Politics

12 Aug 2020, 16:32 PM

STA, 12 August 2020 - Slovenia confirmed 31 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a one-month high, as 1,118 tests were performed. There were no new deaths reported, show official government data.

Slovenia's daily infections were fairly stable since mid-July, rarely exceeding 20. The latest increase comes amidst warnings that many young people are returning from holidays infected.

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

The number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic has thus increased to 2,303 and 129 people have died of Covid-19.

There are currently 23 people with Covid-19 in hospital, two of them in intensive care.

The number of active cases is estimated at 188, up a tenth over yesterday, according to data tracker Covid-19.sledilnik.org

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

11 Aug 2020, 15:03 PM

STA, 11 August 2020 - One person died and 17 new SARS-CoV-2 infections were confirmed in 1,058 tests in Slovenia on Monday according to the most recent data released by the government on Tuesday. 23 people were in hospital with two requiring intensive care.

With the total tally of cases reaching 2,272, there are currently 171 active cases of infection in Slovenia, while 129 have died in total, according to the national tracker covid-19.sledilnik.

Government speaker Jelko Kacin told the press on Tuesday that at least eight of the cases confirmed yesterday were imported from abroad, one from Bosnia-Herzegovina and seven of them from Croatia, where many Slovenians are on summer vacation.

As regards Croatia he said that the country's epidemiological situation was not particularly bad, especially not on the coast, where most of Slovenian holidaymakers are located.

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

Kacin blamed youngsters who disregard social distancing measures at parties for continuous spreading of the virus in Slovenia, but also said that with 7.99 infections per 100,000 people Slovenia was "very safe" and that the situation was now much better than a fortnight ago when 24 new cases were confirmed on 29 July.

He moreover said that this second wave of the pandemic in Slovenia was milder than the first, giving hope that people returning from holidays will not worsen the situation.

Even so, he warned people going abroad to avoid crowds, wear face masks and be diligent about hand hygiene. They should also refrain from going to night clubs abroad.

With the school bound to start in three weeks, Kacin also called on parents to be careful about their family travels, urging them to avoid countries with poor epidemiological situation.

He said the government was hoping school would start normally, but was also preparing for the worst case scenario of remote schooling.

Kacin also talked about Slovenia's vaccine order plans, saying that "initial numbers were some 200,000 doses in the first phase", adding that Slovenia is yet to decide which of the vaccines it should buy.

He said that the most vulnerable groups, including the elderly, elderly home residents, their staff, and health care workers, would have precedence.

Out of the 17 cases confirmed yesterday, seven were in Ljubljana, while none were confirmed in Hrastnik, where a local elderly care home has been a hotspot of infection for weeks. However, the one fatality recorded yesterday was a Hrastnik care home resident hospitalised in Maribor.

One case was also confirmed in Novo Mesto yesterday, after a nurse in the local elderly home tested positive last week. The care home said today that none of the residents cared for by the infected nurse had tested positive.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

11 Aug 2020, 10:49 AM

STA, 10 August 2020 - Ex-Ambassador to the US Božo Cerar believes Thursday's visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Slovenia brings normalisation in Slovenia-US relations after they have been neglected for a decade. He hopes Slovenia will know how to use the visit so it contributes to the implementation of Slovenian and European interests.

"This is an important visit. Visits by US foreign ministers here are very rare. The last one took place more than two decades ago, while such visits should be business as usual, regular. After all we're talking about relations between two allies, between countries which share the same values," he said in an interview with the STA.

The Slovenian diplomat attributes the rare contacts at the highest level to a great degree of passivity in foreign affairs on the part of Slovenia and on the country's focus on Russia.

"We've had a rather absurd situation with the US for ten years, there has been practically no dialogue at political level. On the other hand, this has been a period when our high-profile representatives have been constantly in Moscow, openly flirting with authoritarian systems, such as the Russian or the Iranian one."

A turn seemed to be on the horizon when then Foreign Minister Miro Cerar finally visited the US in December 2018 and when US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was in Slovenia in June 2019, when the country hosted a Three Seas Initiative summit, but this was again followed by a period of passivity, said the ambassador.

"Instead of using it to develop new forms of cooperation, everything went silent again. I hope this time round we will better use this visit," said Cerar.

He believes relations with the US must be nurtured regardless of who is in the White House, a Democrat or a Republican, even someone like Donald Trump. And also regardless of who heads the government in Ljubljana, a rightist or leftist party.

Cerar said it was primarily up to small countries to nurture relations with big ones. "If there is no initiative on our side, then it's very hard."

Still, he sees Pompeo's visit as a normalisation of Slovenian-US relations and a unique opportunity to examine bilateral relations in a number of areas, such as business and commerce.

The visit is "also a unique opportunity to discuss with the US global issues, not only the Western Balkans, which is a traditional topic, also important for the Americans because the Russians and Chinese are strengthening their influence in the region".

The focus of the visit will be on the signing of a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, which is directed against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Although some see it as Slovenia joining a kind of a new "coalition of the willing" and getting unnecessarily involved in US-Chinese disputes, Cerar said this was not the case in his view.

He highlighted China's conduct in international trade, foremost its disregard for intellectual property, its industrial espionage activities and currency speculation.

"This is not just the US's problem. It's also a European problem. It's also in the interest of the EU for these things to get solved," said the diplomat.

"Safe communications are of course in the interest of the US, but they are also in our interest," he said, adding that neither Slovenia nor the EU could be indifferent to China's human rights record, its ignorance of international law in the South China Sea, the issue of Hong Kong, the rights of Uyghurs.

Cerar also thinks it is irrelevant from the aspect of the joint declaration on 5G that the US is nearing the presidential election, which Trump might not win.

"Do you think that the Democrats' policy on China and Russia is any different? Perhaps there will be a different approach. Perhaps Joe Biden will be more diplomatic. They will be seeking ever greater support from their allies. But the policy on China and Russia will not change."

From this aspect, Cerar believes that NATO's future will also be discussed as Pompeo meets Slovenia officials on Thursday.

"It is in our interest for the alliance to be active for a long time to come, and for the trans-Atlantic dialogue to be improved where it's wanting, this has to be admitted."

As a Central European and Mediterranean country located at an important geostrategic area and as a member of the EU and NATO, Slovenia could significantly contribute to the dialogue, believes Cerar, who sees its EU presidency next year as another opportunity giving it leverage and certain responsibility for trans-Atlantic relations.

All of our stories on Mike Pompeo and Slovenia

10 Aug 2020, 09:43 AM

STA, 10 August 2020 - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on Monday on a four-country European tour, as part of which he will make a stop in Ljubljana on Thursday. In what is the first visit by a head of the US diplomacy in Slovenia in 23 years, the main topic will be enlisting allies in the clash with China in cyberspace.

The focus of Pompeo's visit to the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Slovenia will be on the security of next-generation mobile telecommunication networks (5G).

For this purpose, Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar and Pompeo are scheduled to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, and a special talk on this topic is scheduled with Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The US secretary of state will also be received by President Borut Pahor, with the majority of the visit taking place at the lakeside resort of Bled.

The visit will be the most high-profile one from the US since 2008, when President George W. Bush attended a EU-US summit during Slovenia's presidency of the EU.

The last time a US secretary of state visited Slovenia was in 1997, when Madeleine Albright was received in Ljubljana.

After the election of President of Donald Trump, who is married to Slovenian Melania Trump, Slovenia has hoped that high-level visits between the countries would intensify.

Contact is relatively intensive on the sidelines of various multilateral meetings, in particular as part of NATO, while former Foreign Minister Miro Cerar visited the State Department in December 2018.

It was the relatively low frequency of bilateral visits with the US that the former Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec had to explain himself for during a motion of no confidence debate, as he was accused of leading a foreign policy that was too pro-Russian.

The current Janša-led government has started steering foreign policy towards the largest ally in NATO. The newspaper Večer recently commented that due to the 5G declaration, Slovenia is "making its way into the closest circle of its allies".

The declaration is being labelled by critics as a "new Vilnius letter", as the countries signing it are giving in to the pressure from the US and interfering in the country's disputes with China, which have switched from the realm of trade to the digital world.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič for instance tweeted that Pompeo should be "explained that devices and services of the US tech giants such as Apple and Amazon still do not support the Slovenian language, which is the first condition for the safe use of information technology."

The government endorsed the signing of the joint declaration on 23 July and stressed that it stemmed from the commitments which had already been made as part of the EU and NATO in a bid to increase information security and reduce related risks.

In the draft declaration, which was obtained by the STA in June, there are several security conditions on which countries are expected to agree on being mandatory for establishing a safe 5G network.

The text states that providers and their suppliers have to be checked thoroughly, including the transparency of their ownership, respect of intellectual property rights and commitment to laws requiring transparent governance.

With the joint statement, Slovenia and the US would also highlight the importance of safe networks at the level of NATO and the EU.

The declaration is believed to be primarily targeting the Chinese technological giant Huawei, the world's largest vendor of 5G equipment, although neither the company not China is explicitly mentioned.

The Trump administration has been trying for a while to limit Huawei in particular, as the company is accused of spying for the Chinese government. Huawei has been denying the accusation and noting that the US has provided no evidence.

As the statement could limit Huawei's participation in 5G deployment in Slovenia, the company recently said it was willing to discuss 5G technology security issues with the Slovenian government as well as sign a non-spy agreement with the country.

The government has not responded yet to the call. Quizzed about this by the STA, the Government Communication Office only said that the "government has not discussed this topic yet".

Announcing the visit, the Foreign Ministry said that its purpose was to "confirm and deepen the close friendly, allied and partner ties" between the countries.

The visit is also about "strengthening bilateral political dialogue at a high level and boosting cooperation in business and other fields". Announcing the four-country tour, Pompeo himself said it would be a very important and productive trip.

As part of the visit, it is also expected that talks started as part of the Three Seas Initiative summit in Ljubljana last year by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, would continue.

The talks focused in reducing the dependence on Russian natural gas, and the potential construction of a new reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant; the existing reactor is based on US technology.

Also announced are talks about the progress of the Western Balkan countries towards EU and NATO membership, and the decision of the US to pull 12,000 troops from Germany and repost some of them in the new NATO member states.

09 Aug 2020, 11:55 AM

STA, 8 August 2020 - Bojana Beović, the government's chief Covid-19 advisor, has told the STA that future developments are uncertain and that the government is preparing for various scenarios as regards the regime at schools in the autumn. She noted the winter-related epidemic trends presently seen in Australia were not inspiring optimism.

Beović said the epidemiological situation in Slovenia was presently fairly calm. A few new cases are recorded each day but in a scope that can be controlled. There is however concern that not all cases are detected and that the virus could be spreading around the country unnoticed.

The number of tests presently conducted is down by about 20%, but the infectologist said the criteria for ordering a test remained the same. Fact is that there a fewer respiratory issues in the summer and that people are on holiday and probably do not call their doctor if they are mildly ill, she argued.

Turning to plans for the education system, she said the situation was bound to see some changes in the coming weeks, which is why making predictions was hard.

The general idea is to enable the possibility for only partial school closures, one of the proposal also being to set up a green, yellow and red system similar to the one used for countries.

The Education Ministry has prepared four models for the autumn. The two extreme options are fully open and fully closed schools, while the middle options would see a combination of lessons in class and distance learning, with younger children being prioritised for the former.

Meanwhile, Beović noted that Australia, where there is currently winter, albeit mild, is experiencing serious problems with infections. "Reports from Australia do not inspire hope," she said.

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

08 Aug 2020, 12:15 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, 31 July
        LJUBLJANA - Bulgaria, Romania, the Bahamas, India and five Spanish administrative units were added to Slovenia's red list of countries from which arrival entails a mandatory two-week quarantine due to coronavirus. Spain, Belgium, Australia, Morocco, Andorra and Canada were removed from the green list of safe countries, and downgraded to yellow.
        LJUBLJANA - The prime minister's office said a staffer at the office had tested positive for coronavirus. He has been on leave for a week and has not been in direct contact with PM Janez Janša.
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec found herself in the spotlight because of media reports that the Izola municipality paid for her hotel accommodation during her official trip to the seaside town in June with a hotel invoice suggesting she was there with her sons, a charge the minister denied.
        LJUBLJANA - Mladina reported a new asylum regime had been implemented since June at some police stations on the border with Croatia, which it said had no basis in legislation. It said the regime restricted the movement of asylum seekers and placed them in the centre for aliens in Postojna, where they lived in inhumane conditions. NGOs expressed concern, while the Interior Ministry and the police rejected the accusations.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian state budget recorded a EUR 1.92 billion deficit in the first six months of the year, mostly on the account of a considerable drop in revenue related to a lower tax yield as the government introduced restrictive anti-epidemic measures, figures from the Finance Ministry showed.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's annual inflation rate ran at 0.3% in July despite a 0.1% dip of consumer prices in a month-on-month comparison. Measured with the harmonised index of consumer prices, an EU-wide gauge, Slovenia posted an annual deflation rate of 0.3% in July and prices fell by 0.2% in a month.

SUNDAY, 2 August
        VELENJE - Social democratic politician Bojan Kontič, who spent nearly a decade as mayor of Velenje and served as member both of the lower and upper chamber of parliament, died aged 59. Kontič served three stints as MP between 1996 and 2008, as served as Velenje mayor since 2010.

MONDAY, 3 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Association of Social Institutions left the government task force for Covid-19 after their demands regarding the treatment of infected residents of care homes off-site were not met. The association has long been warning that most care homes do not have the capacity to set up three separate zones in case of confirmed Covid-19 as envisaged by the current protocols.
        SALZBURG, Austria - Drago Jančar, arguably Slovenia's leading contemporary writer, formally received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature 2020. The jury said one of the big strengths of his literature was that it was "taking an individual to penetratingly render understandable the delusions of our history".
        LJUBLJANA - The treasury has extended an existing three-year bond by EUR 50 million following demand by an investor. The yield to maturity was -0.492%, the lowest on record and just 27 basis points over a comparable German bond. The issue was completed at the end of June.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - The European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day was marked, with keynote speaker Boštjan Žekš, an advisor to President Borut Pahor, saying he felt ashamed over the suffering of the Roma being almost forgotten. He also said that the Roma did not have it easy in modern-day Slovenia.
        KOPER - Fierce storms with winds exceeding 120 km/h hit western Slovenia. The coastal region was hit the hardest, with locals clearing debris, fallen trees and pumping water out of buildings late into the night. Storms raged over Primorska, Notranjska, central Slovenia and the Drava valley.
        
TUESDAY, 4 August
        LJUBLJANA - Thirteen public health institutions and a private concessionaire have received the much discussed Siriusmed R30 ventilators ordered through Geneplanet that had been supplied to Slovenia before the contract with the company was rescinded in May, an STA investigation showed. Although the Health Ministry said that they could be kept only if additional equipment is supplied to make them suitable for Covid-19 patients, only two hospitals received this equipment.
        LJUBLJANA - In the wake of Slovenia's announcement to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security with the US, China's Huawei said it was willing to discuss 5G technology security issues with the Slovenian government as well as sign a non-spying agreement with the country.
        LJUBLJANA - Tatjana Rojc, the ethnic Slovenian senator in Rome, said the Italian government planned to send an additional contingent of soldiers to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to help monitor the border with Slovenia in the face of an increase in illegal migrations. The Slovenian Interior Ministry said the next day it was familiar with Italy's plans and that every additional measure aimed at preventing illegal migration was welcome.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia - Christian Democrats (NSi) celebrated their 20th anniversary, but a major ceremony, to be attended by the head of the European People's Party, Donald Tusk, is scheduled for 4 September. NSi head Matej Tonin said the party should grow stronger to fortify the healthy and rational political centrum in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Alcohol consumption among young people in Slovenia declined in 2017/2018 but it remains high by international standards, the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) said, as it presented the results of international survey Health Behaviour in School-aged Children for Slovenia which showed that 71% of 15-year-olds and 86% of 17-year-olds have tried alcohol.

WEDNESDAY, 5 August
        BEIRUT, Lebanon/LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin confirmed that all four members of the Slovenian Armed Forces serving in the UNIFIL and UNTSO missions in Lebanon were safe and well following a series of massive explosions in Beirut that claimed at least 100 lives. Tonin offered his "sincere condolences" to the victims' relatives.
        LJUBLJANA - The effects of a weakened economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have started to reflect with increasing intensity in Slovenia's banking sector, as the most recent data from the central bank showed the combined half-year profit of banks reaching just a third of the figure in the same period last year. Interest and non-interest revenue has been dropping, while the cost of impairments and provisions has increased.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total stood at 89,397 at the end of July, which is almost unchanged compared to June but due to unemployment growth in April and May the figure is 24.4% above that from July 2019, showed data released by the Employment Service.
        SOLKAN/LJUBLJANA - The drowning of a ten-year-old at a popular bathing spot in the Soča river last week has raised a series of questions, even more so after the parents accused the social services and the police of making the family tragedy even more unbearable. The accident happened on 28 July, when the boy, holidaying with his grandparents and two siblings, was swimming at a bathing spot in the Soča near Solkan, when he was swept downriver by a sudden surge in the water level.
        
THURSDAY, 6 August
        LJUBLJANA - The US State Department and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry confirmed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Slovenia on 13 August to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security as part of a tour of four European countries. He will also meet top officials.
        LJUBLJANA/KOPER - A criminal complaint against a member of the Slovenian Armed Forces who allegedly stopped an Italian-Slovenian near the countries' border at gunpoint in May has been thrown out by the Koper district prosecution office for lack of evidence that the soldier had committed the alleged criminal act.
        LJUBLJANA - Delivering a video message for the international community as part of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, President Borut Pahor urged much more cooperation and shared, genuine efforts to strengthen trust.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian subsidiary of the Italian banking group Unicredit saw its consolidated profit plunge to EUR 1 million in the first half of 2020 compared to EUR 16 million in the same period last year.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of new coronavirus infections remained steady throughout the week, dropping during the weekend, when fewer tests are performed. 15 out of 771 tests for Sars-CoV-2 conducted on Wednesday came back positive. One person died, taking the death toll to 125. The number of active cases stood at 190. There have been 2,223 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Slovenia so far.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Police reported the seizure of 2,650 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of around EUR 2 million on an island on the river Mura, in what is the biggest cannabis bust in Pomurje region in recent years. Three middle-aged men were arrested and face up to ten years in prison.

All our posts in this series are here

08 Aug 2020, 09:57 AM

STA, 7 August 2020 - 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 two hotel rooms for Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec.

Protesters in Ljubljana converged on Prešeren Square where they were addressed by Biserka Marolt Meden, the head of an NGO promoting the rights of older people, who lambasted the government policy on aged care facilities and the idea that infected residents should be put up in mobile units.

The protesters demonstrated their opposition to the idea with an impromptu theatrical performance that saw activists carrying politicians' masks being taken by protesters to a container terminal set up at the finish of the protest march near Pionirski Dom.

There, a letter was read out written by residents of a care home who expressed their grievances about the lack of social contacts and noted that the right to treatment is a constitutional right. The protest ended with red smoke billowing from the container as a way of demonstrating that such mobile units "may not be the best solution for those ending up in them".

The first of the "politicians" to be taken to the container was the one carrying the mask of Aleksandra Pivec, the agriculture minister and head of the Pensioners Party (DeSUS), who has become embroiled in a series of allegations of corruption, including that the town of Izola paid for a hotel bill for her and her two sons.

Pivec was also the target of protests in Izola, where the participants also demanded the resignation of Mayor Danilo Markočič, a member of Pivec's DeSUS, who has also come under fire for allegations that he has sold an olive orchard for EUR 244,000 to a Russian businessman whose company last year bought a building plot in an elite location from the municipality.

The mayor has rejected calls for resignation, saying he had done nothing wrong.

The protest in Izola was also attended by Ivan Gale, the whistleblower from the Commodity Reserves Agency who has exposed alleged wrongdoing in the procurement of medical supplies.

Protests were also held in other parts of the country.

07 Aug 2020, 13:03 PM

STA, 6 August 2020 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that Minister Anže Logar and US State Secretary Mike Pompeo will sign next week a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, while also in fact confirming that Pompeo is paying a visit to Slovenia, as recently reported in the media.

Pompeo will be on a tour of four European countries, which the US state secretary labelled as great friends of America, and focus is expected to be on talks on security of telecommunications networks of the next generation (5G).

Although this is not directly specified, the visits to the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and Poland are will in effect revolve around the US-China tensions, specifically concern about 5G technology developed by Chinese tech giant Huawei.

While the exact date of the visit was not initially announced, the US State Department today said Pompeo would visit Slovenia next Thursday. He will meet President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The visit will be an opportunity to discuss enhancing cooperation between Slovenia and the US "in key areas of mutual concern, including nuclear energy and Western Balkan integration", said the State Department's press release.

Meanwhile, it was at a press conference on Wednesday at which Pompeo announced the trip that he also talked about disputes with China and announced additional measures to provide security in cyberspace.

In this light, the US state secretary intends to sign with Slovenia a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, which the US has already signed with several European countries, including Romania, Estonia and Latvia.

In the draft declaration, which was obtained by the STA in June, there are several security conditions on which countries are expected to agree on being mandatory for establishing a safe 5G network.

The text states providers and their suppliers have to be checked thoroughly, including the transparency of their ownership, honouring of intellectual rights and commitment to laws requiring transparent governance.

With the joint statement, Slovenia and the US would also highlight the importance of safe networks at the level of NATO and the EU.

As the statement could limit Huawei's participation in 5G deployment in Slovenia, the company recently said it was willing to discuss 5G technology security issues with the Slovenian government as well as sign a non-spy agreement with the country.

The government has not responded yet to the call. Quizzed about this by the STA, the Government Communication Office only said that the "government has not discussed this topic yet".

While announcing the signing of the declaration, the Foreign Ministry also said that the purpose of Pompeo's visit was to "confirm and deepen the close friendly, allied and partner ties" between the countries.

The visit is also about "strengthening bilateral political dialogue at a high level and boosting cooperation in business and other fields". Announcing the four-country tour, Pompeo himself said it would be a very important and productive trip.

The visit will be the most high-profile one from the US since 2008, when President George W. Bush attended a EU-US summit during Slovenia's presidency of the EU.

The last time a US secretary of state visited Slovenia was in 1997, when Madeleine Albright was received in Ljubljana.

07 Aug 2020, 10:25 AM

STA, 6 August 2020 - A tweet by an Interior Minister official in which he labels Slovenian social work centres as a "hotbed of feminists" and levels additional insults has caused uproar, with Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina condemning it as unacceptable in public discourse. "Hateful and intolerant discourse should not have a place in society," he said.

The tweet by Borut Jakopin, who is in charge of personal data protection at the ministry, was published recently as he commented on the conduct by social workers in the case of a 10-year-old boy who had drowned in the Soča river.

He said that "Slovenian [social work centres] are a hotbed of feminists, untended frustrated women and effeminate beta boys", with the tweet also being retweeted by Interior Ministry State Secretary Vinko Gorenak, who later removed the retweet.

Svetina, who was urged by the trade union of social work centres to react, said on Thursday that the tweet was unacceptable and he also expressed concern over intolerant rhetoric in social discourse.

"Hateful and intolerant discourse should not have place in society, and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman condemns it," the press release says.

"It seems that we are descending into increasingly worse insults, destructiveness, intolerance and mutual attacks, while there is a lack of tolerance to people who think differently, of understanding and respect of personal dignity," it adds.

The prime minister's office has told the STA that the government had not discussed the tweet and that it had not taken any particular opinion on it.

The Interior Ministry has labelled the tweet as utterly inappropriate and has distanced itself from it, and noted that Jakopin did not have access to personal information of employees in social work centres.

In a subsequent statement it said expression of personal opinions in one's own free time and on topics that are not in the ministry's purview could not be considered a violation of the code of ethics, which was why the author of the tweet would not be subject to a disciplinary procedure.

The Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities has condemned "psychological, physical and verbal violence", adding that "such communication is inappropriate" and asking for an apology to social work centre employees.

The Chamber of Social Work has condemned the tweet as well, saying that "such insulting posts have a note of discreditation and deeply encroach upon the integrity of employees."

06 Aug 2020, 11:11 AM

STA, 5 August 2020 - Covid-19 patients in Slovenia are primarily treated with support measures that target symptoms, meaning they receive oxygen and fever-reducing drugs if necessary. Those with severe symptoms are given remdesivir, favipiravir and dexamethasone, drugs that research shows can be potentially effective.

Remdesivir, an antiviral agent, is administered to those who need intensive care or have a rapidly increasing need for oxygen supply, Mateja Logar, an infectiologist at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, has explained for the STA.

Those with slightly milder symptoms and in the starting stage of the disease but with coexisting conditions are administered favipiravir, a drug so far used to treat the flu.

With those who need oxygen but have been receiving it for a period where favipiravir is no longer a viable option, the drug of choice is dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that has been used for decades, mostly to treat various kinds of inflammations.

"These are drugs that multiple studies have shown to be potentially effective while also having a relatively favourable safety profile," Logar added.

Slovenian doctors do not use hydroxychloroquine, an arthritis medicine that also can be used to prevent malaria, nor do they use the antibiotic azithromycin or drugs for HIV, as these have been proven ineffective in multiple studies.

The Slovenian Blood Transfusion centre is also collecting the plasma of those who got through a Sars-CoV-2 infection in the spring months and is storing it in case the need arises to use it for treatment. Plasma treatment has so far not been used at UKC Ljubljana for Covid-19.

There has been no treatment with stem cells either, given that this an experimental type of treatment that involves a number of technical difficulties.

UKC Ljubljana has so far not participated in clinical trials, since the studies also involved certain drugs that were not deemed appropriate. The hospital did share data on treatment with the producer of remdesivir.

05 Aug 2020, 10:45 AM

STA, 4 August 2020 - Due to an increase in illegal migrations from Slovenia to Italy, the government in Rome has announced it will send an additional contingent of soldiers to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to help monitor the border with Slovenia, Tatjana Rojc, the ethnic Slovenian senator in Rome, said on Tuesday.

Rojc met today with Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, who presented the government's plans. The Italian government is closely watching the developments and wants to strengthen cooperation with Slovenia in the fight against smugglers, Lamorgese was quoted as saying by the Austrian Press Agency (APA).

Rojc told the APA that the stricter controls in Trieste and Gorizia are leading an increasing number of migrants and Ukrainian smugglers to try to enter via the smaller border crossing in the Udine area. The smugglers are transporting the migrants to Italy with small buses, camper vans and lorries, the senator added.

The plans of the Italian government seem to come in response to a letter sent to it last week by the regional authorities in Friuli Venezia Giulia, which called for fast and targeted action.

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