18 May 2020, 04:04 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA:

One new Covid-19 case and one death reported for Saturday

LJUBLJANA - One new coronavirus infection and one death were reported for Saturday, which takes the total number of infections in Slovenia so far to 1,466 and the death toll to 104. The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital care was down by one to 26. Five patients were in intensive care, also one less than the day before.

Third stimulus package focusing on part-time work support and tourism

LJUBLJANA - While subsidies for part-time work worth up to EUR 1 billion are seen as a key feature of the emerging third coronavirus stimulus package, draft documents obtained by the STA also include measures such as vouchers for tourism, aid to ski lift operators, extended permits for foreign labour, as well as a solution for packaging waste issues. The proposal for tourism vouchers envisages vouchers in the value of 200 euros to be provided to everybody in regular employment as well as the self-employed.

Thirtieth anniversary of precursor of the Slovenian army marked

LJUBLJANA - The 30th anniversary of the rejection of an order to disarm Slovenian military units during independence efforts and the formation of the Tactical Line was marked today by the Association of Veterans of the War for Slovenia. This year's commemoration was restricted to the laying of wreaths and video addresses, including by the association's head Ladislav Lipič and the president of the Sever union of police veteran associations Tomaž Čas. PM Janez Janša also issued a statement, reaccussing ex President Milan Kučan of responsibility in connection to the disarmament order.

Majority feel govt moved too hastily in declaring the epidemic over

LJUBLJANA - Almost 40% of those quizzed in the latest Mediana poll believe Slovenia should have waited for developments in other countries before declaring the coronavirus epidemic over. The poll, released on Sunday, puts the share of those believing Slovenia should not have declared the epidemic over before other countries did so at 38%. The share of those arguing it was good that Slovenia went first is 27.1%, while roughly a third do not have an opinion or do not care. Concern about the epidemic is meanwhile continuing to decrease. While the share of those worried or very worried still stood at 60% at the end of March, it was down to half by mid-April and is now at 38%.

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17 May 2020, 14:28 PM

STA, 17 May 2020 - While subsidies for part-time work worth up to EUR 1 billion are seen as a key feature of the emerging third coronavirus stimulus package, draft documents obtained by the STA also include measures such as vouchers for tourism, aid to ski lift operators, extended permits for foreign labour, as well as a solution for packaging waste issues.

The part-time work subsidies are expected to be provided for employers unable to secure at least a 90% workload for at least 10% of their employees. Subsidises for work conducted 20 to 36 hours a week would range between 459 and 112 euros. The support, co-funded with EU funds, would be available from 1 June onwards and until 30 November at most.

Another major segment of the third package is aid to tourism, one proposed measure being tourism vouchers in the value of 200 euros to be provide to everybody in regular employment as well as the self-employed.

The vouchers would be valid until 31 December this year or possibly 28 February 2021 and are expected to reduce a projected 60% to 70% contraction of the tourism sector to 40%. They are meant to cost the state up to EUR 200 million and are not conceived as a replacement for the holiday allowance.

Unlike other sectors, tourism and hospitality companies can moreover expect an extension of the support scheme that has had the state fully covering the 80% unemployment allowance for temporarily redundant workers.

Monthly basic income support could meanwhile be prolonged for farmers, while issues with securing foreign labour for seasonal work would be addressed with a prolongation of the labour permit validity from 90 to 150 days.

Also being proposed is a national mechanism for the monitoring of foreign direct investment, through which Slovenia would protect itself against takeovers of strategic industry.

Potential additional aid to companies includes extra efforts to secure favourable credit lines and possibly rent payments deferrals until July 2021 for business premises that could not be utilised during the lockdown.

A special injection is envisaged by the Infrastructure Ministry for ski lift operators, which could get between 1,000 and 12,000 euros.

Meanwhile, another measure found in the draft seeks to address continuing issues with packaging waste management through what seems to be the restoring of the temporary solution that had the state paying for the removal and processing of unattended to waste. The measure is expected to cost EUR 15 million this year.

17 May 2020, 10:43 AM

STA, 16 May 2020 - As practically all business meetings and conferences planned for the first half of the year have been cancelled, the meetings industry, one of the key sectors of Slovenian tourism, does not expect to recover from coronavirus anytime soon. First events are planned to be held again this autumn.

"The meetings industry is faced with a very hard situation because this year's events were arranged several years ago. Some have been rescheduled to this autumn or next year, but many are lost for good," Slovenian Convention Bureau director Miha Kovačič has told the STA.

Business meetings and events are one of the three primary products of Slovenian tourism, he explained.

"They take place practically across entire Slovenia, the majority of them in Ljubljana. In the Slovenian capital, they are the most important product."

Their scope is smaller than classic tourism but business guests spend much more and business events largely take place outside the main summer season, he said.

Since such events are planned long in advance, they are not expected to resume as soon as lockdown measures affecting airports and borders are lifted.

Domestic companies, organisations and state institutions are major organisers of such events, and provided that conference centres, hotels and similar venues reopen, they are expected to return to business the first.

But international events are more lucrative as they also bring revenue from accommodation, are larger and involve more organisers. "These will return later."

Much will also depend on protective measures that will have to be observed, so Kovačič hopes the wearing of face masks indoor will soon no longer be required.

He however expects more online meetings, although it is already clear that they cannot replace live meetings.

Kovačič believes that "live events will have to become even better and with more added value to convince participants to attend".

Ljubljana and Bled, two major venues for the meetings industry in the country, are happy the majority of planned events have not been cancelled but rescheduled.

Turizem Ljubljana, the capital city's tourism board, told the STA that delegates of international conferences and other business meetings are the most desires visitors.

They spend three times more than an average leisure tourist; such a visitor spent an average 1,450 euro during a three-day stay in Ljubljana.

Some 20 international events for professionals with 100 to 1,500 participants scheduled for the first half of 2020 have been rescheduled to autumn or to 2021 and 2022.

The situation is similar in the lake-side resort of Bled in the north-west, where participants of such events account for 10-15% of all tourist nights.

Turizem Bled, the local tourism board, expects this segment of tourist to pick up fastest, as was the case after the 2008 financial crisis.

17 May 2020, 10:34 AM

STA, 16 May 2020 - Revenue from VAT in March, when most shops closed as Slovenia went into lockdown on 16 March, dropped to EUR 187 million, down nearly 30% over February and 19% over March 2019, the latest data from the Financial Administration (FURS) showed.

Almost EUR 705 million in VAT was meanwhile collected in January and February, up 4.8% from the same period last year.

The majority of shops, except groceries, pharmacies and petrol stations, closed in the middle of the March after the coronavirus epidemic was declared.

Eurostat statistics realased earlier this month showed the entire EU retail sector was severely affected by lockdown in March at monthly and annual levels.

Slovenia's posted an annual drop in sales of 15.1%, the second steepest fall in the entire EU, behind France (-16%), which compares to the average EU drop of 8.2%.

At the monthly level, Slovenia's drop in retail sales hit 13.5%.

Shops have been gradually reopening since mid-March, with all allowed to reopen on Monday, 18 May.

Nevertheless, analysts do not expect consumption to pick up anytime soon.

Slovenia's domestic consumption increased by 2.7% in 2019, but the government's macroeconomic forecaster, IMAD, expects it to drop by 3.1% this year and a further 0.4% in 2021.

17 May 2020, 04:29 AM

Check the date at the top of the page, and you can find all the "morning headlines" stories here. You can also follow us on Facebook and get all the news in your feed.

This summary is provided by the STA:

Pahor and Peterle urge cooperation as they remember DEMOS govt

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and Lojze Peterle, prime minister of the DEMOS government (1990-1992), urged cooperation and putting divisions aside as they remembered 16 May in 1990 when the government which led Slovenia to independence was endorsed in parliament. Both drew parallels between the time of independence and the coronavirus crisis at a cemremony at Presidential Palace. Pahor said the focus of the DEMOS government was independence and the focus of the Janez Janša government dealing with the consequences of the epidemic. He belives the opposition should realise it has the responsibility to cooperate. Peterle said Slovenia's main problem was "the virus of division" which does not allow for respecting the other and which is not based on truth.

Home ministers urge easier crossing of Slovenia-Croatia border

ORMOŽ - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and Croatian counterpart Davor Božinović met in Slovenia's Ormož do discuss easier crossing of the Slovenia-Croatia border, illegal migrations and Croatia's bid to join the Schengen zone. The pair confirmed Slovenian citizens can also enter Croatia as tourists after Croatia opened its borders for EU citizens on Sunday. Slovenian conronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin meanwhile took to Twitter saying that Croatia "is for now easing the crossing of the border for owners of property, vessels, while a general easing for tourist reasons is to follow once Slovenia and Croatia have reached an agreement". A similar view was presented by PM Janez Janša, who tweeted that opening borders could only be a bilaterally agreed measure.

No new coronavirus infections, deaths in Slovenia on Friday

LJUBLJANA - No new coronavirus infections and no new deaths were recorded in Slovenia on Friday. This means the total number of Covid-19 cases since the first Sars-CoV-2 infection was confirmed in the country on 4 March remains at 1,465 and the death toll at 103. As many as 1,151 tests for the virus were carried out yesterday, bringing the total so far to 68,852, the government figures released today show. Of the total of 1,465 infected so far, the majority, or 818, have been women. Since the curve of infections has been all but flat for a while, the government decided a few days ago to declare the epidemic over with the end of May.

Minister announces infrastructure fund

LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said an infrastructure fund was in the making to finance investments into railways and roads, which would bring some EUR 180 million a year. He also told the newspaper Dnevnik that electronic motorway toll stickers for personal vehicles will be introduced on 1 December 2021. Although he is in favour of sustainable means of transport, the minister believes roads will still be needed for quite some time. He however expects that in ten years' time, Slovenians could be encouraged to use railways to a greater degree. The government is also thinking about transferring the management of the construction of Koper-Divača rail track onto the national rail operator Slovenske Železnice. He said a decision on how to proceed should be taken soon.

Slovenia's meetings industry expects to pick up in autumn

LJUBLJANA - As practically all business meetings and conferences planned for the first half of 2020 were cancelled, the meetings industry, one of the key sectors of Slovenian tourism, does not expect to recover from coronavirus anytime soon. First events are planned to be held again this autumn and in 2021. "The meetings industry is faced with a very hard situation because this year's events were arranged several years ago. Some have been rescheduled to this autumn or next year, but many are lost for good," Slovenian Convention Bureau director Miha Kovačič told the STA. Ljubljana and Bled, two major venues for the meetings industry in the country, are happy the majority of planned events have not been cancelled but rescheduled.

VAT revenue down 20% in March due to lockdown

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's revenue from VAT in March, when most shops closed as Slovenia went into lockdown on 16 March, dropped to EUR 187 million, down nearly 30% over February and 19% over March 2019, the latest data from the Financial Administration (FURS) showed. Almost EUR 705 million in VAT was meanwhile collected in January and February, up 4.8% from the same period last year. Shops have been gradually reopening since, with all allowed to reopen on Monday, 18 May, but analysts do not expect domestic consumption to pick up anytime soon.

EU economy ministers urge aid scheme for car industry

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Economy ministers from twelve EU countries, including Slovenia, have signed an appeal to the EU stating their joint interest in introducing a plan to revive the car industry, one of the EU sectors that has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. They belives this would reduce the negative impact on production, it would preserve jobs and the sector as a world leader. The statement has been signed by Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Italy, Spain, Malta and Portugal.


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16 May 2020, 16:07 PM

STA, 16 May 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša said there was no general opening of the border with Italy or Austria and Hungary. This can only be a measure taken by both sides, he tweeted on Saturday, the day when Italy announced it would open its borders on 3 June.

"Talks are still under way, an administrative basis is being drafted and will be adopted," Janša added.

He also stressed that heath restrictions still applied on the border with Croatia even if this Slovenian neighbour opened its borders for EU citizens on Sunday.

At its Thursday's session, the Slovenian government changed the measures applying to border crossing on Slovenia's external EU border and at check points on its internal EU borders.

Upon entering Slovenia, Slovenian citizens and citizens of other EU countries are no longer required to go into quarantine.

Croatia meanwhile relaxed entry into the country for EU citizens for business reasons as well as for personal reasons or if foreign citizens have booked a holiday.

At today's meeting in Slovenia, the Slovenian and Croatian interior ministers, Aleš Hojs and Davor Božinović, urged easier crossing of the border, but stressed that the health situation must be taken into consideration.

The pair confirmed that Slovenian citizens can enter Croatia as tourists, but must provide contact data to be contacted in case of a possible Covid-19 outbreak.

Hojs also said Slovenia was particularly interested in a similar easing with Austria. "I hope we'll manage to agree it in the coming days and weeks," he said after meeting Božinović.

Austria is gradually opening its borders, planning to open the border with Germany on 15 June. Tomorrow it is to open the border crossings with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary so far closed.

Hungary opened its borders on 1 May for business travel from Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

16 May 2020, 15:23 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 15 March 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Janša's coalition partners are in tight spot

STA, 15 May 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina argues in Friday's editorial that the coalition partners of PM Janez Janša are genuinely shocked that Janša broke his promise that he will not bring up ideological topics. They risked a lot by joining this coalition, and now they are scared, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Suffering Coalition Partners.

It is funny, but everyone from New Slovenia (NSi) to the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) is shocked by Janša's moves against the media, attacks on NGOs, his ministers' letters to the Council of Europe, European Commission and foreign media, and his undermining of the country's "entire immune system" from police to oversight over money laundering.

By joining this coalition, the parties risked a lot and they knew that what is happening now could happen. Yet Janša's sweet promises that they could make it were tempting.

The other option was bad and they picked what at least seemingly postponed their problems for two years.

They now admit that the cold shower came as early as the first government session. "Aggression, disrespect and cultural battle, it started immediately. But because of the crisis they kept quiet, hoping that the public will forget all about it because of the crisis. And that Janša will deal with 'his things' and then they will have peace."

Everyone was initially shocked because of coronavirus and because Janša became prime minister, Repovž says.

But this week, coalition partners started raising their voices. Very gently. Matej Tonin of the NSi erased his mildly critical tweet, but he did send out a signal. Aleksandra Pivec of DeSUS stated first criticism, and Janja Sluga of the SMC added some concern to her speeches.

Actually, the coalition partners are afraid. They know what they have got themselves into. At first they were afraid of their leader and they are also afraid of a potential election.

Their actions now show that they realise that Janša and his followers went too far in their spreading of hatred and revenge, and that there is no way back.

Janša's previous government was not swept away in 2013 by protesters but by coalition partners. Some of them knew this will be the end of their political career but did not care. Well, now the coalition partners are in the same tight spot.

They know they cannot uphold the politics that Janša is outlining because it runs contrary to their fundamental beliefs. But they also know he will not want to be distracted.

Reporter: The case for case unbiased journalism

STA, 11 May 2020 – The right-wing Reporter magazine argues in Monday's commentary that journalists should close ranks and fight political pressure no matter whether it comes from the left and the right, as it looks at attacks on the media, in particular a TV Slovenija show which reported about irregularities in the purchasing of personal protective equipment.

Making the case for unbiased reporting, Reporter's editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says politicians tend to support media when their political opponents are under the spotlight but change tack when the spotlight shines on them.

"Our people are always spotless and as such untouchable. In a black-and-white world one knows in advance who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. The most fervent political supporters are not convinced by any fact, any document, any whistleblower."

The commentator says journalists should in principle always keep a professional distance, which is sadly not always the case in practice since journalists, politicians and ordinary people often see the role of the media through their own interests and political preferences.

"Journalists should be interested in the facts and they should do their job as politically impartially as possible, using the same standards for all political blocs, regardless of the editorial policy of their media."

"But there are few media in Slovenia that criticise both when that is necessary. Instead, we are witness to the utterly absurd and perverse situation of media that like to beat their chests for being 'on the frontlines of the service of the truth' having the strongest political bias. They were founded by politicians who use them as their fist, just like the Communist Party used to to," Šurla says about Nova24TV, which was founded by SDS politicians.

"Such partisan media are now at the frontlines of spewing bile on those who are trying to be independent of politics and are uncovering scandals of whichever government is in power, be it left or right. This is in reality the most hideous political and propaganda machinery disguised as media."

Turning to the Tarča (Target) news show, the commentator says that there had been no untouchables for the show, which had reported about scandals ranging from a 3D model of the Koper-Divača rail track in the Miro Cerar government to the construction of the Stožice sports complex in Ljubljana and the purchasing of egregiously priced stents at hospitals.

It quotes the authors of Tarča writing that those who had praised the show not long ago and demanded changes are now slinging mud at them, while those who dismissed the show as populist are now applauding.

"And we're back at 'us' and 'them', the perverted attitude of politics to the media in a democratic society. It is therefore high time that journalists close ranks and show solidarity with their Tarča colleagues and to clearly say that such pogroms must stop. Today they are on the stakes, tomorrow it will be us," the paper concludes in Today Tarča, Tomorrow You.

All our posts in this series are here

16 May 2020, 12:05 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll rose to a hundred on what was the second day in a row that only one new infection was detected in more than a thousand tests conducted that day.
        LJUBLJANA - Zvonko Černač, the minister responsible for cohesion policy, announced that EUR 280 million in EU funds would be redistributed to address pressing needs in healthcare, the economy, the labour market, development and education.
        LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR/KOPER - Several thousand protesters riding their bicycles in the centre of Ljubljana protested against measures the government has imposed during the coronavirus epidemic. While the ban on public assembly remains in place, cycling is allowed.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar held a video conference with his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya. They confirmed mutual interest in further strengthening the friendly ties, also in the light of Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency and the coronavirus pandemic.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The EU Commission said it would soon deliver 30,000 medical face masks to Slovenia as part of a first shipment of such protective gear to help protect healthcare workers fighting Covid-19 on the front lines. On 14. May, PM Janša said the masks did not have the requisite certification.

        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša joined the leaders of other EU countries and the bloc's three key institutions for a joint video message on Europe Day, expressing belief that the EU should emerge more integrated, efficient and united from the Covid-19 crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar commented on Slovenian-Croatian relations in an interview with the newspaper Delo, airing the view that too much had been said but too little done about the relations. He indicated the coronavirus epidemic reset bilateral relations and suggested talks could resume after Croatia's elections.
        MARIBOR - Russian Ambassador Timur Rafailovic Eyvazov laid a wreath at the site of a former Nazi prison camp in memory of several thousand Russian prisoners of war who died there.
        LJUBLJANA - All medical and dental services were allowed to relaunch under restrictive conditions, in yet another easing of quarantine restrictions. Most but not all dentists resumed work on 11 May.

SUNDAY, 10 May
        LJUBLJANA, ZAGREB, Croatia - Slovenians with real estate or boats in Croatia were given a go-ahead to enter the country again without having to go into quarantine for two weeks, after about two months of restrictions imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

MONDAY, 11 May
        LJUBLJANA - Public transport started running again after nearly two months. Most operators provided limited service initially and only a portion of seats was available to secure observance of physical distancing recommendations.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly raised the ceiling for budget spending by EUR 2 billion due to the coronavirus epidemic. The changes were passed to pave the way for a supplementary budget.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar highlighted long procedures, failure to implement Constitutional Court rulings, biased judges and ineffective prosecution of bank crime in a letter supplementing an interministerial report on the rule of law the government sent to the EU Commission. Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlović said she did not deem Logar's comment necessary and the Supreme Court expressed surprise. The opposition demanded a parliamentary debate on the matter.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar and his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz agreed in a videoconference that bilateral as well as regional and panregional cooperation between the two countries should be further strengthened.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Discussing current issues, the four coalition parties announced that a third package of measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis would start to be drafted next week. The measures would be aimed at tourism, and would cut red tape.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's industrial output in March, half of which was affected by measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic, was lowest since July 2017. Compared to February, industrial output in Slovenia was down by 10.7%, the largest monthly drop since November 2008.

        LJUBLJANA - The ban on international air passenger transport with Slovenia was lifted after almost two months of restrictions due to Covid-19, but air traffic was not expected to resume before June.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša made the case for confrontation with the media in an essay entitled War with the Media, in which he argued that keeping silent while media waged war against individuals was not an option and had damaging effects on society. His comments sparked protests by the opposition and media organisations.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar held a videoconference with his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok, discussing coordination of easing of anti-Covid-19 measures, Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency and strengthening economic cooperation.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Environment Committee approved changes to the nature conservation act that significantly limit the ability of NGOs to take part in administrative procedures representing public interest. Several hundred people protested the move.

        LJUBLJANA - The government said that Slovenia would see a major easing of quarantine restrictions on 18 May, when all shops and small hotels will reopen, as well as a number of other services. Schools were cleared to open as well and it was announced most sports would be relaunched on 23 May.
        LONDON, UK - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it expected Slovenia's economy to contract by 5.5% this year due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, before rebounding to a 5% growth in 2021.
        GRAZ/KLAGENFURT, Austria - Austria reported it intended to open four more checkpoints on the border with Slovenia as it continued to ease measures adopted due to the coronavirus epidemic. The move will be coordinated with Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - The government formally called an end to the coronavirus epidemic based on the currently favourable epidemiological situation. The majority of public health measures remain in place and testing, contract tracing, isolation, quarantine for high-risk contacts, observance of caught etiquette and physical distancing would remain the key measures to fight the disease.
        LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit found a series of violations at Banka Slovenije between 2017 in 2018, releasing an adverse opinion. The report showed the central bank flouted regulations on hirings, employments, severance packages and public procurement. Governor Boštjan Vasle responded that the bank had addressed roughly half of the findings in the report.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša had separate conversations with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, focussing on responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor talked with his Georgian counterpart Salome Zourabichvili over the phone, discussing the novel coronavirus pandemic. They agreed that a great level of caution will be needed in the future so as to avoid more breakouts.
        LJUBLJANA - NLB generated EUR 18.3 million in net profit at group level in the first quarter, a 68% year-on-year decrease that Slovenia's largest bank said was the result of credit impairments and provisions formed due to the coronavirus epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Telecoms group Telekom Slovenije saw its net profit rise by 12% year-on-year to EUR 11.3 million in the first quarter of the year, as sales dropped by 2% to EUR 168.6 million. EBITDA was flat at EUR 56.4 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's leading insurance group, Triglav, reported EUR 26.4 million in pre-tax profit for the first quarter, a 12% year-on-year decrease that it primarily ascribes to several disaster events.
        LJUBLJANA/KLAGENFURT, Austria/TRIESTE, Italy - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch and representatives of Slovenian business in Austria and Italy discussed the need to nurture cross-border cooperation and the economy in the border regions.

All our posts in this series are here

16 May 2020, 06:36 AM

STA, 15 May 2020 - Despite poor weather and the ban on public gathering which has been in place for two months due to the coronavirus epidemic, several thousand protesters took to the streets of Slovenian cities once again on Friday, expressing dissatisfaction with the government's policies.

As has become customary during the coronavirus epidemic lockdown, most protesters were riding their bikes, some were on scooters, while other walked through the streets of city centres.

In Ljubljana, they moved in circles in the greater area of the Parliament House, before gathering in Republic Square in front of the building.

For the fourth consecutive Friday, protesters rang their bells and honked horns, shouting paroles like "thieves" and "we won't give up freedom".

The rallies have been organised by several initiatives, including the Facebook group Balcony Protest, which said that the government had encroached on people's freedom under the guise of anti-epidemic measures.

The initiative was launched at the start of the lockdown, with people placing banners critical of their government in their windows. A few weeks ago, the protest gained momentum following revelations of political interference in the procurement of medical and protective equipment.

Initiative Slovenia Wake Up and a Facebook group supporting the whistleblower who revealed the political meddling have also invited people to take to the streets. Some protesters criticised the government as lacking transparency, being corrupt and stealing taxpayers' money.

Meanwhile, the protests gained an environmental aspect after legislative changes were passed restricting the involvement of NGOs in procedures to acquire environmental and construction permits.

Some protesters are bothered by the "arrogance" of the government and its "demeaning and inappropriate" attitude towards people and the media, and there was also criticism of Foreign Minister Anže Logar's letter to the European Commission in which he criticised Slovenia's judiciary.

The 8 March Institute meanwhile warned that the measures designed by the government to address the challenges of the coronavirus epidemic further deepened hardships of many and deepened the existing balance of power. They say that the government had ignored experts and has subjected the police and military forces to itself.

The Movement for Social Responsibility meanwhile wonders whether the government will stop the "ideological battles" against the media, intellectuals, the judiciary and civil organisations.

The biggest anti-government protest took place a week ago, when, according to the police, some 5,500 people took to the streets in Ljubljana alone, while some media reports placed the number as high as 10,000.

As the protests grew louder over the past month, an initiative was started in support of the government. A petition of support for the cabinet has meanwhile been signed by more than 20,000 people.

They say that they will organise rallies as well, but only after public assembly restrictions are lifted.

16 May 2020, 04:23 AM

Check the date at the top of the page, and you can find all the "morning headlines" stories here. You can also follow us on Facebook and get all the news in your feed.

This summary is provided by the STA:

Public gatherings of up to 50 persons allowed as of Monday

LJUBLJANA - The government issued after a correspondence session a decree allowing gatherings in public places of up to 50 persons as of next Monday, but only if the safety distance recommended by the health authorities can be ensured. The decree eases public assembly restrictions that have been in place since mid-March, but concerts, parties and other public gatherings where safety distance cannot be maintained remain banned. Organisers of events must ensure that those attending will be able to keep a safety distance of 1.5 metres. The press release from the government also says that gatherings in night clubs remain banned, as well as events taking place in water. Moreover, spectators are still not allowed at sports events.

New regime in place on Slovenian borders

LJUBLJANA - EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at pre-determined checkpoints while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, in what is a major step for the country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions. Under the government decree adopted late on Thursday, there will be 19 checkpoints on the border with Austria, nine on the border with Italy and five on the border with Hungary. Slovenians who own real estate in Croatia meanwhile rushed to the border as quarantine upon return to Slovenia has been abolished. Waiting times on border crossings were reported to stand up to four hours and a half.

Third stimulus bill brings EUR 1bn in part-time work subsidies

LJUBLJANA - Subsidies worth between EUR 0.5-1 billion to help employers cover pay checks of workers working part-time will be the centrepiece of a third legislative package in Slovenia aiming to help businesses and people overcome the coronavirus crisis. As anounced by Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Minister Janez Cigler Kralj to the Economic and Social Council (ESS), the idea is for the state to use EU funds to fund up to half of working hours of individual workers until the end of the year. The measure is to be available to all industries and is said to cover all the needs of the economy and the labour market.

Opposition says decision to declare end of epidemic financial, unions concerned

LJUBLJANA - The opposition heaped criticism on the government over its late night decision on Thursday to declare the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia over, saying that the move was motivated by finances and as confusing the population about how to behave. Employers welcomed the formally declared end of the Covid-19 epidemic in Slovenia, while warning measures to mitigate the crisis and kick-start the economy will be needed for some time to come. Trade unionists on the other hand expressed concern the government's decision was based on economic reasons at the expense of people's health.

Slovenian, Croatian presidents praise cooperation in fighting Covid-19

PTUJ - President Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović met to praise what they labelled as excellent cooperation between the countries in their response to the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in the restrictive measures being eased and the countries' opening doors to each other. "This enables Slovenians to visit Croatia and vice-versa," said Pahor, while Milanović added that "now it is time to open up" and that "we are doing this in Croatia very courageously and quickly and perhaps this is the only way." He noted that many Slovenians owned real estate in Croatia and that it was thus logical that the countries were the first to relax mutual communication.

One new infection, no new Covid-19 deaths

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded just one new coronavirus infection for the second straight day on Thursday as the number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 dropped to 29. No new deaths have been reported. The latest figures released by the government bring the tally of confirmed coronavirus cases since the first Sars-CoV-2 infection was confirmed in the country on 4 March to 1,465. A total of 103 patients with Covid-19 have died so far, a vast majority of them elderly from care homes.

Slovenia advocates reviving Middle East peace process

BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Just like a majority of EU members, Slovenia supports reviving the peace process in the Middle East, the Foreign Ministry said after the EU foreign ministers discussed the stalled process before the new Israeli government is sworn on Sunday amid fears it would annex Israeli settlements. Minister Anže Logar "called for strengthening the EU's dialogue with all key players, Israel, Palestine, the US and relevant Arab countries, to implement the common interest of lasting peace and stability in the Middle East". he ministry also said in a release that the majority of EU members, including Slovenia, urged the EU's unity and credibility regarding the peace process.

Počivalšek joins EU calls to boost industry, urges special attention for auto sector

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek urged a new industrial strategy and a greater competitiveness of European industry as crucial for the EU's recovery as he participated in a videoconference featuring EU ministers responsible for the common market and industry. He joined calls for the auto sector to get special attention in recovery plans. With the ministers urging a quick plan for recovery and coordinated measures and highlighting the European Commission's proposals, Počivašek welcomed the March recovery package, but argued individual priorities would need to adapt to new circumstances.

Pahor discusses coronavirus response with Greek counterpart

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor held a videoconference with his Greek counterpart Katerina Sakellaropoulou to discuss measures to fight the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia and Greece. The Greek president congratulated Slovenia on its good results and declaring of the end of the epidemic. The presidents agreed that a lot of wisdom and skill would be required to tackle the epidemic-related economic and social challenges ahead. They also stressed the importance of the EU's unity.

Logar talks bilateral ties, Covid-19 crisis with Danish counterpart

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar held a meeting with his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod by videolink for talks on bilateral relations, response to the crisis provoked by the coronavirus pandemic and EU affairs. The Foreign Ministry said the pair noted the excellent bilateral relationship and called for enhancing bilateral cooperation further, in particular in green economy. The ministers also spoke about the functioning of the Schengen area, EU enlargement and migration.

Officials praise force on Slovenia Army Day

LJUBLJANA - Marking Slovenian Army Day in memory of the 29th anniversary since training of first Slovenian soldiers started, President Borut Pahor as the supreme commander stressed the importance of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF), in particular in the face of a changing world. Defence Minster Matej Tonin announced efforts to secure more funding, while the army launched a special media campaign in en effort have more people enlist. In his written address on the occasion, PM Janez Janša congratulated SAF members, and expressed gratitude to those who served in the formations preceding SAF for their courage and sacrifice. He moreover blamed former governments for the army's problems.

Slovenia notes importance of Austria independence treaty

LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry marked the 65th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty by underscoring that Slovenia is an indisputable signatory to the treaty as a successor to the former Yugoslavia, one of the original signatories. In a letter to his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg, FM Anže Logar called for full implementation of Article 7, which deals with the rights of the Slovenian minority. The Office for Slovenians Abroad also stressed that Slovenia was a legal successor to the treaty and that it would continue to make utmost efforts for Austria to fully implement Article 7.

Migrant workers welcome EU action v Austria

LJUBLJANA - The trade union of Slovenian migrant workers welcomed the European Commission's decision to file a lawsuit against Austria at the Court of Justice of the EU over child benefits. The trade union's head, Mario Fekonja, is convinced the EU will succeed to prove Austria is discriminatory in this field. EU citizens who work in Austria but whose children do not live in the country receive lower child benefits than those whose children reside in Austria.

Coalition MP joins deputy faction of ex-PM

LJUBLJANA - MP Jani Möderndorfer quit the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and its faction in parliament to join the deputy group of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the party of the former PM. Möderndorfer noted that he had been opposed to the SMC joining the government led by Janez Janša from the start, something that he said was fateful not only for the party but also for the country. His defection has not jeopardised the ruling coalition's majority in parliament though.

Slovenia to try Japanese drug on Covid-19 patients

LJUBLJANA - The government decided Thursday night to close an agreement with the UN Office for Project Services on the delivery of the Japanese anti-influenza medicine called favipiravir for clinical trials in treatment of Covid-19 patients. The Japanese government made the donation of the medicine in response to Slovenia's appeal. Slovenia has thus become one of the first countries worldwide to get the medicine, known commercially as Avigan, which is not available on the market yet.

Expert: Predicting second Covid-19 wave pure guesswork

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's health system is getting ready for a potential second wave of coronavirus infections, however any forecasts about when another phase might hit are pure speculation. Tatjana Lejko Zupanc, the head of the UKC Ljubljana hospital's Department of Infectious Diseases, the main facility treating Covid-19 patients in the country, told the STA in an interview that securing enough healthcare staff would be the main challenge should Covid-19 come back, possibly as early as summer.

5G test network set up at Iskratel

KRANJ - A test network featuring 5G technology has been set up at a production facility of telecoms equipment maker Iskratel in Kranj in cooperation with Telekom Slovenije to explore new business models. Electromagnetic field measurements conducted as part of the project have shown values well below risk thresholds. Iskratel said the 5G core was a product of the company's own knowledge and development that was combined into a comprehensive solution together with partners.

Thousands ride bikes in anti-govt protests again

LJUBLJANA - Despite poor weather and the ban on public gathering which has been in place for two months due to the coronavirus epidemic, several thousand protesters took to the streets of Slovenian cities once again, expressing dissatisfaction with the government's conduct. As has become customary during the coronavirus epidemic lockdown, most protesters were riding their bikes, some were on scooters, while other walked through the streets of city centres. For the fourth consecutive week, protesters were making noise and shouting paroles like "thieves" and "we won't give up freedom".

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15 May 2020, 16:05 PM

STA, 15 May 2020 - All anti-Covid-19 restrictions that have not yet been lifted remain in place regardless of the government's declaration of the end of the coronavirus epidemic, the Health Ministry has announced. The decree came into effect on Friday, but it will be effective as of 31 May.

The measures will be eased when it is certain that the virus transmission is not to be expected anymore, depending on the epidemiological developments, the ministry's Public Health Directorate Vesna Kerstin Petrič said on Friday.

Related: Slovenia Declares End to Covid Epidemic, Borders Open to EU Nationals

The government decree, adopted last night, raised a lot of questions regarding the validity of the restrictions. Kerstin Petrič explained at today's government briefing on coronavirus that all of them were still in effect until further notice.

She urged Slovenians to continue doing all they could to help keep the epidemic at bay by maintaining social distancing as well as using face masks and heeding respiratory hygiene guidelines.

Mateja Logar of the UKC Ljubljana infectious disease clinic agreed with Kerstin Petrič, saying that the end of the epidemic did not mean the end of all restrictions. It means that the state's boost for the economy will be reduced, certain legal decisions will be amended, but all the preventive measures stay put, she said.

According to her, the epidemic is still ongoing, however it is true that the epidemiological status shows favourable trends in the past ten days. "Time will tell whether or not it was the right moment to lift the measures quickly and en masse," she said.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the STA that the only effective result of the government's decree declaring the epidemic over was stepping up easing of the border restrictions - quarantine is hence no longer necessary for EU residents entering Slovenia, unless they were outside the EU for more than two weeks.

Kacin added that the decision was based on the recent favourable epidemiological trends. Had the government not declared the end of the epidemic on Thursday, then the first and second anti-corona bills would have been valid in June as well, he explained.

Kerstin Petrič concurred that accelerating the easing of the border restrictions was enabled by the promising epidemiological situation in Slovenia and other EU countries.

She also said that the situation would be monitored regularly and in case of any adverse developments, the border policy would be amended.

"If a new outbreak emerges in Slovenia's vicinity or a major hotspot in the country, the government could step up the restrictions," said Kacin, adding that the measures could not be discriminatory towards any EU country.

He added that the coming weekend would be a decisive time for the future assessments of the epidemiological status and people's movement.

Logar meanwhile said it was hard to predict whether a second Covid-19 wave would occur, but warned that, historically speaking, most epidemics had a second phase.

The government's decree does not affect efforts to reopen schools, pointed out Education Minister Simona Kustec at the briefing. Kindergartens will see the return of roughly a half of all the children on Monday, said Kustec, while a third of the primary school students, the first to third grades, will go back to school.

Children from Slovenia's neighbouring countries who are studying in Slovenia will carry on with remote learning though.

All the preventive measures in educational institutions remain in place, she added. Some 80%-85% of teachers and other educational workers are expected to return to work.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

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