Politics

16 May 2020, 12:05 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, 8 May
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll rose to a hundred on what was the second day in a row that only one new infection was detected in more than a thousand tests conducted that day.
        LJUBLJANA - Zvonko Černač, the minister responsible for cohesion policy, announced that EUR 280 million in EU funds would be redistributed to address pressing needs in healthcare, the economy, the labour market, development and education.
        LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR/KOPER - Several thousand protesters riding their bicycles in the centre of Ljubljana protested against measures the government has imposed during the coronavirus epidemic. While the ban on public assembly remains in place, cycling is allowed.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar held a video conference with his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya. They confirmed mutual interest in further strengthening the friendly ties, also in the light of Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency and the coronavirus pandemic.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The EU Commission said it would soon deliver 30,000 medical face masks to Slovenia as part of a first shipment of such protective gear to help protect healthcare workers fighting Covid-19 on the front lines. On 14. May, PM Janša said the masks did not have the requisite certification.

SATURDAY, 9 May
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša joined the leaders of other EU countries and the bloc's three key institutions for a joint video message on Europe Day, expressing belief that the EU should emerge more integrated, efficient and united from the Covid-19 crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar commented on Slovenian-Croatian relations in an interview with the newspaper Delo, airing the view that too much had been said but too little done about the relations. He indicated the coronavirus epidemic reset bilateral relations and suggested talks could resume after Croatia's elections.
        MARIBOR - Russian Ambassador Timur Rafailovic Eyvazov laid a wreath at the site of a former Nazi prison camp in memory of several thousand Russian prisoners of war who died there.
        LJUBLJANA - All medical and dental services were allowed to relaunch under restrictive conditions, in yet another easing of quarantine restrictions. Most but not all dentists resumed work on 11 May.

SUNDAY, 10 May
        LJUBLJANA, ZAGREB, Croatia - Slovenians with real estate or boats in Croatia were given a go-ahead to enter the country again without having to go into quarantine for two weeks, after about two months of restrictions imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

MONDAY, 11 May
        LJUBLJANA - Public transport started running again after nearly two months. Most operators provided limited service initially and only a portion of seats was available to secure observance of physical distancing recommendations.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly raised the ceiling for budget spending by EUR 2 billion due to the coronavirus epidemic. The changes were passed to pave the way for a supplementary budget.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar highlighted long procedures, failure to implement Constitutional Court rulings, biased judges and ineffective prosecution of bank crime in a letter supplementing an interministerial report on the rule of law the government sent to the EU Commission. Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlović said she did not deem Logar's comment necessary and the Supreme Court expressed surprise. The opposition demanded a parliamentary debate on the matter.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar and his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz agreed in a videoconference that bilateral as well as regional and panregional cooperation between the two countries should be further strengthened.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Discussing current issues, the four coalition parties announced that a third package of measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis would start to be drafted next week. The measures would be aimed at tourism, and would cut red tape.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's industrial output in March, half of which was affected by measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic, was lowest since July 2017. Compared to February, industrial output in Slovenia was down by 10.7%, the largest monthly drop since November 2008.

TUESDAY, 12 May
        LJUBLJANA - The ban on international air passenger transport with Slovenia was lifted after almost two months of restrictions due to Covid-19, but air traffic was not expected to resume before June.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša made the case for confrontation with the media in an essay entitled War with the Media, in which he argued that keeping silent while media waged war against individuals was not an option and had damaging effects on society. His comments sparked protests by the opposition and media organisations.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar held a videoconference with his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok, discussing coordination of easing of anti-Covid-19 measures, Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency and strengthening economic cooperation.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Environment Committee approved changes to the nature conservation act that significantly limit the ability of NGOs to take part in administrative procedures representing public interest. Several hundred people protested the move.

WEDNESDAY, 13 May
        LJUBLJANA - The government said that Slovenia would see a major easing of quarantine restrictions on 18 May, when all shops and small hotels will reopen, as well as a number of other services. Schools were cleared to open as well and it was announced most sports would be relaunched on 23 May.
        LONDON, UK - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it expected Slovenia's economy to contract by 5.5% this year due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, before rebounding to a 5% growth in 2021.
        GRAZ/KLAGENFURT, Austria - Austria reported it intended to open four more checkpoints on the border with Slovenia as it continued to ease measures adopted due to the coronavirus epidemic. The move will be coordinated with Slovenia.
        
THURSDAY, 14 May
        LJUBLJANA - The government formally called an end to the coronavirus epidemic based on the currently favourable epidemiological situation. The majority of public health measures remain in place and testing, contract tracing, isolation, quarantine for high-risk contacts, observance of caught etiquette and physical distancing would remain the key measures to fight the disease.
        LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit found a series of violations at Banka Slovenije between 2017 in 2018, releasing an adverse opinion. The report showed the central bank flouted regulations on hirings, employments, severance packages and public procurement. Governor Boštjan Vasle responded that the bank had addressed roughly half of the findings in the report.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša had separate conversations with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, focussing on responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor talked with his Georgian counterpart Salome Zourabichvili over the phone, discussing the novel coronavirus pandemic. They agreed that a great level of caution will be needed in the future so as to avoid more breakouts.
        LJUBLJANA - NLB generated EUR 18.3 million in net profit at group level in the first quarter, a 68% year-on-year decrease that Slovenia's largest bank said was the result of credit impairments and provisions formed due to the coronavirus epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Telecoms group Telekom Slovenije saw its net profit rise by 12% year-on-year to EUR 11.3 million in the first quarter of the year, as sales dropped by 2% to EUR 168.6 million. EBITDA was flat at EUR 56.4 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's leading insurance group, Triglav, reported EUR 26.4 million in pre-tax profit for the first quarter, a 12% year-on-year decrease that it primarily ascribes to several disaster events.
        LJUBLJANA/KLAGENFURT, Austria/TRIESTE, Italy - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch and representatives of Slovenian business in Austria and Italy discussed the need to nurture cross-border cooperation and the economy in the border regions.

All our posts in this series are here

16 May 2020, 06:36 AM

STA, 15 May 2020 - Despite poor weather and the ban on public gathering which has been in place for two months due to the coronavirus epidemic, several thousand protesters took to the streets of Slovenian cities once again on Friday, expressing dissatisfaction with the government's policies.

As has become customary during the coronavirus epidemic lockdown, most protesters were riding their bikes, some were on scooters, while other walked through the streets of city centres.

In Ljubljana, they moved in circles in the greater area of the Parliament House, before gathering in Republic Square in front of the building.

For the fourth consecutive Friday, protesters rang their bells and honked horns, shouting paroles like "thieves" and "we won't give up freedom".

The rallies have been organised by several initiatives, including the Facebook group Balcony Protest, which said that the government had encroached on people's freedom under the guise of anti-epidemic measures.

The initiative was launched at the start of the lockdown, with people placing banners critical of their government in their windows. A few weeks ago, the protest gained momentum following revelations of political interference in the procurement of medical and protective equipment.

Initiative Slovenia Wake Up and a Facebook group supporting the whistleblower who revealed the political meddling have also invited people to take to the streets. Some protesters criticised the government as lacking transparency, being corrupt and stealing taxpayers' money.

Meanwhile, the protests gained an environmental aspect after legislative changes were passed restricting the involvement of NGOs in procedures to acquire environmental and construction permits.

Some protesters are bothered by the "arrogance" of the government and its "demeaning and inappropriate" attitude towards people and the media, and there was also criticism of Foreign Minister Anže Logar's letter to the European Commission in which he criticised Slovenia's judiciary.

The 8 March Institute meanwhile warned that the measures designed by the government to address the challenges of the coronavirus epidemic further deepened hardships of many and deepened the existing balance of power. They say that the government had ignored experts and has subjected the police and military forces to itself.

The Movement for Social Responsibility meanwhile wonders whether the government will stop the "ideological battles" against the media, intellectuals, the judiciary and civil organisations.

The biggest anti-government protest took place a week ago, when, according to the police, some 5,500 people took to the streets in Ljubljana alone, while some media reports placed the number as high as 10,000.

As the protests grew louder over the past month, an initiative was started in support of the government. A petition of support for the cabinet has meanwhile been signed by more than 20,000 people.

They say that they will organise rallies as well, but only after public assembly restrictions are lifted.

15 May 2020, 16:05 PM

STA, 15 May 2020 - All anti-Covid-19 restrictions that have not yet been lifted remain in place regardless of the government's declaration of the end of the coronavirus epidemic, the Health Ministry has announced. The decree came into effect on Friday, but it will be effective as of 31 May.

The measures will be eased when it is certain that the virus transmission is not to be expected anymore, depending on the epidemiological developments, the ministry's Public Health Directorate Vesna Kerstin Petrič said on Friday.

Related: Slovenia Declares End to Covid Epidemic, Borders Open to EU Nationals

The government decree, adopted last night, raised a lot of questions regarding the validity of the restrictions. Kerstin Petrič explained at today's government briefing on coronavirus that all of them were still in effect until further notice.

She urged Slovenians to continue doing all they could to help keep the epidemic at bay by maintaining social distancing as well as using face masks and heeding respiratory hygiene guidelines.

Mateja Logar of the UKC Ljubljana infectious disease clinic agreed with Kerstin Petrič, saying that the end of the epidemic did not mean the end of all restrictions. It means that the state's boost for the economy will be reduced, certain legal decisions will be amended, but all the preventive measures stay put, she said.

According to her, the epidemic is still ongoing, however it is true that the epidemiological status shows favourable trends in the past ten days. "Time will tell whether or not it was the right moment to lift the measures quickly and en masse," she said.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the STA that the only effective result of the government's decree declaring the epidemic over was stepping up easing of the border restrictions - quarantine is hence no longer necessary for EU residents entering Slovenia, unless they were outside the EU for more than two weeks.

Kacin added that the decision was based on the recent favourable epidemiological trends. Had the government not declared the end of the epidemic on Thursday, then the first and second anti-corona bills would have been valid in June as well, he explained.

Kerstin Petrič concurred that accelerating the easing of the border restrictions was enabled by the promising epidemiological situation in Slovenia and other EU countries.

She also said that the situation would be monitored regularly and in case of any adverse developments, the border policy would be amended.

"If a new outbreak emerges in Slovenia's vicinity or a major hotspot in the country, the government could step up the restrictions," said Kacin, adding that the measures could not be discriminatory towards any EU country.

He added that the coming weekend would be a decisive time for the future assessments of the epidemiological status and people's movement.

Logar meanwhile said it was hard to predict whether a second Covid-19 wave would occur, but warned that, historically speaking, most epidemics had a second phase.

The government's decree does not affect efforts to reopen schools, pointed out Education Minister Simona Kustec at the briefing. Kindergartens will see the return of roughly a half of all the children on Monday, said Kustec, while a third of the primary school students, the first to third grades, will go back to school.

Children from Slovenia's neighbouring countries who are studying in Slovenia will carry on with remote learning though.

All the preventive measures in educational institutions remain in place, she added. Some 80%-85% of teachers and other educational workers are expected to return to work.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

15 May 2020, 08:54 AM

STA, 14 May 2020 - The Slovenian government has formally called an end to the coronavirus epidemic. Key containment measures remain in place, but the one major restriction has been lifted: EU nationals will be free to cross the border, with some caveats.

The current epidemiological situation "makes it possible to relax measures that were urgent to contain and manage Covid-19, but they cannot yet be completely abolished," the Government Communications Office said in a press release after Wednesday's session.

It noted that Slovenia had had 35 cases in the past 14 days, while the reproduction number, which shows how many people a patient infects on average, had fallen below 1.

Although the government decree marks the formal end of the epidemic, which had been declared on 12 March pursuant to the communicable diseases act, the majority of public health measures remain in place.

The government said testing, contract tracing, isolation, quarantine for high-risk contacts, observance of caught etiquette and physical distancing would remain the key measures to fight the epidemic.

In another decree, the government decided to allow EU nationals to cross the border at selected checkpoints, ending the policy of seven-day quarantine.

Third-country nationals will be subject to a two-week quarantine, with some exceptions.

The decree will enter into effect a day after it is published in the Official Gazette, presumably on Friday.

More information on borders

STA, 15 May 2020 - EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at pre-determined checkpoints while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, in what is a major step for the country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.

Under the government decree adopted late on Thursday, there will be 19 checkpoints on the border with Austria, nine on the border with Italy and five on the border with Hungary.

The listed checkpoints largely correspond to checkpoints where passengers may cross at present.

Some crossings are open only to locals or daily cross-border commuters and special exemptions are in place for owners of land on both sides of the border.

Three airports and two ports are among the ports of entry listed in the government decree.

The decree also covers Slovenia's border with Croatia, which is the external EU border, but there it does not limit crossing to specific checkpoints.

Under the new rules, those with permanent or temporary residence in the EU will be given instructions issued by the National Institute of Public Health upon entering Slovenia but will not need to quarantine, which they have to do for seven days at present.

When such a person declares they have coronavirus or symptoms thereof, or clearly show symptoms, they will be rejected at the border if they do not have permanent residence in Slovenia; those who do will be referred to medical services.

Third-country nationals must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine, with exceptions for diplomats, members of rescue and relief services, attendance of funeral, lorry drivers and persons with certificates issued by the competent Slovenian ministry showing they will provide urgent services.

Notably, if it is believed a person entering the country may not be able to leave because of the measures of neighbouring countries, they will be denied entry.

The new policy will initially benefit mostly owners of property in Croatia, thousands of whom have been keen to visit their holiday homes but many reluctant to do so due to the mandatory seven-day quarantine upon return.

But even more importantly, it paves the way for a relaunch of cross-border tourism, which has been suspended for two months due to lockdown measures around the world.

It will also be a relief for businesses, which have been calling on the government to relax rules for business travel as cross-border commerce kicks into higher gear.

The decree was adopted last night, after the government formally declared the epidemic over while keeping in place all measures adopted to combat the disease.

While the decree comes into effect today, it will only be in application from 31 May on.

The decision was based on the assessment of the National Institute of Public Health, but unless the government declared the epidemic over last night, measures from the mega stimulus package, now in force until the end of May, would be extended by a month.

Slovenia has had low single-digit daily case increases since the end of April and the epidemic, declared on 12 March, is seen as being under control.

The country has confirmed 1,464 Covid-19 cases and 103 people have died since the first case was recorded in the country on 4 March. The biggest hotspots were care homes.

Slovenia is the first European country to declare an end of the coronavirus epidemic.

Only yesterday some medical professionals expressed reservations in a anticipation of such a move, as some restrictions were only being lifted now so it was hard to say what the easing would bring.

14 May 2020, 21:37 PM

STA, 14 May 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša dismissed allegations of government misconduct in the purchasing of protective personal equipment as he argued in parliament on Thursday that quick action saved dozens of lives after the government was faced with empty stockpiles of protective gear when it took office a day after the epidemic was declared.

Purchasing of protective equipment and critical medical supplies was conducted in line with legislation that allows short procedures in an epidemic, Janša said as he delivered the opening address in a parliamentary debate on a government report on PPE purchases.

But being aware of the risks, the government made sure all contracts were made public and it urged the Court of Audit to conduct a review of the procedures, with the coalition itself proposing a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.

Critics have accused the government of making the wrong choice by opting to secure equipment through intermediaries rather than directly from suppliers, but Janša dismissed the criticism.

He said providers initially demanded advance payments for the equipment and since these demands escalated the decision was made to try to purchase the equipment without advance payment.

He said many other countries opted to pay suppliers in advance but received either gear without the proper certificates or did not receive the orders at all.

"I don't know of a single European country where this did not happen. I talked to many colleagues. All had these same problems. I think Slovenia lost by far the least, if anything," he stressed.

Indeed, he said even the recent EU delivery of 30,000 surgical face masks was problematic and illustrated the general problems with supplies, as Slovenia was just today told that the equipment did not have proper certificates and should not be distributed to users.

Slovenia has so far paid about EUR 30 million for the supplies. "Everything that had been paid has also been delivered."

The government has also been criticised for picking untested intermediaries for the supplies, but Janša suggested the scandal erupted because existing suppliers, who had high margins, did not get in on the game.

Indeed, he said "those in charge who are now referred to as whistleblowers" had before that signed contracts with high margins with old suppliers, a reference to the deputy head of the Commodities Reserves Agency Ivan Gale, who accused senior officials of exerting undue pressure on the agency in the course of the purchasing.

"And now attention is of course being deflected. But every contract can be individually examined, there is no problem about that."

Janša said the events would now mean that Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek would "probably have to attend various commissions of inquiry for three years after the epidemic ends" to explain the purchasing.

"But this was a time when lives were at stake and what he did during that time, together with many colleagues ... saved dozens of lives."

The coalition parties echoed Janša's views, including Počivalšek's Modern Centre Party (SMC), which argued it had been warning former PM Marjan Šarec while still in his government that he was reacting too slowly.

The coalition shares the view that a good job had been done in unprecedented circumstances, that the responsible authorities should be allowed to do their work and that the finger-pointing should stop.

The opposition parties however did not hold back in their statements, with words like "theft", "crime" and "war profiteering" being used time and time again.

Former PM Šarec, who said the government report was not worth the paper it was printed on, rejected the accusations levelled against him, noting borders and schools had been closed, large events banned and visits to elderly homes prohibited already under his watch.

The opposition parties demand that the PPE purchases be investigate throughput, with Miha Kordiš of the Left for instance accusing Economy Minister Zdravko Polivalšek of lying when saying no advance payments were being made.

Kordiš also argued other countries had used their diplomatic network for the procurement, while Slovenia refused to do so. "You will pay back the commissions with interest," he said.

The session ended with a 50:0 vote confirming the government's report on PPE procurement, which pointed the finger at the previous government while mostly praising the current one. The vote was however boycotted by four opposition parties, which said it should not have been allowed procedurally.

All our stories on this can be found here

14 May 2020, 14:01 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Xenia Guzej. You can see more of her work here.

Contents

Just one new coronavirus infection in almost 1,000 tests

PM Janša indicates formal end of epidemic near

Just one new coronavirus infection in almost 1,000 tests

STA, 14 May 2020 - Only one out of 984 tests for the novel coronavirus conducted in Slovenia on Wednesday came back positive, raising the total of cases confirmed so far to 1,464. No new fatalities have been reported, leaving the death toll unchanged at 103.

Only 32 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 remain in hospitals, according to government data as of midnight, after seven more were discharged yesterday.

Only seven Covid-19 patients still need intensive care after two were moved to regular wards yesterday.

A total of 66,678 tests for Sars-CoV-2 have been conducted so far.

Back to the contents

PM Janša indicates formal end of epidemic near

STA, 14 May 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša indicated in parliament on Thursday that the government could soon declare the coronavirus epidemic over, having brought the situation under control in the two months since it took office.

"Slovenia has contained the epidemic. Today it has the best epidemiological status in Europe," he said, adding that the epidemic could formally be declared ended at a time which will "probably coincide with the date of the expiry of the first two anti-corona packages."

The first two economic stimulus packages provide emergency measures until the end of May.

Janša said this showed that "in very difficult circumstances our planning was practically precise to the day, assuming of course that based on the responsible conduct of everyone in these days and weeks, the epidemiological status remains the same as it is or does not significantly deteriorate."

He said Slovenia was transitioning from the period of epidemic to a period in which the second wave looms, which made it possible to revoke general protective measures and only keep very specific measures in place as long as needed.

Janša made the statement at the National Assembly, where he presented a government report on the purchasing of personal protective equipment.

Back to the contents

13 May 2020, 11:38 AM

STA, 12 May 2020 - The parliamentary Environment Committee approved on Tuesday an amendment to the nature conservation act significantly limiting the ability of NGOs to take part in administrative procedures representing public interest. Despite poor weather and a ban on public gathering, several hundred protesters rallied against the amendment.

The amendment was filed by the opposition National Party (SNS) as the committee was getting ready to debate government-sponsored changes to the nature conservation act which focused above all on tweaks needed to incorporate EU law.

The amendment, which is criticised by the opposition as an open attack on NGOs, is nearly identical to government-proposed changes recently passed to construction legislation, under which only a handful of NGOs are still able to represent public interest in construction permit procedures.

Under the changes, associations would have to have at least 50 active members, institutes would need at least three full-time employees with university degrees and institutions would need to have assets exceeding EUR 10,000.

Moreover, to represent the public, NGOs would have to meet these conditions retroactively for two years.

Also, they would have to prove their compliance by revealing annual assembly minutes, the names of those present and show bank accounts to prove membership fees are being paid.

Amid warnings that the amendment in this form would slash the number of NGOs recognised as representing public interest in conservation of natural environment from 47 to 5 and also affect key stakeholder associations, the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) filed an amendment to the amendment to "protect" certain environmental groups, among them the associations representing fishermen and beekeepers.

The changes were also questioned by the parliament's legal service, which took issue with they way they entered the session's agenda while also it also argued they could be at odds with the constitution.

Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak begged to differ, saying individuals would continue to be able to express their opinion and associations would be able to continue operating under the act governing associations.

He argued there were as many opinions as there were jurists and that similar arrangements were in place in other countries as well.

In the debate, the head of the Centre of NGOs, Goran Forbici, said that the amendment filed by the SMC only barely reduced the magnitude the blow. "It's like suffering a blow by a hammer instead of an axe."

He admitted there were anomalies among NGOs but called on addressing these in dialogue.

Luka Mesec of the Left said the amendment may be submitted for constitutional review, while the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) also rejected the amendment.

The SNS and the coalition, on the other hand, defended it. Tadeja Šuštar of New Slovenia (NSi) said that a balance must be found between nature conservation and other projects, adding that some NGOs had no other purpose but to extort.

Mateja Udovč of the SMC meanwhile denied claims that her party filed the amendment to the SNS's amendment merely to establish "peace in the house".

Several hundred protesters gathered in front of the parliament during today's session in a rally organised by the Balkan River Defence movement. "I oppose that NGOs representing us, the people, are being excluded, first from construction and now from all court and administrative procedures," one of the protesters said.

Gaja Brecelj of Umanotera NGO told the STA that the amendment was unacceptable. "Just consider what having low food self-sufficiency meant for us in the coronavirus crisis - at the same time we are now thinking about building on these surfaces."

Blowing whistles, protesters carried banners saying "Hands off of nature" and "NGOs = Nature's Voice", among others. On social media, protesters were urged to wear protective facial masks, observe social distancing rules and ignore any provocations. The peaceful protest was monitored by police.

12 May 2020, 20:53 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Aleksander Sandi. You can see more of his work here.

Contents

Only one person tests positive on Monday, no new deaths

If positive trends continue, return to normal life to accelerate

LINK

Only one person tests positive on Monday, no new deaths

STA, 12 May 2020 - A total of 1,182 tests for Covid-19 were performed in Slovenia on Monday, resulting in only one positive test to bring the total number of infections to 1,461. No deaths were recorded, with the death toll remaining at 102.

A total of 40 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 were in Slovenian hospitals yesterday, nine of whom were in intensive care, show the figures released by the government on Tuesday.

A total of 64,547 tests for Covid-19 have so far been carried out in Slovenia.

Back to the contents

If positive trends continue, return to normal life to accelerate

STA, 12 May 2020 - Should the favourable trends regarding the Covid-19 epidemic in Slovenia continue until the end of the week after some measures were relaxed after the May Day holidays, the authorities believe it will be possible to make even bolder decisions to further normalise life in the country.

Bojana Beović, the head of the Health Ministry's advisory task force for the coronavirus, told the press on Tuesday she was optimistic about the prospects of life in Slovenia getting back to normal in almost all fields.

She noted that the epidemic was slowing down, as no more than ten new infections on a daily basis had been recorded since 30 April. This is a growth of less than 1%, and every infected person infects less than one new patient on average.

According to Beović, this relatively small share of infected persons in the entire population is a result of timely and effective measures to stem the epidemic and the very diligent work of epidemiologists on the ground, who had studied every case and contained them with quarantine measures.

She nevertheless warned about some unresolved issues related to what is expected to be an inevitable increase in the number of infections in the future, saying that the capacity of the healthcare system remained a problem, not so much in terms of equipment, but space and staff.

Beović noted that a coordinated action with other countries was needed to contain the pandemic, as the opening of national borders within the EU must be decided by consensus and initially limited to countries with a comparable level of risk.

"The risk for getting infected with the new coronavirus does not only show in the number of the infected, but also in how an individual country manages the epidemic," added the infectious disease expert.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin said that the cabinet would discuss an exit strategy and possibilities to relax certain measures in Brdo pri Kranju later today.

He noted that the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients, including in intensive care, was gradually decreasing, and "I expect that not later than on Thursday we will have clear enough trends about to what side the scales are tipping."

Kacin added that Slovenians were interested the most in travelling to the neighbouring Croatia, but talks about how and when to open the border were still under way, including between the countries' national public health institutes.

Beović noted that people who enter Slovenia must still submit to a week-long quarantine, after which possible infection or lack thereof was confirmed with a test.

Back to the contents

12 May 2020, 19:25 PM

STA, 12 May 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša makes the case for confrontation with the media in an essay entitled War with the Media, in which he argues that keeping silent while media wage war is not an option and has damaging effects on society.

Janša starts out by saying he used to subscribe to the notion that you cannot win the war with the media, until seven years ago, when he had a conversation with an old friend of Helmut Kohl, the former German chancellor.

The man told him that in Ancient Rome fear of the Roman legions had been a stronger weapon than the legionnaires' spears and swords.

In the ensuing debate by intellectuals from several countries three main conclusions were drawn.

Firstly, a media outlet deserving of its name will never declare criticism against it as an attack on freedom of the press or even a war on media.

Secondly, those denigrated by the media have lost if they consent to the notion that there is no point in arguing with the media.

And thirdly, the media declare criticism of their fake or manipulative reports as war, and then they accuse the targets of media hit jobs of waging war against them.

"And the lukewarm portion of 'public' opinion boiled in lukewarm water widely nods, acknowledging that 'war with the media cannot be won'," Janša says.

"The professional group in western civilisation that first declared itself the seventh power, then the fourth (unelected) branch of power and finally the moral judge of political correctness, is increasingly difficult to recognise today as a force for good, for they are neither."

This is becoming increasingly clear with better education and internet access, which "drastically shatter the emerging idolators of Orwellian society and raise the hope that western civilisation will not suffer the fate of the (W) Roman Empire," according to Janša.

The prime minister goes on to make the case for media plurality, noting that individuals cannot wage war with the media, but media themselves can and should be engaged in a "media war" in the sense of presenting competing views.

"In a democratic society different values must have opportunities for expression and advocacy of their ideas that are as equal as possible."

"Media competition is more important than any other [competition], indeed, it is the precondition for a democratic social system and a free society in general," Janša says.

Turning specifically to Slovenian media, Janša singles out RTV Slovenija as he takes issue with the public broadcaster's statement that a public radio and television service is a bedrock of a free society and attacks on it are attacks on democracy.

He then flips the situation by wondering how the broadcaster would react if the government made the same declaration in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic.

"Can you imagine the reaction by the 'public radio and TV'? If yes, it is perfectly clear where we are and just how profound the depravity is of those who declare themselves a 'bedrock of a free society' without an election or constitutional procedure or any kind of shame."

Janša goes on to say that both largest TV stations have many capable, professional and ethical journalists but these cannot make their mark because of "incendiary editorial policy and management".

"The atmosphere of intolerance and hatred is created by a narrow circle of [female] editors with familial and capital ties to the pillars of the deep state and a handful of average and below-average journalists on demand who would not even make it as reporters from the produce market in a normal media outlet."

For Janša, these are signs of totalitarianism. "Totalitarians typically disarmed their opponents before they shot them. First in the media and then physically. First discrediting, then liquidating. Physically if necessary."

The prime minister argues that "well-meaning and god-fearing individuals" are making this possible.

"Perhaps in the lukewarm water you did not even notice that death threats and appeal to murder at leftist rallies are treated by RTV Slovenija, POP TV and other 'media' from the same flock as something 'normal', self-evident even."

"In fact they are boiling you, not the government," he says in reference to the slow boiling of a live frog.

Noting the difficult situation Slovenia is facing as it battles the coronavirus epidemic and the coming economic crisis, Janša says that the destructive consequences can only be overcome if the nation stands together, whereby irresponsible conduct by a few can put everyone else at risk.

"Slovenia can do it, but it cannot do it divided. This requires active effort for the common good and a strong voice, a voice without fake 'political correctness', the voice of each individual against incitement, the creation of additional emergencies and irresponsible actions."

The essay, which was released on the government website on Monday evening, has been criticised by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) and Left.

The SD's MEP Tanja Fajon labelled it inadmissible, low-minded and shameful, and an abuse of the institution of prime minister against freedom of the press by means of a rhetoric used by US President Donald Trump.

Fajon added that her colleagues in Brussels were frequently asking her about what was going on in Slovenia and followed the developments with concern.

The Left's leader Luka Mesec told the press that Janša had used a populist rhetoric of undermining the media and other authorities in society, but by doing so, he was only expressing his "authoritarian tendencies".

The coalition partners of Janša's Democrats (SDS) in the government are also reserved about the prime minister's views, with the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) announcing it could reconsider its further cooperation if ideological topics should prevail over projects the party had committed to in the coalition agreement.

Although she has not yet read Janša's piece, DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec said it was extremely disturbing that one's personal ideological views interfered with real work.

"We're interested in implementing the projects to which we have committed within the coalition. We would like to distance ourselves from various personal views and writings ...," she told the press.

Unhappy with Janša's way of communication, the Modern Centre Party (SMC) said it believes in the professionalism and independence of the media. "This manner of communication between politics and the media certainly does not enhance the credibility of either side, the media and politicians," said deputy group leader Janja Sluga.

New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin took to Twitter saying that both the media and politicians carry a lot of responsibility and that truth is the value that every politician and every media outlet must pursue. "Objective reporting is what builds democracy, bias disables it," he tweeted.

12 May 2020, 09:40 AM

STA, 11 May 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar has highlighted long procedures, failure to implement Constitutional Court rulings and biased judges in a letter supplementing an inter-ministerial report on rule of law that the government has sent to the European Commission, the daily Delo reports on Monday.

The report, requested by the new European Commission from all EU member states in keeping with its commitment to promote the rule of law, deals with the independence, quality and effectiveness of the judiciary, while it also answers questions about media pluralism, press freedom, the system of checks and balances for individual branches of power and the situation of NGOs.

Slovenia has sent a 40-page report to Brussels along with a letter addressed to Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynder in which Logar speaks of cases in Slovenia too often becoming statute barred after taking unreasonably long to be processed.

According to Delo, the foreign minister also notes Slovenia has lost a number of cases at the European Court of Human Rights.

Moreover, the prosecution of bank crime is ineffective and the appearance of impartiality is not honoured in the judiciary, Logar argues, while also speaking of some judges using totalitarian symbols but not specifying any examples, according to Delo.

In what seems to be a reference to the current prime minister, Janez Janša, Logar also says that the judiciary condemned some opposition politicians in the past to then see the procedure annulled by the Constitutional Court.

Another case highlighted by Logar is an alleged Iranian money laundering scheme at NLB bank a decade ago. He wrote that a parliamentary inquiry commission led by him had handed plenty of evidence to prosecution authorities but that nothing had come of the case so far.

The Foreign Ministry explained for the STA that the report had been compiled together with the ministries of justice and culture and some other institutions from the fields which would be dealt with by the relevant Commission's report.

This annual report will be drafted also on the basis of visits by Commission representatives to member states, and its content will be discussed by the General Affairs Council in the autumn.

The ministry added that Logar had told the Commission that "when it comes to issues related to the rule of law, Slovenia has missed a voice of the European Commission and other relevant European institutions."

The dialogue on improving the rule of law is in common interest and must be based on actual situations, which are different in individual member states, so "we expect that member states will be treated fairly and based on the same criteria."

The ministry also expects that the assessments will take into account various specific factors, "including democratic culture and heritage", and that "open and objective debate" will be held at the EU level on the issues to be covered by the report.

The opposition Left reacted to Logar's letter by announcing a request for a session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, with MP Matej T. Vatovec saying that the government had become a "branch office of the Democrats (SDS)".

He also said on Twitter that the Foreign Ministry "is silent when the 'friend' Orban provokes with territorial pretensions, while at the same time 'snitching' on its own country in the international environment."

The coalition parties have not commented on the letter, with Jožef Horvat, the head of the New Slovenia (NSi) deputy group, only saying that the party had not been acquainted with it.

Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlović told Delo that the report was mostly drawn up by the Justice Ministry, however she added that Logar had his own opinion on the judiciary situation in Slovenia and highlighted that his letter did not represent the government's standpoint.

She said that her stance on the situation was positive, adding that commenting on the report was not necessary.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, taken aback by the letter, said that it had not been made aware of it, according to the media. Upon receiving it, the court will take a stance and inform the justice commissioner about it if necessary.

Moreover, the court does not know what was the basis for the letter. Slovenia's judiciary has been improving its performance for years and enjoys greater support in the public than the other two branches of powers, it added.

The Commission told the STA today that it had received Slovenia's input for the first annual rule of law report, saying that it would "continue its dialogue with all member states in the run-up to the finalisation of the report".

It did not comment on the content of the letter, however asked about Logar's criticism targeted at the institution, the Commission responded by saying that "as is normal practice, we do not comment on exchanges between the Commission and our member states".

The Logar dispatch comes after much dust was raised in Slovenia in April by another letter, which was sent through the Foreign Ministry to the Council of Europe after the latter's warnings about PM Janša's attacks on the media.

The main premise of the letter, whose authorship has been claimed by the Government Communication Office, was that the majority of the main media in Slovenia stem from the Communist regime and remain ideologically biased.

11 May 2020, 20:47 PM

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists and artists who live in Slovenia. Today it’s Paloma Lavor.

Contents

Three new Covid-19 cases confirmed for total of 1,460, no new deaths

Government lifts ban on passenger air transport

Campsites staying closed for now

Top football league may be resumed at beginning of June

Three new Covid-19 cases confirmed for total of 1,460, no new deaths

STA, 11 May 2020 - Three new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Slovenia on Sunday as 537 people were tested, which takes the total number so far to 1,460. No deaths were recorded, meaning the death toll remains at 102, shows data released by the government on Monday.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals increased by one to 42, ten of whom are in intensive care.

The situation following the lifting of a number of lockdown measures, in particular last week, thus remains stable, but government representatives have noted that a clearer picture will emerge with a delay of 11 to 13 days.

Back to the contents

Government lifts ban on passenger air transport

STA, 11 May - The government has allowed resumption of passenger flights from EU and third countries to Slovenia's international airports from Tuesday. The ban on flights from abroad to local airports remains in place until 12 June.

The government decided on Monday not to extend restrictions on international passenger air transport that were initially introduced on 17 March to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

In a press release issued after the correspondence session, the Government Communication Office said the ban no longer made sense or was necessary because air carriers were not providing flights anyway.

The release noted the many safety measures imposed by public health authorities in individual countries on air carriers and airport managers, as well as on citizens returning home or foreigners arriving in the country, such as mandatory quarantine.

"Since the measures affect international passenger flights as such and air carriers have not yet opted to provide those due to a lack of demand on the part of passengers owning to the epidemic, the ban on international flights from the EU and third countries to international public airports in Slovenia is no longer necessary or sensible," reads the release.

Slovenia's international airports are in Ljubljana, Maribor and Portorož.

Fraport Slovenija, which manages Ljubljana airport, hailed the decision, which it said would help airlines plan flights, but also noted that most of them had cancelled flights until the end of May.

In anticipation of today's decision, the airport has already put in place all the necessary measures and equipment to be able to welcome first passengers and resume operations safely.

Passengers will be required to keep a 1.5 metre distance from each other in all parts of the passenger terminal with markings on floors and seats and bands helping them stick to the rule.

Passengers and staff will also be required to sanitise their hands every time on entering the terminal. Sanitisers will also be available elsewhere across the terminal.

Passengers will have to wear masks or other mouth and nose covering inside the terminal.

Passenger numbers inside the terminal and buses will be reduced to about half the capacity with bands and signs directing passenger movements.

Only passengers and staff will be allowed inside the passenger terminal.

Temperature screenings will probably be mandatory for at least part of the passengers but the measures and protocols are still being coordinated with the National Institute of Public Health.

Airing, cleaning and disinfection of premises will be stepped up, especially careful and frequent will be disinfection of the most exposed equipment such as doorhandles, taps, switches and railings.

Measures are also being taken to protect the staff. All working stations in the check-in area and exits to aircraft have been fitted with protective glass panels.

The staff attending and assisting passengers will be required to wear disposable face masks and gloves.

Security staff checking passengers and other staff will in addition need to wear protective glasses, and firefighters helping passengers will also need to wear protective suits aside from masks, gloves and goggles.

Masks will also be obligatory for staff cleaning the aircraft cabin, loading or unloading aircraft or performing any other chores inside the aircraft.

The ban on flights from other countries to local airports remains in place until 12 June "due to the risk to the protection of public health and property as the requirements sent by the relevant public health authority are not established".

Back to the contents

Campsites and hotels staying closed for now

STA, 11 May 2020 - Even though there have been speculations that campsites and small accommodation facilities in Slovenia will reopen shortly, as soon as on 12 May, the authorities said on Monday that the step would not be green-lit before the end of the week. Relaunching tourism will take place between 15 May and 1 June.

"It all depends on the epidemiologic situation in Slovenia and the government's decision on revising a decree on containing the novel coronavirus," the Economy Ministry told the STA today, responding to the speculation.

Accommodation facilities had to close in line with the decree on 16 March, with many going the route of prevention even before that day due to a severe drop in visitors.

The newly-established tourism expert group is currently drawing up standards and guidelines for reopening in cooperation with health experts.

Meanwhile, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants reopened on 4 May. The ministry's State Secretary Simon Zajc said at the time that giving a go-ahead to reopen accommodation facilities would follow in May, first to providers with up to 30 beds.

Provided that the epidemiologic circumstances stay promising, hotels, spas and other providers would be next in line to resume business in June, he added.

Hotels are looking at roughly a 70% drop in income at the annual level if they are able to greet their first visitors after the corona crisis on 1 June and if the border restrictions with those countries that are handling the crisis similarly as Slovenia are lifted in the same month. Campsites expect a similar slump in annual income figures.

Tourism has been one of the industries hit the most by the crisis, with the government pledging additional boost to revive the sector. Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek has recently listed co-funding reduced working time, extending current stimulus measures and extra support to keep the industry afloat as part of the tourism aid package.

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Top football league may be resumed at beginning of June

STA, 11 May 2020 - There is still hope for football lovers in Slovenia that the season at the top level may be resumed, as depending on the situation related to the coronavirus epidemic, the premier league may be continued at the beginning of June.

Also decided by the executive committee of the Slovenian Football Association (NZS) at Monday's correspondence session is that the second league for men and the first league for women have ended.

To be promoted from the second league are the clubs which held the first place in the standings when football competitions were suspended due to the epidemic, which is the football club Koper.

The second placed team in the second league, Gorica, will play in the play-offs with the club which finishes ninth in the premier league.

The NZS said in a press release that, if the state authorities allowed competitions at the highest level to resume, the premier league would continue at the beginning of June.

The national championship was halted in mid-March, after 25 out of the 36 scheduled matches played. Olimpija Ljubljana leads the standings with 50 points, ahead of Celje and Aluminij (45 each). The defending champions Maribor are fourth at 43 points.

If the premier league resumes, so will the national cup competition, but under a changed format, with only one semi-final and only one final match played. The matches would be played at a neutral location without spectators.

"The proposed decision follows the guideline of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) that competitions at the highest level be concluded on the pitch, if possible," the NZS said.

The women's premier league has meanwhile ended without the official champion declared. Decision on which club will represent Slovenia in European competitions in the next season will be based on past results.

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