Politics

25 Jul 2020, 12:00 PM

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

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FRIDAY, 17 July
        FRANKFURT, Germany - Fitch affirmed Slovenia's credit rating of A with a stable outlook. The rating agency forecast that the country's GDP would shrink by 7.1% this year, growing by 4.9% next year and another 3.3% in 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - Montenegro and Luxembourg were placed on Slovenia's red list of Covid-19 highly risky countries given their epidemiologic status. Croatia remained on the yellow list, which indicates a higher level of caution is advised.
        LJUBLJANA - Early findings of the Information Commissioner inquiry into potentially problematic access to 45 politicians' personal data have not revealed systemic abuse. Only one police officer has so far been identified as having accessed such data without authorisation, the office said.
        LJUBLJANA - Anti-government protests were held in several Slovenian cities for the 13th week running. In the capital some 3,000 protesters packed Prešeren Square and later stopped at RTV Slovenija to express their support for the public broadcaster in the light of the planned media reform. The protest culminated in a "people's assembly" in a bid to formulate clear demands.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of human rights NGOs urged the government to treat Eritrean asylum seekers more fairly, pointing out that only three of 15 applications lodged by Eritreans who recently arrived in Slovenia had been granted. The Interior Ministry rejected the notion that its policy is unprofessional or politically motivated in any way.

SATURDAY, 18 July
        LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar signed a two-year cooperation agreement with the regional office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Europe. Cooperation is to focus on control of communicable and non-communicable disease and the strengthening of healthcare.

MONDAY, 20 July
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - An event marked the 10th anniversary of Slovenia's membership of the OECD with Foreign Minister Anže Logar saying that joining the organisation offered the country an opportunity for new development achievements. OECD Secretary-General Jose Angel Gurria, addressing the event by video call, said he was confident Slovenia would exit the current crisis stronger.
        PARIS, France - The OECD's latest economic survey praised Slovenia's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and urged the state to continue providing support measures for the economy until growth is fully restored. But as stimulus measures are gradually being wound down, the economy may need a fiscal stimulus to prevent a possible spike in bankruptcies and unemployment, it said.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar discussed the rule of law and the EU's new rule of law mechanism with European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in a videoconference, focussing on the anticipated first rule of law report by the EU Commission. The pair talked about approaching Slovenia's EU Council presidency as well.
        LJUBLJANA - RTV Slovenija's programming council did not back the public broadcaster's changed financial and production plans for 2020, which the leadership had prepared in response to the coronavirus. The no-vote could put RTV Slovenija in a dire financial situation amid concerns that the government is trying to undermine it with a controversial media reform.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest Vox Populi public opinion poll, carried by Večer and Dnevnik, showed little change at the top of the party rankings. The ruling SDS polled at 22.7%, the same as the month before, with the opposition SocDems down half a point to 14.7%, having jumped by seven points in the previous month. The government's approval rating was at 48.5%, up slightly from June.
        
TUESDAY, 21 July
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Prime Minister Janez Janša said Slovenia was pleased with the outcome of the EU budget talks since Slovenia is eligible for EUR 10.5 billion over the next seven years, of which EUR 6.6 billion in grants. He also rejected the perception that the rule of law discussion at the EU summit was about Slovenia siding with Hungary and Poland. Instead, he said, it was about clarifying the concept.
        LJUBLJANA - The registered unemployment rate in Slovenia in May, when some of the lockdown measures related to the coronavirus epidemic were relaxed, stood at 9.3%, which is 0.2 of a percentage point more than in April, the Employment Service said. The registered unemployment rate in May was up by 1.4 percentage points compared to February, the last full month before the restrictive anti-epidemic measures were introduced.
        KOPER - Austria launched an honorary consulate in the city of Koper, its second after Maribor. It will be headed by Honorary Consul Urška Svetlik, a business executive. The opening of the consulate illustrates the importance Austria attributes to Koper and the entire western region of Primorska, Austrian Ambassador to Slovenia Sigrid Berka said on the occasion.

WEDNESDAY, 22 July
        BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - The presidents of Slovenia and Slovakia, Borut Pahor and Zuzana Čaputova, welcomed the EU budget deal as they held talks in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The presidents discussed bilateral cooperation and later opened a business forum focusing on green technologies that featured 34 companies and institutions from both countries.
        BUDAPEST, Hungary - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec visited Budapest for talks with Hungarian ministers of foreign affairs and innovation and technology, Peter Szijjarto and Laszlo Palkovics. Vrtovec said economic cooperation could be further upgraded with energy and road infrastructure projects, such as the Cirkovce-Pince electric power line.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Following the EU summit deal, the government set up two task forces to make sure the country phases all the funds available to it. It was announced that mayors and regional development agencies would be involved in the drafting of the national recovery plan, which the government intends to adopt by the end of August.
        LJUBLJANA - After a year and a half of calls for redefining rape in the penal code, the Justice Ministry said that legislative changes had been drafted. Their aim is to embed the consent standard in criminal law, making every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence.
        
THURSDAY, 23 July
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission expressed concerned about the media legislation planned by the Slovenian government. Presenting the most recent Media Pluralism Monitor report, Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova said Slovenia should not follow in Hungary's footsteps when it came to media ownership.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia announced it planned to sign a Joint Declaration on 5G Security with the United States, which could curb the involvement of China's Huawei in the deployment of the fifth generation wireless communication networks in the country. The government submitted the declaration to the National Assembly.
        LJUBLJANA - A total of 935 tests for Covid-19 were performed in Slovenia on Wednesday, which confirmed 27 new infections, making for a total of 136 cases in the past seven days. There were 24 patients hospitalised with Covid-19, including two in intensive care. The death increased by four in a week to 115.
        LJUBLJANA/VIENNA, Austria - Slovenia and Austria agreed to try out joint surveillance of the shared border using technology such as cameras and drones, as Interior Minister Aleš Hojs held talks with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer at a conference on migrations along the Balkan route.
        LJUBLJANA - The government extended the subsidised furlough scheme by another month until the end of August with Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj saying the measure was still deemed needed despite an improvement in the labour market.
        WARSAW, Poland - Visiting Poland, Foreign Minister Anže Logar met his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz and EU Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski. The officials reaffirmed good relations between Poland and Slovenia, with Logar expressing interest in continuing and strengthening cooperation between the Visegrad Four and Slovenia. Czaputowicz said that Slovenia and the Visegrad countries achieved success together at the recent EU summit.
        LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije said it had started setting up the country's first commercial 5G networks using its existing base stations and within the existing 2600MHz frequency spectrum used in 4G. Coverage will initially be provided in about 25% of the country but is expected to exceed to 33% by the end of the year.

All our posts in this series are here

25 Jul 2020, 09:25 AM

STA, 24 July 2020 - The Slovenian capital witnessed anti-government protests for the 14th consecutive Friday, with a new focus this time on women's rights.

The protesters, many of them on bicycles, gathered in Prešeren Square before doing a round of Ljubljana's centre, calling at government departments and other spots on the way.

As in the weeks before, participants carried banners expressing discontent with the government. Some were shouting slogans such as "Down with capital" "We won't give in" and calling for a world in which everyone will be able to live a decent life.

The demonstrators did a round of the ministries of health and interior affairs, as well as RTV Slovenija where they expressed their support for the public broadcaster service.

Like the week before, the protest was to wrap up with a "popular assembly" in Prekmurski Trg square, as the participants decided to form their demands and expectations for Slovenia's future.

Part of the protesters gathered already in the afternoon to call for zero tolerance of sexual harassment and violence against women and expressing support for the MeToo movement.

Those protesters, mostly women, carried slogans saying "yes means yes" to call for a redefinition of rape and crimes against sexual inviolability based on the consent standard.

Trade unionist Tea Jarc made a speech in favour of a ban on Sunday shopping after the government lifted the ban imposed at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

The pro-government counter-protesters that have become a new feature in recent weeks announced on Twitter today that they would mix amongst the anti-government protesters to conduct a "monitoring" to "identify left extremists".

Protest campaigns were also held in some other Slovenian towns, including Maribor, Piran and Velenje.

 

24 Jul 2020, 12:46 PM

STA, 23 July 2020 - Slovenia and Austria have agreed to try out joint surveillance of the shared border using technology such as cameras and drones, as Interior Minister Aleš Hojs held talks with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer at a conference on migrations along the Balkan route.

The trial will "examine the possibility of effective cooperation in joint border surveillance and the transfer of these practices to the Slovenian-Croatian border, which is more prone to migration pressure," reads a press release from the Interior Ministry.

The meeting came at a conference on migrations featuring the home ministers of 18 countries at which it was decided to set up a platform to fight illegal migration on the Balkan route.

The platform, headquartered in Vienna, will facilitate coordination in four segments: border surveillance, return of migrants who are not eligible for asylum, the fight against smugglers of migrants, and the creation of faster and more efficient asylum procedures.

Hojs was quoted as having expressed concern about the situation regarding migrations, which he said was similar than in 2015. In view of abuses of asylum procedure, he urged the ministers to "examine their asylum systems and take advantage of methods to prevent abuse".

"In the past Slovenia adopted several measures that we are now stepping up. Changes to penal law are ready, and we are changing the foreigners act and the international protection act to make procedures more efficient," he said.

Hojs also stressed that protection of external borders was crucial in managing migrations through Western Balkans.

"The commitment that we are going to make in the joint statement - that countries will to a greater extent support the member states on the EU's external border - is therefore all the more important. Slovenia is definitely willing to do this to an even greater extent than so far," the minister was quoted as saying.

Hojs held several bilateral meetings on the margins of the conference, including with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and the head of the European Asylum Support Office, Nina Gregori.

24 Jul 2020, 12:09 PM

STA, 23 July 2020 - Visiting Poland, Foreign Minister Anže Logar met his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz and EU Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski on Thursday. The officials reaffirmed good relations between Poland and Slovenia, with Logar expressing satisfaction about Slovenia's successful cooperation with the Visegrad Group.

Logar thanked Czaputowicz for Poland's assistance in repatriating Slovenians stranded abroad in the midst of air travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The gesture, attesting to solidarity and friendship between the two countries, will always be remembered with gratitude in Slovenia," said Logar.

The pair highlighted successful economic cooperation between Poland and Slovenia. Trade amounts to almost EUR 2 billion. Logar and Czaputowicz pointed to the untapped potential of collaboration in terms transport infrastructure in central Europe, said the Foreign Ministry.

Logar also highlighted the importance of integrating the Port of Koper in the future Baltic-Adriatic railway corridor, a part of the planned Pan-European transport network which will represent a state-of-the-art railway axis between the two countries.

The Slovenian foreign minister expressed interest in continuing and strengthening cooperation between the Visegrad Four and Slovenia in the future.

During a meeting with Szymanski, Logar presented the priorities of Slovenia's approaching EU Council presidency, including EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

Both ministers expressed support for the process, agreeing that stimulating circumstances had to be fostered to promote the development of the region.

The pair also discussed migration strategies in Europe. They were of the same opinion that ways of expressing solidarity could be various and that the issue should be tackled in cooperation with source countries.

The Polish Press Agency (PAP) reported today that Czaputowicz noted Polish and Slovenian prime ministers, Mateusz Morawiecki and Janez Janša, "collaborated effectively" during the recent EU summit.

"We achieved success together. Slovenia joined the group of Visegrad countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia), and the result of this summit is our common achievement," Czaputowicz said according to PAP.

Czaputowicz said that Slovenia was becoming an important partner of Poland as a result of "certain political processes" taking place in Slovenia.

23 Jul 2020, 11:15 AM

STA, 22 July 2020 - The focus of the 15th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF), scheduled to take place on 31 August, will be on cooperation among Central and East European EU member states post-coronavirus. Katja Geršak, Centre for European Perspective (CEP) executive director, says the event will be strongly marked by Covid-19 in both topics and organisation.

Slovenia's annual top foreign policy event will run under the slogan Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-Covid-19 World; Neighbours - Regions - Global World: Partners or Rivals?. Instead of two days, it will last only one day.

The epidemiological situation prompted the organisers to invite to Bled mainly guests from neighbouring and Central and East European EU countries, Geršak told the STA, something that she said was due to the favourable epidemiological situation in those countries.

The focus of BSF debates will be cooperation in the region which the guests come from.

"The main topic will be how the coronavirus has reshaped the world and what challenges we are now faced with in business and society," she said.

"We've noticed a shift towards enhanced cooperation, regional ties and we'll focus on these regional initiatives which unite us in energy, mobility, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and at the same time on strengthening trans-Atlantic cooperation.

"Of course we'll also have to say a word or two about the contentious efficiency of multilateralism and how to proceed. And also about the EU's response to these challenges," said Geršak, whose CEP co-organises the event with the Foreign Ministry.

The debates will be informed by the Three Seas Initiative, she said, adding the BSF will be one of a few forums this year where these topics will be discussed at such a high-level.

The BSF will get under way with a business breakfast hosted by AmCham Slovenia, followed by the formal opening in the Alpine lake resort of Bled featuring the leaders' panel and the foreign ministers' panel.

Fewer participants than in the previous years are expected to attend, and they will be divided in three groups.

One group will feature guests who will actually arrive at Bled, another will follow the event on a special digital platform which will enable them to take part in debates, while all the others will follow the debates by live stream.

"In this way we're in a way expanding the forum not only in Slovenia but also abroad. We'd like such participation to be as broad as possible."

Geršak said that providing a safe environment will be an absolute priority, so protective masks, hand sanitiser and social distance will be the order of the day.

In case of force majeure, Slovenian authorities would decided whether to go ahead with it or now, she said. "We would not want to expose people to unnecessary risks."

23 Jul 2020, 07:50 AM

STA, 22 July 2020 - After a year and a half of calls for redefining rape in the penal code, the Justice Ministry said on Wednesday that legislative changes had been drafted. Their aim is to embed the consent standard in criminal law.

The changes would make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence, including those during which the victim did not physically resist the perpetrator or say no out of fear or shock or any other circumstances preventing such action

Related: Shock Case Shows How Coercion Defines Rape in Slovenia, Not Lack of Consent

The amendments thus enable a transition from the coercion-based definition of rape to the consent-based standard, including the affirmative consent and veto models. Coercion or force would become aggravating circumstances.

The ministry's statement came in response to claims by a feminist NGO, March 8 Institute, that in a year and a half no progress had been made to amend the definition of rape in the penal code.

The ministry said this was not the case as it had held meetings with a number of NGOs, the most recent one in June, with all the participants agreeing that the consent-based standard had to be implemented.

Related: Statute of Limitations for Sex Offences Extended to Between 30, 90 Years

But in response, 8 March Institute pointed out that the participating NGOs had insisted to scrap the veto model and enforce only the affirmative consent standard, known as "only yes means yes", which the ministry did not green-light.

In January 2019, March 8 Institute launched a petition, signed by more than 6,000 people, demanding a redefinition of rape. The effort came as a response to a court case in which a man was acquitted of rape because the victim was asleep and unable to resist.

The public consultation period for the amendments runs until 25 August.

22 Jul 2020, 17:34 PM

STA, 22 July - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll has increased to 115 after another fatality was reported for Tuesday, along with 29 new coronavirus infections, an 11-day high, fresh data from the government show.

The latest cases come from 1,150 tests for Sars-CoV-2 conducted yesterday. They bring the national total of cases so far confirmed to 2,006, of which 243 are active cases.

A total of 22 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, two of them in intensive care, after one patient was discharged yesterday and one intensive care patient died, a fatality for the fourth day running.

Tuesday's cases include three at the Hrastnik care home in central Slovenia, two among the residents and another staff member, the facility's director, Drago Kopušar, has told the STA.

There are now 20 of the 128 elderly residents and eight of the 75 staff infected at the care home. Nine of the infected residents have been moved to the Šempeter hospital in the west of the country.

Another hotspot in the Hrastnik municipality, which has a population of 9,000, is a housing estate Log nad Hrastnikom, where disinfection measures are being reimposed. Inspectors are also checking whether quarantine orders are being complied with. Hrastnik had 34 active cases as of Monday.

22 Jul 2020, 14:55 PM

STA, 22 July 2020 - The police arrested four smugglers of illegal migrants on Tuesday. A man from Ljubljana was caught transporting 28 illegal migrants in a van, as he was pulled over by the police, while a foreign citizen and two accomplices were apprehended near Ljutomer in the northeast for transporting 17 illegal migrants.

The 24-year-old from Ljubljana, driving a van along the Ljubljana ring road refused to pull over when ordered to do so. After he eventually did, a group of people fled the vehicle, the Ljubljana police said in a press release on Wednesday.

The police discovered that the 24-year-old had been assisted by another person, whose identity is yet to be established. They had been smuggling 28 illegal migrants in the van, citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan; all were apprehended shortly after fleeing the van.

The smuggler is in detention, while procedures involving the migrants are ongoing, the police said.

Across the country, in the village of Veščica near the Croatian border, the Murska Sobota police arrested a van driver transporting 17 illegal migrants.

The driver is a foreign citizen and was arrested alongside two accomplices and the trio will be brought before an investigating judge.

The illegal migrants will be sent back to Croatia after the relevant procedures are completed, the police said.

22 Jul 2020, 10:15 AM

STA, 21 July 2020 - The Administrative Court has sided with an appeal by a Cameroonian citizen who was deported to Croatia last August and is currently in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Slovenia must allow him to enter the country and file an asylum application, and pay compensation, the court said. The decision will be appealed by the Interior Ministry.

Announcing the decision from last week, the civil initiative InfoKolpa said on Tuesday that the "national police carried out an illegal expulsion of a member of a persecuted English-speaking minority from Cameroon who wanted to apply for asylum in Slovenia."

250px-Location_Cameroon_AU_Africa.svg.png

Cameroon on the map,. Wikipedia

The applicant was held in a Slovenian police station for two days and denied access to asylum, despite making multiple verbal requests. He was subsequently readmitted to Croatia, and from there, he was chain refouled to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The civil initiative says that the Administrative Court found that Slovenia violated the applicant's right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.

"The court ruled that the police had not informed the applicant of his asylum rights, as mandated to do so, in clear breach of domestic and EU law."

The pushback also breached the prohibition of collective expulsion because the applicant was not issued a removal order, nor given translation and legal aid prior to his readmission to Croatia."

InfoKolpa notes that once the ruling becomes final, Slovenia will be obligated to allow the applicant to enter the country and file an application for international protection without delay, as well as provide EUR 5,000 in compensation.

Commenting on the outcome, the applicant said "I believe that the judgement will help those that come after me. It may not have a direct solution for me, but I know that we are creating awareness."

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry of Internal Affairs said it would examine the decision and appeal it. "The ministry will respect and realise a final and executable decision of the court."

21 Jul 2020, 16:08 PM

STA, 21 July 2020 - Slovenia recorded 24 new coronavirus infections from 914 tests on Monday, the highest daily increase since 10 July. One Covid-19 patient died, bringing the death toll to 114, fresh government data show.

There are currently 22 patients in hospital, up from 19 the day before, as two were discharged from hospital and five new patients were admitted. The number of patients in intensive care remained at three.

According to the national Covid-19 tracker site, there are now 238 active cases out of the total of 1,977 cases recorded since the state of the pandemic.

Most of the latest cases, six, were recorded in Hrastnik in central Slovenia, where an outbreak has been reported at a care home.

Monday was the third day in a row that a fatality was recorded. Before that there had been no confirmed Covid-19-related deaths for over a month and a half.

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) warned today the bulk of the infections in recent days were locally transmitted, after an initial surge in imported cases that triggered the renewed rise in infections in late June and early July.

STA, 22 July - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll has increased to 115 after another fatality was reported for Tuesday, along with 29 new coronavirus infections, an 11-day high, fresh data from the government show.

The latest cases come from 1,150 tests for Sars-CoV-2 conducted yesterday. They bring the national total of cases so far confirmed to 2,006, of which 243 are active cases.

A total of 22 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, two of them in intensive care, after one patient was discharged yesterday and one intensive care patient died, a fatality for the fourth day running.

Tuesday's cases include three at the Hrastnik care home in central Slovenia, two among the residents and another staff member, the facility's director, Drago Kopušar, has told the STA.

There are now 20 of the 128 elderly residents and eight of the 75 staff infected at the care home. Nine of the infected residents have been moved to the Šempeter hospital in the west of the country.

Another hotspot in the Hrastnik municipality, which has a population of 9,000, is a housing estate Log nad Hrastnikom, where disinfection measures are being reimposed. Inspectors are also checking whether quarantine orders are being complied with. Hrastnik had 34 active cases as of Monday.

Of the 104 confirmed cases last week, only two were imported.

Epidemiologist Nuška Čakš Jager told the press several hotspots were currently active, the virus having spread not only at retirement homes but also at parties, weddings and in several companies.

She said epidemiologists were still able to trace contacts of the newly infected persons but were close to reaching their limits.

Infections are now increasing among the older population yet again, making it more likely that the newly infected will require hospital treatment.

Infections disease specialist Mateja Logar of the UKC Ljubljana hospital said Slovenia was "far from having everything under control" given that the virus keeps spreading in municipalities that had been coronavirus-free in the first wave.

21 Jul 2020, 14:17 PM

STA, 20 July 2020 - A total of 72 illegal migrants and three persons helping them enter or cross Slovenia without the required documents were caught at the weekend in the area patrolled by the Koper Police Department in the south-west.

A group of illegal migrants was apprehended on Friday near the town of Podgorje together with their guide, a 21-year-old Kosovo citizen, who was taken to an investigating magistrate, who placed him in detention.

On Saturday evening, a 44-year-old citizen of Ukraine was pulled over in the same area transporting 18 Pakistani citizens. He is also in detention.

Early on Sunday morning, the police stopped a van near the town of Koseze in which a 23-year-old Ukrainian citizen was driving 12 Pakistani citizens.

Of the 72 illegal migrants caught in the area patrolled by the Koper Police Department, the majority, or 52, were from Afghanistan, followed by Pakistan.

Seven foreigners who entered Italy from Slovenia were meanwhile returned to Slovenia at the weekend, of whom five were Pakistanis and two Afghans.

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