Politics

06 Jul 2020, 14:57 PM

STA, 6 July 2020 - The State Prosecutors' Council condemned a letter PM Janez Janša recently addressed to the state prosecutor general, criticising alleged inaction in prosecuting death threats expressed at anti-government protests and attacks on the police taking place as part of them. It labelled the letter an "unacceptable and political pressure".

In the 19 June letter to Drago Šketa, Janša said the prosecution was neglecting its legal role in relation to the anti-government protests for failing to respond to incitement to violence.

Janša also said that Šketa would be responsible if the violence escalated. "You will be directly responsible for any potential victims of the organised threats," Janša wrote, referring to slogans and banners such as Death to Janšism.

The Prosecutorial Council sees the latter as unacceptable and political pressure by the most senior representative of the executive branch of power on the state prosecutor general.

It believes that by referring to Šketa's direct responsibility, the letter expects him to act in contradiction with his legal powers, or the systemic arrangement of the state prosecution in Slovenia, which would result in an unacceptable encroachment on the independence of state prosecutors.

The council stressed that state prosecutors were independent under the law, bound only by the law and the constitution, and that the head of the state prosecution could not force a state prosecutor to take a specific decision in a specific case.

The council moreover referred to the Constitutional Court arguing in one of its rulings that an arrangement enabling unacceptable pressure on a state prosecutor to act in a certain manner would be in contradiction with the Constitution.

A similar response came from Šketa, who said last week that the state prosecution and state prosecutors worked efficiently and in line with the law. Janša's letter was also criticised by part of the opposition, with the Social Democrats (SD) saying they could file an impeachment motion against the prime minister.

06 Jul 2020, 12:17 PM

STA, 6 July 2020 - Government spokesman Jelko Kacin said that a couple had breached quarantine rules, so they had been reported to police for suspected spreading of the coronavirus out of negligence. They face a fine or even prison, he said at Monday's coronavirus briefing.

A 37-year-old woman was notified her husband had Covid-19 on 20 June, but when calling the 122 emergency number on 3 July for stomach ache she did not inform healthcare staff about the infection. She only did so only after appearing at the UKC Ljubljana hospital's emergency department five hours later, thereby jeopardising other people's health.

Her 40-year-old husband, working for a larger Slovenian company, meanwhile kept going to work despite being sent into quarantine, said Kacin, adding that "a criminal complaint has been filed against both persons for spreading the new disease out of negligence". The couple are foreign citizens residing in Ljubljana.

Under the law on contagious disease, a violation of isolation or quarantine rules is fined with EUR 400-4,000, whereas the penal code carries a prison sentence from six months to up to eight years in case it results in death.

Kacin also presented the latest figures about quarantine orders issued on the border since Saturday. A total of 1,213 such decision were issued at the six border crossings designated for this purpose on the border with Croatia, Hungary and at Ljubljana airport.

Kacin did not say how many people were currently in quarantine, but Health Ministry data as of 29 June show that 7,190 quarantine orders were issued in June.

The spokesperson also said that based on the latest quarantine checks by health inspectors, "the majority of people do stick to quarantine restrictions".

Health inspectors visited over 60 persons in the areas of Maribor and Ljubljana on Sunday, finding quarantine breaches in only four cases.

Two persons were not at the address they had given to authorities, while another two seem to have provided a false address, explained Kacin.

The government's coronavirus task force will discuss the violations this evening while the government is expected to discus changes to its plans to manage the spread of the virus.

The priority is to prevent the spread of the virus to care homes and transmissions from abroad.

Kacin labelled the situation at homes for the elderly a reason for concern. This is after 16 residents and staff of a nursing home in Vipava tested positive for the virus.

"Homes for the elderly are an area at risk, for which we have to introduce a special system. We need to make sure that staff and all their residents are aware of that."

Sixteen new coronavirus cases confirmed, including Vipava care home outbreak

STASTA, 6 July 2020 - Slovenia recorded 16 new coronavirus cases after 530 tests on Sunday, including seven in an outbreak at the Vipava care home where nine elderly residents and seven staff are now infected, the latest data from the government and the care home show.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 has increased to 11 after four residents from the Vipava care home were moved to the Department of Infectious Disease at the UKC Ljubljana hospital.

None of the patients require intensive treatment.

The latest cases bring the country's total of coronavirus cases to 1,716. The death toll remains unchanged at 111.

Testing will continue today at the Vipava care home; 40 more residents and 12 staff are to be tested in the morning with the results due later today.

The home's director Martin Kopatin said the remaining 20 residents are to be tested late in the afternoon or tomorrow.

The facility accommodates 108 residents and 45 staff. The infection there was first confirmed on Friday with one of the residents. The origin of the transmission is still not known.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

05 Jul 2020, 20:42 PM

STA, 5 July 2020 - Slovenian health authorities issued and served almost 340 quarantine orders on the border with Croatia and Hungary on Saturday, the first day of tighter restrictions for arrivals in Slovenia. More than half were issued to Slovenian residents who were returning from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Another 435 were issued today, the Health Ministry told the STA.

The majority of orders for quarantine were served on Saturday on the border crossing Obrežje with Croatia (130), while only five were handed out at Pince on the border with Hungary.

The situation was similar today, when over 270 orders for quarantine were issued at Obrežje and five at Pince.

At Ljubljana international airport, 16 such orders were issued on Saturday and 40 on Sunday.

Four border crossings on the border with Croatia - also Gruškovje, Jelšane and Metlika - are designated as entry points for arrivals from red-listed countries, and one on the border with Hungary plus Ljubljana's airport.

The 775 quarantine orders issued at the six border crossings do not cover 14 persons who entered Slovenia at borders crossings with Italy and Austria and were also sent into quarantine.

Quarantine orders are served on the border with Croatia and Hungary as of 4 July, a day after the government changed a relevant decree to speed up quarantine order serving and moved Croatia, France and the Czech Republic from the green list of safe Covid-19 countries to the yellow one.

Before that, it often happened that a person completed their two-week quarantine before being formally served the order by mail.

The Health Ministry said the work of its almost 20 staff issuing quarantine orders at these six border crossings runs smoothly.

However, waiting times to enter Slovenia got somewhat longer due to the new rules, although they are usually rather long during the summer.

While Croatia was moved from the green to the yellow list yesterday, Slovenian residents can return home without quarantine if they can prove they were indeed in Croatia rather than any other Western Balkan country further south.

More on the green, yellow and red lists can be found here

slovenia coronavirus who can enter.jpg

Outbreak of Covid-19 at Vipava nursing home, 15 infected

STA, 5 July 2020 - Fifteen Covid-19 cases have been confirmed at a nursing home in Vipava, south-west, since its first resident tested positive on Friday, whereas Slovenia recorded 21 new cases on Saturday from 716 tests carried out. The source of the Vipava infection is not yet known, but the authorities hope the virus has not spread out of the nursing home.

Nine residents and six staff of the Pristan Centre for the Elderly - which has 108 residents and 45 employees - are now confirmed infected, and testing is continuing.

The infected residents fell mostly fine, with only two having fever, the centre's director Martin Kopatin told the STA, but those who tested positive on Saturday are already in hospital, while it is being arranged for the others to join them as well.

The staff have been meanwhile sent into quarantine, including those who have not tested positive or showed symptoms but were in contact with the infected persons.

Until 8am this morning, four residents and five employees tested positive, and Kopatin said the plan was to test all residents and staff.

He also explained the nursing home had had an action plane for such an emergency ready and started implementing it immediately.

The elderly were the most vulnerable group during the epidemic, which was formally in place from 13 March to 31 May.

It was three nursing home, in Šmarje pri Jelšah, Ljutomer and Metlika, that were the hotspots.

The majority of the 111 deaths recorded in the country so far were also senior citizens.

Vipava Mayor Goran Kodelja hopes the virus will be contained within the nursing home, which would make it easier to cope with the outbreak.

He also believes it will be easier to decide how to proceed once the source of the infection is established. "I think we have to wait until tomorrow to see what to do."

If necessary, the local Civil Protection unit will be called in. "If the virus has spread outside the nursing home, and if it proves difficult to establish its source, it will be harder to manage the outbreak and more restrictive measures could be necessary," the mayor told the STA.

The number of new daily infections in Slovenia has started rising recently, with health authorities saying the majority of the cases have been imported.

This is why the government has tightened the restrictions to enter Slovenia, moving Croatia from the list of green to yellow countries and introducing the serving of quarantine orders already on the border with Croatia and Hungary as of 4 July.

On Saturday, 21 new cases were recorded after Friday's record 30 since 16 April. Six persons were in hospital yesterday, none in intensive care.

Only three of the 21 newly infected persons are older than 75, whereas the largest number of the new cases - six - are from the 25-34 age group, National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) data shows.

However, NIJZ director Milan Krek, speaking for public broadcaster TV Slovenija after the recent surge, said there was no need yet to declare an epidemic.

He argued that hospitals, other healthcare facilities and epidemiologists were up to the situation.

Prime Minister Janez Janša meanwhile took to Twitter today saying "the virus is spreading from within," in reference to apparently non-imported cases.

He also said coronavirus restrictions were being severely violated, especially in the hospitality sector and in terms of the 50-person-cap imposed on public assembly.

NIJZ data also shows that 180 Sars-CoV-2 cases are currently active in Slovenia.

The government could further step up restrictions, after Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has indicated the border could be closed if the latest tightening does not bring results and Bojana Beović, the government chief advisor for the coronavirus, hinted at lockdown.

05 Jul 2020, 12:55 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 3 July 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Truth Behind PPE Scandal House Raids

STA, 3 July 202 - The left-wing magazine Mladina writes in the latest editorial that the reaction to the house raids in the investigation of ventilator procurement were so strong because the deal that is being investigated is not Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek's but rather of the ruling Democratic Party (SDS).

Under the headline SDS's Deal, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž writes that Počivalšek was not surprised when crime investigators called on him.

"He was ready, he knew they were coming, at least a day earlier he had been notified of their coming one way or another by Aleš Hojs, the outgoing interior minister, or Anton Travner, now former police commissioner, if not through intermediaries by someone higher up."

Repovž says that Hojs tried to cover up his forewarning to those involved by having the info aired by Nova24, "the party TV".

However, he also says that Hojs may have learnt about the timing of the house searches beforehand, he had "obviously not known for months about the ongoing investigation", which Repovž surmises based on the assumption that the police have collected enough evidence for search and detention warrants.

Repovž describes Počivalšek as an ambitious person who enjoys having privileges and power, something that he says Prime Minister Janez Janša recognised and humoured him by awarding him security guards and the title of deputy prime minister.

"He is not hiding that after the ministerial stint he would like to control the Slovenian tourism - adapting the law that would make that possible for him in plain sight (...) He would like to be a king of Slovenian tourism just like Zoran Janković passed as retail master until he was replaced by the first Janša government."

Repovž allows for the possibility that Počivalšek, who agreed with Janša that medical purchases would be conducted through intermediaries, did not know the point was to allow the intermediaries to make money.

"He may have been set up - just like under the first Janša government the procurement of Patria APCs was planted on Karl Erjavec, who likewise enjoyed immensely being defence minister and having the power, bragging about the purchase of that amazing equipment until it turned out Janša's closest aides struck the deal behind his back with the intention of obtaining commissions."

Judging by what those involved say, including the whistleblower Ivan Gale, Repovž says that Počivalšek soon realised what had been going on, considering he told Gale that the ventilators ordered through GenePlanet were "the SDS's deal".

Even though Počivalšek did not gain directly from the deal, Repovež notes that it is still crime if you made a deal possible knowing you would get some indirect benefit such as the government taking decisions to your benefit.

Repovž agrees that the subject of investigation is the SDS's deal, hence such a strong reaction from the SDS leader and PM Janša, his "ire with Hojs and Travner so immense he sacked them on the spot".

"Crime investigators have an easy job: they are dealing with people who do not find anything wrong or unusual about what they were doing, rather they believe that by gaining power that belongs to them as well. However, Počivalšek has the same problem."

Demokracija: People will not tolerate anarchists much longer

STA, 2 July 2020 - In its latest commentary headlined White Lives Matter, Too!, the right-wing weekly Demokracija says that not only in the US, but in Slovenia too, the self-proclaimed "anti-racists" have completely lost their compass, but adds that people will not be tolerating this for much longer.

"The well-known left-wing mafia of extremists has gone diabolically after the slogan of the Slovenian fashion magazine Gloss that says 'All Lives Matter' under a picture of black model Olivia Sang", the right-leaning weekly adds.

According to editor-in-chief Jože Biščak, this was enough for them to completely lose their minds. "This may mean that they will, just like they modified the freedom of expression, change the understanding of another human freedom, that is that a human life is untouchable."

All Lives Matter means exactly that - every life is important (including lives of white people), while the Black Lives Matter slogan puts black people in a privileged position, he adds.

Biščak notes that the latest cover of Demokracija features an adaptation of a scene from the video by African-American rapper XXXTentacion in which a black boy observes a white boy being hanged.

The artist faced only lenient criticism at the time, while the editor believes that Demokracija will be accused of racism.

"I get sick, my stomach turns every time I hear such accusations. It is all our fault, us conservatives and Christians from the right. We are good for the leftists only until we are cornered and we play the game of the second-rate ones while their orchestra plays.

"Once the music stops, they go berserk, they all of a sudden recognise only one law, the law of the street. The more rampaging and destruction, the better. And them hitting the streets, it is again our fault."

According to Biščak, it should be clear to anybody with the right mind that people from the left want to "turn the homeland into an infernal hole", but people will not tolerate this behaviour of "spoiled anarchists" for much longer.

All our posts in this series are here

04 Jul 2020, 21:28 PM

STA, 4 July 2020 - Slovenia has recorded as many as 30 new coronavirus infections from 1,456 tests on Friday, a new high since mid-April, fresh government data show.

On the up side, only six Covid-19 patients remain in hospital, after four were discharged yesterday. None of them requires intensive treatment.

According to the national Covid-19 tracker site, Slovenia now has 160 active infections out of the total case count of 1,679. As many as 105,652 tests for Sars-CoV-2 have been performed so far.

The list of countries on the green travel list is here

Bojana Beović, the head of the Covid-19 advisory group at the Health Ministry, said the latest numbers came as a negative surprise. She told Radio Slovenija they had expected about 20 new cases.

"This is a reflection of the situation about a fortnight ago and we hope the measures recently taken, such as border restrictions and return to mandatory face masks, will contribute to a better situation over the coming days," said the epidemiologist.

The dilemma faced by the group she heads and the government is whether to wait for the effects of the latest measures to show or take more drastic steps now.

Her concern is that the prescribed measures are being flouted: "There are continuous reports about inconsistent border checks, about life at bars," she said, warning that the riskiest industries could be forced back into lockdown if the infection curve kept increasing and safety measures were not heeded.

Most of the latest cases, 5, were confirmed in Ljubljana, which has now 30 active cases. Fourteen other municipalities had at least one new case, while three new infections were among foreign citizens.

More than half of the new cases, 18, are young, up to the age of 44, including a child, up to the age of four.

The UKC Ljubljana hospital said a member of the non-health staff at the Paediatric Clinic has fallen ill with Covid-19. The person stayed home as soon as noticing the symptoms, had not been directly involved in the handling of patients and had been wearing a surgical mask at work all the time.

Meanwhile, the number of infected staff at the emergency medical unit of the Maribor community health centre has increased to eleven, including eight doctors and three paramedics, assistant director there Aleksander Jus told reporters today.

He said no infections or symptoms had been detected in patients who had been in contact with the first responders or visited the unit at the UKC Maribor hospital emergency ward on the critical day. Nor have there been any infections among the relatives of the infected health workers.

One of the staff at UKC Maribor has been additionally positive from that cluster, presumably originating in an infection transmitted from abroad.

Data from the National Institute of Public Health published by the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show that there have been a total of 190 coronavirus cases confirmed among Slovenian health workers.

There have been no fatalities for over a month now with the death toll at 111.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus

04 Jul 2020, 12:30 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, 26 June
        LJUBLJANA - The Interior Ministry announced it had drafted changes to the international protection act envisaging solutions for a more effective strategy to tackle a growing number of asylum seekers and prevent any abuse of the system. The proposal re-introduces a possibility of bringing an appeal before the Supreme Court.
        LJUBLJANA - The editorial board of the weekly magazine Mladina filed a criminal complaint against Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, suspecting him of abuse of office in the procurement of protective and medicinal equipment during the coronavirus epidemic.
        TACEN - Addressing the main ceremony ahead of Police Day, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and Police Commissioner Anton Travner thanked members of the police force for their professional work and sacrifice. Hojs promised stepped up action against paramilitary groups if needed and support in the protection of the border.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Left submitted to parliament a proposal to reinstate 80% pay compensation for workers ordered in quarantine irrespective of the circumstances. Workers are presently only entitled to 50% after coronavirus stimulus measures regulating this were lifted on 31 May.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Armed Forces executed a new rotation of a part of their contingent in NATO's KFOR mission in Kosovo, the first after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. All the rotated members tested negative before being sent home, but they will still be subjected to 14-day self-isolation in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Ljubljana, packing Prešeren Square to protest against police erecting fences, and put chains around the monument of Slovenian poet France Prešeren in a symbolic move to warn about the cultural crisis.

SATURDAY, 27 June
        LJUBLJANA - Police Commissioner Anton Travner praised the police force for its work in weekly anti-government protests and its response to the challenges of the coronavirus in an interview marking Police Day. He said he would, however, like to see more staff hired and better equipment.
        LENART - Defence Minister Matej Tonin apologised to Independence War veterans that their flag bearers had not been able to take part in the national ceremony to mark Statehood Day on 24 June. Last week's ceremony was capped at 500 people due to a ban restricting the gathering of more than 500 people because of coronavirus contagion risk.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that the former head of the national Statistics Office, Bojan Nastav, who was dismissed in late May, would be challenging the dismissal at the Administrative Court. The dismissal was followed by a letter from European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni asking Prime Minister Janez Janša to clarify the move.

SUNDAY, 28 June
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted an emergency bill in preparations for a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic to adopt measures initially planned as amendments to the third stimulus package to avoid a procedural glitch. These include an extension to the furlough scheme until at least 31 July and a legal basis for a Covid-19 tracing app.
        LJUBLJANA - Milan Krek, the director of the National Institute of Public Health, said that the current epidemiologic status in Croatia was grave and that stricter measures would have to be implemented if the situation did not improve there.

MONDAY, 29 June
        LJUBLJANA - The government lowered the cap on public gatherings from 500 to 50, except for events sanctioned by health authorities, and indicated stricter oversight of quarantine orders in the face of a growing number of coronavirus cases.
        LJUBLJANA - Matej Pirc, the chief supervisor of 2TDK, the state-run company established to manage the project of a new rail link to the port of Koper, resigned. No reason was given for the decision, which comes amid speculation that the government is about to replace the entire supervisory board and subsequently the management.
        LJUBLJANA - The European Commission approved a EUR 600 million state aid scheme for Slovenian companies affected by the coronavirus crisis. Under the scheme, companies from various sectors will receive aid as grants, payment breaks and subsidies.
        LJUBLJANA - The IMAD government macroeconomic think tank recommended that measures to help relaunch the economy in the wake of the coronacrisis should also target the country's key development challenges - large share of people in precarious work, systemic shortcomings of long-term care, long waiting periods in healthcare, the lack of digital skills and red tape.
        STRASBOURG, France - The European Committee of Social Rights warned Slovenia over the failure to honour the right to equal pay and opportunities in the workplace regardless of gender. The gender pay gap substantially increased in Slovenia in 2010-2017, with Eurostat data showing women in Slovenia faced a wage gap of 8% in 2017, which compares to EU average of 16%.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of registered unemployed persons was down last week for the fourth week in a row, staying below 90,000, preliminary data from the Employment Service showed.
        LJUBLJANA - A soldiers' trade union filed a criminal complaint against an unknown perpetrator on suspicion of slander against the state after the Guard of Honour of the Slovenian Armed Forces was being called traitors ahead of last week's Statehood Day ceremony.
        LJUBLJANA - The ruling Democrats (SDS) lost some ground in a monthly poll run by POP TV, but continued to command a firm lead, while the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) lost support to the Left and the Social Democrats (SD).
        LJUBLJANA - The home of opposition National Party (SNS) head Zmago Jelinčič was pelleted with several bottles of a fluid believed to be spent motor oil. The incident comes after Jelinčič was put in the spotlight in a video in which he said that "The people are stupid. It was a mistake to give money to the people," a reference to government stimulus payments.
        
TUESDAY, 30 June
        LJUBLJANA - Police conducted house searches at eleven locations over suspected abuse of office in the procurement of medical ventilators, including the EUR 8.8 million deal with Geneplanet. The probe, which also targeted Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, prompted the resignation of Police Commissioner Anton Travner and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, who claimed the investigation was politically motivated. While coalition parties were rather reserved in their reactions, the opposition called for the entire government to resign.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Andrej Jurič acting police commissioner effective from 1 July after Anton Travner resigned. Jurič has been with the police force since 1986, most recently as a senior inspector at the Centre for Minor Offence Cases at the Uniformed Police Directorate of the General Police Department.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia allocated EUR 70,000 to support programmes of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria and Turkey for 2020-2021. The donation was made as part of a donor conference which raised a total of EUR 6.9 billion for internally displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry confirmed that Slovenian Ambassador to Switzerland Marta Kos had stepped down, citing no official reason. Kos meanwhile told the newspaper Dnevnik the resignation was linked to recent oversight of her management of the Embassy in Bern.
        LJUBLJANA - The Office of the Information Commissioner voiced reservations about government plans for a coronavirus contact tracing app for mobile devices, in particular the requirement that app use would be mandatory for those with confirmed infections.
        LJUBLJANA - Faced with the coronavirus crisis, Slovenia recorded a general government deficit of EUR 739 million or 6.6% of GDP in the first quarter. The figure exceeds last year's quarter one deficit by EUR 647 million, data from the Statistics Office showed.
        KRŠKO - Gen Energija, a power utility that manages Slovenia's half of the Krško nuclear power station, said its net profit rose by almost 20% to EUR 48.5 million even as sales declined by 5.5% to EUR 2.25 billion. The Krško plant accounted for 81% of total production.

WEDNESDAY, 1 July
        LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said he did not intend to step down following house searches related to an investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the procurement of medical supplies and PPE during the epidemic. He said he had PM Janez Janša's full support to carry on, while his Modern Centre Party (SMC) was also strongly behind him.
        LJUBLJANA - Director of the National Bureau of Investigation Igor Lamberger rejected the allegation by outgoing Interior Minister Aleš Hojs that the house searches related to the procurement of medical and protective equipment were politically motivated. Hojs's statements were also strongly criticised by police associations and trade unions.
        LJUBLJANA - The government's chief Covid-19 adviser Bojana Beović raised concern about the emergence of secondary infections as well as cases without no apparent source as cases are rising exponentially. She said she was worried Slovenia might close down its borders too late.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša reiterated the need for the EU to adopt the next multi-year budget before the summer break as he talked to EU Council President Jean Michel in a videoconference. He warned that the current, relatively advantageous situation, as far as the coronavirus pandemic went, might be misleading as everything could change very quickly.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor's plan to pay tribute to Italian victims of post-WWII killings on the sideline of a 13 July ceremony with his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella stirred a debate at a high level. While FM Anže Logar told the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee he did not understand the disquiet, opposition SocDems leader Tanja Fajon said that such a gesture could end up serving not reconciliation but historical revisionism.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia joined the EU's declaration which expresses the bloc's concern with China's 30 June adoption of a law which curbs Hong Kong's autonomy as well as rights and freedoms of its residents. The document urges preserving Hong Kong's high-degree autonomy as set down in the Hong Kong basic law and China's international commitments.
        KRANJ - The Slovenian telecoms equipment maker Iskratel was acquired by the Austrian group S&T under a EUR 37.5 million deal. The transaction is expected to be finalised in the autumn as it awaits regulatory approval.
        IDRIJA - The Swedish multinational Lindab announced it would close down the IMP Klima Group, its Slovenian-based cooling arm that it acquired in 2015 from industrial conglomerate Hidria. The decision will affect 212 jobs in Slovenia by the end of the year.
        LJUBLJANA - Gabrijel Škof resigned as the chairman of Slovenian Sovereign Holding, the custodian of state assets, citing personal reasons. Taking over temporarily from Škof, who assumed office on 1 October 2019, is Igor Kržan, a member of the supervisory board.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-owned SID export and development bank issued its first "Covid-19 bonds" to collect almost EUR 350 million with the maturity of five years, as part of its regular borrowing on capital markets to finance its programmes aimed at helping the Slovenian economy exist the coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - Transparency International Slovenia announced it had launched a website called Integrity Watch, featuring tools for keeping track of lobbying contacts of the government and parliament, and applicable business restrictions.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's pensioners, people with disabilities and war veterans were entitled to free intercity bus and train rides as of this day in line with relevant legislative changes passed in October 2019. Some 600,000 persons are eligible.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Festival opened with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Piano Concerto No. 3. Conducted by Charles Dutoit, and featuring Slovenia's leading pianist Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak. The 68th summer festival will be running in Ljubljana until 30 August.

THURSDAY, 2 July
        LJUBLJANA - Out of 1,198 coronavirus tests conducted the previous day, 21 came back positive, the highest daily figure since 16 April when Slovenia recorded 36 new cases, government data showed. The National Institute of Public Health expressed concern, saying it had detected two hotspots - one in the Štajerska region in the north-east and the other in Koroška in the north. In a bid to contain the virus, the government was to meet for a correspondence session today to remove Croatia, France and Czechia from the green list of countries considered epidemiologically safe by Slovenia, effective on Saturday. Being put on the yellow list means that most foreign citizens arriving in Slovenia from these countries need to subject themselves to a two-week quarantine, while this does not apply to Slovenians returning from yellow-listed countries.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša published a letter he had recently sent to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa in which he says the prosecution is neglecting its role in relation to the anti-government protests by failing to respond to inciting to violence. The letter has been met with strong criticism, with Šketa saying the prosecution was efficient and acting in line with the law, and the head of the opposition SocDems, Tanja Fajon, mulling an impeachment motion against Janša.
        BUDAPEST, Hungary - Paying an official visit to Hungary, President Borut Pahor confirmed with his counterpart Janos Ader the excellent and friendly relations between the two countries and pointed out Slovenia and Hungary were among the countries successfully managing the new coronavirus. He briefed Adler on Slovenia's plan for the EU presidency in the second half of 2021 and broached the issue of "greater Hungary" maps. Migration was another topic discussed.
        VIENNA, Austria - Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič met his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka in what was Zorčič's first foreign visit. The pair discussed improving the situation of the Slovenian minority in Austria and exchanged experiences in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - The situation in the automotive industry seems to be slowly stabilising after the epidemic, as the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce said in the first six months of the year, sales were down by a third but in June the year-on-year drop was only 7.27%.
        TREBNJE - KZ Krka and KZ Trebnje, two agricultural cooperatives operating in the south-east of Slovenia announced plans for a merger that will create the largest cooperative in the country with almost 1,000 members, 260 employees and an expected annual revenue of almost EUR 65 million.
        LJUBLJANA - As much as 85% of the FFP2 face masks delivered to Slovenia by mid-June were supplied without the required certificates, with all but one supplier putting forward legally invalid certificates by issuers not certified for testing personal protective equipment (PPE), the Slovenian web portal Oštro reported. The revealed a similar situation across Europe.

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04 Jul 2020, 09:13 AM

STA, 3 July 2020 - Police security was beefed in the centre of Ljubljana on Friday as the anti-government protests held every week in the Slovenian capital were joined by a smaller counter-protest of government supporters.

Taking to the streets for the 11th consecutive Friday, hundreds of demonstrators remounted their bicycles to voice their opposition to the government, as well as against fascism and nationalism.

Even before the protest, a smaller group of a few dozen government supporters clad in yellow vests gathered in Prešeren Square carrying banners saying Anarchists and Left Fascists and Antifa=Terror, as well as a picture of a swastika and the red star with the equals sign between them.

The group first appeared among the anti-government crowd at the alternative Statehood Day Ceremony held on 24 June shortly before the official state ceremony, announcing they would stage counter protests for each anti-government rally.

They told the media their intention was to "prevent a coup", thwart attempts to "bring down the government by means of show trials", and prevent "falling back in totalitarianism".

The yellow vests also moved to the square in front of the parliament building and then filed past the headquarters of RTV Slovenija, criticising the public broadcaster and calling for it to be scrapped.

The yellow vests' rally had been "condemned in the strongest terms" by almost 100 organisations and initiatives supporting the anti-government protests.

In a press release issued before the events, they said the yellow vests were in fact members of neo-Nazi groups, their links to the ruling Democratic Party (SDS) being "well documented, their discourse virtually identical to the discourse of the political".

They argued that "neo-Nazi gangs have come to the defence of the ruling coalition with the intention to provoke and escalate" the situation.

Concern was raised after pictures emerged from the 24 June protest showing one of the yellow vests performing a Nazi salute, and online posts saying several yellow vests were Blood&Honour members.

The police tightened security, telling the STA beforehand they had zero tolerance of all forms of displays of hatred, intolerance or violence and were taking action targeting deviant conduct.

Despite some tension, the protests passed off without a major confrontation, as did a similar protest and counter-protest in Maribor, Slovenia's second city.

Already in the morning, some of the anti-government protesters had been received by President Borut Pahor for what his office said was an "exchange of opinions and views, which differed on some points".

Pahor appealed for dialogue, which he said should be sought even when it appeared to have been exhausted.

One of the protesters who took part in the meeting, Tjaša Prošek told the STA that they had posed concrete questions but failed to get any answers. Pahor would also not respond to their invitation to address the crowed rallying every Friday.

Part of protesters and some of the groups involved said the protesters who attended the meeting with Pahor did not represent them.

"Those representatives certainly do not represent the whole protest movement. We hope their response has to do solely with political naivety and adventurism," several groups said in a press release.

All our stories on protests in Slovenia

03 Jul 2020, 11:56 AM

STA, 3 July 2020 - Moravče, a municipality some 30 km north-east of Ljubljana, is in a full lockdown as of Thursday. Its mayor, Milan Balažic, resorted to the strictest measures so as to stop the spreading of the new coronavirus, as three cases were confirmed there in the last week.

Given the number of inhabitants in Moravče, three cases means the situation is graver than in Ljubljana, the mayor said in explaining his decision to ban all public gatherings, including sports trainings, private parties and church masses.

He also restricted access to the town hall to staff only, banned serving of guests inside bars and restaurants, and made face masks mandatory in all closed public spaces.

"We had two cases in the first wave. We took immediate action, introduced a little bit stricter measures and stayed at this number throughout the epidemic," Balažic said.

The mayor said his decision was met with a mixed response among locals. "On the one hand they are not thrilled, because it means limiting their freedom and day-to-day life, and on the other it seems that most of them understand that it is necessary," he said.

Balažic believes that if a hotspot is detected in a municipality mayors are obligated to act. He himself acted based on the local government act and the Moravče municipality statute.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin would not comment on the Moravče case at yesterday's press conference. He said that the government's latest moves were aimed at preventing the imported infections to spread so that mayors would not have to take any additional measures. "But if people are socialising there, we understand people's concern," he added.

Balažic previously served as ambassador to Australia in 2014 but was recalled due to his contacts with Nicholas Oman, an arms trader and convicted paedophile. He became mayor in 2018.

Since he took over, Moravče made headlines outside Slovenia as well because of a giant wooden sculpture resembling US President Donald Trump that was erected there and later torched.

The statue, standing almost eight metres tall and mimicking the Statue of Liberty, had originally been erected in Selo, a small village some 20 kilometres north of Ljubljana, but was relocated to Moravče due to unease that it was causing among the Selo locals and the media interest that came with it.

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Sixteen Covid-19 cases detected in 1,274 tests on Thursday

STA, 3 July 2020 - In what is in keeping with the slightly raised but mostly flat curve of new Covid-19 cases in Slovenia in the past week, 16 infections were confirmed as 1,274 people were tested on Thursday. One person was hospitalised, taking the total number in hospitals to 10. No patient required intensive care and there were no deaths.

The latest data, released by the government on Friday, thus take the total number of Covid-19 cases discovered so far with 104,201 tests to 1,649, while the death toll remains at 111. The current number of confirmed actively infected individuals is 136.

Following an increase in new cases in the past week, many of which were imported cases, the government decided on Thursday to remove Croatia, along with France and Czechia, from the green list of epidemiologically safe countries, effective on Saturday. They are to be yellow-listed, meaning most foreign citizens arriving to Slovenia from them need to go into quarantine.

The government also announced stricter controls on the Croatian border to make sure people are not arriving from red-listed Balkan countries, as well as a more effective regime for serving quarantine orders, which includes the option to already serve them on the border.

A tightening of protective measures was moreover announced at nursing homes and healthcare centres and at least two hospitals - the UKC Ljubljana, the country's biggest, and the Slovenj Gradec general hospital - issued a prohibition on visits of most hospitalised patients today.

03 Jul 2020, 10:31 AM

STA, 2 July 2020 - PM Janez Janša has sent a letter to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa, saying the prosecution is neglecting its legal role in relation to the anti-government protests for failing to respond to inciting to violence. The letter in which he also says Šketa will be responsible if the violence escalates has been met with strong criticism.

Janša published the letter dated 19 June in full on Twitter today after the newspaper Dnevnik ran an article about it. Janša tweeted he had decided to publish the letter "because the unofficial Official Gazette of the deep state (globoka država), Dnevnik.si, published insinuations" about the letter.

In the letter, the prime minister says that "we have been witnessing stepping up of organised death threats" in recent months and that the prosecution was passively observing this despite the clear restrictions that the Constitution and the Penal Code impose on such behaviour. Janša says that in some cases the prosecution indirectly even encourages such behaviour.

"You will be directly responsible for any potential victims of the organised threats," Janša wrote Šketa, referring to slogans and banners reading "Death to Janšism".

He also says that members of different extremist organisations from neighbouring and other countries, which are known for the use of street violence and other types of violence, are taking part in the protests held on Fridays, calling for a violent bringing down of the existing constitutional order. "And the state prosecution is silent like a fish in the tank."

Janša notes that slogans such as Juden Raus or Death to Fascism have in the past led to the killings of first individuals and then to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The prime minister sees the events at the anti-government protests as "organised death threats to an entire democratic political bloc", and calls on Šketa to act before it is too late.

Šketa responded to the letter today by asserting that the prosecution was efficient and acting in line with the Constitution and law.

He said that he had been noticing a growing amount of intolerance and hostility in the public discourse for years. Noting that he never gave any guidelines or instructions to prosecutors, who must be fully independent in their work, Šketa said that reports on the work of the prosecution showed that prosecutors decided to act against inciting to violence or hostility only when they detect legally-set signs of a criminal act or offence.

According to Dnevnik, the State Prosecutorial Council discussed the letter on Monday and is expected to publicly respond to it next week.

A much stronger reaction meanwhile came from former State Prosecutor General Zvonko Fišer, who told Dnevnik that he had not witnessed such a move in his entire career as prosecutor, not even in Yugoslavia.

He finds this kind of pressure completely inappropriate and inadmissible.

Heavy criticism also came from the head of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), Tanja Fajon, who said the letter was "very inappropriate, presumptuous and unacceptable".

She sees it is yet another attack on independent institutions and a severe encroachment upon another branch of power, which is why the party plans to initiate an impeachment motion against the PM.

At least ten MPs can initiate the impeachment, so SD MPs alone could do it. Fajon said the party had not discussed the move with other opposition parties yet.

The Justice Ministry told Dnevnik that the law enforcement was in charge of passing judgements on individual actions and was completely independent and that the law enforcement must be allowed to do its job professionally. If it fails to do so, certain surveillance mechanisms are available.

This was echoed by Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič before today's government session. Asked whether she sees Janša's letter as a form of pressure on an independent branch of power, she said this was the PM's decision, which was why she would not comment.

She noted though that any kind of intolerance or hostility must be processed as part of a criminal or minor offence proceedings because too much of that was happening.

Asked to comment on the statements by the outgoing interior minister, Aleš Hojs, that the National Bureau of Investigation and the crime police were full of staff linked to the firmer Communist secret service UDBA and the Communist Party, Kozlovič said she had no such information.

The Office of President Borut Pahor, which also received a copy of the letter, said that the prosecution must be independent in its work.

Our stories on the protests in Slovenia

02 Jul 2020, 13:19 PM

STA, 1 July - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek does not intend to step down following yesterday's house searches related to an investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the procurement of medical and personal protective equipment during the epidemic. He told the press today that he had Prime Minister Janez Janša's full support to carry on.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) leader also said he was not indifferent to the probe, but had cooperated with the police investigators and had provided all the evidence. He expects them to do their work constructively and promptly.

The minister was not surprised by the investigation, saying it was a result of all the pressure, political manoeuvring and insinuations that has appeared in the public.

"I'm not going to apologise for the decisions I took during the epidemic to prevent the loss of lives, but will defend them everywhere and always."

Except for a tweet on Tuesday evening, this is Počivalšek's first statement after Tuesday's house searches. He denied reports he had been detained, saying he had merely been deprived of his liberty for the duration of the searches in line with standard procedure.

The minister insisted that the government had merely pursued the goal of securing enough equipment, which was vitally needed during the epidemic. Even though conditions were tough and a state of emergency reigned, all actions were legal and transparent, he said.

"We've been witnessing a persistent and political distorting of basic and objective data to an extent where our successful fight with the epidemic has been completely devalued before the Slovenian public," he said, arguing this might benefit some political groups but not the country.

Announcing full cooperation, Počivalšek said he took the investigation "seriously and above all with the awareness and understanding that the institutions in charge need to do their job".

The minister believes the agony around the procurement during the crisis will continue until all institutions present their findings. He added that presumption of innocence was a principle that seemed to be overlooked often in these times.

Počivalšek also said he had managed to talk with some SMC members after the police probe to establish there was even more determination now to move forward together.

He expressed regret Aleš Hojs resigned as interior minister because of the investigation, saying they had cooperated well in the government.

All our stories on the PPE scandal in Slovenia

02 Jul 2020, 11:08 AM

STA, 2 July 2020 - Out of 1,198 coronavirus tests conducted on Wednesday, 21 came back positive, the highest daily figure since 16 April when Slovenia recorded 36 new cases. Nine persons were in hospital, one more than the day before. None required intensive care, show latest government data.

There were no Covid-19 fatalities recorded yesterday. The national death toll thus remains at 111.

The total of estimated active cases is 122, according to the national Covid-19 tracker site data.

On Wednesday, five new cases were confirmed in Ljubljana, five in Ravne na Koroškem (N), four in Dravograd (N), and one each in seven other municipalities.

In the past week, Slovenia saw 87 new cases. A total of 140 infections were confirmed in June, whereas only 34 in May, show the Health Ministry data as reported by public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

The government's chief Covid-19 advisor Bojana Beović told Radio Slovenija today that the bulk of new cases continue to be imported, although the virus is also spreading within the country, the source of which cannot be established.

"Those who bring the infection from abroad, generate additional cases here, in the family, working environments. It's a cause for great concern," she said.

Beović said that those who were getting ill with Covid-19 in the past few days "were mostly not members of high risk groups. However, recently a more severe case has emerged as well".

The virus has been spreading among the younger generations mostly - on Wednesday, six infections were confirmed among people aged 15-24, seven among those aged 25-34 and three among those aged 35-44.

However, Beović warned that the young could develop a more severe form of the disease as well, not to mention that they could pass the virus on to older relatives.

Eva Grilc of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) also expressed concern over the developments today.

The NIJZ has detected two hotspots so far; one each in the Štajerska region in the north-east and Koroška region in the north.

The Štajerska hotspot has been triggered by imported cases from Serbia, whereas the Koroška one is a result of imported infections from Bosnia-Herzegovina, reads a NIJZ press release.

Meanwhile, Mateja Logar of the UKC Ljubljana clinic for infectious diseases told RTV Slovenija that the situation was very serious for the virus had been spreading within the population and the cases were no longer merely imported.

"It is no longer possible to always know from whom the person contracted the virus," she said, adding that contact tracing had been thus made more difficult.

In recent days, an adult working at a kindergarten in Oplotnica near Maribor tested positive. The kindergarten has implemented all the required precaution measures and informed the parents of the developments, said the municipality.

The infected person as well as 18 children who were in contact with her have been quarantined.

According to a media report, another infection at kindergarten was confirmed in a student who was helping at a kindergarten in Ljubljana.

The student stayed at home as soon as it turned out she might be infected, while 21 children and two employees were sent into a two-week quarantine.

The total number of infections confirmed so far in Slovenia stands at 1,633, after one of the previous cases has been removed from the case count since further testing failed to confirm the infection.

Poll shows growing concern as Covid-19 count increases

STA, 1 July 2020 - A recent poll by Valicon shows a significant change in public opinion as the number of confirmed daily Covid-19 cases has increased again in Slovenia, with the share of concerned people increasing and reaching the level from the end of April.

While in mid-June the share of concerned respondents was 47%, at the end of June it was again at 67%, which is the highest share recorded since the end of April.

Valicon attributes the growing concern to concern about the family and personal health, which is again getting into focus.

Perhaps the most telling information is that "concern that the situation could last for a long time" has given way to concern for the economy, the pollster said on Wednesday.

What is even more drastic is the assessment of the developments, as 55% of the people polled said the things were turning for the worse, which compares to only 11% two weeks ago.

The current situation is normal or rather normal to less than a quarter of the 529 participants in the latest #Newnormality poll between 24 and 29 June, down from two-fifths from mid-June.

Some 35% said that the situation was "acceptable and bearable", up five percentage points, while the share of those who think that the circumstances are unpleasant was up by ten points to 34%.

There is also a shift in the perception of the government's anti-epidemic measures. The share of those who think they are too strict was down by 11 percentage points to 22%, the lowest since the end of March.

The share of respondents who think the measures are not strict enough was meanwhile up from 14% in mid-June to 32%, the highest share since the end of March.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

 

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