06 Jun 2020, 10:26 AM

STA, 5 June 2020 - Despite the stormy weather, anti-government protesters on bicycles hit the streets of several Slovenian towns for the seventh consecutive Friday, the biggest crowd rallying in the capital Ljubljana.

Even before the protest, a dozen gathered in rain in the square in front of the parliament building in Ljubljana to draw slogans on the ground with chalks.

This has become a new form of protest after a group of protesters were subject to a misdemeanour procedure a week ago for drawing a slogan on the pavement and face fines.

In a public letter signed by more than 100 individuals, the Forum for Democracy condemned what they described as "growing police repression" targeting "citizens and their constitutional right to a freedom of expression".

Despite the police taking steps against individuals drawing slogans last week, the streets in the centre of Ljubljana were today covered in new chalk slogans such as Stop corruption, Nature is not yours, and calls for PM Janez Janša and his government to resign.

Protest organisers called on participants to draw on the streets and pavements exclusively rather than on the walls or facades of buildings.

As every Friday, the protesters doing rounds of the streets surrounding the parliament and government buildings shouted slogans and clanked their bicycle rings, played music or made some other noise.

Coinciding with World Environment Day, the protest also heard loud opposition to the efforts to exclude environmental organisations from investment approval procedures.

The protests are being organised by several groups and initiatives, who have been inviting people to join in the cycling via social networks.

At an assembly on Wednesday, several of the initiatives decided that the demonstrations next Friday will be held on foot rather than on bicycles to allow everyone to take part in a protest against authoritarian politics.

06 Jun 2020, 09:53 AM

STA, 5 June 2020 - After Slovenia banned a concert by Marko Perković - Thompson, a Croatian nationalist singer, three years ago, recently a second attempt was made at organising it but the Maribor Administrative Unit again blocked the initiative. However, this time the Interior Ministry annulled the decision in a move that has caused quite a stir.

The ministry told the STA the decision to grant the appeal against what is the second banning of the concert had been made in line with a ruling of the Administrative Court and valid legislation.

The Maribor Administrative Unit was the first to block the controversial concert in 2017 as well, but more than two years after the concert was scheduled to take place the Maribor Administrative Court lifted the ban last June.

Marko Perković participated in the Croatian War of Independence (1991–95), during which he started his career with the patriotic song "Bojna Čavoglave".

Although the Maribor Administrative Unit stands behind the decision it made on 4 May, the procedure to ban the concert initiated by police is now stopped. According to the paper, the singer can now either stage the concert or claim compensation from Slovenia.

The head of the Maribor Administrative Unit, Srečko Đurov, told the STA today he believed the decision to ban the concert was correct but he was obligated to respect the ministry's decision.

"Promoting the Ustaše movement at a public event is a severe violation of human dignity. This is especially so in the case of Maribor, which was subject to horrible terror during the Second World War."

He said the administrative unit had granted the police's request to ban the concert "to protect the fundamentals of our constitutional order, which is the rule of law, human dignity and pluralism".

Thompson's speeches at his concerts are a "direct attack on the fundamental values of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Slovenian Constitution", Đurov said.

The Maribor Administrative Unit did not ban the planned concert because of the views and ideology of the organiser and signer, as the organiser claims, but because promoting the Ustaše movement and inciting hatred is not allowed at a public event in Slovenia, he stressed.

The concert organiser, Milan Trol, who initially wanted to organise the concert on 20 May 2017, told Radio Maribor that the concert would be carried out. "You will be notified of all the details when the time is right," he added.

The ministry's decision triggered a wave of criticism on Twitter, mainly among opposition parties but also from the head of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), Zdravko Počivalšek.

"Thompson's concert, which comes with promoting contempt of other nationalities, is not and must not be welcome in Slovenia. Any kind of incitement of national, racial, religious or any other intolerance is an insult to our values and a violation of our Constitution," he tweeted.

Marjan Šarec of the namesake LMŠ party said the government was "rehabilitating the Ustaše movement" and that the annulment of the concert ban was a "slap in the face to all those who suffered and bled including because of collaboration".

"The decision tramples on human dignity and gives recognition to the Ustaše regime. The fact that Thompson supports the Ustahsa is not a problem. The problem is that our government does," said the interim head of the Social Democrats (SD), Tanja Fajon.

Matej T. Vatovec of the Left said that while many countries were rejecting Thompson and banning his concerts, the Janez Janša government was doing everything for him to have a concert in Slovenia and "thus open the door to promotion of the Ustaše movement and Fascism".

President Borut Pahor's office also responded. "Based on the many questions the president has been receiving regarding a Thompson concert in Slovenia, we highlight that the president's view is the same as in 2017: It is not a matter of politics to allow or ban concerts but a matter of the organiser or relevant institutions to make sure the event is organised in line with the law and that public law and order is protected," the office said on Twitter.

"The president is not familiar with Marko Perković Thompson's music. However, he is familiar with his political views and he rejects them," the office added.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič said such a concert had no place in Slovenia. He noted though that media had reported that the Administrative Court had lifted the ban on the first concert. "If that is the reason for the ministry's decision, then I will understand it, although I absolutely do not support this concert," he told reporters.

Thompson - his nickname he took from the gun he had used in Croatia's war of independence - has often been accused of extremist nationalist views due to some of the lyrics of his songs and due to the fact that youth wear Ustaše and Nazi symbols at his concerts.

05 Jun 2020, 19:45 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, 29 May
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed the third economic stimulus package, valued at roughly a billion euro. The legislation brings a subsidised short-time work scheme until the end of the year and a one-month extension of the existing furlough scheme until the end of June for all employers. All Slovenian permanent residents will also get vouchers to spend on tourist accommodation in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed an emergency law aimed at accelerating major investments to help the economy. The government will draw up a list of 50-odd investments which will be handled as a matter of priority in granting construction permits and other approvals.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed legislation under which Slovenia will support the EU SURE instrument to mitigate unemployment risks across the EU with up to EUR 88.1 million in loan guarantees. The scheme is designed to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic's massive negative impact on the European job market.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP decreased by a slower-than-expected 2.3% in the first three months of 2020 year-on-year due to a slowdown in domestic consumption and external demand. Seasonally- and working days-adjusted GDP contracted by 4.5% compared to the last quarter of 2019 and by 3.4% year-on-year, the Statistics Office said.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor proposed that the National Assembly take a vote on Barbara Zobec and Andraž Teršek for one vacancy on the Constitutional Court, as the nine-year term of Dunja Jadek Pensa runs out on 14 July. Statements by parliamentary factions suggest Teršek enjoys broader support, since Zobec was unequivocally endorsed only by the ruling Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar underlined good relations between Slovenia and Norway in a phone conversation with his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen Soreide as well as Slovenia's interest in further strengthening economic cooperation with Norway.
        LJUBLJANA - Several thousand people flooded the streets of the capital Ljubljana for what is the sixth Friday in a row that protesters, most of them on bicycles, expressed opposition to government policies. Smaller crowds also gathered in other cities around the country. After a minor altercation with police, six persons were fined.
        LJUBLJANA - After two months and a half of severe air traffic restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, regular passenger transport services resumed at Ljubljana airport. The first flight was operated by Air Serbia. More airlines are expected to start operating Ljubljana flights from mid-June.

        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry amended a decree on quarantine requirement for people coming to Slovenia from third countries by adding new exemptions, including Slovenian citizens and foreigners with a permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia, persons attending a relative's funeral, those coming for a medical procedure, and those transiting Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor expressed concern in an interview with the weekly Nedelo that the growing economic and social crisis will increase people's distress and that the anti-government protests will intensify as a result. This is why he believes the government should hear the protesters' messages and restore cooperation with the opposition.

SUNDAY, 31 May
        AJDOVŠČINA - Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel announced a special version of its plane had have joined the US Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) fleet as low-cost, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles. The company said its airframes were being equipped with sensors to collect video and signals intelligence.

MONDAY, 1 June
        LJUBLJANA - Most lockdown measures were relaxed as the Covid-19 epidemic was declared officially over. Large accommodation facilities, spas, gyms and pools were allowed to reopen, although most large hotels said they would do so gradually. Public gatherings of up to 200 persons were permitted, and primary school pupils from grade four started returning to classrooms.
        LJUBLJANA - Due to an increased number of migrants heading west on the Balkan migration route, acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner ordered expanded surveillance of the border with Croatia. The beefed up border policing will be in force between 2-5 June, involving an additional 1,000 police officers.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia assumed the one-year chairmanship of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region. The main focus of the country's chairmanship of both forums will be green cooperation, the Western Balkans and EU enlargement.
        LJUBLJANA - The government extended by three months the 15-month period in which persons of Slovenian descent brought from Venezuela have the status of a repatriated person. The extension, which is part of the latest legislative package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, applies to those Venezuelan Slovenians who arrived in Slovenia between 13 November 2019 and 12 March this year.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša announced a major digitalisation effort that would accompany the cutting of red tape in the public administration, telling Nova24TV that the first major steps should be taken this year. "Modern technologies make it possible to speed up procedures," he said.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian frontline staff got an unprecedented thank you for their work during the coronavirus epidemic as military planes and US fighter jets conducted a flypast of the entire country, the first day after the formal end of the epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Janez Kocijančič, the long-serving Slovenian sports official who was also active in politics and business, died at the age of 78. He had headed the European Olympic Committees since 2017 and served as the head of the Slovenian Olympic Committee between 1991 and 2014.

        MARIBOR - It was revealed that a pupil at the Ludvik Pliberšek Primary School in Maribor tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in what was the first positive case among children after they started returning to school on 18 May. The 17 classmates of the infected third-grader, who was asymptomatic, and their teacher were sent into a two-week quarantine, while the remaining pupils at the school were allowed to continue going to class.
        LJUBLJANA - The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) rejected the offer for a partnership agreement on key legislation proposed by PM Janez Janša, joining the other left-leaning opposition parties in opposing the proposal which is now seems to be supported only by the National Party (SNS). Janša said the government had extended an offer of cooperation of the kind his party never received while in opposition.
        LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Tomaž Besek and Mitja Križaj as non-executive directors on the management board of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) and appointed Alenka Urnaut Ropoša and Boris Novak to replace them, serving from 3 June until the end of 2022. The government provided no explanation for the replacements.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia purchased EUR 54.4 million worth of protective equipment through the national Agency for Commodity Reserves during the epidemic. Between 14 March and 31 May, the agency signed 64 contracts worth EUR 184 million, which includes contracts that were subsequently annulled or not realised, shows data released by the agency.
        RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Slovenia pledged EUR 20,000 in an online donor conference for Yemen, launched by the Saudi Arabia and the UN. The conference aims to get pledges for US$2.4 billion to ensure humanitarian aid to the war-torn country in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - The Hungarian channel TV2, whose owner is associated with the Fidesz party, and Croatian entrepreneur Ivan Ćaleta are bidding to purchase Planet TV, the troubled subsidiary of telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije which produces the eponymous TV channel, reported web portal Necenzurirano, citing an unofficial source.
        LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Slovenian Environment Agency that an environmental impact assessment is needed before any permits can be issued for hydraulic fracturing planned by British company Ascent Resources at the Petišovci gas field in the north-east of Slovenia, the company said.


        LJUBLJANA - Italy opened its borders to all EU citizens, and Austria announced the opening of its borders for 4 June, decisions that mean Slovenians are now allowed to travel to all neighbouring countries. Slovenia welcomed the development.
        LJUBLJANA - After a significant uptick in joblessness in March and April due to the Covid-19 crisis, the trend slowed down in May, as the jobless total was up by only 2% on the monthly level to 90,415. Compared to May 2019, the figure was meanwhile up by 18,403 or 25.6%, the Employment Service said.
        LOŠKA DOLINA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin set out a plan to invest EUR 780 million in defence over the next six years as he joined President Borut Pahor for the viewing of a military exercise dubbed Leap 2020 in Babno Polje in the south of the country.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Justice Committee endorsed changes to the penal code, raising the penalties for migrant smugglers and those involved in illegal migration. The penalty for migrant smugglers would thus increase from five years to three to ten years in prison.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Council asked the Constitutional Court to review the controversial dismissal of Bojan Nastav as the general director of the national Statistics Office. Nastav was dismissed under the public sector employees act, but some jurists believe this is unlawful since the Statistics Office is governed by a special act.
        LJUBLJANA - The four centre-left opposition parties urged Milan Krek to resign as director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) after he failed to provide an answer at a government press briefing as to whether face masks are mandatory at shopping malls. The parties also urged action from Health Minister Tomaž Gantar.

        LJUBLJANA - The government put Austria on a list of countries whose citizens are free to enter Slovenia without restrictions from midnight, a move that comes after Austria opened its borders for all neighbours bar Italy. Government coronavirus spokesman Jelko Kacin said the National Institute of Public Health is keeping a close eye on the situation and analysing when restrictions might be lifted.
        LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek confirmed that his State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti is leaving the ministry. Cantarutti intended to leave before the change of government but was willing to stay on until the end of the Covid-19 epidemic, Počivalšek said.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor's entire advisory committee on climate change resigned in protest against Pahor's lack of response to recent legislative measures restricting the involvement of NGOs in environmental assessment and building permits procedures.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Bureau of Investigation conducted house searches in connection to the bankruptcy of the air carrier Adria Airways. Unofficially, police were looking into suspected abuse of office and business fraud.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary foreign policy and EU affairs committees rejected the opposition's criticism of Foreign Minister Anže Logar's disparaging comments on the judiciary that he had attached to Slovenia's report for the European Commission's first annual rule of law report. The coalition majority instead condemned a letter sent to the Commission by the MEPs of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) which accused Logar of promoting the ruling party's views.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed former criminal police officer Anton Olaj a new state secretary at the Interior Ministry as on 8 June. Olaj served in the police force from 1981, when he joined a police station in Ljubljana, to 2012, when he finished his police career as Novo Mesto Police Department director.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Composers' Association presented the Kozina Award for 2020 to Bor Turel, one of the pioneers of electroacoustic and experimental music in Slovenia. Turel was honoured for his all-round oeuvre of electroacoustic music.
        LJUBLJANA - Ding Dong Zgodbe (Ding Dong Stories) by Jana Bauer, illustrated by Bojana Dimitrovski, has won the Desetnica Prize for the best children's and youth book of the last three years. The book was published in 2018.

All our posts in this series are here

05 Jun 2020, 08:42 AM

STA, 4 June 2020 - Slovenia has implemented two thirds of GRECO's recommendations pertaining to preventing corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors, which puts it among the top ten countries in terms of implementation, shows a report released by the Council of Europe's (CoE) Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

GRECO's annual report for 2019 says that by 31 December, Slovenia fully implemented 14 out of a total of 21 recommendations made by the CoE's anti-corruption body.

Another five were partly implemented and two were not.

As a result, Slovenia emerged one of the 14 countries covered by the report which did not implement all GRECO recommendations by the end of 2019.

The report, released on Wednesday, also shows that only Finland and Norway implemented all GRECO recommendations for MPs, judges and prosecutors.

Slovenia was among the countries which implemented the greatest share of recommendations for prosecutors - 89%.

While Finland, Norway and Sweden fully implemented all recommendations for judges, Slovenia's share in this segment amounted to 75%.

However, Slovenia was one of the 14 countries which did not fully implement a single recommendation for prevention of corruption among MPs.

The country which had received the largest number of recommendations from GRECO was Turkey (37), followed by Greece and North Macedonia (each 25).

Faring slightly better than Slovenia had been Austria (20) as well as Belgium, Bulgaria and Estonia (each 19).

04 Jun 2020, 11:29 AM

STA, 3 June 2020 - Defence Minister Matej Tonin set out a plan to invest EUR 780 million in defence over the next six years as he joined President Borut Pahor for the viewing of a military exercise on Wednesday.

Tonin and Pahor as the supreme commander were hosted by the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) for a presentation within a series of exercises dubbed Leap 2020 in Babno Polje in the south of the country.

The minister commented that the name of the exercise suggested the SAF's challenge was to "leap into a new reality, to be able to confront the crisis caused by the novel coronavirus, and, above all, to be able to act in aggravated conditions".

The exercise is special in that it is not being held in the country's main military exercise grounds, but in local communities, which Tonin said welcomed SAF members well. Such a format of the exercise is meant to bring the army closer to people.

Tonin repeated his pledge to work for amendments to the defence act and defence investment act, with talks under way with opposition deputy factions on the former, which requires a two-thirds majority in parliament to pass.

The gist of amendments to the defence act is to tackle the status of soldiers beyond the age of 45 when under the current law they are required to retire. "The best promoter of the SAF is a satisfied soldier," said Tonin.

He was happy to announce that that the ministries of defence and finance had agreed the final wording of the bill amending the defence investment act that foresees EUR 780 million investment in SAF over the next six years. Tonin will now seek the coalition's support for the bill.

Pahor noted that the needed major investments in the army could not be planned over a single government term, declaring that the planned investment would "allow the SAF to continue as the military pillar of Slovenia's security".

The president underscored that Slovenia being a safe country was one of the major achievements since independence. He said Slovenia had no enemies in the world, but had many friends and was acquiring new ones.

"It's an achievement that is the merit of the security system," the president said, noting the contribution of the police force and other factors aside the army.

The exercise, which also involved overflights by US F16 fighter jets and Slovenian Pilatus aircraft, was also viewed by other senior guests, including US Ambassador Lynda C. Blanchard, the chair of the parliamentary Defence Committee Samo Bevk and Interior Ministry State Secretary Franc Kangler.

The Leap 2020 exercise has been running since 11 May at various locations across the country. A total of 2,500 service members will have been involved in the tactical drills until 19 June.

02 Jun 2020, 16:18 PM

STA, 2 June 2020 - More than 1,000 additional police officers were dispatched to Slovenia's border with Croatia on Tuesday to tight border control until Friday, as the police say an increase in migrants on the Balkan route has been detected.

The aim of the mission, ordered by acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner, is to show migrants and smugglers that an attempt to enter Slovenia does not pay off, Deputy Police Commissioner Jože Senica said on Tuesday.

Police are using all technical measures available, including surveillance drones, thermal cameras, motion-sensor cameras and helicopters.

Police officers are assisted by the military, Senica said in a statement on Tuesday, speaking at one of the points where the control has been beefed up in the area of Kočevje, south.

Apart from regular patrols, mounted police officers, the canine unit, a specialised border control unit and the special weapons team have been sent to the border, said Senica, adding that additional auxiliary police had also been mobilised.

Moreover, a special debrief police team has been set up. Its members, specially trained officers, will try to gain information from migrants about the routes they are taking and smugglers organising the border crossings.

Senica said that migrants are becoming increasingly cautious, travelling through remote areas and at night.

He said that the number of people on the Balkan migration route had increased in the past two weeks after countries started lifting restrictions they had had in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the beginning of the year, Greece moved several thousand migrants from islands to the mainland, while Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have abolished movement restriction, the deputy commissioner said.

"This has created additional pressure and encouraged migrants to continue their journey towards Slovenia," said Senica.

In the past days, several groups of migrants have been detected trying to enter the country illegally and continue their journey towards Italy.

According to police data, there are more than 10,000 migrants in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina who want to continue their journey to the EU.

The General Police Department said today that it had detected 3,139 attempts at illegal border crossing in the first five months of the year. Last year, the figure for the same period stood at 4,426. The police attributed the drop to strict border measures accompanying the coronavirus pandemic.

02 Jun 2020, 13:21 PM

STA, 2 June 2020 - A primary school pupil in Maribor has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in what is the first positive case among children after they started gradually returning to schools on 18 May, and the first confirmed case in the country's second largest city after 30 April.

The head teacher of the Ludvik Pliberšek School wrote on Tuesday the school had been notified of the infection by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ).

The 17 classmates of the infected third-grader, who was asymptomatic, and teacher were sent into a two-week quarantine, while the remaining pupils at the school will continue going to class. The classmates' parents are allowed to continue going to work.

This decision was made after the NIJZ conducted an assessment of the situation, establishing all of its preventive measures were being implemented. The NIJZ told the STA the infected child had not had close contact with children from other classes.

Mario Fafangel of the NIJZ later told the press that this was probably a case of an infection contracted within the child's family, with other family members also infected. One case was confirmed on Monday by midnight while an infection was also confirmed today for some of the contacts.

While the detailed figures will be published on Wednesday, the tracing of contacts is continuing. The original source of the infection has not yet been identified.

The development comes after the first three grades returned to school on 18 May. Ninth-graders followed a week later and the remaining primary school children returned on Monday.

It also comes after Maribor declared itself a coronavirus-free zone last Thursday, having been without a new Covid-19 case since 30 April.

Two new coronavirus infections on Monday, no deaths reported

STA, 2 June 2020 - Two people tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia on Monday, raising the total number of infections recorded so far to 1,475. Five people were still in hospital, the same as the day before, of whom one was in intensive care. No deaths were reported, meaning that the national death toll remained at 109.

On Monday, 659 tests were conducted, putting the total number of tests performed so far at 79,698, or roughly 39,000 tests per million population.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

02 Jun 2020, 09:03 AM

STA, 1 June 2020 - Slovenia is assuming on 1 June the one-year chairmanship of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR). The main focus of the country's chairmanship of both platforms will be green cooperation, the Western Balkans, and EU enlargement.

Foreign Minister Anže Logar presented the priorities during last week's videoconference with the foreign ministers from all participating countries.

He said Slovenia would strive for the "recovery from Covid-19 to be a green recovery".

He finds it key that the participating EU member states insist on their commitment that joint macro-regional priorities of strategic importance for the Adriatic and Ionian region are considered when funds from the new EU financial perspective are allocated.

He also announced Slovenia would make an effort for the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, entailing its meeting the EU's decarbonisation targets, to be implemented.

A special focus will be given to continuing the EU enlargement process, so Logar said he was happy Albania and North Macedonia were starting their EU accession talks.

Logar believes that Slovenia's chairmanship of the two initiatives is an introduction to its presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021.

This is Slovenia's third stint at the helm of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative, coming after 2003-2004 and 2012-2013, and the first EUSAIR chairmanship.

The Initiative brings together nine countries, apart from Slovenia also Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

It was formed in May 2000 in Italy's Ancona, with Slovenia one of its six co-founding members.

Slovenia takes part is another two of the EU's four strategic macro-regions designed to promote cooperation between the EU and the regions, namely in the initiatives for the Alpine and Danube regions.

EUSAIR meanwhile brings together Slovenia, Italy, Croatia and Greece as EU members, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania as EU candidates or aspiring countries. Its four pillars are blue growth, environment, tourism, and transport and energy.

01 Jun 2020, 12:07 PM

STA, 1 June 2020 - Slovenian frontline staff will get an unprecedented thank you for their work during the coronavirus epidemic as military planes and US fighter jets conduct a flypast of the entire country on Monday, the first day after the formal end of the epidemic.

Three Slovenian Pilatus PC-9 will be joined by for the six American F-16 fighters, taking off from Aviano air base in Italy, will join up around Jesenice in the west just after 1pm and then fly a loop over the entire country east and then back west.

The flight path

The flypast will be in two echelons a mile apart at an altitude of about 1,200 metres and a speed of 425 km/h.

The commander of the Slovenian air force, Lt-Col Janez Gaube, said on Friday that the flypast was "a clear, loud and visible thank you to all the people who gave it their all in the fight against Covid-19."

Lt-Col Ben Shaha, the US military attaché to Slovenia, added that the virus may have slowed down cooperation a bit but could not defeat the alliance.

31 May 2020, 13:50 PM

STA, 30 May 2020 - The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) is in for a very difficult summer because of preparations for a second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, NIJZ's new director Milan Krek told the STA. "The idea that the epidemic is over is actually fake news," he said about the formal end of the epidemic, warning that the second wave might be worse.

Apart from dealing with its regular work this summer, NIJZ will also make preparations for the second wave of the epidemic and try to help people deal with the recession that is expected to hit in the coming months if not years.

NIJZ is monitoring the epidemiological situation in Slovenia and other European countries and beyond. "We are on alert to see what could start where; we are also very active in controlling the crossings of the border. We are writing recommendations to many in Slovenia to reduce the possibility of the virus spreading."

A Covid-19 information system is being set up, but NIJZ is primarily working to increase the number of people who could help with epidemiological activities during the second wave, meaning in identifying those infected and ordering isolation or quarantine.

Currently, 29 NIJZ epidemiologists are working in the field, which Krek thinks is not enough to be able to respond to new outbreaks efficiently. He is hoping for some 130 people, which should be enough to control up to 30 new cases per day.

If isolation is ordered for those infected on time, the current situation could be maintained. "This means health treatment will be available, and health centres, schools, universities etc. open." But if the situation gets out of hand, the second wave could be worse than the first, Krek warns.

He says there is also a very small possibility that there will be no second wave. "But right now all signs point to a second wave, because we have very low immunity to the virus and because it is still out there, just waiting for favourable conditions to start spreading again."

The chances os the virus starting spreading again are increasing with the easing of restrictive measures, and with people not taking preventive measures, Krek says. "This gives it a change to find a nest again, and cause problems again."

The NIJZ head therefore believes people should not think the epidemic is actually over. "The idea that the epidemic is over is actually fake news. The fact is that we are in a different phase of this epidemic. We have a low number of infections, but that does not mean we're safe. We're not on the safe side."

NIJZ will thus promote preventive measures even when there are no more infections in the country. This means keeping a 1.5-metre distance between people or wearing protective masks. "In other words, this means that if you are taking a bus, we will still recommend you to wear a face mask."

Hygiene requirements and coughing etiquette will also remain in place, and NIJZ is planning to launch a big awareness campaign. Krek says that efforts to change habits such as hand-shakes and hugs should continue.

In case of a second wave, NIJZ will try to isolate the outbreak. "If it happens in a factory, it could be shut down if necessary. If it happens in a school, it will be closed as a last resort, and a quarantine will be set up. We're also thinking of putting entire towns in quarantine if there is a strong outbreak there."

An epidemic will be declared again if there are not enough hospital beds or if the NIJZ epidemiological service is not able to trace all infected persons.

Krek says the institute is doing all it can to make sure lockdown will not be necessary again but nothing is excluded.

Although his predecessors got into some quarrels with the government in the past months, Krek says the relations between NIJZ and the government are very good now. "I don't know how it was before, but right now we are an important player."

Krek says the decision to declare the end of the epidemic, which will step into force on Sunday, had been discussed for almost four weeks beforehand. "We were sending signals that it would make sense to consider ending this state of epidemic. And the government then adopted this decision."

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

30 May 2020, 13:00 PM

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

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FRIDAY, 22 May
        PIRAN - The Slovenian and Croatian foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Gordan Grlić Radman, had their first meeting in person. They discussed the reopening of borders but offered no specific solutions as yet.
        LJUBLJANA - Austria remains rather inflexible about reopening its border with Slovenia, although Slovenia's epidemiological situation is the same or even better than Austria's, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksander Geržina told the STA.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and his Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nauseda highlighted the role of a joint European response to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in the EU as they spoke over the phone.
        LJUBLJANA - The cycling protests against the government's actions and policies continued for the fifth Friday running, with several thousands protesters reported again in Ljubljana. PM Janša lashed out against the protesters by comparing them to the self-styled paramilitary units or nationalist home guards that recently made headlines, arguing both were extremely offensive to the police.
        LJUBLJANA/LONDON, UK - Speaking to the BBC on 21 May, Slovenian PM Janez Janša said that tourism was the mainstay of Slovenia's economy and announced that the season would kick off on 1 June, and assured that holidaying in Slovenia would be safe in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - The energy group Petrol saw its sales revenue drop by 15% year on year to EUR 916 million in the first quarter, due to lower prices and a drop in the sale of petroleum products. Still, net profit of the group was up 20% to EUR 21.8 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank amended the rules for calculating creditworthiness, allowing banks to exclude the months with temporary lower income of their clients from creditworthiness calculations.
        LJUBLJANA - As many as 66% of those polled by market research agency Aragon are against coronavirus contact-tracing apps, labelling them a harsh encroachment on privacy and a violation of human rights. Some 31% meanwhile consider them a necessary measure to contain the spread of the virus.

        LJUBLJANA - Bojana Beović, the head of the Health Ministry advisory task force for coronavirus, told the STA that all efforts should be directed at preventing another nation-wide lockdown if a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic occurs.
        LJUBLJANA - Although the party is well below the parliament threshold in recent surveys, coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) president Zdravko Počivalšek believes that the threshold is reachable even if elections were held now.
        LJUBLJANA - Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president Aleksander Čeferin told the newspaper Dnevnik that football with fans in the stands could hopefully return by the autumn. He also denied speculations that he was interested in entering politics.

SUNDAY, 24 May
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor told commercial broadcaster POP TV that self-styled uniformed village guards or militias should not be allowed in Slovenia. He thinks such activities should be banned by law.
        AJDOVŠČINA - Bia Separations, a Slovenian biotechnology company, announced it would expand its production facilities in Ajdovščina and Italy's Gorizia due to increased demand. The company's investment plans to launch production in the US have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but will go ahead as soon as possible.

MONDAY, 25 May
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs discussed the opening of the border with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer, with the latter saying that Austria was worried that Italians and illegal migrants would enter Austria via Slovenia and Croatia. LJUBLJANA - In his first questions time in parliament since taking office in March, Prime Minister Janez Janša told MPs there was not enough money in the budget to compensate for all losses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic, but that the government could mitigate the consequences to the greatest extent possible. He said no major cuts into people's income was planned.
        LJUBLJANA/TRIESTE, Italy - The Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) denied its member being involved in an incident near the border with Italy in early May after the Trieste-based newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported that a dual Slovenian-Italian citizen had been stopped at gunpoint by a man in a military uniform in the Hrpelje-Kozina community.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the weekly Reporter that he expects the authorities to take action against the organisers of the mass anti-government protests on bicycles.
        LJUBLJANA - Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj and Health Minister Tomaž Gantar defended action to contain the spread of coronavirus at care homes in parliament as the opposition sought answers about the high proportion of Covid-19 fatalities at care homes and about media reports that care home residents had allegedly been listed as to who should get hospital treatment and who not if infected. Gantar denied the existence of such lists.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša announced potential changes to tax legislation and media funding as he gave a weekly interview with the private broadcaster Nova24TV. He said, however, that fast tax cuts could not be made due to the coronacrisis and said the Culture Ministry was already working on changes to public broadcaster funding.
        LJUBLJANA - The Covid-19 lockdown meant Slovenia recorded no tourist arrivals in April, while the number of recorded overnight stays was 11,000. This is 99% less that in April 2019 and was mostly accounted for by ongoing student exchange programmes.
        LJUBLJANA - A sharp increase in Slovenia's registered unemployment total caused by the coronavirus crisis was brought to a halt last week with the weekly figure rising only by 59 to 90,272 compared to the previous week, according to interim data from the Employment Service.
        LJUBLJANA - After plummeting by an unprecedented 35.8 percentage points in April, business sentiment in Slovenia improved somewhat in May, with the relevant index standing at -33.1 percentage points, or 6.5 points higher than in April and 40.8 percentage points lower year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - Electricity consumption in Slovenia declined by 15% year-on-year in April, the first full month of coronavirus lockdown, and by 19% compared to March, an indication of a sharp decline in economic activity, Statistics Office data show.

        LJUBLJANA - The government added new exemptions to the quarantine requirement for EU and Schengen zone citizens that in effect allow citizens from across the EU to enter the country as tourists, as long as they have a confirmation of booking. The same applies to owners of property in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs talked over the phone with his Maltese counterpart Byron Camilleri. While the latter urged Slovenia to help with the relocation of migrants rescued at sea, Hojs said Slovenia's capacities were full and it could not do that at present.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia pledged a humanitarian contribution of EUR 10,000 as part of an international donor conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
        LJUBLJANA - In the first four months of 2020, the Slovenian police recorded 2,394 illegal crossings of the border, which is almost 25% less than in the same period last year. The decline is at least partially a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and the related stricter measures on the border.
        LJUBLJANA - The government received a letter from the Green 10, a coalition of ten of the largest environmental NGOs in Europe, which expresses concern over pending legal provisions limiting the involvement of NGOs in environmental permit procedures.
        LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Small Business (OZS) called on the government to start working on a fourth stimulus package to help the industries that have not been covered in the third stimulus package.
        LJUBLJANA - Culture workers covered the front of the building housing the Ministry of Culture with hundreds of pieces of paper with appeals for action to help the sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as part of a protest targeting what the organisers described as the ministry's silence and inaction.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia placed seventh according in the 2020 KidsRights Index, released by the KidsRights Foundation, an international children's aid and advocacy NGO. The country received 0.897 points overall, chalking up the highest score in protection and the lowest in the child rights environment category.

        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia will be eligible to receive EUR 5.071 billion from the EU's coronavirus recovery plan, according to European Commission documents. It will be able to receive EUR 2.579 billion in grants and EUR 2.492 billion in loans.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a set of changes limiting the involvement of environmental NGOs in administrative and court proceedings. Under the changes, public interest status will be recognised only for groups with at least 50 members, at least EUR 10,000 of assets, at least two fully employed persons who have tertiary education level degrees and two years of experience in environmental protection.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry would not comment on a new remembrance day declared by the Trieste city council. The Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association (SKGZ), one of the central organisations of the Slovenian ethnic minority in Italy, said the holiday was divisive and "reviving old conflicts".
        LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin spoke with his German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer via videolink to express satisfaction with the countries' cooperation in defence and look for opportunities to strengthen it further.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament confirmed Klemen Podobnik as the candidate for one of two Slovenian judges at the EU's General Court in Luxembourg. The remaining two nominees, Jure Vidmar and Nina Savin Bossiere, failed to secure the absolute majority required.
        LJUBLJANA - Marko Bošnjak, one of the five vice-governors of Slovenia's central bank, tendered his resignation in the aftermath of accusations that he evaded taxes on rental income.
        LJUBLJANA - Heads of the parliamentary deputy groups and parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič discussed reforming the electoral law, with a majority agreeing that the relevant ministry should be tasked with drafting proposals for redefining the electoral districts. A day later Zorčič and President Borut Pahor urged all stakeholders to find a solution by December.
        LJUBLJANA - Retail sales plunged by 22.6% year-on-year in April to the lowest level since 2006, show fresh Statistics Office data. At the monthly level the decline was 8.8%, following a 12% contraction in March.

        LJUBLJANA - Dejan Židan resigned as the leader of the opposition Social Democrats. Vice-president Tanja Fajon, an MEP, will run the party for the time being at his request. Židan said he saw the change of leadership as an opportunity for the party to gain in the polls.
        DOLGA VAS - Slovenia and Hungary lifted restrictions on the crossing of state border for the citizens of both countries based on a favourable epidemiological situation in both countries. The announcement came after talks between the Slovenian and Hungarian foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Peter Szijjarto.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that primary schools would open in full next week. It also allowed the gathering of up to 200 people. Hotels, gyms and spas will also open on Monday. The only establishments that will remain closed are night clubs.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Labour Committee okayed the EUR 1 billion third stimulus package, which provides a short-time work scheme and support to the tourism sector, primarily in the form of tourist vouchers for all residents.
        LJUBLJANA - The SID Banka export and development bank has secured EUR 200 million in liquidity loans and another EUR 150 million in insurance and re-insurance deals to sole traders, SMEs and big companies as well as cooperatives during the Covid-19 epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - The retail group Mercator generated EUR 1.1 million in net profit in the first quarter of 2020 after a net loss of EUR 3.7 million in the same period last year. Revenue increased by 10.8% to top EUR 530.48 million.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission increased more than five-fold the Just Transition Mechanism funds for Slovenia, from EUR 92 million to EUR 538 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Ernest Petrič, a seasoned diplomat and former Constitutional Court judge who is currently an adviser to President Borut Pahor, was named by the government as Slovenia's member of the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, for a four-year term.

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