STA, 11 March 2019 - The Western Balkans and regional initiatives were at the centre of talks between President Borut Pahor and his visiting counterpart from Bulgaria Rumen Radev in Ljubljana on Monday. The presidents confirmed good relations between the countries, underlining that they could still be improved.
Talking to the press after the meeting, Pahor said that political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries were "very lively".
Slovenia considers Bulgaria a strategic partner and the countries have good bilateral relations that are not burdened by anything, he said. Contacts between the countries at the top political level are relatively frequent, he added.
Slovenia opened an embassy in Sofia last year, while Adria Airways has launched a regular route between Ljubljana and the Bulgarian capital, the president noted at their joint press conference.
According to Radev, Slovenia and Bulgaria, located on different sides of the Balkans, each represent stability and security, they steer dialogue and cooperation policies in the interest of security and peace in the Balkans.
"We share the same values and we want peace for the future of our region," Radev underlined.
Pahor presented to Radev Slovenia's preparations for the next Brdo-Brijuni Process Summit scheduled in Tirana, Albania, for May.
Although Bulgaria is not part of this initiative it does have its own, influential, positions about developments in the region, Pahor said.
He added that the atmosphere, cooperation and trust in the region were not ideal at the moment. He wants the summit to send out a message that would be encouraging for the nations in the region and that would obligate the EU to find together solutions to bilateral and multilateral issues in this part of southeastern Europe.
According to Pahor all Balkan leaders are set to come to Tirana, including Serbian and Kosovo presidents, Aleksandar Vučić and Hashim Thaci, although temperature is running high between Belgrade and Prishtina.
"I can't imagine one of the leaders not coming. This in itself would be a political message. One of the worst possible imaginable at the moment," said Pahor.
Radev moreover underlined that accession of Balkan countries to the EU and NATO was the key to stability, security and progress in the region.
Pahor expressed satisfaction that Radev confirmed today that he would take part in the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Ljubljana in early June.
He believes that the event will be an opportunity for countries in central and eastern Europe to freshen up on their list of priorities in the presence of high representatives of Germany, the EU and the US.
Po novinarski konferenci v Predsedniški palači se predsednik Republike Slovenije Borut Pahor in predsednik Republike Bolgarije Rumen Radev udeležujeta odprtja slovensko-bolgarske poslovne konference na @GZSnovice, kjer bosta nagovorila udeležence konference. pic.twitter.com/HXjWJUv3xJ— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) March 11, 2019
The Bulgarian president also said that cooperation should not only be limited to transport, energy and communication but it should also include science, education, culture and the youth.
Radev is accompanied in Slovenia by a business delegation which attended a business forum at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Due to restrictions, the group of executives is smaller than Bulgaria would have wanted. This indicates a great amount of interest in doing business with Slovenia.
Thus a business forum taking place at the sidelines of the Three Seas Initiative will serve as an opportunity for a visit by a bigger delegation.
Economic cooperation between Slovenia and Bulgaria is good, with trade amounting to EUR 385m in 2017. The figure was 25% higher than the year before. Bulgaria is Slovenia's 24th biggest exports market.
You can find all our stories on politics and Slovenia here
STA, 11 March - The Maribor District Court has found a GP guilty of abuse of power and violation of sexual integrity of a minor, newspapers reported on Monday. The prosecution sought a prison sentence and a temporary ban on practising medicine, but the court decided to hand down a suspended sentence of 18 months.
The ruling is not yet final, the prosecution will appeal against the ruling, handed down on Friday, while the defence is still considering an appeal.
The case goes back to autumn of 2016, when a 16-year-old girl came to see GP Davorin Kolarič to get a doctor's note for missing a phys-ed class. The GP allegedly touched her breasts and genitals, which he denied in court.
However, the newspaper Dnevnik reports that he admitted in the course of the investigation that he stripped the girl down to her knees, placed her on her stomach and went on to examine her lymph nodes without putting on gloves. He said he suspected she might have mononucleosis.
Court-appointed expert witness Anton Gradišek told the court that Kolarič should not have stripped the patient without forewarning. Moreover, examination of lymph nodes does not require touching genitals and breasts.
If Kolarič really suspected mononucleosis, he should have also taken her temperature and felt the lymph nodes in the neck and under the jaw, according to the expert witness. Kolarič did not do any of this, Dnevnik says.
Immediately after the incident, the patient turned for help to a telephone helpline for children and youths, which advised her to contact the patients' rights ombudsman.
The latter set up a mediation process between the patient and the Lenart health centre where Kolarič worked at the time.
At the mediation meeting, Kolarič apologised for failing to explain the course of the exam and failing to request her permission. Moreover, Lenart health centre boss Jože Kramberger offered the 16-year-old his resignation.
Disappointed with the mediation, the patient reported Kolarič to the police. In the trial, the prosecution demanded that he be sent to prison and temporarily prohibited from practising medicine.
However, the panel of judges in charge of the case said on Friday that a ban on medical practice for Kolarič would be too severe a punishment because the incident was "merely" a quick examination that did not leave severe and lasting mark on the victim.
The judges also advised the victim to file a separate lawsuit in order to get compensation from Kolarič, Dnevnik said.
Meanwhile, the Medical Chamber condemned the alleged incident. President Zdenka Čebašek Travnik ordered a review by the chamber's ethics body, which may result in Kolarič losing his medical licence.
She also said that there should not have been a mediation in this case. When violence is involved, mediation is not the right course of action, said Čebašek Travnik, who believes the victim did the right thing by going to the police.
She moreover expressed the belief that such cases were rare, adding however that the medical profession would only be respected if the cases were addressed and not swept under the carpet. The chamber has handled abuse cases in the past and some doctors have been sentenced to prison, she added.
Kolarič has been reviewed by the chamber in the past but not in relation to this case, according to Čebašek Travnik. Minor irregularities were determined, which Kolarič addressed to the chamber's satisfaction.
STA, 7 March 2019 - Ljubljana, the lakeside resort Bled and several other Slovenian towns included in the Slovenia Green scheme have been awarded at ITB Berlin, one of the world's largest and most prominent tourism trade fairs.
Ljubljana won in the category Best in Cities with its campaign promoting local food production entitled the Exchange of Local Foods.
The first meeting of producers and potential buyers of food from Ljubljana and central Slovenia was held in February and attracted more than 80 food producers, representatives of schools and kindergartens, hotels and restaurants.
"Locally produced ingredients are a trend in modern cuisine that is becoming an increasingly important element of Ljubljana's tourism, so we plan to continue with the Exchange of Local Foods ..." said Petra Stušek, the head of Turizem Ljubljana.
We just kicked off @ITB_Berlin 2019 with 35 Slovenian tourism partners ?— Feel Slovenia? (@SloveniaInfo) March 6, 2019
?Visit us at Stand 109, Hall 17 and explore the culture and beauty of your favorite destination!
?https://t.co/F1OMIiM4TQ#ITBBerlin #ifeelslovenia #myway #itsculturetime pic.twitter.com/QoPz2zzcrY
Bled received the second prize in the category Best in Europe, which Tomaž Rogelj of Turizem Bled sees as a reward for the town's efforts in environment protection. It is also an encouragement for new measures promoting sustainable tourism, he said.
Meanwhile, Komen, Rogaška Slatina, Idrija, Koper and Podčetrtek were among the 25 finalists in the category for their efforts for responsible tourism, the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) said after the accolades were handed out on Wednesday.
The Sustainable Top 100 Destinations awards are conferred by an NGO promoting sustainable tourism, Green Destinations, which declared Slovenia the first green country in the world in 2016.
Last year, Slovenia was among the top six most sustainable destinations in the world and the top in Europe.
A total of 64 destinations, service providers, parks and travel agencies in Slovenia are currently included in the Slovenia Green scheme and another 11 are to be included shortly, the STO said.
STA, 9 March 2019 - Addressing a ceremony marking 30 years since the formation of the Democrats' (SDS) precursor, Janez Janša said the SDS had stayed true to itself, its values and Slovenia even in the most challenging times. "The SDS stands for democracy and is against any totalitarianism," the party head stressed in Ljubljana on Saturday.
Janša said the party was therefore always ready to cooperate with anyone who shared this view for the benefit of Slovenia. "A party that votes against the European Parliament's resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism is not a democratic party," he added.
In the light of the EU elections, Janša stressed the importance of the EU and its future. "Perhaps never in the years since independence in 1991 have we celebrated our birthday in a time when the future ahead was so open and unpredictable. So many different possibilities lie before us. Not all of them are good," he said.
According to Janša, there is a time for every community, every nation when they need to reconsider their place in the world and such a time has come for Europe.
"The EU is strong because it gives priority to rules and the rule of law and not the rule of the stronger," Janša said, adding that the biggest threat to the rule of law were double standards.
One of such example is when EU institutions very quickly detect "actual or imaginary violations in some member states, especially in those where conservative or Christian democratic parties are on power," he said.
Janša believes it is time to opt for "a Europe that Slovenians voted for in the 2003 referendum, a Europe of European civilisation and culture that protects human rights and fundamental freedoms."
The SDS head believes that the key challenge of the new European Parliament after the economic and migration crises and Brexit will be political stabilisation, which will entail upgrading the EU's defence system and monetary policy.
Touching on the EPP's threats that Hungary's Fidesz may be expelled from the group, Janša expressed hope that "this argument in our family will be resolved as soon as possible with a smart compromise, without using force."
He believes the EPP should focus on ways to ensure prosperity for all in Europe, protect the borders and provide for the security of Europeans.
The SDS celebrates today the anniversary of the founding of the Slovenian Democratic Union (SDZ) and the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia (SDZS), which are considered its precursors.
The two parties emerged from the so-called spring movements, calling for democratisation and Slovenia's independence.
Janša said that when the two parties merged the "biggest and the most successful party in Slovenia's history" had been formed, which had so far won eight elections.
For three decades, the party has been "the main pillar of Slovenia's independence, an indivisible part of the fight for democratic transformation and Slovenia's inclusion in the European civilisation's flows," Janša said.
The event at the Cankarjev Dom centre was also addressed by the European People's Party (EPP) Spitzenkandidat for the EU vote, Manfred Weber, who warned against the danger of nationalism in Europe.
Europe is much more than just laws and must provide concrete answers to concrete challenges, including migrations, he said. He also stressed the importance of a shared culture that is based on Christian values.
Below is a review of the headlines in Slovenian dailies for Tuesday, 12 March 2019, as summarised by the STA:
"Whole world to get health in Rogaška": Rolan Bocoyev, the Russian whose company will build a new hotel in the Rogaška spa resort, says that the "whole world could come to Rogaška to get health". (front page, page 3)
"Our polluted air warming up still": Young people in Slovenia will join the global movement for climate on Friday with climate expert Lučka Bogataj commenting that only a trigger is needed once causes for protests have piled up. (front page, page 4)
"Is Šentrupert new record holder by debt": After four years of decline, the combined debt of Slovenian local communities increased last year by EUR 7m to 849m. (front page, page 5)
St Gregory's Day
"Light boats for bird wedding feast": Children braved the rain and cold to float light boats down rivers and streams on the eve of St Gregory's Day to usher in spring. (front page)
Hospital data breach
"Izola patients' referrals on show on Google": Even though the Izola hospital had already known about sensitive data leak last year and had asked Google to remove it from the internet, photographs of referrals have appeared on Google again, hospital director Radivoj Nardin admitted. (front page, page 4)
"Suspended judge thinks he's on leave": Many have been upset by the disciplinary court's decision which has cleared Stanko Omerzu, the suspended head of the Maribor Labour Court, of the allegations against him. His lawyer says that the very procedure was unlawful. (front page, page 4)
"Ljubljana: Renovation of Poljanska Street gets under way": A comprehensive reconstruction of Poljanska Street launched yesterday is to benefit pedestrians and cyclists in particular. (front page, page 10)
"What is the outlook for orders and jobs?": Germany's industrial output is contracting; what is the impact on Slovenian export companies. (front page, pages 2-4)
Hospital data breach
"Personal medical data accessible on Google": The referrals and medical results of the Slovenians who booked an appointment at the Izola hospital since the start of 2016 have been accessible on Google. (front page, pages 6, 7)
"Fateful days for Brexit": Under British law, a hard Brexit remains the adopted scenario unless parliament decides otherwise. (front page, page 5)
Maribor housing construction
"Construction frenzy": Maribor is to get around 2,000 new apartments, a figure that is worthy of debate. (front page, pages 2, 10, 11)
"He faces loss of licence": After Večer reported that doctor Davorin Kolarič had been given a suspended sentence for violating the sexual integrity of a 16-year-old girl, the Medical Chamber said it would initiate its own procedure which could cost him the licence. (front page, page 21)
Candidate for health minister
"Leben to be replaced by Simon Zajc": The Modern Centre Party has proposed Simon Zajc to be the new environment minister. (front page, page 3)
"She sacrificed hand for damages": A quartet of suspects wanted to make fat money out of an insurance fraud but their plan has been discovered. (front page, page 20)
"After two accidents, aircraft grounded": Several countries have decided to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after two plane crashes. (front page, page 6)
Local and international media, including the BBC, are reporting on one of the more bizarre and gruesome stories to come of out Slovenia for quite some time – that of a woman who cut off her own hand to claim the insurance. What’s more, the woman did not act alone, as at least one family member helped her remove her the appendage with a circular saw.
In another shocking detail, after the alleged accident, which the family claimed occurred while sawing branches, the woman was taken to UKC Ljubljana hospital without the severed hand, with the aim of making the injury permanent. However, the hand was retrieved by the authorities and re-attached to the as yet unnamed woman.
In addition to having left the hand behind, police suspicions were aroused when it was learned that the family had recently taken out accident insurance, with the incident occurring shortly after the policy became valid. The 21-year old woman was thus in line to receive around €383,400 in compensation, as well as further monthly payments of €3,000, with the potential payments being much higher if the hand had not been re-attached.
The police originally arrested four members of the family, and the 21-year-old woman who lost her hand, and a 29-year-old man who helped in the scheme, now face a prison sentence of one to eight years for fraud.
STA, 8 March 2019 - The Ljubljana Local Court has slapped the opposition Democrats (SDS) with a fine of EUR 20,000 for violating the political parties act in the hiring of two loans, the commercial broadcaster POP TV reported on Friday. SDS head Janez Janša was slapped with a EUR 2,000 fine. The party has reportedly already announced an appeal.
The SDS was indicted by the Court of Audit in March 2018 over two contentious loans it took out in 2017.
The party came under fire in January 2018 for closing a deal on a EUR 450,000 loan from a Bosnian national at the end of 2017, and borrowing EUR 60,000 from the publisher Nova Obzorja in August 2017.
This runs contrary to the provision that parties can only borrow from banks, savings banks and a limited amount of money from individuals.
Under the loan agreement with Bosnian Diana Đuđić, the 32-year-old was obligated to pay out the loan in three instalments of EUR 150,000.
The law puts the ceiling for party loans from individuals at ten times the value of the average gross monthly pay or around EUR 15,800 per year.
Less than two weeks after the scandal broke out, media reported of the loan the SDS took from Nova Obzorja, in which the party holds a 44.2% stake. The stake was also put up as collateral in the loan secured with Đuđić but was later put up for sale.
Nova Obzorja issues the weekly Demokracija and tabloid Škandal24.
The SDS returned the first instalment it received from Đuđić with interest in January 2018 but this did not stop the procedure against the party.
All our stories on politics in Slovenia can be found here
March 11, 2019
In 1857 the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth visited Postojna Cave.
For this occasion the managers of the visit fixed the cave paths and covered them in white sand, while 15,000 lights were also placed in the cave. After viewing the natural wonder the happy Emperor distributed 120 gold coins, 20 Tolars and 70 silver coins among those who had decorated the cave. The Empress and her two court ladies were carried through the cave in their palanquins.
Following a ceremony the ruling couple and their entourage left for Ljubljana in carriages, where they dined at the Railway Restaurant (Kolodvorska restavracija) and from there they took a steam train to Vienna.
Since the imperial visit to Postojna Cave wasn't cheap, the cave administration had to raise the entrance fee from 30 to 40 Kreuzer per person.
The second time Emperor Franz Joseph visited Postojna Cave, in 1883, electric lights were switched on for the first time in the caverns.
STA, 8 March 2019 - Sava Re, Slovenia's second largest insurance group, generated a record profit of EUR 43m in 2018, an increase of 38.3% on the year before as gross written premiums rose by 5.6% to EUR 546.3m.
The core company Sava Re saw its profit increase by 27% to EUR 41.87m, while gross written premiums decreased by a percent to EUR 151.6m.
Releasing the results on the web site of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, the company said that 2018 saw a relatively low incidence of large claims, which was reflected in the group's improved performance.
"Profitability was also supported by the synergies from the merger of four insurers now under the unified brand of Zavarovalnica Sava and the better performance of the group's non-EU-based members," the release said.
Chairman Marko Jazbec told the press that 2018 was a "record year and a very successful for the entire group," with both plans for 2018 and results from 2017 having being exceeded.
Jazbec added that the management was especially proud of the record group profit, and the "exceptionally high return on equity, amounting to 13.1%."
The growth in group premium was generated by expansion in non-life insurance business in Slovenia (up 10.9%) and outside it (12.5%) and a 17.8% growth in life insurance business abroad.
The volume of collected gross premiums in the group, which also has subsidiaries in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and North Macedonia, last year exceeded the planned by 5.1%.
The reinsurance segment saw 7.2% less in gross written premium as a result of strict underwriting discipline and selective underwriting.
As anticipated, there was a drop of 2.9% in gross life insurance premiums written owing to a large number of policy maturities.
"When it comes to reinsurance on the global market, we were relatively conservative from the aspect of assuming new risks, so we recorded a drop in premium, which is partly also a result of the fluctuation of the US dollar compared to other currencies," said Jazbec.
Operating revenue of the group was up by 9.8% last year, which in addition to the growth of gross premiums by the existing companies was also a result of the operations of the new companies included in the group in 2018.
The group finalised three takeovers last year: the North Macedonia-based pension company NLB Nov Penziski Fond, which was renamed Sava Penzisko Društvo; the Serbia-based insurer Energoprojekt Garant, which was merged with Sava Re's Serbian non-life insurer at the year end; and the Slovenia-based assistance service provider TBS Team 24.
Sava Re has also signed agreements on the acquisition of three further companies; the transaction involving two Croatian ERGO companies was finalised in February and the one involving KBM Infond slated for closing later this year.
Investors on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange have responded to the record results, with the Sava Re share adding 2.35% to EUR 17.40 around noon.
The dividend proposal from the management and supervisory boards will be known in April, when the AGM will be called.
Jazbec said that "dividends will certainly not be lower than last year," when Sava Re paid out a total of EUR 12.4m in dividends to its shareholders, or 80 cents per share.
Regarding the plans for 2019, Jazbec reiterated that net profit was expected to increase by another 10%, while collected premiums were planned to exceed EUR 555m.
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STA, 8 March 2019 - Zoran Poznič, a 59-year-old cultural manager and new media curator, was appointed as Slovenia's new culture minister by the National Assembly on Friday by 47 votes in favour and 19 against.
Poznič has been heading Delavski Dom Trbovlje, a progressive cultural centre in the mining town of Trbovlje, for almost a decade.
He joined the junior coalition Social Democrats (SD) after offering himself as a candidate to the party, and now succeeds Dejan Prešiček, who was forced out of office in January amid bullying allegations.
In his hearing before the parliamentary Culture Committee, Poznič said one of his priorities would be to have a national culture programme for the period between 2020 and 2026 adopted this year.
He also pledged to seek to tackle the status of the self-employed and NGOs in the culture sector, and see to digitalisation of cultural heritage, among other things.
He expects that the culture euro law could become operational by the summer, considering that the draft proposal is all but ready.
Poznič also called for new media legislation, for curbing hate speech in the media, and opening up the room for new media that would support quality criticism in culture and investigative reporting.
Prime Minister Šarec said during today's debate that he expected a lot from Poznič and expressed the hope that stakeholders in culture would give him an opportunity to prove himself.
"Unlike many, I personally perceive the culture department as equal to others, as a field which must not lag behind in its ambitiousness," the prime minister added.
Šarec expects solutions from the new minister, pointing to the culture euro law, a new media law and a new national programme for culture.
"To put it short, I expect a new momentum and proposals for how to make the necessary breakthrough," Šarec said, adding that he expected the relationships at the ministry under the new boss to be appropriate.
Šarec hopes that the employees at the ministry had given the entire situation a thought and that they would "prefer work to complaining and replace the stories about the undermined trust with diligence."
While the coalition MPs endorsed Poznič, the opposition Democrats (SDS) had announced they would vote against, and the opposition Left, New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS) said they would not oppose Poznič.
Alenka Jeraj (SDS) took issue with Poznič offering himself as a candidate, saying that one would expect from a serious party like the SD to find an appropriate candidate within its own ranks.
Violeta Tomić of the Left said that culture in Trbovlje had entered a new era with Poznič, whom she labelled a good manager and a person who has a feel for workers' rights.
Ljudmila Novak (NSi) noted that Poznič would be facing problems not becoming the the Culture Ministry, as he first had to improve the damaged personal relationships in the institution.
Zmago Jelinčič (SNS) said that the candidate had said nothing about the protection of the Slovenian language and Slovenian cultural heritage.
Growing up in a mining family, Poznič graduated in sculpture from the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts in 2007, obtaining a master's degree in video and new media two years later.
He was appointed director of DDT, a worker's home-turned cultural centre, in 2008, setting out a new vision of the town under the slogan Trbovlje New Media Town.
The project brings together creative potential of people in the local and broader communities, combining with global trends in new media. Its central feature is the new media culture festival Speculum Artium.
STA, 8 March 2019 - A report released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Friday places Slovenia eighth in terms of gender equality among 120 countries. Standing out as the biggest issue for Slovenia is the level of discrimination in the family.
The OECD's SIGI index (Social Institutions and Gender Index) is a cross-country measure of gender-based discrimination in society, with the index value 100% meaning the highest measurable level of discrimination.
The index for Slovenia was 12.9% this year, which put Slovenia in the "very low" discrimination category.
When looking at specific indicators of discrimination, Slovenia fared the poorest in the prevention of discrimination in the family (SIGI value of 21.8%).
Regarding restricted physical integrity, Slovenia received the index of 7.1%. In terms of restricted access to productive and financial resources, the country's index was 9%, and in the category of restricted civil liberties, the value was 13.2%.
Slovenia ranks behind Austria, Belgium, Portugal, France, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland. The latter ranked the highest with the index of 8.1%, while Yemen ranked the lowest with a discrimination level of 64%.
60 countries could not be ranked due to insufficient data. In general, gender inequality is lowest in Europe and highest in Africa.
The fourth edition of the ranking suggests that besides legal measures, cultural, social, and religious norms need to be taken into consideration to eliminate discrimination.
According to the OECD, the current level of discrimination deprives the global economy of USD 6,000bn, which amounts to 7.5% of global GDP.
Since the previous study in 2014, 15 countries have criminalised domestic violence, the same number have made marriage under the age of 18 illegal. Eight countries have implemented legal measures to ensure a gender-balanced representation among elected state officials.
Paid maternity leave is ensured everywhere, apart from Papua New Guinea and the US.