Politics

23 Aug 2019, 16:21 PM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

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FRIDAY, 16 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry rejected Croatia's recent statements about the border arbitration between Slovenia and Croatia, saying new Croatian Foreign Minister Goran Grlić Radman had uttered "several non-truths". He, for instance, alleged Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, while still prime minister, had almost accepted in December 2017 Croatia's offer that the border issue be resolved bilaterally.
        LJUBLJANA - Police data showed that almost 1,750 illegal crossings of the border were recorded in Slovenia in July, the highest since the 2015/2016 migration wave.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor appointed on 12 August Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Tanja Strniša Slovenia's new ambassador to the Czech Republic, to replace Leon Marc, according to the latest issue of the National Gazette.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin responded to the criticism of the centre-right opposition party's announced repositioning to the centre by saying it would be hard for the NSi to be anything else, "since those left of us are socialists and those to the right nationalists and global warming deniers".
        LJUBLJANA - Animal rights group AniMa handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc a petition signed by almost 13,500 people urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves. However, Zajc said the emergency law on culling was needed to get the populations back to a level that is also favourable for locals in the areas affected by an increasing number of wolf attacks on farm animals.

SATURDAY, 17 August
        LJUBLJANA/BELTINCI - Slovenia observed Prekmurje Reunification Day, a national holiday celebrating the day 100 years ago when the country's northeastern-most region of Prekmurje was united with the rest of the nation after WWI following more than a millennium under foreign rule. At a state ceremony in Beltinci, PM Marjan Šarec called against self-serving politics of hate and urged a focus on development.
        LJUBLJANA/ŠKOFJA LOKA - Ivan Oman, a key figure of Slovenia's independence, died, aged 89. Oman was the first president of the Slovenian Farmers' Union, a party established in May 1988 and later renamed the Slovenian People's Party (SLS), and a member of the Slovenian collective presidency (1990-1992). Oman was laid to rest with state honours on 21 August.

SUNDAY, 18 August
        SALZBURG, Austria - Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan began a two-day visit to Salzburg, where he discussed with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka the Western Balkans, the EU's future, and climate change. Sobotka also proposed that Austrian and Slovenian historians formed a special panel to study the two nations' shared history in a bid for the Slovenians and Austrians to better understand each other.
        IMOLA, Italy - Three races before the end of the season, Slovenian motocross star Tim Gajser, 22, won his second championship title at the MXGP after winning the first one in 2016, his first year in the top motocross class.
        PORTOROŽ - Slovenia's best tennis player, Aljaž Bedene, won the ATP Challenger Slovenia Open, beating Norwegian Viktor Durasovic, 7:5 and 6:3, in what is the 16th Challenger series title for the 30-year-old, who climbed ten spots to 80th in ATP world rankings.

MONDAY, 19 August
        LJUBLJANA - An unofficial media report suggested the European Commission will soon notify NLB, Slovenia's largest bank, that it has to sell its life insurance business NLB Vita, which is co-owned with KBC Insurance. NLB Vita will have to be sold as part of commitments for Slovenia's failure to privatise its entire agreed stake in NLB - 75% minus one share - by the end of 2018. The privatisation process was completed only this June.
        BRNIK - Humanitarian activist and Republican Party supporter Lynda Blanchard, the new US ambassador in Ljubljana, arrived in Slovenia after her predecessor Brent Hartley left in July 2018. Speaking to reporters upon arrival, Blanchard said she hoped to make the US and Slovenia stronger partners.
        LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc met hazardous waste treatment companies to find a solution after a major company in the business, Kemis, had to stop accepting waste after being ordered by inspectors to remove the facilities rebuilt after a devastating fire in 2017. Zajc said Kemis's counterparts could step in to accept 14,000-15,000 tonnes of toxic waste. He also ordered Kemis's appeal be handled as a matter of priority.

TUESDAY, 20 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's bank NLB and Belgium's KBC Insurance said they were examining options to sell their insurer NLB Vita after unofficial media reports suggested NLB will have to sell it because the state missed the end-2018 deadline to privatise NLB. NLB apparently had the option of keeping NLB Vita, but at the cost of the European Commission extending its ban on takeovers by 18 months. Meanwhile, in an interview given before the news of NLB Vita, NLB chairman Blaž Brodnjak told the STA the bank was looking to strengthen its role as a key regional player, including through takeovers. It is said to be enying Serbia's second-largest bank, Komercijalna Banka.
        LJUBLJANA - Major General Alenka Ermenc, chief of the general staff, said not all the shortcomings which had piled up for the past 28 years could be eliminated in a year's time, as she met the press to present the situation in the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF). She listed the army's professionalisation, which had never been fully completed, and delays in its modernisation, as the main issues, noting it would be possible to reverse the current negative trends with more funds.
        CELJE - The Celje Higher Court cleared Mirko Krašovec, the former treasurer of the Maribor Archdiocese, of all charges related to a misuse of EUR 1.8 million in EU funds for the renovation of the Church-owned Betnava mansion ten years ago, as it upheld the first-instance court's ruling in the second retrial in the case.
        LJUBLJANA - The group around insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav reported a EUR 34.7 million net profit for the first half of 2019, a 16% year-on-year rise. Consolidated gross premiums were up 10% to EUR 630 million and net premium income by 6% to EUR 491.8 million.
        HACHIOJI, Japan - Slovenia's Janja Garnbret, 20, secured the world champion title in the combined, an Olympic discipline, at the IFSC Climbing World Championships, after she won gold in the women's lead discipline and defended the title of bouldering world champion. She thus became the first ever climber to complete a hat trick in a single championship.

WEDNESDAY, 21 August
        LJUBLJANA - Gabrijel Škof, director general of insurer Adriatic Slovenica, was appointed new chairman of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), which manages state assets in excess of EUR 10 billion. The appointment of the fourth SSH chairman since the holding's establishment in June 2014 rounds off a series of replacements at SSH and the Bank Assets Management Company.
        LJUBLJANA - Ten telecommunications operators announced they would provide around 47,500 more households in Slovenia's rural areas with access to broadband in the coming three years. This leaves around 50,000 more households in so-called white areas, where funding of infrastructure will have to be provided by the state.
        LJUBLJANA - Happy with Tuesday's meeting with PM Marjan Šarec, the Trade Union of Farmers decided to suspend its protests against ineffective government measures against wolf attacks on farm animals, and to withdraw its demand for the resignation of the environment minister.
        ČRNOMELJ - Private broadcaster POP TV reported Slovenia had started erecting another 40 kilometres of fence along the border with Croatia in a bid to curb illegal migrations. Once the EUR 4.8 million project is completed, more than 200 kilometres of Slovenia's 670-kilometre border with Croatia will be fenced in.
        LJUBLJANA - In a letter to the culture minister, Slovenian Writers' Association president Dušan Merc decried the state of book publishing due to a marked drop in funding. He believes Slovenia is not ready for the fairs in Bologna and Frankfurt, where it will be the guest of honour in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
        NOVA GORICA - A wildfire broke out near the Cerje war memorial just south of Nova Gorica, destroying some 100 hectares of forest as it spread, also across the border to Italy. Firefighters managed to contain it during the night and put it out the next day.

THURSDAY, 22 August
        KRŠKO - PM Marjan Šarec called for building a second reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) as he visited Slovenia's sole nuclear power station, which is slated for closure in 2043. This is the strongest signal from a Slovenian government about its future policy on nuclear energy in a while, and a sign the country does not intend to renounce nuclear energy.
        LUBLJANA - The European Commission confirmed the EU Cohesion Fund is to contribute EUR 101 million for the renovation of the 16-kilometre rail section between Maribor and Šentilj on the border without Austria, the project worth a total of EUR 254 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Sava Insurance Group, Slovenia's second largest, generated EUR 22.6 million in net profit in the first half of the year, a 59.3% year-on-year rise coming as gross premiums written were up 9.1% to EUR 336.8 million.
        LJUBLJANA/LENDAVA - On the eve of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes, several events were held to mark the memorial day, with President Borut Pahor honouring victims in Lendava, where he laid a wreath at a memorial to WWII and post-WWII victims.

23 Aug 2019, 14:30 PM

STA, 23 August 2019 - The Hungarian government has reportedly decided that the country will stop importing sewage sludge, a move that could spell serious trouble for Slovenia which exports around 70,000 tonnes of sludge from its municipal wastewater treatment plants to Hungary.

According to the Slovenian Chamber of Public Utilities, the Hungarian government - facing media criticism the country was serving as the public toilet of Europe - decided this month to stop extending permits for sewage sludge imports.

The chamber's director Sebastijan Zupanc told the STA that the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry was trying to obtain more information on the issue through the Slovenian Embassy in Budapest.

He added Slovenia would find itself in serious trouble if Hungary closed its border to sewage sludge. From September onwards, Slovenia could be left with 120 to 140 tonnes of it a day, while an alternative solution would definitely need to be found by the end of the year, as all existing permits will expire by then.

Slovenia presently incinerates around 10,000 tonnes of municipal sewage sludge at home, at the plants in Celje and Anhovo.

Some wastewater treatment plants make use of it themselves, however Slovenia does not have sufficient capacities to use what remains for energy, with all that is exported going to Hungary. Croatia is in the same situation.

Other European incineration plants are full, which means Slovenia is very vulnerable in this field, Zupanc stressed.

Sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants is not hazardous waste, but it is very specific, since it involves excrements coming from toilets.

"We cannot store it, since this is a semi-fluid affair that reeks strongly and is produced in great quantities," Zupanc pointed out, noting it needed to be removed on a daily basis.

The Chamber of Public Utilities is part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), which said it was working hard on the issue and cooperating with the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry.

All our stories about Hungary are here

23 Aug 2019, 09:08 AM

STA, 22 August 2019 - Slovenia will join the observance of European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes with several events on Thursday with President Borut Pahor honouring victims in Lendava in the north-east.

The European Parliament designated 23 August as a day to remember victims of totalitarian regimes ten years ago to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.

The non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany contained a protocol dividing Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland into designated German and Soviet spheres of influence.

The remembrance day has been officially observed in Slovenia since 2012, in accordance with the decision by the then centre-right government, although it has caused some friction along the ideological divide.

The ZZB World War II Veterans' Association complained that equating all totalitarian regimes amounted to historical revisionism with the goal of concealing collaboration with Nazism and Fascism.

Meanwhile, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) has been unsuccessful in its attempts to have the National Assembly adopt the European Parliament's 2009 resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism.

Data on the number of victims of Fascism, Nazism and Communism in Slovenia vary. The latest from the Slovenian history portal Sistory put the number of victims of war and post-war atrocities between April 1941 and January 1946 at 99,865.

The victims will be remembered with several events on the eve of the pan-European day, including with a commemoration in Lendava which will be joined by President Borut Pahor.

Pahor will lay a wreath at a memorial to victims of WWII and victims of post-war racial, nationalist and ideological fanaticism in Lendava and its surroundings.

To Boris Hajdinjak, the head of the Centre of Jewish Cultural Heritage Synagogue Maribor, Pahor will present a charter of his honorary sponsorship over the Stolpersteine project in Slovenia.

Learn more about the Stolpersteine project in Slovenia here

Concrete cubes with brass plates bearing the names of Holocaust victims will be placed in front of the houses of their former Jewish owners in Lendava on 17 September.

In a global project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992, these "stumbling blocks" had already been installed in Maribor in 2012 and in Ljubljana last year.

Also today, mass for the victims will be celebrated at Ljubljana's cathedral by Auxiliary Bishop Franc Šuštar, followed by an event addressed by Andreja Valič Zver, the head of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation.

Before the mass flowers will be laid at a memorial plaque in front of the US Embassy in Ljubljana and the monument commemorating victims of all wars in Congress Square.

On Sunday, the anti-Communist association New Slovenian Testament is holding a commemoration and mass in Rovte near Logatec in memory of the victims of post-war reprisals by Communists.

22 Aug 2019, 17:26 PM

STA, 22 August 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant in Krško on Thursday, calling for "investing all our efforts to build a second reactor" to replace the current one beyond 2043.

 "We need to invest all our efforts in this and set out to build a second reactor because in the future we will need ever more electric power, in particular if we want to be a development-oriented country," Šarec said during a visit to the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK).

"In light of the changes in the field of energy and a rethink about the future sources of energy, a decision will have to be made soon what direction Slovenia wants to take," Šarec said.

"With the power station's management we have established that Slovenia is definitely a nuclear country considering that NEK generates a significant portion of our electricity, and we'd soon feel its loss," the prime minister added.

The existing reactor is slated for closure in 2043, by roughly which time the Šoštanj coal-fired power station TEŠ will have ceased to operate, so Šarec believes Slovenia needs to decide what energy policy it will pursue.

"If we don't want wind farms or thermal plants and other sources of energy, we'll soon find that there's nowhere we can get energy from," said Šarec, calling for more effort to attain energy self-sufficiency.

The rate of unscheduled outages of NEK since 1983 has been reduced to virtually zero and the power station has been performing successfully, Šarec said. "Since becoming operational, the amount of energy it supplies has increased equal to an output of almost ten hydro power plants."

Šarec spoke to reporters after meeting NEK CEO Stane Rožman and Martin Novšak, the CEO of Gen Energija, the state-owned company that owns the Slovenian half of NEK. The pair were happy with the talks.

"I believe we have many opportunities to build a bright carbon-low future," Novšak commented, with Rožman adding that they had asked Šarec for his support in principle for their plans.

They also discussed the national climate and energy plan whose draft does not discuss nuclear energy, although the prime minister believes it should.

"I expect professionals to decide in the end because decision-making is too often left to those who are driven by emotions rather than by expertise," said Šarec, who sees positive effects of nuclear energy outweighing negative ones.

A decision on potential construction of a new reactor should be taken as soon as possible because it would take at least a decade from the time the decision is taken to when the reactor is built.

Gen Energija has conducted a number of studies to prove that the location and technology is right, while permits are still pending, and so is the project's zoning.

"There's also tenders, development permits, [planning] operation and decommissioning," said Novšak, who would like the national climate and energy plan to state clearly that the country would keep nuclear energy in the future.

Šarec also faced questions about the difficulties surrounding major infrastructure projects in Slovenia, admitting that TEŠ 6 generator was a "sad story", but would not speculate on who was responsible.

The biggest problem is the spatial planning of such projects, and there is the question of legislation. "Once we don't have a referendum on each thing because of everyone who has five minutes to spare, things will go in the right direction," he said.

The prime minister has not yet tested coalition support for a second nuclear reactor and would not speculate whether other countries could be involved in its construction and financing. "I will make the effort though that Slovenia remain independent energy-wise," he said.

Owned jointly by Slovenia and Croatia, the plant began operating at full capacity in August 1982, launching commercial operation in January 1983.

The foundation stone for the plant was laid in 1974 and construction started a year later. After the first phase of trial operation in May 1981, the plant transmitted first kilowatts of power into the national grid in October that year.

22 Aug 2019, 10:01 AM

STA, 21 August 2019 - Slovenia has started erecting another 40 kilometres of fence along the border with Croatia, commercial broadcaster POP TV reported on Wednesday. Works are currently underway on a 4-kilometre segment between the villages of Zilje and Žuniči, southeast of Črnomelj.

In July, the contractor, Serbia-based Legi-SGS, was chosen for the job by the Public Administration Ministry, but it the department would not reveal where the additional 40 kilometres of fencing would be erected, saying the locations had been specified in a confidential document.

It did say, however, that additional fence would be erected in places where this is required to prevent illegal migration and protect locals and their assets. In some places, the new fence is needed because the old one is damaged.

Once the EUR 4.8 million project is complete, expected in a few weeks' time, more than 200 kilometres of Slovenia's 670-kilometre border with Croatia will be fenced in.

19 Aug 2019, 19:40 PM

STA, 19 August - Lynda Blanchard, the new US ambassador to Slovenia, said she was looking forward to working with the Slovenian government to make the US and Slovenia stronger partners, as she arrived in Slovenia with her family on Monday.

Blanchard, an entrepreneur and humanitarian activist, came to Slovenia more than a year after she was nominated by US President Donald Trump, since her appointment was held up by procedural obstacles related to the election of the new US Congress.

She is succeeding Brent Hartley, a career diplomat who served in Ljubljana between February 2015 and July 2018.

Speaking to the press at Ljubljana airport today, she said she was "excited to be here on the sunny side of the Alps" and she looked forward to "engaging with everyone and our partnerships".

Noting that she met First Lady Melania Trump on Saturday, the new ambassador said the first lady, who is Slovenian, wished her well.

"I look forward to working with her and the government of Slovenia and thus make us as parters stronger," said Blanchard, who is expected to present her credentials to President Borut Pahor on 29 August.

Blanchard believes she will get by easily as ambassador, having worked on the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for six years, and in 15 different countries with their governments. "I'm familiar with working with governments," she replied to a reporter's question about her not being a career diplomat.

Her nomination was endorsed in mid-July in a 54:40 vote, with Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator of Slovenian descent from Minnesota, voting against.

In her hearing on the Senate committee on foreign relations last August, she described Slovenia as "a reliable US partner" and "a regional leader in implementing democratic reforms" in the Balkans.

She pledged to encourage privatisation, noting that 50% of the Slovenian economy was "under state ownership or control", which entailed "opportunities for increased private investment".

The nominee also argued that US-Slovenian relations needed to continue to improve "through direct outreach and engagement with Slovenian people".

19 Aug 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 18 August - Nearly two thirds of Slovenians believe that the government is doing a good job, suggests the August Vox Populi, while the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) remains at the top of party rankings.

Commissioned by public broadcaster TV Slovenija and the newspaper Dnevnik on a monthly basis, the survey shows that 59.2% of the 700 people who were surveyed believe the government is doing a good job. The figure is 1.3 percentage points lower than in July.

On the other hand, 35.2% believe the opposite, with the share up three percentage points compared to previous month. Nonetheless, the LMŠ remains at the top of the party rankings with a support of 22.2% of respondents. The opposition Democrats (SDS) are in second place with 15.5%.

The Social Democrats (SD) are third with 10%, followed by the Left with 6.2%. The rest of the parties all remain under the 4% threshold of the National Assembly.

Despite the high support for the LMŠ and the government, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has been dethroned in the politicians' popularity ranking by President Borut Pahor. MEP Tanja Fajon is in place three, followed by MEP Ljudmila Novak.

The survey also asked respondents about what they believe would be the best measures by the EU to help countries cope with the migration crisis. 67.7% said the EU should help source countries address problems that force people to leave.

Just over 36% believe that the EU should provide incentives to countries that would hold migrants back from the bloc, in Turkey, the Western Balkans and North Africa.

Another 33.1% believe the EU should beef up the control of its external borders and 17.7% believe that migrants should be given the option to request a work permit before even setting foot in the EU.

Nearly 14% believe that the EU should increase control on its internal borders, while 8.7% said that they should be able to request asylum in the EU before arriving here.

Assessing the work of the police, 41.8% said the force was doing a good job, 44.8% said the police were partly successful and 8.4% said they were doing a poor job.

Nearly half of the respondent (49.6%) believe that incentives to establish ad hoc militias to protect the border were unwarranted and 44.2% believe the opposite.

All our stories on Slovenian politics are here

18 Aug 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 18 August 2019 - Ivan Oman, one of the key players of Slovenia's independence has died aged 89. In the late 1980s he played an important role in the establishment of DEMOS, a coalition of newly-emerged centre-right parties that won the first multi-party election in Slovenia and paved the way for its breakaway from the former Yugoslavia.

The news was announced on Sunday by the People's Party (SLS), whose predecessor, the Slovenian Farmers' Association (SKZ), Oman co-founded in the late 1980s and also served as its first president.

In 1990, he became a member of the Slovenian presidency and in 1992 he became an MP in the first National Assembly of independent Slovenia.

The father of seven was born on 10 September 1929. Himself a farmer, Oman was a "great fighter for the rights of farmers and a charismatic leader. May his soul rest with God," the SLS said in a press release.

He was a part of all the key events that led to Slovenia's independence. In November 1989, he hosted at his home in the village of Zminec, southwest of Škofja Loka, the meeting that resulted in the establishment of Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS).

He became the vice-president of DEMOS and, when in January 1990 the parties presented their manifesto, he said "We're running to win!" a bold statement many Slovenians still remember vividly nearly three decades later.

After DEMOS did indeed win the election, Oman became a member of the presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia alongside Ciril Zlobec, Matjaž Kmecl, Dušan Plut and Milan Kučan.

In the mean time, the Farmers' Association was renamed Slovenian People's Party (SLS) and Oman handed its leadership to his son-in-law Marjan Podobnik in 1992.

Oman wanted to see the party merge with the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD), but this had not happened. He then swapped parties, and was elected a member of parliament in 1992 on SKD's slate.

He retired from active politics after the end of his term but has remained an important presence in Slovenia's politics.

In 1996, he was honoured with the Golden Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia for his exceptional contribution to Slovenia's independence.

Top officials express condolences following Oman's death

STA, 18 August 2019 - Top state officials have expressed their condolences after the death of Ivan Oman, one of the key people in Slovenia's fight for independence. President Borut Pahor said Oman was one of the fathers of the Slovenian state, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenians would always remain grateful to him. Oman died on Saturday, aged 89.

"The entire Slovenian world mourns today. Ivan Oman was one of the key personas of Slovenia's political spring and independence, one of the fathers of our country," the president tweeted, describing Oman as a wise and determined leader with an open and gentle heart.

Šarec described Oman as a great patriot. "We will always remember him and always be grateful to him," the prime minister tweeted. Similarly, parliament Speaker Dejan Židan said that Slovenia had lost a wise man.

Židan's party, the Social Democrats (SD), whose predecessor was one of the main rivals of Oman's Farmers' Association, now the People's Party, said that Oman's efforts for an independent state and his unifying actions will for ever remain a part of Slovenia's history.

Gratitude to Oman was also expressed by the Democratic Party (SDS), the successor of one of the parties that formed the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS), which won the first multi-party election, paving the way to Slovenia's independence in the early 1990s.

The party said on its website that Oman "fought for the liberation from under the Communist regime with a strong will and courageous words".

When he became a member of presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in 1990, Oman was the only presidency member who supported the establishment of the Slovenian military and refused to sign the 1991 Declaration for Peace, an initiative for constitutional changes aiming at stopping progressive armament in Slovenia, as well as Yugoslavia.

"When Milan Kučan and other members of the presidency were disarming our country, he bravely addressed the members of the Territorial Defence after military exercise Premiki91: Greeted, soldiers of the Slovenian military," the SDS said, referring to the then presidency president, who went on to become the first president of independent Slovenia.

This role by Oman was also underlined by SDS president Janey Janša, another major player in Slovenia's independence.

Kučan on the other hand also gave a statement for the STA, praising Oman for being a man of dialogue, who contributed that the presidency had made unanimous decisions that were of vital importance for successful establishment of an independent state. "I am proud of the time I worked with him."

"Oman was a wise man and a sober politician. He put the interest of the Slovenian nation and state at the forefront of his actions as a politician. He was also capable of putting party interests second," Kučan said.

Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore tweeted that Oman was a "loving father, a vigilant protector of his family, an upstanding Christian, a consistent patriot and a wise politician... And always a farmer who constantly thinks about ways to further his estate."

Expressions of condolence also came from National Council President Alojz Kovšca and the president of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) Foreign Minister Miro Cerar.

Moreover, New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin tweeted that Oman "was an exceptional man. When it was time to act, he did not hesitate. When time called for clear thoughts, he knew no fear. He carried the homeland in his heart and the homeland will always be grateful."

17 Aug 2019, 10:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 16 August

Mladina: Slovenia missed opportunity to thrive on elderly care

STA, 16 August 2019 - The latest editorial in the left-wing magazine Mladina blames politicians for Slovenia missing the chance to make elderly care a business opportunity as a result of which the system is falling apart, while the initiative is being taken by foreign multinationals.

In a piece headlined Old Age is Business, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž recalls how a decade ago Mladina proposed Slovenia take up the business called old age, turning care for a quality life of an ageing population into a whole new industry.

"That we should have started building adjusted housing developments, created a supply and care sector, developed specialised hospital services and healthcare centres. This way we would have created a whole new business and job sector, which unlike tourism lasts throughout the year and not just a few summer months."

Repovž argues that even less qualified workers could find jobs in such a sector, which would create high value added and provide a boost to the architecture and construction business as the country could become a specialist in construction for the elderly, a sizeable, active and financially strong population, especially in places like Germany or Austria.

He says that Slovenia has plenty of lovely spots where residential estates for senior citizens could be built, giving an impetus to the services industry catering for a "very agile population, incredibly inquisitive and brave".

Instead, Slovenia is a country in which 25,000 people are waiting for a room in a pension home, while nurses and carers are leaving for better paid jobs abroad, poor pensioners are leaving for pension homes in Croatia and foreign multinationals are building pension homes in Slovenia.

"This is because our politicians are ignorant, tending their own little garden patch and incapable of a single ambitious act outside their safe zone of the existing (...)

"Slovenia has done nothing in the field for more than 20 years. The last pension home was erected by the state 15 years ago, which piece of information is horrifying, but telling."

Demokracija: Worried about social surveillance

STA, 14 August 2019 - Governments in Western democracies, including Slovenia's government and NGOs, would be happy to legislate the ghastly Chinese system of social surveillance termed Social Credit System, the right-wing magazine Demokracija argues in its latest commentary.

It says totalitarianisms have always wanted to have total control of their citizens' lives, which was technically impossible until the end of the 20th century.

But this has changed with the dawn of artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras and social networks, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Wednesday.

"Although the situation in Europe is not as bad as in China yet, there are signs that citizens are being pigeonholed to bad and good ones."

The Slovenian government rewards, that is pays with taxpayer money, those NGOs which spy on co-citizens and report on them, says the weekly.

It notes the Faculty of Social Sciences is already tasked with reporting on people on social media, and recalls that those taking part in the ZLOvenija portal during the 2015 migration crisis were labelled racists, Nazis and xenophobes.

Biščak also takes issue with the recent broad interpretation of hate speech by Supreme Court judges, saying it is worrying, whereas the left welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

"What is missing is a public government system which will record heretic deviations of free-thinking individuals and undermine the bad ones in everyday life.

"The Chinese reality is not far from Slovenia any more, with a public and government-approved black list of disobedient and too freedom-loving people as state enemies already knocking on the door."

If such surveilance is put in place, "there will be no place to hide, even the panic room will be under surveillance", Biščak says under the headline Panic Room, wondering whether "we will let this happen".

Other articles in this series can be found here

16 Aug 2019, 16:43 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, 9 August
        LJUBLJANA - National councillor Branko Tomažič filed criminal complainants against Environment Minister Simon Zajc and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, arguing their inaction in the face of bear and wolf attacks on farm animals. Action was also urged by Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina. Šarec's office denied the charge, saying the government was actively engaged in tackling the issue.
        LJUBLJANA - Fresh statistics showed Slovenia's merchandise trade with the rest of the world growing apace in the first half of the year. Exports increased by 9.2% year-on-year to EUR 16.83 billion as imports rose by 11.2% to EUR 16.78 billion, creating a surplus of EUR 48 million. Meanwhile, the country's industrial output expanded by 3.7% y/y, the slowest pace in six years.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that retailer Mercator had initiated the sale of 13 shopping centres, one in Slovenia and twelve in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia as part of its strategy to reduce debt, which stood at roughly EUR 667 million at the end of March.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian version of the #MeToo campaign presented findings after collecting more than 150 anonymous testimonies from victims of sexual assault or harassment since March 2018. These as a rule knew the perpetrator and most were abused as minors. When speaking out about the abuse, the victims were usually met with silence.

SATURDAY, 10 August
        VELIKE LAŠČE - Several hundred farmers gathered in protest at a lack of action in the face of ever more frequent wolf attacks on farm animals. They demanded a significant decrease in the country's wolf population, which they want restricted to fenced-in reserves in state-owned forests. The rally, staged by the Farmers' Trade Union, also urged Environment Minister Simon Zajc to resign, a demand that Zajc turned down as unwarranted. The protest coincided with a new incident in which wolves killed ten sheep in the Kobarid area in the west.

SUNDAY, 11 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad has drawn up a proposal to repatriate persons of Slovenian descent from Venezuela, which is expected to be debated by the government after summer recess. There are an estimated 1,000 people of Slovenian descent in Venezuela, 47 have made requests for repatriation after the latest crisis in the country.
        ODRANCI - The Swiss industrial company Limec Solution opened a plant in Odranci in north-eastern Slovenia, which is expected to employ between 150 and 200 people in three to five years. The operation, Limec CNC will produce 90% of the products which are now made in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

MONDAY, 12 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's youth organisations took the opportunity of International Youth Day to highlight housing as the key problem faced by young people. They criticised a lack of action on the part of the government, saying the flawed housing policy, coupled with precarious and low-paying jobs, made it hard for them to become independent. The young continue to face problems accessing the labour market, which is why the youth trade union Mladi Plus urged improving the apprenticeship and mentorship systems.
        LJUBLJANA - A poll run by the newspaper Delo showed Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ party extending its lead ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS) after gaining 2.2 percentage points from the month before to 16.8%, as the SDS stayed almost level at 14.2%. The coalition SocDems lost 0.6 points to 7.2%, whereas the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) gained 1.4 points to 6.7% to come ahead of the Left (6.5%).
        LJUBLJANA - More than 60 real estate agencies asked the Constitutional Court to review legislative amendments that limit commission fees for rentals and other costs charged by real estate agencies on their clients. They argue the provisions encroache on the right to free enterprise and the right to property, thus contravening the European Convention on Human Rights as well as EU law.
        
TUESDAY, 13 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry confirmed Croatian media reports about Minister Miro Cerar having held an informal meeting with Croatia's new Foreign Minister Goran Grlić Radman while on holiday in Croatia. The ministry said the pair would hold their first official meeting on the sidelines of the EU foreign affairs ministerial in Helsinki on 29 and 30 August.
        LJUBLJANA/AJDOVŠČINA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc announced changes to provisions governing emergency culling of wolves to facilitate action in the wake of a spate of wolf attacks on farm animals and criticism by farmers that the emergency law to cull bears and wolves was not producing results. On the same day a she-bear with a cub attacked a hunter in the woods in the south-west in what was a second bear attack on people this year. The hunter sustained light injuries.
        LJUBLJANA - The University of Ljubljana and URI Soča Rehabilitation Institute signed agreements with Japan's Fujita Health University and Toyota Motor Corporation to cooperate on development of robotised devices to be used in rehabilitation of patients after stroke or injuries.
        HRASTOVLJE - Nearly two months after almost 11,000 litres of kerosene leaked from a derailed cargo train near the village of Hrastovlje in the south-west, repair works were completed as one of the country's busiest routes re-opened after being shut for four days to replace 150 metres of tracks. In total, the repair works cost EUR 1.5 million, on top of a loss of more than EUR 1 million to the national railway company for each day the track was fully closed.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) mounted their fifth attempt at getting parliament to put public funding of private primary schools on a par with that of public schools, submitting a bill to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling ordering full funding of private primaries teaching state-approved curricula. These currently get 85% of their funds from the government.
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the central bank showed incoming foreign direct investment in Slovenia more than doubled in the first half of 2019 to EUR 614.4 million.
        TRONDHEIM, Norway - Slovenia's football champions Maribor failed to advance to the last round of qualifications for the UEFA Champions League after losing to Norway's Rosenborg 2:6 on aggregate. Maribor played in the Champions League in 1999/2000, 2014/15 and 2017/2018.

WEDNESDAY, 14 August
        LJUBLJANA - The potential for economic cooperation ranked prominently as Taro Kono visited Slovenia as the first Japanese foreign minister for talks with his counterpart Miro Cerar and President Borut Pahor. Cerar and Kono also called for respect for the rule of law and arbitration decisions, including with regard to the Adriatic and the South China Sea. The pair also visited the Yaskawa robot factory in Kočevje.
        LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Damir Topolko as director of the Infrastructure Agency in the wake of a scandal over the 2017 botched tender for a scale model of a new rail track planned between Koper and Divača. Monika Pintar Mesarič, a Finance Ministry employee, was named as acting director as of 1 September.
        LJUBLJANA - More than 25 years after the National Assembly passed legislation that ordered the establishment of provinces and after several failed attempts, a task force established in May 2019 presented a draft bill to divide Slovenia into 11 provinces centred around major cities.
        RIMSKE TOPLICE - The engine of an international freight train and one of the rail cars derailed at the Rimske Toplice train station in a second such incident in just over a week. The railway line between Zidani Most and Celje, a major link for international passenger and cargo traffic, reopened the next day. It remains unclear what caused the derailment.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia generated EUR 1.16 billion in revenue from incoming tourism in the first half of the year, an increase of 4.8% compared to the same period a year ago, data from the central bank showed. In June alone, receipts from incoming tourism rose by 9.3% year-on-year to EUR 243 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The value of construction works in Slovenia rose by 14.4% in the first six months of 2019 year-on-year, show data released by the Statistics Office.

THURSDAY, 15 August
        BREZJE - Thousands of Catholic pilgrims gathered at religious shrines devoted to the Virgin Mary across Slovenia to celebrate her assumption into heaven. The largest crowd converged outside the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians at Brezje for mass celebrated by Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore.
        TOKYO, Hachioji - Slovenia swept the women's lead discipline event at the IFSC Climbing World Championships with Janja Garnbret taking another gold and Mia Krampl silver. This is the second gold medal for Garnbret at the championships after she defended the title of bouldering world champion on 13 August, and her fifth world championship gold medal overall.

16 Aug 2019, 18:30 PM

STA, 16 August 2019 - July saw the highest number of illegal crossings of the state border in a month since the 2016 migration wave - more than 1,700. During the first seven months of this year the upward trend in such crossings was steeper than last year, according to police.

In July a total of 1,740 illegal crossings were detected, while the police recorded 7,415 in the first seven months, mostly apprehending illegal migrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan.

Related: Foreign Nationals in Slovenia, by Country, Region & Continent

Below you will find the charts with the numbers of illegal border crossings, including the year, citizenship, period, police department and the number of persons handed over to Slovenia from foreign authorities or vice versa.

The charts also feature the number of international protection requests as well as the number of approved requests and the number of asylum seekers by their accommodation so far.

Number of illegal border crossings in the first half of the year by year

year   number of crossings
------------------
2010        339
2011        419
2012        399
2013        660
2014        384
2015        181
2016        273
2017        754
2018       3635
2019*      5568

*up to 31 July

Source: Police

Number of illegal border crossings in the first seven months of 2018 and 2019 by citizenship

citizenship     number of crossings
                  2018        2019
------------------------------------
Pakistan          1446        1705
Algeria            643        1153
Afghanistan        482         811
Morocco            250         592
Turkey             106         371
Bangladesh          22         521
Iraq               228         364
Iran               271         368
Syria              432         318
Tunisia             60         141
other              819        1071
-----------------------------------
total             4759        7415

Source: Police

Number of processed illegal border crossings in the first seven months of 2018 and 2019 by police department

department           number of crossings
                      2018        2019
----------------------------------------
Koper                 2032        2807
Novo Mesto            1978        1918
Ljubljana              225        1556
Maribor                355         676
Celje                   52         134
Murska Sobota           98         176
other                   18         148

Source: Police

Number of illegal border crossings and international protection requests in 2018 and in the first seven months of 2019 by month

         number of crossings    number of requests
month         2018     2019        2018     2019
---------------------------------------------------
January         246     319         172      205
February        210     328         223      216
March           207    1079         129      356
April           644    1381         274      334
May            1286    1298         365      404
June           1040    1270         267      287
July           1114    1740         287      387
August         1152                 381
September       999                 256
October        1270                 201
November        717                 170
December        357                 150
--------------------------------------------------
total 1-6      3633    7415         1430     2189

Source: Interior Ministry, Police

Number of persons returned to the Slovenian authorities and to foreign authorities in the first seven months of 2018 and 2019

            returned to Slovenian	 returned to foreign
         authorities      	    authorities

country        2018     2019            2018     2019
---------------------------------------------------------------

Italy          193     184               39       55
Austria         15      53                8        8
Croatia          6      15             1715     4827
Hungary         12       1                2        0
airports        94     163               20       18
---------------------------------------------------------------
total          320     416             1784     4908

Source: Police

Number of international protection requests in 2018 and in the first half of 2019 as well as their status

status                                  number
                                     2018     2019
---------------------------------------------------
total number of requests             2875     1802
requests to repeat the procedure       40       13
repeated procedures                    27       30
closed cases                         2886     1762
approved status                       102       40
rejected applications                 135       54
halting of procedure                 2372     1535
discarded applications                277      133
resettlement                           40        0
relocation                             21        0

Source: Interior Ministry

Number of asylum seekers and persons with international protection and their accommodation up to today

Asylum seekers

accommodation                            number

-----------------------------------------------
Asylum Centre                            182
Kotnikova Street, Ljubljana               79
Logatec                                   23
dispersed                                 33
other                                     29
------------------------------------------------
total                                    346

Persons with international protection

accommodation                            number
-----------------------------------------------
Ljubljana Integration House                 0
Maribor Integration House                  25
Government-approved flats                  18
Asylum Centre                               1
Kotnikova Street, Ljubljana                 1
Logatec                                     0
Student homes                              14
Private accommodation                     506
abroad                                    115
-----------------------------------------------
total                                     680

Source: The Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants
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