19 Aug 2019, 19:40 PM

STA, 19 August - Lynda Blanchard, the new US ambassador to Slovenia, said she was looking forward to working with the Slovenian government to make the US and Slovenia stronger partners, as she arrived in Slovenia with her family on Monday.

Blanchard, an entrepreneur and humanitarian activist, came to Slovenia more than a year after she was nominated by US President Donald Trump, since her appointment was held up by procedural obstacles related to the election of the new US Congress.

She is succeeding Brent Hartley, a career diplomat who served in Ljubljana between February 2015 and July 2018.

Speaking to the press at Ljubljana airport today, she said she was "excited to be here on the sunny side of the Alps" and she looked forward to "engaging with everyone and our partnerships".

Noting that she met First Lady Melania Trump on Saturday, the new ambassador said the first lady, who is Slovenian, wished her well.

"I look forward to working with her and the government of Slovenia and thus make us as parters stronger," said Blanchard, who is expected to present her credentials to President Borut Pahor on 29 August.

Blanchard believes she will get by easily as ambassador, having worked on the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for six years, and in 15 different countries with their governments. "I'm familiar with working with governments," she replied to a reporter's question about her not being a career diplomat.

Her nomination was endorsed in mid-July in a 54:40 vote, with Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator of Slovenian descent from Minnesota, voting against.

In her hearing on the Senate committee on foreign relations last August, she described Slovenia as "a reliable US partner" and "a regional leader in implementing democratic reforms" in the Balkans.

She pledged to encourage privatisation, noting that 50% of the Slovenian economy was "under state ownership or control", which entailed "opportunities for increased private investment".

The nominee also argued that US-Slovenian relations needed to continue to improve "through direct outreach and engagement with Slovenian people".

19 Aug 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 18 August - Nearly two thirds of Slovenians believe that the government is doing a good job, suggests the August Vox Populi, while the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) remains at the top of party rankings.

Commissioned by public broadcaster TV Slovenija and the newspaper Dnevnik on a monthly basis, the survey shows that 59.2% of the 700 people who were surveyed believe the government is doing a good job. The figure is 1.3 percentage points lower than in July.

On the other hand, 35.2% believe the opposite, with the share up three percentage points compared to previous month. Nonetheless, the LMŠ remains at the top of the party rankings with a support of 22.2% of respondents. The opposition Democrats (SDS) are in second place with 15.5%.

The Social Democrats (SD) are third with 10%, followed by the Left with 6.2%. The rest of the parties all remain under the 4% threshold of the National Assembly.

Despite the high support for the LMŠ and the government, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has been dethroned in the politicians' popularity ranking by President Borut Pahor. MEP Tanja Fajon is in place three, followed by MEP Ljudmila Novak.

The survey also asked respondents about what they believe would be the best measures by the EU to help countries cope with the migration crisis. 67.7% said the EU should help source countries address problems that force people to leave.

Just over 36% believe that the EU should provide incentives to countries that would hold migrants back from the bloc, in Turkey, the Western Balkans and North Africa.

Another 33.1% believe the EU should beef up the control of its external borders and 17.7% believe that migrants should be given the option to request a work permit before even setting foot in the EU.

Nearly 14% believe that the EU should increase control on its internal borders, while 8.7% said that they should be able to request asylum in the EU before arriving here.

Assessing the work of the police, 41.8% said the force was doing a good job, 44.8% said the police were partly successful and 8.4% said they were doing a poor job.

Nearly half of the respondent (49.6%) believe that incentives to establish ad hoc militias to protect the border were unwarranted and 44.2% believe the opposite.

All our stories on Slovenian politics are here

18 Aug 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 18 August 2019 - Ivan Oman, one of the key players of Slovenia's independence has died aged 89. In the late 1980s he played an important role in the establishment of DEMOS, a coalition of newly-emerged centre-right parties that won the first multi-party election in Slovenia and paved the way for its breakaway from the former Yugoslavia.

The news was announced on Sunday by the People's Party (SLS), whose predecessor, the Slovenian Farmers' Association (SKZ), Oman co-founded in the late 1980s and also served as its first president.

In 1990, he became a member of the Slovenian presidency and in 1992 he became an MP in the first National Assembly of independent Slovenia.

The father of seven was born on 10 September 1929. Himself a farmer, Oman was a "great fighter for the rights of farmers and a charismatic leader. May his soul rest with God," the SLS said in a press release.

He was a part of all the key events that led to Slovenia's independence. In November 1989, he hosted at his home in the village of Zminec, southwest of Škofja Loka, the meeting that resulted in the establishment of Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS).

He became the vice-president of DEMOS and, when in January 1990 the parties presented their manifesto, he said "We're running to win!" a bold statement many Slovenians still remember vividly nearly three decades later.

After DEMOS did indeed win the election, Oman became a member of the presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia alongside Ciril Zlobec, Matjaž Kmecl, Dušan Plut and Milan Kučan.

In the mean time, the Farmers' Association was renamed Slovenian People's Party (SLS) and Oman handed its leadership to his son-in-law Marjan Podobnik in 1992.

Oman wanted to see the party merge with the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD), but this had not happened. He then swapped parties, and was elected a member of parliament in 1992 on SKD's slate.

He retired from active politics after the end of his term but has remained an important presence in Slovenia's politics.

In 1996, he was honoured with the Golden Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia for his exceptional contribution to Slovenia's independence.

Top officials express condolences following Oman's death

STA, 18 August 2019 - Top state officials have expressed their condolences after the death of Ivan Oman, one of the key people in Slovenia's fight for independence. President Borut Pahor said Oman was one of the fathers of the Slovenian state, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenians would always remain grateful to him. Oman died on Saturday, aged 89.

"The entire Slovenian world mourns today. Ivan Oman was one of the key personas of Slovenia's political spring and independence, one of the fathers of our country," the president tweeted, describing Oman as a wise and determined leader with an open and gentle heart.

Šarec described Oman as a great patriot. "We will always remember him and always be grateful to him," the prime minister tweeted. Similarly, parliament Speaker Dejan Židan said that Slovenia had lost a wise man.

Židan's party, the Social Democrats (SD), whose predecessor was one of the main rivals of Oman's Farmers' Association, now the People's Party, said that Oman's efforts for an independent state and his unifying actions will for ever remain a part of Slovenia's history.

Gratitude to Oman was also expressed by the Democratic Party (SDS), the successor of one of the parties that formed the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS), which won the first multi-party election, paving the way to Slovenia's independence in the early 1990s.

The party said on its website that Oman "fought for the liberation from under the Communist regime with a strong will and courageous words".

When he became a member of presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in 1990, Oman was the only presidency member who supported the establishment of the Slovenian military and refused to sign the 1991 Declaration for Peace, an initiative for constitutional changes aiming at stopping progressive armament in Slovenia, as well as Yugoslavia.

"When Milan Kučan and other members of the presidency were disarming our country, he bravely addressed the members of the Territorial Defence after military exercise Premiki91: Greeted, soldiers of the Slovenian military," the SDS said, referring to the then presidency president, who went on to become the first president of independent Slovenia.

This role by Oman was also underlined by SDS president Janey Janša, another major player in Slovenia's independence.

Kučan on the other hand also gave a statement for the STA, praising Oman for being a man of dialogue, who contributed that the presidency had made unanimous decisions that were of vital importance for successful establishment of an independent state. "I am proud of the time I worked with him."

"Oman was a wise man and a sober politician. He put the interest of the Slovenian nation and state at the forefront of his actions as a politician. He was also capable of putting party interests second," Kučan said.

Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore tweeted that Oman was a "loving father, a vigilant protector of his family, an upstanding Christian, a consistent patriot and a wise politician... And always a farmer who constantly thinks about ways to further his estate."

Expressions of condolence also came from National Council President Alojz Kovšca and the president of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) Foreign Minister Miro Cerar.

Moreover, New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin tweeted that Oman "was an exceptional man. When it was time to act, he did not hesitate. When time called for clear thoughts, he knew no fear. He carried the homeland in his heart and the homeland will always be grateful."

17 Aug 2019, 10:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 16 August

Mladina: Slovenia missed opportunity to thrive on elderly care

STA, 16 August 2019 - The latest editorial in the left-wing magazine Mladina blames politicians for Slovenia missing the chance to make elderly care a business opportunity as a result of which the system is falling apart, while the initiative is being taken by foreign multinationals.

In a piece headlined Old Age is Business, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž recalls how a decade ago Mladina proposed Slovenia take up the business called old age, turning care for a quality life of an ageing population into a whole new industry.

"That we should have started building adjusted housing developments, created a supply and care sector, developed specialised hospital services and healthcare centres. This way we would have created a whole new business and job sector, which unlike tourism lasts throughout the year and not just a few summer months."

Repovž argues that even less qualified workers could find jobs in such a sector, which would create high value added and provide a boost to the architecture and construction business as the country could become a specialist in construction for the elderly, a sizeable, active and financially strong population, especially in places like Germany or Austria.

He says that Slovenia has plenty of lovely spots where residential estates for senior citizens could be built, giving an impetus to the services industry catering for a "very agile population, incredibly inquisitive and brave".

Instead, Slovenia is a country in which 25,000 people are waiting for a room in a pension home, while nurses and carers are leaving for better paid jobs abroad, poor pensioners are leaving for pension homes in Croatia and foreign multinationals are building pension homes in Slovenia.

"This is because our politicians are ignorant, tending their own little garden patch and incapable of a single ambitious act outside their safe zone of the existing (...)

"Slovenia has done nothing in the field for more than 20 years. The last pension home was erected by the state 15 years ago, which piece of information is horrifying, but telling."

Demokracija: Worried about social surveillance

STA, 14 August 2019 - Governments in Western democracies, including Slovenia's government and NGOs, would be happy to legislate the ghastly Chinese system of social surveillance termed Social Credit System, the right-wing magazine Demokracija argues in its latest commentary.

It says totalitarianisms have always wanted to have total control of their citizens' lives, which was technically impossible until the end of the 20th century.

But this has changed with the dawn of artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras and social networks, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Wednesday.

"Although the situation in Europe is not as bad as in China yet, there are signs that citizens are being pigeonholed to bad and good ones."

The Slovenian government rewards, that is pays with taxpayer money, those NGOs which spy on co-citizens and report on them, says the weekly.

It notes the Faculty of Social Sciences is already tasked with reporting on people on social media, and recalls that those taking part in the ZLOvenija portal during the 2015 migration crisis were labelled racists, Nazis and xenophobes.

Biščak also takes issue with the recent broad interpretation of hate speech by Supreme Court judges, saying it is worrying, whereas the left welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

"What is missing is a public government system which will record heretic deviations of free-thinking individuals and undermine the bad ones in everyday life.

"The Chinese reality is not far from Slovenia any more, with a public and government-approved black list of disobedient and too freedom-loving people as state enemies already knocking on the door."

If such surveilance is put in place, "there will be no place to hide, even the panic room will be under surveillance", Biščak says under the headline Panic Room, wondering whether "we will let this happen".

Other articles in this series can be found here

16 Aug 2019, 16:43 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.

FRIDAY, 9 August
        LJUBLJANA - National councillor Branko Tomažič filed criminal complainants against Environment Minister Simon Zajc and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, arguing their inaction in the face of bear and wolf attacks on farm animals. Action was also urged by Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina. Šarec's office denied the charge, saying the government was actively engaged in tackling the issue.
        LJUBLJANA - Fresh statistics showed Slovenia's merchandise trade with the rest of the world growing apace in the first half of the year. Exports increased by 9.2% year-on-year to EUR 16.83 billion as imports rose by 11.2% to EUR 16.78 billion, creating a surplus of EUR 48 million. Meanwhile, the country's industrial output expanded by 3.7% y/y, the slowest pace in six years.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that retailer Mercator had initiated the sale of 13 shopping centres, one in Slovenia and twelve in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia as part of its strategy to reduce debt, which stood at roughly EUR 667 million at the end of March.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian version of the #MeToo campaign presented findings after collecting more than 150 anonymous testimonies from victims of sexual assault or harassment since March 2018. These as a rule knew the perpetrator and most were abused as minors. When speaking out about the abuse, the victims were usually met with silence.

SATURDAY, 10 August
        VELIKE LAŠČE - Several hundred farmers gathered in protest at a lack of action in the face of ever more frequent wolf attacks on farm animals. They demanded a significant decrease in the country's wolf population, which they want restricted to fenced-in reserves in state-owned forests. The rally, staged by the Farmers' Trade Union, also urged Environment Minister Simon Zajc to resign, a demand that Zajc turned down as unwarranted. The protest coincided with a new incident in which wolves killed ten sheep in the Kobarid area in the west.

SUNDAY, 11 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad has drawn up a proposal to repatriate persons of Slovenian descent from Venezuela, which is expected to be debated by the government after summer recess. There are an estimated 1,000 people of Slovenian descent in Venezuela, 47 have made requests for repatriation after the latest crisis in the country.
        ODRANCI - The Swiss industrial company Limec Solution opened a plant in Odranci in north-eastern Slovenia, which is expected to employ between 150 and 200 people in three to five years. The operation, Limec CNC will produce 90% of the products which are now made in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

MONDAY, 12 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's youth organisations took the opportunity of International Youth Day to highlight housing as the key problem faced by young people. They criticised a lack of action on the part of the government, saying the flawed housing policy, coupled with precarious and low-paying jobs, made it hard for them to become independent. The young continue to face problems accessing the labour market, which is why the youth trade union Mladi Plus urged improving the apprenticeship and mentorship systems.
        LJUBLJANA - A poll run by the newspaper Delo showed Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ party extending its lead ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS) after gaining 2.2 percentage points from the month before to 16.8%, as the SDS stayed almost level at 14.2%. The coalition SocDems lost 0.6 points to 7.2%, whereas the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) gained 1.4 points to 6.7% to come ahead of the Left (6.5%).
        LJUBLJANA - More than 60 real estate agencies asked the Constitutional Court to review legislative amendments that limit commission fees for rentals and other costs charged by real estate agencies on their clients. They argue the provisions encroache on the right to free enterprise and the right to property, thus contravening the European Convention on Human Rights as well as EU law.
TUESDAY, 13 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry confirmed Croatian media reports about Minister Miro Cerar having held an informal meeting with Croatia's new Foreign Minister Goran Grlić Radman while on holiday in Croatia. The ministry said the pair would hold their first official meeting on the sidelines of the EU foreign affairs ministerial in Helsinki on 29 and 30 August.
        LJUBLJANA/AJDOVŠČINA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc announced changes to provisions governing emergency culling of wolves to facilitate action in the wake of a spate of wolf attacks on farm animals and criticism by farmers that the emergency law to cull bears and wolves was not producing results. On the same day a she-bear with a cub attacked a hunter in the woods in the south-west in what was a second bear attack on people this year. The hunter sustained light injuries.
        LJUBLJANA - The University of Ljubljana and URI Soča Rehabilitation Institute signed agreements with Japan's Fujita Health University and Toyota Motor Corporation to cooperate on development of robotised devices to be used in rehabilitation of patients after stroke or injuries.
        HRASTOVLJE - Nearly two months after almost 11,000 litres of kerosene leaked from a derailed cargo train near the village of Hrastovlje in the south-west, repair works were completed as one of the country's busiest routes re-opened after being shut for four days to replace 150 metres of tracks. In total, the repair works cost EUR 1.5 million, on top of a loss of more than EUR 1 million to the national railway company for each day the track was fully closed.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) mounted their fifth attempt at getting parliament to put public funding of private primary schools on a par with that of public schools, submitting a bill to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling ordering full funding of private primaries teaching state-approved curricula. These currently get 85% of their funds from the government.
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the central bank showed incoming foreign direct investment in Slovenia more than doubled in the first half of 2019 to EUR 614.4 million.
        TRONDHEIM, Norway - Slovenia's football champions Maribor failed to advance to the last round of qualifications for the UEFA Champions League after losing to Norway's Rosenborg 2:6 on aggregate. Maribor played in the Champions League in 1999/2000, 2014/15 and 2017/2018.

WEDNESDAY, 14 August
        LJUBLJANA - The potential for economic cooperation ranked prominently as Taro Kono visited Slovenia as the first Japanese foreign minister for talks with his counterpart Miro Cerar and President Borut Pahor. Cerar and Kono also called for respect for the rule of law and arbitration decisions, including with regard to the Adriatic and the South China Sea. The pair also visited the Yaskawa robot factory in Kočevje.
        LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Damir Topolko as director of the Infrastructure Agency in the wake of a scandal over the 2017 botched tender for a scale model of a new rail track planned between Koper and Divača. Monika Pintar Mesarič, a Finance Ministry employee, was named as acting director as of 1 September.
        LJUBLJANA - More than 25 years after the National Assembly passed legislation that ordered the establishment of provinces and after several failed attempts, a task force established in May 2019 presented a draft bill to divide Slovenia into 11 provinces centred around major cities.
        RIMSKE TOPLICE - The engine of an international freight train and one of the rail cars derailed at the Rimske Toplice train station in a second such incident in just over a week. The railway line between Zidani Most and Celje, a major link for international passenger and cargo traffic, reopened the next day. It remains unclear what caused the derailment.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia generated EUR 1.16 billion in revenue from incoming tourism in the first half of the year, an increase of 4.8% compared to the same period a year ago, data from the central bank showed. In June alone, receipts from incoming tourism rose by 9.3% year-on-year to EUR 243 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The value of construction works in Slovenia rose by 14.4% in the first six months of 2019 year-on-year, show data released by the Statistics Office.

THURSDAY, 15 August
        BREZJE - Thousands of Catholic pilgrims gathered at religious shrines devoted to the Virgin Mary across Slovenia to celebrate her assumption into heaven. The largest crowd converged outside the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians at Brezje for mass celebrated by Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore.
        TOKYO, Hachioji - Slovenia swept the women's lead discipline event at the IFSC Climbing World Championships with Janja Garnbret taking another gold and Mia Krampl silver. This is the second gold medal for Garnbret at the championships after she defended the title of bouldering world champion on 13 August, and her fifth world championship gold medal overall.

16 Aug 2019, 18:30 PM

STA, 16 August 2019 - July saw the highest number of illegal crossings of the state border in a month since the 2016 migration wave - more than 1,700. During the first seven months of this year the upward trend in such crossings was steeper than last year, according to police.

In July a total of 1,740 illegal crossings were detected, while the police recorded 7,415 in the first seven months, mostly apprehending illegal migrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan.

Related: Foreign Nationals in Slovenia, by Country, Region & Continent

Below you will find the charts with the numbers of illegal border crossings, including the year, citizenship, period, police department and the number of persons handed over to Slovenia from foreign authorities or vice versa.

The charts also feature the number of international protection requests as well as the number of approved requests and the number of asylum seekers by their accommodation so far.

Number of illegal border crossings in the first half of the year by year

year   number of crossings
2010        339
2011        419
2012        399
2013        660
2014        384
2015        181
2016        273
2017        754
2018       3635
2019*      5568

*up to 31 July

Source: Police

Number of illegal border crossings in the first seven months of 2018 and 2019 by citizenship

citizenship     number of crossings
                  2018        2019
Pakistan          1446        1705
Algeria            643        1153
Afghanistan        482         811
Morocco            250         592
Turkey             106         371
Bangladesh          22         521
Iraq               228         364
Iran               271         368
Syria              432         318
Tunisia             60         141
other              819        1071
total             4759        7415

Source: Police

Number of processed illegal border crossings in the first seven months of 2018 and 2019 by police department

department           number of crossings
                      2018        2019
Koper                 2032        2807
Novo Mesto            1978        1918
Ljubljana              225        1556
Maribor                355         676
Celje                   52         134
Murska Sobota           98         176
other                   18         148

Source: Police

Number of illegal border crossings and international protection requests in 2018 and in the first seven months of 2019 by month

         number of crossings    number of requests
month         2018     2019        2018     2019
January         246     319         172      205
February        210     328         223      216
March           207    1079         129      356
April           644    1381         274      334
May            1286    1298         365      404
June           1040    1270         267      287
July           1114    1740         287      387
August         1152                 381
September       999                 256
October        1270                 201
November        717                 170
December        357                 150
total 1-6      3633    7415         1430     2189

Source: Interior Ministry, Police

Number of persons returned to the Slovenian authorities and to foreign authorities in the first seven months of 2018 and 2019

            returned to Slovenian	 returned to foreign
         authorities      	    authorities

country        2018     2019            2018     2019

Italy          193     184               39       55
Austria         15      53                8        8
Croatia          6      15             1715     4827
Hungary         12       1                2        0
airports        94     163               20       18
total          320     416             1784     4908

Source: Police

Number of international protection requests in 2018 and in the first half of 2019 as well as their status

status                                  number
                                     2018     2019
total number of requests             2875     1802
requests to repeat the procedure       40       13
repeated procedures                    27       30
closed cases                         2886     1762
approved status                       102       40
rejected applications                 135       54
halting of procedure                 2372     1535
discarded applications                277      133
resettlement                           40        0
relocation                             21        0

Source: Interior Ministry

Number of asylum seekers and persons with international protection and their accommodation up to today

Asylum seekers

accommodation                            number

Asylum Centre                            182
Kotnikova Street, Ljubljana               79
Logatec                                   23
dispersed                                 33
other                                     29
total                                    346

Persons with international protection

accommodation                            number
Ljubljana Integration House                 0
Maribor Integration House                  25
Government-approved flats                  18
Asylum Centre                               1
Kotnikova Street, Ljubljana                 1
Logatec                                     0
Student homes                              14
Private accommodation                     506
abroad                                    115
total                                     680

Source: The Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants
16 Aug 2019, 16:10 PM

STA, 16 August 2019 - Amid escalating tensions over action in response to a growing number of wolf attacks on farm animals in Slovenia, 13,462 people have signed a petition urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves.

The petition, initiated by the animal rights group AniMa, was handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc on Friday to "have the voice of reason heard when it comes to man's coexistence with bears and wolves".

The initiator of the petition, Andreja Galinec, reported with disappointment after the meeting that "we failed to prevent the culling".

"The answer we received was that the culling will not be halted," Nevenka Lukić Rojšek of AniMa said.

According to the ministry, Minster Zajc stressed at the meeting the the emergency act on culling was "addressing the burning issue of bear and wolf overpopulation and was needed at this moment to get the numbers back to a level that is also favourable for the local human population".

Zajc also announced he would inquire with his ministerial colleagues in the EU if there was a chance of one of the European countries accepting Slovenian bears and wolves.

He added the issue of overpopulation and management of bear and wolf populations needed to be removed from the realm of politics and returned to experts as soon as possible.

The group had proposed that the government immediately issue a moratorium on the emergency act regulating the culling and form a task force to analyse the state of affairs and find solutions that would not be dictated by political pressure.

Urging long-term measures to preserve wildlife and protect farm animals, the group says that Slovenia needs to preserve its population of wild animals as a key to preserve the balance of nature.

"Hunters have been interfering too much in this balance, and the price is now being paid by farmers, who a while ago demanded the culling of deer because of the damage to their crops," they say.

Arguing that there are also those among "the 22,000 armed people considered hunters" who use hunting as "a profitable business and cruel entertainment at the expense of animals", they believe that hunting for deer should be restricted and much better controlled, while subsidies for farm animal production in wolf and bear habitats should be made conditional on preventive measures.

"We urge the government not to be held hostage by a small interest group that demands violent solutions now, without considering long-term consequences. Slovenia is us too who disagree with the culling of bears and wolves, and there are many of us," the petitioners say.

The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has more than doubled this year over the same period in 2018, after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.

Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July, but the number has increased since as new attacks are reported almost on a daily basis.

To tackle the situation, parliament passed a law in June ordering an emergency culling, but while hunters have killed 75 bears, the complex rules have prevented them from culling any wolves yet.

Following a protest by farmers on Saturday, changes have been agreed to facilitate the culling.

There are an estimated 1,000 bears and 80 wolves in the country. Most of the wolves live in 14 packs, while some live alone.

While there have been two attacks by bears on humans so far this year, Miha Krofel of the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty has told the STA that there is no confirmed case of a wolf hurting a human in Slovenia on record.

All our stories on bears are here, those on wolves are here

16 Aug 2019, 11:11 AM

STA, 15 August 2019 - Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) secretary-general Peter Grk has told the STA that the stage is set at the lakeside resort for a new round of discussions on key topics, the focus this year being on sustainable development and climate change. Topping the list of high-profile guests are the Estonian president and the future head of the EU's diplomacy.

The central part of what is already the 14th iteration of Slovenia's top foreign policy event will be held on 2 and 3 September under the title (Re)Sources of (In)Stability.

Grk said that the ambition each year was to feature discussions as well as guests that could "capture the most important challenges and problems faced by the global community".

"Climate change is one of the biggest challenges for humanity in the coming years and decades. This is not a problem that will arise tomorrow. It is a challenge we are already facing today," he said.

The Bled meeting will aspire to go beyond only talking about climate change and also "try to look at how we need to change as a community in terms of sustainable development if the current level of development as well as norms and human rights are to be preserved".

"Its a fact that we live longer and better quality lives than in the past. But this comes at a price and the price is climate change," he said, also speaking of a crisis of the resources used so far - these are either harmful to the environment or running out.

"Also key is the question how to go about sustainable development to prevent it from deepening social differences and aggravating tensions. Sustainable development should become a responsibility for everybody, meaning that its benefits will be felt by everybody."

"We will examine this aspect from various viewpoints at BSF. We'll explore the responsibility of corporations, of government, as well as individuals, look at concepts, mechanisms and instruments that each factor in society needs to use for sustainable development to catch on or become integral. This will not happen unless we see an opportunity as opposed to danger in sustainable development," Grk said.

He noted that the BSF, traditionally held in early September, was a kind of prelude to the political autumn, both in Europe and wider.

"In this sense we will look at the situation in the EU, its future after the formation of the new European Commission. Given that we're marking the 70th anniversary of NATO, we'll examine the future challenges for transatlantic ties. A special panel will be dedicated to the issue of migration, which is also assuming a very important role in the context of sustainable development.

"As has become tradition, we'll also have a panel on the Western Balkans, which are facing particular challenges - the odds of EU enlargement should become fairly clear in the coming months. This is also important for Slovenia in the context of our presidency over the EU in 2021," Grk added.

Meanwhile, the business segment of the Bled forum will see a continuation, in cooperation with partners, of discussions on AI. A new aspect will be discussions on the introduction of new technologies, especially green technologies or the circular economy.

"This is one of the topics that gets a lot of lip service but then little gets done. And here we see a chance to raise this concept to a higher level and strengthen awarenesses about its importance in the context of sustainable development or the fight against climate change."

The Bleed meeting will again feature a number of exciting guests, with Grk even announcing "a few surprises". "The strategic forum will be held at a very important time, both for Europe and wider, so we expect it to be one of the more resounding forums in recent years," he said.

The list of the high-ranking foreign guests includes Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, as well at least ten foreign ministers, among them Spain's Josep Borrell, who is assuming the post of the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Also, Finish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto will attend on behalf of the country presiding over the Council of the EU, while Julian King from Great Britain as Commissioner for Security Union will be representing the outgoing team of the European Commission.

Other high-profile guests who have confirmed attendance include Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčak, who is serving as OSCE chairperson-in-office, and the current President of the UN General Assembly Fernanda Espinosa.

"This way we will have the entire multilateral global framework covered in Bled this year," Grk pointed out, while moreover highlighting the attendance of economist Jeffrey Sachs, coffee mogul Andrea Illy, Boston Consulting group head Martin Reeves, former Italian PM Enrico Letta and former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

Grk praised cooperation with various partners, saying it was deepened and strengthened each year. "This comes to show that the strategic forum has evolved into an interesting and successful story and that we're trying to move certain things not only regionally but also in the European and perhaps global context".

He is convinced that the 14th iteration will provide findings that "Slovenian and European politics will be able to use in their future activities".

"The 15th anniversary is coming next year. This is already a number that shows we're slowly maturing as a forum. This is reflected both in the response of the international public as well as the guests, panellists, who confirm their participation fairly quickly each year or propose coming on their own," added the official.

There are no plans to grow the forum further. "We again expect around 1,000 to 1,200 participants from 60 to 80 countries," he said, while announcing the number of panel discussions would also not be increased.

"We are consciously not increasing these numbers, since we've come close to what is possible in terms of infrastructure at the event as well as in terms of logistical and technical demands in Bled. And in general, the ambition of the conference is not to become the biggest, but to have more quality," Grk said about the event, which is organised jointly by the Foreign Ministry and the Centre for European Perspective.

The format will also not change, with "the business segment remaining part of the BSF, just like the forum for the young which has become key for the partnership with the young and the promotion of their voice at the BSF". "I believe it is crucial that the young speak their mind on the challenges we face in the future," Grk said.

The budget for the conference also remains comparable to that in previous years, meaning around EUR 250,000. Most of the funding comes from partners and sponsors, Grk explained.

13 Aug 2019, 11:40 AM

STA, 11 August 2019 - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad (Urad Vlade Republike Slovenije za Slovence v zamejstvu in po svetu) has drawn up a proposal to repatriate persons of Slovenian descent from Venezuela, following calls, including in parliament, for a government decree to this effect. The government is expected to discuss it soon after the summer recess.

A key condition for the start of repatriation proceedings is Slovenia designating the situation a grave economic and political crisis. This has already been done several times before by the Foreign Ministry, and calls have been mounting in Slovenia to help Slovenians living there.

Interior Ministry data puts the number of Slovenian citizens living in Venezuela at 335, while the total number of people of Slovenian descent there is estimated at 1,000.

Slovenian authorities have received 47 requests for repatriation after the start of the last crisis in the country.

The Office for Slovenians Abroad has told the STA that repatriation was a complex procedure and that Slovenia had very limited experience in the field. The only repatriation executed so far was for a family from Syria in 2013 due to the civil war there.

Under the law, individuals of Slovenian descent are eligible for repatriation, but in the case of the repatriation from Syria entry was also granted to the non-Slovenian family members on the basis of asylum rules on family reunification.

"Such a solution also seems to make the most sense when it comes to repatriation from Venezuela," representatives of the Office for Slovenians Abroad said.

Repatriation status can be used by individuals for a maximum of 15 months. In this period they have the right to free healthcare, Slovenian language lessons for family members, a work licence, enrolment in higher education institutions under favourable conditions, as well as to favourable treatment when applying for a job compared to third-country citizens.

To accommodate repatriated individuals, the government can set up an immigration home where basic provisions are secured, including financial aid for those below the minimum income threshold.

The 15-month status cannot be extended, meaning the repatriated individual needs to secure a different status as the basis for continued residence in Slovenia, for instance Slovenian citizenship, the status of a Slovenian without Slovenian citizenship, or an appropriate status of a foreign citizens with a residence permit.

Repatriated individuals can also return to Venezuela, this, however, needs to be organised by them independently and at their own cost.

There have also been warnings about the repatriation approach, with the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, Andrej Šter, recently noting in a interview that countries which have larger numbers of their citizens in Venezuela have been approaching the situation differently.

"The joint foreign service of the EU and some other countries told us that it is not advisable to start with repatriation and that it makes more sense to opt for evacuation from difficult circumstances.

"This means helping people to live with fewer problems while not luring them into selling everything and leaving without a chance of return," Šter told Dnevnik's Saturday supplement Objektiv.

He added that these people were mostly part of the middle and upper-middle class in Venezuela and would not be happy hearing upon arriving in Slovenia that they would be accommodated by the state in a dilapidated army apartment or barracks.

The Office for Slovenians Abroad commented on this by saying that efforts were also under way to help such people directly where they lived - humanitarian aid has for instance been secured for them several times through two Slovenian associations active in Venezuela.

It moreover warned that "it is of course not be expected" that all persons of Slovenian descent living in Venezuela would want to be repatriated.

The first cases of Slovenian immigrants in Venezuela date back to the period between the two world wars, but a bigger wave was recorded after WWII. A number of Slovenians, mostly from the western region of Primorska, made their way to Venezuela until the end of the 1950s. An estimated 550 to 800 Slovenians emigrated to Venezuela by 1960, the Foreign Ministry data shows.

According to the ministry, the emigration was triggered by the economic and partly political situation in the homeland at the time, as well by the desire for adventure and by existing ties to Slovenians already in Venezuela. The situation is reversed today.

11 Aug 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 10 August 2019 - Slovenia is in for a hectic autumn as PM Marjan Šarec intends to peg the vote on the crucial 2020-2021 budget bills to a confidence vote, with the opposition Left saying it could withhold support for his minority government. But analysts see no reason for a no-confidence vote, which would trigger an early election that practically no party wants.

The Left, which the opposition considers a radical leftist party, has accused the government of "rightist policies", urging it to drop them if it wants to continue counting on its support.

But it is particularly unhappy with the slow fulfilment of commitments the cabinet made in an agreement with it featuring 13 projects the Left wants implemented.

By tying the budget and confidence votes, Šarec would test the coalition's trust and the support of the Left, which has had only one of the planned projects realised.

Without the Left, the government does not have an absolute majority in parliament, which is needed if legislation is vetoed by the upper chamber and put to a re-vote in the lower chamber.

If the Left indeed withdraws support, Šarec could potentially seek new alliances with the National Party (SNS), which voted for the revised 2019 budget, or with New Slovenia (NSi).

The conservative NSi has recently said it would be willing to work closer with the government on a project-to-project basis, an option also seen as viable by analysts.

Andraž Zorko from pollster Valicon believes the confidence vote resulting in no-confidence is highly unlikely, doubting Šarec would dare to propose it if there were any signs he could lose the vote.

"There is no reason for anyone to vote for the government's dismissal because there are only two scenarios after it: an alternative, centre-right government, which is rather unlikely, or an election."

Judging by opinion polls, Šarec is perhaps the only one interested in an early election, according to Zorko, whereas Alem Maksuit believes no matter how strong Šarec feels, he would not risk toppling his own government.

Zorko notes the prime minister's LMŠ party does better in opinion polls than in elections, saying "it enjoyed 26% in polls in February, but won only around 12% in the EU vote four months later".

Compared to the many parties that have emerged over the past decade in Slovenia, Zorko considers Šarec a survivor, with his "LMŠ doing everything smoothly for now".

"Šarec is a nice combination of a new politician with elements of populism adapted to the Slovenian milieu, which is more left than right, although he is faring well on both sides."

Maksuti from the Institute for Political Management says Šarec is using his polls-based legitimacy to exert pressure on his partners, "but things can change very quickly in Slovenia".

Noting an early election is in no party's interest at the moment, Maksuti believes "the only possible change is the NSi replacing the Left in cooperation with the government".

The NSi "is willing to compromise because it is aware how politics works and because it is not that radical", he says.

Zorko, on the other hand, sees the NSi's willingness to support the government "to distance itself from the Democrats (SDS) and narrow the Left's wiggle room".

Maksuti says the Left will most probably extend the period in which it expects its projects to be implemented, or terminate the pact with the government.

But he believes the Left is actually harming itself by further cooperating with the government.

Zorko does not expect the Left to change its tactics either, noting it is quite successful in navigating between the government and its electorate's (dis)satisfaction.

Another change to the political relations could come in October as the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the second strongest coalition party, changes leadership.

Miro Cerar, the SMC's leader and founder, said he would no longer stand for re-election after the party fared poorly in May's European elections.

He is expected to be replaced at a congress by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, a member of the party's executive council.

Zorko has just recently told the STA that with Počivalšek as SMC leader, many cards are open because he is in a way a new face, somewhat peculiar and strong-willed.

However, if the SMC, which lacks a clear ideological profile, positions itself slightly more to the right economically-wise, this could well win it new votes.

Maksuti has begged to differ, asserting the SMC, which was set up just before the 2014 election, which it won in a landslide, is a political corpse and Počivalšek politically illiterate.

10 Aug 2019, 10:45 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 09 August

Mladina: Socio-economic divide feeding irrationality in US, Britain

STA, 9 August 2019 - Reflecting on the reasons behind the irrational choices of voters in developed countries like the US and Britain, the latest editorial of the left-leaning weekly paper Mladina highlights the neoliberal dismantling of public healthcare and education. It also expresses serious concern about the future ramifications of aggressive individualism and hate speech.

Drawing on Willaim Davies's book Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž speaks of a coalition between an impoverished and ill-educated class and an increasing number of elderly people experiencing psychological and physical pain.

The exploitation of this anger and pain by populists with fascist tendencies and the disastrous consequences this leads to shows how important it is for societies to fight poverty and above all preserve a high level of public education and healthcare, Repovž says in the commentary entitled Consequences.

Also belonging on this essential list is the need to ruthlessly fight hate speech. While the US and Great Britain are already paying a high price, politically and socially, for the neoliberal destruction of public education and healthcare, "the long-term consequences of hate speech are not clear yet".

"We can't even begin to imagine what kind of society lies in store for us once the majority will feature generations which are growing up with a language that is hateful and brutal and which see this brutality as something entirely normal."

Repovž also speaks of an extremely ego-driven new generation growing up on social networks, "which is not a reproach, since this is truly becoming a condition for an individual's social positioning, this is the way friendships and love are made today, this how jobs and life goals are sought".

Reporter: Staffing at state-owned enterprises

STA, 5 August 2019 - The right-wing magazine Reporter writes about staffing at state-owned companies in the latest editorial under the headline Dream Job, arguing that dream jobs in Slovenia are still those at state-run enterprises.

Silvester Šurla writes that no government has been unable to resist the temptation to name its people to top positions in state-owned companies.

"The supervisory board gets replaced, then the management and new positions and jobs are given to the loyal and deserving."

As one case in point Šurla names Telekom Slovenije, which it says involves too many interests to be privatised; the company will obviously remain state-owned until the government is forced by the strained situation in the market, to sell it, as was the case with Gorenje.

He writes that the upcoming shareholders' meeting on 30 August will appoint two new supervisory board members, and the supervisory board will appoint the new CEO.

"Even though an UAE tax resident, the notorious businessman Andrej Vizjak, whom his ex-wife is accusing in the media of not paying alimony for their daughter, is very keen on becoming a new supervisor or even the chief supervisor, the proposal for his appointment has been withdrawn.

"This way the plan fell through to appoint as new Telekom boss Matej Potokar, formerly the CEO of the Slovenian subsidiary of Microsoft."

Šurla goes on to write about Petrol CEO Tomaž Berločnik's dealings and recent replacements at the Bank Assets Management Company, Slovenian Sovereign Holding and the energy group HSE, among others.

"Since the government coalition comprises as many as five parties and each one of them wants its share of the pie, this makes the staffing jigsaw puzzle quite complicated. Apart from politicians', there are also the interests of lobbies, various PR agencies such as Pristop and other influential big shots like Gregor Golobič ... There are more similar opportunists, also on the right. These are people who cannot survive in the market and depend existentially on dealings with state-owned companies."

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