Politics

14 Jul 2020, 16:35 PM

STA, 14 July 2020 - Foreign ministers from Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia, known as the Central5, held talks in Budapest on Tuesday focusing on the opening of borders with third countries in the light of the coronavirus epidemic.

The EU's recovery instrument, multi-annual budgetary framework and the role of state subsidies in investments and regional economic cooperation was also on the agenda, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said it made sense for Central European countries to coordinate their policies and help each other, noting that this was a region with strong historical, economic and human ties.

He stressed that strong cooperation was necessary to overcome the current health crisis, Austrian press agency APA reported.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Central European countries had successfully worked together to introduce protective measures against the virus, and they have decided to maintain their cooperation amid upsurges in several neighbouring countries, Hungarian press agency MTI reported.

The group of five countries decided to establish the Central5 format in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. The first meeting was held in Vienna on 16 June.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar invited his counterparts to a meeting in Slovenia. The tentative date is 15 September, the Foreign Ministry said.

14 Jul 2020, 13:52 PM

STA, 14 July 2020 - The Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) has expressed support for the government-sponsored changes to the media legislation, including a planned distribution of the public broadcaster subscription among other media and the change of STA supervisory board appointment powers from the National Assembly to the government.

Related: Slovenian Press Agency Concerned About Changes to Media Law

The ZNP, the smaller of two national associations of journalists, said in a press release on Tuesday it did not matter whether the supervisors of the STA were appointed by the government or the National Assembly. It believes the changes should also limit the supervisors and the general manager to two terms.

Under the current legislation, the supervisory board is appointed by the National Assembly with an absolute majority. The supervisors, in turn, appoint a general manager in a call for applications.

The ZNP believes the changes should also include provisions under which the government or the National Assembly would not be able to dismiss supervisors before the end of their terms, barring extraordinary circumstances.

It also supports the proposal to distribute 3% of the RTV Slovenija subscription fee to the STA and 5% to other media. RTV Slovenija, on the other hand, would make up for the loss by scrapping its advertisement limitations, under the changes.

The association believes this would force RTV Slovenija to become more commercially-oriented. However, advertising should still remain limited to a certain extent so as to prevent the broadcaster becoming too commercial.

It says that the STA would get more funds under the proposed funding model and could "focus better on its basic mission, which is to inform the public about important topics".

The STA is currently forced to get a large share of the funds need commercially, which the ZNP says eroded its basic task. Moreover, more funds would also mean more money for salaries, which have remained virtually unchanged in the past decade.

The ZNP also support the idea that 5% of the RTV Slovenija subscription fee go to other media for performing public interest services, as it does not matter whether the funds come from the budget of the subscription fee, both being public funds.

The association did say, however, that tax relief measures would have been better than subsidies for the media.

The association has also welcomed the changes to the correction rules, under which media would only be obligated to run a correction if it meant a correction of a false statement and not if somebody simply wanted to add a comment, which is possible under the current legislation.

European Broadcasting Union calls for more discussion before changes

STA, 14 July 2020 - The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an alliance of public service media organisations, has addressed a letter to the Slovenian authorities expressing concern over the future of Slovenian public service media. It urged the government to enable proper time for discussion on the proposed media reform in line with EU standards.

The letter, addressed to the Slovenian government, parliament, Culture Ministry and relevant parliamentary committee, points out that public broadcaster RTV Slovenija "has been exposed to a series of hostile and frequently unsubstantiated comments over the last months".

The EBU is also concerned over "the exceptionally short time envisaged for public debate on potential changes to the legal and financial frameworks of Slovenia's national public media".

The alliance goes on to highlight that the broadcaster plays a vital role in society and continued to play it during the Covid-19 crisis.

RTV Slovenija remit "requires adequate, stable, and predictable funding to serve all segments of society and offer programmes for all groups and minorities with a high level of commitment and professionalism," says the EBU, highlighting that the proposed changes to the act governing the broadcaster would also result in a budget cut of EUR 13 million.

"This significant change requires appropriate debate with all relevant stakeholders, in line with common democratic practice in Europe."

The alliance notes that RTV Slovenija licence fee has been "unchanged since 2012, whereas content and quality demands have constantly increased in a fast-developing economic, social and technological environment".

The EBU urges the relevant authorities to provide proper time for discussing the proposed media reform as well as allow for appropriate debate on public media's role in society and the resources needed to fulfil their remit.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) joined the EBU's warnings and calls saying that they were most concerned over the proposed changes to the funding of public service media in Slovenia and the extremely short period of five days for public discussion.

EFJ director Renate Schroeder said in a joint statement of all the three organisations that RTV Slovenija's independence would be at great risk if the changes were implemented without any further amendments. The Covid-19 pandemic has once again highlighted the key role of public media, she added.

SEEMO secretary general Oliver Vujović pointed out that in these challenging times, a well-funded, independent and strong Slovenian public broadcaster was needed more than ever. "We need an open public discussion according to international standards, and all important stakeholders who may be affected by the change should have their say in the process."

Last Thursday, the ministry unveiled a media reform blueprint involving extensive changes to the media act, the act on RTV Slovenija and the act on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA). The changes are subject to public debate until Wednesday.

The amendments as well as the short time provided for public consultation have triggered strong criticism, including from the Journalists' Association (DNS), trade unions representing the workers of RTV Slovenija, the STA management and staff, and the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA).

14 Jul 2020, 11:02 AM

STA, 13 July 2020 - The STA (Slovenska tiskovna agencija) editorial board has expressed concern with the changes planned by the government to Slovenia's media legislation. Changes to three media-related laws would not only change the STA's funding and give the government more influence on management appointments, but also divide the public broadcaster licence fee among other media outlets.

The STA's editorial board says in a statement addressing the public in Slovenia, as well as abroad, that the changes planned to the three main media-related laws are an attempt to push political interests into a field where they have no place.

"Handing appointments back into the hands of the government would be a massive setback for the autonomy and independence of the STA," the editorial board says as regards the changes planned for the 2011 law on the STA.

Currently, the agency's supervisors are appointed by the National Assembly with an absolute majority, and they in turn appoint the general manager through an open call for application.

"This guarantees that a plurality of interests are represented in the process. The proposed changes, however, open the doors to attempts at direct influence on editorial policy at each change of government, destabilising editorial policy.

"It is notable that Slovenia has had six different governments since the Slovenian Press Agency Act took effect in 2011, but the agency has remained stable, following a clearly outlined editorial policy and development course."

The editorial board also says that the legislative changes would constitute a significant interference in the public funding of the STA and in its governance. "The STA would no longer be funded directly from the budget, a source that has come to represent an decreasing share of its total funding, but would receive a part of the RTV Slovenija licence fee."

"The existing legislation ensures full transparency of operations and finances, with the agency's annual business reports having faced no criticism in either chamber of parliament ever since the law took effect," the board notes.

It also expresses concern about "interferences planned in media legislation in general, above all in independent public services, which includes the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija" as regards the changes planned to the acts on RTV Slovenija and on the media in general.

"Subordination of the media to the politicians currently in power ... is a clear cause for alarm in 21st-century Europe, especially considering scenarios that have already played out in other countries."

The STA editorial board also says that the agency had not been informed about the changes nor involved in the process any other way. "Neither was the broader public, while the government decided to limit the public consultation period to only five working days."

The statement also notes that under the changes, the law would no longer state that the agency must not, under any circumstances, be affected by influences and views that would compromise the accuracy and integrity of its reporting.

If the state in its capacity of the owner of the STA and of RTV Slovenija wanted to ensure long-term stability of STA's operation and help other media, it should increase budget funding for the public service, and help other media with fiscal policy measures and solutions put in place in other countries, the statement also says.

In the afternoon, the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) addressed a letter to President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Speaker Igor Zorčič, recommending that Slovenia "refrain from the plans to change the STA's governing legal framework," adding that these could have severe consequences for the reputation and the business of the STA.

"The STA has been a member of EANA for many years now, and its independence as an organisation of Slovenia's national news infrastructure has always been undoubted. The now planned changes could alter that perception fundamentally."

Signed by EANA president and CEO of the German press agency DPA Peter Kropsch and EANA Secretary General Alexandru Giboi, the letter also underlines that "independence from any third party influence is a cornerstone of the reputation of the news agency. The degree of independence is strongly related to its acceptance as a source of unbiased news within the international media scene."

13 Jul 2020, 22:14 PM

STA, 13 July 2020 - National Hall, a Slovenian centre in the heart of Trieste, was formally handed over to the Slovenian minority in Italy, as a document on its ownership transfer was signed on Monday with Slovenian and Italian presidents Borut Pahor and Sergio Mattarella on hand exactly 100 years after the original building was burnt down by Fascists.

The document sets down a timeline of the full handover, which will take several years, as the centre currently hosts one of the Trieste University schools.

It was signed by representatives of Italian authorities at various levels, the university's chancellor and the heads of both minority organisations, the SSO and KGZS.

Slovenian and Italian politicians hailed it as a milestone for the Slovenian minority as well as Slovenia-Italy ties, but also for Europe, testifying to its values.

President Pahor labelled it a historic event and an act that happens once in a hundred years. "The injustice has been remedied, justice has been done," he said in his address.

"What we're witnessing today is the forbidden dream coming true." At least for a day and metaphorically, Trieste is the capital of the EU because it celebrates the finest of values which are the foundations of the EU, he said.

His Italian counterpart Mattarella said that history could not be erased and the hard experiences people had experienced in this area could not be forgotten.

"This is why the present and the future call us to act in a responsible manner," he said, adding he and Pahor took a major step towards a dialogue of two cultures.

Slovenian Trieste-born writer Boris Pahor, who witnessed the torching of National Hall as a seven-year old, attended the event and was on the occasion decorated with Slovenia and Italy's highest state orders.

President Pahor then visited National Hall, saying today's events can serve as an inspiration "for our common European home" and further encouragement of the co-existence between Slovenia and Italy. They are unprecedented in the history of both nations, signalling "a new era".

Apart from attending the National Hall restitution event, Pahor and Mattarella went to the town of Basovizza to lay wreaths at the memorials to Slovenian victims of Fascism and to Italian victims of post-WWII killings, and jointly meet representatives of the Slovenian and Italian minorities, in what is the first such meeting.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar, who attended the National Hall event together with Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, spoke of a new page in the common future of the two nations, not only in Trieste but also in the EU.

His ministry also took the opportunity to again urge Italy to adopt a report on Slovenian-Italian relations in 1880-1956 which a commission of Slovenian and Italian historians compiled in 2000, and to take its findings into account when interpreting the periods of history the report covers.

National Hall was build in 1904 by the prosperous Slovenians from the area of Trieste as a unique state-of-the-art centre of commerce and culture.

Members of Italian Fascist and nationalist groups set it to fire on 13 July 1920, burning it to the ground, and then attacked another 21 Slavic institutions in Trieste.

The arson severely affected the political situation in the region, fuelling ethnic hate between Italians and Slovenians. After the Fascists came to power in 1922, ethnic minorities, including the Slovenian one, became a target of severe assimilation.

The centre was later nationalised, the minority claimed it back, but Italy committed to return it only in the 2001 law on the safeguarding of the Slovenian minority.

The restitution event was more modest than planned due to Covid-19 and the main cultural event marking the centenary of the arson was rescheduled to 13 July 2021.

Meanwhile, at the memorials in Basovizza Pahor and Mattarella held hands while standing in front of them in sign of reconciliation.

The Memorial to Basovizza Heroes is a site of the execution of three Slovenians and one Croat whom the Fascist authorities killed in September 1930.

The men were members of an illegal organisation set up in 1927 to organise a fight against the Fascist regime and its violent assimilation policy.

The Foiba of Basovizza is meanwhile a Karst chasm which the Italians have chosen as their symbolic memorial site for the victims of post-war killings.

Italy believes the communists threw the executed Italians in it, whereas some historians say it has been proven empty.

Pahor's visit to the foiba memorial recently stirred controversy in Slovenia, with some fearing it would give the Italian revisionists of history a fresh impetus.

Some 150 protesters gathered at a border crossing to protest against Pahor's act and a group appeared at the Memorial to Basovizza Heroes after the commemoration, accusing Pahor of treason.

The head of the 13 July Not In My Name civil initiative, Mauro Dornik, said Pahor paid his respects at a chasm which historians proved was empty.

By doing so, he "confirmed that we are a genocidal nation which went about killing Italians just because they were Italians", not because they were Fascists, and thus sided with Fascists.

He said that Mattarella had not posthumously amnestied the Slovenian anti-Fascists killed in Basovizza, which proved both presidents' tribute to the Slovenian victims of Fascism was not sincere.

There was also some opposition to the restitution of National Hall on the Italian far-right, with the CasaPound movement staging a small protest in Trieste.

13 Jul 2020, 14:46 PM

STA, 13 July 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša defended his statements regarding the Srebrenica genocide on Monday as the opposition Left and Social Democrats (SD) walked out of the National Assembly session over his refusal to apologise for his comments that have been met with criticism in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Janša wrote a series of posts on Twitter over the weekend to the effect that the Srebrenica genocide would not have happened if the United Nations had condemned Communist crimes the same way they had condemned the Holocaust.

He argued that the perpetrators of the Srebrenica genocide, helmed by Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladić, had drawn from lessons they had learnt in Yugoslav military schools - that the enemy must be not just defeated but destroyed.

Clarifying his position at the National Assembly today, Janša noted how he had written a study in 2009 analysing the events after the fall of the Berlin Wall, including the developments in the former Yugoslavia in the run-up to the Srebrenica massacre.

Based on this study he had been selected to lead an international initiative to amend the United Nations resolution on genocide, which received the backing of 100 world leaders in 2012.

Since 2009 he says he has referred to this study every year on the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, and he continues to insist that the UN resolution should be amended.

"There would be no Srebrenica, no Rwanda or many similar genocidal acts around the globe if the world was able to condemn all crimes regardless of which ideology prompted them," he said.

"And this is the shortcoming of the world order, this is why we are striving to appropriately amend the UN resolution. 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.

"There is consensus about that in the civilised world, nobody objects to that, except in Slovenia," he said.

Janša also pointed out that when he was defence minister in the early 1990s, Slovenia had helped Bosnia diplomatically, by training their troops and by supplying arms. If that had not been the case, "there would be five times more Srebrenicas, at least," he said.

Janša made the statement after he was called upon by the Left and SD to apologise for his comments. Because he did not, MPs of both parties walked out of the parliament's chamber.

The opposition criticised the Twitter comments as inappropriate and insulting.

Left MP Miha Kordiš said Janša was in fact pursuing the same policies that led to the Srebrenica massacre, while LMŠ leader Marjan Šarec warned his statements would tarnish Slovenia's reputation abroad.

Even some coalition MPs were critical, including parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), who said such reinterpretation of history could damage Slovenia's reputation.

Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) MP Franc Jurša said it was not right to use the anniversary of the genocide to speak about something "related to a different matter in history".

Janša was critical later on Twitter of the MPs who walked out of the session. "They left the session because they are incapable of facing their racism. Because they are not capable of condemning all crimes, but only those that were not perpetrated by their role models," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Janša's tweets prompted two MEPs of the LMŠ, Irena Joveva in Klemen Grošelj, to write to European Parliament President David Sassoli, asking him to take the necessary political initiative and start a serious political debate on what is a wider issue.

They argued "the abuse and politicisation of the Srebrenica genocide for exclusively internal ideological and party purposes of Slovenia's PM Janša is only the top of the iceberg of what is a wider and very worrying trend of historical revisionism and relativism brought by the worrying rise of far right and populist force across the EU".

13 Jul 2020, 13:34 PM

STA, 13 July 2020 - The presidents of Slovenia and Italy, Borut Pahor in Sergio Mattarella, laid wreaths at two memorials in the Italian town of Basovizza on Monday, one to the 1930 Slovenian victims of Fascism and the other to the Italian victims of post-WWII killings. As they stood in front of the memorials, the presidents held hands.

The Memorial to Basovizza Heroes is a memorial to three Slovenians and one Croat whom the Fascist authorities executed in Basovizza on 6 September 1930.

The men were members of an illegal organisation of Slovenian and Croatian youth set up in 1927 to organise a fight against the Fascist regime and its violent assimilation policy. Under Italian law, they are still considered terrorists.

The Foiba of Basovizza is meanwhile a Karst chasm which the Italians have chosen as their symbolic memorial site for the victims of post-war killings.

Italy believes the communists threw the executed Italians in it, whereas some historians say it has been proven empty.

Pahor's visit to the foiba memorial recently stirred controversy in Slovenia, with some fearing it would give the Italian revisionists of history a fresh impetus.

The commemoration was attended by representatives of several politicians and NGOs.

Senator Tatjana Rojc, a member of the Slovenian minority, said this was a historic day for Trieste and the area around the border between Slovenia and Italy.

She finds it key for the two presidents to have paid their respects at two symbolic sites chosen by the Slovenian and Italian communities as their memorial sites.

"I think this is the start of a new process, a new future on which we'll build our European identity," she told the press.

As for Pahor's visit to the foiba site, she said all the dead had the right to be respected and should not be abused for political agendas.

Similarly, Walter Bandelj of the SSO Slovenian minority organisation said this was a big day heralding the start of dialogue between the two states. He regretted it had not happened some ten years earlier.

He believes neither the Fascist atrocities nor what happened latter should be forgotten. What is needed is looking ahead and achieving reconciliation, he said.

The commemoration at the foiba will go down in history, because this is the first time that the president of a former Yugoslav republic has paid his respects to the Italian victims of post-war killings, according to Antonio Ballarin of an organisation representing the Italians who left Yugoslavia after WWII. They are known as "esuli" in Italian and "optanti" in Slovenian.

Before the Basovizza commemorations, an estimated 150 people gathered at the Fernetiči border crossing with Italy to protest against Pahor's laying a wreath at the foiba memorial, with one banner reading "traitor".

After the commemoration, a group of protestors gathered at the Memorial to Basoviza Heroes; head of the 13 July Not In My Name civil initiative, Mauro Dornik, said Pahor paid his respects at a chasm which historians proved was empty.

By doing so, Pahor "confirmed that we are a genocidal nation which went about killing Italians just because they were Italians" and sided with Fascists, he said.

Dornik believes this opens the door to the organisations representing the esuli to claim back the property they left behind in Istria and Dalmatia.

Mattarella has not posthumously amnestied the Slovenian anti-Fascists killed at the Memorial to Basovizza Heroes, which proves that both presidents' tribute to the Slovenian victims of Fascism was not sincere, he added.

A rally against Pahor's act and in support of the people of Primorska region, including Slovenians in Trieste, is also planned for tonight in Ljubljana.

The wreath-lying commemorations were held on the sideline of today's signing of a document which triggered the restitution of National Hall in Trieste to the Slovenian minority. The ceremony took place exactly 100 years since the Fascists burnt down National Hall.

Its restitution is seen by the Slovenian side as a symbolic act of reconciliation and of utmost importance for future ties between Slovenia and Italy.

It is meanwhile opposed by the Italian far-right movement CasaPound, which according to the Slovenian minority daily Primorski Dnevnik today mounted a protest in Trieste.

13 Jul 2020, 12:12 PM

STA, 13 July 2020 - 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 on Monday. The government previously sought to make installing the app mandatory for those with confirmed infections and those sent into quarantine.

The statement comes after the ministry on Sunday released a call for applications for the localisation of the German app, which is already used by several million residents in Germany and in several other countries, and is based on technology developed jointly by US tech giants Google and Apple.

The German app uses Bluetooth technology and does not store location information, which is a major concern of privacy advocates. As Koritnik put it, "the only purpose of the application is to let people know whether they have been in contact with someone who has been infected".

Under the open call, the app must be ready for deployment by 1 August. The call is for what is called a "contract below threshold", which means the value of the deal may not exceed EUR 40,000.

The rules for such contracts stipulate that the contracting authority must get a minimum of three bids and select among them.

The open call triggered criticism in the app developer community due to the short deadline. Koritnik said the deadline was so short because the contract does not involve complex solutions while the government wants the app to be available as soon as possible.

Koritnik pointed out that Germany had spent millions developing the app, while Slovenia will be able to localise it for a fraction of the price. He also said Germany's data privacy laws were as strict if not stricter than Slovenia's.

The government will consult the Information Commissioner on the proposed specifications and any changes as needed.

The legal basis for the deployment of a contract tracing app was created with the latest package of anti-corona legislation, which the National Assembly passed on 9 July.

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STA, 13 July 2020 - Slovenia's coronavirus case count has increased to 1,849 after eight of the 440 tests for Sars-CoV-2 came back positive on Sunday, fresh official statistics show. One patient is in intensive care, but there were no Covid-19 related fatalities recorded yesterday.

A total of 17 patients are hospitalised with Covid-19, one more than the day before. One patient was discharged yesterday.

Currently, there are 265 active cases in Slovenia, according to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

Slovenia has not recorded Covid-19 related fatalities for a month and a half now. The death toll remains at 111.

13 Jul 2020, 10:20 AM

STA, 12 July 2020 - Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has become the target of criticism in Bosnia-Herzegovina after implying on Twitter that the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred had post-WWII summary executions been adequately condemned.

Janša published a tweet on Saturday, the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica, stating that the massacre "would not have occurred if Communist ideology had been done away with in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and post-war killings in Slovenia and elsewhere condemned."

A few hours later he tweeted that "the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred if the United Nations had condemned Communist genocides the same way they condemned the Holocaust. Because this did not happen, the JLA [Yugoslav People's Army] doctrine that the opponent must be physically destroyed sprung to life again during the break-up of Yugoslavia".

Both tweets came with a link to a story about an article he wrote in 2009 entitled "Did the Berlin Wall really come down on both sides?".

Oslobođenje, a major Bosnian newspaper, said that "while the whole world talks about the genocide in Srebrenica, this politician is diverting public attention to something else, by expressing messages that may be interpreted as fascist. Is this an attempt by Janez Janša to amnesty criminals who perpetrated one of the biggest genocides in this region?"

Slobodna Bosna, a news portal, said the statement was a "morbid provocation not becoming of a statesman". It said only an "ignorant or malevolent and unhinged mind is capable of this. And as far as we know, Janez Janša is not ignorant."

Several other Bosnian news outlets carried similar reactions.

Janša expounded on his views with several more Twitter posts on Sunday.

In one tweet, he quoted a statement by an unnamed Bosnian-Serb soldier, apparently from a documentary film on Srebrenica, saying that Yugoslavia had killed hundreds of thousands of prisoners and nobody was held accountable, which led them to believe that the graves around Srebrenica would not be uncovered for another fifty years,

In another post, he said that the genocide in Srebrenica had been "conceived by the evil raised in the Communist JLA academy under the red star (and not in a nationalist religious school). #JLA generals and officers were taught that the fundamental goal of armed struggle was to liquidate the opponent. Mladić and his ilk are products of that school."

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Bosnian-Serb general Ratko Mladić, a convicted war criminal, wearing a Yugoslav army uniform with a red star on his side cap.

12 Jul 2020, 11:51 AM

STA, 11 July 2020 - Srebrenica needs to stay in our memory as a warning to the international community that such atrocities must never repeat or be permitted again. Denying or relativising these tragic events is unacceptable, the Foreign Ministry wrote to mark the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. President Borut Pahor meanwhile urged reconciliation.

The ministry expects this year's commemoration to also be directed into the future. Slovenia is striving for a process of reconciliation in the area of the former Yugoslavia and for stability in the Western Balkans as a whole.

The reconciliation process is key for harmony and mutual trust among nations and a European future for the region, Saturday's press release by the ministry says.

A quarter of a century is passing this year since more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslims, mainly men and boys, were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in a three-day massacre in and around the town of Srebrenica. Since 2009, 11 July has been a day for EU commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide.

The central ceremony is taking place at the Potočari memorial centre near Srebernica today, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic foreign state officials are not present in person.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor addressed participants via video, saying history could not change, but the future could. Key for the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina is truth as opposed to denial, respect as opposed to hate, open dialogue as opposed to conflicts, he said.

Forgiveness and respect for diversity is vital, he added, arguing reconciliation is not action of the past but a guarantee for coexistence and friendship that comes from a shared pain.

Moreover, a peaceful, European future for Bosnia-Herzegovina requires courage. Courage is the only thing - despite terrible pain that accompanies the memory of the victims of genocide - that can lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, cooperation and restored trust, Pahor added in the address published on Twitter.

11 Jul 2020, 13:02 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, 3 July
        LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR - Slovenia recorded 30 new coronavirus infections, a new high since mid-April, with a large majority of the cases being up to 44 years of age. By 8 July 97 more cases were confirmed, bringing the tally of active cases to 230 and the total case count to 1,776. The number of hospitalisations rose to 15 by 8 July, none of them intensive care cases.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his visiting German counterpart Heiko Maas held a virtual meeting with Portugal's Augusto Santos Silva focusing on the trio EU presidency plans, the coronavirus response and the EU multi-year budget and recovery plan. They established the EU was better equipped to deal with a potential second wave of coronavirus infections. Similar topics were discussed as Maas met Prime Minister Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total dipped by 1.1% from May to 89,377 at the end of June in a first monthly decrease since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The figure is still 26.3% up year-on-year tough.
        LJUBLJANA - The ruling coalition parties signed a deal on cooperation with the opposition National Party (SNS) and the Italian and Hungarian minority MPs. The SNS and the two minority MPs agreed to support government bills and projects in the 2020-2022 period. Other opposition parties turned down the offer to join the partnership on the ground that PM Janez Janša did not inspire trust.
        LJUBLJANA - Police security was beefed up in the centre of Ljubljana as some 2,500 anti-government protesters took to the streets for the 11th consecutive week, while a smaller group of some 80 government supporters wearing yellow vests staged a counter-protest. The anti-government protesters and some media linked the yellow vests to the neo-Nazi groups and to the ruling party. Despite some tension the protests passed off without a major confrontation.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The ALDE party's bureau decided to send a fact-finding mission to Slovenia, expectedly after the summer break, according to unofficial information. However, ALDE party press service said there was "no discussion on the expulsion of any of the Slovenian member parties of ALDE", denying the rumour it would expel the Modern Centre Party (SMC).
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank said that Slovenian banks received EUR 401.1 million worth of requests for a deferral of loan payments in the three months since the relevant legislation took effect. The number of requests filed was 23,700, which amounts to 3.6% of all loans. Processing over 90% of the requests, the banks approving the bulk of them.
        LJUBLJANA - The government replaced four of the five supervisors of 2TDK, the company established for the construction and management of a new rail link to the port of Koper, appointing Robert Rožič the new chief supervisor in what is seen as a prelude to the management's replacement.

SATURDAY, 4 July
        LJUBLJANA - Border restrictions entered into force for citizens of Croatia, France and the Czech Republic as the countries were demoted from the green list of Covid-19 safe countries to the yellow list, but France and most of the Czech Republic were reinstated to green two days later. The citizens of yellow countries are submitted to a mandatory two-week quarantine on entering Slovenia unless they are just transiting the country or had accommodation booked and could prove they had tested negative for Sars-CoV-2. In addition, Slovenia started serving quarantine orders at border crossings for arrivals from red countries, including to Slovenians unable to prove they arrived from Croatia rather than from further south. More than 1,000 quarantine orders were served at the weekend.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša responded to the daily number of coronavirus infections hitting an eleven-week high the previous day by warning that there were only two alternatives until an effective medication or vaccine against Covid-19 was available: drastic shutdown of public life, border closures, social distancing and depression, or mandatory use of a contact tracing app.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that retired brigadier general Tone Krkovič, one of the defendants in the Patria defence corruption trial, had reached a settlement with the state for EUR 60,000 in damages for wrongful imprisonment. This means that only Janez Janša, the incumbent PM, is yet to get damages for wrongful imprisonment over a guilty ruling that was quashed by the Constitutional Court in 2015. Businessman Ivan Črnkovič settled for EUR 63,000 in 2018. Janša claims EUR 900,000.

SUNDAY, 5 July
        VIPAVA - News broke of a coronavirus outbreak at the Vipava care home, the first such after the 80% of Slovenia's 111 Covid-19-related deaths in the first wave of the epidemic were at care homes. Eleven of the 108 residents and seven of the 45 staff tested positive after all had been tested. In response the association of care homes systemic measures had not been put in place to protect the residents.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Barbara Antolić Vupora was elected to the Croatian parliament on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) as the first member of the Slovenian minority to enter Sabor in its 30-year history.

MONDAY, 6 July
        LJUBLJANA - Meeting Albanian Deputy Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj, Foreign Minister Anže Logar vowed that Slovenia would provide support for Albania on its path to the EU. The ministers also talked about the Covid-19 pandemic, with Cakaj lauding Slovenia's response, and efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation, most notably in business.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council, a government advisory body, estimated the public budget costs of coronavirus crisis stimulus measures until the beginning of July at around of EUR 1.1 billion, well below the government's initial estimate of EUR 4 billion and subsequent correction to EUR 2.8 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - Government spokesman Jelko Kacin revealed that a couple of foreign nationals had breached quarantine rules and now faced a fine or even prison on suspicion they spread coronavirus out of negligence. A 37-year-old woman failed to notify emergency department staff beforehand that her husband had Covid-19, who kept going to work despite being ordered to self-isolate.
        LJUBLJANA - The four left-leaning opposition parties filed for a parliamentary inquiry to examine the efficiency of government measures taken to contain the Covid-19 epidemic and mitigate its consequences, including potential violations of human rights and freedoms.
        LJUBLJANA - The State Prosecutors' Council condemned a letter PM Janez Janša addressed to the state prosecutor general on 19 June over the alleged inaction to prosecute death threats expressed at anti-government protests and attacks on the police taking place as part of them.

TUESDAY, 7 July
        LJUBLJANA - Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health, urged adherence to existing measures to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections as he revealed that the cumulative average infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants was at the 10 threshold "we've been using for other countries when designating them no longer safe".
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission kept its projection for Slovenia's economy to shrink by 7% this year unchanged in the latest forecast, while downgrading its outlook for the country for 2021 by 0.6 of a percentage point compared to the May forecast to 6.1% growth.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Commission would like to keep the dialogue with Slovenia on ECB archives, in her response to a recent letter PM Janez Janša examining the possibility for the Commission to withdraw the legal action against Slovenia because of a 2016 seizure of ECB documents.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-owned telecoms company Telekom Slovenije signed a deal to sell Planet TV to the Hungarian media company TV2 Media for EUR 5 million. The transactions is expected to be finalised by the end of September after its gets all clearances. TV2 is owned by Jozsef Vida, whom media associate with the business network of Hungary's ruling party Fidesz. Media reports suggest Planet TV could merge with Nova24TV, the TV associated with the ruling Slovenian Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the central bank showed that banks in Slovenia generated EUR 152 million in pre-tax profit in the first five months of the year, a 50% drop year-on-year. Growth in loans to households was halved and loans to companies are gradually declining too.
        LJUBLJANA - The Insurance Supervision Agency's report for 2019 shows that the Slovenian insurance sector performed successfully last year, with the agency saying that it was well capitalised and thus well prepared for the challenge posed by the coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey presented by the National Education Institute showed that half the Slovenian primary and secondary school pupils think that remote learning posed more challenges than in-classroom learning, something that their teachers concurred with.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Book Agency announced that Slovenia's stint as the guest of honour country at the Frankfurt Book Fair was postponed for a year to 2023 due to coronavirus ramifications. So was the country's planned guest of honour appearance at the Bologna Children's Book Fair moved forward to 2022.

WEDNESDAY, 8 July
        VIENNA, Austria - President Borut Pahor met his Austrian and Croatian counterparts for the 7th trilateral meeting for talks focusing on Europe during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and on the combat against climate change. On the eve of the meeting, Pahor and Austria's Alexander Van der Bellen agreed to mark the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite, which determined the border between Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, together as a sign of peaceful coexistence between the two nations.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In a video debate on the challenges of the EU organised by the Foundation for a Civic Hungary and also featuring Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, PM Janez Janša called for a uniform and not entirely voluntary coronavirus tracing app for the whole of Europe as the only option to allow tourism to continue and prevent a suspension of public life. Janša also spoke of "cultural Marxism" as the biggest ideological threat to the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - The government lowered the number of persons allowed in public gatherings from 50 to 10. Official events of up to 50 people will be allowed if the organiser keeps a record of all the participants.
        LJUBLJANA - Speculation arose whether Aleš Hojs would stay on as the interior minister after PM Janez Janša failed to submit formal notification of his "irrevocable resignation", announced on 30 June, to parliament by the deadline. The PM's office would not comment on the situation.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Home Policy Committee called on the government to retable a motion to invoke a special clause in the defence act that would give soldiers police powers to patrol the border after police reported a spike in illegal migration in June. The committee also urged to government to withdraw from the global compact for migration, a proposal Foreign Minister Anže Logar said his ministry would examine.
        BRNIK - Fraport Slovenija director Zmago Skobir said that passenger numbers at Ljubljana airport had been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, urging the government to help airlines with state aid to preserve routes and aviation as a whole.

THURSDAY, 9 July
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - PM Janez Janša met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on his first trip abroad since assuming office in mid-March. He said Slovenia wanted the agreement on the EU's 2021-27 budget and recovery plan for Europe to be clinched as on as possible and reflect the European Commission's original proposal as much as possible. He told Stoltenberg Slovenia would invest EUR 780 million in he Slovenian Armed Forces in 2021-2026.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Anže Logar met several senior EU officials in preparation of Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021, including the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and three commissioners, among them Oliver Varhely, who is in charge of enlargement.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed by 50 votes to 23 a legislative package meant to prepare Slovenia for the second wave of Covid-19 that includes a legal basis for a contact tracing app. The app, which will be compulsory for infected persons and those placed into quarantine or self-isolation, is to be ready in a few weeks, but the opposition indicated it would challenge it at the Constitutional Court due to the many concerns, including with respect to invasion of privacy.
        LJUBLJANA - The Culture Ministry submitted for public consultation until 15 July a proposal reforming the media act, the RTV Slovenija act and the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) act under which part of the TV licence fee would be allocated for the realisation of public interest in the media and a part would go to the STA, which would no longer be eligible for state funds. The proposal also envisages changes to to the appointment procedure for STA supervisors and director.
        LJUBLJANA - The leadership of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) backed party leader Aleksandra Pivec following a vote of no confidence in her by the party's Ljubljana branch, which Pivec said had been orchestrated.
        NOVO MESTO - The shareholders meeting of Krka endorsed the proposal to pay out EUR 133.27 million of the EUR 270.87 million in distributable profit for dividends at EUR 4.25 gross per share, EUR 1.05 more than in 2019. It also appointed economist Matej Lahovnik, the chief adviser to the government on the stimulus legislation, one of the four new supervisors. Preliminary estimates show the pharma group saw its net profit grow by 15% year-on-year to EUR 160.3 million in the first half of the year as sales revenue rose by 6% to EUR 803.8 million.

All our posts in this series are here

11 Jul 2020, 10:36 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 9 July 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Government communication on coronavirus “dumb”

STA, 10 July 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina is critical in Friday's editorial of the government's communication related to the coronavirus situation. Rather than presenting recommendations to the people as for example the German or Austrian government, the Slovenian government is being "rude, disrespectful and simply dumb", says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

Not only is the government blaming the people for the situation, making threats and patronising them, its communication is even becoming "extremely harmful".

According to Repovž, the main problem is government spokesperson Jelko Kacin.

His statements about Slovenians not understanding that 50 people means 50, not 50 plus another 50, is sending the message to the people that they are idiots and irresponsible.

"Anyone familiar with the basics of communication knows that such threats may be efficient for a (very) short time, but in the long run they lead only to the loss of credibility and authority of the person making them."

Repovž is particularly bothered by Kacin's statements about young people, describing them as "irresponsible and also a little bit dumb beings".

But the most disturbing according to Repovž was Kacin's statement about picnics he made on Tuesday, when he urged people not to invite "people from other cultural and national environments" to their picnics.

He says "such open xenophobia" should not be allowed.

"Wise governments are building bridges of trust with citizens nowadays, asking them, addressing them as partners, co-citizens, presenting them recommendations. Others have Jelko Kacin as the official spokesperson," Repovž says under the headline Main Pest.

Demokracija: Janša's letter to Šketa not controversial

STA, 9 July 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija argues in its latest editorial that the letter that Prime Minister Janez Janša sent to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa over the anti-government protests is in no way controversial. What is controversial is the investigation of Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, it says.

Elaborating on the claim about Šketa, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says that one must distinguish between the justice system and judiciary.

"The justice system is a much broader notion, encompassing state prosecutions, lawyers and notaries; so next to judges also those performing duties related to court activities who definitely are not part of the judicial branch.

"The prosecution thus definitely falls under the executive branch of power, which means that it is autonomous but not independent (as for example justice) or untouchable."

It is clear who is in charge of the executive branch of power, so Janša's letter to Šketa in which he expressed criticism over the passivity of the prosecution in the face of inciting to violence during protests is no interference in the other branch of power but a warning of a superior to an inferior.

"With this letter Janša did not interfere with the prosecutors' independence or conduct political pressure," Biščak argues.

What is controversial, however, is the house searches that were conducted at Minister Počivalšek's home last week and him being placed in custody.

This clearly shows how alive the deep state is and that it is choosing no means in its efforts to bring down the government.

Počivalšek was suspected on misusing public funds in the procurement of protective equipment during the epidemic. But the public funds could not have been misused yet.

He was placed in custody due to the risk of flight but where could he possibly go, Biščak wonders. Another argument was that he might repeat the crime, but where is the guarantee that he will not repeat it after release.

And the third argument was that public broadcaster RTV Slovenija had reported about it. "RTV Slovenija as a key reference for an investigation, are you out of your mind?"

All this can mean only one thing: that the National Bureau of Investigation and the prosecution in cooperation with investigating judge Mojca Kocjančič (former wife of Aleš Zalar and the judge who saved Zoran Janković by excluding key evidence) have come up with a scheme that serves the interests of known political groups.

"Why Počivalšek was picked to be the scapegoat was even publicly stated in the 'official gazette' of the deep state (Mladina): because he is the weakest link on the way to the SDS and Janez Janša. It is hard to imagine a clearer laying out of the principle 'first discrediting then liquidating'", Biščak says under Dear Prosecutors, Are You Serious.

All our posts in this series are here

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