Politics

16 Aug 2019, 16:10 PM

STA, 16 August 2019 - Amid escalating tensions over action in response to a growing number of wolf attacks on farm animals in Slovenia, 13,462 people have signed a petition urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves.

The petition, initiated by the animal rights group AniMa, was handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc on Friday to "have the voice of reason heard when it comes to man's coexistence with bears and wolves".

The initiator of the petition, Andreja Galinec, reported with disappointment after the meeting that "we failed to prevent the culling".

"The answer we received was that the culling will not be halted," Nevenka Lukić Rojšek of AniMa said.

According to the ministry, Minster Zajc stressed at the meeting the the emergency act on culling was "addressing the burning issue of bear and wolf overpopulation and was needed at this moment to get the numbers back to a level that is also favourable for the local human population".

Zajc also announced he would inquire with his ministerial colleagues in the EU if there was a chance of one of the European countries accepting Slovenian bears and wolves.

He added the issue of overpopulation and management of bear and wolf populations needed to be removed from the realm of politics and returned to experts as soon as possible.

The group had proposed that the government immediately issue a moratorium on the emergency act regulating the culling and form a task force to analyse the state of affairs and find solutions that would not be dictated by political pressure.

Urging long-term measures to preserve wildlife and protect farm animals, the group says that Slovenia needs to preserve its population of wild animals as a key to preserve the balance of nature.

"Hunters have been interfering too much in this balance, and the price is now being paid by farmers, who a while ago demanded the culling of deer because of the damage to their crops," they say.

Arguing that there are also those among "the 22,000 armed people considered hunters" who use hunting as "a profitable business and cruel entertainment at the expense of animals", they believe that hunting for deer should be restricted and much better controlled, while subsidies for farm animal production in wolf and bear habitats should be made conditional on preventive measures.

"We urge the government not to be held hostage by a small interest group that demands violent solutions now, without considering long-term consequences. Slovenia is us too who disagree with the culling of bears and wolves, and there are many of us," the petitioners say.

The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has more than doubled this year over the same period in 2018, after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.

Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July, but the number has increased since as new attacks are reported almost on a daily basis.

To tackle the situation, parliament passed a law in June ordering an emergency culling, but while hunters have killed 75 bears, the complex rules have prevented them from culling any wolves yet.

Following a protest by farmers on Saturday, changes have been agreed to facilitate the culling.

There are an estimated 1,000 bears and 80 wolves in the country. Most of the wolves live in 14 packs, while some live alone.

While there have been two attacks by bears on humans so far this year, Miha Krofel of the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty has told the STA that there is no confirmed case of a wolf hurting a human in Slovenia on record.

All our stories on bears are here, those on wolves are here

16 Aug 2019, 11:11 AM

STA, 15 August 2019 - Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) secretary-general Peter Grk has told the STA that the stage is set at the lakeside resort for a new round of discussions on key topics, the focus this year being on sustainable development and climate change. Topping the list of high-profile guests are the Estonian president and the future head of the EU's diplomacy.

The central part of what is already the 14th iteration of Slovenia's top foreign policy event will be held on 2 and 3 September under the title (Re)Sources of (In)Stability.

Grk said that the ambition each year was to feature discussions as well as guests that could "capture the most important challenges and problems faced by the global community".

"Climate change is one of the biggest challenges for humanity in the coming years and decades. This is not a problem that will arise tomorrow. It is a challenge we are already facing today," he said.

The Bled meeting will aspire to go beyond only talking about climate change and also "try to look at how we need to change as a community in terms of sustainable development if the current level of development as well as norms and human rights are to be preserved".

"Its a fact that we live longer and better quality lives than in the past. But this comes at a price and the price is climate change," he said, also speaking of a crisis of the resources used so far - these are either harmful to the environment or running out.

"Also key is the question how to go about sustainable development to prevent it from deepening social differences and aggravating tensions. Sustainable development should become a responsibility for everybody, meaning that its benefits will be felt by everybody."

"We will examine this aspect from various viewpoints at BSF. We'll explore the responsibility of corporations, of government, as well as individuals, look at concepts, mechanisms and instruments that each factor in society needs to use for sustainable development to catch on or become integral. This will not happen unless we see an opportunity as opposed to danger in sustainable development," Grk said.

He noted that the BSF, traditionally held in early September, was a kind of prelude to the political autumn, both in Europe and wider.

"In this sense we will look at the situation in the EU, its future after the formation of the new European Commission. Given that we're marking the 70th anniversary of NATO, we'll examine the future challenges for transatlantic ties. A special panel will be dedicated to the issue of migration, which is also assuming a very important role in the context of sustainable development.

"As has become tradition, we'll also have a panel on the Western Balkans, which are facing particular challenges - the odds of EU enlargement should become fairly clear in the coming months. This is also important for Slovenia in the context of our presidency over the EU in 2021," Grk added.

Meanwhile, the business segment of the Bled forum will see a continuation, in cooperation with partners, of discussions on AI. A new aspect will be discussions on the introduction of new technologies, especially green technologies or the circular economy.

"This is one of the topics that gets a lot of lip service but then little gets done. And here we see a chance to raise this concept to a higher level and strengthen awarenesses about its importance in the context of sustainable development or the fight against climate change."

The Bleed meeting will again feature a number of exciting guests, with Grk even announcing "a few surprises". "The strategic forum will be held at a very important time, both for Europe and wider, so we expect it to be one of the more resounding forums in recent years," he said.

The list of the high-ranking foreign guests includes Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, as well at least ten foreign ministers, among them Spain's Josep Borrell, who is assuming the post of the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Also, Finish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto will attend on behalf of the country presiding over the Council of the EU, while Julian King from Great Britain as Commissioner for Security Union will be representing the outgoing team of the European Commission.

Other high-profile guests who have confirmed attendance include Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčak, who is serving as OSCE chairperson-in-office, and the current President of the UN General Assembly Fernanda Espinosa.

"This way we will have the entire multilateral global framework covered in Bled this year," Grk pointed out, while moreover highlighting the attendance of economist Jeffrey Sachs, coffee mogul Andrea Illy, Boston Consulting group head Martin Reeves, former Italian PM Enrico Letta and former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

Grk praised cooperation with various partners, saying it was deepened and strengthened each year. "This comes to show that the strategic forum has evolved into an interesting and successful story and that we're trying to move certain things not only regionally but also in the European and perhaps global context".

He is convinced that the 14th iteration will provide findings that "Slovenian and European politics will be able to use in their future activities".

"The 15th anniversary is coming next year. This is already a number that shows we're slowly maturing as a forum. This is reflected both in the response of the international public as well as the guests, panellists, who confirm their participation fairly quickly each year or propose coming on their own," added the official.

There are no plans to grow the forum further. "We again expect around 1,000 to 1,200 participants from 60 to 80 countries," he said, while announcing the number of panel discussions would also not be increased.

"We are consciously not increasing these numbers, since we've come close to what is possible in terms of infrastructure at the event as well as in terms of logistical and technical demands in Bled. And in general, the ambition of the conference is not to become the biggest, but to have more quality," Grk said about the event, which is organised jointly by the Foreign Ministry and the Centre for European Perspective.

The format will also not change, with "the business segment remaining part of the BSF, just like the forum for the young which has become key for the partnership with the young and the promotion of their voice at the BSF". "I believe it is crucial that the young speak their mind on the challenges we face in the future," Grk said.

The budget for the conference also remains comparable to that in previous years, meaning around EUR 250,000. Most of the funding comes from partners and sponsors, Grk explained.

13 Aug 2019, 11:40 AM

STA, 11 August 2019 - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad (Urad Vlade Republike Slovenije za Slovence v zamejstvu in po svetu) has drawn up a proposal to repatriate persons of Slovenian descent from Venezuela, following calls, including in parliament, for a government decree to this effect. The government is expected to discuss it soon after the summer recess.

A key condition for the start of repatriation proceedings is Slovenia designating the situation a grave economic and political crisis. This has already been done several times before by the Foreign Ministry, and calls have been mounting in Slovenia to help Slovenians living there.

Interior Ministry data puts the number of Slovenian citizens living in Venezuela at 335, while the total number of people of Slovenian descent there is estimated at 1,000.

Slovenian authorities have received 47 requests for repatriation after the start of the last crisis in the country.

The Office for Slovenians Abroad has told the STA that repatriation was a complex procedure and that Slovenia had very limited experience in the field. The only repatriation executed so far was for a family from Syria in 2013 due to the civil war there.

Under the law, individuals of Slovenian descent are eligible for repatriation, but in the case of the repatriation from Syria entry was also granted to the non-Slovenian family members on the basis of asylum rules on family reunification.

"Such a solution also seems to make the most sense when it comes to repatriation from Venezuela," representatives of the Office for Slovenians Abroad said.

Repatriation status can be used by individuals for a maximum of 15 months. In this period they have the right to free healthcare, Slovenian language lessons for family members, a work licence, enrolment in higher education institutions under favourable conditions, as well as to favourable treatment when applying for a job compared to third-country citizens.

To accommodate repatriated individuals, the government can set up an immigration home where basic provisions are secured, including financial aid for those below the minimum income threshold.

The 15-month status cannot be extended, meaning the repatriated individual needs to secure a different status as the basis for continued residence in Slovenia, for instance Slovenian citizenship, the status of a Slovenian without Slovenian citizenship, or an appropriate status of a foreign citizens with a residence permit.

Repatriated individuals can also return to Venezuela, this, however, needs to be organised by them independently and at their own cost.

There have also been warnings about the repatriation approach, with the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, Andrej Šter, recently noting in a interview that countries which have larger numbers of their citizens in Venezuela have been approaching the situation differently.

"The joint foreign service of the EU and some other countries told us that it is not advisable to start with repatriation and that it makes more sense to opt for evacuation from difficult circumstances.

"This means helping people to live with fewer problems while not luring them into selling everything and leaving without a chance of return," Šter told Dnevnik's Saturday supplement Objektiv.

He added that these people were mostly part of the middle and upper-middle class in Venezuela and would not be happy hearing upon arriving in Slovenia that they would be accommodated by the state in a dilapidated army apartment or barracks.

The Office for Slovenians Abroad commented on this by saying that efforts were also under way to help such people directly where they lived - humanitarian aid has for instance been secured for them several times through two Slovenian associations active in Venezuela.

It moreover warned that "it is of course not be expected" that all persons of Slovenian descent living in Venezuela would want to be repatriated.

The first cases of Slovenian immigrants in Venezuela date back to the period between the two world wars, but a bigger wave was recorded after WWII. A number of Slovenians, mostly from the western region of Primorska, made their way to Venezuela until the end of the 1950s. An estimated 550 to 800 Slovenians emigrated to Venezuela by 1960, the Foreign Ministry data shows.

According to the ministry, the emigration was triggered by the economic and partly political situation in the homeland at the time, as well by the desire for adventure and by existing ties to Slovenians already in Venezuela. The situation is reversed today.

11 Aug 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 10 August 2019 - Slovenia is in for a hectic autumn as PM Marjan Šarec intends to peg the vote on the crucial 2020-2021 budget bills to a confidence vote, with the opposition Left saying it could withhold support for his minority government. But analysts see no reason for a no-confidence vote, which would trigger an early election that practically no party wants.

The Left, which the opposition considers a radical leftist party, has accused the government of "rightist policies", urging it to drop them if it wants to continue counting on its support.

But it is particularly unhappy with the slow fulfilment of commitments the cabinet made in an agreement with it featuring 13 projects the Left wants implemented.

By tying the budget and confidence votes, Šarec would test the coalition's trust and the support of the Left, which has had only one of the planned projects realised.

Without the Left, the government does not have an absolute majority in parliament, which is needed if legislation is vetoed by the upper chamber and put to a re-vote in the lower chamber.

If the Left indeed withdraws support, Šarec could potentially seek new alliances with the National Party (SNS), which voted for the revised 2019 budget, or with New Slovenia (NSi).

The conservative NSi has recently said it would be willing to work closer with the government on a project-to-project basis, an option also seen as viable by analysts.

Andraž Zorko from pollster Valicon believes the confidence vote resulting in no-confidence is highly unlikely, doubting Šarec would dare to propose it if there were any signs he could lose the vote.

"There is no reason for anyone to vote for the government's dismissal because there are only two scenarios after it: an alternative, centre-right government, which is rather unlikely, or an election."

Judging by opinion polls, Šarec is perhaps the only one interested in an early election, according to Zorko, whereas Alem Maksuit believes no matter how strong Šarec feels, he would not risk toppling his own government.

Zorko notes the prime minister's LMŠ party does better in opinion polls than in elections, saying "it enjoyed 26% in polls in February, but won only around 12% in the EU vote four months later".

Compared to the many parties that have emerged over the past decade in Slovenia, Zorko considers Šarec a survivor, with his "LMŠ doing everything smoothly for now".

"Šarec is a nice combination of a new politician with elements of populism adapted to the Slovenian milieu, which is more left than right, although he is faring well on both sides."

Maksuti from the Institute for Political Management says Šarec is using his polls-based legitimacy to exert pressure on his partners, "but things can change very quickly in Slovenia".

Noting an early election is in no party's interest at the moment, Maksuti believes "the only possible change is the NSi replacing the Left in cooperation with the government".

The NSi "is willing to compromise because it is aware how politics works and because it is not that radical", he says.

Zorko, on the other hand, sees the NSi's willingness to support the government "to distance itself from the Democrats (SDS) and narrow the Left's wiggle room".

Maksuti says the Left will most probably extend the period in which it expects its projects to be implemented, or terminate the pact with the government.

But he believes the Left is actually harming itself by further cooperating with the government.

Zorko does not expect the Left to change its tactics either, noting it is quite successful in navigating between the government and its electorate's (dis)satisfaction.

Another change to the political relations could come in October as the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the second strongest coalition party, changes leadership.

Miro Cerar, the SMC's leader and founder, said he would no longer stand for re-election after the party fared poorly in May's European elections.

He is expected to be replaced at a congress by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, a member of the party's executive council.

Zorko has just recently told the STA that with Počivalšek as SMC leader, many cards are open because he is in a way a new face, somewhat peculiar and strong-willed.

However, if the SMC, which lacks a clear ideological profile, positions itself slightly more to the right economically-wise, this could well win it new votes.

Maksuti has begged to differ, asserting the SMC, which was set up just before the 2014 election, which it won in a landslide, is a political corpse and Počivalšek politically illiterate.

10 Aug 2019, 10:45 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 09 August

Mladina: Socio-economic divide feeding irrationality in US, Britain

STA, 9 August 2019 - Reflecting on the reasons behind the irrational choices of voters in developed countries like the US and Britain, the latest editorial of the left-leaning weekly paper Mladina highlights the neoliberal dismantling of public healthcare and education. It also expresses serious concern about the future ramifications of aggressive individualism and hate speech.

Drawing on Willaim Davies's book Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World, Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž speaks of a coalition between an impoverished and ill-educated class and an increasing number of elderly people experiencing psychological and physical pain.

The exploitation of this anger and pain by populists with fascist tendencies and the disastrous consequences this leads to shows how important it is for societies to fight poverty and above all preserve a high level of public education and healthcare, Repovž says in the commentary entitled Consequences.

Also belonging on this essential list is the need to ruthlessly fight hate speech. While the US and Great Britain are already paying a high price, politically and socially, for the neoliberal destruction of public education and healthcare, "the long-term consequences of hate speech are not clear yet".

"We can't even begin to imagine what kind of society lies in store for us once the majority will feature generations which are growing up with a language that is hateful and brutal and which see this brutality as something entirely normal."

Repovž also speaks of an extremely ego-driven new generation growing up on social networks, "which is not a reproach, since this is truly becoming a condition for an individual's social positioning, this is the way friendships and love are made today, this how jobs and life goals are sought".

Reporter: Staffing at state-owned enterprises

STA, 5 August 2019 - The right-wing magazine Reporter writes about staffing at state-owned companies in the latest editorial under the headline Dream Job, arguing that dream jobs in Slovenia are still those at state-run enterprises.

Silvester Šurla writes that no government has been unable to resist the temptation to name its people to top positions in state-owned companies.

"The supervisory board gets replaced, then the management and new positions and jobs are given to the loyal and deserving."

As one case in point Šurla names Telekom Slovenije, which it says involves too many interests to be privatised; the company will obviously remain state-owned until the government is forced by the strained situation in the market, to sell it, as was the case with Gorenje.

He writes that the upcoming shareholders' meeting on 30 August will appoint two new supervisory board members, and the supervisory board will appoint the new CEO.

"Even though an UAE tax resident, the notorious businessman Andrej Vizjak, whom his ex-wife is accusing in the media of not paying alimony for their daughter, is very keen on becoming a new supervisor or even the chief supervisor, the proposal for his appointment has been withdrawn.

"This way the plan fell through to appoint as new Telekom boss Matej Potokar, formerly the CEO of the Slovenian subsidiary of Microsoft."

Šurla goes on to write about Petrol CEO Tomaž Berločnik's dealings and recent replacements at the Bank Assets Management Company, Slovenian Sovereign Holding and the energy group HSE, among others.

"Since the government coalition comprises as many as five parties and each one of them wants its share of the pie, this makes the staffing jigsaw puzzle quite complicated. Apart from politicians', there are also the interests of lobbies, various PR agencies such as Pristop and other influential big shots like Gregor Golobič ... There are more similar opportunists, also on the right. These are people who cannot survive in the market and depend existentially on dealings with state-owned companies."

10 Aug 2019, 10:30 AM

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.

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

FRIDAY, 2 August

        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian central bank said that its macro stress tests had shown the country's banking system is stable. "In the baseline as well as stress scenario, the Slovenian banking system has been shown to have appropriate capital adequacy," it said.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty between Russia and the US. It said Slovenia was committed to maintaining and strengthening effective international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons for mass destruction.
        LJUBLJANA - Karl Erjavec said he had decided to bid for yet another term as the leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) at the 17 January congress. Erjavec, who has been running DeSUS since 2005, told the STA that he would campaign for the party's return to it roots, that is the fight for pensioners, the disabled and the elderly.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) protested against what it believes are inadmissible practices in major state-funded infrastructure projects and requested a session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission to ask for explanations and plans from the responsible officials.
        GORENJA VAS - Environment Minister Simon Zajc called for coexistence between humans and wolves as he visited the Cerkljansko region, where wolf attacks on livestock have become increasingly frequent. He pointed to measures that protect humans and their property from wolves.
        KOPER - The operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port of Koper hosted a delegation from Nagoya, the largest Japanese port, for talks on how to expand cooperation. Koper has no direct commercial maritime link with Japan, while it does cooperate with the Japanese Ocean Network Express.
        LJUBLJANA/MALMÖ, Sweden - Slovenian sides Olimpija and Domžale failed to advance in the second-tier Europa League, narrowly losing on aggregate despite both securing 2:2 draws in the first leg. Olimpija lost 0:1 against Turkish club Malatyaspor, while Domžale lost 3:2 against Malmö.

SATURDAY, 3 August
        NAZARJE - BSH Hišni Aparati, the Slovenian subsidiary of the Bosch and Siemens Home Appliance Group, saw its profit, revenue and the number of employees decrease in 2018 compared to the year before. The company generated EUR 318 million in revenue last year, 8% less than in 2017, while its net profit decreased by almost EUR 750,000 to EUR 11.4 million.

SUNDAY, 4 August
        KRŠKO - The Krško Nuclear Power Plant announced that that the project of digitalising its processes as part of safety upgrades launched in the wake of the 2012 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster were more than half completed. Most of the company's business processes have already been digitised.
        ZREČE - GKN Driveline, a British-owned car industry supplier, said it increased its production by almost a third last year to generate EUR 107 million in revenue, up 30% compared to 2017. On the other hand, net profit was down by 17% to EUR 4.8 million.
        ZREČE - Unitur, the tourism branch of tools maker Unior, said it generated EUR 19.7 million in revenue last year, 5% more than in 2017 and nearly 3% above plans. The operator of the Rogla ski resort and the nearby Terme Zreče spa was EUR 750,000 in the red at the end of 2018, 25% less than the year before.
        
MONDAY, 5 August
        LJUBLJANA - Opposition New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin presented the party's plans for the autumn congress, announcing an "overhauled and fresh" platform. The party wants to position itself in the political centre as it feels this is where it belongs.
        KOPER - Primorske Novice reported that four men from Koper had been sentenced to a total of more than 11 years in jail for transporting illegal migrants who crossed into Slovenia from Croatia. The group went into the business of smuggling migrants early in 2018, joining forces with a Croat who got in touch with a Koper man.
        LJUBLJANA - The management board of Gen Energija, the state-owned energy utility that owns the Slovenian half of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, has been expanded by a member, as director general Martin Novšak was joined by Danijel Levičar at the beginning of August, the company announced.
        LJUBLJANA/LONDON, UK - The business daily Finance reported that Slovenia's 10-year bonds recently traded at sub-zero rates on the secondary market for the first time ever, whereas the country had a hard time selling its bonds at as high a rate as 7% during the financial crisis in 2013.
        LJUBLJANA - The banking SKB Group said it generated EUR 34.2 million in net profit in the first half of 2019, which is 40% more than in the same period last year. This is due to good operating results and the easing of provisions and impairments. The group saw its operating profit rise by 18% to EUR 31.3 million.
        LJUBLJANA - It was reported that Jure Cekuta, a painter best known as one of the few individuals convicted of corruption in one of the biggest arms scandals in Slovenia, had died aged 67. Sentenced to four years and four months in prison in 2014, Cekuta spent the last years of his life in jail.
        TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Slovenian freediver Alenka Artnik reached a new milestone as, by plunging 111 meters into the Caribbean with a monofin, she beat the world record in the discipline by four metres to become the first woman to descend bellow 110 metres.

TUESDAY, 6 August
        LJUBLJANA - A civil initiative providing advocacy for asylum seekers warned about allegedly unbearable conditions at Ljubljana's Vič Asylum Centre, accusing some security guards of intimidation and even alleging some of them are involved in organised smuggling of asylum seekers. The security firm in question, Varovanje Galekom, denied all the accusations.
        LJUBLJANA - Lekarna Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest pharmacy chain, was forced to close down all of its shops due to computer system problems, experienced as a result of a ransomware attack. It was able to restore its IT system on Thursday.
        LJUBLJANA - The lawyer of Sergej Racman, an erstwhile successful businessman who is wanted in Slovenia under an Interpol Red Notice alert for his alleged role in a prostitution ring, said that Racman had expressed willingness to make himself available for proceedings running against him. He is reportedly abroad.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Večer said that the Environment Agency will have to examine again whether the Šoštanj power station (TEŠ) requires an environmental impact study for importing coal, after it decided it did need one. The ministry has annulled the agency's initial decision in response to an appeal by environmental NGOs.
        LJUBLJANA - The government announced it had picked the Riko engineering company and the KTNK architectural design firm to build Slovenia's pavilion at the global show Expo 2020 in Dubai. Riko and KTNK were the only ones to submit their bid for the project, valued at EUR 2.45 million, before the deadline.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The latest Eurobarometer survey showed Slovenians are the strongest supporters of the euro is the entire EU, with as many as 88% of those polled favouring it. Slovenia is followed by Estonia and Portugal (both 85%).

WEDNESDAY, 7 August
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Janez Lenarčič, the candidate for the Slovenian member of the European Commission, held informal introductory talks with the newly elected Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. The pair talked about the challenges that await the new Commission and about the importance of respect for the EU's fundamental values.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to extend the deployment of auxiliary police to help the regular force cope with a spike in illegal migration on the Schengen border with Croatia and with other duties. Auxiliary police will be deployed until the end of the year to help patrol the border and stand in for absent regular officers.
        LJUBLJANA - 2TDK, the company managing construction of the new Divača-Koper rail track, annulled a public tender for the first of several planned bridges after weeks of public controversy that renewed concern about the financing of the mega project. It turned out that the selected bidder had apparently forged its prior experience.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Ajda Cuderman the director of the SPIRIT investment promotion agency. Cuderman, who has been served as acting director since February, will start her five-year term on 16 August. She previously worked at energy company Petrol and sales consulting group Mercuri International.
        BRASLOVČE - Scottish sawmiller BSW Timber still has not been able to start with the construction of what will be the biggest sawmill in Slovenia. The main reason has been delays in the adoption of the needed spatial plans, said Braslovče Mayor Tomaž Žohar, adding that he expected them to be ready by the end of the year.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian subsidiary of the Italian banking group Unicredit said it posted EUR 16 million in consolidated profit in the first half of the year, a marginal increase of 0.3% on the same period a year ago. Operating revenue rose by 7.2% to EUR 42 million and net interest revenue was up 1.3% to EUR 23 million.
        LJUBLJANA/VRHNIKA - The facilities that chemical waste processing company Kemis has extensively renovated after a major fire hit the plant in 2017 were found to be illegal construction. Building inspectors ordered Kemis to stop using the facilities immediately and remove them by 30 June 2020. In response to the decision, Kemis stopped accepting waste, the next day.
        MARIBOR - Maribor are in a two-goal hole after the first leg of the third round of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League after losing to Norway's Rosenborg 1:3 at home on Wednesday. The Slovenian football champions are looking at a virtually impossible mission of advancing to the last round as they are hosted by Rosenborg in Trondheim next week.
        
THURSDAY, 8 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Supreme Court set an important precedent in a case involving hate speech against the Roma. It ruled that public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance is a crime not only when it threatens public peace and order, the way the legal provision has been interpreted until now, but also in case of threats, abusive language or insults per se.
        LJUBLJANA - Swedish furniture giant Ikea obtained a building permit for the shop it plans to build in Ljubljana's BTC City shopping district. Construction works are expected to start soon. Vladislav Lalić, regional property and expansion manager at Ikea South East Europe, said the store was expected to open about a year after the start of construction.
        LJUBLJANA - Adacta Holding, the parent company of a leading Slovenian ICT company, was revealed to have sold its Adacta Services Business, a leading Microsoft Dynamics, Qlik and Cornerstone partner in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, to BE-terna, a company owned by the German Deutsche Private Equity (DPE) fund.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana-based coach group Nomago said it had signed an agreement to take over its Brežice-based counterpart Integral Brebus in a bid to expand its business in Croatia, where it wants to acquire at least 30% market share.

09 Aug 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 8 August 2019 - The Supreme Court has set an important legal precedent in a case involving hate speech against the Roma by holding that public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance is a crime not only when it threatens public peace and order but also in case of threats, abusive language or insults.

The case involves a comment posted by a Dolenjsko man in February 2011 on the web portal of a local radio station in the comment section below an article about a spate of break-ins and thefts targeting a local businessman.

"A couple of ammonal sticks, a couple of M75 grenades and a couple of AK-47s just in case, I don't think it can be done any other way. Or one by one... Can I have a music request: Where did all the gypsies go by Korado & Brendi," wrote the accused, according to the newspaper Dnevnik.

The man was initially given a suspended sentence of one month by the Novo Mesto Local Court in early 2013, but he was acquitted by a higher court which agreed with the defence's appeal.

The higher judges held that the comment did not amount to a crime because the amended Article 297 of the Penal Code meant that only acts that may be a threat to public order and peace in concrete circumstances qualify as a crime of public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance.

Dnevnik reports that such an interpretation of hate speech has often been cited in the past as the reason why intolerant and hateful incitement cannot be prosecuted.

However, five years after the Dolenjsko man was acquitted, the Office of the State Prosecutor General filed an appeal on a point of law, and the Supreme Court recently upheld the prosecution's interpretation. Although the ruling does not affect the acquittal it is seen as an important legal precedent.

The Supreme Court held that in cases when the act is committed by means of a threat, abusive language or insult, with other legal indications of a crime, the act does not necessarily need to potentially jeopardise public order and peace in order to be treated as crime.

The comment, which was one of many at the time calling for use of arms against the Roma, is "threat per se", the court said, adding that the comment had all the elements of crime, so it did not need to meet an additional condition that the act could lead to a disturbance of public order and peace.

The court said that prosecution of public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance did not protect only public peace and order but also human dignity. It also noted that the Constitution guarantees the Roma additional protection and positive discrimination.

While the Office of the State Prosecutor General - whose expert council had only last November opted against changing the 2013 guidelines of hate speech prosecution that were also applied in the Dolenjsko man ruling - has not yet commented, the Justice Ministry as well as human rights groups have welcomed the development.

The Justice Ministry said it "is constantly stressing the role of courts in the interpretation of laws" and highlighted the importance of the decision as a precedent that does away with the narrow interpretation of Article 297 and can help form case law.

"We are aware of the increasingly severe problem of hate speech, which has an extremely negative effect on society and social discourse," it wrote.

The ministry also pointed to warnings by the Council of Europe's anti-racism commission regarding problems in Slovenia "with the understanding of legal issues pertaining to hate speech and problems with the social response to the spreading of hate speech".

Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik also pointed to warnings from abroad and spoke of "an important turning point". He noted the prosecution of hate speech had been on the decline even though the phenomenon had been spreading in the public.

Andrej Motl of the online watchdog Spletno Oko (Online Eye) said the decision would significantly affect the prosecution of public incitement of hate, violence and intolerance, while Spletno Oko also expects the Office of the State Prosecutor General will change its guidelines accordingly.

Motl, who said hate speech had moved into the realm of the normal in recent years, also highlighted the report of the CoE's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

The report was released two months ago and spoke of the need to bridge, as a matter of priority, the "impunity gap in hate speech cases" in Slovenia that has resulted from an excessively strict interpretation of relevant legal provisions.

08 Aug 2019, 12:45 PM

STA, 7 August 2019 - The government decided on Wednesday to extend the deployment of auxiliary police to help the regular force cope with a spike in illegal migration on the Schengen border with Croatia and with other duties.

In line with today's decision, auxiliary police will be deployed until the end of the year to help patrol the border and stand in for absent regular police officers.

Under the valid legislation, auxiliary police may be called in for up to 30 days in a calendar year.

Only about 70% of police force jobs are filled on average, while illegal migration is on the rise, the government said.

It also noted a deterioration in road safety and the engagement of larger numbers of police officers in providing the security at a number of upcoming high-risk events such as a meeting of the NATO Military Committee, and the VIP Forum 2019 to be held in Ljubljana in September.

Security challenges will be stepped up later on in the year, so there is reason to expect an increased scope of duties in various areas of police work.

This is why most of the auxiliary police have already been engaged to help secure the border or stand in for regular police officers providing the security at high-risk events.

Some 460 auxiliary police have already been called in this year and they have already completed about a third of the 30 day-quota on average.

All our stories on the borders are here

06 Aug 2019, 09:45 AM

STA, 5 August 2019 - Opposition New Slovenia (Nova Slovenija - NSi) head Matej Tonin presented on Monday the party's plans for the autumn congress, announcing an "overhauled and fresh" platform, and noting that the party was still willing to cooperate with the minority government. The party wants to position itself in the centre as it feels this is where it belongs.

Speaking at a press conference which also marked the 19th anniversary of the party, Tonin again expressed the readiness of the right-leaning conservative party to cooperate in projects with the ruling minority coalition.

The party is expected to confirm an overhauled platform in November. "The change will be directed towards positioning the NSi in the centre," Tonin said, adding that it would refer to the European system of content-based positioning of parties.

According to him, the party advocates centrist views both in terms of the economy and ideologically. "Of course, we are aware that our power depends on our roots," he said in reference to local committees of the party.

Touching on the programme, Tonin said it was inspired by the wish to create a new Slovenia, in which rules will be the same for all and where people will be able to live a decent life.

The 36-year-old, who took over at the helm of the party from Ljudmila Novak in January 2018, reiterated that the NSi was a connective party ready to cooperate. "But we will also accept the government coalition continuing with the set course."

Tonin said that he was in touch with the office of the prime minister, and that him and Prime Minister Šarec communicated when it came to major things in parliament.

The party, which was briefly in talks with the minority coalition before withdrawing to see the role of the coalition supporter assumed by the Left, sees possibilities for cooperation with the government on "a one law at time and one project at a time" basis.

"We don't want to sign any agreement, because the current coalition partners and the Left have the problem of the signed agreements not being implemented. Even the coalition MPs speak openly about this in parliament," Tonin said.

He assessed that the current cooperation between the government and the Left does not enable structural reforms and a development breakthrough. The NSi want reforms and cooperation mostly in healthcare, labour market and state investments.

Tonin would like to see a kind of a "partnership for development", which means that the opposition would be able to see and comment on proposed laws before they enter the formal procedure.

He nevertheless thinks that the Marjan Šarec government will be able to finish the term without major problems. "You can see that despite all the tensions, everybody is going forward peacefully and diligently," he added.

Tonin also said at the press conference that the NSi had prepared an interpellation motion against Education Minister Jernej Pikalo over the government-sponsored legislative changes cutting funds for private primary schools.

The changes stipulating that the state-approved curricula in private schools be 100% state-funded, while additional activities and services would get no state funding whatsoever, failed to get enough support in a re-vote in parliament in mid-July after being vetoed in the National Council.

Tonin said that the motion was shelved for the time being and said he had proposed to the minister to get back to talks with parties on how to implement the 2014 Constitutional Court decision ordering that funding be equalised with that for public schools.

While he said that the NSi would invite Pikalo for talks, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport told the STA that the "minister is not acquainted with the content [of the interpellation motion], so he cannot comment on it."

When the changes to the act on organisation and financing of education failed to pass the re-vote, Pikalo said he would mount a new attempt at achieving consensus. But he thinks it will be difficult to get a majority in this parliament.

Tonin said today that if the talks were not successful, the NSi would file a legislative motion of their own. "Perhaps things will change now, because this is a new circumstance," he said in reference to the failed re-vote.

Keep up with Slovenian politics here

05 Aug 2019, 09:11 AM

STA, 5 August 2019 - The newspaper Delo expresses bewilderment on Monday at European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen's calling Croatia the EU's most successful country and a role model.

 

"They can be a role model for us, actually. In tourism they have beaten us well in many areas (not in all elements, that is). They may be our role model in construction of roads in Istria, for example [...]

"They could serve as an example to us in football, in how their seaside towns are neat compared to Piran, by the steep bills ... Or by diplomatic jostling, brand stealing and the game called steal the land ...

"But to be our role model as a European rule of law entity, as a whole, with all the economic, demographic, klepto-corrupt, clero-fundamentalist, fascist-loving [...] and other complexes? Well, politics disrupted Ursula's dioptre a bit there. We have thus come out of Jean-Claude's frying pan into Ursula's fire," writes the paper under the headline Pearls of Piran and Croatia.

Večer alarmed by Croatia's attitude to independence war

STA, 5 August 2019 - This year's celebrations of Operation Storm in Croatia are another step towards a revisionist interpretation of the independence war. The victory is increasingly framed as the Ustasha having defeated the Chetniks, Večer comments on Monday.

For example, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović openly speaks about how she would like to attend a concert in Split by the chauvinist singer Thompson, who has been banned in Istria, Switzerland, Germany and other places because of his Ustasha lyrics.

"But it is not enough to say that the far-right turn in Croatia and attempts to normalize extremist views and content is happening just because of the campaign for the presidential election, which has not even formally begun yet.

"With Trump in the US, Johnson and Brexit in Great Britain, not to mention the buffoons in Central Europe headed by Orban, this is unfortunately a global trend.

"That joke from the times of Operation Storm - hating those of other nationality or religion more than you have to - is becoming a rule. Including in Slovenia with its village guards," the paper concludes in Normalization of Extremism.

Related, and from Total Croatia News: Ahead of Operation Storm Anniversary, New Tensions Between Croatia and Neighbours

03 Aug 2019, 11:14 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 02 August

Mladina: Dnevnik-Večer Merger

STA, 2 August 2019 - The weekly Mladina comments on the merger of the publishers of the daily newspapers Dnevnik in Večer, both welcoming and regretting the move which it sees as means to preserve the printed media in Slovenia, which are facing numerous challenges brought by new trends.

The merger is a reasonable decision by the publishers' owners, which was carried out surprisingly wisely and thoughtfully, and which strengthens the position of both Dnevnik and Večer at least in the medium term, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says on Friday.

On the other hand, he also regrets the move because it comes as a consequence of the declining readership of the printed media and changed lifestyle in modern societies.

"Although the media compete with each other, it is very important for all of them that as many people as possible continue to read serious media. Decline of any serious media is bad for the rest of them, as it impacts the reading habits of the nation."

Mladina argues that the Slovenian state has done practically nothing for the media in the last 30 years. "They simply did not want to see the importance of (critical) media for the normality of the society."

Politics has treated the national broadcaster mostly badly, and it is almost incredible that something has been left of it at all. But journalists are not blameless either, as they raised their voice only when they were personally threatened, Repovž adds.

Actually, the government of Marjan Šarwec was the first one to make a move, introducing lower taxes for the media and books, and announcing a new system for distributing state subsidies, which have so far been ending up in the hands of harmful media.

It is very hard for serious media to survive on the small market like Slovenia, but this is also true for culture, sport and education. A large part of the surplus generated in these fields is a consequence of personal altruism.

"Problems in all fields are also a consequence of the unwillingness to admit that we are a small country. All fields which are limited by the language are in a very difficult situation. These, of course, include the media," concludes the commentary headlined Dnevnik and Večer.

Reporter: Who benefits from big infrastructure projects?

STA, 29 July 2019 - The right-leaning magazine Reporter writes about delays in public contracting for large infrastructure projects in the latest editorial, asserting that PM Marjan Šarec should take action to prevent a new TEŠ6.

"They want to rob us blind again," writes editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla under the headline Red Alarm, arguing that the attempts to overturn the chosen contractor in the public calls for the construction of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel and the Koper-Divača rail project show Slovenia has not learned anything from the 1 billion-plus project to build generator 6 at the Šoštanj coal-fired plant.

Šurla says that the only goal of the delays in the public calls is that the right people get the job in the end - that is construction companies controlled by Stojan Petrič, Janez Škrabec and Stanko Polanič.

"Why public calls if everything is said to have been agreed behind the scenes? As long as it is pro forma, a public call because there has to be one? In two construction projects alone, (Karavanke and the Glinščica bridge) local cronies could bleed us of EUR 25 million, the difference to the two other cheapest bids."

Šurla quotes rumours saying that the management of the state-run motorway company DARS could be dismissed if Petrič's Kolektor is not chosen as the contractor in the end.

"The Idrija mogul is exerting huge pressure through his lobbyists, and Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek is said to have succumbed to his charm. A replacement of DARS supervisors has been announced for late August, which could lead to the management's replacement.

"If in exchange for keeping their posts, DARS yields in to pressure in the end and pick Kolektor despite the much higher cost, this would also augur ill for the taxpayer in the case of the second rail track, at a project at least ten times larger in value."

Šurla says that the developments should send alarm bells ringing at least in the office of PM Marjan Šarec. "Unless he pounds the table and keeps pretending he is not in charge like Borut Pahor did in the same office, we will see a new TEŠ 6."

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

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