Politics

09 Jul 2021, 11:00 AM

STA, 9 July 2021 - Voters will be heading to the polls on Sunday to support or reject a set of changes to the waters act passed on 30 March. The government and the bill's opponents have presented diametrically opposing views on whether the new legislation expands or limits construction in areas around bodies of water.

Coastal or embankment areas are currently defined as five or 15 metres from the perimeter of a body of water such as the sea, lake or river.

Under Article 14 of the existing waters act, the government can narrow coastal or embankment areas on the proposal of developers, but only under certain conditions.

Construction is now allowed only in an existing building plot within a town, it must not worsen flood safety or threat of erosion, and must not affect water quality.

If a coastal or embankment area is narrowed, however, no special safety measures regarding construction apply to it, despite the closeness of water.

The new act regulates this in Article 37, which the referendum proponents find the most problematic.

Although it introduces the provision that a water permit will have to be obtained for all construction projects, it no longer requires building only within an existing building plot within a developed area.

The opponents claim this significantly expands areas eligible for construction if municipal zoning plans are changed, which is easy under pressure from capital.

But the government says that the new Article 37 expands the strict rules from coastal and embankment areas to water areas and areas of intermittent lakes, as it prevents construction there, except for certain exceptions.

The exceptions are among others construction of public or utility infrastructure, including for the country's defence, or buildings constructed for public good, including hotels and restaurants.

Several types of construction related to water protection are also allowed along the construction for safe navigation or protection of people, animals or property.

These exceptions have been transposed from the existing law into the new one, with two more added: simple buildings and buildings for public use.

While the opponents admit that a few simple buildings will do no harm to waters, they believe a cumulative effect could be extremely harmful.

Since 2008 when the law enabled narrowing of coastal and embankment areas, there have been very few exceptions approved, which the opponents see as the existing law protecting waters relatively well.

Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Andrej Vizjak meanwhile says the new legislation improves the existing situation.

He has recently explained that the existing legislation allows all types of buildings if a coastal or embankment area is narrowed, including private mansions.

This will no longer be possible, as only simple and public-use buildings could be build there, while every project will also have to be approved by the Water Agency.

This means decisions will be in the hands of experts rather then politics, Vizjak has argued in favour of the new legislation.

However, the government and the three coalition parties seem to be largely isolated in their promotion of the new rules for areas close to waters.

The referendum proponents - a broad coalition of environmental NGOs termed the Movement for Drinking Water - had opposed the bill while it still in its early stages.

They have since seen massive support by those with vested interest, such as water experts and engineers, but also organisations with practically no direct link to water management, such as WWII veterans.

The University of Ljubljana stressed the new law enabled construction even on water, and the Speleological Association said it enhanced risks of pollution.

"In Slovenia we are well aware of the role of water and the water sources which we manage. We are one of the two EU member states which have legislated the right to drinking water by writing it down in the constitution," the Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) has said as it presented its view against the bill.

In a heated political atmosphere, some see the referendum as a vote on the government, while the two opposing sides have also accused each other of misleading voters.

The campaign wraps up at midnight after problems with early voting at several major polling stations in Maribor and Ljubljana as well as problems with registration for absentee voting, leading to accusations of voter suppression.

08 Jul 2021, 12:23 PM

STA, 7 July 2021 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday amendments to the communicable diseases act after the Constitutional Court declared parts of the act and by extension the measures introduced during the epidemic unconstitutional.

The amended act determines that expert assessments are required for some measures, and that certain indicators must be taken into account when restrictions are adopted. It also introduces curbs on the duration and location of the measures.

In case of restrictions that would strongly affect human rights and fundamental freedoms, there will be a special mechanism under which individual measures in place for more than 90 days can only be extended by the National Assembly.

This comes after the Constitutional Court declared parts of the communicable diseases act allowing the government to restrict movement and public assembly unconstitutional at the beginning of June, and annulled the government decrees that were based on this law.

It said the act was unconstitutional because it gave the government too much leeway in the ways, types, scope and duration of restrictions that strongly interfered with the freedom of movement.

The amendments were passed in a partisan 44:42 vote.

The coalition defended the legislation as necessary to have measures in place before the next wave of the coronavirus pandemic hits. It said the wording was in full compliance with the Constitutional Court decision.

Jožef Horvat of New Slovenia (NSi), dismissing complaints that more debate was needed, said on Tuesday the Constitutional Court had given the legislature a clear deadline to implement the changes.

The centre-left opposition on the other hand claimed that instead of addressing the Constitutional Court's concerns about encroachment on fundamental rights, the government had now merely given itself unfettered powers.

Dejan Židan of the Social Democrats (SD) wondered if Slovenians really wished to live in a country in which the government was allowed to declare a state of emergency for an indefinite time.

07 Jul 2021, 13:31 PM

STA, 7 July 2021- The moves recently made by the prime minister both in the domestic political arena and the international stage are raising questions about what the prime minister wants to achieve in the first place, Primorske Novice says in Wednesday's commentary.

"There are questions as to the benefits the people derive from European politicians being instructed about which Slovenian judge is meeting which political party at a picnic. Or from Europe seeing a film ostensibly showing media bias."

Not only are there no palpable benefits to the people, the prime minister himself and by extension the entire government have no benefits beyond gaping jaws in Europe realising that Slovenia is increasingly becoming similar to countries that we used to look down upon, according to the commentator.

"If the prime minister's intention is to achieve better - to eschew the word balanced - media, better judiciary, healthcare, education, better conditions for the people, fine. We support that.

"But if we are now to report only about government achievements, Mt. Triglav climbs and missed sunsets, if the judiciary were to turn a blind eye to weapons deals, questionable land sales and covert insults, and if hospitals were to treat only those who can afford that, the title of the booklet should be changed," the paper says in reference to a booklet sent to Slovenian households entitled We Stood up and Survived, which it says should in this case be changed to We Stood up and Survived. And Backslid.

06 Jul 2021, 17:46 PM

STA, 6 July 2021 - MEPs from the majority of political groups in the European Parliament sent PM Janez Janša some stark messages about the rule of law after he presented Slovenia's EU presidency priorities in the Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. His European People's Party (EPP) too urged him to promptly appoint European delegated prosecutors.

Apart from the European delegated prosecutors, most of the criticism centred on media freedom and independent judiciary, while a lack of ambition in fighting climate change was also singled out.

Janša welcomed all the views heard in the debate following his presentation of the Slovenian presidency priorities as legitimate.

While the EPP was rather reserved before Janša's appearance in Parliament, EPP head Manfred Weber urged Janša today to immediately appoint the two prosecutors.

Weber said the rule of law was a self-evident political principle, stressing problems with it in one member state were problems of the entire EU.

He also highlighted the controversy about media freedom and the judiciary in Slovenia.

Calls to appoint the delegated prosecutors and respect media freedom also came from the Social Democrats, Liberals, the Greens and the Left, who also highlighted an incident at the start of the Slovenian presidency when European commissioners visited Slovenia.

On 1 July, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans (S&D) refused to take part in a photo-op due to Janša's comments about links between Slovenian judges and the Slovenian Social Democrats (SD).

Stressing the rule of law was a pillar of democracy, S&D head Iratxe Garcia said this attack on the opposition MPs was unacceptable.

Malik Azmani from the liberal Renew called on Janša to appoint the delegated prosecutors and to stop harassing journalists and judges or appointing his friends to various offices.

The head of the Parliament's democracy monitoring group, Sophie in 't Veld, meanwhile announced a fact-finding mission to Slovenia for October.

The Dutch MEP from Renew argued that leaders of EU member states allowed the deep crisis of the rule of law to undermine EU values.

She expressed concern about attacks on journalists and highlighted the unacceptable interference with the appointment of the delegated prosecutors.

Janša, addressing the press after the debate, said he had never seen any obstacle to anyone coming to Slovenia to see the situation for themselves.

Stressing he was happy the group would visit in the autumn, he said "I hope they talk to different people, not just those who are presenting a one-sided picture."

As for media freedom, he said he had led the Slovenian government three times, and every time Slovenia had gained in the media freedom index.

He advised foreign journalists who do not speak Slovenian to come to Slovenia for a week with an interpreter so that they do not depend on what they are told.

"Don't judge by what somebody has told you," he added, but did not say whether he will attend another session of the democracy monitoring group scheduled for 15 July.

Ska Keller, the co-chair of the European Greens, said intimidating free media and the civil society was not what the Slovenian EU presidency was expected to do.

She also warned against a lack of ambition in fighting climate change.

In collaboration with Slovenian activists Jaša Jenull and Tea Jarc, the Greens staged a minor protest in front of the Parliament this morning, urging the EU to use all means available for the situation in Slovenia not to deteriorate.

The Left stressed Slovenians had the right to free media and efficient judiciary. In the media centre, reporters could see their parody of a Ljubljana postcard with Janša's message that the Slovenian presidency will actively contribute to a more xenophobic and regressive Europe.

The Eurosceptic grouping of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) meanwhile welcomed Janša's address.

Its Raffaelle Fitto said the group was at ease with his approach to European values while he rejected criticism about the European delegated prosecutors.

Similarly, the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) wished the Slovenian presidency good luck, while pointing to the role of respecting different nations.

In responding to the MEPs' views, Janša was conciliatory. He said Slovenia was not pulling out of the project of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, arguing the non-appointment of prosecutors was a result of problems related to the Slovenian law. He is confident the appointment could go through by the autumn.

Janša said today's debate was important even if they did not share all the views. "Europe is all this what you have presented," he said. He said that for him, all the views expressed were legitimate as he wanted all voices to be heard.

06 Jul 2021, 13:30 PM

STA, 6 July - PM Janez Janša said as he addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday he believed the time had come for the EU to start acting more strategically, including in the Western Balkans. Presenting the Slovenian EU presidency's priorities, he said the first short-term priority was to do everything to prevent the fourth wave of the pandemic. 

As everybody is wondering what lies ahead in the autumn, Janša considers it key to convince people to get vaccinated. "Every citizen should do everything to stop the pandemic," he said, adding that ad hoc solutions should be replaced by sustainable structural measures.

He moreover highlighted resilience and recovery, the EU's strategic autonomy, a Union of European way of life, the rule of law and equal standards for all and the right to freedom of speech as he presented the presidency's priorities. He pointed to a credible and safe EU also able to ensure security and stability in its neighbourhood.

Janša urged everyone to present their views on the European future as part of Slovenia's next priority - the Conference on the Future of Europe.

He is convinced that everyone should contribute to the debate even if their views are opposing, arguing that others should not teach Europeans about the European future.

Janša pointed to the respect for the rule of law saying equal standards should apply to all EU countries as a way of enhancing mutual trust.

It must be clear that in the end, it is an independent judicial body not a political body that takes the final decision, which makes the quality of judiciary particularly important, he said.

Janša also said a step forward should be made in the Western Balkans, arguing that if the EU was not active, somebody else with different interests would be.

The Slovenian presidency will also focus on the freedom and plurality of the media, Janša said. He announced that on the European Day of Remembrance of Victims of Totalitarian Regimes on 23 August, Slovenia would host an international conference.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meanwhile stressed the role of values and the rule of law in her address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

She said the July EU summit showed how central they were, adding that ways of defending the EU's values and financial interests would be debated at the plenary on Wednesday.

Noting Slovenia chaired the EU for the first time in 2008 as the first newcomer from the 2004 enlargement wave, von der Leyen recalled Janša's words from that time that Slovenia was willing to do everything for the EU to be preserved, developed and strengthened.

She said this was still a noble mission which also entailed preserving diversity, media freedom and the rule of law and developing tools for the EU to be better prepared for future challenges.

Von der Leyen pointed to the role of trust, including in free media and independent courts, which she believes is also important for taxpayers, who finance post-pandemic recovery. She thus again urged Slovenia's presidency to make efforts for a prompt conformation of national recovery and resilience plans.

Turning to the Europeans' wish to end the pandemic, she said it was key to ensure effective vaccination, pledging the Commission will work together with the presidency to that effect. She concluded by saying "long live Europe".

06 Jul 2021, 11:07 AM

STA, 6 July 2021 - Slovenian voters who will be unable to go to the polls on Sunday, 11 July, to vote on the changes to the waters act can do so in early voting from Tuesday to Thursday between 7am and 7pm at over 92 polling stations around Slovenia.

Water Act Referendum on 11 July Aims to Protect Coastal Land

A voter can cast their vote in early voting only at the local electoral commission which covers the area of their permanent residence.

While the early voting will largely take place at the seats of district electoral commissions, there are around a dozen exceptions.

For all districts within the Ljubljana Administrative Unit, early voting will take place at the Gospodarsko Razstavišče fairgrounds.

Standard rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will have to be observed, with voters having to enter polling stations one by one.

Until tomorrow, voters can apply to vote on 11 July outside their place of permanent residence or at home.

Voters with permanent residence abroad who would like to vote in Slovenia can also still apply tomorrow to do so.

The referendum was initiated by several NGOs associated in the Movement for Drinking Water, which is critical of the new rules for construction on sea and lake coasts and on riverbanks. It claims that the new legislation liberalises construction and might lead to over-development of coastal areas.

Voters - just over 1.7 million are eligible - will be asked whether they support amendments to the waters act passed by the National Assembly on 30 March.

05 Jul 2021, 15:38 PM

STA, 5 July 2021 - The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a coalition of press freedom organisations and journalism groups, stressed on Monday that media freedom was at risk in Slovenia. Attacks on Slovenian media take place at multiple levels, both legislative and administrative, and on social networks, the group said.

Presenting its report released at the end of last month after a virtual fact-finding mission to Slovenia in late May and early June, representatives of MFRR partner organisations highlighted government attacks on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and public broadcaster RTV Slovenija today.

With the report noting that Slovenia has seen press freedom deteriorate ever since Prime Minister Janez Janša returned to power in March 2020, MFRR representatives said today that aggressive efforts were under way to take control over public media.

A mix of legal and administrative pressure is being used as well as attacks, often personal, aimed at undermining the integrity and independence of these institutions. "What is worrying is that this is happening during the pandemic, when objective reporting is crucial," said Jamie Wiseman from the International Press Institute (IPI).

Tim Schoot Uiterkamp from foundation Free Press Unlimited (FPU) said that during the mission in Slovenia representatives of the Slovenian government had mostly justified their actions by arguing that the media landscape needed to be balanced and that a network of fierce government opponents controlled the media.

Government officials also pointed to the problems that existed before this government. Schoot Uiterkamp said that problems from that period had been detected but that the current government had used those weaknesses and deepened them rather than trying to eliminate them.

MFRR representatives warned that the Slovenian government was copying the illiberal model of democracy from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and that the ruling Democrats (SDS) had set up a network of party media before taking office, and now they were discrediting media and journalists and trying to present the media landscape as a battle between the left and right activism to undermine trust in the media.

"We are concerned by the spreading of this model," said Schoot Uiterkamp, adding though that not everything was lost in Slovenia's case.

What is positive in Slovenia is that media and the civil society have recognised the threat and shown some solidarity. The stronger and the more independent the public media outlets are, the easier they can resist to such pressure, said Renate Schroeder, the head of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).

Schoot Uiterkamp urged Slovenian journalists to remain alert, continue to show solidarity with their peers and continue to resist pressure, as this was what differentiates Slovenia from Hungary and Poland, where no such resistance could be felt.

He also called on European institutions to monitor the situation closely and respond to developments in Slovenia, and to adopt as soon as possible a directive against strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).

He said Brussels should also launch a mechanism of withholding EU budget payments to countries where governments bend the rule of law.

Laurens Hueting from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) assessed that at present there was no need to launch the procedure foreseen under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union and expressed hope that this would never be necessary.

You can see the full report here (PDF)

05 Jul 2021, 12:34 PM

STA, 5 July 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša will present Slovenia's EU presidency priorities to the European Parliament at a plenary session on Tuesday in a very different atmosphere than in 2008. Socialists, liberals, the greens, and the left have all announced they will be critical. Janša's political family is reserved.

The presentation of priorities of the country starting the six-month stint at the helm of the Council of the EU in Parliament is customary and is followed by a debate with MEPs.

Janša will address MEPs for the second time as prime minister of a presiding county. In 2008, when he presented Slovenia's first presidency priorities, MEPs were mostly interested in Kosovo, which was about to declare independence.

This year, the situation is much different. The first two days of Slovenia's presidency were marked by two incidents. Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice-president from the ranks of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), eschewed a traditional photo-op at the takeover of the presidency due to Janša's comments about links between Slovenian judges and the Social Democrats (SD).

This was followed by a statement by Interior Minister Aleš Hojs at Friday's briefing for Brussels correspondents dedicated to the start of the Slovenian presidency being interpreted as taking aim at Timmermans with a pearls-swine metaphor. Hojs has denied the accusation.

This, along with the failure to appoint European delegated prosecutors and Janša's attitude to media and his support to Hungary in a debate on a controversial law that according to the European Commission discriminates people based on their sexual orientation, will set the mood for Tuesday's debate.

The biggest political group, the right-of-centre European People's Party (EPP), is reserved. Janša will take part in a meeting of the group on Tuesday evening, where he can expect questions about his support for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the debate on the rights of the LGBTIQ community, as the EPP finds the controversial Hungarian law unacceptable.

Orban's Fidesz left the group and the EPP party a few months ago.

The EPP warns that politicising such issues in Hungary, Slovenia and Poland feeds populism in these countries. Unofficially, the group is concerned about the divide between the eastern and western EU countries, which the debate on the rights of the LGBTIQ community laid bare again.

The second and third biggest parliamentary groups, the S&D and the liberal Renew, announced they would be critical, especially due to Slovenia's failure to appoint delegated prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), and Janša's attitude to media.

The Slovenian prime minister can also expect criticism from the European Greens, the fifth largest group, who announced protests in Strasbourg for Tuesday morning together with the organisers of Friday's anti-government protests in Slovenia, as well as from the Left (GUE/NGL), the smallest political group.

The Eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) said the Slovenian prime minister must be given a chance.

The far-right Identity and Democracy Group (ID) did not take part in Friday's briefing where groups presented their views ahead of Tuesday's debate.

The agenda of the plenary will include the rights of LGBTIQ persons in Hungary, the Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on the European Union against Poland and Hungary, and rule of law conditionality.

The plenary will also be attended by Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar, who will represent the Council of the EU in relations with the Parliament. He will take part in the debates on the rule of law and the fundamental rights in Hungary and Poland, the rights of the LGBTIQ community in Hungary, global EU sanctions related to human rights violations, the situation in Ethiopia, Antarctica and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions.

03 Jul 2021, 15:22 PM

STA, 3 July 2021 - President Borut Pahor assessed that Interior Minister Aleš Hojs saying that the term "swine" could apply to a key player in the EU administration is unbecoming of the post he holds. Hojs must find a way to apologise, said Pahor, adding that PM Janez Janša should also pay attention to this in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

Hojs caused confusion at Friday's briefing for Brussels correspondents, with the journalists interpreting one of his replies as taking aim at European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans with a pearls-swine metaphor.

They journalists confronted Hojs about the "do not cast pearls before swine" comment he made on Twitter about the Yellow Jackets, a far-right group linked to neo-Nazis which was removed from last Friday's anti-government protests in Ljubljana.

The minister responded by saying he did not refer to anyone as "swine" and later added that, taking into account what was said on Thursday, when the College of European Commissioners visited Slovenia, his comment might as well apply to a key player in the EU administration.

The journalists' first impression was that this was probably an allusion to Timmermans, who boycotted a group photo because of Prime Minister Janez Janša's comments about links between Slovenian judges and the Social Democrats (SD).

Speaking to the press on the sidelines of an event in Črna na Koroškem on Saturday, Pahor said that politicians and public personalities were obliged to refrain from words that some could understand as insulting.

Hojs's words are unbecoming of someone who holds such a senior position, he added.

"Especially when he speaks not only on his own behalf, on behalf of the government and our country, but on behalf of the EU Council, he must be extra careful what and how he says something so that it does not get met with lack of understanding.

We don't need to agree, he does not need to present a position that is necessarily acceptable for all, but it must be uttered respectfully," the president added.

Pahor also noted that Prime Minister Janez Janša is to present the Slovenian presidency's agenda to the European Parliament plenary on Tuesday and answer questions from MEPs.

The president hopes that Janša will be able to resist the temptation to "say everything that he thinks, in a way that he would perhaps want to, and that everything that he says will be said on behalf of Slovenia.

"He should be careful in doing so. I don't want to give advice, but I would like to see everything go well on Tuesday," said Pahor, assessing that Janša's appearance in the European Parliament could be decisive in Slovenia winning over the European parliament.

"The parliament is difficult to win over. One needs to be very crafty and the prime minister can be very crafty. But the questions is whether he will be crafty enough on Tuesday so that we win over the authority to chair the Council in such demanding dossiers," he concluded.

03 Jul 2021, 06:39 AM

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, 25 June
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša symbolically took over the presidency of the EU from Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva at the Statehood Day ceremony. He warned against using double standards and said that as the presiding country, Slovenia would fight for equal standards for everyone.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor made an appeal for a new national consensus in his address to the Statehood Day ceremony, highlighting the importance of shared goals and cooperation. He also called for a respect of differences and diversity. The prime ministers of Austria, Croatia and Hungary, the foreign minister of Italy, and the president of the European Council also congratulated Slovenia on the 30th anniversary of its independence as they addressed the ceremony.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - PM Janez Janša told reporters as part of the EU summit that there would be enough Covid-19 vaccine and that now the key problem would be how to utilise all resources so that as many people as possible got vaccinated. As for the new Hungarian law on the LGBTIQ community, he said Slovenia did not want to be part of any new divisions in Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - Organisers of weekly anti-government protests staged an alternative celebration of Statehood Day, with the crowd filling Prešeren Square as speakers criticised political elites. In inviting people to the protest, the organisers said the event was open to all people who recognise that this is a holiday of the people, not a holiday of political elites.
        LJUBLJANA - Several international NGOs promoting freedom of the press called on the Slovenian government to refrain during the presidency of the EU Council from attempts to undermine initiatives that aim to improve the conditions for freedom of the press in EU member states and in EU candidate countries
        LJUBLJANA - The Romanian Orthodox Church announced it had established a parish in Ljubljana in order to provide spiritual care for the Romanian diaspora. "It is a moral obligation to take care of all Romanians, wherever they are," said Patriarch Daniel.
        LJUBLJANA - The pandemic severely affected population statistics in Slovenia in 2020, as a high death rate was coupled with fewer births. Life expectancy declined by almost a year, Statistics Office said.

SATURDAY, 26 June
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his German and Portuguese counterparts, Heiko Maas and Augusto Santos Silva called for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans in an op-ed published on the BalkanInsight web portal, describing such efforts as a strategic and shared interest.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša discussed the values of independence as well as what he called high treason in an interview with the commercial broadcaster Nova24TV, saying that while independence never divided the nation it did divide politics, owning to those for whom an independent Slovenia was not an "intimate option".
        ŠMARJEŠKE TOPLICE/ŠENTJERNEJ - A meeting discussing Slovenia's green future was held under the auspices of President Borut Pahor, who stressed the need for a consensus on the green future of the country. Robert Golob, chairman of Gen-I, which organised the conference, highlighted the importance of joint efforts to fight climate change.
        MARIBOR - Maribor held its second Pride Parade, a week after a similar event was held in Ljubljana, with the city's local authorities and the university joining. The organisers said they had distributed all the 300 promotional bracelets among the participants.

SUNDAY, 27 June
        BERLIN, Germany - Slovenia as a whole was removed from the list of Covid risk areas by Germany, which means those who arrive in Germany from Slovenia by land can enter without restrictions. The change in Slovenia's status comes after parts of the country were already removed from the list of risk areas in mid-June.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša and the first prime minister of the independent Slovenia, Lojze Peterle, noted the vital role that the Slovenian diaspora played in the independence efforts, as they addressed the 27th annual get-together of Slovenians living abroad.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša attended a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the first session of the Slovenian World Congress where a commemorative plaque was unveiled. He was presented with a distinction awarded to individuals and institutions whose activities strengthen the national consciousness of their compatriots.
        TOMAJ - Josip Osti, a Sarajevo-born poet, writer and translator who earned international acclaim for his literary work as well as praise for his efforts in linking different cultures, died in his home town of Tomaj at the age of 76.
        
MONDAY, 28 June
        LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin informed his German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as she visited Slovenia that the government would purchase German eight-wheeled armoured fighting vehicles Boxer for the Slovenian Armed Forces. The ministers called for greater cooperation and announced a joint task force.
        ROME, Italy - Foreign Minister Anže Logar took part in the ministerial session of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, pledging Slovenia's commitment to enhanced cooperation against the militant group. Logar also met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič said Slovenia would seek to accelerate the enlargement process during its presidency of the Council of the EU as he took part in the summit between the European Parliament and parliamentary speakers from the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court ruled that the interpretation by the National Assembly of the provisions of the criminal procedure act that instruct destruction of evidence obtained by means of covert surveillance if no criminal prosecution is initiated in two years after evidence is obtained is unconstitutional.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor nominated law professor Janez Kranjc, an associate member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), for a vacancy on the Constitutional Court. Pahor's office described Kranjc as a highly esteemed law expert both at home and abroad.
        LJUBLJANA - Police Commissioner Anton Olaj ordered supervision of the work of the Ljubljana Police Administration in policing the 25 June alternative celebration of Statehood Day by anti-government protesters in Prešeren Square. He said there were doubts as to whether all protesters were treated the same.
        LJUBLJANA - The government as the STA's sole shareholder asked its communication office to transfer EUR 845,000 advance to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) for the expenses related to the performance of public service once the STA provides UKOM with access to business documentation for the last ten years and if a contract on public service is signed.
        BRESTANICA - The Brestanica Thermal Plant (TEB) inaugurated its seventh gas unit in an investment valued at EUR 26.4 million. The 56-megawatt Unit 7 and the 53-megawatt Unit 6, which has been in operation since 2018, will replace three lower capacity units that are nearing the end of their lifespan.
        
TUESDAY, 29 June
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia presented to Brusssels correspondents the priorities of its presidency of the Council of the EU with the Fit for 55 legislative package attracting the most interest. Slovenia's Permanent Representative to the EU Iztok Jarc said Slovenia hoped for a breakthrough in accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania by September to provide for a better atmosphere ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit in Slovenia on 6 October.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - PM Janez Janša met the ambassadors of the EU member states for a working lunch, to note that the key challenges of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU are the Covid-19 situation, economic recovery, improving resilience, the Conference on the Future of Europe and EU enlargement, the government said.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Five MEPs and a German MP called on the European Commission and the European Council to take measures regarding the situation in Slovenia. They think that the Commission should trigger the mechanism under which funds are conditional upon the respect of the rule of law due to pressures on the media and judiciary.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to call in reserve police to make up for absences as active police force members take on additional tasks to protect the events during Slovenia's EU presidency, secure the border and to provide the security at sporting events. About 2,000 reserve police deployments are estimated to be required.
        LONDON, UK - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) upgraded by 1.5 percentage points its GDP growth forecast for Slovenia in 2021 to 5%. The institution expects that Slovenia's economy will expand by a further 4% next year.
        AJDOVŠČINA - Slovenian military pilots are to train on and test aircraft produced by the light aircraft maker Pipistrel under an agreement signed by Defence Minister Matej Tonin and Pipistrel director Ivo Boscarol. The sides also agreed a special partnership that includes efforts to obtain EU and NATO funds for development projects.

WEDNESDAY, 30 June
        MARIBOR - Podravje, Slovenia's second largest region, was offered the prospect of EU-subsidised investment for a development breakthrough as the government toured the region. Prime Minister Janez Janša said the goal was to keep young people, in particularly the highly-educated, at home.
        PODLEHNIK - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs visited the Gruškovje border crossing to meet with mayors of municipalities located along the southern Schengen border as part of the government's visit to the Podravje region. He announced the deployment of reserve police officers to help guard the border.
        LJUBLJANA - National Assembly President Igor Zorčič symbolically took over from Portugal the parliamentary dimension of the presidency of the Council of the EU today alongside National Council President Alojz Kovšca. Slovenia's presidency will mainly focus on the EU's post-pandemic recovery and efforts to strengthen the bloc's resilience, Zorčič he said.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, urged the Slovenian EU presidency to provide better protection to refugees in Europe and around the world. It also called for an agreement on the EU pact on migrations and asylum.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian government is overseeing an increasingly systematic effort to undermine critical media, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a coalition of press freedom organisations and journalism groups warned in a report released after conducting a virtual fact-finding mission to Slovenia in late May and early June.
        LJUBLJANA - Pope Francis appointed Andrej Saje the new bishop of Novo Mesto. The priest of the Ljubljana Archdiocese and native of the town in south-eastern Slovenia has previously worked as a judicial vicar of the Metropolitan Ecclesiastical Court in Ljubljana and teacher at the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology.
        LJUBLJANA - Unhappy with collective bargaining with the government, professional firefighters went on a token strike. The trade union of professional firefighters said the strike was not directed at the people and they would not feel it as firefighters would still protect lives and property.
        LJUBLJANA - Measures to mitigate the consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic affected Slovenia's public finances also in the first quarter of the year, with the general government deficit amounting to EUR 969 million or 8.3% of the country's GDP, the Statistics Office said. This is somewhat less than in the last quarter of 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Slovenia increased by 2.4% to EUR 16.6 billion last year despite there being no major takeovers like the year before, according to a report from the central bank. Austria ranks as the biggest investor with a 25.6% share in the total value of incoming FDI.
        RENNES, France - Slovenian cycling star Tadej Pogačar won stage five of the Tour de France race. Last year's winner of the Tour was 19 seconds faster than Stefan Küng from Switzerland in the 27.2-kilometre individual time trial between Changé and Laval Espace Mayenne.

THURSDAY, 1 July
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Rule of law was one of the main topics discussed during the visit by the College of Commissioners. Prime Minister Janez Janša said that in a rule of law, final decisions are in the hands of courts. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was important to always respect the rule of law and European values.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Prime Minister Janez Janša said the procedure to appoint European delegated prosecutors (EDPs) from Slovenia could be wrapped up by the autumn. "How fast the procedure will be depends on those who participate in it ... in my assessment it could be concluded by the autumn if everybody does their job."
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU enlargement is one of Slovenian EU presidency priorities and a response to strategic challenges, Prime Minister Janez Janša said after a meeting between the government and the EU Commission delegation marking the start of the presidency stint. In the next six months there will be a return to addressing enlargement as a strategic response to open issues.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Prime Minister Janez Janša and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the EU's post-covid recovery as a major issue that Slovenia's EU presidency will deal with. The past 15 months had shown that "the EU has been part of the solution during this time," according to Janša, who said resilience, recovery and the EU's strategic autonomy were among the Slovenian presidency's priorities.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Media freedom was one of the topics that the College of Commissioners discussed as they met the government at the outset of Slovenia's presidency of the EU. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expects that Slovenia will swiftly sort out the financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and ensure its independence.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission endorsed on Slovenia's EUR 2.5 billion national recovery and resilience plan. Pending confirmation by member states, Slovenia will be able to draw EUR 1.8 billion in grants and EUR 705 million in loans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).
        LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court struck down an application by the pair of prosecutors who have been approved for Slovenia's European delegated prosecutors before the government annulled the appointment procedure on procedural grounds. It said it had set aside the lawsuit and the request for a temporary stay on the government's decision.
        BRNIK - The new passenger terminal at the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport received its first passengers in what the airport operator labelled as a landmark in Slovenian aviation history. "It is a great event ... as Slovenia has gotten infrastructure that it had long desired," Fraport Slovenija director Zmago Skobir said.
        LJUBLJANA - The centre-left opposition rejected the coalition's call for a political truce during Slovenia's EU presidency. They are determined to continue to use all the available means at their disposal and are not ruling out a new attempt at a vote of no confidence.
        STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Slovenia turned fully green on the map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), as the western part of the country joined the eastern part, which made it to the green list last week.
        KOPER - An honorary consulate of Hungary was inaugurated in Koper, with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto highlighting the strategic position of Koper for Hungarian companies and good relations between Slovenia and Hungary.

02 Jul 2021, 16:54 PM

STA, 1 July 2021 - The European Commission's Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans did not participate in the family photo after Thursday's meeting of the College of Commissioners and the Slovenian government, reportedly due to Prime Minister Janez Janša's comments about links between Slovenian judges and the Social Democrats (SD).

Matjaž Nemec, an SD deputy, said on Twitter that Timmermans refused to join the photo in protest at Janša showing a photo from a May Day picnic at which several judges were in the company of SD politicians, construing it as proof that the party controls the judiciary.

The "family photo", sans Frans The photos in question, in a tweet from Aleš Hojs, Slovenia's Minister of the Interior

Timmermans did not comment, but reports by several other media, including the German and Austrian press agencies, dpa and APA, and the Austrian magazine Die Presse, corroborate the version of events.

APA quotes a source present at the meeting as saying that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said judges were allowed to have personal histories and that they deserve respectful treatment, even when they have a different political proclivity.

Von der Leyen appeared to refer to the event at the subsequent press conference when she said that political dialogue demanded all democratic political parties be respected, adding that judges have the right to have a history.

Timmermans hails from the ranks of the European Socialists and was their Spitzenkandidat in the 2018 elections to the European Parliament.

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