Politics

14 Aug 2020, 11:19 AM

STA, 14 August 2020 - The number of new infections reached a four-month high on Thursday, as 37 out of 937 tests came back positive, with most new cases coming from Croatia. One infection was confirmed at the Hrastnik care home, which has been a hotspot for weeks.

Eighteen people were in hospital yesterday, of whom four needed intensive care while just as many were released from hospital, the government said on Twitter.

According to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik, there are currently 213 active cases in the country and so far 2,369 infections have been confirmed. The death toll remains at 129.

Recently, most new infections have been coming from Croatia, where many Slovenians, especially young people, are spending their holidays.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

In Hrastnik, four people were tested yesterday, two from the care home. An infection was confirmed in one of the residents, the Hrastnik municipality said.

There are currently 28 active infections among residents and five among staff at the home.

So far, 50 residents and 11 employees have tested positive at the home. Nine residents have died because of Covid-19. Since the outbreak at the home on 10 July, six employees and 13 residents have recovered from the disease.

Nightclubs to remain closed

STA, 13 August 2020 - The government has extended the ban on night clubs, the only type of establishment in Slovenia that has not been able to reopen since mid-March, as well as the ban on gatherings of more than ten people or up to 50 when the organiser keeps a list of the participants.

The Government Communication Office said the latest extension was based on the recommendation of the group of experts advising the government on Covid-19.

The group made the recommendation after considering the country's epidemiological status, finding socialising as the key source of transmission.

The group's head Bojana Beović told reporters today that the stringent ban on socialising and night clubs appeared to be effective.

Slovenia saw the number of daily infections spike on Tuesday to 31, a one month high, with another 29 recorded on Wednesday, which public health officials blamed on cases imported from Croatia, mostly by young people attending parties there.

The country's case count reached 2,332 by Wednesday midnight, of which 193 are active cases.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

14 Aug 2020, 10:24 AM

STA, 14 August 2020 - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told the STA that Thursday's signing of a joint 5G security declaration is an important decision and a step in the right direction for the entire Europe, creating a network safe from the Chinese security apparatus. He has assessed the US-Slovenian relations as important, outweighing Slovenia's actual size.

The interview was conducted in Bled as Pompeo visited Slovenia yesterday as part of his four-country tour of Europe, in what was actually the first visit to the country by an US secretary of state in more than two decades.

Asked whether this meant that this was an indication of improved US-Slovenian relations, Pompeo said he thought it was, and emphasised that the "relations are great, we meet in lots of places ... and have a deep, strong relationship."

"I'm thrilled to be able to get here today because the relationship is important to the US and I wanted to make sure that the people of Slovenia know that."

Pompeo agreed with the assessment by former Slovenian FM Miro Cerar as he visited the US in December 2018 that the US should be more present in this part of Europe because Russia and China are trying to fill the gap.

"Absolutely. I agree that ... there is a real risk that authoritarian regimes want to come play here, to come create trouble, create havoc for democracies and freedom-loving people in the region."

The secretary of state believes that the US needs to be present, and said it would do that alongside good partners like Slovenia. "We will invest in businesses here, we will work on our military to military operations together."

Also, the US will do "all the things that make nation states strong and secure so that they will be able to withstand the pressures that might come from those regimes that don't intend well for the people of these countries."

Pompeo mentioned that the talks also touched on the Western Balkans, and that Slovenia could be an important interlocutor there as it is in an "important place strategically, and in an important place geographically."

While small in size, Slovenia "has intelligent people who are hard-working, good technology and good schools, it hits above its weight and we are thrilled to have such a great relationship."

As for Slovenia's contribution to NATO, which is still below the committed 2% of GDP and expectations of the US from the country in this sense, Pompeo said that "we are confident that [the government] will execute on that plan."

US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wanted every country to do what they had pledged and "we just ask that Slovenia makes its way there as quickly as it can," he added.

Asked about the US plan to reposition its forces in Europe and PM Janez Janša saying that US soldiers are welcome in Slovenia, Pompeo said it was very clear that Slovenia would be welcoming "if we got it right, if we figure out a path forward."

The US is aware that Slovenia has an important port and important air force capabilities, but "we always try to do this as part of NATO to make sure that we collectively ... are positioned appropriately."

Pompeo's visit focused on the signing of a joint 5G security declaration, which some in the country believe could be harmful for Slovenia in terms of its relations with China. Asked whether Slovenia could expect support from the US, he said it absolutely could.

"But I actually think the reason why the Slovenian leadership signed that because it is in the best interest of the Slovenian people," he said, noting that it was about the risk of Chinese telecom infrastructure being inside of countries' systems.

As Slovenians and Europeans love their privacy and have their information protected, they have to have trusted networks, so it has been agreed that the nations joining the declaration would have trusted networks for information flow.

"This was an important decision today ... so that we collectively can have a system, a network, telecommunications infrastructure that is protected from the national security apparatus in China that intends no good for the people in the region."

Pompeo also discussed energy projects with Slovenian executives, so he mentioned to them "what America could offer in terms of our technology, our resources, our capability to help them make a good, informed decision about how to make sure they have energy, electricity, gasoline for their citizens at an affordable cost from a set of diversified resources."

Asked when President Trump and especially First Lady Melania Trump, who hails from Slovenia, might visit the country, he said "I know that they would love to come visit, I know that this is her birthplace."

Pompeo said that "we will keep working on finding time when they might be able to get here", and that he would report back that he liked Slovenia and had a wonderful experience there.

13 Aug 2020, 20:04 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - 5G networks and energy investments were at the centre of talks as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia on Thursday. The countries signed a joint 5G security declaration, with Pompeo saying that the tide was turning against the Chinese Communist Party, which is trying to control people and other economies.

The declaration excludes "untrusted vendors" from 5G networks, Pompeo said as he addressed the press alongside Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša in Bled.

"I know... that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you're doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us."

Meanwhile, Chinese mobile operator Huawei criticised the move by Slovenia, saying that it would not contribute to security of networks or improve cyber security and would in fact have negative consequences of 5G networks introduction in Slovenia.

The Chinese Embassy in Slovenia responded to Pompeo's statements, saying that it was the 21st century and that it was not time any more to instigate ideological clashes.

According to its press release, the US secretary of state was accusing and attacking China and spreading incorrect information. Inciting hatred and encouraging confrontations is not in the line with the spirit of the times, it added.

The embassy said it hoped that the signing was not directed against China. "We expect that Slovenia will meet its commitments and continue to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies."

The signing was also criticised by the left-leaning opposition Social Democrats (SD) and the Left. The latter warned that the declaration had not been coordinated with the EU, and its MEP Milan Brglez fears it may become legally binding for Slovenia.

The Left meanwhile said that the declaration was a "carte blanche for US control and abuse of ICT for military, economic and political purposes".

The party also said that Pompeo was in Slovenia to lobby on behalf of nuclear power company Westinghouse and the US military industry as Slovenia's government plans EUR 780 million worth of military investments.

While no meetings were scheduled to discuss military investments, Pompeo was seated next to Defence Minister Matej Tonin at the working lunch hosted by President Borut Pahor.

Pompeo did meet with energy executives and Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, and discussed with Janša what he said was "the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region".

He also tweeted that "energy security and independence require governments to partner with one another, private industry, and civil society to secure a brighter future for all. We welcome Slovenia's leadership on the Three Seas Initiative, and commend its innovation and dedication to clean energy."

At the press conference, Pompeo urged Slovenia to make a "quick commitment" to what he said was an "important partnership" the US is happy to fund, noting that he had announced in February the US would contribute US$1 billion for energy infrastructure in Central Europe as part of the Three Seas Initiative.

Janša in turn said that Slovenia appreciated the "US's proactive approach to energy security in Central Europe, which is reflected in strong support to alliances such as the Three Seas Initiative and the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation," adding that Slovenia would strengthen its role in both of these.

Touching on business cooperation, Janša told the press the sides shared the view that there was room to boost trade and investments, also saying that Slovenian IT companies could help in the development of 5G technologies.

The talks also touched on NATO, with Janša saying that Slovenia had in the past months made steps to increase defence spending and meet its obligations toward the alliance, with Pompeo commending the country for its growing commitment to NATO.

Janša and Pompeo also discussed relations with China and Russia, sharing the view that these must be based on strategic interest "of our civilisation, which is based on the values of security, freedom, the rule of law and democracy," according to Janša.

Janša also warned of what he said was a poor level of awareness in the west of the threat of a hybrid attack. "We see the US as the only power of the western civilisation capable of facing this challenging threat... and Slovenia is willing to contribute its efforts toward success."

Pompeo also met President Pahor, who hosted a working lunch. The president expressed great satisfaction with the visit, telling commercial broadcaster Kanal A that Pompeo had told him that he was leaving "Slovenia with the best possible impressions and that he sees great potential for future cooperation between Slovenia and the US".

"It was very important that we did not find a very open, delicate issue that would cause divisions," said Pahor. He feels the countries are the most divided in terms of multilateralism.

"Slovenia is strongly dedicated to the existing political and legal architecture, because being a small country it sees safety in this. This is understandable, being a big country, the US may view this slightly differently."

But in general, the countries have "very, very similar views", said Pahor. "This is good. But above all, it is important that such talks end with mutual agreement that we are friends, that we trust each other and that many more things connect than divide us."

13 Aug 2020, 15:18 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - A total of 29 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in 856 tests on Wednesday in Slovenia, according to the most recent data released by the government on Thursday. No new deaths were reported.

New cases were reported in 14 municipalities, including in Ljubljana (5), Celje (3), Vipava (2) and Starše (2). The majority of the new cases were in the 15-34 age group, according to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Ljubljana now has 41 active cases after recording nine of the 31 cases confirmed on Tuesday. Most of the latest cases have been imported from Croatia.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

Marta Grgič Vitek of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said imported cases have outnumbered local transmissions in the last week, with 27 of the 33 most recent imported cases coming from Croatia.

"It is a problem if so many cases are imported from Croatia on a daily basis," she said, adding that many of the infected persons have told epidemiologists they had been to beach parties in Croatia.

If this trend continues, the government task force for coronavirus will propose that Slovenia introduce stricter measures on the border, perhaps even a mandatory quarantine for travellers from Croatia, said Bojana Beović, the head of the task force.

"In the event that this continues, we may enter the autumn season with problems associated with socialising in schools and workplaces. There could be outbreaks of infections," according to Beović.

The total number of infections reached 2,332 yesterday. There were 193 active cases and 19 patients were in hospital, with two requiring intensive care.

The Covid-19 death toll remains at 129.

Beović and epidemiologist Marta Grgič Vitek also told the press that epidemiologists in Slovenia were overworked as they were constantly looking for contacts of the infected persons in order to stem the spreading of the virus.

"Abroad, one epidemiologist comes at every 10,000 residents, and in Slovenia there is only one epidemiologist per 50,000 residents or even more," Beović said.

Grgič Vitek of the contagious diseases centre of the National Public Health Institute meanwhile noted that 30 new infections a day was a "critical number" for the epidemiological service.

In a response to an MP question, the government said today that it would try to encourage medical students to specialise in public health, with six specialisations open this year and at least in the next five years.

"At this pace, it will be possible to get at least ten additional doctors specialised in epidemiology in the next ten years," the government added.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

13 Aug 2020, 13:09 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - Supreme Court vice-president Miodrag Đorđević has temporary suspended district judge Zvjezdan Radonjić, a decision that has triggered strong reactions in one segment of politics. The Supreme Court said the suspension is based on the type and gravity of disciplinary violations Radonjić stands accused of.

Radonjić, a Ljubljana District Court judge, has been a vocal critic of the Slovenian judiciary. He made headlines in recent years as the presiding judge in the case of the 2014 murder of Chemistry Institute boss Janko Jamnik. Defendant Milko Novič was acquitted in a retrial, but the case has been sent into another retrial with Radonjić removed from the panel.

"The judge is accused of several grave disciplinary breaches whose descriptions highlight the persistent nature of the actions and the type of discourse by the accused," the Supreme Court wrote on Wednesday about Radonjić, who has accused other judges of accepting bribes and claimed pressure had been exerted on him in the Jamnik case.

The court added that the type and gravity of the alleged disciplinary violations prompted Đorđević to suspend Radonjić "so that the court can operate in an undisturbed manner and that the reputation of the profession and public trust in the judiciary are protected".

"It is expected of a judge to observe the dignity of his post when expressing himself in public, that he is reserved in situations when his public communication could imperil the authority and integrity of the judiciary, that his public discourse (including criticism) retains a decent and respectful attitude to his peers," the court wrote.

Radonjić is facing a criminal complaint over false accusations after he filed a formal complaint in February 2018 over alleged bribery in a Higher Court case. He claimed seven more cases handled by Higher Court judges had been suspect.

While the details of Radonjić's alleged disciplinary breaches have not bee disclosed, the newspaper Dnevnik reported today that District Court president Marjan Pogačnik had filed several disciplinary complaints against the judge.

According to Dnevnik, the accusations include several instances of inappropriate discourse on the part of Radonjić, while the judge once allegedly also refused the duty to report to the court president.

The paper adds that pre-trial proceedings are also under way against Radonjić over slander, including in connection to alleged pressure on him in the Jamnik case.

Dnevnik reports that Radonjić has been processed by the Judicial Council's ethics commission on several occasions. One case highlighted pertains to an article penned by the judge, in which he wondered whether philosopher Boris Vezjak, a vocal critic of PM Janez Janša, is retarded.

Radonjić told the STA a few days ago that he stood by his statements. He said he had not spread false accusations knowing they were false, but only reported to the police what he was familiar with.

Meanwhile, the suspension has prompted a strong reaction from a part of politics, in particular from the senior coalition Democrats (SDS).

Prime Minister Janša tweeted on Wednesday: "Hm. Judges in Slovenia are supposedly independent and bound only by the constitution and the law. But obviously this only applies to those ruling in line with Bavcon's principles. The chicanery against judge Radonjić is ripe for a comprehensive investigation."

Janša, whose tweet refers to Ljubo Bavcon, a Yugoslav-era jurist whom he sees as a caretaker of alleged communist continuity, also retweeted several tweets alleging the suspension was revenge for the acquittal of Nović in the Jamnik case.

12 Aug 2020, 16:32 PM

STA, 12 August 2020 - Slovenia confirmed 31 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a one-month high, as 1,118 tests were performed. There were no new deaths reported, show official government data.

Slovenia's daily infections were fairly stable since mid-July, rarely exceeding 20. The latest increase comes amidst warnings that many young people are returning from holidays infected.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

The number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic has thus increased to 2,303 and 129 people have died of Covid-19.

There are currently 23 people with Covid-19 in hospital, two of them in intensive care.

The number of active cases is estimated at 188, up a tenth over yesterday, according to data tracker Covid-19.sledilnik.org

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

11 Aug 2020, 15:03 PM

STA, 11 August 2020 - One person died and 17 new SARS-CoV-2 infections were confirmed in 1,058 tests in Slovenia on Monday according to the most recent data released by the government on Tuesday. 23 people were in hospital with two requiring intensive care.

With the total tally of cases reaching 2,272, there are currently 171 active cases of infection in Slovenia, while 129 have died in total, according to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Government speaker Jelko Kacin told the press on Tuesday that at least eight of the cases confirmed yesterday were imported from abroad, one from Bosnia-Herzegovina and seven of them from Croatia, where many Slovenians are on summer vacation.

As regards Croatia he said that the country's epidemiological situation was not particularly bad, especially not on the coast, where most of Slovenian holidaymakers are located.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

Kacin blamed youngsters who disregard social distancing measures at parties for continuous spreading of the virus in Slovenia, but also said that with 7.99 infections per 100,000 people Slovenia was "very safe" and that the situation was now much better than a fortnight ago when 24 new cases were confirmed on 29 July.

He moreover said that this second wave of the pandemic in Slovenia was milder than the first, giving hope that people returning from holidays will not worsen the situation.

Even so, he warned people going abroad to avoid crowds, wear face masks and be diligent about hand hygiene. They should also refrain from going to night clubs abroad.

With the school bound to start in three weeks, Kacin also called on parents to be careful about their family travels, urging them to avoid countries with poor epidemiological situation.

He said the government was hoping school would start normally, but was also preparing for the worst case scenario of remote schooling.

Kacin also talked about Slovenia's vaccine order plans, saying that "initial numbers were some 200,000 doses in the first phase", adding that Slovenia is yet to decide which of the vaccines it should buy.

He said that the most vulnerable groups, including the elderly, elderly home residents, their staff, and health care workers, would have precedence.

Out of the 17 cases confirmed yesterday, seven were in Ljubljana, while none were confirmed in Hrastnik, where a local elderly care home has been a hotspot of infection for weeks. However, the one fatality recorded yesterday was a Hrastnik care home resident hospitalised in Maribor.

One case was also confirmed in Novo Mesto yesterday, after a nurse in the local elderly home tested positive last week. The care home said today that none of the residents cared for by the infected nurse had tested positive.

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11 Aug 2020, 10:49 AM

STA, 10 August 2020 - Ex-Ambassador to the US Božo Cerar believes Thursday's visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Slovenia brings normalisation in Slovenia-US relations after they have been neglected for a decade. He hopes Slovenia will know how to use the visit so it contributes to the implementation of Slovenian and European interests.

"This is an important visit. Visits by US foreign ministers here are very rare. The last one took place more than two decades ago, while such visits should be business as usual, regular. After all we're talking about relations between two allies, between countries which share the same values," he said in an interview with the STA.

The Slovenian diplomat attributes the rare contacts at the highest level to a great degree of passivity in foreign affairs on the part of Slovenia and on the country's focus on Russia.

"We've had a rather absurd situation with the US for ten years, there has been practically no dialogue at political level. On the other hand, this has been a period when our high-profile representatives have been constantly in Moscow, openly flirting with authoritarian systems, such as the Russian or the Iranian one."

A turn seemed to be on the horizon when then Foreign Minister Miro Cerar finally visited the US in December 2018 and when US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was in Slovenia in June 2019, when the country hosted a Three Seas Initiative summit, but this was again followed by a period of passivity, said the ambassador.

"Instead of using it to develop new forms of cooperation, everything went silent again. I hope this time round we will better use this visit," said Cerar.

He believes relations with the US must be nurtured regardless of who is in the White House, a Democrat or a Republican, even someone like Donald Trump. And also regardless of who heads the government in Ljubljana, a rightist or leftist party.

Cerar said it was primarily up to small countries to nurture relations with big ones. "If there is no initiative on our side, then it's very hard."

Still, he sees Pompeo's visit as a normalisation of Slovenian-US relations and a unique opportunity to examine bilateral relations in a number of areas, such as business and commerce.

The visit is "also a unique opportunity to discuss with the US global issues, not only the Western Balkans, which is a traditional topic, also important for the Americans because the Russians and Chinese are strengthening their influence in the region".

The focus of the visit will be on the signing of a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, which is directed against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Although some see it as Slovenia joining a kind of a new "coalition of the willing" and getting unnecessarily involved in US-Chinese disputes, Cerar said this was not the case in his view.

He highlighted China's conduct in international trade, foremost its disregard for intellectual property, its industrial espionage activities and currency speculation.

"This is not just the US's problem. It's also a European problem. It's also in the interest of the EU for these things to get solved," said the diplomat.

"Safe communications are of course in the interest of the US, but they are also in our interest," he said, adding that neither Slovenia nor the EU could be indifferent to China's human rights record, its ignorance of international law in the South China Sea, the issue of Hong Kong, the rights of Uyghurs.

Cerar also thinks it is irrelevant from the aspect of the joint declaration on 5G that the US is nearing the presidential election, which Trump might not win.

"Do you think that the Democrats' policy on China and Russia is any different? Perhaps there will be a different approach. Perhaps Joe Biden will be more diplomatic. They will be seeking ever greater support from their allies. But the policy on China and Russia will not change."

From this aspect, Cerar believes that NATO's future will also be discussed as Pompeo meets Slovenia officials on Thursday.

"It is in our interest for the alliance to be active for a long time to come, and for the trans-Atlantic dialogue to be improved where it's wanting, this has to be admitted."

As a Central European and Mediterranean country located at an important geostrategic area and as a member of the EU and NATO, Slovenia could significantly contribute to the dialogue, believes Cerar, who sees its EU presidency next year as another opportunity giving it leverage and certain responsibility for trans-Atlantic relations.

All of our stories on Mike Pompeo and Slovenia

10 Aug 2020, 09:43 AM

STA, 10 August 2020 - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on Monday on a four-country European tour, as part of which he will make a stop in Ljubljana on Thursday. In what is the first visit by a head of the US diplomacy in Slovenia in 23 years, the main topic will be enlisting allies in the clash with China in cyberspace.

The focus of Pompeo's visit to the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Slovenia will be on the security of next-generation mobile telecommunication networks (5G).

For this purpose, Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar and Pompeo are scheduled to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, and a special talk on this topic is scheduled with Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The US secretary of state will also be received by President Borut Pahor, with the majority of the visit taking place at the lakeside resort of Bled.

The visit will be the most high-profile one from the US since 2008, when President George W. Bush attended a EU-US summit during Slovenia's presidency of the EU.

The last time a US secretary of state visited Slovenia was in 1997, when Madeleine Albright was received in Ljubljana.

After the election of President of Donald Trump, who is married to Slovenian Melania Trump, Slovenia has hoped that high-level visits between the countries would intensify.

Contact is relatively intensive on the sidelines of various multilateral meetings, in particular as part of NATO, while former Foreign Minister Miro Cerar visited the State Department in December 2018.

It was the relatively low frequency of bilateral visits with the US that the former Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec had to explain himself for during a motion of no confidence debate, as he was accused of leading a foreign policy that was too pro-Russian.

The current Janša-led government has started steering foreign policy towards the largest ally in NATO. The newspaper Večer recently commented that due to the 5G declaration, Slovenia is "making its way into the closest circle of its allies".

The declaration is being labelled by critics as a "new Vilnius letter", as the countries signing it are giving in to the pressure from the US and interfering in the country's disputes with China, which have switched from the realm of trade to the digital world.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič for instance tweeted that Pompeo should be "explained that devices and services of the US tech giants such as Apple and Amazon still do not support the Slovenian language, which is the first condition for the safe use of information technology."

The government endorsed the signing of the joint declaration on 23 July and stressed that it stemmed from the commitments which had already been made as part of the EU and NATO in a bid to increase information security and reduce related risks.

In the draft declaration, which was obtained by the STA in June, there are several security conditions on which countries are expected to agree on being mandatory for establishing a safe 5G network.

The text states that providers and their suppliers have to be checked thoroughly, including the transparency of their ownership, respect of intellectual property rights and commitment to laws requiring transparent governance.

With the joint statement, Slovenia and the US would also highlight the importance of safe networks at the level of NATO and the EU.

The declaration is believed to be primarily targeting the Chinese technological giant Huawei, the world's largest vendor of 5G equipment, although neither the company not China is explicitly mentioned.

The Trump administration has been trying for a while to limit Huawei in particular, as the company is accused of spying for the Chinese government. Huawei has been denying the accusation and noting that the US has provided no evidence.

As the statement could limit Huawei's participation in 5G deployment in Slovenia, the company recently said it was willing to discuss 5G technology security issues with the Slovenian government as well as sign a non-spy agreement with the country.

The government has not responded yet to the call. Quizzed about this by the STA, the Government Communication Office only said that the "government has not discussed this topic yet".

Announcing the visit, the Foreign Ministry said that its purpose was to "confirm and deepen the close friendly, allied and partner ties" between the countries.

The visit is also about "strengthening bilateral political dialogue at a high level and boosting cooperation in business and other fields". Announcing the four-country tour, Pompeo himself said it would be a very important and productive trip.

As part of the visit, it is also expected that talks started as part of the Three Seas Initiative summit in Ljubljana last year by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, would continue.

The talks focused in reducing the dependence on Russian natural gas, and the potential construction of a new reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant; the existing reactor is based on US technology.

Also announced are talks about the progress of the Western Balkan countries towards EU and NATO membership, and the decision of the US to pull 12,000 troops from Germany and repost some of them in the new NATO member states.

09 Aug 2020, 11:55 AM

STA, 8 August 2020 - Bojana Beović, the government's chief Covid-19 advisor, has told the STA that future developments are uncertain and that the government is preparing for various scenarios as regards the regime at schools in the autumn. She noted the winter-related epidemic trends presently seen in Australia were not inspiring optimism.

Beović said the epidemiological situation in Slovenia was presently fairly calm. A few new cases are recorded each day but in a scope that can be controlled. There is however concern that not all cases are detected and that the virus could be spreading around the country unnoticed.

The number of tests presently conducted is down by about 20%, but the infectologist said the criteria for ordering a test remained the same. Fact is that there a fewer respiratory issues in the summer and that people are on holiday and probably do not call their doctor if they are mildly ill, she argued.

Turning to plans for the education system, she said the situation was bound to see some changes in the coming weeks, which is why making predictions was hard.

The general idea is to enable the possibility for only partial school closures, one of the proposal also being to set up a green, yellow and red system similar to the one used for countries.

The Education Ministry has prepared four models for the autumn. The two extreme options are fully open and fully closed schools, while the middle options would see a combination of lessons in class and distance learning, with younger children being prioritised for the former.

Meanwhile, Beović noted that Australia, where there is currently winter, albeit mild, is experiencing serious problems with infections. "Reports from Australia do not inspire hope," she said.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

08 Aug 2020, 12:15 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, 31 July
        LJUBLJANA - Bulgaria, Romania, the Bahamas, India and five Spanish administrative units were added to Slovenia's red list of countries from which arrival entails a mandatory two-week quarantine due to coronavirus. Spain, Belgium, Australia, Morocco, Andorra and Canada were removed from the green list of safe countries, and downgraded to yellow.
        LJUBLJANA - The prime minister's office said a staffer at the office had tested positive for coronavirus. He has been on leave for a week and has not been in direct contact with PM Janez Janša.
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec found herself in the spotlight because of media reports that the Izola municipality paid for her hotel accommodation during her official trip to the seaside town in June with a hotel invoice suggesting she was there with her sons, a charge the minister denied.
        LJUBLJANA - Mladina reported a new asylum regime had been implemented since June at some police stations on the border with Croatia, which it said had no basis in legislation. It said the regime restricted the movement of asylum seekers and placed them in the centre for aliens in Postojna, where they lived in inhumane conditions. NGOs expressed concern, while the Interior Ministry and the police rejected the accusations.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian state budget recorded a EUR 1.92 billion deficit in the first six months of the year, mostly on the account of a considerable drop in revenue related to a lower tax yield as the government introduced restrictive anti-epidemic measures, figures from the Finance Ministry showed.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's annual inflation rate ran at 0.3% in July despite a 0.1% dip of consumer prices in a month-on-month comparison. Measured with the harmonised index of consumer prices, an EU-wide gauge, Slovenia posted an annual deflation rate of 0.3% in July and prices fell by 0.2% in a month.

SUNDAY, 2 August
        VELENJE - Social democratic politician Bojan Kontič, who spent nearly a decade as mayor of Velenje and served as member both of the lower and upper chamber of parliament, died aged 59. Kontič served three stints as MP between 1996 and 2008, as served as Velenje mayor since 2010.

MONDAY, 3 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Association of Social Institutions left the government task force for Covid-19 after their demands regarding the treatment of infected residents of care homes off-site were not met. The association has long been warning that most care homes do not have the capacity to set up three separate zones in case of confirmed Covid-19 as envisaged by the current protocols.
        SALZBURG, Austria - Drago Jančar, arguably Slovenia's leading contemporary writer, formally received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature 2020. The jury said one of the big strengths of his literature was that it was "taking an individual to penetratingly render understandable the delusions of our history".
        LJUBLJANA - The treasury has extended an existing three-year bond by EUR 50 million following demand by an investor. The yield to maturity was -0.492%, the lowest on record and just 27 basis points over a comparable German bond. The issue was completed at the end of June.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - The European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day was marked, with keynote speaker Boštjan Žekš, an advisor to President Borut Pahor, saying he felt ashamed over the suffering of the Roma being almost forgotten. He also said that the Roma did not have it easy in modern-day Slovenia.
        KOPER - Fierce storms with winds exceeding 120 km/h hit western Slovenia. The coastal region was hit the hardest, with locals clearing debris, fallen trees and pumping water out of buildings late into the night. Storms raged over Primorska, Notranjska, central Slovenia and the Drava valley.
        
TUESDAY, 4 August
        LJUBLJANA - Thirteen public health institutions and a private concessionaire have received the much discussed Siriusmed R30 ventilators ordered through Geneplanet that had been supplied to Slovenia before the contract with the company was rescinded in May, an STA investigation showed. Although the Health Ministry said that they could be kept only if additional equipment is supplied to make them suitable for Covid-19 patients, only two hospitals received this equipment.
        LJUBLJANA - In the wake of Slovenia's announcement to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security with the US, China's Huawei said it was willing to discuss 5G technology security issues with the Slovenian government as well as sign a non-spying agreement with the country.
        LJUBLJANA - Tatjana Rojc, the ethnic Slovenian senator in Rome, said the Italian government planned to send an additional contingent of soldiers to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to help monitor the border with Slovenia in the face of an increase in illegal migrations. The Slovenian Interior Ministry said the next day it was familiar with Italy's plans and that every additional measure aimed at preventing illegal migration was welcome.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia - Christian Democrats (NSi) celebrated their 20th anniversary, but a major ceremony, to be attended by the head of the European People's Party, Donald Tusk, is scheduled for 4 September. NSi head Matej Tonin said the party should grow stronger to fortify the healthy and rational political centrum in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Alcohol consumption among young people in Slovenia declined in 2017/2018 but it remains high by international standards, the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) said, as it presented the results of international survey Health Behaviour in School-aged Children for Slovenia which showed that 71% of 15-year-olds and 86% of 17-year-olds have tried alcohol.

WEDNESDAY, 5 August
        BEIRUT, Lebanon/LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin confirmed that all four members of the Slovenian Armed Forces serving in the UNIFIL and UNTSO missions in Lebanon were safe and well following a series of massive explosions in Beirut that claimed at least 100 lives. Tonin offered his "sincere condolences" to the victims' relatives.
        LJUBLJANA - The effects of a weakened economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have started to reflect with increasing intensity in Slovenia's banking sector, as the most recent data from the central bank showed the combined half-year profit of banks reaching just a third of the figure in the same period last year. Interest and non-interest revenue has been dropping, while the cost of impairments and provisions has increased.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total stood at 89,397 at the end of July, which is almost unchanged compared to June but due to unemployment growth in April and May the figure is 24.4% above that from July 2019, showed data released by the Employment Service.
        SOLKAN/LJUBLJANA - The drowning of a ten-year-old at a popular bathing spot in the Soča river last week has raised a series of questions, even more so after the parents accused the social services and the police of making the family tragedy even more unbearable. The accident happened on 28 July, when the boy, holidaying with his grandparents and two siblings, was swimming at a bathing spot in the Soča near Solkan, when he was swept downriver by a sudden surge in the water level.
        
THURSDAY, 6 August
        LJUBLJANA - The US State Department and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry confirmed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Slovenia on 13 August to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security as part of a tour of four European countries. He will also meet top officials.
        LJUBLJANA/KOPER - A criminal complaint against a member of the Slovenian Armed Forces who allegedly stopped an Italian-Slovenian near the countries' border at gunpoint in May has been thrown out by the Koper district prosecution office for lack of evidence that the soldier had committed the alleged criminal act.
        LJUBLJANA - Delivering a video message for the international community as part of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, President Borut Pahor urged much more cooperation and shared, genuine efforts to strengthen trust.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian subsidiary of the Italian banking group Unicredit saw its consolidated profit plunge to EUR 1 million in the first half of 2020 compared to EUR 16 million in the same period last year.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of new coronavirus infections remained steady throughout the week, dropping during the weekend, when fewer tests are performed. 15 out of 771 tests for Sars-CoV-2 conducted on Wednesday came back positive. One person died, taking the death toll to 125. The number of active cases stood at 190. There have been 2,223 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Slovenia so far.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Police reported the seizure of 2,650 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of around EUR 2 million on an island on the river Mura, in what is the biggest cannabis bust in Pomurje region in recent years. Three middle-aged men were arrested and face up to ten years in prison.

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