Politics

22 Jul 2020, 10:15 AM

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

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

250px-Location_Cameroon_AU_Africa.svg.png

Cameroon on the map,. Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Jul 2020, 16:08 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Jul 2020, 14:17 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Jul 2020, 09:04 AM

STA, 21 July 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša said Slovenia was pleased with the outcome of the EU budget talks as EU leaders wrapped up negotiations Tuesday morning on a new multi-annual financial framework and post-coronavirus recovery fund. He stressed that its share of the funding, EUR 10.5 billion, is the highest it has ever got.

Coming out of marathon talks on Tuesday morning, Janša said the deal, which puts the EU's budget for the next seven-year period at EUR 1.07 trillion and puts in place a post-coronavirus recovery facility of EUR 750 billion, was a great achievement and a "robust response" to the crisis.

The deal instils optimism before the autumn and the continuation of the epidemic. "After the outbreak of the pandemic one could almost give up on the EU. We're all glad that bright moments have also come. This agreement is certainly one such moment."

Janša stressed that Slovenia was eligible for EUR 10.5 billion over the next seven years, of which EUR 6.6 billion in grants, and had realised its strategic objective of achieving agreement while securing all the key negotiating goals.

Slovenia is estimated to receive EUR 2.9 billion in cohesion policy funds in its national envelope.

Janša stressed that in the final stages of the talks, it had also secured an additional EUR 350 million for the western cohesion region, the more developed of the two cohesion regions, which had potentially faced a significant decline in funding due to its level of development.

That way, Slovenia has managed to secure cohesion policy funding that is comparable with the funds available in 2014-2020.

The eastern cohesion region will be eligible for 13% more funds than it is currently receiving.

Slovenia will have EUR 1.6 billion in Common Agriculture Policy funding available, an amount that is comparable in nominal terms with the existing financial framework and marks a significant improvement over the EU Commission's initial proposal. This includes a special allocation worth EUR 50 million.

Slovenia will also be eligible for an additional EUR 2.1 billion in grants from the EUR 750 billion recovery fund plus EUR 3.6 billion in loans under this facility.

As Janša pointed out, Slovenia thus remained a net recipient of EU funds, both in the framework of the seven-year budget and the recovery fund.

Speaking after his third EU budget talks after 2005 and 2013, Janša said these negotiations were different than in the past in that the EU is different post-Brexit.

The balance of power is different and new balances are emerging, which has contributed towards the talks lasting so long. This is not necessarily bad since it creates room for manoeuvre for smaller countries, he said.

All in all, Janša said this was probably the best outcome Slovenia has ever achieved in budget talks considering its position and relative level of development.

He noted that it had been expected in the 2013 budget talks that Slovenia would become a net contributor to the EU budget by now, but it still remains a net recipient of funds.

Slovenia has always had problems drawing the funds, which is why the government is now trying to better prepare. It will hold a working meeting on Wednesday to talk about securing additional capacities so the funds are spent as soon and as best as possible.

The summit agreement also requires a national recovery plan, which he said would be "the hard part of the job". "Being aware of this challenge, we'll tackle it immediately, as early as tomorrow."

Janša also commented on rebates for net contributors, noting that this was the price to pay for the recovery facility since the four countries that have these rebates had initially been opposed to non-refundable funds.

20 Jul 2020, 11:12 AM

STA, 20 July 2020 - Slovenia will mark the 10th anniversary of its membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Monday with a ceremony featuring OECD Secretary General Jose Angel Gurria as keynote speaker via videoconference. The latest OECD economic survey of Slovenia will be presented on the occasion.

The ceremony, taking place at Brdo pri Kranju, will be addressed by several cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Anže Logar, Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar and Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, according to the Government Communication Office.

The 2020 OECD economic survey of Slovenia focuses on population ageing and its impact on healthcare and the labour market, said the Finance Ministry. Šircelj, Gantar and Cigler Kralj will comment on the OECD review.

The June OECD forecast for Slovenia says that the country's gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to shrink this year by 7.8%, or as much as 9.1% in the event of a second wave of coronavirus infections.

For 2021, the organisation expects that Slovenia's economy will grow by 4.5%, or by 1.5% in case of another Covid-19 wave.

The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation featuring 37 member countries. It promotes policies conducive of economic and social prosperity, said the Foreign Ministry.

19 Jul 2020, 12:22 PM

STA, 19 July 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša described the EU summit negotiations that are currently underway in Brussels as a test of perseverance on his Twitter on Saturday evening as the second day of EU leaders' talks on the next EU budget and recovery package wrapped up. He also deemed on Sunday the third day of the negotiations a day of truth.

"The EU is once again demonstrating the entire complexities of its differences, its smallness and greatness, selfishness and solidarity," Janša wrote in his Saturday's post, adding that for some the EU was granted by their fathers, whereas the others won it out.

In the early hours of Sunday he also wrote that he missed the 2004-2008 EU Council "when there was less daily politics and more strategic thinking".

Moreover, the prime minister has retweeted Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn's post which warned that the corona crisis was not over and that it was "high time to reach an agreement which allows us to provide the urgently needed support for our citizens and economies".

On Sunday, Janša also dismissed claims that Hungary, Poland and Slovenia are resisting the system that would tie the financial aid to respecting the rule of law and basic human rights, saying that Slovenia wanted the "same standards regarding independent judiciary, media, freedom of speech" to be used for all.

The first in-person summit of EU leaders after the start of the coronavirus pandemic started on Friday and so far a compromise on the 2021-2027 financial framework and the relief package designed to shore up Europe's economies has not yet been reached.

The negotiations will be resumed at noon on Sunday. A new proposal by EU Council President Charles Michel is expected to be presented to broker an agreement.

According to unofficial sources, under the new proposal the EUR 750 billion recovery fund is to provide EUR 450 billion in subsidies and EUR 300 billion in loans. The volume of subsidies would be therefore reduced and the volume of loans increased to cater to the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden.

Under the previous proposal, which was opposed by the frugal four and Finland, two thirds of the fund would be available in subsidies and a third in loans.

18 Jul 2020, 13:28 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 16 July 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Way to early election

STA, 17 July 2020 - The MPs of the coalition DeSUS and SMC are hostages of the ruling Democrats (SDS), the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday. They insist in the coalition because they fear losing their seats, which could be easily solved by empowering them by making them financially independent, the left-leaning weekly say in MPs Must Not Be Hostages.

The MPs of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and Modern Centre Party (SMC) fooled their voters when they joined a far-right government, while they had promised them they would never do it.

Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says the anti-government protests, which started more than 10 weeks ago, are actually directed against them.

It admits the MPs are in a dead end - they joined the Janez Janša government hoping it would be bearable, while realising after four months in government it is not.

Janša is offering them two more years in office, that is until the next regular general election.

Mladina says DeSUS and SMC MPs are largely victims of Slovenia's constitutional arrangement

Under the constitution, the Slovenian president is the one to decide that parliament is not able to form a stable government and can call an election, but it is actually MPs who have the decision on an early election in their hands.

Mladina says the MPs are always in a dilemma when faced with such a political decision, because this is also a decision on the end of their terms.

The SMC and DeSUS MPs are criticised for having supported the Janša government so that they would not lose their jobs less than half way through their term, which Mladina says this is probably true but also understandable from a human point of view.

Yet MPs can only be truly independent if they are not forced to consider losing their job, if they are financially independent.

There is a simple solution to this - a new article should be added to the deputies act saying MPs are entitled to a compensation for the loss of income until the end of a regular term if an early election is called.

Although this could be a lot of money, it is little considering the harm they can prevent by opting for an early election.

"This is the price of functioning democracy," says Mladina, adding that 30 years of democracy has shown how important it is that MPs are independent.

Reporter: Hungarian scenario may not be effective in Slovenia

STA, 13 July 2020 - Commenting on the current political developments in Slovenia, the right-wing weekly Reporter argues on Monday that the potential formation of an alternative leftist government could have the reverse effect and end up hurting the left-aisle parties, whereas the right cannot count on gaining the upper hand overnight either.

"If a vote of no confidence in the entire government succeeds and the current prime minister is replaced by an interim prime minister in autumn, this political manoeuvring would not prevent [PM Janez] Janša from winning another snap election."

Indeed, it could backfire, says the right-leaning weekly, adding that Janša's party might even secure a landslide victory or its best election result ever due to such tactics, in particular if there is no new political leader on the left.

The future political developments are hard to predict, but it is also difficult to believe that "the relation between the left and the right would turn upside down overnight to the benefit of the latter".

"Janez Janša is not [Croatian Prime Minister] Andrej Plenković, who moved HDZ from the right to the centre and was triumphant in the Croatian general election a week ago."

Whereas Plenković does not need coalition partners due to his landslide victory, Janša probably would, which is an issue for him.

"It is possible to copy political recipes from Hungary, but they will not necessarily have the same impact in Slovenia. [Hungarian Prime Minister] Viktor Orban succeeded in subjugating the dominant media, he turned them into propaganda machinery so that they have helped him stay in power for more than a decade, whereas Janez Janša has always drawn the short straw in the war with the media so far."

Reporter editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says that Janša's "latest battlefield which he has created using 'blitzkrieg' targeted at Slovenian media" might fail if he does not get support from coalition partners SMC and DeSUS.

All our posts in this series are here

18 Jul 2020, 11:15 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, 10 July
        OTOČEC - In a meeting focusing exclusively on the countries' efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, the prime ministers of Slovenia and Croatia, Janez Janša and Andrej Plenković, agreed epidemiologists would be in contact about the situation on a daily basis. Plenković assured Slovenian tourists they were safe in Croatia, while Janša commended Croatia on its efforts to contain the virus.
        OTOČEC - PM Janez Janša told TV Slovenija he was a realist about the border dispute with Croatia and that the two countries would be able to take a step forward here once Croatia had an approximate plan for solving its border issue with other neighbours.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša said he had asked Aleš Hojs to reconsider his decision to step down as interior minister. He told a TV interview Slovenia needed an interior minister who is operational 24 hours a day. Hojs later said he would rethink his decision and definitely stay on until he faces a no-confidence vote in parliament, presumably in September.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian agreed in a phone call to boost political dialogue in anticipation of the countries' successive spells at the presidency of the Council of the EU. Logar also expressed Slovenia's interest in enhancing the existing strategic partnership with France.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia (NSi) MP Jožef Horvat revealed that his personal data kept by the police had been accessed on several occasions between November 2019 and May 2020. While he alleges he was under a kind of police surveillance under the Marjan Šarec government, police officials explained that police officers could access such files only for the purpose of doing their job. Several other MPs came forward with the same accusation, as did Foreign Minister Anže Logar.
        LJUBLJANA - After the management of the state-run motorway company DARS resigned, the supervisory board appointed a new management board, with vice-president of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) Valentin Hajdinjak becoming the new CEO. DARS said the management stepped down by mutual agreement.

SATURDAY, 11 July
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša rejected claims by the State Prosecutors' Council that he was undermining state prosecutors' independence by protesting with the state prosecutor general about the absence of prosecution targeting anti-government protesters who use the slogan "Death to Janšism". Janša said prosecutors needed to observe the general instructions on criminal prosecution policy drawn up by the body in charge of this.
        NOVO MESTO - Cavers exploring the karst caves in the Kočevski Rog woods in south-eastern Slovenia have found what appears to be another mass grave in what is an area containing the remains of several thousand people killed in summary executions after the end of World War II. The chair of the government commission for mass graves, Jože Dežman, said that the chasm contains the remains of at least 35 people, while dozens more are expected to be exhumed.
        LJUBLJANA - The CEO of railways operator Slovenske Železnice told the STA the company planned to lay off 1,000 people this year, reducing total headcount to 6,000. He also said Slovenia needed a long-term infrastructure fund.

SUNDAY, 12 July
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša became the target of criticism after implying on Twitter that the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred had post-WWII summary executions been adequately condemned. Oslobođenje, a leading Bosnian newspaper, wondered whether the statement was "an attempt to amnesty criminals who perpetrated one of the biggest genocides in this region", while Slobodna Bosna said it was a "morbid provocation not becoming of a statesman". Janša later defended his statements saying that as long as it is possible to kill with impunity in the name of one ideology and be condemned when doing it in the name of another ideology, genocides will happen in the world.

MONDAY, 13 July
        TRIESTE/BASOVIZZA, Italy - National Hall, a Slovenian centre in the heart of Trieste, was formally handed over to the Slovenian minority in Italy. A document on its ownership transfer was signed at an event attended by the Slovenian and Italian presidents, Borut Pahor and Sergio Mattarella, exactly 100 years after it was torched by Fascists. Before the ceremony the presidents laid wreaths at two memorials in Basovizza, one to the 1930 Slovenian victims of Fascism and the other to the Italian victims of post-WWII killings.
        LJUBLJANA - The coronavirus contact tracing app, which Slovenia will develop using the German open source solution, will be voluntary for everyone, Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik announced. The government previously sought to make installing the app mandatory for those with confirmed infections and those sent into quarantine.
        LJUBLJANA - During questions time in parliament, PM Janez Janša said it was necessary to depoliticise the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), saying that the NBI "was set up as a political project carrying a great burden of corruption from the get-go". He also suggested the NBI investigator cherry-picked their cases and were "outside the system".
        LJUBLJANA - The Infrastructure Ministry is drawing up changes that will allow ride hailing services through a digital platform in the manner provided by US giant Uber. Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec expects the government to discuss the proposal in the autumn.

TUESDAY, 14 July
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly formally initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the procurement of medical and personal protective equipment before and during the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia. The move comes at the request of the coalition, which wants to determine political responsibility of public office holders as of 1 February, a period which includes the last month and a half of the previous government's term.
        LJUBLJANA - Wrapping up a discussion on the situation in Slovenian care homes during the Covid-19 epidemic, the parliamentary committees on health and social affairs urged the government to provide nursing hospitals and improve conditions at care homes. The committees dismissed all the proposals tabled by the opposition Left which would proclaim that Slovenia did not successfully protect care home residents during the epidemic and that the ministries should amend the strategy on fighting the coronavirus in these facilities.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Slovenia and Croatia confirmed revised programmes for the decommissioning of the Krško nuclear power station and the storage of radwaste, as the ministers in charge of energy chaired a session of the intergovernmental commission on the management of the jointly-owned power station. The revised programmes reflect the decision to extend the plant's operation by 20 years beyond its originally planned shutdown in 2023, and the decision that each country will build its own radwaste repository.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament appointed tax expert Ivan Simič and former long-serving chairman of insurer Grawe Božo Emeršič as supervisors of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), the custodian of state assets. The pair will join the other three supervisors for five years after the terms of Duško Kos and Damjan Belič expires on 17 July.
        VELENJE - Home appliances maker Hisense Gorenje decided not to lay off several hundred production workers as originally planned. It will instead employ soft methods to reduce the workforce, since orders have grown in recent weeks and June was the first profitable month this year. The in-house trade union welcomed the latest development.
        LJUBLJANA - Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina handed his office's annual report for 2019 to PM Janez Janša and Speaker Igor Zorčič, urging politicians to take action so that the ombudsman's recommendations are implemented. The report makes nearly 160 concrete recommendations to a variety of state bodies and expresses concern that as many as 200 recommendations made by Svetina's predecessors are yet to be implemented.

WEDNESDAY, 15 July
        LJUBLJANA - Several hundred journalists and media workers gathered to protest against a media reform planned by the government in front of the National Assembly, where the parliamentary Culture Committee discussed changes to three media laws that were broadly condemned by key domestic and international groups. Following outcry from the likes of the European Broadcasting Union, CoE human rights commissioner and the European Federation of Journalists, the government decided to extent the public debate until 5 September, even as government officials suggested at the committee debate they were not willing to change the main tenets of the plan.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission discussed a report which shows that the 7 May incident in which two Slovenian soldiers stopped a civilian in the woods near the border with Italy had happened and had not been orchestrated. The incident was not orchestrated and the two hikers were not members of the Antifa terrorist organisation as alleged by Prime Minister Janez Janša, commission chair Matjaž Nemec of the opposition SocDems said.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia voiced disappointment with the latest proposal to cut the EU's 2021-2017 budget to EUR 1.074 trillion and would like more money to be allocated for cohesion funds, according to Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan, who took part in a video meeting of ministers in charge of EU affairs. He urged a prompt deal on the recovery funding.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court decided to stay legislation allowing construction projects to be sped up in part also by restricting the powers of environmental NGOs in the process of environmental permit procedures. The court was petitioned by several NGOs.

THURSDAY, 16 July
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed at first reading a bill that would provide EUR 780 million for investment in the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) between 2021 in 2026, the bulk for the acquisition of armoured personnel vehicles to set up a battalion battlegroup, plus an aircraft and two helicopters. The coalition was in favour, while the left opposition was against or abstained.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly was expected to pass legislation that would close all but the smallest shops on Sunday but ended up merely sending the bill into third reading. This defers the final decision to September at the earliest. The government does not support the bill.
        LJUBLJANA - Four hospitals will receive coronavirus patients from nursing homes in order to make it easier for nursing homes to organise, the Health Ministry announced, in what marks a change from how such patients were treated during the first wave of the epidemic. A total of 50 beds will be available at special nursing departments at both university medical centres in Ljubljana and Maribor and the general hospitals in Novo Mesto and Nova Gorica.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of new infections remained steady throughout the week with 19 reported for Wednesday for a total of 121 in the last seven days. The number of people in hospital rose by two to 18, with one patient in intensive care. No new deaths due to Covid-1' have been reported since 31 May.
        LJUBLJANA - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch urged the Austrian minister in charge of ethnic minorities, Susanna Raab, to take action after Grafenstein, a municipality in Carinthia, recently decided to effectively abolish bilingual education. The decision is being examined by Carinthia's regional office for constitutional affairs.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian museums and galleries recorded a financial shortfall of around EUR 650,000 due to coronavirus restrictions. The revenue loss will be impossible to offset, said the Slovenian Museum Association

All our posts in this series are here

18 Jul 2020, 09:30 AM

STA, 17 July 2020 - Anti-government protests were held in several Slovenian cities for the 13th week running on Friday. The messages remained broadly the same.

In Ljubljana people flocked to Prešeren Square to protest "reign of terror and dictatorship", as an invitation posted in one of the largest protest groups on Facebook said.

The protest culminated with a "people's assembly" in a bid to formulate clearer demands.

In previous weeks anti-government protesters were disrupted by counter-protests staged by a pro-government group that calls itself "Yellow Vests" whose members wear high visibility vests.

This time the group, some of whose members were outed by leftist media as supporters of Neonazi causes, decided to eschew protesting.

Instead they announced they would mix in with the crowd and covertly snap pictures and films of as many anti-government protesters as possible in order to identify and out them.

There was however a sort of anti-protest prompted by the actions of an individual who last week heckled an accordion player who is a famous permanent presence at Prešeren Square.

Several dozen accordion players gathered there today in support playing Slovenian tunes.

17 Jul 2020, 13:22 PM

STA, 17 July 2020 - President Borut Pahor discussed Monday's return of National Hall in Trieste to the Slovenian minority, and his and Italian President Sergio Mattarella's visit to two memorials in Basovizza in an interview he gave to Mladina weekly. He said Italy transferring the centre's ownership onto the minority should not be taken for granted.

After the law on the Slovenian minority was passed in 2001 setting down the return of the former commercial and cultural centre to the minority, Italy had been considering leasing it to the minority, according to Pahor.

The president said the final decision to claim ownership was taken in mid-May when he had a video call with the heads of the two Slovenian minority organisations in Italy and the Slovenian consul general and ambassador to Italy.

"We were discussing whether to risk going all the way to claim National Hall ownership, or to accommodate for some other solution, for instance merely leasing it from Italy."

He said they had decided at the videoconference to reject Italy's proposal to return the centre just to be used by the minority and to insist on its ownership.

Related: President Borut Pahor: Best of 2019 Instagram, Part 1

Only after this decision was made had a debate started on a ceremony accompanying the restitution event as well as on Pahor and Mattarela's visits to the memorials to the anti-Fascist victims and to the Italian victims of post-WWII killings, said the president.

Pahor thus rejected the notion of "quid pro quo" bargaining in that Italy would not have returned National Hall had he not visited the Foiba of Basovizza memorial.

He indicated that questions surrounding his and Mattarella's visit to the foiba memorial were hard issues, "but if I rely on my moral compass, I'm at peace".

"Both me and Italian President Mattarella felt all the way that we were doing something good."

Pahor is also aware that this gesture would not be necessarily interpreted in the same manner in Slovenia and Italy.

He was asked whether Italy should not have accompanied Pahor's visit to the foiba memorial with some other more substantive gesture, such as "giving more weight to" the 2000 report on Slovenian-Italian relations in 1880-1956 which, was compiled by historians from both countries.

Pahor said that Slovenia did expect Italy to "more attentively read the report and foremost to take it into account".

He said he did not think, based on what we know, that there are actually the remains of those killed after WWII in the Foiba of Basovizza, as they are mostly in other caves.

But he also noted that for Mattarella as a jurist, visiting the Slovenian anti-Fascists memorial, was a legal issue, since under Italian law they are still terrorists.

"If Mattarella went there, then this is a kind of an act which implies rehabilitation" of the four anti-Fascists, executed in 1930, according to Pahor.

He also said that his family had suffered under Fascism and that his grandfather had taught him that "we have to be proud, but that the other side also needs to be allowed its pride".

"Without this historical knowledge, I would not have gone that far," said Pahor in defence of his visit to the foiba memorial.

He also told Mladina that he had been raised in the anti-Fascist spirit and that he would not shy of saying he is an anti-Fascist.

16 Jul 2020, 16:13 PM

STA, 16 July - In what upholds a relatively flat curve of new cases, 19 Sars-CoV-2 infections were confirmed in Slovenia in 1,032 tests conducted on Wednesday. The number of people in hospital rose by two to 18, with one patient in intensive care, show government data released on Thursday.

No new deaths due to Covid-1' were reported, meaning the death toll remains 111, while the total number of confirmed infections rose to 1,897.

The latest number of new cases matches Tuesday's, while ten infections were confirmed in Monday's testing after the previous two weeks also saw two spikes of 30 and 34 cases.

Meanwhile, four new infections were confirmed today in Hrastnik, which is being mentioned as a hotspot, having a total of 23 active infections, among them five elderly care home residents and five staff.

Hrastnik Mayor Marko Funkl told the STA that the four new cases detected today included a staff member and three residents of the elderly care home.

He added that a health inspector was in town today inspecting the situation at local pubs, the source of the outbreak that started last week.

Funkl also reiterated that the care home needed help from the government in ensuring sufficient health care staff. He said he was contacted by the Health Ministry about the issue today, but no help was promised as yet.

Meanwhile, Social Affairs Minister Janez Cigler Kralj told the press before the weekly government session that everything was going according to protocol at the Hrastnik elderly care home and that the home was in constant contact with the ministries of health and social affairs.

He also said that the government would provide aid in form of more staff to its best abilities.

...

Survey shows only 27% willing to use contact tracing app

STA, 16 July 2020 - Only about a quarter of Slovenians are willing to use a contact tracing mobile app designed to stop the spread of coronavirus, suggests a survey conducted on a sample of 566 persons between 10 and 13 July.

For the app to achieve its goal, it would have to be used by at least 50% to 60% of the population. However, only 10% of respondents told pollster Valicon that they would definitely install it to their devices, while 17% said they would likely do so.

While some 17% of the respondents said they were undecided, more than a half have said they are unlikely to install such an app or that they would definitely not install it.

The likelihood of installation is higher among those who are more cautious about their health, BUT most of the people in this group are also unlikely to use it.

The assessed likelihood of installation climbs to 58% in the case that the individual had contracted the virus or had been ordered to quarantine. Nevertheless, some 30% are unlikely to install the app even in this case.

More than a half of the respondents said they do not believe the app will be a success. Less than 25% believe it will have no effect, while a third said the app could not contribute sufficiently to stop the spread of the virus.

On the other hand, nearly two thirds believe that the app could have an effect, while only 4% said it could actually stop coronavirus.

The survey also indicates a low level of trust for the government's reassurances that the app would be anonymous and that it would not be tracing the user's whereabouts.

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