Politics

12 Jul 2020, 11:51 AM

STA, 11 July 2020 - Srebrenica needs to stay in our memory as a warning to the international community that such atrocities must never repeat or be permitted again. Denying or relativising these tragic events is unacceptable, the Foreign Ministry wrote to mark the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. President Borut Pahor meanwhile urged reconciliation.

The ministry expects this year's commemoration to also be directed into the future. Slovenia is striving for a process of reconciliation in the area of the former Yugoslavia and for stability in the Western Balkans as a whole.

The reconciliation process is key for harmony and mutual trust among nations and a European future for the region, Saturday's press release by the ministry says.

A quarter of a century is passing this year since more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslims, mainly men and boys, were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in a three-day massacre in and around the town of Srebrenica. Since 2009, 11 July has been a day for EU commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide.

The central ceremony is taking place at the Potočari memorial centre near Srebernica today, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic foreign state officials are not present in person.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor addressed participants via video, saying history could not change, but the future could. Key for the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina is truth as opposed to denial, respect as opposed to hate, open dialogue as opposed to conflicts, he said.

Forgiveness and respect for diversity is vital, he added, arguing reconciliation is not action of the past but a guarantee for coexistence and friendship that comes from a shared pain.

Moreover, a peaceful, European future for Bosnia-Herzegovina requires courage. Courage is the only thing - despite terrible pain that accompanies the memory of the victims of genocide - that can lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, cooperation and restored trust, Pahor added in the address published on Twitter.

11 Jul 2020, 13:02 PM

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

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FRIDAY, 3 July
        LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR - Slovenia recorded 30 new coronavirus infections, a new high since mid-April, with a large majority of the cases being up to 44 years of age. By 8 July 97 more cases were confirmed, bringing the tally of active cases to 230 and the total case count to 1,776. The number of hospitalisations rose to 15 by 8 July, none of them intensive care cases.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his visiting German counterpart Heiko Maas held a virtual meeting with Portugal's Augusto Santos Silva focusing on the trio EU presidency plans, the coronavirus response and the EU multi-year budget and recovery plan. They established the EU was better equipped to deal with a potential second wave of coronavirus infections. Similar topics were discussed as Maas met Prime Minister Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total dipped by 1.1% from May to 89,377 at the end of June in a first monthly decrease since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The figure is still 26.3% up year-on-year tough.
        LJUBLJANA - The ruling coalition parties signed a deal on cooperation with the opposition National Party (SNS) and the Italian and Hungarian minority MPs. The SNS and the two minority MPs agreed to support government bills and projects in the 2020-2022 period. Other opposition parties turned down the offer to join the partnership on the ground that PM Janez Janša did not inspire trust.
        LJUBLJANA - Police security was beefed up in the centre of Ljubljana as some 2,500 anti-government protesters took to the streets for the 11th consecutive week, while a smaller group of some 80 government supporters wearing yellow vests staged a counter-protest. The anti-government protesters and some media linked the yellow vests to the neo-Nazi groups and to the ruling party. Despite some tension the protests passed off without a major confrontation.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The ALDE party's bureau decided to send a fact-finding mission to Slovenia, expectedly after the summer break, according to unofficial information. However, ALDE party press service said there was "no discussion on the expulsion of any of the Slovenian member parties of ALDE", denying the rumour it would expel the Modern Centre Party (SMC).
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank said that Slovenian banks received EUR 401.1 million worth of requests for a deferral of loan payments in the three months since the relevant legislation took effect. The number of requests filed was 23,700, which amounts to 3.6% of all loans. Processing over 90% of the requests, the banks approving the bulk of them.
        LJUBLJANA - The government replaced four of the five supervisors of 2TDK, the company established for the construction and management of a new rail link to the port of Koper, appointing Robert Rožič the new chief supervisor in what is seen as a prelude to the management's replacement.

SATURDAY, 4 July
        LJUBLJANA - Border restrictions entered into force for citizens of Croatia, France and the Czech Republic as the countries were demoted from the green list of Covid-19 safe countries to the yellow list, but France and most of the Czech Republic were reinstated to green two days later. The citizens of yellow countries are submitted to a mandatory two-week quarantine on entering Slovenia unless they are just transiting the country or had accommodation booked and could prove they had tested negative for Sars-CoV-2. In addition, Slovenia started serving quarantine orders at border crossings for arrivals from red countries, including to Slovenians unable to prove they arrived from Croatia rather than from further south. More than 1,000 quarantine orders were served at the weekend.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša responded to the daily number of coronavirus infections hitting an eleven-week high the previous day by warning that there were only two alternatives until an effective medication or vaccine against Covid-19 was available: drastic shutdown of public life, border closures, social distancing and depression, or mandatory use of a contact tracing app.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that retired brigadier general Tone Krkovič, one of the defendants in the Patria defence corruption trial, had reached a settlement with the state for EUR 60,000 in damages for wrongful imprisonment. This means that only Janez Janša, the incumbent PM, is yet to get damages for wrongful imprisonment over a guilty ruling that was quashed by the Constitutional Court in 2015. Businessman Ivan Črnkovič settled for EUR 63,000 in 2018. Janša claims EUR 900,000.

SUNDAY, 5 July
        VIPAVA - News broke of a coronavirus outbreak at the Vipava care home, the first such after the 80% of Slovenia's 111 Covid-19-related deaths in the first wave of the epidemic were at care homes. Eleven of the 108 residents and seven of the 45 staff tested positive after all had been tested. In response the association of care homes systemic measures had not been put in place to protect the residents.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Barbara Antolić Vupora was elected to the Croatian parliament on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) as the first member of the Slovenian minority to enter Sabor in its 30-year history.

MONDAY, 6 July
        LJUBLJANA - Meeting Albanian Deputy Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj, Foreign Minister Anže Logar vowed that Slovenia would provide support for Albania on its path to the EU. The ministers also talked about the Covid-19 pandemic, with Cakaj lauding Slovenia's response, and efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation, most notably in business.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council, a government advisory body, estimated the public budget costs of coronavirus crisis stimulus measures until the beginning of July at around of EUR 1.1 billion, well below the government's initial estimate of EUR 4 billion and subsequent correction to EUR 2.8 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - Government spokesman Jelko Kacin revealed that a couple of foreign nationals had breached quarantine rules and now faced a fine or even prison on suspicion they spread coronavirus out of negligence. A 37-year-old woman failed to notify emergency department staff beforehand that her husband had Covid-19, who kept going to work despite being ordered to self-isolate.
        LJUBLJANA - The four left-leaning opposition parties filed for a parliamentary inquiry to examine the efficiency of government measures taken to contain the Covid-19 epidemic and mitigate its consequences, including potential violations of human rights and freedoms.
        LJUBLJANA - The State Prosecutors' Council condemned a letter PM Janez Janša addressed to the state prosecutor general on 19 June over the alleged inaction to prosecute death threats expressed at anti-government protests and attacks on the police taking place as part of them.

TUESDAY, 7 July
        LJUBLJANA - Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health, urged adherence to existing measures to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections as he revealed that the cumulative average infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants was at the 10 threshold "we've been using for other countries when designating them no longer safe".
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission kept its projection for Slovenia's economy to shrink by 7% this year unchanged in the latest forecast, while downgrading its outlook for the country for 2021 by 0.6 of a percentage point compared to the May forecast to 6.1% growth.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Commission would like to keep the dialogue with Slovenia on ECB archives, in her response to a recent letter PM Janez Janša examining the possibility for the Commission to withdraw the legal action against Slovenia because of a 2016 seizure of ECB documents.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-owned telecoms company Telekom Slovenije signed a deal to sell Planet TV to the Hungarian media company TV2 Media for EUR 5 million. The transactions is expected to be finalised by the end of September after its gets all clearances. TV2 is owned by Jozsef Vida, whom media associate with the business network of Hungary's ruling party Fidesz. Media reports suggest Planet TV could merge with Nova24TV, the TV associated with the ruling Slovenian Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the central bank showed that banks in Slovenia generated EUR 152 million in pre-tax profit in the first five months of the year, a 50% drop year-on-year. Growth in loans to households was halved and loans to companies are gradually declining too.
        LJUBLJANA - The Insurance Supervision Agency's report for 2019 shows that the Slovenian insurance sector performed successfully last year, with the agency saying that it was well capitalised and thus well prepared for the challenge posed by the coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey presented by the National Education Institute showed that half the Slovenian primary and secondary school pupils think that remote learning posed more challenges than in-classroom learning, something that their teachers concurred with.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Book Agency announced that Slovenia's stint as the guest of honour country at the Frankfurt Book Fair was postponed for a year to 2023 due to coronavirus ramifications. So was the country's planned guest of honour appearance at the Bologna Children's Book Fair moved forward to 2022.

WEDNESDAY, 8 July
        VIENNA, Austria - President Borut Pahor met his Austrian and Croatian counterparts for the 7th trilateral meeting for talks focusing on Europe during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and on the combat against climate change. On the eve of the meeting, Pahor and Austria's Alexander Van der Bellen agreed to mark the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite, which determined the border between Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, together as a sign of peaceful coexistence between the two nations.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In a video debate on the challenges of the EU organised by the Foundation for a Civic Hungary and also featuring Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, PM Janez Janša called for a uniform and not entirely voluntary coronavirus tracing app for the whole of Europe as the only option to allow tourism to continue and prevent a suspension of public life. Janša also spoke of "cultural Marxism" as the biggest ideological threat to the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - The government lowered the number of persons allowed in public gatherings from 50 to 10. Official events of up to 50 people will be allowed if the organiser keeps a record of all the participants.
        LJUBLJANA - Speculation arose whether Aleš Hojs would stay on as the interior minister after PM Janez Janša failed to submit formal notification of his "irrevocable resignation", announced on 30 June, to parliament by the deadline. The PM's office would not comment on the situation.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Home Policy Committee called on the government to retable a motion to invoke a special clause in the defence act that would give soldiers police powers to patrol the border after police reported a spike in illegal migration in June. The committee also urged to government to withdraw from the global compact for migration, a proposal Foreign Minister Anže Logar said his ministry would examine.
        BRNIK - Fraport Slovenija director Zmago Skobir said that passenger numbers at Ljubljana airport had been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, urging the government to help airlines with state aid to preserve routes and aviation as a whole.

THURSDAY, 9 July
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - PM Janez Janša met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on his first trip abroad since assuming office in mid-March. He said Slovenia wanted the agreement on the EU's 2021-27 budget and recovery plan for Europe to be clinched as on as possible and reflect the European Commission's original proposal as much as possible. He told Stoltenberg Slovenia would invest EUR 780 million in he Slovenian Armed Forces in 2021-2026.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Anže Logar met several senior EU officials in preparation of Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021, including the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and three commissioners, among them Oliver Varhely, who is in charge of enlargement.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed by 50 votes to 23 a legislative package meant to prepare Slovenia for the second wave of Covid-19 that includes a legal basis for a contact tracing app. The app, which will be compulsory for infected persons and those placed into quarantine or self-isolation, is to be ready in a few weeks, but the opposition indicated it would challenge it at the Constitutional Court due to the many concerns, including with respect to invasion of privacy.
        LJUBLJANA - The Culture Ministry submitted for public consultation until 15 July a proposal reforming the media act, the RTV Slovenija act and the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) act under which part of the TV licence fee would be allocated for the realisation of public interest in the media and a part would go to the STA, which would no longer be eligible for state funds. The proposal also envisages changes to to the appointment procedure for STA supervisors and director.
        LJUBLJANA - The leadership of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) backed party leader Aleksandra Pivec following a vote of no confidence in her by the party's Ljubljana branch, which Pivec said had been orchestrated.
        NOVO MESTO - The shareholders meeting of Krka endorsed the proposal to pay out EUR 133.27 million of the EUR 270.87 million in distributable profit for dividends at EUR 4.25 gross per share, EUR 1.05 more than in 2019. It also appointed economist Matej Lahovnik, the chief adviser to the government on the stimulus legislation, one of the four new supervisors. Preliminary estimates show the pharma group saw its net profit grow by 15% year-on-year to EUR 160.3 million in the first half of the year as sales revenue rose by 6% to EUR 803.8 million.

All our posts in this series are here

11 Jul 2020, 10:36 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 9 July 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Government communication on coronavirus “dumb”

STA, 10 July 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina is critical in Friday's editorial of the government's communication related to the coronavirus situation. Rather than presenting recommendations to the people as for example the German or Austrian government, the Slovenian government is being "rude, disrespectful and simply dumb", says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

Not only is the government blaming the people for the situation, making threats and patronising them, its communication is even becoming "extremely harmful".

According to Repovž, the main problem is government spokesperson Jelko Kacin.

His statements about Slovenians not understanding that 50 people means 50, not 50 plus another 50, is sending the message to the people that they are idiots and irresponsible.

"Anyone familiar with the basics of communication knows that such threats may be efficient for a (very) short time, but in the long run they lead only to the loss of credibility and authority of the person making them."

Repovž is particularly bothered by Kacin's statements about young people, describing them as "irresponsible and also a little bit dumb beings".

But the most disturbing according to Repovž was Kacin's statement about picnics he made on Tuesday, when he urged people not to invite "people from other cultural and national environments" to their picnics.

He says "such open xenophobia" should not be allowed.

"Wise governments are building bridges of trust with citizens nowadays, asking them, addressing them as partners, co-citizens, presenting them recommendations. Others have Jelko Kacin as the official spokesperson," Repovž says under the headline Main Pest.

Demokracija: Janša's letter to Šketa not controversial

STA, 9 July 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija argues in its latest editorial that the letter that Prime Minister Janez Janša sent to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa over the anti-government protests is in no way controversial. What is controversial is the investigation of Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, it says.

Elaborating on the claim about Šketa, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says that one must distinguish between the justice system and judiciary.

"The justice system is a much broader notion, encompassing state prosecutions, lawyers and notaries; so next to judges also those performing duties related to court activities who definitely are not part of the judicial branch.

"The prosecution thus definitely falls under the executive branch of power, which means that it is autonomous but not independent (as for example justice) or untouchable."

It is clear who is in charge of the executive branch of power, so Janša's letter to Šketa in which he expressed criticism over the passivity of the prosecution in the face of inciting to violence during protests is no interference in the other branch of power but a warning of a superior to an inferior.

"With this letter Janša did not interfere with the prosecutors' independence or conduct political pressure," Biščak argues.

What is controversial, however, is the house searches that were conducted at Minister Počivalšek's home last week and him being placed in custody.

This clearly shows how alive the deep state is and that it is choosing no means in its efforts to bring down the government.

Počivalšek was suspected on misusing public funds in the procurement of protective equipment during the epidemic. But the public funds could not have been misused yet.

He was placed in custody due to the risk of flight but where could he possibly go, Biščak wonders. Another argument was that he might repeat the crime, but where is the guarantee that he will not repeat it after release.

And the third argument was that public broadcaster RTV Slovenija had reported about it. "RTV Slovenija as a key reference for an investigation, are you out of your mind?"

All this can mean only one thing: that the National Bureau of Investigation and the prosecution in cooperation with investigating judge Mojca Kocjančič (former wife of Aleš Zalar and the judge who saved Zoran Janković by excluding key evidence) have come up with a scheme that serves the interests of known political groups.

"Why Počivalšek was picked to be the scapegoat was even publicly stated in the 'official gazette' of the deep state (Mladina): because he is the weakest link on the way to the SDS and Janez Janša. It is hard to imagine a clearer laying out of the principle 'first discrediting then liquidating'", Biščak says under Dear Prosecutors, Are You Serious.

All our posts in this series are here

11 Jul 2020, 09:34 AM

STA, 10 July 2020 - Anti-government protests resumed for the 12th Friday running in Ljubljana and some other Slovenian towns, with calls in support of independent media added to the list of demands. Also targeted were those who protesters said supported the "unbearable situation" in the country through inaction.

The protests in the capital were centred on the huge square in front of the parliament building which had not been fenced off, but there was considerable police presence, as an anti-protest by government supporters wearing yellow vests was also held simultaneously.

Protesters, many of whom arrived on bicycles, presented a variety of demands, including freedom of movement, decision-making, assembly and speech. They slammed corruption, stealing of public money, the government's attitude to NGOs as well as to the media. They also spoke out against the contact tracing app.

Protesters from the western Primorska region and the neighbouring Italy expressed their opposition to what they called historical revisionism and to the planned laying of wreaths by President Borut Pahor at the Foiba of Basovizza memorial, which they see as treason.

For the third time the anti-government protesters were joined by government supporters, some of whom said they wanted to symbolise the voice of conventional workers who they said the "Marxist international" had forgotten about.

Carrying Slovenian flags, the yellow vests voiced their opposition to the Antifa movement, calling out slogans such as being a patriot did not mean being a fascist.

The anti-government protesters argued that politics was artificially dividing the nation, they said they too fought for Slovenia and that antifascists were not terrorists.

Many of the anti-government protesters were wearing face masks and some wore carnival costumes to mirror the "political political masquerade" in the country.

Touring the streets of Ljubljana, mostly on bicycles, they stopped at the headquarters of junior coalition partners, accusing them of condoning bad practices.

10 Jul 2020, 15:13 PM

STA, 10 July - A preliminary follow-up report on the April nationwide antibody study, which originally estimated 2-4% or one in thirty Slovenians had probably been exposed to the novel coronavirus, has downgraded the estimate to 0-2.8%.

The report was presented on Friday by Mario Poljak, a researcher at the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, which led the study.

Poljak explained that the first estimate, presented on 6 May, had presumed a too high reliability of antibody tests and that the revised figures, based on new discoveries, are likely to be further fine-tuned in future follow-up reports, the final one being expected in November.

The researcher stressed that the antibody part of the study, executed with serological tests, had been far less relevant than the segment establishing only two positive Sars-CoV-2 cases in a representative sample of 1,368.

While explaining that the reliability estimate for the swab tests remained unchanged, Poljak argued this had been the figure that allowed the authorities to start easing restrictions.

Also important will be the follow-up findings based on reports being collected from all the participants of the study every three weeks to monitor their health condition and that of their remaining household members.

Slovenia records 17 new coronavirus infections on Thursday

STA, 10 July 2020 - Seventeen out of 1,390 coronavirus tests came back positive on Thursday, a slight increase from 13 the day before, which was the lowest daily tally since 30 June. Sixteen people needed hospital treatment, one more than on Wednesday. None of the patients was in intensive care and nobody was released from hospital, government data show.

Nuška Čakš Jager of the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) told the press that the number of active cases in the country yesterday had been estimated at 236.

A slightly bigger increase in the number of cases was recorded in care homes but they all stem from known cases. The number of infections among medical staff has also risen.

The curve in Slovenia has been rising but daily fluctuations are being recorded, said Čakš Jager, noting that the daily count was around 20. The situation in Croatia is similar, but the rise is steeper there, she said.

In Slovenia, the number of active cases reached 11.34 per 100,000 people today, she said. Ten infections per 100,000 inhabitants has been the benchmark used by Slovenia to de-list countries as coronavirus safe. Nevertheless, Čakš Jager said the situation was under control.

Quarantine has been proposed by the NIJZ for 762 people who have been in close contact with infected persons. Twenty-five of these persons later tested positive.

Nine infections have been recorded among those who were ordered quarantine after entering Slovenia from a risky country.

The Health Inspectorate has carried out 1,876 inspections of the quarantine requirements since Saturday.

According to government spokesperson Jelko Kacin, 585 people were found to be respecting restrictions imposed on them, while 25 persons did not and will be punished. In nine cases, access to private property was not possible and in 30 cases wrong information was given to the authorities.

In 15 cases, nobody answered the door, and in 50 cases the inspectors were unable to find the right apartment in multi-apartment buildings.

Kacin said an increased oversight would also be conducted over bars and restaurants this weekend.

Among the 132 confirmed coronavirus cases in a week, 73 were linked to a local source. The number of infections from an unknown source also rose.

Among the imported cases, most came from Croatia, followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro.

So far, a total of 1,793 infections have been confirmed in Slovenia and 111 people have died of the Covid-19 disease.

10 Jul 2020, 11:04 AM

STA, 10 July 2020 - The Culture Ministry published on Thursday proposals for extensive changes to the media act, the act on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija (RTVS) and the act on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA). The changes, which reportedly include a EUR 13 million cut for RTVS, will be subject to public debate until 15 July.

In line with the proposal affecting RTVS, 3% of the funds it collects in a year through the compulsory licence fee, presently at EUR 12.75 per household, would go to the STA and 5% to other media or what is described as the fulfilling of public interest in the media.

It is also envisaged that the public broadcaster lose revenue from its transmitting business, which would be transferred onto a new fully state-owned company. RTVS has assessed the total cuts at EUR 13 million a year.

The lost income is meant to be compensated with laxer restrictions on advertising, while changes to the media act, "aiming to enable more competitive conditions on the market" also speak of the relaxation of certain programme responsibilities.

The media act moreover received and expanded definition of public interest to include the notion of plurality, which is further elaborated as ownership plurality, world view plurality, and "media offer" plurality that involves things like genre and geographical diversity.

The proposal additionally explicitly mentions the role of courts when it comes to provisions prohibiting the incitement of national, racial, sexual, ideological or other forms of hatred and intolerance. Also, the right to demand a correction of a report is redefined as the right to secure a correction.

The changes moreover affect Slovenian music quotas, envisaging that Slovenian music must account for at least 20% of all music aired on radio or TV during daytime hours.

Meanwhile, key novelties in the act on the STA include provisions governing the appointment of supervisors and the dismissal of the STA director.

Under the proposal, new supervisors - presently appointed by parliament - could be appointed by the government within 15 days after the implementation of the act. The reasoning provided is that the STA, although state-owned and partially state-funded, is a limited liability company and that companies act rules should apply.

"This also secures more consistent responsibility for the management and operations," the proposal says, while newly listing among the reasons for the dismissal of the director a no-confidence vote by the majority of supervisors and "the inability to lead the STA".

Moreover, the article of the STA act talking about the principles of independence and impartiality would no longer contain the part stating that the STA must not become dependent - de facto, or legally - on any ideological, political or economic grouping.

While Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti started presenting the changes to deputy groups last week, the first public reactions have highlighted the short time being provided for public debate given the extent of the changes.

The head of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Aleksandra Pivec, said on Thursday that the party had not yet studied the proposal and that the party's leadership and MPs would discuss it next week.

The head of the opposition Left, Luka Mesec, wrote that the government was out to "replace the leadership of the STA, starve out RTV Slovenija and establish some kind of media fund that would feed TV stations like Nova24", which is associated with the senior coalition Democrats (SDS).

Mesec added the changes said a lot about the priorities of the government, which is not focusing on healthcare but on "staffing at state-owned companies, machinations at the police force and the usurpation of public media". "Thus, defending the media is crucial if we want to defend democracy in Slovenia," the Left wrote.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) responded by inviting fellow opposition parties to sign a demand for an emergency session of the parliamentary Culture Committee and the session has already been called for 15 July.

Coalition partners that have commented so far, mostly commented on Wednesday on the proposed changes to the act on RTVS. The SDS said it supported the idea to distribute part of the RTVS licence fee to other media, while the Modern Centre Party (SMC) warned the Culture Ministry that attention should be paid to securing greater independence of the public broadcaster. New Slovenia (NSi) has not commented yet.

Meanwhile, Faculty of Social Sciences professor Marko Milosavljević was critical of the public debate only being given six days, telling the paper Večer that the Culture Ministry should also be interested in having well written laws.

Milosavljević welcomed the fact that some of the solutions put forward by previous teams at the Culture Ministry had been taken into account, for instance that decision making on concentration of media ownership, aimed at prohibiting concentrations that would run contrary to public interest, is being transferred to the Competition Protection Agency.

09 Jul 2020, 15:02 PM

In an online event called Europe Uncensored: European Leaders on the Future of Europe, organised by the Foundation for a Civic Hungary, Slovenian PM Janez Janša joined with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in addressing what they believe are Europe's greatest challenges of the day.  

In short, according to Janša and Orban these seem to be mainly the “progressive liberal leftists”, as Orban has called the ideological problem one needs to fight on the inside, or “Cultural Marxism” as Janša has called the same thing, while on the outside the EU is facing immigration and other external threats. Vučić joined in by calling for the mutual respect of differences among the European countries and offered the Serbian army to join the prospective European armed forces.

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Aleksandar Vučić during his speech
 
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Main frame: François-Xavier Bellamy
 

The event’s moderator, the French philosopher, MEP and Deputy Mayor of Versailles. François-Xavier Bellamy, opened with a conceptual progression from the End of History towards the Clash of Civilizations, before the “special club of freedom fighters”, as Orban referred to the group, followed with a speech by Vučić, then Janša and finally Orban, the organiser of the event.

Orban however did not really organise the event himself, as he corrected his fellow participants after they thanked him for his efforts, and explained that the event was organised by the Foundation for a Civic Hungary , and he only contributed the names of the speakers he considered worth listening to.

The online meeting was also advertised on the official government website of the Republic of Slovenia, where the Slovenian translation of Janez Janša's speech with a commentary was also subsequently published. The speech of the Slovenian PM should therefore be understood as the official position of the Slovenian government.

Janša: Golden Age of Dreams of a Whole and Free Europe

Janša began with a statement of Brexit being a “strategic catastrophe” that threw Europe out of its balance of power. The future of Europe therefore, according to him, depends on the solution to the question of the balance of power.

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He then described what he calls “the golden era”, the enlargement period when everybody was optimistically speaking of Europe being whole and free, the era of “leaving the old world behind during the democratic changes”.

Then, however, the reality struck and among the “challenges” we are facing today Janša lists problems with the adoption of the EU constitution, the financial crisis, 2015 migrant crisis and the latest Covid19 epidemic. These issues pointed to some “unfinished projects” within the EU and the inability of various institutions to tackle them.

Mishandling of the migration crisis in 2015 contributed a certain percentage of votes in support of Brexit, concludes Janša, offering a possible cause for the “strategic catastrophe” he opened his speech with.

Janša : Institutional Changes Should Not be Europe’s Greatest Priority

Institutions, international in this case, also failed us in the current pandemic. For example, continued the Slovenian Prime Minister in his speech, global institutions such as the WHO, which have been created to prevent such things, were caught completely unprepared and for several weeks the European Union looked as if “in the Middle Ages”, with fences, walls and curfews, confiscations of medical equipment, without any real cooperation in place. The crisis is not over yet and the only way to avoid another lockdown is to focus on measures that work. We can only maintain our relatively normal lives by an introduction of app to monitor the spread of the virus, one app for the whole continent first, then perhaps one for the entire world if there is still no vaccine available.

This is no time on having big dreams about European institutions, Janša claimed, as this would create new instabilities. We need to stabilize the EU, we need realistic pragmatic steps forward.

Janša then proceeded with a proposal that gave Vučić’ membership in the “freedom fighters’ club” some substance. The Schengen border should extend to match the borders of the  EU and the EU should expand and incorporate the Balkan countries who would like to join it. “This is the strategic answer made by Brexit and the fulfilment of the promise to make Europe whole and free.”

Janša: The Main Threat to Europe is “Cultural Marxism”

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Main Frame: Janez Janša
 

Following his dismissal of the institutional changes being the main field in which we could tackle the problems of today, Janša then moved to the core point of his speech.

“Ideologically, the main threat to Europe is Cultural Marxism. I have been following what has been going on and I can clearly see the same formula, which was written in Communist Manifesto, written 200 and some years ago. To create a new world you need to dismantle family, private property, private schools, religion. And this is going on now. And it is obvious, there is massive offensive going on through mass media, universities, cultural industry, multinational institutions, some political parties. Everyone who stands against it is called a fascist, populist and heavily attacked from all sides. And we need a more united front against this, because this is the key issue, this is a battle for our way of life, this is the battle for Western civilization and in this battle much more is at stake than institutions only or EU only.”

According to Janša, the main problem within this “battle for Western civilization” is the demographic issue, as “if there are no Europeans, if there is no population which is sharing our values then everything is lost”.

With regard to immigration policy, Janša stated that he is against the migration policy as a “final solution” to the demographic problems of Europe. Immigration can only be treated as a demographic complement, since “cultural, economic and security considerations of migration need to be taken into account” or else the consequences can cause problems for all the partners inside of the European Union.

Janša: European Values are values of the European Christian Democrats

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Janez Janša during his speech
 

If some ideas can be too old, others are never old enough in Janša’s search for an appropriate origin. Borrowing the term from the 18th century, when the world was ruled exclusively by men, and inserting it into the 20th century Europe, Janša stated that “the founding fathers, which were all Christian democrats” created the European Union in order to prevent the sad history from repeating itself. The European Union was created as a union of values, he said, and continues that it was the success of the early years of the European project which provided the “free world” with the power needed to dismantle the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall, thereby allowing for the unification of Europe.

This process has not yet been completed, warns Janša, and finds the answer to European problems in returning to the original European values, and then to “fight for our people, for our nations, for our freedom for our way of life and for our future” which is a “noble challenge” of today’s “European central right, the Christian Democrats”.

Although all three speakers emphasized the importance of respect for political and ideological differences, little space for understanding respect as a two directional position was left after Orban’s speech in which he praised Janša as “the bravest anti-Communist in Europe”.

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Viktor Orban during his speech
 

Orban’s main concern was in Europe’s “retreat”, a statement he supported with data showing a decline in Europe’s global relative economic output, population and military spending. Furthermore, Orban repeated the “balance of power” issue, which has been dramatically changed by Brexit with Germany sitting on the European throne again after it was “bombed into the Middle ages 75 years ago.” And thirdly, European politicians have a tendency to tell others in the world how to run their countries while they cannot even solve their own problems at home.

As for the solutions at hand, Orban cited two contesting socio-political models, “conceptions of Europe” which are the “progressive liberal leftist” in which “they promote multiculturalism, they are pushing over pro-migration policy, they follow an anti-family policy, they want to get rid of the concept of nation and nation state and they consider irrelevant the Christian social teaching”. The other conception of Europe is the opposite image of the first and is, albeit not without traitors, according to Orban, the ideological foundation of the European People’s Party (EPP). That is “a concept of the future of Europe, which is based on Christian culture that we have inherited, which cherishes the Christian social teaching, deeply anti-communist, pro-family, and it treats national identity as a value, which needs to be preserved.”

So with these two contesting “conceptualisations” within Europe, what can we do, asked Orban, having such differences, how can we stay together?

In an answer to this question, Orban then made a great leap forward and suddenly ascribed the previously discussed internal ideological division to an external attack on sovereign states: “the West should not impose its views on the Eastern countries. We need to learn to tolerate our differences again. We the Central Europeans should not go and tell the Westerners how they should go and run their countries. So if we are ready to accept that kind of differences even in terms of the vision of the future we can manage to live together and keep together the Union as a whole.”

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Main frame: Viktor Orban
 

In case someone is still missing the function of the reiterated issue of the change in balance of power within the EU, Orban concluded his speech emphasizing the importance of the European grand strategy over the minor matter of human rights. To the problem of who then is to be the one to design the European grand strategy? “On the birthday of the EPP i wish it was the EPP to be the one.”

The full event is available here.

09 Jul 2020, 12:38 PM

STA, 8 July 2020 - Parliament did not receive a formal notification of Interior Minister Aleš Hojs's 30 July resignation by the Tuesday midnight deadline. This raises the question of whether PM Janez Janša did not accept it and whether Hojs is staying on. The Prime Minister has seven days to inform the speaker about a minister's resignation.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič confirmed for the STA on Wednesday that the National Assembly had not received the formal written notification.

The notification is a basis on which MPs get acquainted with the resignation, thus making it effective.

The Prime Minister's office has not yet provided an explanation, while Hojs said when asked whether he was staying on, that this was in the Prime Minister's hands.

He told the press as he arrived for a government session this morning that he and Janša had not discussed whether he would perhaps like to stay on.

Hojs thus does not know whether Janša has accepted his resignation, but said that when he had tended the resignation, he had understood Janša accepted it.

Hojs understands he is apparently still minister if the Prime Minister has not sent the resignation to Parliament.

The minister stepped down on 30 June when the police carried out several house searches, including at the home of Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, as part of a probe into alleged wrongdoing in the procurement of personal protection equipment during the epidemic.

Hojs, who told the press then that "the Prime Minster has accepted my irrevocable resignation", had assessed the probe was politically motivated and "assumed political responsibility" for it by irrevocably resigning together with the police commissioner.

Had the resignation notification arrived in parliament by the deadline, the National Assembly would have put it on the agenda of the plenary which starts tomorrow.

It now also remains to be seen what happens with a dismissal motion four left-leaning opposition parties filed against Hojs after the Interior Ministry lifted a ban on a concert by controversial Croatian singer Marko Perković Thompson.

Hojs sent his reply to the interpellation motion to parliament on 24 June. If the National Assembly does not get the notification of his resignation, the motion could be put on the parliament's September plenary.

The four opposition parties are critical of the Hojs development, with the largest one, the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) saying the minister and the government were making fun not only of the opposition, but also of citizens and all institutes Slovenia has.

The parties will insist on the dismissal motion. "I believe we'll successfully defend the dismissal motion in September if Hojs does not step down," said Matjaž Han, Social Democrat (SD) deputy group head.

Just like the LMŠ, the SD believes Janša's not sending the resignation notification to parliament is a smokescreen diverting the people's attention from more important issues, such as the fourth stimulus package, which that be debated in parliament tomorrow.

In "a normal government" sending a resignation notification to parliament should be business as usual, said Jernej Pavlič of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB).

Similarly, the Left believes this shows the government and the prime minister are incompetent, being unable to send a piece of paper to parliament in seven days.

Deputy group head Matej T. Vatovec said missing the deadline while Hojs publicly resigned was "problematic, encroached on democratic standards, creating confusion between the government and parliament".

09 Jul 2020, 10:55 AM

STA, 9 July 2020 - After restrictions imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic suppressed illegal migration into Slovenia, police have recorded a renewed steep rise in the numbers trying to cross the border illegally.

Police handled 4,993 instances of illegal border crossing between 1 January and 30 June, a decrease of 12.4% compared to the same period last year, but a renewed upward trend was detected recently.

However, presenting more detailed data at Wednesday's session of the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, Interior Ministry State secretary Franc Kangler said the six-month statistics in fact reflected the situation in three months only, as there was little illegal migration when the border was closed.

Deputy Police Commissioner Tomaž Pečjak said that by Wednesday morning 5,514 attempted to enter the country illegally, up from 5,300 only two days earlier.

This means that more than one percentage point of the "deficit" compared with the same period last year has been offset in a matter of two days, said Pečjak.

The police recorded 1,755 instances of illegal crossing in June, which compares to 1,200 in the same peak month last year, with Pečjak commenting that if the trend continued the 2,000 mark will be crossed in July.

Committee chair Branko Grims (SDS) voiced concern about the "drastic" increase in illegal migrants, projecting that if the trend continued the total for the year would hit or even surpass 20,000.

Given the increase, there is a shortage of 700 police officers, Kangler said, urging the committee to call on the government to retable the proposal to invoke a special article of the defence act that would give soldiers police powers to secure the border.

The committee responded to his appeal by backing the corresponding resolution despite criticism from the opposition.

Grims said that the committee also backed by eight votes in favour and none against the proposal to recommend to the government to withdraw from the global compact for migration.

Arguing that the agreement was but a dead letter, Grims said that by withdrawing from it Slovenia would give a clear signal to illegal migrants that it did not want to be a destination country.

The police report shows that there has been a substantial increase in the number of Moroccans in January-June, with 1,281 attempting to enter the country illegally in the first half of the year.

Along with the citizens of Pakistan (1,264) and Afghanistan (719), Moroccans are involved in more than three out of four instances of illegal crossing, a police report shows.

The number of those expressing the intention to seek asylum decreased by almost 20% year-on-year to 1,766 as of the end of June, which the police said was because of a decline in the number of Algerians, who found an alternative route into Europe.

The most of those who expressed their intention to ask for international protection were Moroccan nationals (761), followed by Afghans (250) and Algerians (226).

Since Morocco would not repatriate its citizens, police have had difficulty returning those whose asylum applications have been rejected.

Another issue pointed out in the report is secondary migration when applicants leave the country during or after the asylum procedure and file a new request in another country if they are apprehended there.

The main point of entry for illegal migrants on the internal border remains Italy.

The number of foreigners found to have entered Slovenia without proper documents or permits across the internal border declined by 22% year-on-year in the first six months, which is attributed to the restrictions related to the pandemic.

Western Balkan countries in particular imposed restrictions on movements and even shut migrant centres, however, estimates are that between 10,000 and 15,000 migrants are stranded in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

08 Jul 2020, 11:20 AM

STA, 8 July 2020 - The Culture Ministry is not preparing only changes to the RTV Slovenija act but a media reform that would bring changes to the media act, the act on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and the act on audio-visual media services, the newspaper Delo reported on Wednesday.

The changes to the act on the STA would change the appointment procedure for supervisors and for dismissing the STA director. Under the proposal - the new supervisors would be appointed by the government within 15 days since the implementation of the act - the rules of the companies act would apply for appointments and dismissals at the STA.

The Culture Ministry thus proposes that the government and no longer the National Assembly appoint four supervisors, while one would be elected by the workers.

The STA director could be dismissed before the end of the term if a majority of the supervisory board decided so.

The changes to the media act would extend the status of special importance also to printed and on-line media which serve the public interest, so they too would be financed from a part of the RTV Slovenija licence fee.

Distributing a part of the licence fee to some other media is envisaged by the changes to the RTVS act. According to media reports, the draft changes envisage allocating 3% of the money to finance the STA and 5% to "implement public interest". RTV Slovenija would also have free access to STA contents.

But the public broadcaster would lose its transmitting business, which would be transferred onto a new fully state-owned company. The ministry would on the other hand mitigate advertising restrictions for RTV Slovenija.

A fund would be set up to finance Slovenian TV production. Led by the Culture Ministry, it would be financed by operators. Eligible to its funds would be TV broadcasters that have the status of a non-profit media outlet of special importance and reach at least 0.3% of viewers per month on average or are available for free via DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting - Terrestrial).

Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti started presenting the planned changes to coalition partners last week, but no public presentation was held yet as the ministry says changes to the draft proposal are still possible.

07 Jul 2020, 19:25 PM

STA, 7 July 2020 - Slovenia's count of active coronavirus cases has increased to 205 after 23 of the 1,325 tests for Sars-CoV-2 came back positive on Monday, fresh official statistics show. The total case count stands at 1,739.

Twelve patients are hospitalised with Covid-19, one more than the day before after one patient was discharged and two more were admitted yesterday, government data show. None of them need intensive care.

According to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, most of the new cases were recorded in Cerknica (5) and Maribor (4) with 11 further municipalities recording one or two cases each.

With Cerknica apparently a new hotspot, Radio Slovenija reported that Covid-19 had been transmitted at a private party with some 30-40 people aged around 30.

The local authorities fear there are more infections in the municipality since, following National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) instructions, the party goers who had no signs of infection were allowed to go to work, except those working in healthcare and education.

The municipality has already advised locals against using playgrounds, benches and sports facilities to prevent the youth, who seem to be the most affected group in the second Covid-19 wave in the country, from socialising.

One of the latest cases in Slovenia was also a resident of the Vipava care home, discovered from 81 tests there. This brings the number of infections in that outbreak to 11 residents and seven staff members, Martin Kopatin, the facility's director, told the STA on Tuesday.

All 108 residents of the Pristan home for the elderly and 45 staff have been tested, but tests will be repeated.

Five of the 11 infected elderly residents have been moved to the Ljubljana UKC hospital's department of infections diseases. Only one of them has some health problems, while the others feel fine.

The remaining six residents are isolated in the care home and other residents need to remain in their rooms.

Meanwhile, Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the NIJZ, told today's press briefing that a resident of a small Kras care home unit in Postojna had also tested positive.

Slovenia has not recorded Covid-19 related fatalities for over a month now when the death toll reached 111. A large majority of those fatalities were at homes for the elderly.

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