Politics

28 Aug 2019, 14:35 PM

STA, 28 August 2019 - Health Minister Aleš Šabeder has announced that long-awaited legislation on long-term care would be unveiled soon. As for the second major legislative effort, the act governing health insurance, the government plans to proceed cautiously, the minister told the STA.

- Aleš Šabeder youtube.JPG

Aleš Šabeder. Source: YouTube

Faced with a rapidly ageing population, Slovenia has for years been debating the need to adopt legislation on long-term care. The bill should be ready by the end of this year or early next year, but there are still some open issues, according to Šabeder.

A new contribution will probably be necessary to finance long-term care, but Šabeder would not venture to say how high it might be or whether it will be mandatory or voluntary. "I hope the contribution is small, but it will probably be necessary," he said.

The healthcare and health insurance act, which governs much of financing in the healthcare sector, is expected in mid-2020. As Šabeder suggested, it has not yet been decided what will replace the current system of voluntary top-up insurance, which is the main demand of the Left.

"We have to find a solution for a long-term and stable source of financing if supplementary health insurance is abolished. We're talking about half a billion euro, they will have to be secured one way or the other."

In conjunction with the Finance Ministry, the Health Ministry is conducting multiple simulations, ranging from higher contribution rates to a new levy, according to Šabeder.

The Left, for which abolishing top-up insurance is one of the key priorities and one on which its support for the majority government hinges, plans to shortly unveil its own bill, but Šabeder sees no need to hurry.

"I have presented the priorities for this year and next to all deputy groups, including the Left and other opposition parties, and there were no complaints about the timeline," he said.

Šabeder has been kept busy in the first months of his term by general practitioners, who started quitting en masse due to excessive workload and low pay.

As a stop-gap solution, additional funds were earmarked for GPs and their nurses, with new measures now planned, focused on cutting red tape.

GPs have so far been coy about whether these measures will be enough to stop the drain of staff. "Considering the measures that we have already drawn up and the measures coming up, I hope they realize we are truly extending a hand this time," he said.

The situation has been getting worse for years and cannot be resolved overnight. "We do not have a magic wand at the ministry to provide all the missing doctors," according to Šabeder.

Waiting times have also been near the top of Šabeder's agenda. Several stop-gap solutions have been adopted and additional measures are in the pipeline.

An action plan to reduce waiting times for orthopaedic surgery is expected within a month and that will serve as the starting point for action in other segments. "If necessary, private providers will be included as well," said Šabeder.

Previous plans to give additional money to private health institutions in order to reduce waiting times have been met with stiff opposition and accusations that this would be used as an underhand way to chip away at public healthcare in favour of privatisation, but Šabeder denies this.

"This has never been my intention. My sole intention is to work for the benefit of patients," he said.

The management of hospitals is another issue Šabeder plans to tackle. The process was started by Šabeder's predecessor Samo Fakin and the blueprint is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

The minister said key governance principles would be imported from the business sector, for example management liability and remuneration of employees, but "public institutions must never be like companies with regard to the fundamental objective ... They are designed to provide health services."

27 Aug 2019, 17:02 PM

STA, 27 August 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić confirmed the good relations between the two countries in Belgrade on Tuesday while also exploring ways to deepen both political and economic cooperation. Šarec reiterated Slovenia's strong support for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

 There are no major open issues between the two countries, they are important economic partners and trade is expected to increase soon, said Šarec, who is paying an official visit.

While trade in goods already rose by 14% in 2018 compared to 2017 to exceed EUR 1.5 billion, Šarec said opportunities needed to be used both in the economy and in tourism.

His host Brnabić singled out Slovenia as one of the biggest investors in Serbia, with around 1,600 Slovenian companies active there. It is also a key foreign investor, she added, while expressing her expectation Serbian investment in Slovenia would grow too.

She labelled the total trade of EUR 1.6 million recorded in 2018 as impressive, but expressed hope it would exceed EUR 2 billion in 2020.

Brnabić also thanked Slovenia for its strong support for EU enlargement, while Šarec stressed Slovenia would insist enlargement needed to be addressed, even if "it is true that currently the climate is not very favourable for enlargement".

He added enlargement was a long process that required reforms, which in turn also required encouragement.

Implementation of the agreement on succession to the former Yugoslavia remains an open issue with Serbia, with a joint session of the two countries' governments seen as a chance to speed up the resolution of these issues. Brnabić expressed hope the session could be held before the end of the year.

The idea is to combine the joint session - such sessions have been organised since 2013 and the last one was held in Slovenia at the start of 2018 - with a business forum.

The pair also touched on the stalled talks between Belgrade and Prishtina, with Brnabić thanking Šarec for the clear position that Kosovo's introduction of 100% custom tariffs on Serbian goods did not contribute to stability in the region and that the decision needed to be changed.

She pointed out that Slovenia's and Serbia's positions on Kosovo's independence differed. While Serbia understands Ljubljana's views, it is important for Belgrade that Slovenia also understand Serbia's position and that that it recognise that Prishtina is far from being a predictable partner.

Also commenting on the Slovenia-Serbia agreement governing the employment of Serbian workers in Slovenia which will enter into force in September, Brnabić said she did not expect the agreement to cause a major workforce outflow from Serbia. Its main purpose is providing for safety and protection of the workers, she said.

Šarec said Slovenia presently had record-high employment and needed additional workforce. He also stressed the importance of having a well regulated workforce flow, which is something that is provided by this agreement.

Šarec was also received by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Parliamentary Speaker Maja Gojković, while he is also scheduled to meet Slovenians who are living or are active in Serbia.

According to the prime minister's office, Šarec talked with Vučić and Gojković about the current events in the EU and the situation in the Western Balkans.

Vučić thanked Šarec for Slovenia's support to Serbia in the process of EU accession, especially for the political, technical and expert assistance in individual negotiating chapters, added the office of the Serbian president.

While Vučić also emphasised Slovenia's importance as an economic partner, Šarec said that Slovenia supported dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina as the country's interest was that the relations in the region were good.

At the meeting between Šarec and Gojković, the latter thanked Slovenia for its support to Serbia in the EU integration process, and noted that cooperation between the countries' parliaments was very intensive.

According to a press release from the Serbian parliament, Šarec assessed at the meeting that the cooperation between the countries was excellent, and pointed to the good cooperation between the countries' parliaments.

24 Aug 2019, 09:00 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 23 August

Mladina: Catholic Church Should Not Promote Domobranci

STA - Mladina takes a look at the emergence of organisations celebrating quislings after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Eastern Europe, saying the Catholic Church is behind them to cover up its own collaboration with the Nazi and Fascist occupying forces before and during World War II.

The left-leaning weekly takes as a starting point for Friday's editorial an invitation to a commemoration organised by "New Slovenian Testament, an association which promotes the doings of the Domobranci home-guard during WWII".

In the majority of European countries, with the exception of Austria and Italy, which have not undergone denazification, such associations "do not and cannot exist".

"Eastern Europe is quite another story. After the fall of Communism, associations promoting quislings emerged in many countries," says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

He notes that Croatia's ruling party HDZ does not hide its fondness of the Ustashe, and Slovenia's right is firmly connected with organisations celebrating the quislings.

In both Slovenia and Croatia, the Church was the most responsible for the emergence of the quislings - the Domobranci and the Ustashe and for collaboration.

Repovž says that 80 years on, it needs to be clearly said that the Church is behind organisations such as New Slovenian Testament.

"The Church is again abusing the Domobranci and their descendants, their pain, the actual pain, which results from the Communists' post-WWII doings, and also the pain which comes from the inability to face historical facts".

"The Domobranci soldiers were national traitors, but they were also the victims of the Church and politics at the time."

And just as it used to lure innocent people into the Domobranci home-guard and the Catholic militias through its power as institution, the Church is now similarly abusing them to conceal the historical facts, says Repovž.

Just like its role during WWII cannot be limited to Bishop Gregorij Rožman (1883-1959) attending the Domobranci oath to Hitler in Ljubljana, its role at commemorations such as the one organised by New Slovenian Testament is not innocent.

"The leadership of the Slovenian Church abuses religion, believers, Domobranci survivors and their descendants so that it can continue to blur historical facts.

"It is doing the same in dealing with sexual abuse. It simply ignores facts, abusing the power of faith and the trust of believers," Repovž says under the headline In the Name of Mary, the Queen of Slovenians.

Demokracija: Private property in peril as socialism makes comeback

STA - Expressing indignation over the comeback of socialist ideas, including in the west, the latest editorial of  Demokracija points to the state supervision of privately-owned forests as proof that "the worm of socialism remains nested deep in the brains of Slovenians".

The right-leaning weekly paper's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak takes the ongoing issues with the culling of wild animals and the protests against the increasing use of off-road vehicles in forests as examples to argue that private property as a basic tenet of capitalism is under attack.

While over 75% of forests in Slovenia are in private ownership, the government is using a number of regulations to claim the right to serve as the only righteous guardian of forests as a common good, a typically socialist supposition.

"The framer, who is also the owner of the forest, does not have the right to settle his accounts with wolves that are slaughtering his sheep and goats ... He is not even allowed to set wild animal traps on his own property."

The same applies when it comes to forest visitors, who need to be granted free access to walk, and pick mushrooms and fruits no matter if the owner agrees or not.

The owners merely have duties, Biščak says, arguing it would not be surprising if things once get to a point when "an ecosocialist will file charges against the owner for getting bitten by a tick".

Meanwhile, off-road vehicles are reportedly destroying the forests, endangering the hikers, scaring game etc., but the only ones that do not get asked for an opinion are the forest owners who may perhaps be using such vehicles to supervise their property, Demokracija's editor says.

Biščak, who claims that "this government is blurring the line between what is state-owned, public and private", goes on to point "to the loud cheering of the media mainstream when inspectors mount an offensive an announce how many private entrepreneurs they have fined".

"One needs to have a sick mind to celebrate something like that. If the share of the 'swindlers' is high, this means something is wrong with taxation and regulations. Disregard for laws is a phenomenon that accompanies any unjust state," Biščak says.

He argues under Don't Steal, the State Does Not Like Competition that people who get robbed by the state should only be expected to look for ways to do the same to the state in order to survive.

23 Aug 2019, 16:21 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, 16 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry rejected Croatia's recent statements about the border arbitration between Slovenia and Croatia, saying new Croatian Foreign Minister Goran Grlić Radman had uttered "several non-truths". He, for instance, alleged Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, while still prime minister, had almost accepted in December 2017 Croatia's offer that the border issue be resolved bilaterally.
        LJUBLJANA - Police data showed that almost 1,750 illegal crossings of the border were recorded in Slovenia in July, the highest since the 2015/2016 migration wave.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor appointed on 12 August Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Tanja Strniša Slovenia's new ambassador to the Czech Republic, to replace Leon Marc, according to the latest issue of the National Gazette.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin responded to the criticism of the centre-right opposition party's announced repositioning to the centre by saying it would be hard for the NSi to be anything else, "since those left of us are socialists and those to the right nationalists and global warming deniers".
        LJUBLJANA - Animal rights group AniMa handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc a petition signed by almost 13,500 people urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves. However, Zajc said the emergency law on culling was needed to get the populations back to a level that is also favourable for locals in the areas affected by an increasing number of wolf attacks on farm animals.

SATURDAY, 17 August
        LJUBLJANA/BELTINCI - Slovenia observed Prekmurje Reunification Day, a national holiday celebrating the day 100 years ago when the country's northeastern-most region of Prekmurje was united with the rest of the nation after WWI following more than a millennium under foreign rule. At a state ceremony in Beltinci, PM Marjan Šarec called against self-serving politics of hate and urged a focus on development.
        LJUBLJANA/ŠKOFJA LOKA - Ivan Oman, a key figure of Slovenia's independence, died, aged 89. Oman was the first president of the Slovenian Farmers' Union, a party established in May 1988 and later renamed the Slovenian People's Party (SLS), and a member of the Slovenian collective presidency (1990-1992). Oman was laid to rest with state honours on 21 August.

SUNDAY, 18 August
        SALZBURG, Austria - Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan began a two-day visit to Salzburg, where he discussed with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka the Western Balkans, the EU's future, and climate change. Sobotka also proposed that Austrian and Slovenian historians formed a special panel to study the two nations' shared history in a bid for the Slovenians and Austrians to better understand each other.
        IMOLA, Italy - Three races before the end of the season, Slovenian motocross star Tim Gajser, 22, won his second championship title at the MXGP after winning the first one in 2016, his first year in the top motocross class.
        PORTOROŽ - Slovenia's best tennis player, Aljaž Bedene, won the ATP Challenger Slovenia Open, beating Norwegian Viktor Durasovic, 7:5 and 6:3, in what is the 16th Challenger series title for the 30-year-old, who climbed ten spots to 80th in ATP world rankings.

MONDAY, 19 August
        LJUBLJANA - An unofficial media report suggested the European Commission will soon notify NLB, Slovenia's largest bank, that it has to sell its life insurance business NLB Vita, which is co-owned with KBC Insurance. NLB Vita will have to be sold as part of commitments for Slovenia's failure to privatise its entire agreed stake in NLB - 75% minus one share - by the end of 2018. The privatisation process was completed only this June.
        BRNIK - Humanitarian activist and Republican Party supporter Lynda Blanchard, the new US ambassador in Ljubljana, arrived in Slovenia after her predecessor Brent Hartley left in July 2018. Speaking to reporters upon arrival, Blanchard said she hoped to make the US and Slovenia stronger partners.
        LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc met hazardous waste treatment companies to find a solution after a major company in the business, Kemis, had to stop accepting waste after being ordered by inspectors to remove the facilities rebuilt after a devastating fire in 2017. Zajc said Kemis's counterparts could step in to accept 14,000-15,000 tonnes of toxic waste. He also ordered Kemis's appeal be handled as a matter of priority.

TUESDAY, 20 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's bank NLB and Belgium's KBC Insurance said they were examining options to sell their insurer NLB Vita after unofficial media reports suggested NLB will have to sell it because the state missed the end-2018 deadline to privatise NLB. NLB apparently had the option of keeping NLB Vita, but at the cost of the European Commission extending its ban on takeovers by 18 months. Meanwhile, in an interview given before the news of NLB Vita, NLB chairman Blaž Brodnjak told the STA the bank was looking to strengthen its role as a key regional player, including through takeovers. It is said to be enying Serbia's second-largest bank, Komercijalna Banka.
        LJUBLJANA - Major General Alenka Ermenc, chief of the general staff, said not all the shortcomings which had piled up for the past 28 years could be eliminated in a year's time, as she met the press to present the situation in the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF). She listed the army's professionalisation, which had never been fully completed, and delays in its modernisation, as the main issues, noting it would be possible to reverse the current negative trends with more funds.
        CELJE - The Celje Higher Court cleared Mirko Krašovec, the former treasurer of the Maribor Archdiocese, of all charges related to a misuse of EUR 1.8 million in EU funds for the renovation of the Church-owned Betnava mansion ten years ago, as it upheld the first-instance court's ruling in the second retrial in the case.
        LJUBLJANA - The group around insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav reported a EUR 34.7 million net profit for the first half of 2019, a 16% year-on-year rise. Consolidated gross premiums were up 10% to EUR 630 million and net premium income by 6% to EUR 491.8 million.
        HACHIOJI, Japan - Slovenia's Janja Garnbret, 20, secured the world champion title in the combined, an Olympic discipline, at the IFSC Climbing World Championships, after she won gold in the women's lead discipline and defended the title of bouldering world champion. She thus became the first ever climber to complete a hat trick in a single championship.

WEDNESDAY, 21 August
        LJUBLJANA - Gabrijel Škof, director general of insurer Adriatic Slovenica, was appointed new chairman of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), which manages state assets in excess of EUR 10 billion. The appointment of the fourth SSH chairman since the holding's establishment in June 2014 rounds off a series of replacements at SSH and the Bank Assets Management Company.
        LJUBLJANA - Ten telecommunications operators announced they would provide around 47,500 more households in Slovenia's rural areas with access to broadband in the coming three years. This leaves around 50,000 more households in so-called white areas, where funding of infrastructure will have to be provided by the state.
        LJUBLJANA - Happy with Tuesday's meeting with PM Marjan Šarec, the Trade Union of Farmers decided to suspend its protests against ineffective government measures against wolf attacks on farm animals, and to withdraw its demand for the resignation of the environment minister.
        ČRNOMELJ - Private broadcaster POP TV reported Slovenia had started erecting another 40 kilometres of fence along the border with Croatia in a bid to curb illegal migrations. Once the EUR 4.8 million project is completed, more than 200 kilometres of Slovenia's 670-kilometre border with Croatia will be fenced in.
        LJUBLJANA - In a letter to the culture minister, Slovenian Writers' Association president Dušan Merc decried the state of book publishing due to a marked drop in funding. He believes Slovenia is not ready for the fairs in Bologna and Frankfurt, where it will be the guest of honour in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
        NOVA GORICA - A wildfire broke out near the Cerje war memorial just south of Nova Gorica, destroying some 100 hectares of forest as it spread, also across the border to Italy. Firefighters managed to contain it during the night and put it out the next day.

THURSDAY, 22 August
        KRŠKO - PM Marjan Šarec called for building a second reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) as he visited Slovenia's sole nuclear power station, which is slated for closure in 2043. This is the strongest signal from a Slovenian government about its future policy on nuclear energy in a while, and a sign the country does not intend to renounce nuclear energy.
        LUBLJANA - The European Commission confirmed the EU Cohesion Fund is to contribute EUR 101 million for the renovation of the 16-kilometre rail section between Maribor and Šentilj on the border without Austria, the project worth a total of EUR 254 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Sava Insurance Group, Slovenia's second largest, generated EUR 22.6 million in net profit in the first half of the year, a 59.3% year-on-year rise coming as gross premiums written were up 9.1% to EUR 336.8 million.
        LJUBLJANA/LENDAVA - On the eve of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes, several events were held to mark the memorial day, with President Borut Pahor honouring victims in Lendava, where he laid a wreath at a memorial to WWII and post-WWII victims.

23 Aug 2019, 14:30 PM

STA, 23 August 2019 - The Hungarian government has reportedly decided that the country will stop importing sewage sludge, a move that could spell serious trouble for Slovenia which exports around 70,000 tonnes of sludge from its municipal wastewater treatment plants to Hungary.

According to the Slovenian Chamber of Public Utilities, the Hungarian government - facing media criticism the country was serving as the public toilet of Europe - decided this month to stop extending permits for sewage sludge imports.

The chamber's director Sebastijan Zupanc told the STA that the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry was trying to obtain more information on the issue through the Slovenian Embassy in Budapest.

He added Slovenia would find itself in serious trouble if Hungary closed its border to sewage sludge. From September onwards, Slovenia could be left with 120 to 140 tonnes of it a day, while an alternative solution would definitely need to be found by the end of the year, as all existing permits will expire by then.

Slovenia presently incinerates around 10,000 tonnes of municipal sewage sludge at home, at the plants in Celje and Anhovo.

Some wastewater treatment plants make use of it themselves, however Slovenia does not have sufficient capacities to use what remains for energy, with all that is exported going to Hungary. Croatia is in the same situation.

Other European incineration plants are full, which means Slovenia is very vulnerable in this field, Zupanc stressed.

Sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants is not hazardous waste, but it is very specific, since it involves excrements coming from toilets.

"We cannot store it, since this is a semi-fluid affair that reeks strongly and is produced in great quantities," Zupanc pointed out, noting it needed to be removed on a daily basis.

The Chamber of Public Utilities is part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), which said it was working hard on the issue and cooperating with the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry.

All our stories about Hungary are here

23 Aug 2019, 09:08 AM

STA, 22 August 2019 - Slovenia will join the observance of European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes with several events on Thursday with President Borut Pahor honouring victims in Lendava in the north-east.

The European Parliament designated 23 August as a day to remember victims of totalitarian regimes ten years ago to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.

The non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany contained a protocol dividing Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland into designated German and Soviet spheres of influence.

The remembrance day has been officially observed in Slovenia since 2012, in accordance with the decision by the then centre-right government, although it has caused some friction along the ideological divide.

The ZZB World War II Veterans' Association complained that equating all totalitarian regimes amounted to historical revisionism with the goal of concealing collaboration with Nazism and Fascism.

Meanwhile, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) has been unsuccessful in its attempts to have the National Assembly adopt the European Parliament's 2009 resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism.

Data on the number of victims of Fascism, Nazism and Communism in Slovenia vary. The latest from the Slovenian history portal Sistory put the number of victims of war and post-war atrocities between April 1941 and January 1946 at 99,865.

The victims will be remembered with several events on the eve of the pan-European day, including with a commemoration in Lendava which will be joined by President Borut Pahor.

Pahor will lay a wreath at a memorial to victims of WWII and victims of post-war racial, nationalist and ideological fanaticism in Lendava and its surroundings.

To Boris Hajdinjak, the head of the Centre of Jewish Cultural Heritage Synagogue Maribor, Pahor will present a charter of his honorary sponsorship over the Stolpersteine project in Slovenia.

Learn more about the Stolpersteine project in Slovenia here

Concrete cubes with brass plates bearing the names of Holocaust victims will be placed in front of the houses of their former Jewish owners in Lendava on 17 September.

In a global project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992, these "stumbling blocks" had already been installed in Maribor in 2012 and in Ljubljana last year.

Also today, mass for the victims will be celebrated at Ljubljana's cathedral by Auxiliary Bishop Franc Šuštar, followed by an event addressed by Andreja Valič Zver, the head of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation.

Before the mass flowers will be laid at a memorial plaque in front of the US Embassy in Ljubljana and the monument commemorating victims of all wars in Congress Square.

On Sunday, the anti-Communist association New Slovenian Testament is holding a commemoration and mass in Rovte near Logatec in memory of the victims of post-war reprisals by Communists.

22 Aug 2019, 17:26 PM

STA, 22 August 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant in Krško on Thursday, calling for "investing all our efforts to build a second reactor" to replace the current one beyond 2043.

 "We need to invest all our efforts in this and set out to build a second reactor because in the future we will need ever more electric power, in particular if we want to be a development-oriented country," Šarec said during a visit to the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK).

"In light of the changes in the field of energy and a rethink about the future sources of energy, a decision will have to be made soon what direction Slovenia wants to take," Šarec said.

"With the power station's management we have established that Slovenia is definitely a nuclear country considering that NEK generates a significant portion of our electricity, and we'd soon feel its loss," the prime minister added.

The existing reactor is slated for closure in 2043, by roughly which time the Šoštanj coal-fired power station TEŠ will have ceased to operate, so Šarec believes Slovenia needs to decide what energy policy it will pursue.

"If we don't want wind farms or thermal plants and other sources of energy, we'll soon find that there's nowhere we can get energy from," said Šarec, calling for more effort to attain energy self-sufficiency.

The rate of unscheduled outages of NEK since 1983 has been reduced to virtually zero and the power station has been performing successfully, Šarec said. "Since becoming operational, the amount of energy it supplies has increased equal to an output of almost ten hydro power plants."

Šarec spoke to reporters after meeting NEK CEO Stane Rožman and Martin Novšak, the CEO of Gen Energija, the state-owned company that owns the Slovenian half of NEK. The pair were happy with the talks.

"I believe we have many opportunities to build a bright carbon-low future," Novšak commented, with Rožman adding that they had asked Šarec for his support in principle for their plans.

They also discussed the national climate and energy plan whose draft does not discuss nuclear energy, although the prime minister believes it should.

"I expect professionals to decide in the end because decision-making is too often left to those who are driven by emotions rather than by expertise," said Šarec, who sees positive effects of nuclear energy outweighing negative ones.

A decision on potential construction of a new reactor should be taken as soon as possible because it would take at least a decade from the time the decision is taken to when the reactor is built.

Gen Energija has conducted a number of studies to prove that the location and technology is right, while permits are still pending, and so is the project's zoning.

"There's also tenders, development permits, [planning] operation and decommissioning," said Novšak, who would like the national climate and energy plan to state clearly that the country would keep nuclear energy in the future.

Šarec also faced questions about the difficulties surrounding major infrastructure projects in Slovenia, admitting that TEŠ 6 generator was a "sad story", but would not speculate on who was responsible.

The biggest problem is the spatial planning of such projects, and there is the question of legislation. "Once we don't have a referendum on each thing because of everyone who has five minutes to spare, things will go in the right direction," he said.

The prime minister has not yet tested coalition support for a second nuclear reactor and would not speculate whether other countries could be involved in its construction and financing. "I will make the effort though that Slovenia remain independent energy-wise," he said.

Owned jointly by Slovenia and Croatia, the plant began operating at full capacity in August 1982, launching commercial operation in January 1983.

The foundation stone for the plant was laid in 1974 and construction started a year later. After the first phase of trial operation in May 1981, the plant transmitted first kilowatts of power into the national grid in October that year.

22 Aug 2019, 10:01 AM

STA, 21 August 2019 - Slovenia has started erecting another 40 kilometres of fence along the border with Croatia, commercial broadcaster POP TV reported on Wednesday. Works are currently underway on a 4-kilometre segment between the villages of Zilje and Žuniči, southeast of Črnomelj.

In July, the contractor, Serbia-based Legi-SGS, was chosen for the job by the Public Administration Ministry, but it the department would not reveal where the additional 40 kilometres of fencing would be erected, saying the locations had been specified in a confidential document.

It did say, however, that additional fence would be erected in places where this is required to prevent illegal migration and protect locals and their assets. In some places, the new fence is needed because the old one is damaged.

Once the EUR 4.8 million project is complete, expected in a few weeks' time, more than 200 kilometres of Slovenia's 670-kilometre border with Croatia will be fenced in.

19 Aug 2019, 19:40 PM

STA, 19 August - Lynda Blanchard, the new US ambassador to Slovenia, said she was looking forward to working with the Slovenian government to make the US and Slovenia stronger partners, as she arrived in Slovenia with her family on Monday.

Blanchard, an entrepreneur and humanitarian activist, came to Slovenia more than a year after she was nominated by US President Donald Trump, since her appointment was held up by procedural obstacles related to the election of the new US Congress.

She is succeeding Brent Hartley, a career diplomat who served in Ljubljana between February 2015 and July 2018.

Speaking to the press at Ljubljana airport today, she said she was "excited to be here on the sunny side of the Alps" and she looked forward to "engaging with everyone and our partnerships".

Noting that she met First Lady Melania Trump on Saturday, the new ambassador said the first lady, who is Slovenian, wished her well.

"I look forward to working with her and the government of Slovenia and thus make us as parters stronger," said Blanchard, who is expected to present her credentials to President Borut Pahor on 29 August.

Blanchard believes she will get by easily as ambassador, having worked on the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for six years, and in 15 different countries with their governments. "I'm familiar with working with governments," she replied to a reporter's question about her not being a career diplomat.

Her nomination was endorsed in mid-July in a 54:40 vote, with Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator of Slovenian descent from Minnesota, voting against.

In her hearing on the Senate committee on foreign relations last August, she described Slovenia as "a reliable US partner" and "a regional leader in implementing democratic reforms" in the Balkans.

She pledged to encourage privatisation, noting that 50% of the Slovenian economy was "under state ownership or control", which entailed "opportunities for increased private investment".

The nominee also argued that US-Slovenian relations needed to continue to improve "through direct outreach and engagement with Slovenian people".

19 Aug 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 18 August - Nearly two thirds of Slovenians believe that the government is doing a good job, suggests the August Vox Populi, while the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) remains at the top of party rankings.

Commissioned by public broadcaster TV Slovenija and the newspaper Dnevnik on a monthly basis, the survey shows that 59.2% of the 700 people who were surveyed believe the government is doing a good job. The figure is 1.3 percentage points lower than in July.

On the other hand, 35.2% believe the opposite, with the share up three percentage points compared to previous month. Nonetheless, the LMŠ remains at the top of the party rankings with a support of 22.2% of respondents. The opposition Democrats (SDS) are in second place with 15.5%.

The Social Democrats (SD) are third with 10%, followed by the Left with 6.2%. The rest of the parties all remain under the 4% threshold of the National Assembly.

Despite the high support for the LMŠ and the government, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has been dethroned in the politicians' popularity ranking by President Borut Pahor. MEP Tanja Fajon is in place three, followed by MEP Ljudmila Novak.

The survey also asked respondents about what they believe would be the best measures by the EU to help countries cope with the migration crisis. 67.7% said the EU should help source countries address problems that force people to leave.

Just over 36% believe that the EU should provide incentives to countries that would hold migrants back from the bloc, in Turkey, the Western Balkans and North Africa.

Another 33.1% believe the EU should beef up the control of its external borders and 17.7% believe that migrants should be given the option to request a work permit before even setting foot in the EU.

Nearly 14% believe that the EU should increase control on its internal borders, while 8.7% said that they should be able to request asylum in the EU before arriving here.

Assessing the work of the police, 41.8% said the force was doing a good job, 44.8% said the police were partly successful and 8.4% said they were doing a poor job.

Nearly half of the respondent (49.6%) believe that incentives to establish ad hoc militias to protect the border were unwarranted and 44.2% believe the opposite.

All our stories on Slovenian politics are here

18 Aug 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 18 August 2019 - Ivan Oman, one of the key players of Slovenia's independence has died aged 89. In the late 1980s he played an important role in the establishment of DEMOS, a coalition of newly-emerged centre-right parties that won the first multi-party election in Slovenia and paved the way for its breakaway from the former Yugoslavia.

The news was announced on Sunday by the People's Party (SLS), whose predecessor, the Slovenian Farmers' Association (SKZ), Oman co-founded in the late 1980s and also served as its first president.

In 1990, he became a member of the Slovenian presidency and in 1992 he became an MP in the first National Assembly of independent Slovenia.

The father of seven was born on 10 September 1929. Himself a farmer, Oman was a "great fighter for the rights of farmers and a charismatic leader. May his soul rest with God," the SLS said in a press release.

He was a part of all the key events that led to Slovenia's independence. In November 1989, he hosted at his home in the village of Zminec, southwest of Škofja Loka, the meeting that resulted in the establishment of Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS).

He became the vice-president of DEMOS and, when in January 1990 the parties presented their manifesto, he said "We're running to win!" a bold statement many Slovenians still remember vividly nearly three decades later.

After DEMOS did indeed win the election, Oman became a member of the presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia alongside Ciril Zlobec, Matjaž Kmecl, Dušan Plut and Milan Kučan.

In the mean time, the Farmers' Association was renamed Slovenian People's Party (SLS) and Oman handed its leadership to his son-in-law Marjan Podobnik in 1992.

Oman wanted to see the party merge with the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD), but this had not happened. He then swapped parties, and was elected a member of parliament in 1992 on SKD's slate.

He retired from active politics after the end of his term but has remained an important presence in Slovenia's politics.

In 1996, he was honoured with the Golden Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia for his exceptional contribution to Slovenia's independence.

Top officials express condolences following Oman's death

STA, 18 August 2019 - Top state officials have expressed their condolences after the death of Ivan Oman, one of the key people in Slovenia's fight for independence. President Borut Pahor said Oman was one of the fathers of the Slovenian state, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenians would always remain grateful to him. Oman died on Saturday, aged 89.

"The entire Slovenian world mourns today. Ivan Oman was one of the key personas of Slovenia's political spring and independence, one of the fathers of our country," the president tweeted, describing Oman as a wise and determined leader with an open and gentle heart.

Šarec described Oman as a great patriot. "We will always remember him and always be grateful to him," the prime minister tweeted. Similarly, parliament Speaker Dejan Židan said that Slovenia had lost a wise man.

Židan's party, the Social Democrats (SD), whose predecessor was one of the main rivals of Oman's Farmers' Association, now the People's Party, said that Oman's efforts for an independent state and his unifying actions will for ever remain a part of Slovenia's history.

Gratitude to Oman was also expressed by the Democratic Party (SDS), the successor of one of the parties that formed the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS), which won the first multi-party election, paving the way to Slovenia's independence in the early 1990s.

The party said on its website that Oman "fought for the liberation from under the Communist regime with a strong will and courageous words".

When he became a member of presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in 1990, Oman was the only presidency member who supported the establishment of the Slovenian military and refused to sign the 1991 Declaration for Peace, an initiative for constitutional changes aiming at stopping progressive armament in Slovenia, as well as Yugoslavia.

"When Milan Kučan and other members of the presidency were disarming our country, he bravely addressed the members of the Territorial Defence after military exercise Premiki91: Greeted, soldiers of the Slovenian military," the SDS said, referring to the then presidency president, who went on to become the first president of independent Slovenia.

This role by Oman was also underlined by SDS president Janey Janša, another major player in Slovenia's independence.

Kučan on the other hand also gave a statement for the STA, praising Oman for being a man of dialogue, who contributed that the presidency had made unanimous decisions that were of vital importance for successful establishment of an independent state. "I am proud of the time I worked with him."

"Oman was a wise man and a sober politician. He put the interest of the Slovenian nation and state at the forefront of his actions as a politician. He was also capable of putting party interests second," Kučan said.

Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore tweeted that Oman was a "loving father, a vigilant protector of his family, an upstanding Christian, a consistent patriot and a wise politician... And always a farmer who constantly thinks about ways to further his estate."

Expressions of condolence also came from National Council President Alojz Kovšca and the president of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) Foreign Minister Miro Cerar.

Moreover, New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin tweeted that Oman "was an exceptional man. When it was time to act, he did not hesitate. When time called for clear thoughts, he knew no fear. He carried the homeland in his heart and the homeland will always be grateful."

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