12 Sep 2020, 11:07 AM

STA, 11 September 2020 - The 21st consecutive Friday protests in the centre of Ljubljana placed the people's power in the focus as the organisers evoked the provision in the Slovenian Constitution that says power is vested in the people. They urged both individuals and the civil society to stand up to the government.

Gathering in Prešeren Square - there were an estimated 3,000 protesters according to the Ljubljana police - the protesters rose up torches and banners urging the people to defend democracy on the street.

From there, they bicycled or walked to the square in front of Parliament House, where they displayed a flag with the symbol of the Friday protests and lit a "flame of protest" as a sign of resistance.

Speakers were critical not just of the government but also of opposition parties, accusing them of "caving in to Janšism" because they are afraid of fresh elections.

One speaker highlighted "abhorrent processes" going on, including weapons purchases, changes to media law, inadequate care for the elderly, and contradictory measures to combat coronavirus.

They publicly asked the opposition what they will do to make sure the Janez Janša government is brought down. "If your answer is no, we will remember that," said Jaša Jenull, one of the leaders of the protests.

"Z nami so bili pripadniki ljudstva, ki simbolizirajo pravico. Pravico, ki ima zavezane oči in v rokah drži bakljo......

Posted by Jasa Jenull on Friday, 11 September 2020

Some of the speeches evoked domestic violence and reports that Poland is supposedly inviting Slovenia to join it in withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty aimed at preventing violence against women.

Vesna Leskošek of the Faculty for Social Work said that a policy based on domination erodes solidarity and justice, not just in the public sphere but also in private, where violence is becoming an acceptable method of subordination.

Smaller protests were also held in Maribor, Velenje, Celje and Nova Gorica.

11 Sep 2020, 17:25 PM

STA, 11 September - Slovenia saw 108 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a record-high daily tally and the first time the total exceeded 100, after conducting 2,758 tests, the highest daily number so far as well, show fresh official data. No new Covid-19-related fatalities were reported.

There are currently 701 active cases in the country, according to national tracker site Covid-19.sledilnik.

A total of 27 persons are in hospital currently, including five in intensive care.

Among the latest cases, there were also six detected in health workers, six in residents of care homes and one in care home staff, show the national tracker's data.

A total of 2,662 persons have recovered from Covid-19 so far.

Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), said at today's government coronavirus briefing that Slovenia's current 14-day incidence was 34 per 100,000 residents.

He pointed out that the situation was similar to April, however there was no lockdown, instead it was key to adapt to the new normal, heed precautionary measures and keep boosting the testing capacity.

Commenting on the cutting short of the mandatory quarantine from 14 days to 10 days as of Sunday, he said the measure would be shortened in all cases and not merely for arrivals from Covid-19 risky countries, as was the government's decision on Thursday.

Fafangel highlighted compulsory quarantine was a uniform measure regardless of whether the quarantine order was issued by the border police or the NIJZ, so those found to have been in close contact with an infected person would be also recommended a 10-day mandatory self-isolation starting from Sunday.

The epidemiologist pointed out that 7% showed symptoms after 10 days in self-isolation, which is fewer than 10 cases per month and fewer than 1 per day.

Shorter mandatory quarantine poses a somewhat greater risk, but the public health is still protected, he said. The virus is here to stay for now, at least until a safe and effective vaccine, and it is important to slow it down using sustainable measures, Fafangel pointed out.

Coronavirus is mostly spreading within the country, only 35 of the 307 cases confirmed last week were imported, and the sources were often unknown, he added.

The latest cases were mainly confirmed in generations aged between 25 and 44 years, however the infections have been spreading to care homes as well, he warned, urging special efforts to protect the most vulnerable groups, including nursing home residents.

Fafangel said the situation was still more or less under control though since approximately 4% of all tests came back positive. "That is good because it means that there is a lot of testing and that there is no iceberg [of undetected infections] behind us."

At the start of the epidemic, the average time between the first symptoms and the test was four days, but the period has been reduced to three days.

If it is further cut to two days or even one day, epidemiologists could trace 60% of all the contacts of the infected person, thus maintaining the reproduction number at 1 and containing the epidemic, he said.

The NIJZ, which can currently trace contacts of up to 100 infected persons in a day, has boosted its staff capacities, including with the help of 15 medical students, who deal with half of the cases and are constantly supervised by an epidemiologist. The institute plans to further step up efforts to ensure enough testing and tracing, said Fafangel.

The latest infections bring Slovenia's overall tally of cases to 3,498, while the death toll remains at 135.

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10 Sep 2020, 19:34 PM


77 New Cases; New Rules on Testing Children; Quarantine Cut to 10 Days Sunday

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Slovenia sees 77 new coronavirus infections for Wednesday

STA, 10 September 2020 - After a record-high daily increase in coronavirus infections in Slovenia on Tuesday, the number of newly detected cases remains high. 77 out of 2,489 tests came back positive on Wednesday, which is almost level with the day before. No new fatalities were reported.

After one test proved to be falsely positive on Tuesday, the Health Ministry corrected the figure for the record-breaking day from 79 to 78. The figures for Monday were also amended to include another case which was confirmed in Croatia but the Slovenian decided to be quarantined and receive health treatment in Slovenia.

According to the national tracker Covid-19.sledilnik, Slovenia thus currently has 633 active cases. The national Covid-19 death toll remains unchanged since Friday at 135.

A total of 26 Covid-19 patients were in hospital yesterday, of whom five needed intensive care. Two were discharged from hospital, the government said on Twitter.

The UKC Maribor hospital admitted six residents of a care home who tested positive but showed no symptoms. They were transferred to the hospital to isolate them from other residents, the Health Ministry said.

New infections were recorded in 37 municipalities, including 18 in Ljubljana, where the number of active cases is 120. Maribor follows with 10 new infections and 56 active cases. 191 out out Slovenia's 212 municipalities have at least one infection confirmed.

Most of the newly infected persons are active adults, aged between 25 and 54. Nine new infections were confirmed in children aged between five and 14, and five among the elderly, aged between 75 and 84.

Since the first Covid-19 case was recorded in Slovenia, a total of 3,388 infections have been confirmed.

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Rules change for coronavirus testing of children under ten

STA, 10 September 2020 - Medical experts and the Health Ministry have slightly changed the rules for coronavirus testing of children with symptoms of respiratory disease. Children up to nine years old with only mild symptoms of respiratory disease, even if they also have mild fever and diarrhoea, will no longer be immediately tested for Covid-19.

As school started, the issue arose of how to distinguish between Covid-19 symptoms and the symptoms of other infections that are common in kindergarten and school children in the autumn and winter.

Paediatricians proposed that the rule that all children with symptoms of a cold must be tested be re-assessed, so the issue was discussed with ministry officials on Thursday.

Coming out of the meeting, paediatrician Denis Baš told the STA that everyone involved - infectious disease specialists, paediatricians, the National Institute for Public Health and the ministry - had reached a consensus that kindergarten children and children from the first three grades of primary school with a runny or stuffed nose, soar throat and temperature or diarrhoea will stay at home for three days but will not be immediately tested for Covid-19.

However, testing will remain in place for children with these symptoms who have also been in contact with an infected person or whose parents work in health institutions or care homes.

Also tested will be children with fever over 38 degrees Celsius and other signs of Covid-19 disease, Baš explained.

Children aged ten or more will be treated the same as adults, meaning that they will be referred to testing with even the mildest symptoms of respiratory disease.

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Border quarantine orders shortened to 10 days from Sunday

STA, 10 September 2020 - Slovenia is cutting mandatory quarantine imposed on arrivals from Covid-19 risky countries from 14 to 10 days starting from Sunday under a decision taken by the government on Thursday.

Announcing changes to the respective government decree, government spokesman Jelko Kacin said the decision was taken on the proposal of the expert group advising the government on Covid-19.

He said the exceptions to mandatory quarantine rules, for those attending a funeral of a close relative and maintaining contacts with close family members, will no longer be limited to 24 hours.

Parents have additionally been added to count as close family members, said Kacin.

There is also change to the rule when arrivals submit a negative test for Sars-CoV-2 as the test will now need to be conducted over the past 48 hours, rather than 36 as so far.

A certificate confirming such a negative test needs to be issued by an institution whose credibility is recognised by the Slovenian Institute of Microbiology and Immunology and the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food.

The government also secured EUR 5 million from budget reserves for the cost of swab tests at hospitals and community health centres from 12 March to 31 May. The Health Insurance Institute need to transfer the money to healthcare providers until 21 September.

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10 Sep 2020, 19:31 PM

STA, 10 September 2020 - The government commission for concealed mass graves has begun work on a site of summary execution at Mostec near Brežice in eastern Slovenia, so far discovering the remains of at least 139 victims believed to have been executed between May and October 1945.

The Mostec anti-tank trench, one of what are believed to be over 600 locations of post-WWII summary killings in Slovenia, will be exhumed because the pending construction of a new hydro power plant will flood of a part of the area.

The head of the exhumation works Uroš Košir told the press on Thursday that the remains of at least 139 people have been discovered since 25 August.

The final figure will only be known after the exhumation and studies are completed, but the work on the up to 200 metre-long trench so far has shown three layers of victims.

The remains of soldiers have mostly been found in the first and third layers, while civilian casualties, including women, are predominant in the second layer, where the remains of at least 27 victims were found. Large numbers of cartridges suggest the victims were executed on-site.

Pavel Jamnik, the head of the police campaign dubbed Reconciliation, said the Mostec site was one of the first to grab the attention of the Slovenian public and police after independence. The State Prosecution in Krško was first informed about it in 1995.

The executions there are believed to have taken place from May to October 1945 and were organised by the People's Defence Corps of Yugoslavia or KNOJ, with Slovenians also taking part.

It was established that people were transported there from the Teharje barracks, used as a concentration camp for members of the Home Guard militia that collaborated with the Nazis, as well as soldiers, civilians and refugees from Croatia and Serbia apprehended by the Allies in May 1945 and turned over to the Partisans.

At least one bus full of women was brought from the Huda Jama execution site, which was already full by then, victims were also brought in from Šentvid prison, while some of the victims are believed to have been a group of apprehended German soldiers and Croatian Ustaše, Jamnik said.

The chair of the government commission for concealed mass graves Jože Dežman announced that the remains would be transported to the Maribor ossuary.

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09 Sep 2020, 20:30 PM

STA, 9 September 2020  - Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Aleksandra Pivec resigned on Thursday, after previously vowing to fight efforts by the party's council to unseat her. She announced, however, that she would run for chairmanship again when the party holds an election congress given that she has "strong grassroots support".

Pivec, agriculture minister in Janez Janša's government and one of the deputy prime ministers, offered her resignation to the party's executive committee just before the council, a more senior body, was scheduled to vote on her dismissal following weeks of infighting. The executive committee accepted her resignation.

In a letter to the party members on Tuesday, Pivec said she would carry on. Today, she said she realised a solution that would be legally clean was not in sight. "When I realised this would not be the case, I decided to stop this by resigning."

Pivec has long insisted the council does not have the power to dismiss party leader, arguing that she was elected with an overwhelming majority at the January congress, where she defeated Karl Erjavec in a 143:80 vote, and that only the congress had a say over her fate.

After the party's own committee for legal issues decided the council does indeed have the power to dismiss the party leader, she initially indicated she would challenge the decision in court.

Pivec remains convinced that the party "bypassed all legal standards" and claims she is the victim of "a coup of sorts". DeSUS deserves a better future, regardless of who the president is, she said.

"I think there have been more than enough divisions in the party... We have forgotten about the dignity of individuals and the entire party, this is why I do not wish to debate in public about who's to blame and what went on behind the scenes."

As to her role in government, Pivec said her presidency had nothing to do with her ministerial role. "If a new president is elected at the congress, the time will come for debates on who will be the deputy prime minister."

Pivec has come under fire in her own party for mixing official and private business on two trips to western Slovenia. The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption has launched an ethics investigation.

The party will be led by Tomaž Gantar, the health minister, until the election congress. Gantar, one of the harshest critics of Pivec's conduct, stepped down as chair of the council to act as interim leader, spokesman Janez Ujčič revealed.

09 Sep 2020, 13:03 PM

STA, 9 September 2020 - Slovenia recorded 79 new coronavirus cases from 2,560 tests carried out on Tuesday, an absolute daily record for the numbers of both new cases and daily tests since the first case was recorded in the country on 4 March, the latest government data shows. The number of infections among care home residents is again rising, hitting 15 on Tuesday.

The number of yesterday's tests was for instance by 979 higher than the number of those carried out a day earlier, when the daily tally of new cases reached 43.

Until yesterday, the day with the highest number of new cases detected was 26 March, when only 1,075 tests were carried out.

While the national tracker website covid-19.sledilnik.org shows 61 new cases for that day, a database at gov.si/teme/koronavirus-sars-cov-2/ shows 70 cases.

A total of 33 Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital, four in intensive care, and as many as 590 cases are active, shows the data on the national tracker site.

There were no new fatalities, so the national Covid-19 death toll remains unchanged since Friday at 135. A total of 3,312 infections have been confirmed so far.

Government Covid-19 spokesperson Jelko Kacin attributed the record number of new cases to a large number of tests and to full school and business reopening.

What is worrying is that the share of infected older people at care homes is increasing again, with 15 new cases confirmed on Tuesday, Kacin and Nuška Čakš Jager from the National Institute of Public Heath (NIJZ) told Wednesday's daily briefing.

Kacin said the growing number of infections among the elderly called for "additional measures", so Prime Minister Janez Janša had called a meeting of the government's Covid-19 task force for later in the day.

Ten infections have been confirmed since Monday at one of the two units of the Danica Vogrinec Home for the Elderly in the city of Maribor, the biggest elderly home in Slovenia with some 800 beds.

A similar situation has been reported by a care home in Črneče in the Koroška region, north, where five residents and one staff were tested on Tuesday to prove infected. None of the infected persons in either of the two homes showed any signs of the disease.

Čakš Jager, deputy head at NIJZ's Centre of Infectious Diseases, said the structure of infections was changing.

There are considerably more local transmissions, and many infections are of unknown origin, many more than one would have wanted, she said.

The number of those who fall ill with Covid-19 while in quarantine is also rising; as many as 11% of those who were ordered to quarantine fell ill, which Čakš Jager said showed the quarantine measure was warranted.

Apart from the 15 care home residents, three care home employees also tested positive on Tuesday, while the daily tally at schools was ten infected pupils and two teachers, according to Šakš Jager.

Yesterday's infections were confirmed in as many as 40 of Slovenia's 212 municipalities, with Maribor leading the way with 12, followed by Ljubljana with 10, the tracker website shows. Fewer than five infections were recorded in the other 38 municipalities.

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08 Sep 2020, 21:15 PM

STA, 8 September 2020 - Slovenia recorded 42 new coronavirus cases from 1,581 tests carried out on Monday, which brings the overall tally of cases since the first one was confirmed in early March to 3,232. 546 cases are active, according to the latest data posted on the national tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

No new Covid-19-related fatalities have been reported, leaving the national total at 135 since Friday.

The number of hospitalisations has meanwhile risen by two to 28; four persons are in intensive care.

The number of new daily cases has been dropping since the recent spike of 55 recorded on 1 September, when 1,608 tests were performed.

The number of tests is not falling, and the number of new cases shows the situation is slowly stabilising, which is encouraging, the government's Covid-19 spokesperson Jelko Kacin told the press on Tuesday.

He said eleven local sources of infections had so far been detected for Monday's new cases, while epidemiologists have a hard time finding the sources as some infected persons would not or cannot tell them how they contracted the disease. 19 cases are thus still being investigated.

However, more worrying trends can be noticed in Italy and Hungary, while the situation also remains worrying in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, said Kacin.

Nevertheless, only one of yesterday's infections has been imported, although the figure could rise once the sources of the 19 mentioned infections have been fully examined, he added.

Still, the government is not considering closing the border like it did in spring. "This is not an option for the time being, it is not being discussed, nor is closing municipal borders".

Kacin also denied rumours that schools would close towards the end of September after several classes around the country have been put in quarantine since the new school year started on 1 September. He said "there is no truth there" and "it has never been discussed".

He explained that individual schools could close in case of infections.

Asked whether any stricter measures were being planned to contain the virus, such as dedicated hours for certain vulnerable groups at shops, he said they were not.

Kacin also presented some statistics about oversight of quarantine orders and of anti-coronavirus measures in public places.

Health inspectors have so far carried out almost 21,500 quarantine oversights, issuing fines in almost 185 cases worth over EUR 70,000.

They have also visited almost 400 shops and restaurants or bars to check face mask wearing and sanitiser use since a relevant decree entered into force on Friday.

Yesterday alone, they visited almost 190 objects, or which 90 bars or restaurants and 96 shops, issuing seven fines at shops and one at a restaurant for non-compliance with face mask rules.

08 Sep 2020, 19:16 PM

STA, 8 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have climbed the North Face of Mount Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak, following talks in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

The government has posted three photos of the two leaders in climbing gear on its Twitter profile. In one they are pictured with helmets on their heads, in another with helmets in their hands.

Two photographs appear to have been taken at the start of the ascent and a third one shows them higher up the rock from below.

Janša also posted several photos of the feat on his Twitter profile. "The Slovenian route in Triglav North Face climbed. Glorious weather on top. Fine company of excellent mountaineer Sebastian Kurz and substantive discussions," Janša tweeted.

One of the photographs shows Kurz in the wall, and in two others the pair are pictured in high spirits "above the clouds", just below the summit.

Triglav North Face is the highest, broadest and most magnificent of Slovenia's rock walls. It is criss-crossed with climbing routes.

Mount Triglav (2,864 metres) is Slovenia's most popular peak as well as the national symbol.

Kurz met Janša earlier during his first bilateral trip abroad since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Addressing reporters after talks, they called for a joint approach in combating the novel virus and illegal migration.

Asked how he felt about the climbing venture ahead of the attempt, Kurz said that the Slovenian prime minister was an experienced climber and he had no worries ahead of the climbing test.

08 Sep 2020, 18:12 PM

STA, 8 September 2020 - Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has announced that Italy will not close small border crossings on the Italian-Slovenian border due to increased migration, but will bolster the presence of the military and police in the border area. She has also announced that mixed border patrols will be reintroduced.

Joint Slovenian-Italian border police patrols were discontinued when the Covid-19 situation started to escalate.

But Lamorgese said in Trieste on Tuesday that the joint activities would be renewed "already this evening", lauding cooperation with the Slovenian police, reported Primorski Dnevnik, the Trieste-based newspaper of the Slovenian minority in Italy.

The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region will see the arrival of additional soldiers "to monitor the region more efficiently", she said during her visit to Trieste, where she mostly discussed illegal migrations with regional authorities, according to the Italian press agency Ansa.

Additional soldiers will be primarily deployed to small border crossings as well as to roads and expressways to upset the apple cart for migrant smugglers.

Lamorgese said that the authorities needed to be one step ahead of the smugglers, who are inventive in coming up with new routes.

More than 3,000 illegal migrants have taken the Western Balkan route to arrive in Italy this year, which compares to 2,100 migrants crossing the Slovenian-Italian border illegally in the same period last year. Some 850 were handed over to the Slovenian authorities, said Lamorgese.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga is meanwhile disappointed that small border crossings remain open, reported Ansa. But he said the minister had told him she would see no alternative to closing them if sending additional manpower did not prove efficient.

Lamorgese hopes the move will bring positive results though. A total of 21 small border crossings will see reinforced border control already tonight.

08 Sep 2020, 16:31 PM

STA, 8 September 2020 - The public consultation on government-proposed changes to three media acts has ended, but the debate is still on as the national broadcaster continues to protest the legislation and some of the opposition parties are not happy either. Two relevant associations have also called on the government to withdraw the proposals.

The management of RTV Slovenija told the press on Monday it is opposed to the changes to the three acts - one of them deals with the public broadcaster - and called on the Culture Ministry to withdraw them.

The main point of contention is the proposal to distribute 8% of the public broadcaster licence fee among other media - 3% for the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and 5% for other media.

Director general Igor Kadunc said that the proposals encroached upon the funds available to RTV Slovenija, which would stand to directly lose as much as EUR 7.7 million a year along with almost EUR 10 million in lost revenue from its transmitting business, which would be transferred onto a new fully state-owned company.

Kadunc stressed that the public broadcaster was EUR 8 million short every year already, and that it had EUR 6 million less to work with last year than it had in 2012.

Since 2012, no government has dealt with the development of RTV Slovenija, he said, while rejecting the allegations that the public broadcaster was not solving the financial situation with streamlining and reorganisation.

Kadunc believes that the legislative changes in their present form will not be passed in parliament. He added that the management of RTV Slovenija was ready to participate in drafting expertise-based and comprehensive changes to media legislation.

Radio Slovenija director Mirko Štular added that the public media service might be destabilised at the detriment of the public. The funding cuts are already resulting in staff shortages and the programme would suffer even further, he added.

TV Slovenija director Natalija Gorščak said that the legislative changes were not only an attack on the public broadcaster, but on the Slovenian cultural identity and language in general.

Trade unionist Simeona Rogelj added that the public broadcaster could lose up to 500, or a quarter of all employees, if the proposed changes were implemented, with journalists being the first to go.

Meanwhile, the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) reiterated its call for the legislation to be withdrawn, arguing that it is being opposed by practically the entire professional public.

The media space shows that the current government is taking the path taken by authoritarian regimes in Europe, SAB deputy group head Maša Kociper told the press on Monday.

She believes the changes aim at weakening the public broadcaster and giving power to other, commercial media outlets, which are inclined to the current government, in particular the ruling Democrats (SDS).

The Left has meanwhile called on President Borut Pahor to change the title of a debate on RTV Slovenija he is hosting on Friday, which suggests that the public broadcaster is not a free and politically unbiased media outlet.

Left MP Violeta Tomić said that the concept of the debate implied that Pahor gave legitimacy to the "attempts at discrediting RTV Slovenija by the ruling SDS to politically subjugate the public broadcaster".

Zmago Jelinčič, the head of the opposition National Party (SNS), meanwhile said that the arguments from the other opposition parties lacked content, while agreeing that there are some mistakes in the proposals, which can be corrected with amendments.

The Slovenian Advertising Chamber and the Slovenian Media Association have also reiterated their calls for the legislation to be withdrawn, saying that such changes required a comprehensive, in-depth and expertise-based discussion.

The chamber said that 5% of the public broadcaster licence fee and special taxation of cable operators would create the largest state media fund under direct control of the government.

Instead of ensuring the greatest possible transparency and professionalism in distribution of funds at the systemic level, the changes open the door wide to "arbitrary decision-making and cronyism".

It also brings further commercialisation of the public broadcaster also at the expense of other entities on the market, their press release adds.

Journalists are also up in arms, with Petra Lesjak Tušek, the president of the Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS), saying that "a resolute no should be said in particular to the attack on the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and the STA".

The latter is a reference to the proposal that the STA is no longer financed from the budget and to the plan to switch the STA supervisory board appointment powers from the National Assembly to the government.

The other organisation of journalists, the Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP), meanwhile endorsed the public broadcaster licence fee distribution proposal, while also saying that it did not matter whether STA supervisors were appointed by the government or parliament.

The Association of Independent Radio Stations, which brings together more than 20 local radio stations, is in favour of the changes to the media law, arguing they would facilitate creating fair conditions for long-term coexistence and development of all, big and small media outlets in the country.

The association pointed in Tuesday's press release to what it believes is an extremely uncompetitive and monopolised situation in the fields of TV, press and radio, which benefits large media outlets.

It said these have "over the years, often by resorting to dodgy practice and moves, created strong monopolies in advertising, which now enables them to control the entire media market", thus preventing healthy competition and plurality.

The situation cannot be blamed only on the Culture Ministry's past inaction, but in the area of radio, also on the Agency for Communication Networks and Services, which has failed to regulate commercial radio networks when it noticed they did not meet the criteria of producing shows with local contents, the association said.

Responding to the latest calls, the Culture Ministry said certain corrections would be made and noted that there were several alternative proposals regarding the financing of RTV Slovenija and distribution of its licence fee.

"A word or two needs to be also exchanged with the coalition partners," Media Directorate head Ivan Oven told RTV Slovenija yesterday, as the changes have not been fully coordinated yet within the coalition.

08 Sep 2020, 11:23 AM

STA, 8 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for a joint approach to the new coronavirus and to illegal migration as they met in Ljubljana this morning.

Janša and Kurz agreed that a full lockdown because of coronavirus should be avoided this autumn, with Kurz stressing that a "light at the end of the tunnel" could already be seen in the fight against the virus.

The chancellor said Austria's goal was to keep schools open, and preserve normal life in all areas as much as possible but with certain rules and adjustments.

Janša warned that the danger of the epidemic was not over yet, as infection numbers were going up throughout Europe. But unlike in the spring, now fewer people develop the disease and die from it, which probably means "we've learned something" and that the protective measures work, he said.

The prime minister noted that Austria and Slovenia had worked closely when the pandemic started, and that Austria had been a kind of a role model for Slovenia in the first, worst weeks of the battle against the virus, being one of the few European countries that were well prepared for the pandemic.

The pair agreed such cooperation would continue.

Turning to illegal migration, Janša stressed that protecting the EU's external borders would be crucial. He called for a strengthening of border protection, a joint EU approach to the issue and assistance to the countries that could be hit the hardest so as to avoid the situation Europe was in in 2015.

He also said countries on the EU's external borders should be assisted. Janša and Kurz agreed that protecting the external borders was essential for removing check points on the EU's internal borders.

The Austrian chancellor, who is on his first visit abroad since the start of the pandemic in February, said "we need a stronger, more competitive Europe in the globalised world". He said today's visit to Slovenia was a sign of a special bond between the two countries.

The pair labelled bilateral relations between Slovenia and Austria as good. Austria is Slovenia's third most important economic partner and the biggest foreign investor.

Janša said the government was preparing measures to make Slovenia even more attractive to foreign investors. Kurz welcomed this, noting that Slovenia was an important economic partner of Austria and that several thousand Austrian companies operated in Slovenia.

The talks also touched on the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Carinthian plebiscite, after which a sizeable part of the Slovenian-speaking territory became Austria after World War I, and the plans for the Slovenian and Austrian presidents to mark the anniversary in Klagenfurt on 10 October together.

This will be the first time that the presidents of both countries will attend the ceremony, so Janša welcomed the initiative. He said several issues regarding the Slovenian minority in Austria remained open but that now they could be tackled easier than in the past.

Kurz also discussed this with President Borut Pahor today, who welcomed the programme of the Austrian government for tackling the issues of minorities and expressed hope that some of the measures discussed would become laws soon. Kurz expressed his genuine readiness for this, according to Pahor's office.

In talks with Janša, Kurz said that his government's programme for the anniversary did not envisage only a financial present for the minority to mark the anniversary but also other measures to support the Slovenian community in the future. He did not specify though when the minority is to receive this present.

Kurz also touched on the efforts to recognise the German-speaking community in Slovenia as a minority in the Constitution, saying Vienna was "grateful" for that.

Janša and Kurz are later scheduled to head to Triglav for a climbing adventure in the north face of Slovenia's highest mountain, with Kurz telling the press he was not worried as the Slovenian prime minister was an experienced climber.

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