17 Jan 2020, 13:52 PM

STA, 16 January 2020 - Businessman Damijan Janković, the son of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, has been fined EUR 2,000 for abetting a tax fraud scheme involving two luxury apartments that ultimately benefited his business partners at the expense of the treasury. Their company has been implicated in several criminal cases that directly involve the Ljubljana mayor.

Janković's business partners, Ivan Mikulin and Boštjan Stamejčič, received suspended sentences of 14 months and 17 months, respectively, plus fines of EUR 2,550 and EUR 6,000.

The verdict, handed down by the Ljubljana District Court on Thursday, caps a trial that started in March 2019 and focused on the sale of a luxury apartment in Ljubljana and one in Tolmin, western Slovenia.

The court found that by forging documentation, the trio committed tax fraud by declaring the properties as business premises while in fact they served as apartments; Damijan Janković lived in one of them for a while.

The sentences are milder than proposed by the prosecution, but the presiding judge, Marjeta Dvornik, said the panel of judges "may not be guided by public pressure". The prosecutor, Marjana Grašič, said she was considering appealing.

The company that ultimately reaped tax benefits from the fraudulent transactions, Baza Dante, has been implicated in several cases in which the Ljubljana mayor has been a suspect in connection with the construction of the Stožice sports complex.

The company went bankrupt in 2014 and was liquidated in 2018.

16 Jan 2020, 10:16 AM

STA, 15 January 2020 - A group of Eritrean citizens whose asylum applications have been rejected staged a protest in Ljubljana on Wednesday to point to what they believe is systematic rejection of Eritreans by state authorities, whose decisions suggest that Eritrea is a safe country while it is actually among the most repressive regimes in the world.

 The protest by the Eritrean Community of Slovenia and its supporters in front of the asylum centre in Ljubljana comes after the Interior Ministry rejected international protection applications by five Eritreans in late December.

According to the protesters, the negative decisions say that Eritrea is a safe country, which contradicts the fact that Slovenia had until recently been granting international protection to Eritrean citizens as part of the EU relocation scheme.

There must have been a turnaround, which is believed to be politically motivated, said the protesters, adding that the decisions by the Interior Ministry were "unprofessional and inconsistent".

They read a statement in which they called on the Slovenian government to review the decisions and create a policy on Eritrea which would be in line with international standards of human rights protection.

The protesters urged a faster and fair decision-making procedure, noting that Eritrea was the worst dictatorship in the world, where citizens were forced to perform military service for life, which meant slave labour without payment, or death.

Eritreans are thus considered the group who gets international protection in the EU with the greatest certainty. This was so in Slovenia until recently, and it is now the first country in the EU which follows the interpretation that Eritrea is a safe country, they added.

Slovenian asylum activist Miha Blažič told the press that the Interior Ministry had no plan for what to do with Eritreans who drop out of asylum procedure. He believes that rejections are a political decision aimed at discouraging Eritreans from asking for asylum and forcing them to leave the country.

The protesters noted that the ministry had stated that the applicants could have asked for asylum in Sudan, which they believe is not a safe country.

"The ministry asks us what will happen to us if we go back to Eritrea: we don't know, maybe they will kill us, or detain us. Eritrea has no constitution or courts, power is in the hands of the police and dictatorship. We are slaves to the regime," the statement reads.

The ministry rejected the allegations about unprofessional and politically motivated decisions, adding that all applications were treated individually and that all personal circumstances of every applicant, including Eritreans, were considered.

15 Jan 2020, 10:30 AM

STA, 14 January 2020 - The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organisation researching the Holocaust, on Tuesday criticized the recent decision by the Slovenian Supreme Court to annul the 1946 conviction of Leon Rupnik, who headed the Provisional Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana.

In a letter sent to the Slovenian ambassador in Israel, the organisation said the "notorious anti-Semite" had played "a major role in the arrest and deportation of Jews from Ljubljana in 1943 and 1944" and actively participated in Holocaust crimes.

"This shameful decision constitutes a shocking distortion of the history of the Holocaust and a horrific insult to Rupnik's many victims and their families, the centre's director of Eastern European Affairs Efraim Zuroff said.

"We kindly request that you promptly convey our protest to the pertinent Slovenian authorities so that the proper measures can be taken to undo the enormous damage wrought by this unjust decision of the Slovenian Supreme Court," he said according to a press release published on the organisation's web page.

The Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana responded to the Supreme Court's decision last week with "indignation and concern", saying that it was the "first step in the politically-motivated aspiration to rehabilitate the criminal collaborationist regime during WWII".

After annulling the Rupnik verdict, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial, but since it is impossible under Slovenian law to try a dead person - Rupnik was court-martialled and executed for treason in 1946 - the most likely outcome seems to be a termination of procedure.

You can see videos of Leon Rupnik as the main speaker at a pro-Nazi rally in the centre of Ljubljana, saluting a Nazi flag, below

More on this story can be found here

14 Jan 2020, 14:49 PM

STA, 14 January 2020 - Darko Muženič, the director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI; Nacionalnega preiskovalnega urada - NPU), does not think there are untouchables in Slovenia, but he does think that procedures are taking too long. He also told the STA in an interview that crime investigation and prosecution should adapt to globalisation and new technologies.

In the ten years since its inception, the NBI has handled 1,100 criminal offences, filing 796 criminal complaints for criminal acts that netted a total of EUR 1.048 billion in illegal proceeds.

Calling the decision to establish the bureau visionary, Muženič says that the NBI can respond nation-wide any time and any place with all resources.

The staff includes 58 fully operative investigators, but Muženič would like to staff the bureau up, mainly with operational analysts and computer forensic specialists.

The NBI is looking for experienced crime investigators with specialist expertise to keep abreast with offenders, who use advanced technologies, virtual currencies, and even transport drugs by submarines.

"They are always in step with technological advances to cover up their activities," says Muženič, so he does not think it possible for the law enforcement to work the same way as it did 50 years ago.

The NBI cannot attract staff with wages alone. "People who come to work with us want to investigate crime and do something good," says Muženič, a former crime investigator himself.

He believes that criminal procedures in Slovenia are taking too long, wondering whether sanctions are still effective if conviction follows several years after the crime is first discovered.

He offered Italy as a good example of fast prosecution of corporate crime. "Remember the Parmalat financial fraud scandal? From detection of the crime (...) to conviction and confiscation of property, it took two years. The recent first-instance conviction in the Hypo case in Slovenia followed seven years after the criminal complaint."

Moreover, vehicles confiscated in Italy are made available to public services such as police or social services, while in Slovenia impounded vehicles "are kept stored until all procedures are concluded".

The NBI last year sought temporary seizure of assets as security against illegal proceeds in the amount of EUR 115 million.

Muženič also believes that there is still too little awareness in Slovenia about the damage financial crime causes to the country.

"In the US someone who willingly cheats employees and fails to pay tax is sent to prison for 40 years. In Slovenia such procedures take 10 to 15 years or may even become statute barred."

If failure to pay tax is seen as a sin abroad, it is still seen as being resourceful in Slovenia. "The problem is people's mentality."

Muženič lauded cooperation between the NBI, police crime investigation divisions and the Financial Administration, as well as other state bodies, but noted that resolving corporate crime takes time.

It is lengthy procedures in the past that may have caused the impression in public that there are people who are untouchable for the hand of justice, but he does not think this is true.

Muženič also notes the public misconception that someone who is subject to a house search, for example, must be guilty. This is why he disagrees with media presence during house searches.

"It's also true that when we opt for a house search, we are almost hundred percent sure that the person under investigation is also the perpetrator.

"When we draw up a complaint, we justify why we believe the suspect committed the crime. However, the court has the final say, deliberates whether evidence and our grounding are consistent enough to prove guilt."

Muženič, who took over at the NBI a few months ago having previously served as the head of the Office for Money Laundering Prevention, has made crack-down on money laundering and corruption one of his priorities.

"We don't have big international corporations, professional money launders as they have abroad. It's all done on a smaller scale, but still considerable considering the country's size."

Even though there is not much talk about that in public, the police are working on these crimes, he says.

When it comes to money laundering, Slovenia has a robust preventive system, legislation aligned with the EU, and financial institutions have good systems to detect deviations.

As one of its strategic priorities, the NBI also monitors developments in public investment projects. However, Muženič says that mainly prevention is important when it comes to public tenders.

"Procedures must be conducted transparently and so as to detect flaws on time and notify those in charge. It is the job of those who run public contracting and of effective legislation."

14 Jan 2020, 09:22 AM

STA, 13 January 2020 - Janez Janša, the leader of the opposition Democrats (SDS), believes that the coalition is "clinically dead" and with the current balance of power making it impossible to build a strong alternative majority, he thinks an early election is in the cards.

Janša told TV Slovenija in a rare interview late on Sunday that "it will be clear in the next few weeks" whether someone is ambitious enough to try to put together a government.

"We realize that it is impossible to put together something strong. The dilemma facing us and other parties is: do we prevent damage, or do we give it a sober deliberation whether ... the moment has come," he said.

While acknowledging that neither parties nor MPs or voters want an early election, he said that "some European countries head to the polls multiple times a year".

The former two-time prime minister described the Marjan Šarec government as "clinically dead", having previously being provided "artificial respiration" by the opposition Left.

"It is a political corpse that is cooling. And the speed of cooling depends primarily on the price list of [opposition National Party (SNS) leader] Zmago Jelinčič.

"He's the one who is keeping it alive. You be the judge of to what extent this is in the interest of the state and whether this is the stability that Slovenia needs," Janša told TV Slovenija.

The SNS has most recently helped the government appoint Angelika Mlinar as cohesion minister, providing the missing votes and the necessary abstentions to give the government a majority in parliament.

Speculation about a new coalition were given rise at the end of 2019 after the Left pulled out of a deal to support the minority government.

The right-leaning opposition New Slovenia (NSi) and the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) were being mentioned as potentially interested in it.

NSi leader Matej Tonin confirmed on Monday his party was taking part in talks about a potential new coalition, saying "talks on alternative coalitions between some coalition and opposition parties are under way all the time".

"If you're in politics and want to do something good for the state, you have to have your door constantly open and keep the talks going."

Although he declined to predict when a new government coalition could become a reality, he said a potential new prime minister-designate has also been discussed.

But it is Tonin's view that the necessary 46 votes, which the opposition itself does not have, could not be secured in the next few weeks.

Even if it were secured, a potential new government would have a rather weak parliamentary majority, he admitted.

He believes it would be best to form a new coalition after an early election, but admitted that apart from the NSi, nobody in parliament wanted an early election.

While the SAB and the SMC would not comment on Janša's statement, MP Jerca Korče of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said the government was far from clinically dead.

She considers Janša's statements a destabilisation attempt, encouraging negativism, which she said Janša had been doing since the start of this government's term. Korče stressed the LMŠ was not worried about the talks on a new coalition being under way all the time.

"We are working, this is our duty. The talks others are engaged in are their scenarios reflecting their wish to politically destabilise what is apparently working too well, so it should be slowly undermined."

Speaker Dejan Židan, leader of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), sees Janša's statement as his big wish for him to chair the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021, but he stressed that the incumbent coalition would do it very well.

Židan disagrees with the assessments that the coalition is so paralysed that it is doing only the most urgent things, pointing out it had just recently adopted the state budget.

Luka Mesec of the Left said that his party was not involved in any talks on a potential new coalition.

13 Jan 2020, 16:38 PM

STA, 13 January 2020 - PM Marjan Šarec responded on Monday to a Christmas greeting by Education Ministry State Secretary Jernej Štromajer on Twitter and the backlash it caused, saying that the post was "highly inappropriate" for a senior state official. He added that if Štromajer were a member of his party or his cabinet, he would have been dismissed immediately.

On Christmas Eve, Štromajer twitted a photo saying "Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal", a famous quote from Christmas classic Home Alone 2.

The post has made part of the public, particularly Christians, go up in arms. New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin said last week Štromajer's actions did not inspire tolerance and inclusivity, urging Šarec to respond to the developments.

The prime minister's office told the STA on Monday that Šarec considered Štromajer's post unacceptable. The prime minister also pointed out that the responsibility to appoint as well as remove state officials lied with coalition parties and relevant ministries.

In the wake of the incident, an online petition requesting Štromajer's stepping down has been launched by anti-gay and anti-abortion activists Metka Zevnik and Aleš Primc.

The petition, so far signed by just shy of 5,000 people, also announced support for protests which are planned for Wednesday if the government does not dismiss the state secretary by then.

Štromajer, a member of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), has apologised for the controversial post. Education Minister Jernej Pikalo, who has had words with the state secretary, wrote on his Twitter after the talk that "the Christmas statement could be funny in a comedy, but out of context it could also be inappropriate and offensive".

In today's written statement for the STA, Pikalo said state secretaries are judged by their performance, and Štromajer does a good job.

Given that the two of us discussed the incident and that Štromajer apologised before the end of the year, "I believe everything has been done for him stay on the job", he added.

13 Jan 2020, 09:48 AM

STA, 12 January 2020 - Several thousand people made the pilgrimage to the village of Dražgoše in north-west Slovenia on Sunday to attend a ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of a battle that is seen as one of the defining events of WWII on Slovenian soil. 

The first event of the year on the annual calendar of major celebrations of WWII turning points, the ceremony commemorates a battle that started on 9 January 1942, when the 200-strong Cankarjev Battalion tried to stop German troops advancing towards the village of Dražgoše.

It was fought in deep snow and below-zero temperatures against some 2,000 Nazi Germans to prevent the deportations of locals. After three days, the German troops reached the village and killed twenty locals and another twenty in retaliation after the Partisans retreated.

The Nazis, who lost over 100 soldiers, completely destroyed the village and drove the survivors out. The Partisans lost nine soldiers.

Senior official including President Borut Pahor, Speaker Dejan Židan, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, former president Milan Kučan and several other cabinet members and MPs from the ranks of leftist parties were on hand today.

The turnout reflects the historical division over WWII that persist through this day, with leftist parties celebrating Partisan achievements during WWII and rightist parties and media decrying the Dražgoše ceremony as a "red orgy".

The keynote speaker today, the poet Ervin Fritz, used the opportunity to decry neoliberal capitalism, which he said should be the subject of "radical critique", while extolling the virtues of socialism, even as he acknowledged it has its mistakes and had become "degenerated" in Yugoslavia to the extent that Slovenia's national independence was jeopardised.

This necessitated leaving Yugoslavia, but in doing so Slovenia went from bad to worse, he asserted. "That present-day Slovenia is the realisation of the dreams of centuries and millennia is merely rhetorical hubris, for the renowned protagonists of independence had carried out a counter-revolution at the same time - the restoration of capitalism," he said.

As a result, all public good has become prey and "now we allow the sell-off of all that had been created. We give domestic and foreign predators freedom to act, he said.

11 Jan 2020, 11:17 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 10 January 2020

Mladina: Pahor is undermining government

STA, 10 January 2020 - In Friday's editorial, the left-leaning Mladina analyses two of President Borut Pahor's recent public appearances only to draw the conclusion that he is undermining the Marjan Šarec government to pave the way for Janez Janša of the opposition Democrats (SDS). The party won the 2018 election.

In his 30 December interview for TV Slovenija, Pahor clearly indicated that he does not like Prime Minister Šarec and that Šarec should leave the premiership to Janša.

"This was harsh manipulation by the president and an attempt to picture the situation in the country as strained and abnormal," says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

His attempt to fuel uncertainty and question the government's legitimacy has failed, having had no response, but the president nevertheless behaved oddly.

Pahor hinted at his discontent a few days earlier in his Independence Day speech, in which he presented his view that consensus politics was in a serious crisis.

Repovž admits Slovenia has a far-right party which spreads intolerance, namely the SDS, various militias have been popping up and hate speech is a problem.

"But this is not what Pahor meant. On the contrary, he wanted to say that he does not find it right that political parties refuse to cooperate with the SDS and Janša."

In the interview Pahor took a step further; while admitting the coalition has secured political stability, he indicated the government should now embark on reforms even at the cost of its own collapse.

Mladina says in the editorial headlined Pahor, the Manipulator that the president's statements are full of manipulation and deceit.

He pictured political stability as a source of instability, and said reforms were needed for Slovenia's revival, but Repovž wonders what revival he had in mind when Slovenia has one of the highest GDP growth rates and one of the lowest public debts in Europe.

Repovž believes Pahor's manipulation is aimed at creating the impression that Slovenian politics is in an emergency situation which needs to be stopped right now, so he in effect advised Šarec to cause his government'collapse by himself.

Mladina admits neither the government not Šarec is ideal, and ministers do not deserve As, which should provide Pahor with enough material for justified criticism.

"But Pahor is not interested in content, he is bothered by Šarec and by the fact the government is not led by his favourite politician Janša. This is the bottom line.

"He is thus willing to portray the situation as an emergency. What is most worrying is his superiority and his attempt to show that it is not legitimate if the government is run by this coalition, which is something a serious president cannot afford."

Demokracija: How the rich help the poor

STA, 9 January 2020 - As first consumers of very expensive goods, the rich have in fact helped reduce social inequality, so there is no need to raise taxes for them to channel more money towards the poor, the right-leaning weekly Demokracija argues in its editorial on Thursday.

It was an invaluable experience to listen to all sorts of leftists before the New Year saying they would continue their fight against exploitative capitalism, says the editor-in-chief Jože Biščak.

Wicked capitalism, as opposition Left leader Luka Mesec termed it, is apparently also reflected in social inequality measured by wealth.

Since we are not as far as redistributing it by looting, Mesec is reciting his mantra of "fair taxation" under which the rich should pay more.

It is of course typical of socialists to fight against capitalism with other people's money, which defies the logic of market economy.

But the statistically-corroborated fact is that never in the world have so few people lived under the poverty threshold and have goods been more available to everyone.

"And the credit goes solely to the rich, who play the role of 'food tasters in royal courts'," the magazine's editor-in-chief says in the eponymous commentary.

They can be credited with having been able to afford a terribly expensive innovation such as a TV set or a mobile phone at a certain moment in history, and their response enabled producers to assess the future demand.

Them being pioneer consumers benefits all, making goods more accessible also for the poorer classes. "So eventually, if I use the speak of the leftists, this helps reduce social inequality," Biščak concludes.

All our posts in this series are here

11 Jan 2020, 10:37 AM

STA, 10 January 2020 - The Supreme Court's controversial annulment of the guilty sentence for a WWII collaborationist general has raised questions about the legal and historical implications of the decision. While the court has ordered a retrial, the most likely outcome seems to be a termination of procedure.

The Supreme Court recently annulled the death sentence of Slovenian general Leon Rupnik (1880-1946), who collaborated with the occupying forces during World War II, on an appeal on a point of law lodged by his relative, and sent the case to the Ljubljana District Court for retrial.

Rupnik was a general in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in WWI and later collaborated with the Fascist Italian and Nazi German occupation forces during World War II. He served as the head of the Provincial Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana in 1943-1945, and was also chief inspector of the Domobranci (Slovene Home Guard), a collaborationist militia.

The Supreme Court's ruling rests on procedural grounds: the court held that the military court's ruling had not been sufficiently reasoned, even under the standards applicable at the time.

The annulment means the case will now be sent into retrial, and Miha Hafner, an associate professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law, believes it will either be thrown out by the prosecution, or that the court will declare it cannot conduct a retrial since the accused is already dead.

Under the criminal procedure act, courts cannot try dead persons, which means that Rupnik's guilt will not be examined once again, Hafner told the STA.

The end effect of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, is that "since the procedure will be terminated whereas the previous ruling was annulled and the presumption of innocence applies [in Slovenia], Rupnik cannot legally be regarded as guilty of this criminal act," according to Hafner.

Hafner stressed, however, that the decision does not strictly mean Rupnik is rehabilitated. "If the gentleman were still alive, a retrial would start and the court of first instance would carry out the entire procedure."

Another consequence of the ruling may be that Rupnik's heirs may claim the return of property since Rupnik's property was seized by the state after the trial, said Hafner.

The ruling has earned the Supreme Court fierce criticism, in particular from the left, but the court told the STA it had no other choice than to decide on the Rupnik heir's appeal on a point of law.

All our stories on Leon Rupnik are here

10 Jan 2020, 18:31 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, 3 January
        LJUBLJANA - One year into her term, Slovenian Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar was happy to report that crime clearance rate increased to over 50% from 47%, which she says is the success of the system, not just individuals. Bobnar told the STA in an interview that the police now handle many more cases of corruption, and that cracking down on such crime is a priority.
        KLAGENFURT, Austria - The Slovenian ethnic minority in Austria expressed optimism about the coalition agreement between the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and the Greens, which aims to make Austria carbon-neutral by 2040 and pledges to increase funding for ethnic minorities. Umbrella minority organisations believe "better times" are on the horizon.

SATURDAY, 4 January
        MARIBOR - Police apprehended Andrej Šiško, the self-styled leader of a militia who should have reported to prison to serve out his sentence for incitement to subversion of the constitutional order. He was apprehended at a commemoration of a major WWII battle in the Pohorje hills as he was about to approach President Borut Pahor.
        VAL DI FIEMME, Italy - Slovenian cross-country skier Anamarija Lampič dominated the World Cup freestyle sprint event in Val di Fiemme, Italy, in what was her third career World Cup win.

SUNDAY, 5 January
        LJUBLJANA - Physician and humanitarian worker Ninna Kozorog, the head of Humanitarček, an NGO which has campaigned for assistance to retirees living in poverty, was declared the Slovenian Woman of the Year 2019 by the women's magazine Jana/Zarja. The association's activities include a project called Vida, which aims at highlighting the difficulties faced by the elderly in remote areas.

MONDAY, 6 January
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor called for a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East as he made an appeal for a peaceful resolution of disputes following the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the US. He acknowledged that the order by US President Donald Trump to kill Soleimani had "caused tensions across the Middle East and in the entire international community".
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor congratulated Croatia's newly elected President Zoran Milanović, who made improving relations with Slovenia a priority. Although Milanović was prime minister when Croatia unilaterally withdrew from the border arbitration procedure, Pahor hopes dialogue will lead to the implementation of the border arbitration decision. Analyst Borut Šuklje said Slovenia should be cautious about Milanović's pronouncement.
        LJUBLJANA - Four former top executives of Hypo Alpe Adria were sentenced to between six and eight years in prison for defrauding the now defunct financial group of several million euro through property transactions. The Ljubljana District Court found former Hypo Alpe Adria CEOs Anton Romih and Božidar Špan, former Hypo Leasing director general Andrej Potočnik and former Hypo Alpe Adria Consultance director Andrej Oblak guilty of abuse of office and money laundering.

TUESDAY, 7 January
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court fully upheld the Competition Protection Agency's decision to temporarily seize Mercator shares from the retailer's owner, Croatian group Agrokor. Agrokor's successor Fortenova announced it would use all legal means available to have the seizure annulled.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia successfully completed a EUR 1.5 billion ten-year eurobond issue, leveraging market appetite for fixed assets to secure a record-low coupon interest rate of 0.275%. The last bond issue a year ago came with a coupon rate of 1.188%.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar voiced support for a de-escalation of tensions in the conflict between Iran and the United States. "It is necessary to calm down the situation, prevent the triggering of any violence or threat," he said.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minster Miro Cerar told a debate on the Western Balkans that with the new European Commission, EU enlargement to the region was increasingly likely. He announced the region's EU prospects would be a priority of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court announced it had rejected a petition in which Lekarna Ljubljana, the company operating a chain of pharmacies in greater Ljubljana, challenged a law prohibiting pharmacies from owning or controlling drug wholesalers and advertising pharmaceutical products.

WEDNESDAY, 8 January
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Defence Ministry announced the withdrawal of six soldiers from Erbil in northern Iraq after the base was attacked by Iran in retaliation for the killing of a senior general. The withdrawal followed the next day following a delay after Germany, which to provide logistical support, decided its troops would remain in Erbil.
        LJUBLJANA - The health insurance institute ZZZS approved the 2020 financial plan. Expenditure is budgeted to increase by EUR 266 million compared to 2019 to EUR 3.32 billion. The institute is expected to operate at a EUR 10.4 million loss this year, which is to be covered by a surplus generated in the past.
        LJUBLJANA - OTP, the Hungarian banking group which acquired SBK Banka from the French group Societe Generale last year, said it planned to grow organically and through takeovers. OTP CEO Sandor Csanyi said the group could attain a market share of between 25% and 30% in Slovenia; SKB was at 8% in 2018.
        LJUBLJANA - The biggest health corruption case in Slovenia's history came to trial, with four defendants out of six who appeared pleading not guilty. One did not enter a plea, and one was allowed to leave the hearing early due to health reasons, and will enter his plea at the next hearing.

THURSDAY, 9 January
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Defence Minister Karl Erjavec pledged Slovenia's continued commitment to the global anti-Daesh coalition, and its resolve to deploy a new rotation of troops to northern Iraq despite the decision to relocate the current rotation home early following Iran attacks on Erbil airport. The position was also backed by the parliamentary committees on defence and foreign policy.
        LJUBLJANA - The Supreme Court's annulment of the 1946 death sentencing of WWII general Leon Rupnik for collaboration with the Fascist Italian and Nazi German occupation drew protests from the Association of WWII Veterans, the Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana and the Social Democrats. The centre plans to inform the world public of the decision.
        LJUBLJANA - A vetting commission endorsed four candidates for the head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, excluding the incumbent Boris Štefanec. President Borut Pahor will be able to make his pick from Štefanec's deputy Uroš Novak, Tina Brecelj, adviser to the Supreme Court president, Janez Pogorelec from the Government Office for Legislation and Robert Šumi from the Police Academy.
        LJUBLJANA - Jadran Lenarčič, the long-serving director of the Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia's top research institution, was declared the Person of 2019 by the newspaper publisher Delo.
        LJUBLJANA - The Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) announced "podnebje" or climate as the Slovenian word of 2019. Second place went to "Šarecism", alluding to the discourse used by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, followed by "carbon-neutral".
        MORAVČE - A large-scale wooden effigy of US President Donald Trump, which had recently been relocated to Moravče, some 30 kilometres east of Ljubljana, was torched during the night. The statue had originally been erected in Selo, a small village some 20 kilometres north of Ljubljana, in August, but was relocated to Moravče in late December.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's exports and imports rose by 4% and 0.4% respectively in November 2019 compared to the year before, the Statistics Office said, attributing this to the increased value of trade with EU non-member countries.

All our posts in this series are here

10 Jan 2020, 09:31 AM

STA, 9 January 2020 - The six Slovenian troops who have served in the international operation Inherent Resolve in Erbil in northern Iraq have been safely brought home following a decision to relocate them in the wake of Iran's attacks on Iraqi bases in the night to Wednesday. However, Slovenia is not ending its presence in Iraq.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Defence Minister Karl Erjavec assured the public that the decision to bring the current rotation home early did not mean Slovenia was withdrawing from Iraq.

Speaking after briefing MPs on the latest developments at a joint session of the parliamentary committees on defence and foreign policy, Erjavec said a new rotation would be deployed by 1 February at the latest.

He said the six soldiers deployed at Erbil base to train Iraqi security forces so far were unable to perform their duties anyway at the moment because of the security situation.

He said that a new rotation was ready to start work "as soon as training resumes, if necessary even before 1 February".

This was echoed by Šarec, who told reporters that Slovenia was staying on all international missions it was participating in.

The missions are what enhances the international reputation of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and Slovenia. "If we are a trustworthy partner, we must act in such a way that our partners can count on us." Šarec said.

The Slovenian soldiers were flown from Erbil to Ankara airport in the afternoon before being flown to Slovenia aboard the government jet.

Slovenia decided to evacuate the troops after Iran attacked Erbil airport in the night to Wednesday in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Slovenia being part of a German-led group in Erbil, the soldiers were originally supposed to withdraw with German logistic support, but Germany decided against withdrawing on Wednesday evening following US President Donald Trump's statement indicating a de-escalation in the US-Iran crisis.

The developments were discussed by the parliamentary committees on defence and foreign policy at a joint session behind closed doors for three hours.

No special resolutions were adopted but the committees voted down an initiative by the opposition Left to call on the government to end Slovenia's deployment in the operation Inherent Resolve.

Matjaž Nemec, the chair of the Foreign Policy Committee, told reporters after the session that the important message of the session was that Slovenia remained part of the anti-Daesh coalition.

"Slovenia participates in the mission as part of the global anti-Daesh coalition. We are implementing all tasks in accordance with our presence," said Erjavec, adding that Slovenia had coordinated its activities with other allied and partner countries participating in the operation Inherent Resolve.

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