effective control of the Schengen border, something that he said was confirmed by Frontex and Europol in their assessments, as well as by the fact that Italy returned a mere 169 migrants to Slovenia this year.
The border with Croatia is being secured by various police units, backed up by troops, drones and helicopters. More fence has been commissioned as well and extra budget funds made available.
The committee failed to endorse the NSi's proposals to call on the government to take all measure needed to effectively secure the border with Croatia, and to take steps to restrict Slovenia's asylum law.
STA, 15 July 2019 - The National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, vetoed on Monday legislative changes that cut state funding for private primary schools, arguing the cut was in opposition to the Constitutional Court decision ordering that funding be equalised with that for public schools.
The veto could spell trouble for the controversial changes, adopted last week in a 42:36 vote after a tug-of-war over the interpretation and enforcement of a 2014 top court ruling.
For the lower chamber to override veto, the changes would require absolute majority, meaning 46 MPs. The repeat vote is expected to be held on Thursday, but Gregor Perič of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the coalition party that abstained from voting last week, already confirmed today the SMC would not change its mind and could not support the bill.
He said the SMC was not afraid of its decision having political consequences, arguing the party had played with open cards all along.
The councillors who filed the veto proposal argued the changes mean a cut in funds and run contrary to the December 2014 decision of the Constitutional Court that ordered full state funding for publicly approved curricula.
The opponents of the changes claim the legislator introduced an unfair distinction between publicly approved curricula and those that obtained public certification, the latter applying for private schools.
The changes introduce full state funding for the segment of private schools curricula corresponding with the public curricula, but completely scrap state funding for additional programmes, which continue to be covered for public schools.
Until now, private schools got 85% of the total state funding received by public schools. Opponents of the changes say that the cut also affects programmes that are part of compulsory primary education, which runs against public interest.
Education Minister Jernej Pikalo defended the changes today, arguing they were in line with the Constitutional Court ruling.
He said international documents also clearly stated that while the state should enable parents to raise their children in line with their world view, the state was not obliged to fund this.
A special commission of the National Council met ahead of today's vote to reject the veto proposal 6:1, with its chair Branimir Štrukelj arguing that private education caused segregation.
National Council president Alojz Kovšca disagreed, saying this was a political and ideological issue, while some councillors argued there are regions in Slovenia where parents do not have the option to send their child to a private school at all.
The opposition right-leaning parties rejected the changes last week. While the Left backed the coalition to help pass them, the SMC abstained from voting.
All our stories in education are here
A schedule of all the main events involving Slovenia this week can be found here
This summary is provided by the STA:
Slovenia to join Instex mechanism to preserve trade with Iran
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia will join to Instex mechanism meant to help European companies continue doing business with Iran despite US sanctions against the Gulf country, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar announced. The mechanism was set up in January by Germany, France and Great Britain and allegedly eight more members already announced they would join. Cerar quoted the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini as saying that the number of members wishing to join is growing, while third countries are also expressing interest. Unofficially, 12 EU member states have so far expressed interest to participate, including the three founders.
Pahor and Pendarovski urge EU to start North Macedonia accession talks
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor reiterated Slovenia's support for North Macedonia to join the EU and NATO as he hosted North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski. Pahor expects the EU to deliver on its promise and green-light the start of accession negotiations in October. Pendarovski picked Slovenia as the destination for his first official visit abroad since taking up his post in May. He said North Macedonia had felt disappointed in June, but highlighted he had been assured the postponement was of a technical nature and thus he remained optimistic about October.
Concerns in parliament over Italy's plans for border fence
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Home Policy Committee discussed joint Slovenian-Italian border police patrols at an emergency session with the opposition arguing that these were misguided and could give an excuse to Italy put up a border fence. Jernej Vrtovec, the deputy for opposition New Slovenia (NSi), which called the session, labelled the joint patrols a mistake with long-term consequences. He argued that in this way Slovenia would give Italy an excuse to consider other, stiffer measures to control migration, including erecting a fence on the most exposed border sections.
National Council vetoes cut of state funding for private primary schools
LJUBLJANA - The National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, vetoed legislative changes that cut state funding for private primary schools, arguing the cut was in opposition to the Constitutional Court decision ordering that funding be equalised with that for public schools. The opponents of the changes claim the legislator introduced an unfair distinction between publicly approved curricula and those that obtained public certification, the latter applying for private schools. The veto could spell trouble for the controversial changes, adopted in a 42:36 vote. The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), which abstained from voting last week, said it would not change its mind, meaning the absolute majority needed to override the veto is not there.
Upper chamber vetoes bill curbing realtors' rental fees
LJUBLJANA - A bill to limit commission fees for leasing real estate and other costs which real estate agencies can charge their clients was vetoed by the National Council. The veto comes as real estate agencies have vehemently protested the bill and have threatened to petition the Constitutional Court. While the supporters of the bill, led by the opposition Left, argue the cap on the commission fee for rentals and having landlords cover it in full would protect the weakest, businesses argue the changes encroach on the free market. Having the back of the coalition, the Left is confident the veto will be overridden by the National Assembly.
Bad bank reports record yield in 2018
LJUBLJANA - The Bank Asset Management Company (BAMC), managing more than EUR 800 millions in assets, generated EUR 57.7 million in profit after tax last year and EUR 228 million in turnover, according to an audited annual business report. The bad bank's capital gains yield reached a record 28.8%, far over the required 8%. The bank's capital increased by EUR 53.4 million to EUR 199.9 million last year. At the end of the year, the bad bank managed EUR 830.1 million in fair value assets. The figure was 13% lower than in 2017. Loans accounted for 67% of the assets managed by BAMC, followed by real estate (22%) and investments (11%).
Slovenian researchers in major materials breakthrough
LJUBLJANA - A group of researchers from the Jožef Stefan Institute has discovered what they describe as an entirely new kind of matter that cannot be understood with existing physics and which opens up an entirely new field. Their paper was published in the latest issue of Nature Materials. Conducting experiments designed to create new kinds of quantum materials under non-equilibrium conditions, the researchers used short laser pulses to crate an unusually thick amorphous matter in which electrons become jammed because of strong interaction.
Average pay up year-on-year
LJUBLJANA - The average gross salary in Slovenia was at EUR 1,728.12 in May and EUR 1,113.88 net. Compared to May 2018, average gross salary was 3.9% higher in nominal terms and 2.5% higher in real terms. Net salary was 3.4% higher in nominal terms and 2% higher in real terms compared to the May of last year, according to the Statistics Office. The highest net wages were paid out in the financial and insurance sector, EUR 1,556.92 net. Compared to April, average gross and net pay was 0.1% lower in nominal terms and 1% lower in real terms.
EUR 200m broadband internet investment launched in Slovenia
LJUBLJANA - In the next three years, some EUR 200 million will be invested in the building of broadband optical networks in rural parts of Slovenia as part of the RUNE project, co-funded by the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Rural Network Project will be launched this year and will bring internet speeds of up to 10Gb/s to rural households, RUNE Enia, the company in charge of the investment in Slovenia, said.
Šarec party's lead wearing thin in Delo poll
LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec's party slipped back in the latest poll commissioned by the newspaper Delo, its lead ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS) narrowing down to a mere 0.3 percentage points. The poll, conducted by Mediana and carried by Delo, gives the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) 14.6%, down as much as four points from the month before. The SDS is now at 14.3%, having lost 0.8 points, followed by the Social Democrats (SD), who slipped half a point to 7.8%. While the leading trio lost ground, the Left gained as much as 1.5 points, the most of all parties, to poll at 7.7%.
British Airways launching flights to Ljubljana
LJUBLJANA - British Airways is launching a new route to Ljubljana with its first plane from London Heathrow Airport due to touch down at Jože Pučnik Ljubljana Airport. The British air carrier had already operated scheduled flights to Ljubljana from Gatwick airport at the turn of the millennium, when Slovenian air carrier Adria Airways was flying to Heathrow. Becoming the third carrier to fly between London and Slovenia's capital, British Airways will link the capitals twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, on a 220-seater Airbus 321.
If you're learning Slovenian then you can find all our dual texts here
The Slovenian gin scene is booming, helped along by the country’s long history of distillation and production of juniper-based schnapps (brinjevec or brinavec), as well as it’s growing reputation as a culinary destination.
One of the dozen or so gin producers that started business in recent years is Broken Bones, with a name that comes from when the owners, Borut and Boštjan, both had accidents when working with their first whisky barrels, resulting in a broken leg and broken nose.
I’d briefly met Boštjan at various gin-related events around town, but curious to know more about the first gin maker in Ljubljana, and the first new distillery in the capital in some 50 years, I decided to visit the place myself, an experience that’s now open to all.
It’s a short drive or cycle from the centre of town, at 132 Tršaska cesta, just between a Toyota showroom and a Petrol station. Since there are samples on offer you might prefer to get a bus, with both 6 and 6b taking you there from Slovenska cesta.
From the outside it’s easy to miss. Photo: JL Flanner
It's a small place, divided into a clean, white tiled distillery and a wood and leather showroom / store / bar. Playing the background is a sound collage of distillery sounds, put together by a DJ Boštjan knows from his time when he and the legendary Umek helped kickstart the techno scene in Slovenia, releasing records putting on club nights at Nexus and K4, two or three lifetimes ago.
Photo: JL Flanner
What’s your background?
Computer programming, a very different business. I worked in that for years on various projects. For example, I started the bolha.com, the online market, before eventually selling that, and then there was Napovednik. I was still working on that until recently, in fact, but Broken Bones (BB) was taking up more of my time, so now this is it.
How did you and Borut get into distilling?
It was a long process. I’m a technical guy, and my wife’s family has a vineyard, so I’ve been working with wine, thinking about wine for over 20 years. I also got into making beer, and was interested in whisky, starting from about eight years ago. But these were hobbies, not businesses.
At the same time my partner in Broken Bones, Borut, had been importing whisky in Slovenia since 1991, when the country became independent and that kind of business was possible. He also has a family history of distilling, so that was a hobby of his. He was making schnapps, and then he started making absinthe, one of the first producers in Slovenia.
Broken Bones still makes small batches of whisky
So when we started working together it was in my basement in Kodeljevo, and we made our own still, for whisky, soldering the parts together ourselves, one that we still use here.
But whisky takes a long time, and it can be a very long time aging in barrels before you get a good whisky, because the raw whisky – the new make, the colourless liquid that comes out of the still, is really not something anybody would like to drink. Gin, on the other hand, is a lot faster to produce, with no real aging. It just needs to rest for a month or so and it’s ready to drink, so from a production point of view it’s a lot more appealing. We knew that many small whisky distillers were making gin precisely because of that, but not really liking classical gins we were not interested in making them. This changed a couple of years ago when we discovered the modern styles of gin by going to whisky events in London, where we learned about modern, much more interesting and aromatic gin, the kind from, say, Bombay Sapphire onwards, and that really started us thinking, especially because Slovenia is well known for its juniper berries.
We started experimenting with gin. Did about a hundred distillations on a small scale, studying a lot of the literature and using the knowledge we already gained through working with whisky. We experimented with botanicals, their ratios and different still designs. It took us about a year to get to the recipe we really liked.
The distillery is open for small groups, where you can sample the drinks along with some appropriate snacks
How long has Broken Bones been open?
Since May 2018, and we were very lucky when we launched. It was just when the gin craze was getting started here, with more producers, more bars and events.
I have to say that the craft beer scene really helped in this, too. Before then people were just drinking local lager, not thinking much about anything else but price. Then with craft beer things became more like wine. People were interested in what’s new, what’s next, and they also understood that you have to pay more for quality. So when people started making craft gin in Slovenia there was an understanding that this could be an interesting product, that it was worth exploring, and when you found something you really liked also that it was something worth paying for.
What’s the response been like?
Very good, both here and abroad. I’ve been going to London quite a lot, showing our gins to various bars, and we have a distributor in the UK now, as well as several awards. We currently have a 600 litre still, more than we need, but the way the business is growing it may be too small soon.
What ingredients do you use, and how are the London and Navy gins different?
We start off with a neutral alcohol, made of molasses, although grain is more common in the industry. For the botanicals we use the same in both our London Dry and Navy gins. Of course there’s juniper berries, but also lemon and cardamom, among other things, and then, as a Slovenian element, rosehip and linden. The Navy gin is stronger, with more alcohol, and that is why it can also carry more flavour it also has more botanicals.
We’re very busy at the moment, we only moved into this site at the start of May, but as things are settling down we should be able to launch something new soon, Old Tom Gin, with added linden tree flower honey and matured in Slovenian oak casks. Then we have a few more things we’re planning, including one that’s a more distinctive, Ljubljana gin, but that’s for another day.
And where can people find you?
You can find our gin at various bars and stores in Slovenia and the UK, but if you’re in Ljubljana then perhaps the best place is our distillery shop or the Central Market. Monday to Saturday, the part by the arcades that connects the two squares. Here you’ll find a stall where you can sample the gin. If you’d like a fuller measure, perhaps with a mixer, then the nearby Magda bar will do you. Elsewhere in town we’ve been working closely with Pritljičje and Kolribi, and if you’re looking for something a little different then Sveti Florijan, in the Old Town, makes a gin dessert.
People can also come here, for the Broken Bones Experience. We didn’t just want to do a classical tour of the distillery as such, although you obviously see it as well. But if you make a visit then you’ll learn about the history of gin, the process of distillation, the different kinds of gin, and, of most importantly, you’ll get to sample some, including in several cocktails from the selection of recipes created by Tina Pirnat especially for our gin accompanied with snacks, and try our gin pralines.
The Martini Espresso with a Gin Twist
STA, 15 July 2019 - A group of researchers from the Jožef Stefan Institute has discovered what they describe as an entirely new kind of matter that cannot be understood with existing physics and which opens up an entirely new field. Their paper was published in the latest issue of Nature Materials.
Conducting experiments designed to create new kinds of quantum materials under non-equilibrium conditions, the researchers used short laser pulses to create an unusually thick amorphous matter in which electrons become jammed because of strong interaction.
The researchers say the discovery, which falls in the domain of quantum physics, is fundamentally important in that it opens a new area of research that represents a huge challenge for the present state-of-the-art in quantum physics.
The jamming of electrons may occur whenever fundamental particles undergo fast compression at high density, for example in nuclei or in neutron stars. It also has potential practical utility since it can be controlled.
The research team discovered the phenomenon in 2016 but then needed three years to describe it and experimentally confirm it.
The new phenomenon has been dubbed "electron jamming" and is described in detail in the paper "Quantum jamming transition to a correlated electron glass in 1T-TaS 2".
STA, 12 July 2019 - The opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) have joined the initiative of Slovenian workers who commute to Austria for a constitutional review of what they see as discriminatory income tax legislation.
While the union of Slovenian migrant workers asked the top court to review the income tax act in November 2018, Franc Breznik of the SDS told the press on Friday that the two parties urged the court to give the matter absolute priority treatment.
"This is a very burning issue in particularly in the east on the country, an issue that is perhaps not felt so much in Ljubljana," he said.
Slovenians working abroad but residing in Slovenia pay part of the taxes in Austria and additional income tax in Slovenia, which the NSi's Jožef Horvat said leaves them with less disposable income compared to workers with similar income in Slovenia.
"If both make EUR 18,700 gross a year, the worker in Slovenia has EUR 1,750 more disposable income than the one working in Austria," he said.
Horvat, who highlighted a different tax treatment of food and transport allowances as a key source of the discrepancy, said the situation was at odds with a Constitutional Court reasoning from 2013 that put commuting migrant workers on "essentially equal" footing with their compatriots in Slovenia as regards income tax, "which means our legal order should treat them equally".
He added the current arrangement was also at odds with the principle of the welfare sate, since the segment of commuting migrant workers with high income is subjected to a more favourable treatment when it comes to the mentioned allowance costs.
Responding to the original initiative for a constitutional review a while ago, the Finance Ministry said that exempting Slovenian workers commuting abroad from income tax would be systemically unacceptable and violate the constitutional principle of equal tax treatment.
All of our stories on tax in Slovenia are here
STA, 15 July 2019 - The average gross salary in Slovenia was at EUR 1,728.12 gross in May and EUR 1,113.88 net. Compared to May 2018, average gross salary was 3.9% higher in nominal terms and 2.5% higher in real terms. Net salary was 3.4% higher in nominal terms and 2% higher in real terms compared to the May of last year, according to the Statistics Office.
The highest net wages were paid out in the financial and insurance sector, EUR 1,556.92 net. Compared to April, average gross and net pay was 0.1% lower in nominal terms and 1% lower in real terms.
In the public sector, net salaries went up by 0.7% on average in May over April, while in the private sector, the average net pay went down by 0.6% compared to April.