18 Dec 2019, 09:38 AM

STA, 17 December 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec promised Slovenia's further assistance to Serbia in efforts to join the EU, as he visited the country on Tuesday. Talking to the press alongside his counterpart Ana Brnabić in Novi Sad, he said that there was no alternative to Serbia joining the EU.

The EU accession process is the most important tool in preserving economic stability in the region and its slowing down or suspension would carry serious consequences, Šarec said.

Brnabić thanked Šarec for Slovenia's political and technical support, adding that the countries' bilateral cooperation, both economic and political, were at a high level and with no open issues.

She noted that Slovenian companies are among the biggest investors in Serbia and that the number of Serbian investments in Slovenia is rising as well.

There are more than 1,500 companies with Slovenian capital in Serbia, employing some 25,000 people, she said. Trade is increasing, as well, exceeding EUR 1.6 billion in 2018, while the figure for the first nine months of this year was at EUR 870 million, according to Brnabić.

Šarec hopes the countries will strengthen their economic cooperation even further. He added that Slovenia valued highly joint implementation of the former Yugoslavia succession treaty.

He also touched on cooperation of the Slovenian and Serbian police forces in migration management, while Brnabić expressed the wish for a common European policy.

There can be no success in the fight against management unless the EU provides a uniform response and unless Frontex becomes more effective, Šarec also said. It is not up to individual countries to do their homework, everybody needs to take action, he added.

Slovenia and Serbia signed a cooperation protocol on internal security in the police force and a memorandum on technical cooperation in agriculture and rural development.

Šarec and the ministers accompanying him on the trip to Serbia took part in what was the fifth joint government session. A number of bilateral meetings on the ministerial level also took place.

Slovenia's Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his counterpart Ivica Dačić and Jadranka Joksimović, the minister of EU affairs, to discuss the situation in the region and EU accession.

Joksimović also met Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek. The pair agreed to strengthen expert cooperation in cohesion policy.

Interior ministers Boštjan Poklukar and Nebojša Stefanović agreed that cooperation between their ministries and the countries' police forces was very good.

So far, Slovenia has deployed 26 groups of police officers to the Serbian-Bulgarian border. The ministers also discussed organised crime and terrorism.

Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Damjan Stanonik and Serbia's Agriculture Minister Branimir Nedimović talked about digitalisation in agriculture and signed a memorandum on technical cooperation and rural development.

17 Dec 2019, 09:00 AM

STA, 16 December 2019 - Slovenian Consul General in Italy's Trieste Vojko Volk has condemned the posters on which an Italian neo-fascist movement labelled five Slovenian victims of fascism as terrorists. The provocation happened in two Italian towns on Saturday, on the eve of an event commemorating the victims.

The five patriots - Pinko Tomažič, Viktor Bobek, Simon Kos, Ivan Ivančič and Ivan Vadnal - were executed on 15 December 1941 after being sentenced to death by a fascist court in what is known as the "second Trieste trial".

On the eve of the 78th anniversary of their execution, Casa Pound put up posters in Opicina and Longera, saying they were not victims but terrorists, Primorski Dnevnik, the newspaper of the Slovenian minority in Italy, reported two days ago.

The neo-fascist campaign was immediately condemned by the Slovenian minority party - Slovenian Community (SSk) and by the Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association, an umbrella minority organisation.

Related: Ethnic Slovenes in Italy Concerned about Neo-Fascist Rally in Trieste, Saturday (Videos)

TIGR Primorska, an association cherishing the memory of the first anti-Fascist fighters in the area Italy occupied after WWI, also condemned the incident, urging Slovenian senior officials to respond.

It called on President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Foreign Minster Miro Cerar and Consul Volk to ask Italy's officials to publicly distance themselves from such acts.

Responding to the appeal, Volk said today the provocation was meant to undermine the achieved level of cooperation and trust among the Slovenian and Italian nations.

He noted that in 2020, 100 years will have passed since the National Home in Trieste was burnt down by Fascists, on which occasion the Slovenian and Italian presidents will be in Trieste for a commemoration. Talks are also under way for the National Home to be returned to the Slovenian minority.

"These processes contribute to reconciliation and coexistence among the nations and direct us towards the future at concrete and symbolic levels", which Volk believes some far-right groups in Italy find disturbing.

"But it is up to us to respond to political provocations calmly and resolutely," he wrote in his response, noting yesterday's commemoration in Opicina was exactly such a response.

The diplomat stressed a lot of people turned out, and Trieste Mayor Roberto Dipiazza as one of the speakers strongly condemned the provocation and urged tolerance.

16 Dec 2019, 09:42 AM

STA, 15 December 2019 - The National Assembly will start its December session with question time on Monday. The most interesting item on the week's agenda will likely be an investigative report on the arbitration wire taps in 2015 and the second reading of a proposal to abolish voluntary top up health insurance.

The top up insurance abolishment will be discussed on Thursday, with nearly seven hours planned for the debate.

It is unclear whether the changes, proposed by the opposition Left and later reshaped by the parliamentary Health Committee, will garner sufficient support.

Moreover, coalition parties have lodged a number of amendments to the changes, while the Health Insurance Institute has said that the contribution planned to substitute the premiums in the existing system would generate a EUR 70 million shortfall a year.

The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) is also sceptical of the changes, and wants the document taken off the National Assembly's agenda. DeSUS, similar to the National Party (SNS), also wants to wait for a comprehensive reform promised by the Health Ministry.

But perhaps the most interesting discussion is likely to take place on Wednesday, when the MPs are to talk about a report by the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services looking into the wire taps of communication between Slovenia's agent and Slovenia-appointed arbiter in the border arbitration procedure with Croatia.

The report largely pins the blame on former agent Simona Drenik Bavdek, who has turned to the Administrative Court demanding that the National Assembly remove the report from its website and from the National Assembly's agenda.

The MPs are planned to start discussing the confidential part of the report first, while the session will be opened to the public once the National Assembly starts discussing the publicly accessible part of the report, which is also available on its website.

The MPs will also discuss legislative changes introducing a lump sum aid for families in which the mother is unemployed when she gives birth. The changes would cost EUR 13.5 million, which has not been earmarked in the budget.

On Wednesday, the MPs will also go over the second reading of the bank guarantee bill for the second rail track towards Koper and the third developmental axis, a road project connecting the Koroška and Dolenjska regions.

16 Dec 2019, 09:32 AM

STA, 15 December 2019 - The December Vox Populi poll shows the coalition Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) at the top of the party rankings with the support of 20.2% of respondents. The opposition Democrats (SDS) are in place two with 16.6%. Moreover, 50.4% of the respondents believe the government is doing a good job.

While the government's approval rating grew by 5.8 percentage points over November, LMŠ's support dropped by 1.1 percentage points. On the other hand, the support for the SDS increased by 3.1 percentage points.

Similarly, the support for the Social Democrats (SD), in place three, also went up this month, reaching 9.7%, while a month ago it was at 7.1%.

The opposition Left is in fourth place this month with 6.5% (6.6% in November), followed by New Slovenia (NSi) with 5.3% (7.4% in November) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) with 3.1% (3.2% in November) and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) with 2.8%.

Excluding the undecided voters from the poll (23.1%), the SLS would make it into parliament, according to Vox Populi. The rest of the parties would not make it across the 4% parliamentary threshold.

President Borut Pahor continues to top the popularity rankings, followed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and MEP Tanja Fajon.

The Vox Populi poll was commissioned by newspaper Dnevnik and broadcaster RTV Slovenia and conducted by pollster Ninamedia between 10 and 12 December, including 700 people.

15 Dec 2019, 09:36 AM

STA, 14 December - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged protecting multilateralism against unilateralism as he and his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar discussed bilateral relations, EU-China cooperation, and the 17+1 initiative, which brings together 17 Central and East European countries plus China.

Making a case for multilateralism at a time of major global changes, Wang stressed that both countries must continue to defend multilateralism and build open economy.

"We must adopt concrete measures to reject unilateralism and avert power politics in a bid to protect the international system with the UN at its centre, the international order backed by international law, and a multilateral trade system with the WTO as its basis," he said at a press conference in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Wang stressed that despite having different culture and history or being different in size, China and Slovenia respected the basic rules of international relations.

"This is the basis for our mutual trust, which benefits both countries," said Wang, who believes China-Slovenia relations are becoming increasingly mature and stable.

Cerar noted China was a superpower, a permanent UN Security Council member and an indispensable strategic partner of the EU's, but indicated the two sides did not always share the same positions. But he said China was a key partner of the EU's in fulfiling commitments from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

"We have different stances or standards in the EU and China, but we need to discuss it with respect and openly, but most of all we must seek common areas of cooperation, enhance constructive relations and respect each other," he said.

Cerar stressed political and economic cooperation had been growing, making China Slovenia's most important trading partner in Asia and the 13th most important one overall.

Since 2013, trade in goods increased by some 15% a year to reach EUR 1.3 billion in 2018, with several Slovenian firms opening their offices in China and China's investment increasing in Slovenia.

He also noted that 2020 would be a year of enhanced dialogue between the EU and China, with two EU-China summits planned alongside a 17+1 initiative summit.

Cerar also announced Slovenia and China would further strengthen cooperation next year in view of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021.

Wang announced the 17+1 summit, to be held in Beijing in April, would focus on mutual connectivity, green development, innovation and openness.

It is Slovenia's wish to take the lead in the 17+1's coordinating mechanism for winter sports, an area where it has developed good cooperation with China.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is another area of cooperation, with Slovenia promoting its port of Koper as "one of the best points for good from Asia ... to reach Central and East Europe", stressed Cerar.

Wang would meanwhile also like to see more cooperation within the BRI in science, technology, advanced production, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare and winter sports, while he belives infrastructure, such as railways and ports, should be better connected.

"Let's hope for the Beijing summit to create better synergies between the 17+1 forum, the BRI, the EU's strategy to connect Europe and Asia, and the Three Seas initiative as well as development strategies of Central and East European countries," he said.

Cerar announced he would visit China with a business delegation next year, while a China-Slovenia Day of Science and Investment would be organised here.

Wang, who is en route to the Europe-Asia meeting in Spain, which will be also attended by Carer, also met President Borut Pahor.

The pair discussed topical issues in the international community and urged enhancing the good relations between the EU and China, Pahor's office said in a release.

Pahor also took the opportunity to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Slovenia.

Wang also met Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Speaker Dejan Židan before completing his visit, the first to Slovenia by a Chinese foreign minister since 2008.

All our stories on China and Slovenia are here

14 Dec 2019, 11:04 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 December

Mladina: Refugees will eventually tell their stories

STA, 13 December 2019 - Much like Europe's responsibility for developments during the war in former Yugoslavia is being discussed today, the horrors that refugees are experiencing now will surface in the years to come, the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday. The story will be told by people who will be fully integrated into European society, it notes.

"It's winter, a time when we become aware of refugees again. It has been so since 2015. That is when tents collapse because of snow and sleeping outdoors means sickness and death.

"When winter comes, we see footage of children and adults freezing in camps - this year the media and humanitarian workers were attracted by the Vučjak camp in Bihać, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last year it was Lesbos, Greece. In 2016 it was the Calais camp in France," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.

Every year, this prompts people and countries to join forces and help this one particular camp - this year, it is Vučjak - to make Europeans feel a little bit better. "But in fact nothing has changed. There are plenty other tents and camps."

According to Repovž, everyone knows what is happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "We know very well that Vučjak was abandoned because European countries have 'paid' Bosnia-Herzegovina to make this disgrace go away."

"We know exactly what is happening along our wire and around it. We know exactly what Croatian police are doing. We know exactly what the situation is in Greece. We know what is going on in Macedonia."

And this is the story we will not be able to get away from. It will be told in the future by different people, completely integrated into our society, from a basketball star, writer, to perhaps a popular TV anchor or a leading doctor, perhaps a minister.

They will speak about the millions living in camps, including hundreds of thousands of children growing up without education, without basic necessities and in total misery, closed in fact and under the supervision of guards, Repovž says.

Their peers will listen to these stories and they will suddenly see their countries in a completely different light, and they will want to talk about it, Repovž says under the headline “Past Always Catches Up With You”.

Demokracija: Leftists hypocrites on climate change

STA, 12 December 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija accuses leftists of hypocrisy when it comes to climate change. It says the UN climate change meeting in Madrid is "not only a get-together of harmful tragic comedians, it is also a meeting of characters more bizarre than even Graham Chapman could imagine".

The magazine highlights people like US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who liberally uses her private jet, and entrepreneur Elon Musk, "a hypocritical bird" who left US President Donald Trump's advisory board after Trump abandoned the Paris climate agreement but "flies so much each year he could circle the Earth six times and each of his SpaceX rockets uses over 130,00 litres of fossil fuel".

"These people, who do not trigger even minimum moral outrage on the left, trade in and get rich off apocalyptic climate change stories - naturally under the UN banner," says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak, who goes on to accuse the UN and its various climate change endeavours of attempts to "create a global centrally managed society that would control all facets of life of each individual in the world".

Nevertheless, Demokracija, which is co-owned by the climate change-denying Democratic Party (SDS), still sees hope. An increasing number of people are sceptical about climate change and turnout at climate conferences is declining, says the commentary “Haydn's Symphony No. 45 in Madrid”.

All our posts in this series are here

14 Dec 2019, 09:11 AM

STA, 14 December 2019 - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Slovenia on Saturday for talks with his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar and other senior officials. Wang and Cerar will discuss the two countries' political and economic relations and aim to come up with new cooperation opportunities in various areas.

This will be first visit by a Chinese foreign policy chief since 2008, according to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry.

The official visit is designed to strengthen political dialogue as well as discuss global issues and cooperation within forums such as EU-China cooperation, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum and the 17+1 initiative, which brings together China and Central and Eastern European countries.

Cerar is expected to attend the ASEM meeting in Madrid on Sunday and Monday. Foreign ministers from 30 European and 21 Asian countries are to discuss strengthening multilateralism, global and regional issues as well as bolstering sustainable connectivity between the two continents.

While in Slovenia, the Chinese foreign minister will also meet President Borut Pahor, Speaker Dejan Židan and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

China is Slovenia's key trading partner in Asia and ranks 13th among Slovenian major trading partners.

In the first nine months of 2019, trade in goods between China and Slovenia exceeded EUR 1 billion, with Slovenia importing EUR 887 million and exporting EUR 191 million worth of goods.

Moreover, after seven years of cooperation based on the 17+1 initiative, Slovenia is seeing positive business results. The two countries also cooperates as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

All our stories on China and Slovenia can be found here

13 Dec 2019, 17:39 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, 6 December
        LJUBLJANA - Simona Drenik Bavdek, the official at the centre of the arbitration scandal, demanded the withdrawal of an incriminating report by the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services. She later lodged a claim with the Administrative Court demanding that the report be taken from the website because the parliamentary inquiry violated her human rights.
        ROME, Italy - FM Miro Cerar and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio called for EU-level solutions to tackle migrations, including enhanced protection of the EU's external borders, reform of asylum law and cooperation with third countries.
        LJUBLJANA - A productivity report compiled by IMAD, the government's macroeconomic think tank, showed that increasing productivity would be key to Slovenia's economic and social development, and to achieve the goal, innovation and R&D would have to be enhanced.
        LJUBLJANA - Fortenova, the owner of Croatian conglomerate Agrokor's healthy assets, confirmed the goal of resolving open issues regarding Slovenian retailer Mercator by the end of the year, highlighting the role of local suppliers' interdependency with Mercator and the importance of keeping the headquarters in Ljubljana for the next several years.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia's European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič appointed Matjaž Malgaj as head of his team, while it was reported that Maja Kocijančič was the only Slovenian in a cabinet of another commissioner.
        NEW YORK, US - Slovenian NBA star Luka Dončić was named Sports Illustrated's 2019 Breakout of the Year. The Dallas Mavericks small forward, who made his NBA debut in 2018, was also awarded NBA player of the month for October and November.

SATURDAY, 7 December
        LONDON, UK - The acclaimed SNG Maribor Ballet company led by choreographer Edward Clug put on two guest performances of Clug's celebrated work Radio and Juliet at the London Coliseum, the West End's largest theatre.

SUNDAY, 8 December
        LJUBLJANA - The latest data released by the Statistics Office showed that international trade in goods and services remained Slovenia's most important cross-border economic activity in 2018. The value of exports and imports of goods and services rose annually by 9.3% and 10.4%, respectively.
        LJUBLJANA - The Jury Grand Prix of the 16th Animateka international animated film festival was bestowed on Acid Rain by Polish director and animator Tomek Popakul. The film also won the audience award.

MONDAY, 9 December
        SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina/PRISHTINA, Kosovo - Visiting Slovenian soldiers deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, PM Marjan Šarec heard praise of them and stressed Slovenia was not considering diminishing its presence in the region. PM expressed regret over Kosovo transforming KFOR into a professional military force without changing the constitution.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - FM Miro Cerar said Slovenia did not support making decisions by qualified or any other kind of majority in the EU foreign policy. The country had signed an informal document which could be interpreted as paving the way for qualified majority, but FM stressed the document did not endorse this.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - FM Miro Cerar backed the decision by the EU's Foreign Affairs Council on launching preparations for a new EU regime to sanction human rights abusers. Meeting the foreign ministers of North Macedonia and Albania, FM called for starting EU accession talks with both countries by March next year.
        BERLIN, Germany - Speaker Dejan Židan met President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble for informal talks about the six-month EU presidency spells (July 2020 - December 2021) held successively by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) nominated Angelika Mlinar, a former Austrian MEP and a member of the Slovenian minority in Austria, for cohesion policy minister. The govt granted her citizenship request on 12 December, but her dual citizenship request in Austria is pending.
        LJUBLJANA - The permanent consultative climate policy committee, a body attached to President Borut Pahor's office, recommended to the government and both chambers of parliament to consider declaring a climate and environmental emergency.
        KRANJ - A fire broke out at Ekol, a hazardous waste processing plant, causing some EUR 40,000 damage, but the authorities later said it had not polluted the air or water. Nevertheless, it upset the locals, who have been warning for years about the hazard the Laze industrial zone poses to the environment and public health.
        LJUBLJANA/LONDON, UK - British business newspaper Financial Times ranked the University of Ljubljana's School of Economics and Business among the 95 best business schools in Europe for the second consecutive years.
TUESDAY, 10 December
        LJUBLJANA - The supervisory board of telecoms Telekom Slovenije appointed Tomaž Seljak the new chairman for a full, four-year term. Seljak had previously served as interim chairman following the resignation of Matjaž Merkan in mid-November.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office data showed that Slovenia's external trade in goods continued to grow in October, despite a drop in trade with EU countries. However, imports rose at a faster rate year-on-year than exports, creating a trade deficit.
        MADRID, Spain - Paris Agreement implementation will require the cooperation of everyone, Environment Minister Simon Zajc said at the COP25 climate summit. He later welcomed the European Green Deal, saying the strategy ensures a just transition to facilitate a green shift in the most vulnerable sectors and regions, including Slovenia's mining regions.
        LJUBLJANA - Iskratel, the company that was outbid in a tender to build a motorway e-tolling system for lorries in 2016, brought a EUR 17.7 million damages suit against the motorway company DARS, arguing that the latter as well as the National Review Commission had abused the selection procedure.
        LJUBLJANA - A debate discussing solutions aimed at increasing gender-balanced representation in Slovenia's electoral system heard calls for higher gender quotas and for the adoption of the zipper system. Speaker Dejan Židan expressed support for raising gender quotas from the current 35% to 40%.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia ranked 44th in the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), dropping one place compared to last year. The country scored the lowest in renewable energy and climate policy, while it did better in energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - A Ljubljana stadium designed by acclaimed architect Jože Plečnik in the 1920s was shortlisted as one of the 14 pieces of European cultural heritage that could be put on a list of seven most endangered pieces which will be revealed in March 2020.

WEDNESDAY, 11 December
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The EU's Court of Justice Advocate General Priit Pikamäe proposed for the court to rule inadmissible Slovenia's case against Croatia over the latter's failure to implement the 2017 border arbitration award. Top officials expressed surprised and hope the court would heed the country's legal arguments rather than follow the non-binding opinion.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and his Macedonian counterpart Oliver Spasovski agreed joint policy and cooperation of all Western Balkan countries were needed for the effective management of migration on the Western Balkan route, as well as information exchange and fight against organised crime.
        LJUBLJANA - Election legislation, provinces and climate change ranked prominently as the country's President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Speaker Dejan Židan and National Council President Alojz Kovšca met for an end-of-year reception.
        ZADAR, Croatia - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec attended the inauguration of an aircraft training centre set up in the framework of NATO's Multinational Special Aviation Programme, saying the centre was very important for strengthening interoperability.
THURSDAY, 12 December
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - At an EU summit, PM Marjan Šarec said that the Finnish presidency's proposal for the EU's next long-term budget was very bad for Slovenia, because it proposed cutting cohesion funds for the country by 28% compared to the current period.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry reported that Slovenia had joined a Green Group call for more ambitious measures in the face of climate change at the climate conference in Madrid, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said in Brussels that Slovenia advocated carbon neutrality for EU by 2050.
        LJUBLJANA - The government granted the citizenship request by Angelika Mlinar, a former Austrian MEP who had been nominated to head the government office in charge of cohesion policy, under provisions of the citizenship act typically used to fast-track athletes' applications.
        BLED - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec hosted his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Benko, with the pair discussing the security situation in the region as well as bolstering bilateral and regional defence and military cooperation.
        ČRNOMELJ - Representatives of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) visited Črnomelj area to assess the migrant situation there, noting good practices as well as a number of issues, including "police violence against refugees".
        LJUBLJANA - The office of President Borut Pahor asked the Interior Ministry to closely examine the case of an Afghan who is facing deportation from Slovenia, as it believes it stands out from usual cases. The man has lived in Slovenia since 2015, has a family here and speaks the language.
        LJUBLJANA - Petrol shareholders decided that major deals concerning the acquisition and disposal of financial investments, other types of investments and sponsorship contracts that the energy firm has concluded since early 2015 be audited.
        LJUBLJANA - The government said it would allocate EUR 10 million in 2021-2026 to support projects hosted by a Slovenian town to be designated a European Capital of Culture for 2025.
        LJUBLJANA - Saop and Mit Informatika, which specialise in enterprise software, signed a business combination agreement creating a new major player on the Slovenian IT market.

All our posts in this series are here

13 Dec 2019, 12:07 PM

STA, 12 December 2019 - The Finance Ministry has drawn up a blueprint for a law introducing government guarantees for housing loans. These would be fully guaranteed up to EUR 150,000 in principal provided the borrower provides 20% in the form of own funds.

Unveiling the proposal in Ljubljana on Thursday, Finance Ministry State Secretary Alojz Stana said the scheme was aimed at the young up to the age of 35, young families and those in fixed-term or precarious forms of employment not older than 40.

A 100% guarantee would be available for housing loans amounting to up to EUR 150,000 in principal with a maturity of up to 30 years, rescheduling included.

The borrower would have to chip in at least 20% in the form of own funds, which is in line with loan requirements of the central bank, Banka Slovenije.

The total amount of guarantees is planned at up to EUR 500 million in principal. The annual amount of funds would be determined in the state budget implementation acts.

The borrower would be able to pick the bank they take the loan from, while the guarantor would be able to pay up to six past due instalments to the bank instead of the borrower.

This option would be available to the borrower several times while the loan was active, but only under condition that liabilities from the recourse claim were settled.

If the guarantee was enforced, the state's recourse claim would be repaid from the proceeds from the sale of the property with the national Housing Fund having the pre-emptive right to buy.

Unofficial information indicates that the ministry is still looking for a solution how to enable the borrower who was unable to repay the loan to stay in the property.

One option would be non-profit rental, but there would be a scope for abuse.

The ministry says that the scheme is aimed at creditworthy borrowers, so it does not interfere with the central bank's tightening of criteria for consumer loans.

However, the ministry hopes that Banka Slovenije may reconsider the consumer lending brake because of the state guarantee scheme.

The ministry expects that the lending terms for state-guaranteed loans would be easier on the borrowers. It hopes that the scheme's impact on property prices would not be excessive.

The scheme would be implemented by the state-run export and development bank SID. Guarantees would be issued for loans hired until the end of 2030.

The blueprint has been agreed with the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning and is expected to be submitted for public consultation in January.

The scheme would be just one of housing policy measures with the main objective being increasing the fund of rental housing. Housing policy measures are to be updated in a new housing loan that is in the pipeline.

Following the central bank restrictions on consumer lending, a state loan guarantee scheme has been proposed by the opposition Democrats (SDS), but the corresponding bill was voted down in parliament.

12 Dec 2019, 14:09 PM

STA, 12 December 2019 - The government has granted the citizenship request by Angelika Mlinar, an Austrian former MEP who has been nominated to head the government office in charge of cohesion policy, on grounds of national interest.

The government said on Thursday the request had merit in that "there is interest by the Republic of Slovenia in admitting the person in question into citizenship."

The decision is based on provisions of the citizenship act which provide a path to citizenship for individuals that Slovenia deems useful for "scientific, economic, cultural, national and similar reasons".

It is most often used to fast-track citizenship applications of athletes and scientists and by mid-2018 almost 1,500 people had become citizens that way.

Following the clearance from the government, the Ministry of the Interior will now issue a formal citizenship decision.

Mlinar had been nominated by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) to head the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, having previously topped the SAB slate for the EU election.

An Austrian citizen but ethnic Slovenian, Mlinar lived in Slovenia for several years. Despite diverging opinions due to vague legislation, the prevailing sentiment is that she needs Slovenian citizenship to become a cabinet member.

Her request in Austria that she be allowed dual citizenship is still pending and Mlinar has said that she would not want to give up her Austrian passport to be allowed to serve as minister.

The government must formally nominate a new minister by 7 January, three months after Iztok Purič stepped down.

12 Dec 2019, 10:21 AM

STA, 11 December 2019 - Opinions varied as stakeholders discussed a proposal from New Slovenia (NSi) for sex offences not to become statute-barred. While the NSi believes this would help victims who decide to speak about their experience at a later age, the justice minister argued victims should report such crimes as soon as possible.

Wednesday's debate on the parliamentary Justice Committee was opened by its vice-chair, Meira Hot of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who said that the goal was to get a wide range of opinions on the proposal from the conservative opposition party.

Hot discussed a number of questions related to the topic, including how sex offences influence the long-term mental health of the victims, and how their age affects their ability to face such acts.

Justice Minister Andreja Katič said that a task force at the ministry was drafting more extensive changes to the penal code, also in relation to sexual offences.

Under the existing penal code, only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity never become statute-barred. Other criminal acts fall under the statute of limitations in 10 to 30 years, depending on the envisaged prison sentence.

When it comes to criminal offences against sexual integrity, the time period after which an act becomes statute-batter starts after the victim reaches the age of 18.

Katič said that extending this period from 20 or 30 years alone would not contribute to a better status of the victim and would not solve the issue of proving a sexual offence.

"Our goal must be that victims report a criminal act as soon as possible," she said, warning against rushed and partial changes of legislation.

NSi leader and MP Matej Tonin meanwhile called for support for the proposal, which he sees as a "clear message that we are a society which has zero tolerance to such acts".

As the proposal was filed in July, Tonin also said the problem was that it took very long for the victims to speak about their experience. "When sexual abuse happens in early childhood, victims usually subconsciously suppress it.

"They are ready to face it perhaps only decades later, when it is too late in certain cases, as criminal acts become statute-barred," he added.

Violeta Neubauer of Women's Lobby of Slovenia said that the proposed change would not lead to the women experiencing sexual violence losing fear from reporting it.

Neubauer also believes the "police, prosecution and courts, or even lawyers, would change their manner of doing things so that victims would not experience secondary victimisation any more."

Katja Zabukovec Kerin of the Association for Non-Violent Communication added the elimination was not enough, and that the mindset and legal practice should also be changed.

"It's still believed paedophiles only like children too much. Education and awareness-raising is not enough. Legislation needs to be changed, right now," she added.

The NSi's proposal is supported by the Association Against Sexual Abuse. "This is only one of the needed measures in the prevention and prosecution of criminal acts against sexual integrity," said Manca Bizjak of the association.

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