Politics

02 Sep 2021, 11:29 AM

STA, 1 September 2021 - The Interior Ministry has prepared changes to the public order act that introduce fines for indecent behaviour towards state officials, senior representatives of the authorities and their families. The proposal, which has already been endorsed by the government, is yet to be approved in parliament.

In line with the changes a person "arguing with, shouting at or behaving indecently to an official who is conducting their official duties or to a high-level representative of the state, MP, member of the National Council or the government, a Constitutional Court or a Supreme Court judge, or their family members" could be slapped with a EUR 500-1,000 fine.

The government said after today's correspondence session that the changes had been proposed in light of a rise in "threats to MPs and other senior representatives of the state recently".

At the beginning of summer, as the National Assembly discussed changes to the communicable disease act, several MPs were harassed by anti-maskers in front of the parliament building.

Deputy groups assessed after the incident that the parliament's security system needed changes.

As questions were raised why police officers guarding the building had not acted, Police Commissioner Anton Olaj ordered an inquiry and three officers of the Ljubljana Police Department have been given written warnings before termination of employment due to violations of the employment contract in relation to their conduct.

The coalition parties has been calling for changes to the penal code to make an assault on state officials a criminal act prosecuted ex officio. The Justice Ministry is drawing up this proposal.

Responding to the proposed changes to the public order act that would introduce the fines, the opposition Left said the proposal was "an arrogant attempt to silence protests" against those who were privatising healthcare, abusing efforts to tackle the Covid crisis, suppressing criticism and undermining public institutions.

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) sees it as yet another repressive way with which the government is trying to silence all citizens who would express criticism of the government policies in any way.

LMŠ MP Tina Heferle stressed that the LMŠ absolutely opposed indecent and insulting behaviour towards anyone not just state officials. "Why punish someone who insults me three times stricter than someone who insults you. Thus the government is again creating first- and second-class citizens," she said.

Matjaž Han, the head of the deputy group of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), also assessed the proposal as harmful. "Such proposals do not help reduce conflicts in our society, they only enhance them."

He stressed that relevant institutions for dealing with inappropriate reactions already existed in the country.

01 Sep 2021, 12:34 PM

STA, 1 September 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has urged the EU to return to its roots, to the basic principles laid down by the founding fathers, as he argued at the Bled Strategic Forum that this is the only way to ensure unity while preserving diversity.

"It is my opinion that the European structure must built on stone, on the firm foundations set by the fathers of the EU. Any attempt to build out the European structure on sand has failed and will fail," he said on arrival at the event.

He said the guiding principles should be unity when it comes to strategic decisions and "freedom in everything else".

Laying out his vision in his opening address to the forum, Janša said the founding fathers had formulated four principal mechanisms - consensus, mutual respect, subsidiarity and solidarity.

Along the way Europe has sometimes moved away from these principles or even against them, but he said the bloc should be well advised to continue heeding them. How to implement these values is "the defining question of our time".

The prime minister acknowledged that there were different visions about the future of Europe, which is why Slovenia's EU presidency was keen to have "a sincere and open discussion on the European future" in which everyone can speak and be listened to.

The debate must be about the core principles of consensus seeking, solidarity, mutual respect and subsidiarity if Europe is to successfully tackle challenges, he said, noting that "unnecessary fights" were preoccupying its political agenda.

The debate must be about "who we are" and the strategic goal is to ensure unity while preserving diversity. "Europe does not have to reinvent the wheel, we have to return to the origins."

Laying out his vision of Europe three decades from now, Janša said he saw a strong EU based on the European civilisation with strong member states, a bloc that is "able to project and execute soft and hard power".

He also sees Europe at peace with itself and set in peaceful and prosperous surroundings, a part of a strong NATO and a world leader in terms of freedom and quality of life, a place of "dynamic and free expression of opinions".

It would also have high standards of respect for human rights and rule of law based on equal standards for all and on the cooperation of democratic institutions elected by the people.

Foreign Minister Anže Logar said in his address that the optimism of 2004, when Eastern European countries joined the EU, had been replaced by "a heavy dose of political realism and even pessimism", but the consensus was that the EU is still able to deliver, which it has shown during the Covid-19 crisis.

He noted that Europe had started to "more like a problem-solving union instead of a community adopting a strategic approach," noting that it was now necessary to identify the bloc's role in the world.

Such a debate should "not shy away from security and migrations". "We do not wish to evade issues which might be difficult or controversial to discuss, we wish to have an open debate."

European Council President Charles Michel noted that talking about the future of the EU must be about "what it should be ... its relationship with entire European geographic area, how it is organised ... and how to involve the citizens more."

While solidarity is at the root of the EU and its future, the EU has also become a project of influence, he said, noting that the bloc had become the largest exporter of standards in global trade.

"Yet the most important export standard is democracy, human rights and the rule of law... It is chosen freely, but it is both gateway to the union and vital to its proper functioning."

01 Sep 2021, 04:27 AM

Check the date at the top of the page, and you can find all the "morning headlines" stories here. You can also follow us on Facebook and get all the news in your feed.

This summary is provided by the STA

Slovenia's GDP up 16.3% y/y in second quarter

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP increased by 16.3% on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter of the year, the Statistics Office reported, with the growth powered by household spending and gross investment. Foreign trade was up significantly as well. Gross investment in most fixed assets was up and it was up on average by 19.2% compared to the second quarter of 2020. An increase in inventories also added 3.4 percentage points to the GDP growth. Household spending was up by 18.8%, and was thus higher than in the second quarter of the pre-coronavirus crisis year 2019. Household expenditure for goods and services was up significantly. Slovenia's GDP is now just below its 2019 peak.

EU determined to prevent illegal migration and boost aid in Afghanistan's region

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The EU is determined to prevent uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements from Afghanistan and the region, reads a joint EU statement adopted after an emergency meeting of EU home affairs ministers. Incentives to illegal migration should be avoided, they said. The evacuation of EU citizens and Afghan nationals who had cooperated with the EU and its member states and their families remains a priority and will continue. Of vital importance is also aid to vulnerable groups, in particular women, children and the elderly, said Slovenian Interior Minister Aleš Hojs. It had been unclear ahead of the meeting whether the statement would be adopted as Luxembourg opposed the step. Seeking common ground to adopt the statement was quite hard and the debate "very heated" occasionally, said Hojs.

STA staff urges top EU officials to protect STA, media freedom in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA - Representatives of STA staff have send a letter to top EU officials noting that despite calls to restore the financing of the STA, the issue has still not been resolved. Moral support by senior representatives of the EU unfortunately no longer suffices, reads the letter addressed to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel, and Parliament President David Sassoli. "It is necessary to take more decisive, perhaps even unprecedented steps, to protect freedom of the press. Absent that, this will mark a new defeat of democratic values that the founding fathers of the European Union were fighting for," reads the letter.

538 new coronavirus infections recorded, positivity rate at 18%

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded 538 new coronavirus cases on Monday for a positivity rate of 18.4%. The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital this morning rose by five to 146, and the number of patients in intensive care rose by three to 30, show data by the tracker Covid-19 Sledilnik. The cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 population rose from 241 to 252 and the number of active cases by 218 to 5,374, according to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). The rolling seven-day average of new daily cases was up by nine to 431. One death was reported.

Advisors propose keeping schools open, expansion of Covid certificate use

LJUBLJANA - The Health Ministry's Covid-19 advisory group prepared a proposal of restrictive measures to be introduced in various stages of the epidemic. According to unofficial information obtained by the STA, it proposes expanding the tested-vaccinated-recovered (PCT) rule if the situation deteriorates, while school closure is not envisaged. In line with the proposal, the tiers of restrictions will be based on the number of cases in hospitals and the phases of Slovenia's hospital activation plan. The six-stage strategy for patients determines when Covid units will open in Slovenian hospitals.

Ombudsman warns migrants often lack legal remedies

LJUBLJANA - The Human Rights Ombudsman has issued several warnings in a report on the human rights of migrants, most notably that migrants are often returned to neighbouring countries without receiving a written decision. The Ombudsman says that the absence of written decisions makes it impossible for them to appeal the return. This issue has already been raised in a motion addressed to the Constitutional Court. Other issues raised include the lack of access to legal aid, and inconsistent use of the protocol governing the return of unaccompanied minors.

Pragersko rail hub upgrade begins

PRAGERSKO - Works started on a project to upgrade the Pragersko railway hub, one of the main rail junctions in the country. The EUR 90 million project is slated for completion in June 2023. The overhaul aims to bring it in line with EU technical standards, increase speed on the Maribor-Celje route, and improve transport safety. Works include the expansion of the existing railway station building, removal of a level crossing, construction of two parking lots, erection of two kilometres of sound barriers, replacement of 18 kilometres of track, and modernisation of the signalling equipment.

TAB back to growth after challenging year

MEŽICA - TAB, a maker of starter and industrial batteries, saw sales decline by 15% last year to EUR 233 million after a deep slump in spring, with net profit down by nearly 30% to EUR 16 million. This year, however, sales have rebounded. In the first seven months of the year the company recorded sales of EUR 148 million and almost EUR 11 million in net profit. Director Bogomir Auprih said the situation this year was "good, perhaps even very good".

Annual inflation in August at 2.1% due to more expensive fuel

LJUBLJANA - The annual inflation rate in Slovenia in August stood at 2.1%, mostly due to significantly more expensive petroleum products, which contributed 1.2 percentage points to the headline rate, as the price of diesel was up by 29.6% on average and of petrol by 26%. The monthly inflation rate was at 0.1%, the Statistics Office reported. Measured with the harmonised index of consumer prices, an EU gauge, consumer prices rose by 2.1% year-on-year, and by 0.1% at the monthly level.

Survey unemployment rate down slightly in July

LJUBLJANA - The ILO-compatible survey unemployment rate in Slovenia in July reached 4% and was thus 0.2 percentage points lower than in June and 1.3 percentage points lower than in July 2020. The Statistics Office estimates there were about 41,000 persons jobless in July. Among the unemployed persons aged between 15 and 74, 45% were men and 55% women. The survey unemployment rate among men was at 3.3.% and among women at 4.8%, the Statistics Office said.

Celje trade fair MOS returning after one-year break

CELJE - The International Trade Fair (MOS) returns to Celje this year with a renewed image, taking place between 15 to 19 September and hosting around 1,000 exhibitors from seven countries. The partner country is Hungary. Robert Otorepec, the CEO of the organising company, said that the concept of the fair opened up new opportunities for companies that aim towards a green, digital and resilient economy.

Proposal on cryptocurrency tax amended

LJUBLJANA - Only a day after putting out a proposal on taxation of trading in cryptocurrencies, the Financial Administration (FURS) said it will amend the proposal amid a strong response from stakeholders to give taxpayers the option to chose between paying either the originally proposed 10% tax on the amount of cryptocurrency turned into non-virtual currency or spent on goods or services, or a 25% capital gains tax.

Subsidised public transportation in Slovenia expanded

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will significantly expand subsidised public transportation starting on 1 September. Students with subsidised transport passes will no longer be limited to the home-to-school route, they will be able to travel on all routes in Slovenia year-round for the same cost as last year - EUR 25 for a monthly pass and EUR 200 for an annual pass. The Infrastructure Ministry has also reached an agreement with the municipalities of Ljubljana and Maribor to provide free bus transport for pensioners aged 65 and over. It will be available from the beginning of October.

Veronika Prize for best poetry collection goes to Tina Kozin

CELJE - Poet Tina Kozin is the winner of this year's Veronika Prize, earning the prestigious award for the best collection of poetry for Nebo pod vodo (Sky Under the Sea). The jury wrote that Kozin's collection evokes an evasive reflectivity, and the indefinable contact between the real and the illusion. In her third collection, Kozin has, according to the jury, shown an unusual maturity that is far removed from the main currents of contemporary poetic language.

Two Ars Electronica gardens to be launched in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA/NOVA GORICA - This year's Ars Electronica, taking place in Linz, Austria between 8 and 12 September, will open virtual gardens worldwide, including in Slovenia. The project by the University of Nova Gorica School of Arts delivers a selection of student works, audio-visual, intermedia and research content that is dedicated to the fusion of arts, science and technology. The other Slovenian garden brings together nine institutions and organisations from five Slovenian cities in a bid to "create improved conditions for research, development and realization of contemporary investigative art projects".

Slovenia heads FIBA Europe combined ranking

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia has climbed to the top of the FIBA Europe combined ranking for 2021, which takes into account showings by both the men's and boys' basketball squads, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced. The Slovenian men's team built on its EuroBasket 2017 title by finishing fourth at the Olympic Basketball Tournament in Tokyo. Slovenia also bagged three medals at European youth championships.

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31 Aug 2021, 14:11 PM

STA, 31 August 2021 - The Health Ministry's Covid-19 advisory group on Monday prepared a proposal of restrictive measures to be introduced in various stages of the epidemic. According to unofficial information obtained by the STA, it proposes expanding the tested-vaccinated-recovered (PCT) rule if the situation deteriorates, while school closure is not envisaged.

In line with the proposal, the tiers of restrictions will be based on the number of cases in hospitals and the phases of Slovenia's hospital activation plan, the has STA learned unofficially.

The six-stage strategy for treating Covid-19 patients determines when Covid units will open in Slovenian hospitals.

In the sixth phase, when fewer than 70 patients need hospital treatment, Covid patients are accepted only at the UKC Maribor and UKC Ljubljana hospitals.

In the fifth phase, with fewer than 150 Covid patients, the two hospitals increase the number of beds for Covid patients, and the Celje general hospital and the Golnik clinic start accepting Covid patients.

In the forth phase, which Slovenia is in at the moment, the list of hospitals is expanded to Nova Gorica in the west, Novo Mesto in the east and Murska Sobota in the north-east, and the existing capacities for Covid patients are increased. This phase is envisaged for up to 250 patients.

In the third phase, with up to 500 patients, Slovenj Gradec in the north and Jesenice in the north-west will start accepting Covid patients as well, while other Covid hospitals will increase their capacities.

When up to 700 Covid patients need hospitalisation, the second phase is activated, with capacities further increasing and patients being admitted also in Trbovlje in central Slovenia, Ptuj in the north-east, Brežice in the east and Izola on the coast.

In the ultimate, first phase, with about 900 patients, all hospitals are activated, meaning Topolščica in the north and Sežana in the south-west are added to the list of Covid hospitals.

A total of 926 beds are available in this phase, including 762 regular beds and 164 beds in intensive care.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar confirmed as he visited the Ljubljana Paediatric Clinic today that the advisory group's proposal was based on the number of beds occupied by Covid patients. "The pace of restrictions will be dictated by the occupancy of hospital and intensive care beds," he said.

He would not comment on the proposed measures for each phase, noting they would be presented at a press conference once agreed on.

The latest data on covid and Slovenia

30 Aug 2021, 16:10 PM

STA, 30 August - The annual Bled Strategic Forum (BSF), Slovenia's pre-eminent foreign-policy conference, will take place in Bled on Wednesday and Thursday. The conference discussions will focus on the future of Europe and will feature the most high-level line-up of senior officials to date.

Top Slovenian officials, including President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Janša, will welcome officials including European Council President Charles Michel, and European Parliament President David Sassoli.

The list of guests from abroad includes two presidents, ten prime ministers, two European commissioners and several foreign ministers; the latter will also attend an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brdo pri Kranju on Thursday.

Several other high-level guests are also expected, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state of the Vatican. Five former prime ministers or presidents have been confirmed.

A special guest will be Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus opposition leader, according to Peter Grk, the secretary general of the Bled Strategic Forum.

Around 170 panellists from all over the world will discuss various aspects of the future of Europe, a topic which is not only among the priorities of the Slovenian presidency but of the entire EU, Grk said.

"A weak EU cannot be in anyone's interest," he stressed. "A weak EU means an unclear future, both in terms of our mutual relations and the role that the EU will play in the future international architecture," he said.

"The debate on the future of Europe has reached a stage where solutions, proposals and ideas need to be found on how we will continue to live together as the EU or as Europe."

While the 16th BSF will focus on the priorities of the Slovenian EU presidency, it will create an opportunity for debate on all top issues faced by Europe and the international community at the moment.

In this sense, the conference's four main themes are the future of Europe, transatlantic relations, sustainable development and digitalisation, said Grk.

The debate on the transatlantic relations will be marked by developments in Afghanistan, while the talks on sustainable development will be closely connected to the fight against climate change.

"This summer was a big warning that sustainable development and the fight against climate change must be taken very seriously. Half of the planet was on fire. Literally," he said.

Since prime ministers of all Western Balkan countries and all three members of the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina will attend, the BSF will be a preparation for the informal summit of the EU and Western Balkans which Slovenia will host in early October.

Both Janša and Pahor will take part in the panel on the EU enlargement process, which is one of the priorities of the Slovenian EU presidency.

Grk also highlighted a visit by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is to present developments in the Indo-Pacific region, where major change is under way.

A panel discussing this is also expected to touch on the future of Afghanistan, a topic that will be covered in more detail at a panel featuring defence ministers.

The Covid-19 pandemic will be on the agenda as well, with this year's panels focussing on recovery. The digital transformation of Europe will be discussed, as will the future of European tourism.

As customary, the forum is preceded by the Young BSF, a conference attended by about 40 up-and-coming leaders from the EU and its neighbourhood that started on Sunday. They too will mostly discus the future of Europe.

Due to the current epidemiological situation, some panellists will take part in debates online, but most plan to attend in-person.

Grk said that the health of all participants will be one of the organisers' main priorities. In line with general requirements, all participants will need to meet the tested-vaccinated-recovered requirement. Debates will also be broadcast online.

According to Grk, the fact that the BSF has not been affected by the pandemic much this year shows that it is becoming a leading conference in SE Europe.

Last year, the BSF was a one-day event due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Visit the official website

30 Aug 2021, 11:54 AM

STA, 29 August 2021 - The head of the ruling coalition Democrats (SDS) and Prime Minister Janez Janša commented at the party's regional meeting in Leskovec pri Krškem on Saturday on a possible new coalition, saying that the SDS did not exclude anyone but that it did have certain conditions such as that all partners work for the common good rather than own interests.

He said coalition partners will need to put the interests of the people first. This is why there cannot be any talks on open borders and migration corridors, he was quoted as saying in a post on the SDS's website.

Another condition for cooperating in the next coalition is strict respect for the values of the Slovenian Constitution, Janša said.

All parties that will join the SDS in the next coalition must also agree to support the European Parliament's resolution condemning all totalitarian regimes, he said.

Commenting on the upcoming election year, he said that a lot of work had been done so far despite the fact that the state was faced with the epidemic, and despite criticism from the opposition.

He listed efforts for debureaucratisation, investment in education and sport, and the bill on long-term car that has been filed in the parliamentary procedure as the most important measures adopted by the government.

29 Aug 2021, 13:36 PM

STA, 28 August 2021 - The Supreme Court has ruled that Slovenia must allow a Cameroonian asylum seeker who was deported from Slovenia twice to enter the country and request asylum status in what is a landmark decision. The Cameroonian is currently in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The court's decision is final and no appeals are possible, the daily Dnevnik reported on Saturday.

The Slovenian police, which unlawfully deported the Cameroonian to Croatia twice in 2019, and the Interior Ministry must allow him to return to request international protection, the court decided in a landmark ruling that change "the rules of the game" in processing migrants on the southern border, Dnevnik said.

The Cameroonian is entitled to applying for asylum as he had left his country to flee persecution as a victim of an ethnic conflict.

This comes after the Administrative Court sided with an appeal by him in 2020. Apart from ruling that he must be allowed to return to seek asylum, the Administrative Court also decided that Slovenia must pay him compensation of EUR 5,000.

The decision was then appealed by the ministry, which now no longer has the option to do so since the Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

When it comes to the compensation, the Supreme Court has not made any decision but instead urged the Cameroonian to file a separate compensation lawsuit.

The Supreme Court's ruling was handed down in April. The InfoKolpa civil initiative, which has been providing legal protection for the Cameroonian, has warned that the ministry has not wanted to implement the ruling for the past four months.

In line with the court's decision, Slovenia should issue a travel permit to the Cameroonian so that he could arrive at the Slovenian border without any legal issues, however the ministry does not want to do this, InfoKolpa said, adding that this could be sorted out the same way it had been sorted out recently in the case of an Afghan who had helped the Slovenian army and his family.

The Cameroonian's counsel Dino Bauk said that his client "is still trapped in Bosnia-Herzegovina where his basic human rights continue to be violated".

After he learned of the court's decision, the Cameroonian is said to have attempted to arrive at the Slovenian border by himself a number of times, but always in vain, according to Dnevnik.

The paper addressed a number of relevant questions to the ministry and police. The police responded by saying that it had been notified of the ruling and it "forwarded information about the implementation of the ruling via a law firm which represented the foreigner".

Dnevnik reported that Police Commissioner Anton Olaj had said that the Cameroonian may report to any Slovenian border crossing.

29 Aug 2021, 13:18 PM

STA, 28 August 2021 - The Defence Ministry is striving to get out of Afghanistan the remaining Afghan national of the two who had assisted the Slovenian troops and his family. After a number of attempts to get them safely to Kabul airport, this evacuation route is no longer possible in light of the escalating security situation, but other options are being considered.

The ministry said on Saturday that evacuating the Afghan and his family via Kabul airport is unfortunately no longer an option.

"Acknowledging the decision by the local colleague of the Slovenian army and his family on other options of evacuation from Afghanistan, the Defence Ministry will continue to help him in getting all of them safely out of Afghanistan and then to Slovenia, which has already sorted out their legal status to arrive and reside in our country," a press release reads.

The ministry did not disclose any further details to ensure safety for the Afghan and his family.

At the end of last week, the other of the two Afghans who had helped the Slovenian army in Afghanistan was evacuated to Slovenia alongside his family. They arrived in Ljubljana airport on 20 August in the evening and were received by representatives of the ministry and army who had coordinated evacuation efforts.

28 Aug 2021, 10:17 AM

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

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 20 August
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg said that Afghans fleeing the Taliban should be helped in Afghanistan's neighbourhood, as they warned against a rerun of the 2015 migration crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar assured his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg Slovenia would be completely transparent about its plans to build a second unit at the Krško nuclear power station. Schallenberg said Austria respected decisions by other countries on what kind of an energy mix they would have.
        LJUBLJANA - Booster shots of coronavirus vaccines became available for persons with transplanted organs, patients awaiting transplantation and those with severely weakened immune systems, under the latest revision of the national vaccination strategy adopted by the government.
        LJUBLJANA - The government changed course on testing policy, deciding employees in healthcare, education, retail and the events industry will continue to have access to free tests after 23 August when free mass testing was discontinued. Transit passengers need to produce Covid certificate after 29 August.
        LJUBLJANA - The director general of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija Andrej Grah Whatmough dismissed Natalija Gorščak, the director of TV programmes, after accusing her of violating bylaws and allowing ratings to plummet. Gorščak said to use legal means to proved that she had worked well and in line with the law.
        LJUBLJANA - An Afghan interpreter who worked for the Slovenian Armed Forces was evacuated from Afghanistan and arrived in Slovenia together with his family. The government has already sorted out their legal status.
        KREDARICA - A confrontation took place between anti-government protesters and PM Janez Janša and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs at the Kredarica mountain hut below Mt Triglav with some harsh words exchanged.
        LJUBLJANA - British Airways relaunched flights between Ljubljana and London's largest airport Heathrow, the operation of Ljubljana airport said. Passengers can fly to Heathrow on Fridays and Sunday, with another two weekly flights to be added at the end of August.

SATURDAY, 21 August
        GORNJA RADGONA - The Agra agriculture fair opened in an in-person format as the first large in-person fair in Slovenia since the epidemic was declared in March 2020, featuring some 1,100 exhibitors from 29 countries. President Borut Pahor warned in his keynote farmers would have to be helped by the state to cope with the impact of climate change.

SUNDAY, 22 August
        LJUBLJANA/BRUSSELS, Belgium - PM Janez Janša said the EU would "not open any 'humanitarian' or migration corridors to Afghanistan". European Parliament President David Sassoli countered his statement by saying it was "not up to the current presidency of the Council to say what the EU will do". The Union and the countries which have taken part in the NATO mission in Afghanistan have a duty to take care of the Afghans at risk following the Taliban seizure of the country, the European Commission later said.
        
MONDAY, 23 August
        JERUSALEM, Israel - FM Anže Logar pledged regular bilateral dialogue and cooperation as he met his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid and other senior officials. As part of the visit, a cyber security cooperation memorandum was signed.
        KYIV, Ukraine - President Borut Pahor reaffirmed Slovenia's support for Ukraine's territorial integrity as he attended an international conference on Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimea in 2014.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša and Speaker Igor Zorčič marked Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, warning against glorification of Nazi and other totalitarian regimes' symbols. Zorčič called for the prosecution of such acts.
        LJUBLJANA - More than 50% of Slovenians aged over 18 have been fully vaccinated and 55% have received the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, the latest official figures showed.
        CELJE/GOLNIK - The Golnik University Clinic and the Celje General Hospital joined the country's largest hospitals, UKC Ljubljana and UKC Maribor, in opening designated Covid-19 wards.
        LJUBLJANA - Just over a quarter of respondents in the latest public opinion poll conducted by Mediana for commercial broadcaster POP TV said they supported the work of the Janez Janša government, which is the lowest support in this term. The ruling Democrats (SDS) continued to top party rankings, followed by the opposition SocDems.

TUESDAY, 24 August
        RAMALLAH, Palestine - FM Anže Logar met his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki as he visited Ramallah. Bilateral and EU-Palestine cooperation, the situation in Palestine, current developments in the region, and Slovenia's EU presidency topped the agenda.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs held talks with Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the governor of the Austrian state of Lower Austria. Migrations and the Western Balkans topped the agenda along with the work of the Slovenian EU presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia started using monoclonal antibody treatment for some patients with Covid-19, having received a shipment of 1,000 doses of a drug as part of an EU contract, the Health Ministry said.
        SLOVENJ GRADEC - Construction work began near Slovenj Gradec on a vital expressway to link the Koroška region in the north with the national motorway network. The section is valued at EUR 37.4 million and should be completed in 30 months.
        
WEDNESDAY, 25 August
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia is likely to get a new Covid traffic light system next week with tiers of restrictions defined based on the number of cases in hospitals rather than the number of new positive cases, senior health officials said.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor hosted a delegation of the US Senate for the Slovenian-American Friendship Day, an annual celebration of bilateral ties. He stressed that the two countries shared the same values.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar and his Maltese counterpart Evarist Bartolo said that reforms in the EU's migration policy were necessary, highlighting migration issues should be tackled primarily in countries of origin.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs met via videolink Roland Sebastian Schilling, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Central Europe. The pair discussed the situation in Afghanistan, including potential migration and security threats.
        LJUBLJANA - Schools and kindergartens received instructions on how to act if staff does not adhere to the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule. A refusal to get tested for coronavirus will be sufficient ground for a lay-off, showed an Education Ministry circular obtained by the STA.
        GORNJA RADGONA - Several organisations of farmers staged a protest against solutions contained in the draft national strategic plan for the EU's common agricultural policy, which involves a shift from direct payments to farmers towards the financing of rural development policy.
        LJUBLJANA - Russian airline Aeroflot will apparently not operate flights between Slovenia and the Russian capital in the winter season, the Ex-Yu Aviation web portal reported. Aeroflot currently flies from Ljubljana Airport to Moscow three times a week.

THURSDAY, 26 August
        COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Foreign Minister Anže Logar paid a visit to Denmark to meet his counterpart Jeppe Kofod. The talks focused on strengthening bilateral relations, reviewing the implementation of the priorities of the Slovenian EU presidency, and on topical international issues, including Afghanistan.
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič started a two-day official visit to Serbia by meeting his counterpart Ivica Dačić. The two said they were happy with the traditionally friendly relations between the countries that are connected both by a shared history and a joint European future.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition-controlled Commission for Oversight of Public Finances asked the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption to check the records of Prime Minister Janez Janša's contacts with lobbyists after a media reported that he had played golf on several occasions with a major lobbyist and the owner of an IT firm.
        LJUBLJANA - The tested-vaccinated-recovered requirement, known in Slovenia by the acronym PCT, will be expanded to university students and those participating in indoor sports activities under a decision adopted by the government. Testing for students will be free.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest official figures showed Slovenia reported 509 coronavirus infections for Wednesday as the test positivity rate stood at 17.4%. The 14-day incidence per 100,000 population rose from 187 to 199, meaning Slovenia is on the brink of entering the red phase. Hospitalisations topped 100 for the first time since mid-June.
        LJUBLJANA - Boris Pahor, the acclaimed Slovenian writer from Trieste, celebrated his 108th birthday. On the occasion, 26 colleagues paid tribute to him with a publication featuring interviews and testimonies.

26 Aug 2021, 13:22 PM

STA, 25 August 2021 - Slovenia is likely to get a new Covid traffic light system next week with tiers of restrictions defined based on the number of cases in hospital rather than the number of new positive cases, senior health officials said on Wednesday.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar said the focus would by on the occupancy of hospital beds in general and intensive care beds in particular. The final details are being ironed out in talks with health experts, he said.

Mateja Logar, the head of the Health Ministry's Covid-19 advisory group, said the final proposal was to be adopted at a meeting on Monday.

Given that more than 40% of the population has been vaccinated, the overall number of new cases is not that important anymore.

"We also know that the main limiting factor in Slovenia is the number of hospital beds, which is why the traffic light will be adjusted to that, something many other European countries are likely to do as well," she told the STA.

The previous traffic light system, which is currently not in use, had hospitalisations and the seven-day average of new daily cases as the main criteria for tiers of restrictions.

Another reason why hospital occupancy should be the primary criterion, according to Logar, is the current system of Covid certificates, which are a prerequisite for staff in several sectors and for activities such as cultural events and indoor dining.

"It's important that people realise this system is not about restrictions, it is designed to keep industries open when they would be closed long ago in similar conditions last year."

If the epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate, the advisory group will propose an expansion of the use of Covid certificates and increased frequency of testing for those who are now required to test on a weekly basis.

All the latest data on COVID and Slovenia

24 Aug 2021, 15:46 PM

STA, 24 August 2021 - The EU maintains that the Union and the countries which have taken part in the NATO mission in Afghanistan have a duty to take care of the Afghans at risk following the Taliban seizure of the country, the European Commission's spokesperson Eric Mamer said on Tuesday when asked to comment on PM Janez Janša's recent statement.

Janša tweeted on Sunday that the EU would "not open any 'humanitarian' or migration corridors to Afghanistan" or allow the repeat of 2015. "We will only help individuals who have helped us in the course of the NATO mission and EU member states that protect our external border."

Mamer referred to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's recent statements that "the EU as well as all countries that have participated in the NATO mission in Afghanistan have a duty to take care of the people who are at particular risk because of the new situation in Afghanistan, for example journalists, human rights advocates, judges and lawyers, and in general women and young girls".

When talking about creating channels and resettlement opportunities for Afghans in conflict, "we are talking about these groups", said Mamer as the STA asked him whether Janša's stance corresponded to that of the Commission.

Mamer also highlighted efforts that will be needed to ensure that all Afghans who have been displaced due to the conflict, can safely return home. With a view to enabling this, the Commission emphasises the need to work with countries in the region, he said.

Responding to Janša's tweet, European Parliament President David Sassoli meanwhile said on Sunday that it was "not for to the current presidency of the Council to say what the EU will do". He invited Janša to discuss the issue with the European institutions so that they could decide what the next steps should be.

Janša's stance is said to be supported by only two EU members - Hungary and Austria, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Monday.

Most of the other member states and leaders of the EU institutions would like to prevent the 2015 migration wave from repeating, but are at the same time ready to expand the circle of people who need protection, citing moral responsibility and commitments from the resettlement programme.

Slovenia is meanwhile willing to accept the Afghans who have worked with the Slovenian soldiers in Afghanistan as well as another five, according to a recent statement by Foreign Minister Anže Logar.

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