Politics

08 Sep 2021, 16:45 PM

STA, 8 September 2021 - Responding to an allegation of discrimination leveraged by a youth trade union, the Faculty of Medicine in Maribor has said it did not accept any non-EU first-year candidates for the coming academic year because of a shortage of staff and space constrains.

This year the faculty, acting on the government's decision to increase enrolment posts, increased the number of posts for first-year students from Slovenia and the EU by 10 to 106, which it said is its upper limit.

While not accepting any foreigners from non-EU countries, the faculty accepted two ethnic Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship, it told the STA on Wednesday.

Under the country's higher education rules, ethnic Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship are prioritised over foreigners from non-EU countries, it explained.

The reaction comes a day after the Mladi Plus trade union accused the Maribor and Ljubljana medical faculties of "discrimination based on nationality" for turning down all non-EU citizens who wanted to get enrolled in first year.

It found it particularly problematic the candidates had received the news when it had been already too late to apply at other faculties, and cited rather vague reasons given for not even considering the candidates' applications.

The trade union said that 123 third-country candidates had been turned down, of whom 101 at the Ljubljana faculty and the rest in Maribor. Its data shows that foreign students represent almost 10% of all students studying in Slovenia, of whom more than half come from the Western Balkans.

The Maribor faculty said today that it had based its decision on a similar decision by the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine.

In February, the government increased the number of available posts for students of medicine at both medical faculties by 50 to 271. It also increased the number of posts for ethnic Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship and for students from non-EU countries by 88 to 2,365 posts for 2021/2022.

07 Sep 2021, 11:38 AM

STA, 6 September 2021 - President Borut Pahor will organise a meeting between the directors of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and the Government Communication Office (UKOM) on Tuesday in a bid to find a solution to "issues that resulted in suspension of financing of the STA public service".

Announcing the planned meeting, Pahor's office said the president had recently received a letter from STA director Bojan Veselinovič asking him for support in a renewed call to the government to restore financing of the STA.

The release noted that Pahor discussed the issue with Veselinovič and UKOM director Uroš Urbania in early December when he assessed the STA as a wire service "performs an important mission in the public interest, so its existence cannot be jeopardised".

Pahor called on the government and the STA management to resolve their differences in accordance with legislation.

A week ago, the STA notified Pahor as well as parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič and Prime Minister Janez Janša of the dire situation faced by the agency, which has not received the statutory state funding for the public service since the beginning of the year, and of the unwillingness by UKOM to engage in talks.

The STA staff also sent a letter to top EU officials to notify them of the situation and ask for their support in a renewed appeal to the government to "immediately and unconditionally provide funding for the STA".

Saying it had received the letter, the European Commission today reiterated its call to the Slovenian government to ensure independence and appropriate funding of the STA public service.

Zorčič too confirmed having received the letter, calling on everyone in the ruling coalition today to "show their commitment to democratic goals and reinstate what the government has a duty to pay and to allow normal work to all employees".

Zorčič also thanked the STA staff for "doing their job in the impossible situation".

In a judgement published today the Supreme Court established the government has a duty to finance the STA public service based on existing laws and regardless of the new government regulation.

In response, Tanja Fajon, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), sent an open letter to PM Janša urging for the state to immediately settle its back payments to the STA, while she called on UKOM director Urbanija to step down over the "debacle".

A call for immediate restoring of STA financing also came from Janja Sluga, a member of the non-affiliated group of MPs that also includes Zorčič, both of whom used to be members of the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC).

She said the ruling "confirmed we were right when we insisted the STA act and our amendment to the 7th coronavirus relief act sufficed for STA financing.

06 Sep 2021, 22:01 PM

STA, 6 September 2021 - The Ljubljana Administrative Unit has acted upon a proposal from Ljubljana police to ban rallies of the coronavirus deniers who stormed the public broadcaster's headquarters on Friday. It told the STA on Monday the decision on the ban will enter into force when it is handed to the organiser of the rallies on Tuesday.

The Ljubljana Police Department had unsuccessfully sought a ban back in July when a group of protesters already entered RTV Slovenija.

The Administrative Unit explained today it could not grant the request back then because the police had not presented "adequate reasons" to show such rallies would jeopardise lives or health. The police filed another proposal today, this time listing "adequate reasons" for the ban.

RTV Slovenija has meanwhile already filed criminal complaints against all those involved in Friday's incident, and plans to boost security around the broadcaster.

The broadcaster has sent a request to the Ljubljana municipality to purchase the land around the headquarters to erect a security fence.

The group of coronavirus deniers and anti-vaccination protesters managed to get into the newsroom studio before the police intervened and removed them.

Involved in the incident are believed to be a group led by ex-soldier Ladislav Troha and dubbed the Conscious Residents of Slovenia.

Troha could be seen on footage of the incident released by the public broadcaster.

The group has been protesting against Covid-19 containment measures and vaccination in front of RTV Slovenija for several months, harassing staff and demanding air time to be able to present their truth.

As can be seen on the eAdministration website, the group has reported its rallies in front of RTV Slovenija to hold them every day until the end of the year.

Its rallies are dubbed Peaceful Rally for the Liberation, Purification and Revival of RTV SLO and Slovenia.

The police investigation into the incident is ongoing after 44 violations of public law and order, 18 violations of the law on private security and 26 violations of the law on public assembly have already been established.

RTV Slovenija thanked all those who had expressed to it public support while regretting and condemning the fact that some had abused the incident on social media to imply that journalists were to be blamed for it.

06 Sep 2021, 16:00 PM

STA, 6 September 2021 - The Supreme Court has reversed a decision whereby a lower court granted the STA's request to stay the government regulation on STA public service, but said the state has a duty to provide financing to the STA for 2021 in line with the agency's business plan.

The latest judgement comes after the government appealed against the Administrative Court's decision to stay the implementation of the regulation adopted by the government in June that introduces detailed rules governing the public service provided by the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and its financing, which the STA is challenging on the grounds of its being unlawful.

In explaining its decision, the Supreme Court says the STA's founder - i.e. the state - has a duty to provide the funding of the STA public service under the STA act.

Thus a temporary stay of the regulation would not represent an obstacle to paying the STA for the public service because the basis for the payment already exists in the STA act, and in particular for 2021 in the 7th coronavirus relief act.

The court also says that it is irrelevant to the case which body will make the payments and what are the relationships between the government and its bodies.

The court also rejected the government's argument that the regulation needs to be implemented because the 7th coronavirus relief package does not determine which body has the obligation to supply the funds, saying it is the obligation of the state.

The court moreover disagrees with the government that the regulation is required because it provides the legals basis for monthly payments for this year as the only such provision.

The court notes that the STA act provides for monthly payments based on the annual agreement between the STA and the state. Even if there is no such agreement for this year, the coronavirus act provides for payments for 2021 in line with the STA business plan.

Nevertheless, the court granted the government's request to annul the temporary stay on the regulation for other reasons, saying the STA failed to prove it would get the payment in line with the business plan through a mere suspension of the regulation.

The STA hopes the explanations provided by the court "will make an end to excuses made by the Government Communication Office (UKOM) for continued failure to provide the financing".

UKOM director Uroš Urbanija has been claiming the office cannot pay the STA for the public service because the annual agreement has not been signed.

"It follows from the Supreme Court's judgement that it did not stay the government regulation on the STA public service exactly because the government has an obligation to provide monthly payments in 2021 directly based on the 7th coronavirus relief act," STA director Bojan Veselinovič said.

He hopes the latest decision will contribute to restoring financing and for talks with UKOM to resume, something the STA has been calling for.

The STA also believes the Supreme Court's decision sets an important legal precedent on the issue.

The STA has not received state payments for the public service it continues to provide since the beginning of the year, or for 249 days.

06 Sep 2021, 14:06 PM

STA, 6 September 2021 - The European Commission reiterated its call to the Slovenian authorities on Monday to ensure independence and appropriate funding of the public service provided by the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) as it responded to a question about a letter STA staff sent to EU officials.

The Commission confirmed having received the letter that the STA staff addressed to the top EU officials, including Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a week ago, alerting them of the fact that the STA funding issue remains unsolved.

"The European Commission has expressed its serious concerns about this issue repeatedly as well as its expectations from the Slovenian government," Adalbert Jahnz, a Commission spokesperson, said in response to the STA's question about the letter.

"I can reiterate that the national authorities must ensure the independence and that it is crucial that they guarantee appropriate funding for the public service provided by the STA," he added.

The Commission is "following closely the ongoing legal proceedings at the national level on this issue" he said.

In the letter, which was also sent to European Council President Charles Michel and President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, the STA staff noted that two months had passed since Slovenia assumed the presidency of the Council of the EU when top EU officials raised the expectation for Slovenia to ensure the STA's independence and financing.

Despite the Slovenian government announcing that the financing issue would soon be resolved, this is not the case, so the STA staff urged EU officials to support a renewed appeal to the government to "immediately and unconditionally provide funding for the STA".

The letter also said that moral support by senior representatives of the EU unfortunately no longer sufficed

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05 Sep 2021, 12:51 PM

STA, 4 September 2021 - The recovered-vaccinated-tested rule (preboleli, cepljeni, testirani - PCT) will be expanded to a number of activities starting from Monday under a new government regulation that comes amidst rising numbers of coronavirus infections and hospitals filling up quickly with Covid-19 patients. 

The new regulation, which will come fully into effect within seven days, was presented by Health Minister Janez Poklukar on Saturday as he set out various scenarios under which the outbreak could spread, depending on the vaccination rates.

Th PCT requirement is being imposed on all those who come into contact with other persons or are involved in settings or activities where there is a direct risk of an outbreak.

The PCT rule will thus apply to staff in healthcare, public administration, education and training, social care, in-person retail and services, cultural activities, religious education or collective exercise of religious freedom.

Other activities and settings where staff would need to meet PCT rule include indoor sports, taxi services, common working stations, police, security, inspection services, traffic wardens and cabin lifts operators.

The rule will not apply in cases of emergency activities to provide care, public peace and order, medical assistance, rescue and disaster relief.

Exemptions also include children up to the age of 12, parents bringing young children into kindergarten or school, and customers of services and retail establishments.

However, the PCT would apply to inmates in resident facilities such as care homes, prisons, asylum centres and integration houses, or their visitors, including visitors of hospitalised patients, as well as athletes involved in contact sports in- and outdoors and cabin lift passengers.

For those who are not vaccinated or recovered, the testing requirement will also be satisfied with rapid antigen tests or self-testing once a week. Self-testing can take place at home or at work with the cost covered by the employer.

Tests for those who cannot get vaccinated due to their health condition will be paid for by the state. The same applies to voluntary self-testing of older primary school children and secondary school students.

Face masks will be mandatory in all indoor public spaces as well as outdoors when it is not possible to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres.

There will some exemptions to the mask rule, including children up to the age of 7, pupils in the first five grades of primary school or first two grades of music school, pre-school teachers and pupils and students in dancing and certain music classes and physical education.

Masks will also not be mandatory when the PCT rule is being implemented in public spaces for members of the same household.

Presenting the measures, Poklukar reiterated the importance of vaccination, saying that unless a sufficient share of the population is immunised Slovenia is in for a "tough autumn". The fourth wave is projected to peak in October.

The reproduction number showing how many people on average is infected by each infected person is currently between 1.2 and 1.5. Currently 47% of the population has received one vaccine dose and 43% and 43% have been fully vaccinated.

Should the reproduction number rise to 2, like at the peak of the second wave last year, and given a vaccination rate of 51%, hospitalisations would peak at about 2,900 with 560 intensive cases.

Given a 70% vaccination rate, the figures would drop to 1,600 and 320 respectively, with the same reproductive number, but Poklukar said that ICU cases peaked at 219 in the second wave.

If 70% of the population was inoculated, Covid-19 deaths would be halved, from what projections show would be 1,000 deaths given the vaccination rate of 51%.

"Such a pessimistic scenario can happen unless each one of us acts. Healthcare capacities would be stretched to the limit [...] these are tragedies we can prevent with vaccination."

The minister said the epidemic could be kept under control only if as many people as possible get vaccinated as fast as possible and the reproduction number is kept under 1.4.

In that case, hospitalisations would peak at 400 and ICU cases at 80 given the vaccination rate of 70% or at 800 and 140, respectively, if 51% of the population was vaccinated.

Given the reproduction number of 1.4 and vaccination rate of 70% there would be about 100 fatalities, a figure that would rise to 400 with 51% of the population vaccinated.

All the latest data on covid and Slovenia

04 Sep 2021, 12:19 PM

STA, 4 September 2021 -A group of coronavirus deniers and anti-vaccination protesters stormed the headquarters of the Slovenian public broadcaster last night, managing to get into the newsroom studio before the police intervened.

The incident happened after the group had been protesting against Covid-19 containment measures and vaccination in front of the RTV Slovenija (RTVS) headquarters for four months, harassing staff and demanding air time to be able to present their truth to the public.

"This is an unacceptable attack on the media, journalism and democracy," Manica Janežič Ambrožič, the RTVS news programme editor, said in response to the incident, which happened at around 8:30pm.

"This is a grave attack on our media house and public media outlet, which we condemn in the strongest terms," Andrej Grah Whatmough, RTVS director general, said as he appeared on the late night news show Odmevi.

The scene outside the studios

The incident, which ended after the police removed some 20 maskless protesters from the building, has also drawn condemnation from the Slovenian Association of Journalists (DNS) and the Trade Union of Journalists and from Interior Minister Aleš Hojs.

Grah Whatmough said the management had been trying hard for months to have the situation tackled, but the problem was because the area around the RTVS HQ was a public property and the protesters had a permit to assemble there.

He announced security around the building would be beefed up and was hopeful the authorities in charge would take their complaints more seriously after the incident.

Today, the management issued a written statement denouncing what it said was an unprecedented incident, urging the authorities to act, and pledging to use all "security and legal means to prevent a repeat of such an incident".

The scene in the lobby

The statement says the protesters have been engaging in indecent behaviour on the site for months, "insulting staff and visitors, storming the RTV Slovenija building and disrupting work".

The management has pursued many official avenues to deal with the problem, sending complaints to police and the inspection authorities but "there has been no real response from those responsible".

Similarly, editor Janežič Ambrožič said their warnings since May had not met with response.

"We live in society where violence is only getting worse and it's but a step from harassment on Twitter to a violent house storm," she said, expressing concern that "few budge" in the face of violent scenes seen yesterday.

Information available to the STA indicates the incident involved members of the movement called Aware Residents of Slovenia, led by Ladislav Troha, a former army officer and veteran of the 1991 War of Independence.

The newspaper Večer reported that it was just yesterday that the RTVS works council filed a criminal complaint against the movement because its members have been harassing staff entering the building for months. The council also asked for a restraining order.

The police said it was looking into the incident and would act against violators in accordance with legislation.

In condemning the attack, the DNS association described the incident as the tip of the iceberg in the hate campaign against public media and journalists that was being incited by those in power.

The scene in the studio

Prime Minister Janša, reacting on his Twitter profile, denounced the incident by saying it has nothing to do with freedom of expression.

"It is violence against that freedom. All must be done to condemn and punish every self-willed and violent appropriation of public space and threats on the same terms and everywhere."

Janša posted four photographs with his tweet, one from Friday's incident, one from a protest at a session of the RTVS programme council a few years ago and photographs from protests in Ljubljana and Koper.

He retweeted several other posts, including a tweet by Gregor Perič, the head of MPs of the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), saying it all started with a chainsaw in front of the parliament building, continued with attacks on MPs and now the storm to RTV Slovenija, which he condemned.

Janša also retweeted a post which said "the RTVS news programme has been encouraging for a year illegal neofascist protests, vandalism against public institutions, anti-vaxxer delusions [...] while now they are puzzled as they reap what they sowed".

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, condemning the incident in the strongest terms, tweeted it was partly the result of "what is being generated by [email protected], Prebold [email protected], and fake news @[email protected]".

He was referring to Jaša Jenull, a leading face of Friday's anti-government cycling protests, the Prebold primary school headteacher, who is known for his opposition to Covid measures, and the RTVS news magazine programme Tarča.

Hojs said penal and public order legislation would have to be toughened in response to the developments.

04 Sep 2021, 09:11 AM

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, 27 August
        OHRID, North Macedonia - During a working visit to North Macedonia, Defence Minister Matej Tonin said he and his Macedonian counterpart Radmila Šekerinska finalised their agreement on Macedonian troops becoming part of the Slovenian contingent in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Latvia in June 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša met a delegation of US senators visiting Slovenia on the occasion of Slovenian-American Friendship Day. They discussed current international issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, and US-Slovenia relations.
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič wrapped up a two-day official visit to Serbia during which he discussed bilateral issues but also regional and global issues with top officials, including President Aleksandar Vučić and PM Ana Brnabić.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's jobless total decreased by a quarterly 20% to 44,000 in the second quarter of the year according to the labour force survey released by the Statistics Office. The survey unemployment rate was 1.3 percentage points lower at 4.3%. In July, the ILO-compatible survey unemployment rate reached 4%, down 1.3 points year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - Energy company Petrol saw group net profit jump by 140% to more than EUR 49 million on sales that increased 20% year-on-year to EUR 1.8 billion, according to the company's interim report.
        KOPER - Port operator Luka Koper reported EUR 114.7 million in net sales revenue for the first half of the year, an increase of 7% from the same period last year. Net profit increased by 2% to EUR 15.4 million.
        ZREČE - Unior, a group specialising in forged metals and tools, reported EUR 122.1 million in net sales revenue for the first half of the year, up 31.8% year-on-year, as it bounced back from a loss to a net profit of EUR 6.4 million.
        NOVO MESTO - Carlos Pascual, a Mexican author who has been living in Slovenia for years, won the Novo Mesto Prize for best collection of short stories of the year for Nezakonita Melanholija (Unlawful Melancholy) in what is the first time the prize went to an author who was not born in Slovenia.

SATURDAY, 28 August
        KRŠKO - Addressing a regional meeting of his Democratic Party (SDS), PM Janez Janša said any party wanting to form a future coalition with the SDS would have to agree not to have any talks on open borders or migration corridors and would have to support the European Parliament's resolution condemning all totalitarian regimes. No party agreed to take up all those conditions.
        LJUBLJANA - Odile Renaud-Basso, the EBRD president, told the STA in an interview the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) had no plans for direct equity investment in the Slovenian financial sector, but it did intend to continue to support it through market investment. It was also ready to support the economy's green transition and digitalisation.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling under which Slovenia must allow a Cameroonian asylum seeker who was deported from Slovenia twice in 2019 to enter the country and seek asylum status. The ruling, handed down in April, is final and not appealable.

MONDAY, 30 August
        MADRID, Spain - Foreign Minister Anže Logar met his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares for an exchange of views on current EU and international issues, with the Slovenian Foreign Ministry saying the countries had similar views on the efforts to prevent illegal migration, and shared concerns over how the developments in Afghanistan might affect illegal migration trends.
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry said it was continuing with its efforts to evacuate an Afghan who worked for the Slovenian Armed Forces and his family from Kabul with evacuation now possible only through a UN humanitarian convoy or one of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries.
        LJUBLJANA - A Qatari delegation led by Ahmad Hassen Al-Hammadi, secretary-general at the Foreign Ministry, held political consultations at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry and visited the Muslim Cultural Centre in Ljubljana, which was built with substantial financial support from Qatar.
        LJUBLJANA - The Financial Administration (FURS) published a proposal for taxation of cryptocurrencies, proposing individuals pay a 10% tax rate on the amount they turn into cash or spend for goods or services. Facing a strong reaction from the public, FURS changed the proposal so that only sums above EUR 15,000 in a single calendar year would be taxed with the taxpayer being given the choice to pay either a tax of 10% on the sum cashed in or a tax of 25% on the profit they make in trading in virtual currencies. The tax would not apply to legal entities.
        LJUBLJANA - National motorway company DARS reported EUR 218.8 million in revenue for the first half of the year, a rise of 16% on the same period last year. Net profit was up 55% to EUR 43.9 million as DARS sold 2.5 million toll stickers, up slightly year-on-year, but still significantly lower than in 2019, before the Covid-19 epidemic.
        TOKYO, Japan - Shooter Franček Gorazd Tiršek won silver at the Tokyo Paralympics in the men's 10m air rifle standing competition and then went on to win bronze in the prone event on 1 September in what are the first two medals for Slovenia at the games. Tiršek won silver medals in the standing position at two previous Paralymics.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The most successful Slovenian football referee Damir Skomina, whose record includes refereeing at the European championships, World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the 2019 Champions League final, officially announced the end of his career.
        
TUESDAY, 31 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP increased by 16.3% on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter of the year, the Statistics Office reported, with the growth powered by household spending and gross investment, as foreign trade was up significantly as well. GDP is now just below its 2019 peak.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's annual inflation run at at 2.1% in August, mostly due to significantly more expensive petroleum products, which contributed 1.2 percentage points to the headline rate, the Statistics Office reported.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs presided over an emergency meeting of EU home affairs ministers that adopted a joint statement after a "very heated" debate saying the bloc was determined to prevent uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements from Afghanistan and the region.
        LJUBLJANA - The Human Rights Ombudsman issued several warnings in a report on the human rights of migrants, most notably that migrants are often returned to neighbouring countries without receiving a written decision, which makes it impossible for them to appeal against the return.
        LJUBLJANA - Representatives of STA staff sent a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel, and Parliament President David Sassoli, noting that despite calls to restore the financing of the STA, the issue has still not been resolved. They urged for "more decisive, perhaps even unprecedented steps, to protect freedom of the press".
        PRAGERSKO - Work started on a project to upgrade the Pragersko railway hub, one of the main rail junctions in the country. The EUR 90 million project is slated for completion in June 2023.
        CELJE - Poet Tina Kozin won the Veronika Prize for best collection of poetry for Nebo pod Vodo (Sky Under the Sea), her third collection.

WEDNESDAY, 1 September
        BLED - The future of Europe and how the EU should respond to a potential new migration wave from Afghanistan dominated debate as the 16th annual Bled Strategic Forum got under way with a record number of senior officials. "Not a single European country wants a repeat of 2015" or the policy of open borders, PM Janez Janša said about the prospect of an influx of migrants from Afghanistan as European Parliament President David Sassoli voiced disappointment that none of the EU member states had expressed willingness to accept Afghan refugees. Janša also called for the EU to return to its roots, to the basic principles laid down by the founding fathers. The Afghan crisis also topped the agenda of bilateral meetings of most senior Slovenian and foreign officials.
        BLED - The stalled process of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans was one of the topics debated at the BSF with the panellists, including the heads of government of all Western Balkan countries as well as European Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament President David Sassoli calling for a continuation of the enlargement process as a matter of strategic importance. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Anže Logar announced Slovenia's desire to make the EU-Western Balkans summit, which it will host in early October, a regular annual event as a means of accelerating the EU enlargement process.
        BLED - Arriving at the Bled Strategic Forum, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković said Slovenia and Croatia had established excellent relationship during the term of Slovenian PM Janez Janša, and said the bilateral border issue could be tackled this government term.
        BLED - Foreign Minister Anže Logar announced that the Med7, a club of seven Mediterranean EU countries, would invite Slovenia to become a member at a summit scheduled to take place later this month. He said membership would be "particularly important in the light of potential new migration pressure in the future".
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Justice Minister Marjan Dikaučič said Slovenia was making the effort to appoint its European delegated prosecutors as soon as possible as he presented via video call Slovenia's EU presidency priorities in judiciary to the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
        LJUBLJANA - The Interior Ministry drew up prepared changes to the public order act that introduce fines of EUR 500-1,000 for indecent behaviour towards state officials, senior representatives of the authorities and their families. The proposal has already been endorsed by the government.
        LJUBLJANA - A new school year started for almost 270,000 Slovenian primary and secondary school children and nearly 30,000 teachers in person but with safety measures in place, including mandatory Covid certificates for staff, masks for all children in communal areas and voluntary self-testing for older children. If schools flout the rules, they may be ordered to switch to remote classes.
        MARIBOR - Media company Časnik Večer transferred the daily newspaper Večer with its 94 employees to Večer Mediji, a new company that is to be sold to six companies which are, according to unofficial information, owned by media mogul Martin Odlazek. Delo reported that a several-owner solution was to bypass the rule to seek a regulatory clearance in case a company owns 20% of a media company or more.
        CELJE - Chemical company Cinkarna Celje saw its half-year sales revenue rise by 12% year-on-year to EUR 99.39 million on the back of good demand, boosting net profit by 60% to EUR 15.8 million.

THURSDAY, 2 September
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The creation of a European rapid reaction force was one of the topics as EU defence ministers held an informal meeting at Brdo. Speaking after the event, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU must strengthen its strategic autonomy to act independently when and where necessary, as Defence Minister Matej Tonin said political will would be needed to address the issue. Borrell then went on to chair an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers, which he said would discuss how to engage with the Taliban, in particular on humanitarian aid and assistance to people in Afghanistan who want to leave.
        BLED - The need to draw lucid lessons from Afghanistan was emphasised at a Bled Strategic Forum panel on European defence, but the panellists, which included Mircea Geoana, deputy secretary general of NATO, said these lessons should draw not just on the last few weeks in Afghanistan, they should be informed by the broader geopolitical situation.
        BLED - Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met his counterpart Anže Logar and President Borut Pahor during the first such official visit to Slovenia since its independence, with a meeting with PM Janez Janša planned for 3 September. Jaishankar and Logar expressed their commitment to strengthening cooperation between their countries in various fields, while Jaishankar also highlighted Slovenia's support for India's agreements with the EU.
        BLED - Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addressed the Bled Strategic Forum to note that the Eastern Partnership should be supported as a crucial instrument for helping the Belarusian people. She also called for visa liberalisation and inclusion of democratic forces in meetings of the European Partnership.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Presenting the priorities of the Slovenian EU presidency in home affairs to the relevant European Parliament committee, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs heard criticism over the recent joint statement of the EU home affairs ministers on Afghanistan. Hojs said the MEPs' criticism was a reflection of their pain at not being in charge of certain issues.
        BLED - Slovenian priest and missionary Pedro Opeka won this year's Distinguished Partner Award, an accolade bestowed at the Bled Strategic Forum, for his humanitarian work and fight against poverty in Madagascar.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia turned red as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control updated its Covid-19 colour-coded map of Europe. There are now more than 6,000 estimated active infections in the country, with the 7-day average of new cases at 491 and the 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents at 283. Covid-19 hospitalisations passed 160, including 40 ICU cases. The total death toll from Covid-19 reached 4,781.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian central bank said it would not extended a requirement that banks, savings banks and leasing companies may not distribute profit beyond the end of September, however the financial institutions are expected to apply a conservative approach.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a set of changes to the gaming act which lift most restrictions concerning casino ownership and under which concessions would be granted on the basis of newly introduced public tenders.
        VELENJE - The Hisense Europe Group reported a loss of EUR 12.8 million for 2020 on EUR 2 billion in sales, the bulk of which were generated from the household appliances at Gorenje. Nevertheless, Gorenje said the group had been operating at a profit for the past 14 months.

03 Sep 2021, 17:05 PM

STA, 3 September 2021 - The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell has announced that EU foreign ministers have agreed on five benchmarks which will form the basis for the bloc to engage in cooperation with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

For the EU to operatively cooperate with the Taliban, Afghanistan must fulfil its commitment that the country will not serve as "a base for the export of terrorism to other countries", Borrell told the press at Brdo pri Kranju on Friday, the last day of proceedings at the two-day informal meeting as part of Slovenia's EU presidency.

Afghanistan will have to respect human rights, in particular women's rights, the rule of law and freedom of the media.

The third benchmark is forming "an inclusive and representative transition government on the basis of negotiations of all political forces in Afghanistan".

Another condition the Taliban will have to meet is allowing free access to humanitarian aid provided by the EU.

"We will increase humanitarian aid, but will judge them according to the access they provide to the help according to our procedures and conditions," Borrell explained.

The last benchmark is the Taliban's fulfilment of their commitment about the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans at risk who wish to leave the country.

Borrell however said that these were not formal conclusions of the Council as the meeting was informal in nature.

He said the key topic of the discussion on Afghanistan, which started yesterday and ended toady, was how to act in relation to the new, Taliban-led government.

Slovenia's Foreign Minister Anže Logar, who co-hosted the ministerial alongside Borrell, said the five conditions will inform all future discussions at EU level.

"Members states authorised the high representative together with the External Action Service (EEAS) to centralise the relations towards the government which is being formed in Afghanistan."

Logar said that the EU ministers had agreed it was important to monitor progress, that is compliance with these rules.

The ministers urged enhancing efforts to evacuate all EEAS and member states' co-workers who are trapped in Afghanistan following the suspension of the airlift, he added.

Borrell meanwhile said all people at risk, people who worked for the EU, people who supported Afghanistan's democratisation, and are still there, should be evacuated.

In line with Tuesday's decision by EU interior ministers, every country will decide on people at risk it is willing to accept on a voluntary basis.

"To carry out the evacuation and assess the fulfilment of the above benchmarks, we decided on coordinated action, and we will be in contact with the Taliban, also through the EU's common presence in Kabul which will be coordinated by the External Action Service, but only if the security conditions are met," the EU official said.

The ministers agreed that migration flows management will be addressed by a regional political platform for cooperation with Afghanistan's neighbours which will work under EEAS's wing, according to Borrell. The platform will also address the prevention of the spread of terrorism and the fight against organised crime.

"This platform is very much needed if we want to stabilise the entire region," said Borrell, announcing cooperation with specialised agencies, the US and other partners in G7 and G20.

According to Logar, today's debate showed that members states want to speak the same language and would not like a repeat of the migration situation from 2015 and 2016.

03 Sep 2021, 17:02 PM

STA, 3 September 2021 - The national advisory committee on immunisation has advised Slovenian authorities introduce a third jab of anti-Covid vaccines for the elderly at care homes, for people older than 70, and for all residents with chronic conditions. All the others can also get a booster shot if they want, according to the minutes from the group's meeting.

A third shot of coronavirus vaccines was earlier recommended only for those with severely weakened immune systems, because their reaction to the basic vaccination tends to be weaker.

"All the others can also get a third or booster jab if they wish so, although there is no proof for now that a third shot is needed for the other groups," said the advisory committee said.

It recommended the use of mRNA vaccines for the third shot, and at least a six-month break between the basic two jabs and the third one.

The government was meanwhile recommended to change a relevant regulation to say that a person vaccinated with Pfizer's vaccine is protected seven days after receiving the second jab, and in 14 days if vaccinated with all the other vaccines.

Under the regulation in place since 30 August, a person meets the vaccination rule in Slovenia as soon as they are fully vaccinated.

03 Sep 2021, 10:31 AM

STA, 2 September 2021 - The EU must strengthen its strategic autonomy, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he spoke to the press after an informal meeting of EU defence ministers at Brdo pri Kranju on Thursday. Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin said political will would be needed to address this issue.

Almost all member states agree "we have to strengthen our ability to act independently when and where necessary", said the EU's high representatives for foreign affairs and security policy. "We have armies, we have resources, the problem is harmonisation and the will to mobilise these resources."

Afghanistan is a good example coming at the right time to mobilise the will of member states and to realize that there is no other way to face the new situation than being able to act on our own.

"Afghanistan showed that the shortcomings in our strategic autonomy have their price. The only way forward is to join forces and strengthen not only our capabilities but also our will to act," said Borrell.

This means raising the level of preparedness within the common military training but also the establishment of new tools such as a rapid reaction force.

Borrell admitted there was no full consensus among the member states on the force yet, but this was not that important as only a discussion was held at today's meeting, while a decision would be taken in November.

The idea about the European rapid reaction force, which could count around 5,000 soldiers, is an important segment of the Strategic Compass, a key process to reach a higher level of Europe's strategic autonomy, according to Borrell.

Minister Tonin meanwhile stressed that the EU had its own defence fund to address this issue. "We have the money, and if we have a political will to build in the coming years these urgent capabilities for autonomous action, including in very demanding areas, then we have definitely taken a step forward."

Tonin saw major progress at today's meeting as individual countries announced to present their proposals how to change the existing mechanism to enable faster political decision-making and faster intervention.

"It's definitely a step forward that member states will make a concrete proposal, and if it is acceptable to all members, we have a concrete solution," he said.

Consensus is an important mechanism especially for small EU member states, so some members are reluctant to give up consensus-based decision-making. Tonin said this is the key obstacle as the EU searches for a solution.

Afghanistan was the main topic as the ministers discussed the EU's operative activities. They stressed that evacuation of people from the country had not yet been completed and that support in diplomatic, humanitarian and development areas needed to continue, according to a press release from the Slovenian Defence Ministry.

The ministers also shared a view that the EU should learn from the Afghanistan crisis to apply the lessons to its operations and missions in Mali, Mozambique, Libya and the Western Balkans.

The debate on common geostrategic challenges and cooperation with NATO and the UN was also attended by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana and UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. The ministers agreed that global challenges are the same for all and that common issues should be addressed jointly.

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