Politics

19 Aug 2020, 12:18 PM

STA, 19 August 2020 - The number of new Sars-CoV-2 infections reached a new four-month high on Tuesday, as 37 out of 1,092 tests came back positive. There were no deaths, meaning the death toll remains at 129. Presently 17 patients need hospital treatment, with three receiving intensive care.

There have so far been 2,493 confirmed Sars-CoV-2 infections in Slovenia with 285 of them active infections, according to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Tuesday's tests confirmed 14 infections with individuals aged 15 to 24 years, seven in the 25-34 age group, six among 35- to 44-year-olds, five in the 45-54 category and three among 55 to 64-year-olds. One person was older than 85.

The infections were again very much dispersed regionally, involving 22 municipalities, with by far the largest number of active cases, 70, being reported for Ljubljana.

Among Tuesday's 37 new infections, three were established with foreign citizens.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countriesAll our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

18 Aug 2020, 11:24 AM

STA, 17 August 2020 - The council of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) has postponed the vote on whether president Aleksandra Pivec should further enjoy the party's confidence, following the conflict of interest allegations, to next Tuesday. The session had been planned for this Thursday.

Speaking for the STA on Monday, DeSUS council president Tomaž Gantar, the health minister, said that a government session had been scheduled for Thursday, which was the reason why the council session had been postponed.

Next Tuesday is the deadline for the session to be held as requested by the DeSUS deputy group, which called on 10 August on Pivec, the agriculture minister, to resign as party leader after she had failed to provide adequate explanations to a series of recent revelations that raised questions about her ethical standards.

Pivec come under intense scrutiny following reports of semi-private trips, featuring her family and party members, being covered by a wine maker and a municipality.

The things got complicated when the executive committee of the coalition party called on the council to leave Pivec's dismissal for an extraordinary congress, which should be held as soon as possible and at which Pivec would ask for a vote of confidence.

The committee also took note of a legal opinion on the matter, which unofficially says that the council cannot dismiss the president. It was agreed that a party vice-president will serve as a liaison with the deputy group until the congress.

Gantar meanwhile insists that the council has the power to take a no-confidence vote in the party leader. He said on Friday that he would also get a legal opinion and would not put the dismissal to vote if the opinion contradicted his position.

He added at the time that the party congress was not intended for deciding on a vote of no-confidence in the president, and that under the party's statute, this is something that the council could do between two congresses.

According to the newspaper Delo, Pivec has announced that she would fight until the end, and is accusing Gantar of trying to steal the mandate away from her together with some other party members.

She said that Gantar offering himself to head the party was unlawful and a conscious violation of the statute, in reference of Gantar saying he was willing to take over until the congress if the council members decided so.

In response, Gantar said that no one had invented the scandals Pivec had entangled herself in, and noted that the low approval rating of the party following the recent turmoil in the party did not surprise him.

Pivec was also critical in the statement for Delo of deputy group leader Franc Jurše, saying that he did not understand politics.

She said that he had stood by the side of the former DeSUS president Karl Erjavec during all scandals, and "now he is calling on me to resign even if I haven't done anything illegal and no Slovenian suffered a euro in damage".

A poll carried out by Mediana and run by the newspaper Delo today meanwhile showed that around 59% of those polled said Pivec should resign as party leader and as minister.

The survey, which polled 505 adults between 12 and 13 August, also showed that over 50% think that pensioners need their own political party.

17 Aug 2020, 14:51 PM

STA, 17 August 2020 - Thirteen new cases of SARS-Cov-2 were confirmed in 393 tests in Slovenia on Sunday, show data released by the government. No deaths were reported. The total number of cases in Slovenia reached 2,429 with 248 of them active infections, according to national tracker covid-19.sledilnik. State and health care reps are scheduled to meet this afternoon.

Nineteen people were in hospital on Sunday with three requiring intensive care. The biggest increase in infections, 4, was detected in Ljubljana, and there were two new cases in Novo Mesto, where the virus was confirmed last week in a local nursing home.

Covid-19.sledilnik data also show that four of the newly confirmed cases were among the age group of 35-44, three in the 15-24 age group, and two each in the age groups 25-34 and 55-64. One case was an infant younger than four.

After a large number of cases confirmed last week was in people who returned from Croatia, a popular summer destination for Slovenians, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar said on Monday that he was scheduled to meet representatives of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) in the afternoon, and Prime Minister Janez Janša after that.

No changes yet for Croatia

Talking to the press on a different occasion, Gantar would not discuss any detail, but said he personally would like for Slovenia to introduce mandatory quarantine for those returning from Croatia, but only in a few days, so as to give people an opportunity to return.

Imposing quarantine any sooner would mean tens of thousands of people in quarantine, which, Gantar says, is infeasible.

"We have to weigh our options and make a decision fast, considering that the situation is getting worse and that there is a threat of imported cases, mostly from Croatia," said Gantar. "A decision must be made before school starts."

The minister called on those returning from Croatia to self-isolate if at all possible, appealing especially to health care and retirement home staff.

He also advised anybody still planning a vacation to avoid Croatia. "In this case, exposure is literally irresponsible, you'd be putting at risk not only yourself and your closest family members but also your colleagues and relatives."

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countriesAll our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

17 Aug 2020, 09:18 AM

STA, 17 August 2020 - Slovenia celebrates Prekmurje Reunification Day on Monday, a national holiday marking the day when the country's eastern-most region was united with the rest of the nation after more than a millennium. The main ceremony was held on Sunday at the monument in Murska Sobota that was unveiled at last year's 100th anniversary of the reunification.

Prekmurje was united with the rest of the nation after World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Located east of the river Mura, Prekmurje was the only territory the Slovenian nation gained at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

For nearly a thousand years, Prekmurje had been a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, while the remaining Slovenian lands were under Austrian rule.

When the Hapsburg family, the rulers of Austria, took over Hungary in the 16th century, Prekmurje still remained under the Hungarian part of the monarchy, separate from the rest of what is now Slovenia.

The peace conference that followed World War I decided that Prekmurje become a part of the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on 17 August 1919.

The royal military occupied the region on 12 August and five days later, the civil authorities took over.

This year the ceremony honouring these events was held on the eve of the holiday with writer Dušan Šarotar as the keynote speaker and a cultural programme celebrating the distinct dialect of the region.

Šarotar refrained from the conventional reflections about the anniversary, about the history and situation of Prekmurje, deciding instead to talk about poetry, about stories, about the transience of everything and about immortality. He said poetry helps come closer to a type of truth that can never really be accessed or uttered.

Marjan Farič, the head of the Prekmurje association of General Maister, which organised the event, on the other hand stressed that this year also marks the 100th anniversary since the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, which set the border between the independent Hungarian state and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

With the treaty, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory, but a part of the Slovenian population was also left in Hungary, living until this day along the Raba river.

Ceremonies were also held yesterday in Beltinci and Črenšovci. President Borut Pahor laid a wreath to the monument of Jožef Klekl Senior, an active proponent of the independence of Slovenians in Hungary, and addressed an event held in front of his house.

Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote on the occasion of the holiday that "due to people who understood the historic context of the times in the nation's history, we are masters on our own soil today".

"In the present moment, even if the circumstances and the challenges are different, the essence stays the same. Only united and connected in the joint desire and efforts for the prosperity of the homeland are we strong as individuals and as a nation," Janša wrote.

President Pahor also addressed citizens at the Presidential Palace today, and the honorary guard of the Slovenian Armed Forces will be lined up in front of the building all day.

Pahor, who said the world should change peacefully now in contrast to 100 years ago when it was shaped by war, stressed the importance of celebrating anniversaries of historic events in a spirit of harmony and tolerance.

He argued the world is more divided today than it used to be. Worrying processes of political discord are also seen within countries, Pahor said, adding it must not be allowed, in Slovenia as well as elswehere in the world, that this lead to divisons and conflict.

Another development marking Prekmurje Reunification Day is an emerging Prekmurje square just off the centre of the capital.

Situated along the Ljubljanica river close the Ambrož square, the location is to get a monument dedicated to the reunification. The monument, consisting of about 340 flower pot-like little sculptures, will be the work of sculptor Zoran Srdić Janežič.

Prekmurje Reunification Day is celebrated in Slovenia since 2006. Since 2009, a national ceremony is held every five years, while in the years in between local municipalities organise the celebration.

15 Aug 2020, 13:44 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, 7 August
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs was reported to have requested a revision of certain already closed cases handled by the National Bureau of Investigation, at least three of which refer to high-profile cases with political implications. Jurists as well as police unions warned about the potential for abuse, but the minister insisted the move was within his powers. The police leadership said the reviews will be carried out as requested.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia added Belgium and several other countries to its red list of countries, which signals high risk in terms of coronavirus contagion. The Czech Republic, Malta, Switzerland and three Spanish administrative units were meanwhile from the green list of safe countries and demoted to yellow.
        IZOLA/LJUBLJANA - Anti-government protests continued for the 16th straight Friday in Ljubljana, this time targeting the handling of coronavirus outbreaks at care homes. Meanwhile, dozens took to the streets in Izola following the reports that the coastal town had paid for two hotel rooms for Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's exports were down 4.2% year-on-year in June, while imports decreased by 5.1%. The decreases for the first half of the year were 5.6% and 10.3% respectively, the Statistics Office said.
        LJUBLJANA - Preliminary data by the Surveying and Mapping Authority indicated a 40% drop in the number of property transactions in the first half of 2020. Prices of used flats meanwhile continued to grow, increasing by 3% since the end of 2019.

SATURDAY, 8 August
        LJUBLJANA - The government allocated EUR 200,000 in emergency humanitarian aid to Lebanon, while the Defence Ministry sent a humanitarian aid coordinator to the country as part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
        LJUBLJANA - Mitja Leskovar, the titular archbishop of Beneventum and apostolic nuncio to Iraq, received his episcopal consecration at the Ljubljana Cathedral. Leskovar, a Slovenian priest who has been with the Vatican's diplomatic service for nearly two decades, was appointed the apostolic nuncio to Iraq two months ago.

SUNDAY, 9 August
        PARIS, France - Slovenian cyclist Primož Roglič of the Dutch team Team Jumbo-Visma won the three-stage Tour de l'Ain race in what was seen as a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France. Roglič finished second in the first stage and won the remaining two stages.

MONDAY, 10 August
        LJUBLJANA - In an unprecedented rebellion against a party leader, the deputy group of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) urged Aleksandra Pivec to resign as DeSUS leader after she failed to provide adequate explanations about a series of media revelations that suggested she mixed official business with private affairs. Pivec, who was subsequently disavowed by the leader of the party's council, said she would take some time to think about her next moves.
        LJUBLJANA - The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) expressed opposition to the planned changes to media legislation, especially if the Culture Ministry does not provide sound arguments for its solutions based on expert analysis. The most problematic aspect of the package is the change to the media law which tasks RTV Slovenija to transfer a share of licence fee funds to other media outlets.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's industrial output grew for the second straight month in June, expanding by 4.3% from May. However, it was still 12.1% lower year-on-year, data from the Statistics Office show. The index for the first half of the year was 10.1% down year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian railways operator generated a net profit of EUR 35 million on EUR 601 million in revenue for 2019, with EBITDA at EUR 87 million and EBIT at EUR 42 million, according to a revised business report for 2019.
        
TUESDAY, 11 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia formally submitted its application for financial support as part of the European instrument for temporary support to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency (SURE). Slovenia would like to spent the money to provide support to furloughed workers, enable short-time work, basic income, state-covered social contributions for the self-employed and other groups.
        ILIRSKA BISTRICA - Interior Ministry State Secretary Franc Kangler met his Croatian counterpart Terezija Gras for talks focussed on cooperation in efforts to prevent illegal crossings of the border. He said that Slovenia supported Croatia's accession to the Schengen zone because this would help prevent illegal migration at the EU's external border.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor received Austrian MP Olga Voglauer, a member of the Slovenian ethnic minority in Carinthia, ahead of the centenary of the plebiscite in Carinthia. The pair shared the view that the upcoming anniversary was an opportunity to improve the position of the minority.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The Slovenian Football Association (NZS) decided to postpone the start of the new premier league season from 12 to 22 August as three more players tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 after part of obligatory testing. All three positive players come from Ljubljana's Olimpija, which became the third premiere league club with positive cases.

WEDNESDAY, 12 August
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar called for a strong and united EU response to the situation in Belarus in the wake of violence against protesters who refuse to recognise Alexander Lukashenko's re-election. Logar made the appeal in a letter to his German and Portuguese counterparts, Heiko Mass and Augusto Santos Silva, whose countries form the EU trio presidency with Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Supreme Court vice-president Miodrag Đorđević temporary suspended district court judge Zvjezdan Radonjić over several grave disciplinary breaches. Radonjić, who has accused other judges of accepting bribes and claimed pressure had been exerted on him in a high-profile case, has been a vocal critic of the Slovenian judiciary. He made headlines as the presiding judge in the case of the 2014 murder of Chemistry Institute boss Janko Jamnik.
        LJUBLJANA - Slavko Koroš was reassigned to another "appropriate" senior post in the police force after he served as the deputy director of the Criminal Police Department. The police said the planned reassignment was not related to the opinions Koroš had expressed as the head of the Association of Criminal Police Officers.
        
THURSDAY, 13 August
        BLED - Slovenia and the US signed a joint declaration on safety of 5G networks as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit. Pompeo said the tide was turning against the Chinese Communist Party, which is trying to control people and other economies. The declaration excludes "untrusted vendors" from 5G networks, which will "benefit the people of this country and all of us who share information across complex network systems".
        BLED - Prime Minister Janez Janša called for a new election in Belarus under the presence of international observers as the only solution to the situation in Belarus, an approach also supported by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he visited Slovenia. "The only peaceful solution to the current crisis in Belarus is to repeat elections under the strong presence of international observation missions," Janša said.
        LJUBLJANA - The NLB Group generated EUR 73.7 million in net profit in the first half of the year, a decrease of EUR 20.7 million or 22% year-on-year. The group's operations were affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, but the supervisory board said that despite impairments and provisions the group's operations were stable and profitable.
        LJUBLJANA - After remaining stable at a fairly low level, coronavirus infections in Slovenia spiked with 31 cases reported for Tuesday and 29 for Wednesday, for a total of 109 in a week. Many of the new cases were in holidaymakers returning from Croatian, promoting health authorities to suggest stricter measures may have to be introduced on the border, including potentially mandatory quarantine for arrivals from Croatia.

All our posts in this series are here

15 Aug 2020, 13:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 August 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Government creating atmosphere of hate

STA, 14 August 2020 - The left-wing magazine Mladina speaks out against hate speech, insults and an atmosphere of hatred that it says is being fuelled by the current government and coalition, a situation its editor says is worse than any economic crisis or the worst of the Communist era.

Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief, argues in the latest edition that the review ordered by Interior Minister Aleš Hojs of some of the police investigations that have already been closed is yet another attempt to smear political opponents of the ruling coalition and two media outlets, POP TV and Mladina.

If there was "a shred of evidence" about the allegations of abuse of the dominant position by the broadcaster Pro Plus or about the money from public procurement of stents allegedly being siphoned off to Mladina, Repovž does not doubt investigators and prosecutors would have filed charges a long time ago, if only in order to get a conclusion in court.

"However, there has been no such evidence, the two stories are political fabrications, they have done enough damage to both media outlets because they are intriguing just enough to sow doubt in people. The aim of SDS leader Janša and Minister Hojs remains to impact on the reputation of the media by repeating those untruths."

However, Repovž says that no one is spared the insult or a smear campaign as long as they dare express criticism or a different opinion in public. As one example he offers the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, whose news programme editor Manica Janežič Ambrožič has shown on main news but a glimpse of the base insults she and other journalists are subject to on a daily basis.

"What is happening today is violence against society that is being committed by the ruling coalition of the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS with the abetting of Zmago Jelinčič's nationalists (...) It is worse than any economic crisis."

Repovž argues that all the coalition partners take the blame for the level society has sunk to, no matter if they point their fingers at each other or at the senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS).

"This level of yours is an attack on (...) everything we wanted of this country, it is an attack on its formation, on a democratic and enlightened state that is supposed to unify (...)

"You are turning this society into a society of beasts. Does anyone truly believes that once you have conquered everything you aimed for, once you demolish all the systems, smear and humiliate the last civil servant, teacher, journalist and politician who will not humour you in your politically-motivated trials, a morning will break when it all goes back to normal, when we become people again?

"It is conduct not committed by the Slovenian Communists in the worst of times. And how many years it took us to pick ourselves up from that system and its errors? There are still traces of that history throughout society."

Demokracija: Conspiracy against Pivec

STA, 13 August 2020 – The right-wing Demokracija magazine argues in Thursday's commentary that the accusations against Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Aleksandra Pivec are in fact an attack by proxy on Prime Minister Janez Janša and the entire government, as part of a conspiracy between leftist parties and the mainstream media.

"The hysterical and bizarre screaming by the left opposition and the mainstream media has one goal only: after they failed with the fabricated scandal with [Economy Minister] Zdravko Počivalšek and masks, Pivec is a handy target for an attack on Janez Janša and the centre-right government, which must collapse no matter the cost," the paper says in Media Mafia on Steroids.

"The DeSUS president is just collateral damage. If she was not, she would have been 'manhandled' every day over the SRIPT project. But she was not, because she was a part of the left coalition at the time.

"It is surprising and utterly fascinating how many negative traits the dominant media have suddenly discovered in Pivec. That is why what they are doing with their staged shows is a paranoid attack orchestrated with the left, it is by no means investigative journalism," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.

The commentator speaks about "mass hysteria" driven by the realisation that fewer and fewer people are buying this. Their only chance therefore is to scream and "increase the dose of lying steroids, but in the end this will lead to a collapse of their depraved philosophy".

Everything that is not theirs is labelled as a rightist conspiracy, but this is "a figment of their imagination, of a sick mind". There is no such rightist conspiracy, but there is a very tangible leftist conspiracy.

The media "no longer serves justice and the truth, this is why it is the job of (good) people to prevent the media mafia from continuing to make Slovenia their home," the paper concludes.

All our posts in this series are here

14 Aug 2020, 11:19 AM

STA, 14 August 2020 - The number of new infections reached a four-month high on Thursday, as 37 out of 937 tests came back positive, with most new cases coming from Croatia. One infection was confirmed at the Hrastnik care home, which has been a hotspot for weeks.

Eighteen people were in hospital yesterday, of whom four needed intensive care while just as many were released from hospital, the government said on Twitter.

According to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik, there are currently 213 active cases in the country and so far 2,369 infections have been confirmed. The death toll remains at 129.

Recently, most new infections have been coming from Croatia, where many Slovenians, especially young people, are spending their holidays.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

In Hrastnik, four people were tested yesterday, two from the care home. An infection was confirmed in one of the residents, the Hrastnik municipality said.

There are currently 28 active infections among residents and five among staff at the home.

So far, 50 residents and 11 employees have tested positive at the home. Nine residents have died because of Covid-19. Since the outbreak at the home on 10 July, six employees and 13 residents have recovered from the disease.

Nightclubs to remain closed

STA, 13 August 2020 - The government has extended the ban on night clubs, the only type of establishment in Slovenia that has not been able to reopen since mid-March, as well as the ban on gatherings of more than ten people or up to 50 when the organiser keeps a list of the participants.

The Government Communication Office said the latest extension was based on the recommendation of the group of experts advising the government on Covid-19.

The group made the recommendation after considering the country's epidemiological status, finding socialising as the key source of transmission.

The group's head Bojana Beović told reporters today that the stringent ban on socialising and night clubs appeared to be effective.

Slovenia saw the number of daily infections spike on Tuesday to 31, a one month high, with another 29 recorded on Wednesday, which public health officials blamed on cases imported from Croatia, mostly by young people attending parties there.

The country's case count reached 2,332 by Wednesday midnight, of which 193 are active cases.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

14 Aug 2020, 10:24 AM

STA, 14 August 2020 - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told the STA that Thursday's signing of a joint 5G security declaration is an important decision and a step in the right direction for the entire Europe, creating a network safe from the Chinese security apparatus. He has assessed the US-Slovenian relations as important, outweighing Slovenia's actual size.

The interview was conducted in Bled as Pompeo visited Slovenia yesterday as part of his four-country tour of Europe, in what was actually the first visit to the country by an US secretary of state in more than two decades.

Asked whether this meant that this was an indication of improved US-Slovenian relations, Pompeo said he thought it was, and emphasised that the "relations are great, we meet in lots of places ... and have a deep, strong relationship."

"I'm thrilled to be able to get here today because the relationship is important to the US and I wanted to make sure that the people of Slovenia know that."

Pompeo agreed with the assessment by former Slovenian FM Miro Cerar as he visited the US in December 2018 that the US should be more present in this part of Europe because Russia and China are trying to fill the gap.

"Absolutely. I agree that ... there is a real risk that authoritarian regimes want to come play here, to come create trouble, create havoc for democracies and freedom-loving people in the region."

The secretary of state believes that the US needs to be present, and said it would do that alongside good partners like Slovenia. "We will invest in businesses here, we will work on our military to military operations together."

Also, the US will do "all the things that make nation states strong and secure so that they will be able to withstand the pressures that might come from those regimes that don't intend well for the people of these countries."

Pompeo mentioned that the talks also touched on the Western Balkans, and that Slovenia could be an important interlocutor there as it is in an "important place strategically, and in an important place geographically."

While small in size, Slovenia "has intelligent people who are hard-working, good technology and good schools, it hits above its weight and we are thrilled to have such a great relationship."

As for Slovenia's contribution to NATO, which is still below the committed 2% of GDP and expectations of the US from the country in this sense, Pompeo said that "we are confident that [the government] will execute on that plan."

US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wanted every country to do what they had pledged and "we just ask that Slovenia makes its way there as quickly as it can," he added.

Asked about the US plan to reposition its forces in Europe and PM Janez Janša saying that US soldiers are welcome in Slovenia, Pompeo said it was very clear that Slovenia would be welcoming "if we got it right, if we figure out a path forward."

The US is aware that Slovenia has an important port and important air force capabilities, but "we always try to do this as part of NATO to make sure that we collectively ... are positioned appropriately."

Pompeo's visit focused on the signing of a joint 5G security declaration, which some in the country believe could be harmful for Slovenia in terms of its relations with China. Asked whether Slovenia could expect support from the US, he said it absolutely could.

"But I actually think the reason why the Slovenian leadership signed that because it is in the best interest of the Slovenian people," he said, noting that it was about the risk of Chinese telecom infrastructure being inside of countries' systems.

As Slovenians and Europeans love their privacy and have their information protected, they have to have trusted networks, so it has been agreed that the nations joining the declaration would have trusted networks for information flow.

"This was an important decision today ... so that we collectively can have a system, a network, telecommunications infrastructure that is protected from the national security apparatus in China that intends no good for the people in the region."

Pompeo also discussed energy projects with Slovenian executives, so he mentioned to them "what America could offer in terms of our technology, our resources, our capability to help them make a good, informed decision about how to make sure they have energy, electricity, gasoline for their citizens at an affordable cost from a set of diversified resources."

Asked when President Trump and especially First Lady Melania Trump, who hails from Slovenia, might visit the country, he said "I know that they would love to come visit, I know that this is her birthplace."

Pompeo said that "we will keep working on finding time when they might be able to get here", and that he would report back that he liked Slovenia and had a wonderful experience there.

13 Aug 2020, 20:04 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - 5G networks and energy investments were at the centre of talks as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia on Thursday. The countries signed a joint 5G security declaration, with Pompeo saying that the tide was turning against the Chinese Communist Party, which is trying to control people and other economies.

The declaration excludes "untrusted vendors" from 5G networks, Pompeo said as he addressed the press alongside Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša in Bled.

"I know... that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you're doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us."

Meanwhile, Chinese mobile operator Huawei criticised the move by Slovenia, saying that it would not contribute to security of networks or improve cyber security and would in fact have negative consequences of 5G networks introduction in Slovenia.

The Chinese Embassy in Slovenia responded to Pompeo's statements, saying that it was the 21st century and that it was not time any more to instigate ideological clashes.

According to its press release, the US secretary of state was accusing and attacking China and spreading incorrect information. Inciting hatred and encouraging confrontations is not in the line with the spirit of the times, it added.

The embassy said it hoped that the signing was not directed against China. "We expect that Slovenia will meet its commitments and continue to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies."

The signing was also criticised by the left-leaning opposition Social Democrats (SD) and the Left. The latter warned that the declaration had not been coordinated with the EU, and its MEP Milan Brglez fears it may become legally binding for Slovenia.

The Left meanwhile said that the declaration was a "carte blanche for US control and abuse of ICT for military, economic and political purposes".

The party also said that Pompeo was in Slovenia to lobby on behalf of nuclear power company Westinghouse and the US military industry as Slovenia's government plans EUR 780 million worth of military investments.

While no meetings were scheduled to discuss military investments, Pompeo was seated next to Defence Minister Matej Tonin at the working lunch hosted by President Borut Pahor.

Pompeo did meet with energy executives and Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, and discussed with Janša what he said was "the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region".

He also tweeted that "energy security and independence require governments to partner with one another, private industry, and civil society to secure a brighter future for all. We welcome Slovenia's leadership on the Three Seas Initiative, and commend its innovation and dedication to clean energy."

At the press conference, Pompeo urged Slovenia to make a "quick commitment" to what he said was an "important partnership" the US is happy to fund, noting that he had announced in February the US would contribute US$1 billion for energy infrastructure in Central Europe as part of the Three Seas Initiative.

Janša in turn said that Slovenia appreciated the "US's proactive approach to energy security in Central Europe, which is reflected in strong support to alliances such as the Three Seas Initiative and the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation," adding that Slovenia would strengthen its role in both of these.

Touching on business cooperation, Janša told the press the sides shared the view that there was room to boost trade and investments, also saying that Slovenian IT companies could help in the development of 5G technologies.

The talks also touched on NATO, with Janša saying that Slovenia had in the past months made steps to increase defence spending and meet its obligations toward the alliance, with Pompeo commending the country for its growing commitment to NATO.

Janša and Pompeo also discussed relations with China and Russia, sharing the view that these must be based on strategic interest "of our civilisation, which is based on the values of security, freedom, the rule of law and democracy," according to Janša.

Janša also warned of what he said was a poor level of awareness in the west of the threat of a hybrid attack. "We see the US as the only power of the western civilisation capable of facing this challenging threat... and Slovenia is willing to contribute its efforts toward success."

Pompeo also met President Pahor, who hosted a working lunch. The president expressed great satisfaction with the visit, telling commercial broadcaster Kanal A that Pompeo had told him that he was leaving "Slovenia with the best possible impressions and that he sees great potential for future cooperation between Slovenia and the US".

"It was very important that we did not find a very open, delicate issue that would cause divisions," said Pahor. He feels the countries are the most divided in terms of multilateralism.

"Slovenia is strongly dedicated to the existing political and legal architecture, because being a small country it sees safety in this. This is understandable, being a big country, the US may view this slightly differently."

But in general, the countries have "very, very similar views", said Pahor. "This is good. But above all, it is important that such talks end with mutual agreement that we are friends, that we trust each other and that many more things connect than divide us."

13 Aug 2020, 15:18 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - A total of 29 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in 856 tests on Wednesday in Slovenia, according to the most recent data released by the government on Thursday. No new deaths were reported.

New cases were reported in 14 municipalities, including in Ljubljana (5), Celje (3), Vipava (2) and Starše (2). The majority of the new cases were in the 15-34 age group, according to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Ljubljana now has 41 active cases after recording nine of the 31 cases confirmed on Tuesday. Most of the latest cases have been imported from Croatia.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries

Marta Grgič Vitek of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said imported cases have outnumbered local transmissions in the last week, with 27 of the 33 most recent imported cases coming from Croatia.

"It is a problem if so many cases are imported from Croatia on a daily basis," she said, adding that many of the infected persons have told epidemiologists they had been to beach parties in Croatia.

If this trend continues, the government task force for coronavirus will propose that Slovenia introduce stricter measures on the border, perhaps even a mandatory quarantine for travellers from Croatia, said Bojana Beović, the head of the task force.

"In the event that this continues, we may enter the autumn season with problems associated with socialising in schools and workplaces. There could be outbreaks of infections," according to Beović.

The total number of infections reached 2,332 yesterday. There were 193 active cases and 19 patients were in hospital, with two requiring intensive care.

The Covid-19 death toll remains at 129.

Beović and epidemiologist Marta Grgič Vitek also told the press that epidemiologists in Slovenia were overworked as they were constantly looking for contacts of the infected persons in order to stem the spreading of the virus.

"Abroad, one epidemiologist comes at every 10,000 residents, and in Slovenia there is only one epidemiologist per 50,000 residents or even more," Beović said.

Grgič Vitek of the contagious diseases centre of the National Public Health Institute meanwhile noted that 30 new infections a day was a "critical number" for the epidemiological service.

In a response to an MP question, the government said today that it would try to encourage medical students to specialise in public health, with six specialisations open this year and at least in the next five years.

"At this pace, it will be possible to get at least ten additional doctors specialised in epidemiology in the next ten years," the government added.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

13 Aug 2020, 13:09 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - Supreme Court vice-president Miodrag Đorđević has temporary suspended district judge Zvjezdan Radonjić, a decision that has triggered strong reactions in one segment of politics. The Supreme Court said the suspension is based on the type and gravity of disciplinary violations Radonjić stands accused of.

Radonjić, a Ljubljana District Court judge, has been a vocal critic of the Slovenian judiciary. He made headlines in recent years as the presiding judge in the case of the 2014 murder of Chemistry Institute boss Janko Jamnik. Defendant Milko Novič was acquitted in a retrial, but the case has been sent into another retrial with Radonjić removed from the panel.

"The judge is accused of several grave disciplinary breaches whose descriptions highlight the persistent nature of the actions and the type of discourse by the accused," the Supreme Court wrote on Wednesday about Radonjić, who has accused other judges of accepting bribes and claimed pressure had been exerted on him in the Jamnik case.

The court added that the type and gravity of the alleged disciplinary violations prompted Đorđević to suspend Radonjić "so that the court can operate in an undisturbed manner and that the reputation of the profession and public trust in the judiciary are protected".

"It is expected of a judge to observe the dignity of his post when expressing himself in public, that he is reserved in situations when his public communication could imperil the authority and integrity of the judiciary, that his public discourse (including criticism) retains a decent and respectful attitude to his peers," the court wrote.

Radonjić is facing a criminal complaint over false accusations after he filed a formal complaint in February 2018 over alleged bribery in a Higher Court case. He claimed seven more cases handled by Higher Court judges had been suspect.

While the details of Radonjić's alleged disciplinary breaches have not bee disclosed, the newspaper Dnevnik reported today that District Court president Marjan Pogačnik had filed several disciplinary complaints against the judge.

According to Dnevnik, the accusations include several instances of inappropriate discourse on the part of Radonjić, while the judge once allegedly also refused the duty to report to the court president.

The paper adds that pre-trial proceedings are also under way against Radonjić over slander, including in connection to alleged pressure on him in the Jamnik case.

Dnevnik reports that Radonjić has been processed by the Judicial Council's ethics commission on several occasions. One case highlighted pertains to an article penned by the judge, in which he wondered whether philosopher Boris Vezjak, a vocal critic of PM Janez Janša, is retarded.

Radonjić told the STA a few days ago that he stood by his statements. He said he had not spread false accusations knowing they were false, but only reported to the police what he was familiar with.

Meanwhile, the suspension has prompted a strong reaction from a part of politics, in particular from the senior coalition Democrats (SDS).

Prime Minister Janša tweeted on Wednesday: "Hm. Judges in Slovenia are supposedly independent and bound only by the constitution and the law. But obviously this only applies to those ruling in line with Bavcon's principles. The chicanery against judge Radonjić is ripe for a comprehensive investigation."

Janša, whose tweet refers to Ljubo Bavcon, a Yugoslav-era jurist whom he sees as a caretaker of alleged communist continuity, also retweeted several tweets alleging the suspension was revenge for the acquittal of Nović in the Jamnik case.

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